A New Education Adventure
A while back, I wrote a post basically stating that decision to send your kids to school or not was so personal and based on specific family needs that it was unproductive to try to elevate one as a better choice. Last month, I got to put my money where my mouth was.
It started off the way it does for many homeschooled kids I know. My daughter, when faced with many of her friends starting Kindergarten, began to show interest in the idea herself. Her brothers went through similar phases, so I promptly did what I did before. I focused on our time together, increased field trips, and read her Learning All the Time every day. Except it didn’t work. She became increasingly insistent that we find her a school, to the point where she was starting to refuse all my attempts to fulfill the needs she was articulating, either through words or through actions. We have always maintained that each of our children is unique, and we would do whatever made sense for each of them. Until now, we had homeschooled them, each in a slightly different way to address their own distinct learning styles and interests. Now, one of them wanted something we had never done before.
As an educator, I have always kept my eye on what is happening in the schools around me. Partly I did this to be able to give educated advice when I am asked by other parents, partly because I find it interesting, and partly just in case we ever needed the information. The upside is this knowledge very quickly narrowed down the schools we would be interested in. We recently moved into what is considered a very good school district, which complicated the decision. As much as I wanted to support my local public school, I also knew it would not be a very good fit for our family’s values around education. A deep, honest, and thoughtful conversation with a friend of mine who teaches at the nearest public school confirmed the issues driving my hesitation. As parents and educators with a very specific view on how children learn best, we would struggle to align what we wanted for our daughter with how the system was required to perform. So, after careful consideration, we started looking at private schools.
In the private school community, there is great variation in approach and application. The word “progressive” is often flown like a banner on brochures and websites but I have found that there are only a handful of schools really doing the work that takes them outside conventional education. Of this handful, we looked at proximity, community, and pedagogy. This left us with three schools to tour. I always advise other parents not to overthink this process, and it was this advice I tried to follow. We were coming in after the school year had already started, and were well aware of the obstacles we might face. Perhaps our first choice would not have any room, the children were already making fast friends, how would we pay for tuition, and what would this do to our already established routine? There is no secret formula I used to get through this other than trust. Trust. We toured the schools, we knew immediately which school would fit our daughter the best, we applied, we (very luckily and happily) were accepted. This was the first year the K class at her school had an open spot after the school year had started, and we joyfully accepted that it must be destiny.
Our daughter did a trial day at the school and when I picked her up, she was full of such joy. “Let’s go home and decide if you would like to come here every day!” I said to her. “No!” she said, “I already decided I am coming back tomorrow and forever!” And she did.
One of the most powerful moments in this process was as we were sitting in the Head of School’s office, telling her about our daughter, our family, and what we believe about learning. We share a deep believe in learner centered, constructivist education and while we agree on approach, she asked us if, since we have been guiding our children’s education up until now, would any school be good enough? I loved that she asked us that. It shows a deep understanding of how committed educators are, and how it can impact the decisions we make. We told her that this was our daughter’s journey. Our job was to find the best place for her, the best community for us, and then let them do their work. We meant every word, and over the last month that our daughter has been in school I have seen her blossom in new ways. Not only have I had more time to work more closely with the boys and our daughter has gotten everything she ever wanted out of this new adventure, but we have gotten an amazing community that adds one more rich dimension to our lives.
If she ever decides to homeschool again, I will be ready and supportive, but I am so glad we trusted and believed that our daughter knew her path.