Sunday, December 26, 2010

How do I decide where to send my kids to school?

Ms. Dorothy,
I'm wondering what your opinion is on some of the educational alternatives I'm considering for my kids. They are still in preschool now, and I don't want to pay for private schools, but I'm not convinced that regular public schools are the right answer any more. I've been looking at a Montessori charter school, an Expeditionary Learning magnet school, and a Core Knowledge charter school in my area. I know you are familiar with all of them, and I want to know your thoughts about the pros and cons of each.
- Dad weighing Schools of Choice.

Well, I am an AMS certified Montessorian, and an Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound instructor. I have taught in a charter school, a magnet school, a private school, a "regular" public school, and a pilot school. I've even done the home school route. I have never taught in a Core Knowledge school, though some of my friends do.
I've tried a lot of these models, both as a teacher and as a parent, and I have my biases.

The most important thing for you to consider is your children.

Knowing who your students are as learners and as individuals is essential in making this decision. Being prepared to try something else as your children grow and change is also important; as is considering the possibility that what works for one might not work for the other.

Yes, there is a lot of data out there about how children in each of these settings fare on tests of knowledge or skill. There are also some long term studies done on how these different models prepare children for the rest of their academic careers.

None of that matters if your son or daughter doesn't "fit" the model you are considering, or if the philosophy of education is not aligned with what you believe about teaching and learning.

Go do some research, and know all you can about what you are weighing. Go and visit these schools of choice. Talk to the teachers if you can. Ask hard questions about your specific children's needs and issues as learners. Find someone who feels the way you do about educating your children.

Then trust your gut, and leap with conviction, and do whatever you can to support your children in the model you've chosen.

Because when it comes to education, nothing done half-heartedly works.

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