Aug 14, 2012

The School Saga

In one week my baby boy will be off to Kindergarten. It seems hard to believe that he's already old enough for school. Although, he turns six in a few weeks so I guess holding him back too much longer would make him freakishly old...and I wouldn't want to do that. :)

This is our countdown calendar. I haven't blogged about house projects in a while (stay tuned) but this chalkboard is a project I did a few months ago. It's on the fireplace mantel in our dining room. Each day we cross off another mark and inch closer to the big yellow school day! The owl has nothing to do with school...but he is my new little buddy that will soon be painted a fun color. (probably on a day when I miss my Elliott and need a project to keep me busy - ha, ha)

Elliott's ready and I'm excited for him. My biggest hang up has been the process leading up to the decision we made on which school he should attend. (this is a long post - and if you don't feel like reading the whole thing - just skip to the book we recommend at the end - it's free and well worth a few hours of reading!)

Here's a quick recap of the past year or so in dealing with Elliott's big step to Kindergarten:

- We are happy to live where we do. We are part of a great neighborhood association and a great school we thought. Unlucky for us...we live two houses down from being zoned in the good school district. The one we happen to be zoned for is one of the worst in the State (maybe the worst, actually).

- We decided that Elliott would not be attending that school. So...the search for options began (these are not listed in any particular order).

Option 1: A 'traditional school' - but we didn't know about it until earlier this year and Elliott's class was already filled more than 2 and a half years ago! There's a chance we can try to get Isa into that one this year (you apply to Kindergarten when you turn 3) and if she gets in, Elliott and Emma could get in too. Sadly, it will take a few years to see if this will work out.

Option 2: Open enroll to a better district. We filled out paperwork to several districts and requested to open enroll. Our first choice was the school down the street (the one that's actually closer to our house than the one we're zoned for). We also applied for him to attend a half day Kindergarten (not offered in our city).

We were DENIED open enrollment by the School Board. They said Elliott leaving would "negatively impact the school's diversity program." That basically means two different things and both of them are maddening.

There are racial and economic implications to the school if he does not attend it. Interestingly enough, we have researched the rules put in place that added the 'diversity clause' and found that when the schools had tried to make race the issue, they were sued...and they lost. So they changed the rule to encompass economic factors (aka - whether or not they can get free/reduced lunch) and did this to circumvent the racial issue - but stated (in policy) that they believed it would have the same outcome. Does that frustrate anyone else...or is it just me?

We were told our only avenue of arguing against our denied application was to file a lawsuit. It had to be done within two weeks of the denial. Michael was ready to do it...I wasn't. The suit would have been  frustrating and expensive. The grounds we were thinking about using in the suit was the half day Kindergarten thing - since it wasn't offered in our school system. But, we let it go. (and there's more to this whole story, but let's just not go there...ugh)

Option 3: Homeschool. This is a fantastic option for lots of people...but I would be TERRIBLE at it. Especially with the other little ones being constantly around and wanting attention, I feel like Elliott would fall behind. And I'd hate it. Michael would be fantastic at it. So maybe someday this will be a serious option again. For now, it's not.

Option 4: Christian school. There are a few great Christian schools in our city. One is close to our house and has a great reputation. The big downside is the expense. Not so much for Elliott, but in 4 years we'll have 4 in school and will be paying $$$. We've talked about doing something in the future like homeschooling and using the tens of thousands we'd be paying each year for tuition and using it instead to give the kids experiences. Instead of teaching them the basics of a foreign language, we could go live in another country for a few months each year. That is appealing to me...but who knows what will happen in the coming years.

For now, Elliott is enrolled in the Christian school and he starts next week. 

Now for the book: there are a few books that have really challenged me to think about something completely differently. This is one such book. Seth Godin's manifesto on schools called 'Stop Stealing Dreams' is full of interesting spins on how to look at the education system differently. Basically, are we asking our schools to teach the right things? What do we value in education?
Note: I do not agree with everything he says...but it has started lots of interesting conversations between Michael and I and has made us think differently about what learning we value.
If you're curious - you can download the book for free here. I'd love to hear what you think about it.


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