Monday, February 2, 2009

Growing Up – part two

“I can’t believe we’re here already,” I sniffed.

“Please don’t cry,” DaHubby responded.

And, Flicka kept playing and playing.

And, kindergarten is still 7 months away.

Kindergarten round-up season is upon us. Initially, we had every intention of homeschooling. It answered to our beliefs, our concerns, and our need for some “portability” for when DaHubby finishes school and we need to move to his first job in the nuclear field.

Now, it has become apparent that with our recent financial challenges that I may need to go back to work. Thus, it makes making some decisions about a possible kindergarten situation more of a front-burner priority. And, obviously, private school is out of the question due to cost.

We live about 3 blocks from our local elementary. And, we are blessed that our district is one of the top 50 in Michigan. And yet we’re looking at a school that’s about 15-20 minutes away. The longer I’m a parent the better I understand the idea of finding a good fit for each family and each child.

If we could find an elementary school with a family feel, wouldn’t that be perfect?

If we could find a kindergarten with a really good teacher/student ratio, wouldn’t that be awesome?

If we could find a public school district that allowed ALL voices to be heard – including those who believe in Christ, would that be a dream?

If we could find a staff that tries to assess the best way each student learns so all can excel, wouldn’t that be fantastic?

Our neighborhood elementary would probably fall short in at least three of those categories. However, we are trying to keep in mind that it’s still about a good fit.

And, I think we found it.

One of my high school and college buddies has children that are now nearing middle school aged. I remember the amount of work and worry she put into her kids’ educational decisions when they were just starting out like mine are now. She lives in an area like my current one – not a big city but not exactly the middle of nowhere, a definite rural feel with a few urban “creature comforts” within a half hour drive.

I remember her talking about the discovery of a former one-room schoolhouse turned early elementary program in her area. It sounded like heaven! Her kids were in small classes, lots of extra attention, fewer distractions, and fewer examples of negative socialization. Her descriptions at the time reminded me a lot about the reading I was doing in “teacher school” about single-sex classrooms – especially all-girl classes – where the classes were small, distractions were few, and the kids found their voices and excelled.

Well, I think we’ve found our local equivalent.

A former one-room schoolhouse about 20 minutes away bucked the trend when this area’s one-room schoolhouses were being consolidated into school districts a couple decades ago. This now-expanded building stands alone as its own district and houses a K-8 program whose state scores are nearly all A’s. Currently, there are 8 kids in the kindergarten and only 70-some in the whole building. The kindergarten teacher has a parent parapro which reduces that classroom's student-to-adult ratio down to 4-to-1.

The current kindergarteners welcomed Flicka with open arms, quietly stopping what they were doing to come over and introduce themselves. A few then showed her around the classroom explaining what everything was. Flicka was at ease so quickly that she allowed DaHubby and me to walk away with the principal for a tour of the facilities while she sat down with the kids for reading time. After a 20 minute tour, we came back and you couldn’t tell her little blond head from the rest of them as the students packed up for the end of their half-day. The teacher escorted the eight to the front door where they are walked to their parents’ waiting vehicles leaving DaHubby, Flicka, and me in the classroom.

Flicka walked over to the brand new Apple computers the students had just showed her and continued a game they had been playing. With her headphones on, she couldn’t hear us. I looked around and caught DaHubby’s eye.

“Well, what do you think?” I asked him.

“I love it.”

“I can’t believe we’re here already,” I sniffed.

“Please don’t cry,” DaHubby responded.

We asked a few additional questions of the teacher when she returned but I was struggling between the critical teacher part of me and the weepy parent. We stopped to chat with the principal one more time on the way out as he was supervising the lunch room for the older kids. While we discussed the paperwork DaHubby and I would be filling out, two kids from the first/second grade table approached Flicka. One asked me if Flicka could have half his sandwich. The other offered Flicka half her cookie.

As we walked out to the van, we asked Flicka what she thought.

“Can I come back tomorrow?”

You bet, baby. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Ethan, Zach, and Emma's Mom said...

That school sounds wonderful. I'm so happy for you! I know the struggle well. I was agonizing over that, when my husband got a call to our current church. The school here is my dream for my kindergartener. God knows what we need!

Shannon said...

Sounds lovely!

Anonymous said...

What an amazing story!

Dina said...

This sounds lovely, even though I can relate how hard it is to send your kids to kindergarten especially the first day!! Good Luck.

Karen said...

It sounds like that school is going to be a great fit! I'm sure this wasn't an easy decision and I'm so glad God is leading you to the perfect place.

Anonymous said...

What an awesome feeling to know you've been led to the right place by God for your child. It will bring great comfort to you both as you embark on this new stage of life. We absolutely love our one room schoolhouse. The teacher is worth her weight in gold!!

Love ya, Jill

baylormum said...

Hi, it's me baylormum. I added you to my twitter, add me back if you wish.

I was in a similar dilemma. Not about home-schooling, but where is the best place for my child? Started at 3 at a Montessori school but politics took the joy away. Found an Episcopal school and she started in pre-k & went thru 5th grade.

She wanted to go to middle school in public school. I was scared because we (she) had been insulated for so long in a school that was like family. She absolutely thrived there and even at the 1st Christmas break when I asked her did she want to go back to private school, she said no.

I truly believe that she had a great foundation laid out for her in grade school & she used it to her advantage in public school. She soared.

Now, in May, she will graduate from Baylor with a degree in marketing.

She is so involved in her church there, too. Children's Church director (a volunteer position).

Go where you feel God in the hallways-whether you can say that out loud or not! Children adapt so well. Got to give them a chance.

Love visiting with you. My website is on my twitter profile page. :)