Chris and I have been talking a lot lately about Cole and his education. Private school? Public school? Home school? Unschooling? Charter school? There are a plethora of options out there for Cole's education - and I believe it is one of the most important decisions we will ever make while raising our children.
Here's the thing. I was a public school teacher. I believe in public school teachers - they are awesome, dedicated, loving, and amazing. In the five years I worked in various public schools, I met only a couple of teachers that were lower quality.
BUT - and it's a big but - I don't believe in our education system. I hate it. I think our current system sets kids up for failure. No Child Left Behind was the worst thing to happen to education in years. Here's some of my reasons:
1. Standardized tests. UGH. What an awful way to measure intelligence. Not individual growth, but pure black and white facts that all children are measured the exact way. But not all children ARE going to have the exact intelligence. Children's brains are fully formed by the time they are 5 years old - which is the age public schools get the kids. During those first five years, if kids are exposed to nothing but television and video games, their poor neural pathways are already wired to expect that level of entertainment and no work.
2. Because of NCLB, schools are losing huge amounts of federal funding. The only way they can get that funding back? Teach to the test. Teach children to regurgitate answers. Take away recess, art, music, PE to increase classroom time to force more "learning" down the kids' throats. Creative learning and thinking is out, because it takes more time to teach (without prep time teachers used to have during those recess, art, music, and PE times, they have much less preparation time to prepare excellent lessons).____
Also a result of less funding? Less money for field trips, learning programs, and materials. The old argument of how schools keep asking for more and more money is accurate; however, new technology that we must expose to kids to like computers and smartboards take more funding than they did 20 years ago.
3. Our whole way of teaching kids is skewed. "Sit down and shut up" seems to be the prevalent way of teaching - and it's totally not how kids learn best. Kids learn by being noisy, working together, hands-on messy and fun activities, not by listening quietly to a teacher teach.
4. Not to brag, but Cole is extremely intelligent. However, that doesn't matter. Yup, you heard me... he can be as bright as the day is long and it DOESN'T MATTER. What DOES matter? Creative thinking. The ability to ask the right questions, to experiment, to keep trying. No one is going to figure out how to cure cancer by regurgitating memorized answers onto a standardized test. The person who succeeds in creating those new, inventive, important ideas is the one who is taught from an early age to be a scientist, to explore and question and experiment.
Can I encourage this behavior outside of school? Of course. And the old argument against paying for private school is "how much enrichment outside of school could that money buy?". But if Cole is in school for eight hours a day learning to NOT question the teacher, to memorize instead of learn, to take a standardized test instead of experiment, it doesn't matter how much money I spend for the rest of his waking hours... he will be learning the WRONG way to learn. Schools are sucking the joy of learning right out of students and if Cole is in public school, there's nothing that can counteract that effect.
I have always loved to learn. So far, Cole loves to learn as well. I desperately want him to keep that love of learning for his entire life, because learning = success.
So what to do?
Fortunately, we have several amazing school options, one of which we just visited last week: Madrone Trail Public Charter School, our local Waldorf charter school. I attended a magnet school that was semi-Waldorf for a couple of years in elementary school, and it was the most amazing educational experience of my life. There's a private Waldorf school that is also amazing in our nearby town of Ashland. And, of course, there's always the option of homeschooling or unschooling, neither of which are my favorite options but are still on the table.
Tell me, how do you feel about your child's education? What's your opinion on the best way to educate?