Tuesday, May 9, 2017

School: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

We're almost all the way through Cole's first year of public school now, and my brain has been going 'round and 'round about what to do for next year.  So here's the lowdown on Cole's education:

Cole has been in first grade at our local Waldorf Public Charter School, but we have a couple other options for next year if we choose to move him.

The Good:
  • Cole LOVES school.  He adores his wide group of friends, he loves his independence, he enjoys getting his boundless energy out in a social setting.
  • I enjoy the variety of educational opportunities offered at Cole's school.  This year, he's learning American sign language, Spanish, handwork (knitting - it's Cole's favorite!), woodworking, music, (eventually he'll learn a string instrument) and has daily Games class (similar to PE).  Compared to public school, which is bare bones of reading and math, I feel as though Waldorf education is more broad and whole-child based.
  • Chores.  I love love love that the last fifteen or so minutes of every day is spent doing chores in the classroom.  The school custodian is part-time, so the kids take the recycling out, dump the trash in the community trash bin, sweep the floors, etc.  They are responsible for every bit of cleaning and it's amazing.
  • A huge focus of Waldorf education is preserving the environment and nature.  I totally respect the dedication the whole school has to using less waste, eating healthier and more balanced meals, and teaching the children by example.
  • Small class sizes.  Cole's class has only 26 students, absolutely no more.  Since public school first grades are getting upwards of 32, 33 students, this is a plus.

The Bad:
  • It's a loooonnnnggggg day away from home.  I miss Cole SO much most days, and I feel like our relationship is not as close with him being away for such a long stretch.  On the same vein, I feel as though we are incredibly busy.  Mornings are go go go getting breakfast, teeth brushed, lunch made, and out the door, then we are home around 3:45, just in time for Cole to play for a bit while I make dinner and bath and bed between 6:00-7:00.  It feels rushed, and being rushed doesn't bring out my patient side. I worry about preserving Cole and Chase's incredibly close relationship. 
  • Of course, any school setting is going to bring out some of the worst - we've had some situations of Cole practicing some behaviors (and words!) at home that he learned at school.  Totally normal and expected, but still frustrating.
  • I didn't expect it to be so time consuming and difficult to transport Cole.   Even if bussing were an option, which it isn't, I wouldn't put him on the bus (I learned all the major swear words AND how to spell them in my first week of kindergarten on the bus).  But that means about an hour and a half out of my already busy day is loading/unloading my various kids from their car seats to get Cole to school and pick him up.  It's a real pain, and it's super hard on poor Isla's nap schedule.
  • A big concern for me with any school that is based on a philosophy is how dogmatic they are with their philosophy.  I admire educational philosophies that reflect the most recent research about children's minds and learning.  Waldorf education is based from an educational philosophy that's over a hundred years old - there have been huge strides in what we know about how children learn in the last one hundred years.
  • On that note, I'm also a little concerned with his quality of education.  I desperately want Cole to be a creative thinker, to be curious, to truly LOVE learning.  I want his educational experience to be relevant to him; I want his teachers to lead him on a path to discovery, not simply force feed him information to be regurgitated. I'm not entirely sold on how high-quality his education is at his current school.
  • He's not getting quite enough STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) subjects in his daily classes, which is a concern for me - particularly with science and art.
  • I'm also not entirely sure how much of his day is spent sitting at his desk. While Cole is super well behaved, any six year old is bound to get squirrely sitting for long periods of time - kids' bodies are just not meant to be sitting!  Kids are sensory-seeking, energetic, and their brains turn on with movement.  I was hopeful that Waldorf education would expound on this, but every time I pop into Cole's classroom, the kids are seated at their desks.
  • Fundraising.  Just once, I'd love for the military to have to hold bake sales and auctions to raise their funds for the year.  I loathe fundraising with a passion and I hate that I have to take time out of my already busy schedule to do it. 

So we have a lot of pros and cons to discuss and figure out in the next few weeks.  Education is so vitally important to me, I feel a lot of pressure to get it right for our kids!  Wish us luck as we figure this next step out!

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