Monday, October 11, 2010

Kindergarten thoughts

I officially have a "school-aged" child now. Sure, he was in preschool before, but this is the real deal. Honestly, the build up to get ready for school was much more painful than the actual process of starting school has been. Last year Aaron and I were really struggling with what to do with Luke when this time came around. First of all, we were concerned that he would not be ready maturity wise. His social skills have always been a little behind his peers with regards to playing nicely, taking turns, ability to take turns, ability to deal with disappointment/frustration, etc. In some ways we didn't feel like we had much of a choice because his birthday is in March and we just felt that was too old to hold him back. However, he made great strides over his last year in preschool and by the end of the year we were at peace with the decision to go ahead and send him to Kindergarten. Now the real dilemma was where should he go. We have a public school literally down the street from our neighborhood, about 1/2 mile away, and we've heard good things about it. It's been at least a "recognized" school since it's been open and has several "exemplary" years. However, we had seen other schools in the district with excellent reputations go bad in a matter of 3-5 years. Plus, we had several friends from church who had chosen a private school here in Fort Worth and they could not stop raving about how wonderful Covenant Classical was.

We really struggled with the idea of private school. We didn't want to be "those people" who are snooty and all "look at how wonderful my privately educated child is". We also didn't want Luke to be surrounded by people who are all "rich, white folks". We wanted him to have some diversity. On the flip side though, we couldn't stop thinking about all the things he would be getting in a public school. We cringed at the thought of having to explain 4-letter words to our 5 or 6 year old, or having to discuss what sex is because he heard the work on the playground, or having to address issues such as why so and so has 2 moms or 2 dads. In the end we decided we should at least gather all information possible so we could make an informed decision.

In the fall, I visited our local elementary and the secretary gave me a tour. It seemed nice, but the tour was after hours so I was unable to observe anyone in action. I didn't have any bad feelings, but I felt pretty neutral about the whole thing. Then we attended a parents meeting at Covenant. We were blown away by what they had to offer. Sure, the academics were top notch and we knew our kids would be educated beyond what even Aaron and I got in school. But what really sold us was the How- how they taught and how they approached education. It's a classical education approach which I'd never heard about before. To boil it down to basics, they put emphasis on the "classics" when it comes to literature and they focus on teaching kids how to learn and not what to learn (although the what is certainly there). They do lots of oral exercises where they repeat songs, poems, chants, etc. back to the teachers. They have recitations monthly where each grade level presents memorized material in a program for the parents (I think of it like "Little House on the Prairie where they stand up and recite material). Still, that was icing on the cake. The biggest determining factor was their spiritual approach to education, and their Christian Worldview. I'd never heard of this before, but it's exactly what we say we want for ourselves and especially our children. They don't teach God in a vacuum. They teach God in everything they learn. It's not: science class, reading, chapel, bible study, math, etc. It's God in science because He created us and the world we live in. It's God in math because God is a God of order and the order in math reflects his Glory. It's God in history as they study history beginning with creation and work their way through history to present day (and study the Bible lessons in the same time period as the history they learn so they can put together the cultural context with the biblical context). It's even God in their rules and discipline: learning respect for elders and position of authority, learning how to respect others (by not talking in halls and disturbing them), etc. Their approach to education in addition to their biblical approach to all things was something unique that we've not heard or seen anywhere else-even in other local Christian private schools. Still, we were torn.

Aaron was primarily home-schooled and I went to public school. Neither of us had ever stepped foot in a private school before and it wasn't really anything we were looking for. We both turned out fine without any major emotional scars or maladjustment, and we both feel like we are well-educated. We absolutely cringed at the thought of the money we would shelling out monthly for private school, in addition to the taxes we would already be paying for a public system our kids wouldn't even be attending! We prayed and discussed and prayed some more for almost 2 months and we just couldn't shake the idea that this was something we could not pass on. I kept telling Aaron, "if we do public school it will be so much easier for us, but even if it goes really well I'll always wonder-what if. If we do private school it will be very difficult and mean changes for our whole family, but we'll never have to wonder what if- going private to public if it didn't work out would be a much easier transition financially than the opposite would be." So we finally decided to bite the bullet and we applied for private school. I actually cried when we made the decision because it had been such a difficult one and I was so relieved to finally have made up our minds (and I never cry, so this is saying something!)

We've not once regretted our decision. Every time I would step foot on the campus (to turn in applications, for kindergarten testing, for parent interviews), it felt like home. It felt comfortable and it made me feel happy to think about Luke being there. As a mom who wanted to protect her child as long as possible, I felt so safe with the people I would be sending him off to. It was overwhelming to think that someone else would be responsible for and influencing my child for 28 hours every week. But at Covenant, I didn't bat an eye because I knew that all his influences would be strong Christian leaders who did everything in their power to bring Christ into their work.

The first day of school was very strange. He didn't start until after Labor Day, and I LOVED having 3 extra weeks with him (compared to when other local schools were starting). He was supposed to start that following Tuesday. We talked about school, we got his uniform ready and laid out for the next day, we talked about what he would take for lunch, and we said a prayer before bed. I went and checked my email (this was about 8pm) and we had an email from the school saying the first day was cancelled. There was a water main break down the street that had occurred on Monday (Labor Day). Because of the holiday they could not get someone out in time to repair it so the school had no water, which meant no functional bathrooms, which meant no school. I had to go back in and tell Luke. He was so disappointed, and frankly I was too. We had both gotten mentally prepared and geared up for this (especially me, getting ready to send my firstborn off) and it was so deflating. The next morning Luke just cried because he so badly wanted to wear his uniform. I admit I enjoyed the extra day, but it was just delaying the inevitable. So Wednesday became our first real day. We all got up early, and Luke was so excited he immediately got dressed and ate breakfast (which is saying alot for my night owl who hates the mornings like I do). Ben was another story. He cried and threw fits all morning long and so all our energy and attention was getting him ready to get out the door. To top it all off, that morning was a torrential downpour. We're fighting rain so hard you can hardly see the whole way to school and everyone is racing in and crowding the halls dripping with their umbrellas in hand. It turned into a very fast and cursory "love you, have a great day, let me take one quick picture before I go" because of all the craziness with the weather. Then, I had to take Ben to preschool and I went to work. I really didn't have time to think much about it and it turned out to not be very emotional for me at all. I was VERY excited when it came time to pick him up and I picked his brain the whole way home about what they did, what they learned, etc. The second day was actually harder, because that day they wanted people to start using the drop off line and not walk the kids in. It was so strange to let him get out of the car all by himself and walk into the building all by himself. I wasn't there to make sure he knew which room to go to, I wasn't there to make sure he put his backpack in the right place, I wasn't there to make sure he made it to his seat. I just watched his back as he walked in all by himself looking so big and so small all at the same time. That was the most difficult part because I was truly having to let go and let him grow up in a way.

He has impressed us beyond belief. The environment of this school is very structured and very strict. We really wondered if he could handle it and if he would be able to contain himself or if he would go crazy having to sit still and quiet all day. We expected names on board with checks every day for several weeks (initials means warning, then name on the board results in a consequence, and checkmarks after that mean further consequences) and constant meltdowns at home for at least the first couple of months. He has had his name on the board only 2 or 3 times in the whole 6 wks he's been in school, and on those days it was because he was talking in the hall or playing at rest time or something like that (not due to punching out a classmate or being rude/disrespectful to his teacher, or having a hysterical fit which were some of the things we feared). We love hearing about what he's learning- academically and spiritually. We get tickled as he tells us he learned that internal means inside the body and external means outside the body. We love hearing him quote scripture from chapel- "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is filled with His glory" or add substance to his prayer thanking God for making the world or thanking him that Jesus died for us. This week he's been grabbing his Bible and walking around telling us how much he loves God, and he needs to study the Bible because if you love God you study the Bible. We hear other parents talk about difficult discussions they have with their 6 and 7 year olds because of what they hear at school, and we just thank God that we were given the opportunity and the means to choose something different for our children. This school is good for Luke because it helps him with discipline and respect. It will be good for Ben because he is more sensitive and much more perceptive to what's going on around him. God only know what blessings this school will hold for little Vayle, but we're excited to see how the years will unfold.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on making such a good decision! My husband and I have been discussing this very same thing...even though we are both public school teachers. I truly believe that God has placed me teaching in public schools for a reason. However, I, like you, don't want to have to explain to my 5 year old all of the things she will be exposed to in public school. She would never hear about these things at home, and I cannot imagine placing her in a situation to where she would have to deal with all of these issues. I have even been looking into homeschooling my kids, but I don't want them to miss out on the socialization that takes place at school. It's a very tough decision. I completely understand your thought process on this one...we're going through it too!