Friday, August 19, 2011
Public School, Home School and Other Options
It's been a while since I've posted. Why? I've been dealing with school enrollment issues for my son.
He is supposed to start kindergarten this year. However, we didn't have everything together (as far as moving in to our apartment and getting bills sent to us, a working mail box, finding out about schools around us, etc) until the summer time. So when we finally decided we would enroll him in our neighborhood public school, which we've heard good things about, and went through the required TB testing, ordering of birth certificate, and so on, it was too late. The school was full, and actually had been full for a couple months. So they automatically enrolled him in the "overload" school, told me that's where he was going, gave me a form that talked about the uniform requirements and a form to sign to have him bussed there.
Whoa, hold on a minute!
I knew nothing about this other school. Except for the fact that it's downtown (which, for my city, is not necessarily a good place to be). So I drove by to check it out. Okay, so maybe I'm a little overprotective and slightly judgmental when it comes to the safety of my children, but still... Yikes! There were 12 foot high walls around the school (walls like that usually don't exist unless they are necessary for some reason), run-down unkempt houses on one side, and unoccupied graffiti-covered commercial buildings on two other sides.
I decided to not completely judge the school based on the surroundings and look up reviews online. There were some rave reviews saying the school was wonderful and the teachers were great. There were other saying their kids got picked on because they were smart, that there was an abundance of violence in the school yard, gangs in and around the school [Can you imagine... gangs... in an elementary school?!], and that the school promoted mediocrity. Some websites that score schools mostly based on test scores (which I'm not sure if they're very relevant or not) gave the school a very low score (like 3 out of 10). After learning everything I could about the school I had nearly completely decided I would not let my son attend kindergarten there.
So what other options do I have?
Before we had kids my husband and I had become acquainted with Waldorf Education, so when we moved we looked into what existed in our area. We discovered there was a school about 30 minutes away and looked into the possibility of our son going there. Well, unfortunately the full tuition cost is extremely high. They do work with people somewhat, but since we could not afford any tuition at all (and we have a pretty simple lifestyle), it wasn't really an option for us. (Nor was Montessori or any other kind of private school)
Another option is traditional home schooling. I'm completely responsible for all curriculum, scheduling, activities, and tracking down other kids and people to interact with socially. How overwhelming! I have a great respect for mothers who do all that. But for me, at this point in my life, I just have far too much on my plate to take that all on.
Then, after a post about my frustration on Facebook, my sister mentioned an online public school option that is working well for her son. What an interesting concept! I had heard about the idea before (they call it home-based education), but only in passing and never really researched what it was or how it worked. So I looked into the company she mentioned -- K12. (This is not an ad for them, I just wanted to share what I found.)
K12 is nationwide and even have some international affiliates as well. They help connect people with virtual schools in each state, and it's considered public (i.e. free), and they meet all state requirements and are accredited so if you decide to have your child go back to standard public school, everything transfers just fine. All the lessons are planned out already (by a local teacher). They have work sheets, books to read, music to listen to, art supplies, science experiments. Everything is mailed to you, for free. You can even register to borrow a computer and printer if you don't have one. A teacher is assigned to your child and you can e-mail them at any time with questions or concerns. Plus there are monthly field trips with other kids/families in your area (as well as social events, and parents can decide to get together as often as they want), a quarterly in-person meeting with the teacher, and the option to attend a weekly class (so your child can have a regular classroom experience. Although locations are limited and the closest location to us is an hour away).
I think this is just what we (my son and I both) need right now. It's a good balance and compromise for us. So I'm completing the enrollment process today and hope to be able to start school with Seymour on Monday!
I'll keep you all posted with our experience!