School Choice

I grew up in a small town with one high school. Everyone went to public school. Well, everyone went to public school except the Catholics during elementary school. They joined us in the sixth grade. There was no worry about school choice. When I was five years old, my mother took me to kindergarten screening, and a few months later, I went to Oakland Heights Elementary to get my learning on. (When she didn’t think they were teaching me to read soon enough, she decided to do it herself. For some sadistic reason she chose McGuffey Readers as the instrument of her torture. I’m not convinced they weren’t the 1836 edition. We were both scarred from the experience. After that, she left the education to the professionals.)

Overall, it was a pretty straightforward process. In Russellville, your kid went to the elementary school based on the zone you lived in and then everyone piled in together after the 5th grade. I understand even Russellville isn’t that simple any more. Nothing is.

My Kindergarten Classroom

According to Monkey Boy’s birthday, he should start pre-K4 in the fall. Now we have pre-K3 and pre-K4 to get kids ready for Kindergarten, which is supposed to get kids ready for school. I’m not knocking the formal education; I think it’s wonderful. I think kids in a nurturing structured, learning environment as early as possible is the only way my poor state will ever get out of the cycle of poverty. We also have many more choices for Monkey Boy’s education: public school, private school, charter school, magnet school, home school (ok, really that’s just an option for other people. Home schooling Monkey Boy would be a disastrous decision for us) Unfortunately, the downside of giving people choices, is now we have to choose.

This is why I tell people, as the mother of the 3-year-old, 4 years ago, I was a really good mother. I had this all figured out. I could have told you exactly what was gonna happen in August (and probably did, if you stood still long enough to hear it): we were going to enroll him in public pre-K and he would go to our neighborhood school, followed by 13 years of Little Rock Public School education, when he would go off to an Ivy League college and marry a rocket scientist who happened to look like a super model to give me beautifully smart grandchildren one day.

I fully related to Garrison Keillor when he wrote about being a Democrat in an old school way:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, … the basis of the simple social compact by which we live and also You are not so different from other people so don’t give yourself airs, which was drummed into us children back in the old days when everyone went to public schools. …. The democracy of the gospel. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All we like sheep have gone astray. These articles of faith… bind us together in a union of souls, each one free, each one devoted to the union … I grew up among Bible-believing people in Minnesota, a cold weather state… Everyone else is just as cold as you are so don’t complain about it, this is not a personal experience.

Then I met my kid. He’s bright and quirky and not simple at all. Even though the calendar says he should start public school in the fall, his teachers, Baby Daddy and I agree, he’s not ready. He would be the youngest in his class, and there are a myriad of social reasons not to do that to him. But public pre-K funding is set up so that he must go with his class as dictated by the calendar. (There are very good, not at all interesting public policy reasons for this. I’m not the slightest bit angry about it. It’s just the fact of the matter.) So now we have to investigate the private school world.

This is challenging for a lot of reasons. It pushes against all of my small town raising. Except for a couple of years in high school after we moved away, I’m a public school kid. I wanted to be a public school mom. Public schools take everyone. Private schools have interviews and evaluations and forms and applications. I get it. They do all of it to be sure they are putting him in the right class on the right track and he will benefit from all that, but somewhere down deep it feels like judgment. That’s a hard thing to feel for yourself, and excruciating to feel for your kid. He’s 3, for crying out loud!

I don’t know where he’s going to end up next year. Likely, he will get in to some schools and not others. He’s honestly not a good candidate for every school, so that makes sense. Whatever we decide, we will do what we believe is best for Monkey Boy. That’s our job. But I can’t help but feel like a little bit of a hypocrite.



Filed under Monkey Boy

14 responses to “School Choice

  1. Natalie Ghidotti

    This is why I’m glad I became Catholic! The decision was already made for me. How nice! I’m a public school product from the big town of Benton …. private school was completely and totally foreign to me. Seriously, Kerri, become Catholic, and you don’t have to think about a thing. Send him on to Holy Souls!!

  2. arkstfan

    We started the boy in private school and moved him to public. The girl started in public and will finish in private. In both cases where we started was a bad fit and we changed for better fits.

    Make your pick and be prepared to adjust, such is life.

  3. Those decisions are so hard, because the things you always assumed you would do…well, somtimes you don’t. Good luck with that process.

    Mostly I just wanted to say how much I love the pic of you in K and Monkey Boy now. Precious!

  4. YOU will definitely make the right choice! I believe in you! Rock on!

  5. Jill

    I think you should re-think the homeschool option. You could homeschool all our kids. That would be great fun…..for me.

  6. We moved to Little Rock in 2000, from Springfield, Missouri, where the public schools were great, our son was in college, and our daughter was in 3rd grade. At the encouragement of everyone here, we investigated private schools, and I enrolled her in Montesorri, because it was the private school most like public schools, but even better. After one year there, Rachel asked to tour the public school. I laughed and said, you don’t tour public schools. She insisted, turns out they did, and she chose to attend there instead for the rest of elementary. But, when she started middle school, she was not being taught, but was always placed in a group with slower students to teach them, so we moved her to magnet school, and she thrived. In high school, we moved her back to public school.

    We started our son in Kindergarten a year later than he could have started, because he too would have been youngest and needed a little more social maturity to fit in with his class. I was afraid at the time that it would scar him permanently, but it was a very good decision. Good luck!

  7. Brian Johnsey

    Kerri – We started private with Cara and got a great education into why we (parents) dont belong with the private school parents…. Cara, she was great, learned a lot, star on their soccer team, advanced in every class they offered, but we as parents did not connect with the parents and the administration. So Cara was off to public school… she is still the star in every way (or atleast to us) and excels the way we had hoped.

    I did not go to the same school twice until reaching the wonderful middle school you and I went to and then stayed till we graduated. So I agree, be ready to change if necessary, but little man will do great b/c of parenting, not because of school colors.


  8. David HG

    I started school two days before I turned six. During my whole academic career, I was older than the other kids. Roughly 12 months can make a big difference in what a typical kid can accomplish academically and what maturity level he/she is at.

    I don’t see the reason for the rush to get kids into school so early. They do it here (in the UK) as well. We are having to fight to get my son delayed a year and he *clearly* is not ready (by virtue of DS).

  9. the school issue is what keeps me from mom-dom. yep – that’s exactly why. Thanks for giving me a new excuse – my old “I’m way too busy” sounded selfish and had one had worn thin.

  10. We’re in the same boat, except trying to find a kindergarten that’s a good fit and only looking at public options. But there are fifteen million public schools in Pasadena. We have toured two, third tour tomorrow. I just don’t know how I feel about sending my little darling into a class with 27 other 5 year olds. Did I hear you were starting a boarding school? I’m sure she and MB would get along great.

  11. Becca

    Disclaimer: I don’t have a child, and I work at a private school – one that I consider a successful organization with a worthy mission.

    I have learned, through the years working with various clients and observing friends trying to meet their children’s educational needs, that the most important items to consider when looking for a school are: student performance within key academic skill areas (reading, writing and math skills), as well as the credentials/accreditations the school and its instructors have. Having said that, Arkansas’ private schools simply aren’t under the same scrutiny as public schools, and I am always amazed when I come across a private school that seems to have weak credentials yet somehow finds people who will pay for its services.

    Bottom line: All the educational options within Little Rock really require parents to do research to make informed decisions. That’s definitely different from my experience growing up, where my public school was determined by my house location and nothing else. Options can be a good thing, but they definitely make choosing a school a more complicated process.

  12. I’m confused. You can’t just hold him back? We are in the same situation with our preschooler and I just thought we would be able to start him next year. I haven’t asked anyone or really looked into it yet. Is it the school that he’s in now that makes him to start with his class?

  13. Hey, I learned to read by McGuffey’s readers, and look how well I turned out!

    I don’t envy your position, but let me just put in a vote for homeschooling. For no other reason than I sooooooo would enjoy reading those tweets and blogposts! (Not that I don’t already…I’m just sayin’…)

  14. I just found your blog, as it seems we have a few mutual blogger friends.

    My husband and I have had this conversation many times. We don’t have children yet (though we will also be adopting) but I am an obsessive planner and just think I’ll “feel better” if we are even close to being on the same page before we have a child. I am a private school kid. He is a public school kid. It’s hard for either of us to imagine that the other option is acceptable. The best we can agree on is that there are pros and cons with every scenario and that the bottom line is that the parents stay involved, know the teachers, know the other parents, etc. and that we can worry about the rest of it when we actually have a 4 year old. 🙂

    And good call on not starting him when he will be one of the youngest in his class. I was in that boat and wish I hadn’t been.