Monday, October 03, 2016

The Pendulum: Education

I'm about to finalise Rory's kindergarten enrolment for next year.  Can you scarcely believe my baby is off to school next year.

School decisions don't create the same angst as they do among my city friends, simply due to the lack of options.  Here, we have the choice of:
  • Our local public district high school, which caters from kindergarten to Year 10.
  • A local (private) Catholic primary school, from kindergarten to Year 6.
  • A public primary school in a town slightly further away (kindergarten to Year 6).
  • Homeschooling.
We have chosen to send Rory to the local district high school for these reasons:

  • It's public and therefore we can afford it.  Fees are voluntary contribution.  We cannot afford to go private, even if we wanted to.
  • Most people we've talked to who actually have kids attending the school have been very happy with it, especially for the primary school years.  The 'scary' stories have been from those who have never set foot in the school, and live off the opinions of the media and local gossips.
  • We are not Catholic and don't agree with the Catholic teaching he would be receiving at the Catholic school.  If you're sending your kid to a private 'religious' school, I think it's important that you abide by the school's ethos.  I hear so many non-Christian parents complaining that their kids have to attend chapel at their swanky boarding school in Perth.  Seriously, lady, you knew that when you enrolled your kids there that chapel attendance was a requirement.  If you can't abide by the school rules, go public.  I think Catholic teaching would confuse Rory and it's not Christian - the role of priests and Mary, being 'confirmed' when he may not even be a Christian.  I like the Catholic school for the great , close-knit school community it has, but Duncan was adamant he doesn't want our boys going there, so I respect that.  However, Duncan said that if the public schools here introduce the Safe Schools programme, Rory will be off to the Catholic school in no time!
  • I want Rory to rub shoulders with all sorts of kids, not just ones I would choose for him.  I want him to learn that there are all sorts of people out there, who don't necessarily believe what we do and I want to help him think critically, lovingly and wisely about how to respond to that as he grows.  I've shared my testimony on here about how I became a Christian partly due to the experience of having Christian friends at a public high school and watching them live out their faith in an often challenging context.  Now, we're not sending to him to the public school to share his testimony - obviously he doesn't even have a testimony at the moment, because he doesn't understand the gospel.  Rather it's so he gets an accurate view of the world he lives in.  I don't want him growing up in a protected Christian 'bubble', so if he goes to uni or out into the workforce, it's going to be a rude shock.
  • He can catch the bus from near our house.

Some more of my rambling, unfiltered thoughts on education for kids in general, in no particular order:
  • I am generally against homeschooling for reasons such as the kid doesn't like school, or the parents' belief that the kid should only learn things that interest them (unschooling), or that they're afraid their kid won't become a Christian if they rub shoulders with non-Christian kids.  However, I think it can be the best choice if the child has a certain disability, or if they are being severely bullied and the issues cannot be resolved, when there isn't the option of them simply attending another school (such as out here).
  • Parents letting their kids miss school so they can have 'date days' with their parent/s (usually the mum) really annoy me.  It seems to have become a hit with Christian parents on my Facebook news feed, and I often find myself looking at pictures of mums and kids painting each others' nails, watching movies, or hanging out at cafes.  Yes, it won't matter in the big scheme of things if your child misses one day of school.  Yes, it's nice to spend one-on-one time with each of your children.  Yes, the education system is flawed and expects too much of kids.  But why do they not simply have the 'date day' after school or on the weekend?  And if after school and weekends are too crammed full of extracurricular activities, then maybe the parents need to re-evaluate that.  I can see why teachers get annoyed at students missing school for no good reason.  After all, many parents take their kids out of school, then complain about why their kids aren't doing well academically.  The poor teachers get sandwiched in the middle between an unrealistic curriculum and irate parents.
  • The whole 'students learning in nature' thing seems to be a big hit with a lot of my friends who are parents.  I'm not so convinced.  Yes, I think learning outside has its benefits.  Small children aren't able to sit still all day behind a desk.  But while it will engage and help some students, it will alienate others.  Personally, a school dedicated to spending all day in the bush would have been my idea of schooling hell.  I hated maths, but being outside counting sticks for maths class would not have made it more enjoyable.
  • There is no way that a teacher can cater for every student's individual learning style ALL of the time. 
  • Kids have to learn that they will have to do things they don't like and just suck it up.  Life is full of not-so-enjoyable moments.  It's part of preparing for life in this world; even your dream job has parts that aren't so fun.
  • While I like the idea of the learning at your own pace style that Montessori/Reggio education offers, it doesn't really prepare students for life after school.  I don't like the idea of kids feeling stressed and left behind.  But you can't go into uni or a job learning at your own pace.  Somewhere along the line there has to be a transition.  At what age, I'm not sure.
  • I am VERY opposed to Christians who insist that all Christian parents send their children to Christian schools.  Not all parents can afford the fees, for a start. No school will make a child a Christian; that is God's saving grace in Jesus.  Duncan and I are primarily responsible for teaching our children about Jesus and we have extended family, friends, and church to help with this.  A Christian school may be a blessing, but there are other Christians who see it very differently; they see going to a public school as part of being salt and light to the world.  I know a few Christian friends who are teachers in the public system and feel strongly about staying there for that reason.  They don't like other Christians telling them to teach in a Christian school and dislike Christian schools trying to poach teachers from public schools.
  • There are advantages to being in a Christian school and in a public school.  In a Christian school, teachers and students are not hindered in spreading the gospel.  In a public school, they get to witness to people who may never have seen a Christian up close.
  • I cannot stand 'closed' Christian schools, where only kids with at least one Christian parent can attend.  What is the point of that kind of school?  It must be there to protect kids from non-Christian kids, kids like I was (I find that offensive and snobby).  Clearly the school doesn't exist for outreach if they don't let non-Christians in.  One of the reasons I've heard for justifying the existence of these kinds of schools is that it's pointless to teach non-Christian kids about Jesus when they're going to go home and have their parents tell them its a load of crap.  Umm what about GOD being the one to do miracles in people's lives, huh?  Then these same people are big supporters of having Scripture classes in public schools.  The mind boggles.
  • I think Christian schools should always employ Christian staff and this right should be protected.
  • However, I also want my kids to receive a good education.  I'm not paying thousands of dollars per year to send my kids to a Christian school to not learn anything of importance.  I want them to be able to have the option of going to uni.  The trouble with only having Christian teachers is that it drastically reduces the pool of suitable candidates for a teaching position.  The teachers may be strong Christians, but not necessarily great educators.  And even if all teachers are Christian, there is always going to be a variety of denominations, maturity of faith, and viewpoints on all sorts of issues.  No teacher is going to teach everything you agree with all the time just because they are a Christian.
So, there you have it.  My rambling overopinionated views on stuff I probably don't really know much about.  It's ok to change your mind.  Two godly people can make very different decisions.  Kids are all different.  As the years go by, depending on Rory's personality, academic ability, and faith, we may feel he needs a Christian school or homeschooling.

And that is ok.

1 comment:

AlexA said...

What a huge decision it is to choose a school for our children! It seems you have worked through a lot of your thoughts by writing about them. I love to sort through my thoughts my writing too. It's good that there are so many different options available, since we all have such different goals, convictions and passions. I do hope that you are able to find what suits your family best!