I have to begin by saying again how very much I appreciated the long and thoughtful comments that so many left both here and on facebook, the last time I wrote about my kindergarten dilemma. I seriously considered printing them all out and going through each with a highlighter because I thought you all brought such unique perspectives to all angles of the discussion. It was so helpful.
So anyway, when I wrote last, about six weeks or so ago, I was pretty much deciding between homeschooling and private kindergarten. Even after posting and reviewing the comments I still felt stuck bouncing between those two choices day after day. Eventually though, one floated to the top, and after all that close analysis of those two options...
We've chosen public school. For now. And here's why.
As I brought my dilemma to my local associates I started getting some unexpectedly positive reviews of the public elementary school Amy would be attending here. Amy's preschool teacher, in fact, sends her three girls there and gave it such glowing praise we had to go see for ourselves. And it turns out, you can't judge a book by its window-less cover.
Turns out this local school is a gem within the district. It is small (comparable to what I attended). The teachers, parents, and staff are all extremely devoted to the kids and programs there. It is as secure as any parent can hope for these days. It is bright, covered in artwork, and nicely laid out.
And Amy loved it. Or, more accurately, she loved the cafeteria. And when she said that I instantly thought, if she finds the noisy, smelly lunch room appealing, she can handle the rest, no question.
And from there the it all started making sense. Regarding the cost of private kindergarten: I realized I was guilty of the same thing Congress tries to pull - baseline budgeting. Just because it would only be "$150 more than what we are paying per month now" (which seems like a small sum), does not change the fact that we were talking about upwards of $3500 for the year (which is, in fact, quite a large amount of money). So really, could we afford it? Also, as much as I love her sweet little nursery school, she's going to be a six-year-old for most of her kindergarten year. If she were a young "5" starting kindergarten, I might have more reason to keep her with the little kids. As it is, I think she's going to be more than ready for a more challenging environment by the time the school year rolls around.
Also, as I hinted at somewhere back, I realized that I was projecting way too much of my own personality into the school decision. I am most definitely an anti-social introvert. I fit in fine at school, being simply "the quiet one", but if homeschool was an option for me I would have begged my mom to take it. Amy, on the other hand, is a quiet girl for sure, but she needs a much higher degree of stimulation than I do. She likes the noise and bustle of school, and loves the stream of input she can get there - both from what she observes of her peers to what she learns from her teacher. As her preschool teacher keeps repeating to me, she craves knowledge. Could I provide her with that? Probably, but I might exhaust myself in the process.
As for homeschooling, I earnestly hope it can be part of our story at some point. When William is a year or two into school I can quite easily see us all taking a year or more off the schooling grid to learn as a family. I really want the chance to be my children's teacher, and guide them as they pursue their interests and aptitudes. I think we'd all have a tremendous amount of fun doing it.
But, I don't want to be the one to fight with Amy over how she holds her pencil.
I think a year or two of school routine, academic skills, and all the rest will help set us up for more productive homeschooling at some later point, when we will be ready for the break.
And truly, I don't think I could feel totally convicted in my decision to homeschool without seeing first-hand what public school is like these days, and for my kids. I don't want to deprive them of an experience, even if it may prove to be a dubious one.
Other minor point worth noting: the elementary school is about 2 miles away; the private school about 7. We'd be talking about a $500 price tag just for the gas to drive her out and back twice a day, not to mention the most tedious 15 minutes of red lights through Sketchy McSketchville you could ever imagine. The public school is literally right up the road. Less travel wear and tear on everyone.
The biggest drawback is still the hours. I still don't understand why 5- and 6-year-olds need to spend from 7:30 to 2:10 away from home, every day. It seems like an exhausting waste of time. Interestingly, every other parent I've spoken to feels the same way. So why can't we go back to half-day kindergarten, people? The only saving grace is remembering again that Amy will be on the older side; she will have a maturity advantage and if every other kid can hack it, I am sure she can too. Plus, this is the girl that is Never Tired, so having somewhere to be every morning might be just the ticket to finally getting a predictable, early bedtime.
Also worth noting: the elementary school she will attend, being so near the base, is about 75% military kids. Amy will be in the company of kids from all over the country, who are used to doing exactly what she does: try new things every other year. Toss in art class, music, gym class, a gorgeous library and computer lab and I think she'll have enough to make it worth her while.
And then we can reassess for first grade, after we move.
So that's the story. Long enough? I'm sure I've left out some part of the equation but that's a pretty good snapshot of what's been in my head through this whole process. We haven't actually registered yet but my conviction has continued to grow as the weeks pass. When asked the question, "Where will she go for kindergarten?" I have found myself more and more confident in my response: "She'll go to public school."