At (pretty much) the top of my list of concerns in moving back home was the choice of school for the girls (…Or schools, as it so happens. I’ll get back to this later). Even before we confirmed our return date, I’d already started inquiring amongst mom peers and I discovered a new trend: Families were choosing between the Traditional Schools, Progressive Schools and Homeschooling, all viable options here in the Philippines. I won’t get into the differences and pros and cons since several blogs and articles have already expounded on those (I’ll put the links instead at the end of the blog), but reading through them and talking to people about this decision has made my head spin. Who’d have thought school choices for children would get so complicated?
Ultimately, every choice has its pros, and they all say you should choose what is best for your child (I suppose this is said so no parent feels forced to put their child in the tried and tested schools of the olden days?). Nonetheless for a new parent like me, it didn’t make the choice any easier.
After my extensive questioning and “research”, and long nightly deliberations with my husband (You’d think we were trying a person as guilty or innocent with our process), here’s how we arrived at our decisions.
PART 1: A School for Sam
We chose a traditional school for Sam — my very own Alma Mater. It was the school I went to for 14 years (and where I made my life-long friends), and it’s also the school my mom and the other women in my family went to for most of their lives (Whenever I go I feel like I’m in the twilight zone as Sam’s teachers are my contemporaries).
Sam was actually doing great in the progressive preschool in Chapel Hill (as I think by default, all preschools in the states are progressive in nature), and was one of the youngest children in her classroom last year. I thought about putting her in a progressive school here, but my husband thought otherwise. He would rather she go to the tried and tested and recognized institutions (As a lot of the progressive schools are pioneers here still), whose curricula have been seen to work time and again. Anyway, Sam is a fast learner and is very adaptable, so she would survive — and hopefully thrive — in a traditional environment. More than that, he was saying that after school, she’d work environment run by generations of students from traditional school settings, so it may be good for her if she were exposed to that early on.
All these points were very valid, but I think the ones that swayed me in favor of putting Sam here were:
1. The fact that Sam was allowed to enter Kindergarten instead of Pre-K, even if her birthday missed the cut-off by a few days. To me that meant that she was grouped with the older children just as she was in her Chapel Hill Montessori experience, and would still be challenged to learn. My biggest worry was that she’d get bored because she already knew how to read, had advanced well in her Kumon and was also doing other enhancement activities in her Montessori school;
2. My teacher-friends had validated my husband’s PoV, and said I had the personality to supplement her learning at home anyway. Which meant that she could still get the “progressive”learning at home and still have the benefits of a traditional school setting; and
3. I loved the fact that the school emphasizes and puts at the center of its education the Catholic faith. Maybe it’s because I grew up in that kind of environment, but I do believe that having that as an integral part of their curriculum makes for a good foundation for moral values. I don’t know if I am capable enough (or credible enough) to teach that to her solely at home (and if I’m being honest with myself that is not a risk I’m willing to take).
PART 2: The Plan for Jamie
Going through all those deliberations, school visits and inquiries for Sam tired me out and I decided that Jamie would also just go to whatever school her sister was in (Poor second child!). Most especially with the horrendous traffic situation, I now understood why parents send all their children to one school; drop off and pick-up of two children in two schools is an inefficient use of gasoline, and time. I, the designated “school bus driver” would spend my entire morning in the car.
As it turns out — Jamie isn’t eligible even for the Pre-K level until June of 2014, as her birthday falls in March (much further from the school’s age limit cut-off dates). My husband assumed that I could just homeschool her in the meantime.(she’s only 18 months old after all). But! I have recently discovered that I cannot survive home schooling, and it is not optimal for my stress levels and Jamie’s personality. I tried to teach Sam at home with a set curriculum in place (and many say Sam’s personality is a lot like mine while Jamie’s is the opposite), and I tell you I died.
So, I went back into the school search. I was initially looking for a program that would take her 2 or 3 times a week at most (as Sam also started out that way), but the 5 schools I liked (Yes, I found that many) didn’t have that option, or were already full for the year.
And after another long deliberation with my husband, we decided on enrolling her in a nearby recommended Play School for the remainder of this year, and then transferring her to a more traditional set-up when she’s older.
1. The Montessori school that we liked is a little bit of a drive and starts much earlier than the school nearby. Jamie has not gone a car ride without screaming her lungs out because of the traffic, so we both felt it would be detrimental to her to wake her up early and stick her in the car just to go to school for 2 hours, EVERYDAY;
2. My only 2 day or 3 day option school is full for the morning session. Their afternoon session runs into her nap time which is more sacred to me than her education at this point; and
3. When we did a trial class at this school, Jamie responded positively to the teachers and the curriculum. She allowed herself to let go of my hand and sit with the other kids as they sang songs and did the school work. She didn’t shy away even in the big circle time activities. I also liked the fact that the class currently wasn’t full, which meant there were less students for Jamie to get used to. She’d still get her dose of socialization and not be intimidated by having so many kids around her at one time. I took it as a good sign.
We have yet to see if things work out well for Jamie with this arrangement. I have to admit I’m still very much torn about sending her to school everyday at so young an age. I’m hoping it will help us both adjust better to this new environment.
As for Sam, she seems to be doing okay so far, but then again she is my brave little girl, and doesn’t really show much emotion until she’s ready to crack. I hope that isn’t the case here though — as she has consistently been bringing home stars and hearts and smiley faces since she started. The time schedule is really an adjustment because she wakes up and goes to bed much earlier than she ever did in Chapel Hill.
I am glad that she and Jamie are both home for lunch and we still have time together to play after naps in the afternoon. I think I’d miss them too much otherwise.
Links to entries and posts I’ve read on the topic: