Motherhood Mondays continues today with another Q&A. Since it’s the time of year when parents are filling out school applications and making decisions for the fall, I thought today I would answer reader questions related to schooling.
Q: Do you have advice for choosing a school for children?
For kindergarten and up: If you are going through the process of choosing a school for your child, particularly for kindergarten and up, I want to pass along some great advice someone shared with me: ask to sit in on a class. Maybe not even a kindergarten class but a first or third grade class so you can see what it is really like at the school as students progress. Notice the teaching styles and even little things like what’s on the walls (do you like an elementary classroom with colorful things all over or would your child thrive more in a non-distracting classroom?). You may be able to determine where your child would thrive best if you do this, maybe even more than if you just attend the Open House or a tour. Not all schools will allow this, but it’s worth asking!
For preschools: I would be hesitant to put my child in a preschool that put too much pressure on their students and expected them to do things that preschoolers shouldn’t be expected to developmentally do. It seems so many preschools these days are focused on prepping children for kindergarten (and getting into the right private schools) instead of encouraging curiosity, play, imagination, and a love of nature. Now that I have a middle schooler I have NO regrets about putting a priority on these things well through kindergarten. There will be plenty of years of studying (they will learn to read someday, I promise!) so I urge you to take the academic pressure off your young children. And if you choose to do preschool, find one that lets children be children for a little longer.
Q: What do you wish you could go back tell yoursel as a first time mom about schooling?
That Parents (Mothers’) Day Out and “preschool” programs for toddlers aren’t as necessary for a child’s development as our culture makes it seem. When we moved to Dallas when my oldest daughter was one year old I got on all the waitlists because that’s what everyone else was doing. I didn’t really stop to think why I even wanted her to go! Here’s my advice, take it or leave it:
If you are a stay-at-home mom who need a few hours of peace alone in your home a week, absolutely do it.
If you are doing them solely because of the societal pressure is telling you that your child needs socialization or to learn *so much* before preschool or kindergarten, I may rethink it. Babies and toddlers can get plenty of socialization other places. (Their primary need is not to socialize anyway.)
As for getting ahead academically, many studies show that preschool really only benefits underprivileged children in the long run. In other words, if you decide not to do the MDO or preschool route, your children will not be “behind.” Mothers can provide just an enriching enriching environment at home if they so desire. (The first few chapters of this book were very encouraging to me on this subject.)
Please don’t get me wrong. My older girls went to a wonderful “part time” program that was right for our family. But looking back the pickups and drop offs and snack packing and room mom emails could get overwhelming. I loved the non-school days where we didn’t have to do anything and had the freedom to go to the park or museum or just hang at home. Now that we are dealing with homework and exams and middle school things I wish I had more of those days. For that reason I am holding off on sending Louise next year for the two year old program and just going to keep her home with me.
Bottom line: be empowered as the mother to make the best decisions for your children and family and not be swayed by what others think you should do!
Q: Can your share your philosophy on education?
Let me just say that it is a complete first world problem to be able to choose the type of education we want for our children! We are so blessed to live in a country that has so many wonderful options. Dallas, in particular, is not lacking in excellent schools.
But when I started doing research on how I wanted my children to be educated I was drawn to the Classical Christian method of teaching. It seems education has gotten so complicated and there is new philosophy or method every few years. I didn’t want or need complicated; I wanted time-tested. Those who have been following my blog for awhile won’t be surprised I love that our children study classic literature, music, and art, learn cursive, narrate and recite poetry, and learn to read phonetically. They generally learn the same way children have learned for centuries beforehand.
As I said above, I also loved the idea that young children shouldn’t be made to sit at a desk all day. I wanted a school that fostered curiosity and a love for God’s creation. And really a love for learning. I felt all these things before I even knew who Charlotte Mason was and when I found her writings – and a school that tried to employ them – I was thrilled. Many homeschool moms use her teachings as a guide, but I think all moms might glean some helpful insights from her writings. (Her writings are quite extensive but this book is a good recap.)
Funny enough, even though we are believers, I was hesitant to send my girls to a “Christian” school. Growing up Christian schools weren’t that great academically so I was worried about that. But I also didn’t want the “Christian” aspect of the school to become so forced or routine that it didn’t mean anything to my children.
Thankfully, I found the opposite to be the case with our school. They have nurtured our children’s spiritual development so much, complementing what we are trying to do at home. I know we won’t always be in an environment with so many like-minded families, but while they are young it has been worth the sacrifices my husband and I have made to send them there.
Again, I believe there are many wonderful school options. This is just what we chose for our family right now!
(I don’t share the name of our children’s school online for safety reasons but if you are in Dallas and truly interested please email me.)
Q: Any other words of advice on schooling?
Take it one year at a time. It’s so tempting to try to plan out our children’s schooling for the next 13 years but life does not always work out the way we as parents want it to (Shocking!). I think schooling is one of the ways God shows modern day parents that we need to trust Him with our children. Pray that God will lead you in making these decisions for your children and help you to trust that He has a plan for their lives, education included. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21
Side note: I attended no less than ten schools growing up (we moved several times) including public, private, and Catholic. But you know what? I turned out okay! I was a shy child but changing schools so often forced me to be a little more outgoing and learn to make friends. So I hope that’s encouraging to someone out there who may be having to change their child’s school.
Q: How do you handle teacher/student conflicts?
We are pretty old school in that we believe the teacher is usually right. Even if they’re not;). We teach our children to respect elders, and that includes teachers. Sometimes a grade may not be fair but learning to deal with it in a respectful manner is teaching our children something they will use the rest of their lives. Because sadly life is not fair and school will not be the only time they are ever disappointed.
I strive not to be a lawnmower parent and get involved in every little detail about grades. Having said that, we haven’t experienced any major conflicts so ask me again in a few years!
Have a question? Comment below and I will try to answer in an upcoming post.