The deadline for next fall is February, tick tock. However, I think we're going to keep him at his current bilingual Montessori for Kindergarten, which is the highest grade they offer. It's been so fantastic. My kids have peaked: they're only 3 and 4.5 and already this is the best education they'll ever get in Podunkville, and we all know it. The teachers understand my kids without needing us to tell them. Case in point, teacher says to me yesterday at pick up: "hi hush, we're going to give DS more challenging work because today he got bored and started seeking negative attention..." Music to my ears. Their approach makes our lives so much easier.
I thought we had already decided (back in Nov '10) to send DS to the Home District public school closest to our house, which has been nationally-recognized for excellence.
Then some of the optics changed. Turns out we now have 3 viable public school options to explore. (My internal satisficer says, oh shit.)
Now the bilingual school in Away District is suddenly looking a lot more attractive. What's changed? "Make Your Day," the shitty discipline policy with absolutely no research support that encouraged kids to rat each other out is dead and gone - hooray! How did this miracle occur? Some very dedicated PTA parents pounded the table for several years, and held meetings, and did surveys, and created blogs, and got in the school board's faces, and moved heaven and earth, and lo and behold, they got it replaced this school year with a more empathic discipline policy called PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support) that both teachers and parents alike seem to prefer. Remind me never, ever to make fun of nor to devalue the efforts of PTA
There's also another public school option where the classes sound amazing, as in subjects I myself would want to learn - and, well, it's actually a "public school alternative for Homeschooling Families." Hmm.... I confess I am not naturally inclined to be super open-minded about homeschooling, though I am sympathetic to the homeschooling option for certain cohorts (twice exceptional, and rural gifted, for example). My opinions are malleable enough. The good news is, as predicted, wacky homeschoolers on the internets do not equal life. This local couple we've been getting to know lately have two delightful sons attending the homeschooling public school, and they are like this walking advertisement for the wonders of secular homeschooling. They are low-key, nonjudgmental, NPR-listening types who have invited us to talk with them more, and to visit the school. I'm also seeing that homeschooling is quite possible for working families like ours, and that contrary to its name the "schooling" doesn't always occur at "home." [Wow, I still can't quite wrap my brain around the fact that we're seriously considering homeschooling. Proof that if you live long enough, you'll see it all j'suppose.]
Then, of course, there's the word on the street about each school. Gossip folks. Consider the source, don't believe everything you hear, blah blah blah. So here's what's allegedly so very "bad" about each school (let's assume the truth is somewhere in the middle and we all have very different priorities) --
Home District school: "It's like 85% Mexican and all kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch. I know this family who sent their (white) son there for Kindergarten (he doesn't speak any Spanish). He had no friends all year. They paired him with this autistic kid. He ended up hating school and crying every day at drop off. They finally requested a transfer to a school with more native English speakers." [Note this is the one and only negative parent experience I've ever heard about anyone having at this school and it was told to me secondhand, and no names were given for me to verify.] And (from a teacher who trained there) "If your son does not watch TV and play video games, he'll have a hard time making friends with other boys as he gets older, because those are the main activities over which the kids in this population seem to form bonds."
Away District Bilingual school: "It all depends on which teacher team your kid gets assigned to - there are some great teachers you will want to request, and then pray your kid doesn't end up with one of the crappy ones. The principal is a nice guy but he's not a good leader and there's no cooperation between the Bilingual teacher teams and the English-only teacher teams." Also - "My son acts out because he's bored. His teacher says he's so gifted it's like he's special needs, but instead of challenging him more in school they encourage him to attend a half hour math enrichment after school as if that solves the problem - so, what's the point of him sitting in class all day? We have to do a lot of extra work at home to meet his needs." And "My daughter went there K through 5th and afterwards we took her to Mexico to visit her grandparents, and it turns out she does not even understand a word of Spanish. We should have never trusted that school." "We didn't know our son got in until my wife finally called the school 3 days before school started and demanded to know." "We didn't find out which teacher my daughter was assigned to until literally the day before school started - she had been asking us all summer long. Frustrating." [Also, due to budget cuts, in this district there is no school on Monday mornings, and that lost time is never made up.]
Homeschooling Public School: (From a parent who sent her sons there for 2 years before putting them back in public school) "A lot of the kids in the upper grades, not so much in K I'd imagine, are there because they do not fit into a typical classroom, so you have a lot of possible ADD and spectrum kids, usually undiagnosed because the parents are in denial, and it can make classroom management a real challenge. There's a religious homeschoolers clique there that it's impossible to be part of if you don't attend the right churches, so that eliminates a lot of the opportunities to socialize." (From another parent whose daughters went there for 2 years) "My youngest daughter needed to socialize more. She's mean to other kids and this school was just not the best place for her to really improve upon those skills."
Home District school: (From several teachers who have observed or taught there) "I've never seen a school where the children are so respected." "The principal and the teachers have been working together for a long time, they have really strong relationships and make a great team. The superintendent is really proud of the school and is invested in making sure it continues to get all the resources it needs to succeed." (From parents too numerous to count) "The school does a great job, I seriously can't think of anything to criticize." "My daughter is pulled out of class to work at a higher level on certain subjects, she feels really good about school." "Every teacher there is awesome, you don't need to worry about requesting the 'right' teacher."
Home District school: None. The school is 6 minutes away from our house, and the bus stop is only a block away. School is in session the full school day, all week. My kids already speak enough Spanish that they should be able to make native Spanish-speaking friends without any trouble. We watch TV and play video games at home (um, lol), so ditto.
Away District Bilingual school: It's a 22-minute drive each way, and transportation won't be provided. DH works nearby and could handle drop off most days - but I bet it would be hard to nail down a definite routine and I worry my work could potentially suffer if transportation times are not in stone. There's no school Monday mornings (to which I say WTF?). The previous discipline concerns seem to no longer be at issue. Also, I worry that since my kids already speak a ton of Spanish, will they even be challenged enough in a school that does not seem to favor single-subject acceleration.
Homeschooling Public School: It's a 26-minute drive each way. There is obviously a whole lot of work involved in this type of education, but here at least some of that burden is carried by the institution. Still, we'd be responsible for filling out the paperwork with the state, and figuring out how the hell this would actually be done.
Ok, so. I'm asking you kind souls who have graciously read all of the above, in its imperfect informational glory, to please pretend you are me: which option would you choose? Are there any options you're able to eliminate immediately? Please share any data points you may have. Lay it on me! Gracias!