We’ve ordered uniforms and we’ve met the Principal. My eleven year old daughter, who is starting middle school this Fall, is half-way through her required summer reading list. She’s ready. But I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy she’s turning a new page in her life. I’m proud to watch her move into full-pledge adolescence. Her brand new charter school is fabulous– on paper. Check out some of what my daughter’s new school plans to offer:
- Inquiry-based learning,
- Hands on experimentation,
- After-school clubs galore,
- High-tech classrooms outfitted with the latest Apple stuff,
- Daily music lessons,
- Friday outings to a 300 acre ranch for agriculture,
- Animal husbandry and archaeological studies.
- Organic food lunches.
The list of super-cool offerings makes my mouth water. Heck, I want to sign up myself. But sometimes (my inner pessimist says often) reality is not so shiny.
Last Saturday, my daughter and I stood in an open hallway waiting for her turn to audition for the school’s show choir. Other people waited for their turn also. After ten minutes of quiet, some of the kids started talking to each other. Here’s the deal: those kids talked about TV shows (and nothing else) for as long as we all stood there (1 hour).
We don’t even have a television at home. My girl needs at least a friend or two she can talk to about a million other things– make-up, books, cousins, snorkeling, homework, the future, boys, girls, teachers,YouTube, the past, food, music, sports, summer travel, winter travel, college plans etc. It could be these kids just happened to talk about TV for an hour this one time. But what is more likely is that they are wasting their summer in front of the tube.
Possibility #2: My daughter could go to the local, high-quality prep-school instead. The uniforms are prettier (red and blue, instead of grey earth tones), there are lots of different sports available for kids to participate in, but more important students come from families that travel and read (at least the newspaper). The down sides? The teaching is heavily top-down. There is a ton of homework. And it costs a lot.
Growing up, I attended a total of 7 different K-12 schools. Some encouraged inquiry, some shoved information down your throat. Some had sweet teachers, some had scary ones with bad hair. Some had huge playgrounds (one surrounded by a forest), some had a lot of cement-scaping. But what I found most compelling in my education was my classmates. The best education comes from having the brightest (and nicest) classmates.
Which school, the new charter school or the fancy prep, would be better for my daughter’s creative development? Both have great potential. The charter school encourages inquiry. The prep-school drills in the proper skills and offers more interesting peers. It would be nice if these schools could merge into one amazing institution for my daughter’s sake. But since that isn’t going to happen any time soon…here’s the question:
Where should I drop my daughter off come September?