I think a lot about my children’s educational future. I realize this can be a delicate subject as we all have our own opinions on education and ways to raise our children.
The other day I was chatting with a friend who mentioned that her friend just pulled her children out of a highly rated public school and placed them in private school instead. She was upset because, apparently, “masturbation” was listed under some sort of description of the curriculum. Hashtag: why third hand information is dangerous. She has four kids, so you have to multiply the cost of private school by four. Here in Southern California, that means anywhere from $6K to $25K per kid, per year. The alternative costs nothing. Nothing.
I went to a public elementary and junior high. This may mean something different, depending on where you live. At the time, they were good schools. Sure, I remember the playground being vandalized with graffiti every now and again and the occasional playground fights that would send everyone running over to watch until someone of authority came to break it up. I don’t recall any problems with any of my teachers, nor do I recall either of my parents hovering over me. I know it was like pulling teeth to get me to sit down and do my homework and I do remember battles in this respect. I also remember my mom declining my english teacher’s suggestion to place me in an accelerated english class. My mom’s response sums up how I remember both of my parents attitude toward education; she declined saying this: “I don’t want the extra work”.
That may sound like a lazy response from a mother that doesn’t care about her child’s education, but it’s quite the contrary and, I think, one of the more important lessons I’ll take forward with me in guiding my children through school.
The lesson is this: Ultimately, success depends on the individual, not the institution. I see it as my job to set my children up to be successful, but I also know there is a delicate line between trusting them to get there on their own and pressuring them so much that, rather than them walking the path on their own, you’re dragging them by the seat of their pants. I hand it to my mom for acknowledging that I didn’t have the interest in school at the time. She knew advancing me in school would mean greater homework battles and she chose not to push it.
My sister, on the other hand, was very self-driven academically. She was that girl who graduated high school with a 4.7 GPA and had those like me scratching our heads and pondering, “I thought 4.0 was the highest?”. When she didn’t do well on a test, it was her sobbing and my parents trying to talk some rational sense into her.
I went to a private high school and the environment was drastically different than it was in public school. I was surrounded by kids who all came from affluent and successful families. My friends from junior high all went to the local public high school. And you know what? We all went to college and we all have careers of our own. So, in the end, public school versus private school didn’t really make a big difference.
And the same can be said about college, as well. I graduated from San Francisco State University and later went to a small college in LA for an additional degree in Nursing and I work along other nurses who graduated from Yale and others from Pierce (a community college) and we all make the same amount of money.
Point being, if you’re kid is driven, they will succeed no matter where they are planted. I hope I don’t lose site of that reality because I’ve seen the crazy-brand-name-school-driven parents and I don’t want that for myself or my children.
I got a good laugh over the holidays in watching how Hooper constructed his gingerbread house, on his own. It made me giggle to look around at all the other gingerbread houses the other preschoolers created with their parent’s help. I’m not against helping my child and I certainly have no ill judgement toward those that walked home with beautiful gingerbread homes, but I truly did appreciate Hooper’s independent effort and the truth is we ate it all before we got home anyway. The comparison will give you a good chuckle. Guess which one is Hoopers:
I guess the bigger questions are how to motivate your child, when to push and when to pull back, and choosing which battles are worth fighting. I’m obviously still figuring it all out.
How do you feel your education impacted your life path? Do you hold any resentment toward your parents for pushing you in one direction or another?
-We showed up to the first day of school, as a family, for the first day meet-and-greet. As we were getting out of the car, I noticed the chaos; kids and parents everywhere. I suddenly had that feeling of what it felt like to be a student, on the first day of school; the excitement of pulling out brand new folders that I picked out in the back-to-school section at Office Depot, the outfit I so carefully coordinated to go with with my new shoes, and that nervous – almost panic – of wondering who would be in my class, who I would have lunch with, and if all my friends from the previous year (::cough cough:: that ended just 3 months ago) would still be there. And now as I walked into the school gates as a parent, I saw one mom decked out in high heels and so much make-up you would need a garden rake to remove it and realized that the first day of school is a “thing” for parents too. It made me giggle with a confidence I only pretended to have as a kid.
-Once in the classroom, I noticed that several of the parents were already familiar with one another because of older kids they have that attend the elementary portion of the preschool. When one said, “I’ll see you at pick-up”, I realized that “pick-up” is also a thing; I mean these parents see each other twice a day, nearly everyday. I was reminded, again, why my mom always told me my friends would change throughout my life depending on what I was doing in life. So I introduced myself to a few other moms.
-My firstborn, my more timid and cuddly and dependent son left my side immediately. Toy trucks take precedence these days. He didn’t even take his backpack off. I had to ask for a hug and kiss. I called my sister on the way home. She asked if his independence made me sad. I felt nothing other than pride.
-Entertaining a second born while the firstborn is away is hard work. It’s like my little babysitter disappeared and suddenly it was just he and I. Made me realize just how strong their relationship is.
-As soon as Van and I pick Hooper up, Hooper attacks. It’s like he has all this pent up maliciousness that he’s (hopefully) held in all day (I mean all three and a half hours ::cough cough::) and so he just unravels as soon as he sees Van. We’re working on it.
-Papers. Oh dear Lord, the papers. Everyday there are new papers. It’s like the junk mail followed me from the mailbox. Information on this and information on that, I can’t even say what all the papers are about because I haven’t even begun to look at them. After only a week I felt as though I was drowning in them. And, of course, there’s the lovely* artwork that I can tell Hooper spent so* much time working on ::wink wink::. Am I a bad parent if I throw that stuff away? Rhetorical question because, well, I’m gonna throw it away anyway.
-For the first three school days I noticed, in hindsight, that I never put the right time on the sign on sheet. I was off by an hour one day and thirty minutes another day. I was worried about having to wake Hooper up so early to go to preschool but I think it’s me that could use the extra rest. Ha.
-He’s made a friend. I caught them as they locked eyes after school and they gave each other that look of oh-my-gosh-I-know-you-and-I-like-you-but-what-are-you-doing-here-look (as soon as they’re outside of the classroom it’s like a whole other world). The exchanged the cutest wave and both went on their way with an occasional glance back to see if the other was still looking.
-I knew seeing him go to preschool would make him appear all the sudden more wise, more grown. What I didn’t expect is that I’d have a mini teenager. He’s how our post-pre-school conversations have gone:
Me: “What’d you do at preschool today?”
Me, trying to take a different, more open ended approach: “Tell me about your friends at preschool”
Me, thinking okay then, he must be hungry, “What would you like for lunch when we get home?”
Hooper: “I don’t wanna talk right now”
… two minutes later he transforms from pumpkin to fancy horse carriage, asking about the tractors and road construction and telling me how much he loves me. So, ya, he’s like a teenager. A split-personality teenager.