Back in August, my friend Lucy sent me a list of topics she would like to see me cover in my blog. Her number six item was, “The public school vs. private school quandary that is Little Rock.” At the time, that issue was already swirling around in my head, but now, it has a presence in my brain of tornadic proportions. It’s going to take more than one blog post to cover this one…
I grew up in public schools in the Midwest. In fact, in most places I lived, that was the only option. You went to the school you lived closest to, and all the other kids at the school lived nearby too. I turned 5 at the end of June, and my mom took me down to the elementary school for kindergarten enrollment. I hopped on one foot, recited my ABCs, counted to 20, and did all the other things that were required as part of the kindergarten readiness testing (this was in Kentucky). That was how I got into kindergarten. It didn’t really have much to do with my birth date. I remember that I liked school, and I loved my teacher, Miss Donna. I was a pretty passive child, and I do have foggy memories of feeling intimidated at certain times. I probably was one of the youngest kids in my class. I remember making a gingerbread Christmas ornament for my mom in art class, exploring the alphabet with The Letter People, and winning 3 blue ribbons at field day on the last day of school.
Craig grew up mostly in public school as well, at least from the 4th grade on. Before that he lived in Okinawa, Japan, and his education details are a little sketchy for Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Craig’s birthday is in March, so while he wasn’t especially “young” for his class, he definitely was not one of the oldest. Anyhow, Craig went to school on the east coast, but still always in public school. He was aware of some magnet schools that required applications when he got into high school, but he attended a standard, public high school in the suburbs of DC.
Both Craig and I graduated from High School with honors. I began college at University of Missouri-Columbia with enough scholarships that I was going to the bursar’s office every month to pick up a check. Craig took a highly-coveted position in an accelerated 6-year dental program at University of Missouri-Kansas City. He now holds a DDS degree and I have a BS and an MA. Certainly, we both feel that our primary education has served us well.
Pre-kids , I worked in “informal education”, at a science and technology museum in Springfield, Missouri. As Education Director, I had become familiar with private schools, and the concept of magnet schools. However, even in Springfield in 2006, with a population of roughly 280,000, there was only one private school that wasn’t parochial, only 2 or 3 parochial schools, and the public school district was just beginning to delve into the prospect of establishing magnet schools.
Craig also worked in a position closely linked with the local schools, as he was providing dentistry in a mobile unit that plucked it’s patients right out of the classrooms all day long. When I was pregnant with our first child, Carina, who was due at the end of August, Craig came home all in a tizzy one day. He had heard about what kindergartners were expected to know (ABCs, Count to 10, etc) and that children had to turn 5 on or before a certain date in order to be allowed to take the “entrance test”. I don’t remember what the cutoff date was, now, as the whole issue was such a non-event for me at the time. Craig was concerned about when Carina would start kindergarten. He asked me if I thought we should start her right when she turned 5, since her birth date would be so close to the cutoff date, or if we should wait an extra year. I told Craig that we would probably need to wait and see what kind of kid Carina turned out to be, and that we would also need to wait and see what her actual birthday turned out to be. “I think we should wait to start her,” he said, “so she won’t be the youngest.” I countered with the fact that I was one of the youngest in my class, and it didn’t hurt me any. Craig was really worried about this, though, and in hindsight, was probably pretty annoyed with me since I kept blowing him off. In my mind, the point in time at which a child would start kindergarten was completely up to the parents, and we had 5 plus years to figure it out.
In early 2007, we started building a house. One of the main reasons that we chose the neighborhood we did to build in was that it was within walking distance of the (public) elementary school and about a mile from the high school. There were no other school options in Ozark, Missouri, but we didn’t put any thought into it because the Ozark school system is one of the best in the region.
When we moved into our new house in September of 2007, Carina started the Parents as Teachers program. This program sends an educator into homes to help parents learn how to work with their children to “learn how to learn”, and reach developmental milestones on time. Everyone has access to the program, regardless of socio-economic status. A few months later, when our son Callen was born, he started in the program as well. We also started to think about whether we would pay to put Carina in a pre-k 3 program (for 3 year olds) the year before she would start the pre-k 4 program that was part of the Ozark Public School District.
Then, in August of 2008, we moved to Little Rock.
Other Posts in this series:
Other posts in this series: