In Australia Small Sun and Sprout went to a private Christian school with about 350 students spanning Kindergarten to sixth grade. Each grade ran two classes, and the whole school had assembly together two times a week.
The older children looked out for the younger children, and as a parent, I really felt that if my young children grew up admiring and copying the older children, I would be pleased. It was a wonderful school for us.
I did as much research as I could into schools here, and knew stacks of statistics about the public schools (diversity profiles, number of financially disadvantaged students, special programs), and the details about the private schools in our budget, in the areas we were considering.
In the end, we landed where we landed, and prioritized a house we liked, and it happened to be zoned for a really good public school that met all of our criteria. It is big, about 750 students in Kindy - 5th Grade. Unfortunately, there wasn't space in the preschool program affiliated with the school, so we had to look for another option for Finch.
This is how Small Sun and Sprout feel about going to school in the morning.
They feel like Usain Bolt before a race, or after he's won, take your pick. They're playing in the school band, they're reigning champions of lunch time jump rope competitions, and they're surviving the American worksheet homework and myriads of tests. Small Sun reported having made "about 17" friends on the first day of school, and Sprout had "about nine best friends." They're confident, they're athletic, they're capable, and they're ruling this transition.
On the other hand, here's how Finch looks most mornings.
Forgive the blur, but this picture captures the most scowly of the scowls*. He hates the formal uniform (which includes hard black dress shoes on chapel days), he hates the formal academic structure, he hates learning a second language, he just isn't into it.
How can I blame him? In Australia preschool was something I wanted to attend. A massive outdoor space with a sandpit as big as our swimming pool, a resident rabbit on the premises, a garden, raising tadpoles, making messy art, very tuned in and empathetic teachers, bays of sunny windows, interest-led curriculum...I could go on for ages.
In Houston when I looked for a preschool I asked each place we toured "would you say your program is play-based or more of a formal education model?" As if to assure me that my money was well spent, they would all jump to exclaim "oh no, not play based! Our kids learn French/Trigonometry/Baroque Literature, etc!" If only they had known that was the last thing I wanted to hear.
I care about childhood immensely, and I have a very clear opinion on what kinds of environments and opporunities contribute to great childhood experiences. The only local preschools tailored for those types of opportunities were 25k+. For PRESCHOOL. EACH YEAR. So I picked the best of the options in our budget, and we're doing our best.
It is a good school, it's just no the right preschool for Finch at four years old. He is, shall we say, ecentric. He was finally thriving with teachers that went to great lengths to find a new dinosaur activity to engage him each time he arrived at preschool. Here he comes home and moans "we had to write so many letters, and I cried because I was so fruster-er-ated!"
My poor baby.
Two are thriving, and one is hating. We've done what all good parents do, and have resorted to bribery. "If you can make it through drop off this week, without throwing tantrums in the morning, we will celebrate with a special breakfast on Saturday with your choice - waffles or pancakes."
Tomorrow is Monday, so we'll see how we go.
Thoughts? Condolences? Opinions? We are contractually bound to pay for the year whether we stay or not, and I really don't think we'll find anything better in our budget. The teacher is good, although less tender than I'd hoped for...Sigh.
*I know the star looks weird, but it's the only way I know how to obstruct the school logo. I'm tech savvy enough to write a blog, but not savvy enough to do it better!