While I wrote about the preschool application process yesterday, these days I spend more time trying to figure out what we're going to do about elementary school in a year and a half.
As I've written before, we're probably going to start out by sending D to the local public elementary school, which is exactly 2 blocks from our front door. I'm a big believer in public schools, and it would make our life immeasurably easier to send the boys to a school that's so close, but this is still not an easy decision. Even though we live in a pretty affluent area, this elementary school serves an overwhelmingly low-income population -- about 85 percent of the kids qualify for free lunches*. Free, not free or reduced price. As is the case with most schools serving low-income kids, the test scores have been atrocious. So I worry about teaching to the test, I worry about whether D (who is already starting to read) is going to be bored, and I worry about whether there's going to be peer culture that says its uncool to be good in school. I also don't like to think about the arguments we're going to have when many of his classmates' parents allow them to roam around the neighborhood without adult supervision at what I think is absurdly young ages.
But I like the new principal and I'm impressed by the teachers I've met. We went to the open house a couple of weeks ago, and we practically had to carry D home because he didn't want to stop exploring the classrooms. The kindergarden classes only had 13 kids per class this year (with a teacher and an aide), which is a big plus. And they're talking about trying out multi-grade classrooms for the K-2 students to allow for more individualization of the curriculum. So I think we're going to give it a try. But I second-guess myself on this all the time.
Bitch PhD wrote an interesting post yesterday about the life lessons she learned from attending academically mediocre inner-city schools:
"I learned how to be comfortable with people from the wrong side of the tracks, to think critically about race and class and how they play out in subtle ways, and that there is a really major difference between intelligence and privilege, though the two are usually confused."
Those are lessons that I'd like my kids to learn, but not at the cost of academic skills. Dr. B argues that she got those at home regardless. I think that's probably true of most of what kids learn in elementary school, but I'm not convinced it's the case in the upper grades.
Toronto Mama has also been worrying about schools, and she points out that the safety issue can be the trump card when looking at urban schools: "I do not want my babies to be afraid to go to school." Fortunately, I don't think that's an issue here.
* The houses here are small, and the upper-income residents typically don't have kids, or move further into the suburbs before their kids hit school age. And many of those who do have school-age kids send them to either private school or the "traditional" magnet school.