Sunday, January 22, 2012

School days

Daniel and I had a good time visiting the Wingra School yesterday.  Both of us are the product of pretty good but very traditional public schools, so learning cursive through personal exploration while reclining in the classroom loft was not part of either of our formative years.  Although they day we send any child to school is a long way off, it was interesting to discuss the pluses and minuses of the fancy, progressive private school model.  In my opinion:

The pros-

  • Enthusiastic parents and teachers.  You can find plenty of that in regular public schools, but there is plenty of apathy and dysfunction to deal with as well.  Private schools can get rid of kids/parents who won't get on the bus.  Public schools are forced to deal with those problems.
  • Regular recess and physical activity.  Can't argue with that.
  • Lots of field trips.  The kids love the field trips.
  • No standardized testing.  I'm actually not opposed to standardized testing in theory, but it seems to have gone haywire as it has been implemented in public schools.
  • No grades.  Instead students/teachers/parents discuss the child's progress toward mastering different skills.  I'm not opposed to grades either, but I think this could be very beneficial for the right child- a kid who was a little slower than others or a little faster than others or totally neurotic about grades.  
  • A supportive community.  I got a feeling that a lot of the meanness/bullying/etc. you find in public school would NOT be tolerated.  Again, a private school can kick that type of kid out.  Public schools have to deal.
  • Art, music, and Spanish classes.  Things that are important but always at risk of being cut from public schools.
The cons-

  • It's really expensive.  One year at Wingra is probably about the same price as both Daniel and I have spent on our entire post-high school education (together).  They do offer some financial aid, but still... is it better to save that money to send your kid to a good college?
  • A small school doesn't have some of the resources of a public school.  For example, it wasn't clear how/if the middle school students did science experiments like use microscopes or do dissections.  Also, band class was only held once a week.  You can't get better if you only practice together once a week.
  • There is no high school.  I can't even imagine the culture shock of leaving that school at the end of 8th grade and getting plunked down into a regular high school.  
  • Especially in the mid-elementary years, there are a lot of things you have to learn by rote: multiplication tables, cursive writing, states and capitals, etc.  You can't just explore your way to having instant recall that 6x8=48.  It wasn't clear to me how much emphasis was put on really learning the basics.
Did you ever attend a non-traditional school?  Would/did you send your kids to one?  If we had the $$$ to do it, it would be a tough decision.  There are strong arguments on both sides.

On the menu: Un-photogenic but tasty (and finally made) chili in the slow cooker.
I work out: 75 min vinyasa yoga class.
Bible: Just about to do that...

1 comment:

  1. "Today our five year olds learned through personal growth and exploration why touching the stove is a bad idea."