Lost in education: Need directions

This was cross posted on DC Metro Moms a few days back when our topic of the day was education.

I was visiting my neighbor yesterday who has a kindergartener. She finally said they had to go inside and start homework. Homework for a five-year old? Yep, that's right, for those of you who don't have kids in school yet, apparently the schools give five-year olds homework. And at this school, homework means worksheets.

I cringed and flashed back to my elementary, middle school and junior high years when teachers thought mimeographed (remember that purple ink?) worksheets meant they were teaching us something. Please tell me kids are not still doing worksheets!

I'm a mom of a three-and-a-half year old and a two-year old. They will be in school fairly soon, so it's something always on my radar screen. The worksheet news wasn't good. It's bad enough kindergarten has gone to full day, which I understand makes sense to teachers and for most students. But the thought of my rambunctious preschooler having to spend an entire school day at school without a rest period quite honestly scares me. Then to think that there is homework on top of a full day at school. . .and not anything interest, but worksheets. When do kids get to be kids and learn by doing and exploring?

Quite honestly, I'm frightened by what I see coming out of the public education system year after year:

More emphasis on testing and less on learning in creative ways. The focus on paperwork means less time to teach. Sure, there are fabulous teachers out there, but when I think back on my whole public education career, how many good teachers did I have and how many bad ones? I can count the good ones on one hand. How scary is that?

When I hear other cultures are learning things like cooking, gardening, piano, or violin in school, I wonder what we've done with our education system where children drill on basics and still don't know the basics when they get out.

Fairfax County has one of the best public school systems in the country, which is one of the reasons we agreed to pay the high real estate prices when we moved here. But quite honestly, I find my attention turning toward private schools. The costs are insane, but when I think about my kids, especially my son's individual needs (my husband is sure he's a genius), I can't help but think that private school might be where he will excel the most.

The argument for public schools by many people is the increased diversity. Well, it's not like this area isn't diverse already with all the transplants from, well, everywhere. You can get diversity in just about every location in every neighborhood in the DC Metro area. It's one of the most diverse places--outside New York City--I would imagine you could live. We are fortunate enough to live in a community with not just the normal ethnic demographics, but we also get the diplomats and expatriates from new and exciting places. I wouldn't be surprised if they tend to send their kids to private schools as well.

I was hoping the Washington Post Magazine article a few weeks back would change my mind with the public vs. private decision, but it only solidified my leanings toward private schools.

The thing is, due to finances, we might be able to foot the bill for private school for a few years, but eventually our children will probably have to return to the public school system. Is that even worse? Perhaps there's a career out there for education consulting?


purplemommy said...

My private school kindergartner doesn't have homework and "worksheet" would probably be a bad word in his school. Ah, but you probably already know where I stand:)

Ariel said...

You know, this keeps me up at night all the time, and my kid won't even start kindergarten for another 3 years! I really don't know what we're going to do- I even looked at a few Catholic schools (and I'm Jewish) because the regular private schools are just too far out of our reach. We have even talked about moving out of the area so that we could have more of a say about which school she goes to.