October 27, 2011

Schooling vs. Unschooling

I have read some very interesting posts and articles about school lately which has fueled some thoughts of my own on the subject.  My 2 1/2 year old daughter goes to a Waldorf preschool (my 6 month old son is still home obviously) and so far, I just adore the program.  I didn't do any research beforehand since this was the only preschool in my neighborhood that accepted 2 1/2 year olds - I toured the space and met the teachers and that was it.  I just fell instantly in love with the vibes and the agenda.  It wasn't until a few weeks into the program that I finally found some time to look up what Waldorf really stood for.  Luckily, I liked their ideas!  (See a recent NY Times article here) Unfortunately, once your child get to elementary and beyond, the costs of a Waldorf education get pretty steep.

Having grown up and succeeded in public schools, (until after HS when I went to a private liberal arts college) it may seem strange that I am thinking of NOT sending my kids to public school. I had the great fortune of going to a public school in a very active community where there were plenty of parents involved and there was money to back up all the arts/sports/etc programs. It was the most "private" public school you could find.  It was sort of expected that you would continue on to college...and preferably to a Stanford, Harvard, Middlebury type.  I played the game so well and enjoyed it really.  I liked school.  I liked engaging with my teachers, discovering new subjects, socializing with friends. I fit the bill to a T and went on to attend a prestigious college back east just like I was supposed to. The funny thing was, my parents never once pushed me this way or that - my mom jokes that I was so hard on myself that there was no room for them to add any pressure. They just let me do my thang.

But now, raising children in a city where the school system isn't as luxurious as the one I grew up in, raises some serious questions. Do we want to live in the city (Seattle, by the way, is a nice-sized city - small neighborhoods and woods/water/mountains all so close by you feel you are not missing out on the country life) or move to a more close-knit community (read: suburbs. double yikes) with better supported schools?  Do we want to send them to private school (ouch!) or test out the public schools or no school at all?  I didn't even know no school was an option until I read this post at Marvelous Kiddo. Maybe go to public or Waldorf school for the first half of the year and travel/live/no school for the second half of the year? And what about those outdoor schools? I haven't come across any in our state but they seem to be more prevalent in Australia. So many options! Luckily, the public school in the neighborhood we live in are among the best in the city so they may actually be just fine but it's their agenda that I am worried about.

Our public school system is still churning out students who would be a perfect fit for factories and the like but the outside world has moved on. We need students who can engage with people, who can adapt to changing situations, who can use their imagination and creativity to strive. I am just not convinced yet that our current system enables and encourages this.  That is why I am starting to question...I have some time but it will come faster than I want to admit.

So I am curious, what are your experiences with school?

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