Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/Editorial
Lean 30 : 30 days of keeping it lean and old school online. More
As my children grew into being toddlers and then young and older preschoolers, I started to look, observe and ask questions in my local community of teachers and parents. I found it to be very helpful to visit Strong Start programmes as they are located in neighbourhood schools. Some of these schools have choice programmes and some don’t. I noticed that parents who are working outside of the home could visit on a day off whenever they have the chance. Infrequent drop-ins are always welcomed rather than not visiting at all! This is a great way to start to get a feel for schools in your neighbourhood and hear feedback from other parents who might have older children in that school. Strong Start students and their parents/care givers are invited to watch school events, use the gym and playground and feel a part of the larger school community.
I live in the burbs of Vancouver where there is strong support for neighbourhood schools. The parents who have experience with my local school speak enthusiastically about their child’s experiences. Meanwhile the parents I’ve met who have selected choice programmes for their children often share similar desires and aspirations. The choices that we make as parents really do represent the values and goals that are most important to us.
While neighbourhood schools might not house a choice programme, they are also a choice. Each school develops an Action Plan for Learning (APL) each year.
“The APL is a framework for reporting student learning and school goals that are most relevant to our school community. A committee analyzes data collected in the areas of Classroom Assessments Based on Teacher Judgment, School-Based Assessment and Provincial Data to make decisions about goals we want to achieve. The “Evidence of Change” section reports on the progress toward achievement of those goals. “
Neighbourhood schools will also have core areas on which they are focussed. For example: a balance between academics, athletics and fine arts. When you combine this focus with the APLs in schools, add in the culture and community of the school and contributions of local parents, you can see how each neighbourhood school would be uniquely different.
As my children are getting older and move closer to the starting date for kindergarten, I gradually learn more about their individual strengths and areas that might be more of a challenge. As we think about our goals for our children’s education we have to keep the child at the centre of our decision. If my child likes to be athletic and explore outside, a school with a commitment to outdoor time and nature exploration would be ideal. A public or private school that focuses on academics with few opportunities to exercise your bodily-kinesthetic intelligence would not be a good fit.
Based on feedback from choice programme administrators, it seems that most families settle into a choice programme that they desire. In the French Immersion community, for example, we’re told that by the time they receive cancellations and clear their wait lists, only a handful of families do not receive a placement. Parents do also exercise the opportunity to change schools, move to an out-of-catchment school, leave a choice programme, switch to home schooling or re-enter the public school system after home schooling.
At our home the most difficult question has been – do we commit to a choice programme that will involve driving and an educational community and school about which we know very little? Or do we commit to the neighbourhood school that is a short walk away, is well known to us and highly recommended.
Ultimately it’s a choice between good and good. It is a difficult decision!
Other than an interest to educate our children in a faith-based milieu, we have not been drawn to any non public school options.
How about you? How did you prepare to make a decision about your child’s schooling?