Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/Editorial
Lean 30 : 30 days of keeping it lean and old school online. More
After spending a considerable amount of time conducting research focussed on the topic of school choice, I now find myself in the position of being a parent considering what type of school my four year old twins should attend. In our home my husband and I have attended the choice programme information meetings; met with the principal at the neighbourhood school; and, scoured recent research and media reports about various choice options. Does this make us stressed out, buzzing like helicopters or – at a minimum – overly diligent parents?
We’re just getting casting our net wide, exploring the options and asking (at least to each other) some tough questions.
We put in applications to our local parish’s Catholic school, the Montessori programme, the French Immersion programme and the bilingual Mandarin programme. Our local school is also a top two option for us. The local school district office has a square up, democratic process for admitting children. You get your application in and they either accept the earliest applications or draw names. Done! I respect that. My family might not come out ahead but it’s a process that isn’t open to “supposedly objective” admissions assessments.
So far we have received the following feedback:
• We received a form letter from the Catholic school advising us that out “child” had not been accepted. Read “was not eligible for a parent interview.” After further exploration it seems that we are not considered to be Catholic enough to warrant an interview. From my observations, there simply aren’t THAT many 4 year olds dashing about the church. I might not have a chance to confirm as I’m so deeply aggrieved, I’m seriously considering switching churches. Would an interview have been so taxing? Interestingly enough you can find some pointed pieces about admissions to Catholic, faith-based schools in the United Kingdom.
• We applied to the Montessori programme. My teaching background is based on the Montessori method at the primary level. The programme offered in public schools is a combination of the Primary (K) and Elementary Montessori programmes (grade 1+). I had an opportunity to see a Montessori classroom in this school district years ago when I was completing my training. There are strongly divided views about the Montessori method in my immediate and extended family. It’s frustrating and disappointing considering this is my area of expertise in my teaching career. I have a few but this is the one I chose for my teaching focus.
Something that was mentioned at the French Immersion programme really made an impression on me. Both parents should be on the same page about the choice that is made for the child. Reasons were given but you can imagine why. For example, imagine that your child encounters some kind of difficulty in the programme he attends. The challenge is so significant that the teacher and administrators suggest that he might be better served in a different programme. Or perhaps it hasn’t reached that point but your child is struggling. We heard at the French Immersion info night – and French Immersion parents have confirmed – that this type of conversation happens. If both parents own the decision to choose that type of programme for their child, it would be easier to face the situation.
• We applied to the French Immersion programme. Last year all the spots were claimed in the first 5 minutes that the admissions form was online. No camping out overnight in our district! I got our two applications in within about two minutes.
• We also applied to the bilingual Mandarin programme. The Vice-Principal gave a thorough talk and provided a school tour for interested parents. We felt this programme would be an opportunity for our Eurasian children to know more about their heritage than simply growing up going to dim sum restaurants. Even still we aren’t 100% certain if this programme would be a better fit than our neighbourhood school?
• We also met with the school principal in our neighbourhood school and we were given a warm welcome. Privately we had read their website as a background to our conversation. We left the meeting understanding the unique community in the school and the priorities that the teachers have set for their school community.
When we attended various information sessions I wondered if it was the same group of parents, to some degree, attending all of the sessions. I even had a parent come up to me one evening and tell me she has seen me at another programme information night. A parent who was asking enthusiastic questions about the Reggio programme looked equally committed at the Mandarin information evening. Similar to the way that I must appear to others, the priorities of other parents are hard to read. Another parent explained that she is a French Immersion teacher. I got the impression that French Immersion was the main preference for her children and hoped, for their family’s sake, that they got in. This what the landscape looks like as parents explore all of the educational options for their children.
How about you? What choices have you, are you or will you make about schooling for your children? Did your child attend your local neighbourhood school or did your family choose a programme such as Montessori or French Immersion?