Thursday, September 4, 2008

Change is good

We were set on the idea that our daughters would go to parochial school. They were enrolled in a small, local pre-k thru 8th-grade private Catholic school beginning at age 4 for both of them. Looking back now, we don't regret them attending there - it was a good foundation to begin their education. The Christian values that were instilled in them at that young age are a big part of who they are today. However...

When the tuition was increased by over 50% in the course of two years, we felt it was time to analyze the situation - were we getting our money's worth? Were we happy with the education they were getting? After much discussion and observation, we realized there were a couple of problematic areas for us at the private school, the main one being how everyone was treated exactly the same - which may sound like a good thing, but... there was no enrichment, no honor roll, everyone was expected to do everything adequately - not to excel at anything. Essentially, students weren't pushed to strive for anything above mediocrity.

So we made the switch, and were second-guessing ourselves at first. But then... we saw the proof that we made the right decision.

(Prepare for the bragging to begin...)

D started 5th grade at a public intermediate school - only 5th and 6th graders, but there were about 1500 students in the building (big jump from the 250 total students they were used to). It was a fairly new building - bright, colorful, air-conditioned, and had a great computer lab, library, music room, art room, etc. - far exceeding the facilities at the old private school. The first week there, she was elected to student council. Friends were made and she loved her teachers. When grade cards came home - all A's. These were the first A's we'd seen since at the Catholic school they used the +, check, and - grading system (which is awful in my opinion). Then her classes went on a learning field trip to Exchange City and D's classmates voted her as the mayor for the day. The A's continued. At the end of 5th grade at an assembly with the parents, she was chosen by her teacher as the model student of their class. Sixth grade continued in the same manner - she was elected for student council again and made honor roll every grading period. She was in the choir and she started playing the trumpet and took to it naturally. She memorized 120 places of Pi and won a class prize. And at the end of 6th grade at the assembly with the parents, she was given an award as one of just 9 sixth graders that got straight A's the entire year (that's 9 out of 800 - pretty awesome accomplishment!).

(And the bragging continues...)

K's introduction to public school was at the local middle school as an 8th grader. She was voted as student council rep (she ran every year at the old private school but was never elected). K was in the choir and selected for solos/duets, she made the Power of the Pen team (competitive creative writing), and was chosen by one of her teachers to receive a Pride Award for her positive attitude and leadership. She eagerly gave up her afternoons in the Spring to be a track statistician. Even with her busy schedule, K still managed to make honor roll every report card. Freshman year at high school saw more of the same - she joined the yearbook staff and Pencil Dust (the creative writing magazine). She was in the choir and each performance had a solo/duet. In the Fall, in order to go to all of the away football games, she volunteered to be the water girl for the varsity football team. She got to ride the bus with the sports med staff and got to watch each game from the sidelines. (And as a bonus she got to be around the upperclass football players!) If you know K, then you know how much she likes to perform - she auditioned for the Fall play and got a part with a monologue. She auditioned for the winter muscial and got a role in "Once Upon a Mattress," so she got to dance and sing - all while wearing a pretty princess dress and crown (a dream come true)! In the Spring she auditioned again and got a role in a one act play. All this stage time, as well as Saturdays that she gave her time to paint the set and props, earned her an invitation to join the International Thespian Society. You'd think all that would be enough, yet she still offered her time to the track coach back at the middle school and went to their meets and kept stats for them again. And her grades? Honor roll of course.

Currently, K is in her sophomore year of high school (for details on her schedule, see my earlier post: Back to Reality). This year D is at the middle school for 7th grade. She is changing classes for the first time and has a locker for the first time. Her schedule includes classes with 8th graders (pre-algebra, language arts, science) as she is in the accelerated classes because of her good grades the previous years. She's in the band playing trumpet again. We'll see what the rest of the year holds for Miss D, but I'm confident she will continue to thrive in public school.

Did we make the right choice? If they had been left in the private school, would they still be stagnant? Would they be satisfied being average? I think its evident that adequate just doesn't cut it for our girls!

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