My oldest, Rhiannon, headed off to her first day of school this morning. She's really looking forward to first grade, although most of her friends from kindergarten are in different classes, much to her chagrin. She just loves school and we're going to do our best to keep her enjoying it.
She goes to public school, and it seems to be going pretty well. We were faced with a tough decision last year; heck, it is a tough decision every fall, and an incredibly important one - where do our kids go to school? Medford schools do not have a very good reputation; much like the city itself, they are solid yet unspectacular. My wife, an Arlington (a next door town) native, spent her life looking down on Medford, as Arlington has a very high scholastic reputation.
But it seems like Medford schools are improving. Nearly all the schools themselves are brand new, having been built over just the past few years. Of course, buildings are only part of it, but still a good base. And, being a (relatively!) inexpensive place to live so close to Boston, there are plenty of educated, motivated yuppies like ourselves who will push both our kids and our schools to be better. So we're going to stick with the public schools for the immediate future.
I've always felt like the home environment was more important than the school environment, given some base level of competency. But as I get more involved with it, I'm not so sure any more. Here in Massachusetts, we have charter schools, which are privately run schools that are publicly funded. The local school district pays a set amount for every student that goes to one of these (an amount that many call onerous and unfair, btw). This is an interesting option for us, as we have a pretty highly regarded one not too far away. And as we drive the kids to school anyway, it wouldn't be that big a change. But I'd like to support our public schools, and we'll continue to do so.
One thing that a charter school has over a public school is that it doesn't have to accept a student. And even in kindergarten, there are very disruptive kids who make learning difficult. Rhiannon had a pretty good class, but towards the end of the year, some of the kids got out of hand and had a real detrimental effect on everything. And in a charter school (or a private school), the kid or kids could be kicked out. In fact, that is what happened to one of the troublemakers, thus he ended up in Rhiannon's class. And that's a powerful tool to keep things positive at school.
Another, less concrete, advantage charter schools and, to an even greater extent, private schools have is that the parents have made a real effort to send them, as opposed to public schools which happen by default. So presumably, you'd have a more generally committed group of parents, which makes all the difference in the world.
But we'll stay involved and keep the whole learning experience a positive one. Gabrielle is involved in the PTO (the Parent Teacher Organization, a community involvement group), while I coach both girls' soccer teams. So I'd like to think we're giving back. Of course, we can do more, and I think we will.
Anyway, here's a picture of her heading out to school. Her mom takes great pride in having dressed up kids, and that includes nice clothes and, just as important, pretty bows. Rhiannon is six years old and is growing up too fast!