Q: We have just moved and are seeking a new school for our two children – 6- and 8-year-old boys. They are smart, respectful of adults and creative. We know that sounds like typical bragging, but it is what our friends and their teachers have all told us. We raise them in as traditional a manner as we can, given the opposing forces in today’s world. They have daily chores and are allowed no after-school activities that might interfere with family dinner. So, knowing all that, do you have any school recommendation for us? Our options are a private school that boasts wonderful student achievement, a public school that seems OK (no reports of big problems), a Montessori school and a Christian school.
A: Before answering your question, I must honor your attitude and approach to raising your boys. As you obviously know, you are in the minority, but you are also evidence that retro parenting is not a thing of the past, that it is not only still doable but also the very best way to go (as confirmed by research, by the way). Many kudos for swimming against the tide.
And now, an answer to your question: Of the options, the one that gives me the most pause is the public school. Over the past 50 years, public education has signed on to one teaching and disciplinary fad after another to no good effect. Furthermore, all too many public schools seem to believe their mission is to identify and get appropriate “treatment” (i.e., pharmaceuticals) for as many children (mostly boys) as possible. (Not that this is exclusive to public schools, mind you.)
On the other side of the coin, the folks who work in public schools, in my experience, are qualified, dedicated folks (with exceptions, of course). If you’re comfortable with the public school your boys would attend, then by all means take advantage of the fact their tuition has been prepaid.
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Private schools, on average, can boast of high student achievement, a high percentage of students going to top-level colleges and the like. However, if public and private school students are matched in terms of parent income and education, their achievement levels are fairly equivalent. So, in the final analysis, it’s not the school, it’s the student and the student’s family background. A highly motivated kid from a home that emphasizes the importance of a good education is likely to achieve well regardless. Sounds like your kids fall into that category.
I am partial to Montessori, but only when the school in question adheres to Maria Montessori’s original philosophy, which was truly genius. However, not all schools that call themselves Montessori are equal. Some adhere well to Maria’s original vision, while others do not. Vet the school in question well. Do your homework. Know what to look for and what questions to ask.
As for Christian schools, the same wariness applies. Too many schools that call themselves Christian (irrespective of denominational affiliation, if any) have bought into educational fads, including rampant diagnosing and medicating. Again, do your homework.
When all is said and done, it sounds like you have four reasonably good options available. You could close your eyes and pick one and all would probably turn out well. Given two good kids who are learning proper family values, you don’t have anything to worry about.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: www.johnrosemond.com