The School Dilemma – A School Review Series Part 2

This is a continuation of our family’s journey on finding the right education fit for our children. It might help to read the first section before reading this section. If you did not read the first section let me bring you up to speed
#1 I am pro-public education and my hubby is pro-private education (specifically Montessori)
#2 – I am naive and undereducated about education overall, Pre-K through post-graduate
#3 – we had enrolled our son in a Montessori style Mother’s Day Out program when he turned 18 months
#4- Right around the time our son turned three years old things started to change, very slowly and this is the journey for our family to find the right school for our children and for us.

As I mentioned a few things happened during our son’s third year of life that completely started to change the way I was thinking when it came to education for our children. First, he was aging out of the Mother’s Day Out program at a Montessori school and would need to attend five days a week if we were to keep him there.. Second, I read a book, Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, that started to change our parenting perspective and our lives. I think that these two things happened at the perfect time for us to start a paradigm shift in our life as a family.

After two years in the Montessori MDO children at this program move on to start their three-year program in the Montessori school. That would be 3, 4, 5 year olds in the same classroom learning and teaching together. As much as we loved this idea, the biggest drawback to us was that I was a stay-at-home-mom, or what I like to call myself is CEO/CFO of the house. I just could not wrap my head around putting him in any kind of school or childcare FIVE DAYS A WEEK. Yes, there was the option for half days, but still, the mornings are the most active for our family and the thought that I would not have that time with him during his last years before starting formal education was daunting. He was going to be in school or working five days a week pretty much the rest of his life, why did I want to start that so early? Also the cost of this program was a huge jump in price and we just didn’t know if we could/should commit that much financial investment in preschool of all things, especially if we were going to do public education after that.

We struggled so much with the decision. We had read a few Montessori at home books and knew that to get the most out of Montessori education they needed to be in at least three days but five was idea. We really loved the way our son was developing his confidence in life choices and self care and knew that the routine of daily school would be great for him. However, we also wanted him to enjoy so many of the things our city had to offer young children and really have a lot of free time to play at home as well. And we just didn’t know how much of a struggle it would be for him and us to attend this school and be in the classroom for 2 years then transfer out to attend kindergarten.

During this same time a Facebook group that I’m a part of started an online book club and our first book was Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne. I am terrible at picking up books and reading them so I thought this would be a good motivation for me. Once I started reading the book, it was like the lightbulb went off and I realized why already in our short history of being a family, we were unhappy with our life. Yes, we were happy but we all struggled with bouts of unhappiness. Our lives were cluttered with so much STUFF physically filling up our house and our time. The book specifically addresses four areas of life to simplify: the environment, rhythm, schedules and filtering out the adult world. But the biggest game changing part of this book for us was when Dr. Payne discusses hopes and dreams.

Dr. Payne discusses how he meets with families who are seeking his advice and discuss “the couple’s own vision of their family, how they imagined it before they had children. It is important for them to dream their way back, before stepping forward…..and most parents are surprised by how far they’ve strayed from the dreams they once had for their family….the misalignment between what they imagined– what they dreamed– and what their family has become is enormous”. When I read that I almost cried. Our life at that moment was FILLED with things we did not need, our time was cluttered with events that stressed us out and most importantly we were not the family we envisioned. As I mentioned before our biggest dream from the get-go was to be a bilingual (English-Spanish) family. My son and I had taken a mommy and me Spanish class for a while and he took Spanish summer camp but that was it….we were not investing time, resources or energy in meeting our one biggest family goal.

So after focusing on slimming down our toys and our activities we realized we needed to bring Spanish back into the forefront of our mind. Since our son had done Spanish summer camps at a great school we decided to start there. Actually we have known about this school and the owners when they were only teaching adults at their kitchen table in their home. But back then I was WAY too busy (with happy hours) and didn’t have enough money (on two incomes) to take Spanish classes myself. (Yes, I feel myself eye rolling every time I think how NAIVE I was back then). We knew this is where we would start if our family had any chance of bilingualism.

After touring the preschool and talking with the director we knew we had to make some serious changes to our life and our children’s education. The opportunities the school now offered was just what we needed to go back and align ourselves with that vision of our family before the real world took over. They were opening up a nursery program AND an elementary school program. This meant that our daughter who was not even one at the time could start her Spanish immersion program earlier than our son and our children could potentially attend this school through elementary school. BIG CHANGES!

So yes, we thought going five half days at the Montessori school would be a big commitment, but now we were considering two children in two different locations (yes, the nursery and the preschool are in different locations) multiple days a week (three for our son and two for our daughter). This was not only a game changer in time but also financially. But the more we thought about it, the more it felt right and more inline with our family. Here comes the kicker…..if the kids were going to be immersed in Spanish, I needed to be as well. And hence I started taking Spanish classes too. But I still was unsure of the elementary school thing, we thought if anything, giving our children 2-3 years of Spanish in addition to me learning it would be enough for our family’s goal of being bilingual.

So those were the two big changes that happened when our son turned three. In the fall he, his little sister and his Mami (that’s ME) started at The Spanish House. And the thought of future education was just a quiet buzz in the back of my brain until I toured a couple of public schools and attended kindergarten prep classes at our local elementary school….you know the one across the street. Then my whole paradigm changed completely and I faltered on my devotion to public schools and it is probably not for any reason you can think of.

My next share will be about what really made me consider looking at private schools more closely and some things I’ve already learned along the way in the last 5 months of staying naive but more educated about education while also keeping focus of that family dream we had so many years ago.

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