September 02, 2008

School Daze

Regular camelidophiles will know that for many years now I have written of our gelsí education under the gentle hand of Dr. Maria Montessori, better known here as St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method. Well, Gentle Readers, be prepared for a shock: The 10 Year Old starts school this morning, but not at the hallowed halls of dear old St. Marie of the BEM. No, instead she is entering 5th Grade at the Fairfax County Public School down the street from us.

Having given you a moment to pick up your collective jaws from the floor, I will explain. You see, Mrs. R and I were musing of educational matters a few weeks back and were forced to face some hard truths:

First of all, were the gel to remain at St. M of the BEM, she would, in fact, have been the oldest child in the school. And indeed, although there would have been a fair number of kids in her class (it being a mixed upper elementary group), there would have been only a handful of other actual 5th Graders, and no 6th Graders. Now although I love my eldest daughter dearly, I am not so blind to her personality as not to recognize that she is emphatically not what one would call Senior Prefect material. Not only does she need a larger group of contemporaries, she also still needs some older kids about to serve as examples and, where necessary, enforcers. The truth of the matter is that the gel is something of a bully, and it strikes us that throwing her into a social mix where she is somewhat more accountable for her own behavior is not aítall a bad move. Further, the odds are that she will be in the public system for Middle School. The more time she has to acclimate socially before facing that particular Time of Horror, the better.

Second, as regular readers also know, Mrs. R is still teaching at St. M of the BEM. Granted, this year she will not have a home room as such, but will be a floating elementary science teacher, alternating with some administrative duties as well. Thus, the gel and Mrs. R, although not constantly in the same classroom together, would still have had frequent interaction on what might be called a professional level. Careful observation has convinced both Mrs. R and me that it is high time that she began distancing herself from the gel a bit, forcing the gel to start becoming a leetle more self-reliant.

Third, the 8 Year Old is frankly getting tired of having her elder sister haunt her steps all the time. Had the elder girl remained at St. M of the BEM, the two of them would have been in the same class this year, a prospect the younger gel was definitely not looking forward to. When we told her of our decision to move her sister elsewhere this year, the younger gelís eyes positively lit up in anticipatory delight.

Fourth, with respect to academics, the fact is that while brilliant (if I may say so), the gel is also somewhat lazy. And while St. Marie has allowed her to develop her fundamental skills very well, it is an educational method that counts a lot on self-motivation. It is high time that the gel was pushed to make more of an effort and to learn something of accountability for that effort.

So all in all, we believe that in booting the gel into the public system (which, by the bye, is quite good round here), we are doing an enormous service for everyone involved.

And how is she taking it, you may ask? Well, when we first broke the news, she was in tears. (ĒChange? Change?Ē Thatís my girl!) However, when we explained the benefits, she swung right round and embraced the idea with enthusiasm. (I should add that she is fully aware of the points I make above. Although I of course express them in suitably diplomatic terms, I have never been shy about letting the gel know my opinions of her behavior: She has inherited the strain of self-delusion that lurks in my side of the family, and I consider it my primary responsibility as her father to ensure that she grows up with the ability to look herself in the face and accept the Truth. I think she knows this, and at some level is really quite grateful for my efforts.)

And so here we are. We have spent the past couple weeks conscientiously attending open houses, assembling supplies, signing up for this and that. (It helps enormously, I think, that a couple of the gelís friends -one from Church, the other from a former soccer team- will be in her class.) And whatever she may think about it a week from now, I know that this morning the gel could hardly wait to get down to the bus stop. Of course I warned her that for all her enthusiasm I did not want her coming back two days later and saying she didnít like it: the die is cast, as it were, and she is just going to have to accept that there is no going back.

Somehow, though I think, I think, that we are not going to have a problem.

(Cross-posted at The Port Stands At Your Elbow.)

Posted by Robert at September 2, 2008 10:05 AM | TrackBack

Until I hit college (UT Austin), my education K-12 was in small private schools. I was therefore initially reluctant to send my kids to the scary big public schools. (Change? Bad!) But after 9 years with all 3 kids in public schools I don't regret it at all.

Good luck, and good idea to get her acclimated before middle school.

Posted by: JohnL at September 2, 2008 11:18 AM