She told me that for the past two years, her daughter has been attending an upscale private preschool and her preschool curriculum easily surpasses the public school's kindergarten curriculum. Her philosophy is that if she wants to continue giving her daughter the best possible education, she'll keep her in private school. Because otherwise, sending her to public school will be a huge academic step backwards that will, in turn, impact the college that she attends, the job that she lands ... her entire life.
Believe me when I say that my friend is under a huge amount of stress as she considers the next "right" step for her child.
It was no accident that we moved in to an area with some of the best ranked public schools in the country, the weekend before our children started kindergarten. Now maybe if we lived somewhere where the public schools were dismally ranked, I'd more seriously consider private school. But because we live in an excellent school district, for the preservation of my sanity, I won't allow myself to buy in to the philosophy that our decision to send them to public school is any way handicapping them for life.
If I genuinely believed that I was robbing our children of an opportunity if we don't cough up the $60,000 per year tuition to send all four to private elementary school, my current "moderately-high" stress level would be totally off the charts as I eclipsed in to the "uber parent" realm and toppled in to a stress coma.
See, I believe that just about every parent out there, tries to do the best that they can for their children. But even if money was no object, I'm really hard pressed to believe that Charlie and I would send our children to a school that is so accelerated, they'd be working on multiplication tables and chapter books over the summer.
Is it really necessary for them to tap the upper limits of their brains at this age?
I'm a firm believer that children learn at their own pace. With that in mind, in a few years, will it really matter if they learned to read when they were four as opposed to six? Will there ever be a point at which the achievement gap closes? A plateau where our children will catch up with those who are in "accelerated" programs?
Or will the rate of learning continue on some exponential curve?
Maybe we're trying to maximize our children's learning capacity in an effort to beat China, Finland and South Korea,
but from my humble perspective, it seems that we, as a society, are expecting children younger and younger to do more and more.
Not only in school, but outside of school.
And what I see is that pressure on the children = pressure on the parents.
For example, now that summer is here, I'm amazed at the hype to get our children involved in activities that will keep them busy every waking hour from before sun up until after sun down. While I certainly believe that soccer, gymnastics, dance, baseball, basketball, art camp, swim team, dive team and lacrosse are all fun ... I don't believe that our children need to participate in all of those events over the span of one summer. Nor do I believe that by not signing our children up for those events, I am depriving them of fun.
I'll admit that I've felt a tad bit self-conscious whenever I get the "UR cRAzY" look from people whenever they tell me all the things that they have planned for their children over the summer and I respond that we've got nothing in store for our brood.
And yes ... that was intentional.
Once again, I believe our decision to keep our children out of the "fast lane" is all about self preservation (for them and us). So this summer, our kiddos will be playing outside a lot.
They'll do a lot of birdwatching ...
... and exploring of nature.
They'll be taking train rides in to Washington, D.C. with their parents and touring some of the best museums in the world. They'll be visiting the zoo and historic landmarks, libraries, parks and attending a plethora of free concerts.
And they'll be doing those types of things not just because it costs a small fortune to sign them up for activities, but because I suspect our children (and their parents) will enjoy our low-key activities a lot more than running around from one sporting event to the next.
And the next and the next and the next.
OMG! THE STRESS!
(Was it this high-strung in California??)
(I'm having a difficult time remembering...)
Maybe we'll get on each other's nerves by next week and I'll be ready to pack them all off for camp. But at this moment, I do not want an over-scheduled summer. I want for us to have lazy days of basking in the sun and taking various trips as the spirit moves us. As they grow older, I know that they will want to be involved in everything that their friends are doing.
But right now, they're perfectly content being with us...
And I'm more than perfectly content with that.