Thursday, February 04, 2010

Playing to learn

This op-ed piece in the NY Times caught my eye (at 2:30am no less - dang insomnia). Ms. Engel sums up in one sentence why I'm leaning heavily towards placing Henry in private school.
Our current education approach - and the testing that is driving it - is completely at odds with what scientists understand about how children develop during the elementary school years and has led to a curriculum that is strangling children and teachers alike.
In her theoretical classroom, there would be a "few narrowly defined and deeply focused goals," including being immersed in the written and spoken word to increase literacy. And lots of play because "children learn best when they are interested in the material." (Well, duh.) I'm not saying these things can't be found in the public school system, there will always be amazing teachers out there that inspire the kids they teach while working within the crazy perimeters we (i.e., the government) set for our public educational institutions. There are parents (I'm thinking of one in particular, I'm sure you know who you are) who work hard and are very involved with their public schools to insure the education their children receive is the best it can be, but ineffectual government testing forced on even the youngest of children at public schools and the coinciding curriculums teachers are required to teach leave me considering sending Henry elsewhere*.
*And yes, Darr, that includes the Arbor School in Tualatin, which I have fallen in love with.


Cathy said...

And this is exactly why I'm so upset about my preschool program being cancelled. I could go on and on about how I spent all of my parent/teacher conferences telling the parents of FOUR year olds that it does not matter that your child is not able to read yet. During a job interview nobody asks how old you were when you started reading. Also - these kids in this community I work in - STRESSED. Which is why I want to stay there and teach 1st or 2nd grade. It'll be more difficult finding that balance between what I know is good for the kids and what the district/government/educated in something other than education parents thinks I should be doing. I've spend the past five years teaching the parents about the importance of childhood. A true childhood.
Gah. Looks like I did go on and on...

Amber said...

First off, please don't think that I'm trying to change your mind here... I am by no means "anti-private school" and I love the Arbor School (my very favorite State Rep. works there, so it must be good, right?). Just offering a different perspective....

From what I have witnessed first-hand and through word of mouth, the huge majority of kids that struggle through grade school are doing so because their parents have tuned out (I'm not talking about parents who work full-time and are still engaged, but parents who have completely lost touch with their children), not because the school has let them slip through any proverbial cracks. My hunch is that this carries on to middle and high school as well, simply because it's so much harder to stay in touch with your kids at that point... but I can't say for sure because I'm not there yet, thank goodness!

Part of what drew me to our kids' (public) school was the huge level of parent involvement. Yes... that, by definition, requires a big time commitment but for parents who have the time and energy to invest, the payoff is so huge and tangible (not just for one's own kids, but for the whole class/school). In my experience, that investment has in turn led to a sense of community that I don't think I could buy anywhere else.

Again, I would never in a million years try to tell you what you should do with your kid (especially one as cute as Henry!) but when you're closer to grade school age, take a tour of your neighborhood school. I'd be willing to bet that you'll be really pleasantly surprised about what's going on in there. It still might not be the right choice for you, but at least you can feel better about the kids in your neighborhood!