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What do you really like about School for your child?

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 

Our oldest dd will be middle school age next year and we've got some possibilities open to us. This year she has gone to public elementary school and that has gone okay. Prior to that she was at a small crunchy private school and that was pretty good, but not academically or otherwise stringent (not a big concern of mine, but DH thinks they let her do what she wanted a little too much) and the friend pool was pretty small and she never found a great fit friend-wise.

 

She says she wants to be homeschooled, but although I am very homeschooling friendly (have great friends who do it and am fairly plugged into the local network) I'm not sure it's the best thing for our particular kid. We could do it, though, as I WAH part-time. She has a very good friend who homeschools.

 

She's also been accepted into a charter school which is about a 25 minute drive away. It has an environmental and arts focus and is smaller (150 kids total?) and 6-12. She would know one other kid there and she would be in a different grade. She's friendly, but not good friends with this girl.

 

Our local middle school is as good as middle schools get — lots of course offerings; a funny, involved principal; they seem to be on top of bullying unlike another middle school in town, etc. She would know a few other kids there. She has one friend (not a close friend, but definitely a friend) who would be going there. Much bigger environment of about 700 kids.

 

So we've got a lot of options to weigh. I feel a little like I'm in a game of Twister with my left foot on the blue charter school dot and my right foot on the red middle school dot and my left arm stretched over to the yellow homeschooling dot. I think any one of these options could work. I'm not at all dissatisfied with what I've seen and heard about the public middle school. It seems really awesome as far as public middle schools go. The charter seems like it could be really great and my girl is all about art and the environment. Homeschooling would open up a lot of options for us as far as not being tied to the public school schedule, but we'd have to make a decision about dd2 (8), too.

 

So to help me consider all my options I'd be interested to hear what you really like about school for your kid. I'm not interested in hearing horror stories or the negatives. I can imagine those only too well on my own. I'm interested in WHY you LIKE your kid's school, be it public, private or charter. 

 

TIA!

post #2 of 33

My kids went to two different HSs.

 

My son went to our home HS, which is quite large (250/grade? -Ish?). There was a large selection of courses, both wrt requirements and electives. Verydiverse, on every level you could think of. He was VERY happy there, got a great education, and has been successful in his college career at a large University in a (relatively) large city.

 

My daughter attends a HS much like the charter you are looking at. It is an academic science HS, with a particular focus on environmental and marine sciences. Her graduating class has 54 students. Classes are all run on a college level, but there is really very little choice in terms of what they can take. The curriculum is limited, but the level of teaching works for the kids who are there. She has been very happy there. It is a unique environment, where pretty much all the kids know one another, at least in passing, and the teachers all know everyone. She's been a big fish in a very small pond, and it has worked well for her. She is on her way to a small Lib Arts college, and I think that will work well for her.

 

So... It really depends on the kid. My son would have HATED my daughter's school. And vice-versa. I actually wanted my son to go to the school my daughter went to, but I'm glad that he didn't. It would have been a poor fit.

 

My daugter;s school is 45 minutes, door-to-door. By bus? She is picked up at 5:50am, and gets to school at 7:30. So over 1 1/2 hours. She IS allowed to participate in extracurriculars at our home HS (she plays FH there, and has participated in drama productions). Now that she drives, she'll drive to the central point where all the buses meet most days, and all the way to school at least once a week.

 

The main thing is... is the specialized charter something SHE is interested in?

post #3 of 33

How fantastic to have two good schools from which to choose!

 

My DD will be transitioning to our local middle school over a two-year period, starting with math next year, and then full time the following year.

 

So far, I'm in love with the school, and this is spoken by someone who thinks the secret to world peace is to eliminate the 7th grade.

 

Things I've loving:  The principal is really flexible.  Whereas elementary school is focused on keeping everyone on grade level, this guy is focused on getting kids help they need when they need it, and getting out of the way of kids who have been chomping at the bit K-5.  There's a period each day set aside for casual tutoring, addressing organizational issues, working out social struggles, study hall, and special projects. 

 

The other thing I'm loving is that they have councilors that are assigned to a particular graduating class, such that DD will have the same councilor for 5-8.  This councilor then meets with the grade-level teaching team daily to compare notes on kids.  So if a kid is struggling in one class, it's immediately known if that child is struggling everywhere.  If a kid is struggling with emotions or bullying, then the whole teaching team is made aware and they work together to resolve the issue.
 

Cross country, track, band, and the school musical takes all the kids who come out to participate, and it's the cool thing to do.

post #4 of 33
Thread Starter 

Yes, she is interested in the charter and was most adamant about going there before making friends in elementary school this year. Now she's also interested in the public middle school because of the friends she knows who will be going there and the electives offered. She's been there for sort of a pre-orientation visit with the other kids from her elementary who are districted for this middle school and I think saw it wasn't as scary as she thought. She was pretty excited about it after that and I think was leaning that way. But right this minute she's really most interested in homeschooling. She stayed out a couple of days this week due to a bike wreck and said she realized that she really wanted to be homeschooled—I'm just not sure that would be the best route for her to take.

 

I'm not comfortable letting her make the call on homeschooling. That's something DH and I will have to really discuss in depth, but our circumstances (me WAH) do make it feasible if we decided it was the best fit.  

 

Having visited both the charter and the public middle I really would feel comfortable letting her have major input on that decision. I think it's like choosing strawberry shortcake with whipped cream or 7 layer chocolate cake — they're both good — it just depends on what appeals to you.

 

She's a quirky kid and might actually have more success in a larger environment finding a friend (and maybe a teacher) she clicks with, but on the other hand I think generally she does better in a smaller environment. I don't want to limit her choices as far as electives because that's where she really shines, but environment and arts focus is really right up her alley. And then throw home schooling into the mix!

post #5 of 33

My daughter went to public school all through her school career.  We wouldn't have done well with homeschooling because she didn't want to... her friends were at school... and she's not self motivated, and neither am I.  Without a deadline, nothing would ever get done, and she'd never get out of bed.  SInce I work full time, I'd never make her get out of bed.

 

The charter schools in this area are for the throwaway kids.  The ones who started in public school but were kicked out.

 

They've since built a few decent charter schools around here, but these schools close down as fast as they are built.  My step daughter teaches in a charter school and says it's the worst education system she's ever seen.  

 

So, public school was our choice, and until 6th grade I loved it!  We couldn't have paid for a better education.  But, when we moved to a different district, it went downhill all the way through high school.  

 

 

post #6 of 33

 

My kids have attended a few different kinds of schools. I'm not sure if you'll find their experiences relevant, since they mostly weren't at traditional schools, but I hope it's helpful. A few thoughts - 

 

Regional arts high school - Entrance is audition-only, so every student wants to be there and has had to make an active choice to attend. That motivation makes a big difference in attitude and ambience. The enthusiasm and dedication are inspiring. Since they have a generally shared interest, there is a sense of cohesion amongst the students, even though there is a amazing diversity of artistic expression. Although students belong to different majors (dance, drama, visual arts, film production, musical theatre),  there is a wonderful cross-pollination of ideas and expertise. I think that's a great benefit to some students who have been in an artistic silo, as it were, immersed and somewhat isolated in their own artistic endeavours. 

 

There is also a close relationship with industry and community, which is nice to see considering how some schools are isolated away from the community. For example, this year, DD's class worked with a local theatre on original productions. There is a roster of visiting artists who work regularly with the students. Yesterday, they had a surprise visit from a film and television actor who spent a couple of hours with them. Many students already have professional or semi-professional careers in music and theatre. They demonstrate maturity and focus and as a consequence, they have excellent academic results too. I get a sense that the students know how lucky and privileged they are to have this kind of experience and they demonstrate their appreciation by working hard. 

 

Gifted program - there was a lot of collaborative learning with the kids teaching themselves and each other, rather than a traditional teacher-directed lecture format. There was also a variety of academic output like documentary videos, photo essays, oral presentations and not just traditional essays and tests. For example, for language arts/computer science/graphic arts, they published a magazine with the guidance of a local journalist. For science and technology, they had to invent a product or process, do market research, build a working version as a demonstration model, create an advertising campaign, and then prepare a report and a poster and oral presentation as if they were at a sales convention.  

 

Conventional comprehensive school - this school had a terrifically diverse student population. Students exposed each other to a broad variety of ideas and experiences and challenged each other's notions of "normal" and "typical". Even though it was a fairly traditional school in terms of subjects covered and teaching style, I think the students learned a lot about expanding their perspective beyond their own backyard. The school had high standards for academics and I think there was a little too much pressure on that score. My kids enjoyed the extra-curriculars at this school, particularly the orchestra and choir and other music ensembles. 

 

LOL, I'm not sure how helpful their experience and my observations are in sorting through your options, but I hope there is something there for you. It sounds like you have good choices. Best wishes with making a decision. 

 

 

post #7 of 33

A lot of people seem to prefer smaller schools, but one of the things I like about our local public school is that it's over 700 kids big.  Being rural, we would miss out on a lot of cultural activities due to the high cost and inconvenience of bussing, but a larger school size means we can often bring the programs to the school instead of the students to the program.  The variety of teachers that we have access is great too - kids personalities and such can be considered and matched because most grades have 2-3 classes.  It also allows the school to have full time positions such as an art teacher that they might not have otherwise has access too, and have access to funding.  For the older grades, things like sports teams and meets are more varied and able to meet more kids abilities (ie, house & competitive teams).  The parent council is a good size and active, because of a larger pool to draw from.  Teachers feel well supported because they can draw on others experiences and team teach. 

 

The other main thing I like about our school is the sense of community.  We are fortunate to have great leadership at the school, so even with big numbers we still have a very community feel going on at school.  There is a lot of helping each other and getting used to diversity that happens in a larger school, and the staff handle it wonderfully well. 

post #8 of 33

We've been very happy with K-8. Both kids were offered a great deal of flexibility in regular public middle school... lots of individualized attention and more appropriate academic placement. Middle school offered some truly remarkable teachers who my eldest in particular, considers friends, stops by to talk books and politics years after having them, ect. Both were/are in arts rich middle schools (orchestra, band, drama, dance, choir and show choir, visual arts, even some film making and audio editing.) I particularly loved how my DS had the option of Spanish immersion with Mandarin enrichment. He has thrived with not only the foreign languages but also with the focus on a more global understanding of the world. Both my kids have always wanted to learn WITH others and school offered them that more "round table" sort of education they personally were seeking. Middle school offered enrichment that would have been difficult for us to fit into our already busy schedule. For example, my kids do a lot of theatre which sucks up a ridiculous amount of time. Both also like sports but we just can't commit to regular leagues. Middle school had organized but lower key sports with practices during PE and games directly after school and THAT worked for us! It allowed them to still do a little of everything without sacrificing what they enjoyed the most outside of school.

 

Personally, we've had better experiences in slightly larger schools (600-700 students total) because there were more social options (and my kids are a little different and quirky so the more options the better.) There was also more enrichment options in the bigger schools in our area.

post #9 of 33

I think it sounds like you have some really great options. It might help if you reframe it in your head so you are picking between good options, not thinking about figuring out which is "right" or "wrong."  You don't have to twist until you fall over. winky.gif

 

Whatever you choose, she'll have some good things happen and some opportunities-for-personal growth happen. There will be teachers she loves and connects with, and others that she is less than impressed with. Since it's middle school, she will have days she believes she has no friends, no one likes her, no one understands her and she has all the wrong clothes. (Learn to let it go and don't think it's the school you chose.)


That being said, my kids (who are 13 and 15) go to a small private alternative school that we all love. There is a strong sense of community. They do the most interesting things. They have a nice balance of structure and academics with open ended projects and real experiences. 

 

We homeschooled when the kids were young, but it would not be the best choice for my kids or for me at this time. They are really thriving having teachers other than me, and teachers with very interesting backgrounds. I'm really thriving have time away from them and having my own life after so many years of being 100% focused on the kids.

 

They used to attend a traditional public middle school. There were some wonderful things about it, as well. The afterschool activities were AMAZING. The teachers and staff knocked my socks off. I think there is a special level of heaven for middle school teachers. We would have stayed with public, but it didn't suit one of my DD's personalities and needs. She needed some place smaller and quieter. I only have good things to say about the school and the staff though. I still send them love and light when I think about them. My DD was going through such a difficult time, and they tried so hard to reach her. They so obviously cared about her so much. I got to see a side of the teachers and principal that most parents don't, I came away deeply touched.

 

 

post #10 of 33

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

 

My kids have attended a few different kinds of schools. I'm not sure if you'll find their experiences relevant, since they mostly weren't at traditional schools, but I hope it's helpful. A few thoughts - 

 

Regional arts high school - Entrance is audition-only, so every student wants to be there and has had to make an active choice to attend. That motivation makes a big difference in attitude and ambience. The enthusiasm and dedication are inspiring. Since they have a generally shared interest, there is a sense of cohesion amongst the students, even though there is a amazing diversity of artistic expression. Although students belong to different majors (dance, drama, visual arts, film production, musical theatre),  there is a wonderful cross-pollination of ideas and expertise. I think that's a great benefit to some students who have been in an artistic silo, as it were, immersed and somewhat isolated in their own artistic endeavours. 

 

There is also a close relationship with industry and community, which is nice to see considering how some schools are isolated away from the community. For example, this year, DD's class worked with a local theatre on original productions. There is a roster of visiting artists who work regularly with the students. Yesterday, they had a surprise visit from a film and television actor who spent a couple of hours with them. Many students already have professional or semi-professional careers in music and theatre. They demonstrate maturity and focus and as a consequence, they have excellent academic results too. I get a sense that the students know how lucky and privileged they are to have this kind of experience and they demonstrate their appreciation by working hard. 

 

Gifted program - there was a lot of collaborative learning with the kids teaching themselves and each other, rather than a traditional teacher-directed lecture format. There was also a variety of academic output like documentary videos, photo essays, oral presentations and not just traditional essays and tests. For example, for language arts/computer science/graphic arts, they published a magazine with the guidance of a local journalist. For science and technology, they had to invent a product or process, do market research, build a working version as a demonstration model, create an advertising campaign, and then prepare a report and a poster and oral presentation as if they were at a sales convention.  

 

Conventional comprehensive school - this school had a terrifically diverse student population. Students exposed each other to a broad variety of ideas and experiences and challenged each other's notions of "normal" and "typical". Even though it was a fairly traditional school in terms of subjects covered and teaching style, I think the students learned a lot about expanding their perspective beyond their own backyard. The school had high standards for academics and I think there was a little too much pressure on that score. My kids enjoyed the extra-curriculars at this school, particularly the orchestra and choir and other music ensembles. 

 

LOL, I'm not sure how helpful their experience and my observations are in sorting through your options, but I hope there is something there for you. It sounds like you have good choices. Best wishes with making a decision. 

 

 

 

Our options were very much like olly describes. Both the marine/Environmental Sciences and Performing Arts academies are based on application, entrance exams, auditions/interviews. I will say, however, that quite a few kids found the reality of those schools to be very different than they expected and ended up returning to their home HSs. One thing to look into is, should she decide to change schools, how her credits will transfer. In our system, credits are transfered at the base level. Not a huge deal for the PA students, as their core classes are taught on that level. a HUGE deal for the M/ES kids as their classes are taught on an AP/college level, which our district weights. Kills their GPA.

 

Socially... Again - depends on the kid. My son had a small but tight group of friends. LOL One guy and the rest girls. Although most everyone in his school at least knew "of" him. (A guy who advertises free hugs every Wednesday does tend to attract attention - positive and negative.) My daughter's school is like most - it has it's share of social groups/cliques. She has her core group, but she's pretty well part of every social group and clique - across grades. Enough so that, when she had a falling out with her girls, there were plenty of other places for her to fit in.

Oh - she knew one person when she went there.

 

I have also noticed that the students are treated, for the most part, more as adults than kids. There really is a more cohesive sense of community than I saw at our home school. And... they get to do more cool stuff than elsewhere. Frosh year? Scuba for PE. Science classes? They spend at least two days out of five "in the field" - seining, tagging terrapins, collecting water samples, etc. They have legit research projects each year, that they present for peer review by fellow students as well as teachers and outside experts. Many of them end up presenting nationally. For the most part, the kids get to write their own futures wrt where they go next. Average academic awards they get for college is in excess of $2.5mill/year. Divide that by 54 kids, and it's significant. All based on the strength of the program.

post #11 of 33

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mtiger View Post

 

 

. Both the marine/Environmental Sciences and Performing Arts academies are based on application, entrance exams, auditions/interviews. I will say, however, that quite a few kids found the reality of those schools to be very different than they expected and ended up returning to their home HSs. 

 

 

Yes, I've seen challenges with schools and these programs are no different. Since beanma asked only about positive aspects (and because my response was already long), I focused on the positive, but I can elaborate a little further, if it's welcome.  

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mtiger View Post

Average academic awards they get for college is in excess of $2.5mill/year. Divide that by 54 kids, and it's significant. All based on the strength of the program.

 

 

Good point about the scholarship money. The students receive very healthy awards from prestigious colleges and in part it's due to the support of the high school in showcasing their talent and assisting them with the application process. Not sure how relevant that is at the middle school level, but if she is moving on to a similar high school program, it's something to keep in mind. 

 

 

post #12 of 33
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the feedback. 

 

The acceptance to the charter is not performance based. It's just a lottery. I don't think it's as academically rigorous as our local/home public schools which are pretty competitive—kind of like you were describing the comprehensive school, olly. Dd1 is very bright, but has some challenges with anxiety which sometimes impedes her performance although as she matures that is improving. I do worry about the competitive nature of the local high schools bringing her down. I don't know if middle school is that competitive, but the middle school years are so often hard in general (definitely my worst years in school). I heard a group of moms just yesterday talking about how stressful and competitive the local high schools are. I think their kids have been or are currently in our very nice, but very expensive local private schools (probably the Quaker Friends one). One mom was saying how a girl she knew was doing very well with her class rank, but had come down 16 places over the summer because she didn't go to summer school to boost her GPA like the 16 people who had now jumped in front of her did. Yikes! I don't think dd1 would ever buy into that kind of competitiveness about grades because she's very non-competitive by nature and doesn't put much value on grades to begin with (the private school they attended didn't do them), but it could affect her just by being in the air at the schools. 

 

The charter is 6-12, so if she went there she could go all the way through high school. They don't have a lot of equipment and run on a bit of a shoestring, but they've been in operation for about 15 years so are doing pretty well. They are right on a river and go canoeing as part of PE and get out in the river and test the health of the critters in it, etc. They don't have a chemistry lab, though. 

 

The local high schools are very well funded and probably regarded as the best system in the state, but are very competitive, but do have a lot of electives that I never had the opportunity to pursue. The middle schools which is what we're talking about now similarly have a lot of elective offerings. I guess I could make a pro and con list with her. If y'all will indulge me I'll start one here just to put it in writing.

 

Traditional Public Middle School

PROS

- lots of electives

- friends will go there

- close by

- big, and could meet new kids that she might really click with

- diverse student population

- 6th/7th graders are divided into teams and stay with the same core teachers over 2 yrs

- good administration

- seem to be on top of bullying, unlike another middle school in town

- nice art teacher (we met her at parent night)

 

CONS

- big, could feel lost in the crowd

 

- probably will have some kids she doesn't like/click with/who can be mean there (she's told me where some will go there)

- more structured environment (she's a free spirit)

 

-------------

 

 

Charter Middle & High School

PROS

- small, maybe more nurturing environment

- arts/environment focus

- activities on the river, outside

- seems like a looser, less rigid, environment

- goes thru high school

 

CONS

- maybe not as academically challenging

- small, may have difficulty finding someone she clicks with

- not as many course offerings, resources

- further away

 

 

I don't think this charter is for the "throwaway kids" (not loving that term) that nextcommercial described, but I do think the pool of kids at this charter is a self-selecting group and for whatever reason the local traditional public schools are not meeting their needs. It's in the next county over and draws from 8 districts, so while there are some kids who come from our home district of the academically rigorous competitive high schools, there are many kids who come from other districts as well.

 

-------------------

 

Homeschooling would be a whole 'nother kettle of fish. It would offer us a lot of flexibility, but although there are a great many opportunities in the area I'm not sure it would give her the opportunities she really needs to succeed. She's very into things she's into, but I don't know if I could call her self-motivated academically.  

 

ETA: Gosh, I don't think that exercise helped me a bit! Still very confused!

 
post #13 of 33

Would the schools allow the two of you to visit in the middle of a school day? Or even do a day long visit?

 

She might get a better feel for what appeals to her that way.

post #14 of 33
Thread Starter 

Yeah, I think we may need to go visit the charter again. She went with the group from elementary school to the middle school and I think she got a pretty good view of it then. We also went on parents (and kids) night. 

post #15 of 33

 

 

The choice between a middle school and a combined middle school/high school is interesting. We've had experience with both formats. From a parent's point of view, I didn't find either format to be a problem. From a student's perspective, DS didn't have a real preference because he enjoyed the middle school experience and connected with his teachers there. DD far preferred the 7-12 high school. She enjoyed the independence, the rotary schedule, being treated more adult than child, and the general atmosphere of a high school setting. 

 

I suspect that a middle school tends to provide more scaffolding to support students compared to a middle/high school where the students may be expected to be more independent DD chafed against teacher's and administration's attitudes at the middle school and found the hand-holding restrictive. There are a lot of middle-schoolers who benefit from that kind of support, though, and who might feel a little lost in a midde/high school. Since the charter school is small and nurturing, this might not be an issue. 

 

 

 

You mention diversity at the middle school as a "pro". There is diversity in age at the middle/high school, and you may want to consider whether you think that is a "pro" or a "con" - or neutral. 

 

Some people dislike a separate school for tweens/early teens, finding it a cauldron of hormones, growth spurts, and early adolescent anxieties. OTOH, at a combined middle/high school, there's the potential for poor role-modeling by the older students. Again, it sounds like the charter school has a handle on that sort of thing. And the role-modeling may be a good thing, if the senior students are involved in positive activities and provide good leadership. 

 
 
post #16 of 33
Thread Starter 

yes, olly, those are all things I have some concerns about. Are the older kids really good role models? I know only one other family there. They're former homeschoolers and although I don't know their kids well (their daughter takes dance at the same studio, but is not in the same class this year) they seem like good kids. Dd1 is a bit on the young side emotionally and hormonally (not interested in boys, not developing at all, and can get upset easily although that seems to be just a personality trait) so I do worry a bit about her being thrown in with the bigger kids. The middle schoolers and high schoolers do have separate classes, however. 

 

I think many of the kids who go to the charter go there because they either don't fit in at the regular high schools or because they want a lower stress and smaller environment with probably a higher percentage of the kids having some kind of IEP (the admission papers ask about it). I think there are several former homeschoolers there. It's a nice transition without throwing them into the deep end of traditional public school.I think some families do seek out the environmental and arts focus, but not for an intense experience of either.  There is a performance-based arts magnet in a nearby county which I know is the home county for some of the charter school kids. I think the art and music programs are interesting and a bit unusual. The music teacher has all these found-material instruments he made that the kids use in addition to more traditional instruction. In the art program they make crafts/projects to sell at a market they have.

 

I guess I think many of the kids/parents who would be attracted to this school are attracted for the same reasons that I would be which is not really for a rigorous learning environment. The environmental and arts focus lines up with our family values and the less competitive smaller environment appeals, too. I just don't want to shortchange dd1 by selecting a school with fewer resources and fewer friends (and potential friends). I'm very conflicted!

 

The traditional middle school is bigger with more resources, more electives, more kids, and maybe more potential for disaster? Not sure. I just hated middle school. So much pre-teen/13yr old drama. Dd1 is already the odd girl out a little bit just by the nature of her quirky personality and add that to not having been with the elementary school kids for very long.

 

Part of me would just like to homeschool her, but I worry (ha!) that with her anxiety (see previous ha!) it just wouldn't be the best thing for her. Given an opportunity she won't take many risks and won't push herself out of her comfort zone easily. I don't want to throw her into the deep end and tell her to sink or swim, but avoidance is equally bad for anxiety issues. I'm concerned that homeschooling would be a form of avoidance and wouldn't allow her to challenge herself to grow. HOWEVER, it's very attractive at times. I'd really love to check out and just do our own thing. Just not sure that's the best thing in the long run for her.

 

I think I'm just going to have to sit with this awhile and see what rises to the surface. Thank you all for all your comments and I'd love to hear more!

post #17 of 33

Hi Beanma,

 

I have 2 kids in their teens. We live in Hong Kong and the school system they attend is based on the British model, except the finish off w/ IB instead of A-levels.

 

They went to a primary school that was near my work, it was for children in Year 1-> Year 6 (age 5 to 11). It had about 500 children. Then, in Year 7 they moved to secondary school, which has children aged 11 or 12  -18 (Year 7 -> Year 13). The school is large, about 1800 children. To make oit more manageable the kids are sorted into Houses  and that helps make things a bit more personal.  Their "tutor groups" also help, it used to be like home-room, but now the number of kids in each group is smaller and they cover 2 or 3 years, so, for example, my son in Y9 has students ranging from Y7 to Y10.    Years 11-13 are in the "senior school" and have different uniforms and more privileges (e.g., access to a microwave in a designated lunch/quiet room).

 

My own school situation was much dfferent, I lived in a small town and there were ~ 70 kids in my year and less than 300 in the whole high school.  It was hard for my son at first, he was very disorganized, and even my daughter, her first few weeks came home frazzled and tired. But, my kids are doing OK in this large environment, and have developed lots of skills for dealing with a large and busy and (to me) occasionally overwhelming place. They had some friends from primary school when they started, but made new friends too. Their school takes in kids from 3 different primary schools in the area.

 

That said, the school has fairly rigorous academics and most of the parents are very committed to their children's academic success.

 

I could never home school because of my significant hours of work outside the home (major breadwinner) and because a lot of what they are learning now if beyond my knowledge and capacity to teach. I did very badly in trigonometry; I have little knowledge of physics; my Spanish is poor and my kids' written Mandarin is better than mine now. They have real science labs where they do chemistry and biological dissections under teachers who majored in those subjects and have years of experience teaching.

 

Does your daughter want to go to university? Or, what career does she want to follow? Is she into academics and studying? If your only fear is that she knows few kids, she'll get to know more very soon. :)

 

Good luck, whatever you decide.

 

 

post #18 of 33

I would think the charter school could be either really wonderful or really terrible, but there is no way of knowing until you try.  A small school can be wonderful if she fits in and makes friends, and absolutely terrible if she doesn't.  I'm not sure if all the grades have equal numbers of kids, but with 150 total for grades that is only about 25 kids per grade.  If she has friends and fits in, that could be wonderful, but if she doesn't, it could be really, really hard.   The distance would also concern me...could she take a bus, or would someone have to drop her off and pick her up each day?  If there is no bus, that is a long time to be driving every day (over 1 1/2 hours) and a lot of gas, too.  That distance could also make getting together with friends outside school more difficult, especially if she were to end up becoming closest friends with a child who lives 25 minutes away in the other direction.  Or, it could work out wonderfully, she makes friends who live nearby and really thrives.

 

I think the larger public school has the advantage of making it more likely to find her "niche", especially if she can get involved with extracurriculars and find other friends who are interested in the same things.  I do think the easiest way for kids to make friends is join clubs or activities or sports or whatever and find friends with similar interests.  

 

As far as homeschooling goes, well you could try it for a year and she how she does.  Depending on the area and what her interests are, there could be lots of opportunities to have to push herself and try new experiences. 

 

With all that said, my inclination would be to try either the charter school or homeschooling.   The public school will always be there, and with a school that large, I don't think it would be vital that she goes *now* (at the start of middle school...to avoid being the "new" girl as in a school that big, I don't think she would stand out).  If you did try either the charter school or homeschooling and it didn't work out, she could always go to public school the following year.   

 

I would guess that with the charter school, if she doesn't go she may lose the opportunity and it may not be an option later on, if she doesn't win the lottery and get in again.

 

With homeschooling, I think it might be an easier adjustment the younger she is, although you could certainly try that at any time, but I might be more inclined to try it now since both you and she are interested in it.   The other thing about homeschooling is that it is not a big deal to pull out of the middle of the year and start homeschooling, but it would be harder if homeschooling isn't working to start school in the middle of the year. 

 

So, what I would probably do is maybe try the charter school, and if it works keep her in it.  If it doesn't for whatever reason (no friends, the distance is too much) then you could always pull her out in the middle and homeschool the rest of the year and then the following year decide if homeschooling is working or if she should go to public school.   The fact that homeschooling is an option for you, means that you don't have to feel pressured to even finishing out an entire year at either place if it just absolutely isn't working for her.   The only thing I would worry about would be that if you don't put her in the charter school this year, she could lose the chance (and not get in again) and with a school that small, I do think it would be harder to start at a later grade when all the kids would already know each other, as opposed to starting in the 6th grade where everyone is new too.

post #19 of 33

We homeschooled until they were teens but my older kids now go to our local public K-12 school. It is in reality very much like a charter school would be in most places and perhaps a lot like the charter you're considering. It has just 100 students, lots of alternative education focus (arts and environmental/outdoor education especially), frequent breaks from regular classes for weeks of electives, and a vibrant independent study component supported with a dedicated "learning lab" classroom, mentors, affiliation with a regional community college, etc.. 

 

One thing I love about it is the flexibility to accommodate my kids' asynchronous skills and unusual interests. They've created courses to support and acknowledge their aptitudes and interests, working things into the credit system, allowed them to work well ahead of their age-grade level where appropriate, granted time off for out-of-school arts-related study or for foreign travel. This is all done on an individual basis. The attitude is "This kid is passionate about this out-of-school activity, and learning from it, and that's what schools should be supporting. Let's make it work." This goes as far as using part of the school supply budget for spray paint to support a Fine Arts course for a kid who is into street art and wants to put together a portfolio -- not, of course, on downtown buildings late at night without permission but instead on the big back wall of his dad's shed ... but still, imagine, a high school credit course in graffiti, designed and implemented for one particular kid. 

 

The other thing I love is something I didn't really anticipate: the personal relationships they've developed with the teachers. Being that this is a very small school (the high school portion has only five teachers) they quickly get to know the teachers very well ... and probably to a degree of depth that might be considered on the verge of inappropriate within a larger school institution. Meaning that the boundary between the teachers' professional life and personal life is not necessarily clear. Teachers freely share their personal interests, activities and projects with the students, not only through extra-curriculars, but within class and out within the community. It's not unusual for a class to visit a teacher's home, or to be invited to attend a weekend meeting or community event that the teacher is participating in or organizing. This allows the teachers to take on roles more akin to mentoring than just strictly teaching. The students can catch the teachers' passions, share in them, be introduced to amazing opportunities, and can experience the way in which adults pursue interests and passions and continue life-long learning on their own terms.

 

Miranda

post #20 of 33

My children go to a K-12 charter with about 700 students. The "bad" role models tend to be some kids a grade or two up; the elementary, middle, and HS don't really interact on a daily basis as they each have their own wing for classes/lockers. However, there are some formal "buddie" programs. There is an element of "everyone knows everyone"; when dd split her lip on the playground (which made a scary looking bloody mess, but didn't need stitches), word spread around in the 30min it took me to get there and there were teachers and older students streaming into the nurse's office to check on her blowkiss.gif.

 

As for the larger "friend pool" in a bigger school, it isn't guaranteed that it would work out that way. I went to a 2 classes per grade elementary school to a middle school of about 400 students, then to a HS with around 800 students--the clicks from the elementary schools just found each other when they merged into middle school and again in HS, sharing within their network about the "uncool" from their old schools. I'd be inclined to give the charter a shot as the regular ps will always be available.

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