Three years ago we quit homeschooling and put St. Nick into third grade and Fish into Kindergarten (Mud Pie was a little bug then). The school decision was tough: the rock solid elementary in our school district: lots of resources, great test scores, good teachers, new building. Or the little charter school: diverse, energetic, with a moral focus curriculum. We toured both and were blown away by the in-person difference.
Cute little charter school: full of zeal and energy! The tour guide (someone from the office) was delighted with us, with our kids, with the school.
District school: bored administrator with a hint of cynicism toward the children we passed in the halls, very little interest in our kids, no interest in us as parents or what we could offer to the school. The cool building got her excited, however. Yeah, that was one cool building.
We opted for the charter school.
We've been weighing school options again for the past little while. We've liked our charter school for the past three years. But ... some important things bug us, and we're in this great district, so why not take advantage of it and its reputation? Besides, the kids would switch into the system for high school. Start now and make the transition easier. Right?
So we toured the school again. The main differences: the kids are older and could ask questions and the building is older and tired after a long school day. The result? Administrator masking boredom or fatigue, slightly annoyed with my kids and their questions (I warned her that they were talkers), and not so excited about the building this time around. I guess the newness had worn off.
My question now: does everyone at a school need to be as delighted with my children as I am? Do they need to be delighted at all? Maybe I simply observed the market at work: the district school takes whatever kid who can verify his or her address. The charter school needs to "win" families, to sell them on the benefits of their school. Or maybe simple personality difference. I deal with the charter school tour guide quite a bit, and she's naturally zeal-ful and energetic. Maybe the administrator is naturally ... neither of those things.
Dr. D and I decided that there's no way to really take the pulse of a school without going there. The decision now: do we stay with what's known and deal with what bugs us, or do we jump in. And risk. If only decisions like this were as easy as, say, when to start Miss Rowdy on solids: i.e., when she starts waking up ravenous every two hours at night. Ah, for an easy life.
On the plus side, we did get to meet a number of teachers, and they were every bit as energetic, engaging, fun and kind as the charter school counterparts. St. Nick especially liked the art teacher with her free-flowing style and attentive manner.