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February 3, 2012

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The American Education System Depresses Me

Before I had kids, I knew the American education system was in sorry shape.  Chicken’s family consists of quite a few public school teachers, I have friends who have gone into teaching and the last job I had before becoming pregnant with the twin was in non-profit education.
But even with all of that–it still didn’t concern “me” directly.

And then I had kids.  Before I knew it I started obsessing about schools.  In NYC where waiting lists are long and competition is fierce, you think about these things soon after you come home from the hospital (or while in it…or on the way to it).
So I obsessed and I researched and I fretted and balked.
After that came denial.
Which led to seeking out alternatives.
Like, homeschooling and roadschooling and unschooling.  Two of these things I’d never even heard of before and the other I thought was reserved for super crazy religious parents/insanely crunchy moms.

I poked around more and became familiar with Montessori and Waldorf educational approaches.  These two philosophies spoke to me.  The price tag that comes with a NYC Waldorf education does not.  We simply don’t have a million dollars to put Grunter and Whoop Whoop through K-12.

The more I read about the value of play–free, unstructured, imaginative play–the more committed I felt to doing things ‘different’.
I’ve written before of my desire to ‘opt out of preschool’ and it’s not just because of the absurd price.  If we really wanted to send our kids to a traditional preschool, we’d find the money and pay it, period.
But I knew there had to be another option.  When I heard of this little Waldorf preschool in the jungle of Costa Rica, I thought, “What an amazing little gem.  I wish my sons could attend.”
And then I set about figuring out how to make that happen.
But wait!  Didn’t I just say if I wanted to send my kids to preschool, I would?!  Am I not contradicting myself?  I am, I suppose.

Lately, you may have been hearing quite a bit about the Finnish model of education in the news.  I’ve read some great articles and this week I was able to watch a Dan R.ather Reports news special on the topic.

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Non Sequitur Conversations Concerning Random Countries

Education has been on my mind a lot lately.  In fact, I’m going to devote an entire post on this subject, but for now….
The conversations in our house sound a bit like this:


Yesterday:

“Did you know there are two Waldorf schools in Hyderabad (India)?”

“Really?  Are we moving to Hyderabad?”

“No.  Well, maybe.  I was thinking of the Finnish education model and then I was reading some articles on that and one referenced how the Finnish model of early education (the children don’t start school or learn to read/write until the age of seven) is incredibly similar to Waldorf.  Both stress the importance of play and age appropriate learning.  And you see how well the Finns are doing with their model (number one in case you’ve missed the news–the USA ranks in the middle or worse on all subjects).  It got me thinking…you know since we can’t move to Finland.”

“I could work for my company in Hyderabad.  There are loads of expats there.  You think it’s really dirty?”

“Yes.  It’s India.  But I’m OK with that.”

Today:

“You know I was just talking to someone in my company who got transferred to the office in Singapore because his wife got a job there.  That could be an option for us.”

What I think is: “There’s no Waldorf school there or Hong Kong.  Bangkok has two.  The Singapore education system, while ranking incredibly high, is just the type I wish to avoid with its rote memorization, lack of creativity and hours of homework and tutoring.  I wonder if there’s a Montessori school….”

What I say is: “I’m down with Singapore.  It’s close to everything else we love in South East Asia.”

(By the way Singapore does have at least two Montessori schools and the added benefit is the Chinese Mandarin immersion offered.  Because if you’re balking rote memorization and hours of homework, why not strive to have trilingual children? Yes, I am a Gemini and I am a complete contradiction.)

Also:  Chicken has informed me she ‘likes my blog and gets excited to see a new post.  It’s almost like reading about someone I don’t know.’  I find this highly entertaining since we live/work/sleep in an 800 square foot space and have been in this same room day after day, night after night for two years running.  Apparently I don’t tell her everything.

Update:  After reading this article on malaria, I thought hmmm, should check something out before going deeper in my head.  Found this article on Hyderabad and malaria and…..no thanks.  NO Thank You.