As I mentioned, we'll be moving this coming year. Mostly, this is something we're looking forward to. As much as we love living in Europe, we also miss owning our house, and all the little conveniences of living in the States. Like Tivo. And drive thru ATMs. And 24 hour Starbucks. Actually, no. That last one isn't a convenience. It's a sickness. But you get the point.
Of course, for all the things we'll enjoy getting back to, there's something about this place that we'll miss. Like knowing our bank teller, instead of the ATM camera. But mostly, we're going to miss the Critter's school. I can get over not having ready access to the fantastic British-style bacon (three slices on toast, with butter: you've never had a better breakfast sandwhich. Or one more likely to kill you before your next birthday if consumed with regularity) before I get over leaving her school.
But such is life, and so we've begun the search. The main driver for continuing to look at private schools is that we've become a huge fan of the all-girl setting. There's something about boys before the age of... well, anything, that makes them loud and obnoxious, compared to girls. Or at least makes it less likely that girls will develop the same level of confidence and leadership as they would in a single gender setting. At least, that's the theory. The problem we've found upon research is that while single gender schools are very common in New York or Philadelphia, Massachusetts has a noticeable lack, at least for the elementary school age group. But we managed to find a couple of co-ed's to go with the one single-sex school on the list, and I visited all three in my last trip.
Let me say up front that I have no problem with Montessori or Waldorf or the Koko the Uber Ape philosophies of learning. For your kid. But my Bride and I are both fans of the "classical" style of education. You know: the 3 R's, lots of homework and bitter, cynical teachers quick to anger.
So when the first school started out with how they're all about "the whole child" and teaching love and community and hey look, this is Mr. Kevin's guitar that he sings the numeracy lessons with before giving every child a gold star and a piece of pie for effort, I was left non-plussed. Plus, every room was cluttered with crap, making it look like the teachers had saved every piece of macaroni art that any student since 1982 had completed, and tried to display it in overlapping levels of pasta creativity.
To top it all off, we're really struggling with whether the Critter will end up in 1st grade or not. In the UK, kids start a year earlier, and as it is, with a June birthday she's almost the youngest in her grade. This first school kept emphasizing that I may actually want her to go to kindergarten there, instead of first grade. At bedtime tonight, the Critter picked up a new book of Grimm fairy tales and read it with a fluency that I'm pretty sure Mr. Kevin would have a hard time matching. Currently, she gets a twisted level of satisfaction and pleasure out of going to school everyday. She brings home over thirty minutes of homework most nights, and still haunts the math workbook bookshelves on our semi-monthly trips to Border's, looking for extra stuff to do. If she ends up spending the first three months of next school year with kids who are mastering that C comes after B, I wouldn't blame her if she picked up the guitar and tried to brain Mr. Kevin after recess.
The other co-ed school on about the same par, but without the clutter. At least there, however, after I wrinkled my brow over the first grade word wall on display ("Mommy", "Daddy," "Bunny"), the conversation about grade level was more serious. But I was still left thinking somebody needed to do some extra explaining to help me understand where the twenty thousand dollars of tuition fee bought something differentiated from the (really excellent) public schools in Massachusetts.
The third school on the list, however, was markedly different. First of all, it was the all girls school (actually, it shares a campus with an all-boys school, which was kind of odd, but convenient). When I walked into the first classroom and saw the desks spaced out and lined up in neat, orderly lines and the walls and floor bare of clutter, and files of little girls goose-stepping between classes, my heart warmed. At first, the admissions manager was a bit cold, but I think she could tell that I was getting excited about the school, because by the end she cracked a little fraulein smile when I shared that I had attended the former Georgia Military Acadamy for most of my primary education. (You mean kids at other schools didn't have to stand at parade rest in gym class? That's just anarchy).
I'm still not sure what the heck we're going to do with her. As much as I loved this last school, it's a) expensive as hell, and b) in Wellesley, which is, as I found out, convienent to nowhere I'd want to live. They have buses, but how the heck do you get involved in your kid's education if you're a 40+ minute bus ride away?
I bet Mr. Kevin could tell me.