We were plodding along, happy enough in the tiny parochial school, making peace with the fact that Henry isn't having the best year but Liam is thriving. There's only one teacher per grade in their K-8 school, so you always know who you are going to get. Next year it will be Henry's turn to get the fabulous teacher. We are not members of the parish, so there are a few awkward but minor issues during the school year. The very best things the school provides are an awesome kindergarten experience and a small setting where within two weeks every one of the students and faculty know everyone else's name and face. It sounds cliche, but it really does operate like a family.
What's not to love? Well for starters, the ancient building, the lack of technology, in fact, the lack of STEM period. To be fair, the new administration has worked very hard to update the school but these improvements are mostly behind the scenes. There are few enrichment or extracurriculars. They just don't have the student numbers, funds or the specialized faculty. Like everything else in life, it's a trade-off. What the school lacks in shiny, new, fast and sparkly it makes up for in personal attention and safety. Of course, there's the added intangible of strong value-based lessons. Okay, so they are not exactly our values but they're close enough*
So why am I conflicted? Because this weekend we happened to visit a shiny, new, fast (technology-wise) sparkly school. I was early to pick up Henry from his Saturday science class. The non-profit had leased classroom space in a public middle school and I toured the space as I waited. The first thing I noticed were the band/orchestra/piano schedules. Then I saw the display case with student products from all 14 of the afterschool clubs. I noticed the fifth grade wing where teachers had written positive notes and attached his/her comments to each student's locker. I saw the gorgeous, giant flat screen computers in the media center--the media center with huge skylights, an indoor garden, thousands of books, plush armchairs and sofas. Then Liam and I got lost but found the gym and (separate!) lunchroom.
It was everything a school should be. In my mind, I saw older versions of my sons walking down the hall. They were thriving. And to think, this school charges no tuition, has no entrance requirements. You just bring your mortgage papers and your child can take a seat in one of the ergonomically designed desks.
But not so fast. I couldn't show my mortgage papers. I'd have to sell my house and move twenty miles. Homes in that school district cost close to twice as much as what my tiny bungalow would sell for. I'd have to pull my children out of the school where they feel safe and secure, the very uprooting I swore I'd never do.
By 5th grade, Henry will have spent five years with the same 22 kids. Even now, they know each other as well as siblings. Can I take him away from that? Do I remember what changing schools felt like? Why yes, yes I do. It was horrible. And if we move, Liam will have to change twice--once in 3rd grade and then again when middle school starts. Didn't his teacher just tell me about the benefits to social/emotional growth when going to school with the same group of children for nine years?
But what about STEM? What about getting into a competitive high school? What about diversity and broadening our social horizons? What about photography club, SmartBoards and fifth grade piano recitals?
I just don't know. I just. don't. know.
*I've always been particularly fond of Mark 9: 38-40