I can't believe it. My oldest child will be starting Kindergarten this autumn. I'm trying to figure out what school to send him to. Me being myself, of course I have a lot of lofty stipulations.
Public schools are probably out. Here's a list of a few reasons:
1) Overstimulation. He is a sensitive child, like his mother, highly aware of his environment and all the stimuli therein. I want to avoid situations (emotional, social, or physical) that will encourage him to put on his defense mechanisms, such as defiant attitudes, sullenness, or aggression. Mainstream public schools have large class sizes, and the tendency to cram the classrooms full of garish, loud objects, with not a peaceful negative space in which the eyes can rest. People think this is good classroom protocol.
I'd much prefer THIS Kindergarten!!! (Click this link for an amazing real school).
2) Technology. Many public schools have jumped onto the hype about teaching our kids technology at earlier and earlier ages. I'm concerned about some preliminary scientific studies linking "screen time" with altered brain development. And we already know that staring at a glowing screen is physiologically addicting. I do not think kids need to be trained in technology as soon as possible. Developmentally, what they most need at the early ages is a solid emotional foundation (attachment) and lots of physical movement(s). Technology is largely a mental game, and kids can easily "catch up" in that area when they are older. I just don't see many mainstream forces speaking out about this. Probably because it's way too convenient to use screens as babysitters.
3) Behaviorism Most schools--public and private-- still control their classrooms via external motivators, such as rewards or punishments. Children are treated like animals to be trained. This is an idea based in behaviorism, and while I recognize that humans are actually, in very large part, animals, I do not think training them primarily via external motivators is, ultimately, very healthy. Most people just think that's the only way to "control" children, but it's not. There's a small (but hopefully growing!) number of schools that are taking a deeper, more affirming approach, but they are hard to find.
4) Structuralism Most schools --public and private-- have a huge focus on getting the child to fit into a hierarchical, self-serving structure of some sort, be it the broken American economic system, a religion, or some other large structure that dehumanizes the individual. I recognize the value of helping a child learn to adapt to his/her environment. I recognize that we are by nature cultural beings, and it is impossible not to have an identity rooted in a some kind of collective. I recognize that structure is a necessary part of life. But the structure should always serve the people, never the other way around. Unfortunately, our public schools too often are like factories, when they should be more like families.
5) Political war zones. Some day I'll write my opinions about how this country's educational system could be improved. Meanwhile, the public schools are unfortunate victims of political point-scorers. Public schools are like marionettes with each string being held by a different puppeteer with a different script-- constantly being pulled in different directions. Every new president seems eager to show his dedication to "improving" the education system in America, and implementing top-down "reforms" that are so wildly uninformed by the real world. Any teacher who's been around the block can tell you. Every year there's a new hot-shot theory that everyone must suddenly conform to. It's a little ridiculous. And it's unstable. I don't want my kids stuck in the middle of that mess.
There are other reasons I'm not considering public school, but those are the main ones. My next post will outline the alternatives I have available to me.