I love/hate my son's school, Challenger. I had a very positive experience there when I was a child. My memories include school programs where I shined on stage (early on I had an affinity for affirmation), the school director dancing in to our room showgirl style as we sang an alphabet song, and feeling like a million bucks for learning every day.
It pains me to admit that transferring in to my local public elementary school when I was in the second grade felt somewhat like going from sixty to zero. It was as if i'd hit a brick wall. I believe that the reason that my parents transferred me out of Challenger and in to public school was cost. It was the 80's, my dad did real estate...'nough said.
So when it was time for kiddos to go to pre-school Challenger seemed like the perfect choice. There was one close to my house, the kids would get the stimulation that I loved when I was their age, and I could sit back and relax knowing that my kids would learn to read and write like no one's business.
But then Dalton was in the first grade and he looked like he wanted to kill himself when I observed him in class. It's like the life blood was being sucked out of him. Contrast that with our local elementary school where the walls are covered in colorful art, and the sounds of Virginia Tanner dance are wafting through the halls, and I knew I needed to pull him out.
With Shelby I put her in our local elementary school for Kindergarten and regretted the decision from day one as she withered on the vine with the squeaky wheel (the kid who does not yet know A from B) getting the grease, and her just sitting there waiting for stimulation. Thankfully her 1st and 2nd experiences have been completely different and she is thriving in a kind, nurturing, and stimulating environment.
Now we are to my final child, the apple of my eye, the love of my life. Just kidding...kind of. ;)
I walk through the white sterile halls of the old bank building that Challenger is housed in and wonder when the fun loving, creative school that I went to, changed so much. It seems like now it is a numbers game. Challenger must prove to the parents that we are getting our money's worth so they test the children and point out how much smarter our kids are than those poor children who are being loved to death at the neighborhood school.
I believe that the testing starts in Kindergarten, and that is when things really start to ramp up in intensity. In preschool the kids are still doing rug time, snack time, and multiple recesses. There are toys in the classroom, and music playing. However, the music sounds like it has been given a dose of roids since I was in the classroom 25 years ago, and the familiar songs that I know by heart are all a beat faster with the words sounding as though they are being sung by a group of hummingbirds.
Winter Festival is now called Christmas Festival because according to the founder, that was the original Christian holiday of our nation. Really?...don't remember Santa and Christmas trees in the history books.
There are things that have definitely changed. The school has become much more political. When I was there it was important that we learned about the founding fathers and the constitution, but now they have fetishized that document and those men to the point of absurdity.
During election season there are lawn signs on the campus, for the conservative tea party candidate. The older kids are tasked with writing assignments and book reports for Atlas Shrugged, the capitalist manifesto that basically espouses that we should return to Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest where are industries and people who can not thrive on their own should be taken out behind the barn and put out of their misery.
Our campus seems like one filled with Tiger Mothers, hoping that by placing their children in the care (or the mercy) of this conservative and rigorous school, that they will be on the first rung of the ladder to the Ivy League.
If I had to do it over again, I would think about keeping Shelby there. But for Garrett it will probably just be until the 1st grade. I drive to the pick up lane, with my 99% and my Obama sticker and get death glares as if I've just chained myself to a tree to protest it's death. I bristle when they insist on school uniforms for pre-schoolers. It's just not natural. It's like a factory...churning out children who know a lot, and who can spout a lot of facts, but are not well-versed in the reality of the diversity that is the real world outside of libertarian philosophies.
The idea that the American Dream exists is the biggest fallacy in my mind, and the myth that they package and push to every parent. Sure, if you can afford to keep your kid at Challenger until they are in the 8th grade, then maybe they will have access to the American Dream. But if you can't afford their school tuition, then you are hosed if you are a minority, and/or poor.
I just wish that they would stick to what they do best- teaching the basics.