Reassessing my values: school matters

So I was sitting at lunch with two of my girlfriends and their offspring the other day. We are all close in age, and all have only one child. We all three possess graduate degrees, all waited until later in life to have children, and have all worked or do work in social services. We share similar politics, taste in music, jokes, and movies. If there are two women in the world, then, from whom I'd take parenting advice, these girls are it.

So, when they started talking about daycares and preschools and private v. public schools, I perked up. I am sure they've done their research and have loads of important thoughts on the topic. I wanted to hear what they had to say. And, sure enough, most of what they said made sense to me, seemed smart and rational, didn't make me want to go screaming into the woods. Still, there were a few things that I found myself kind of shrugging my shoulders over. And those things? They are odd. Because they are things that an educator like myself, you would think, would be salivating over.

Like, one of my friends was singing the praises of one school and explaining that her friend's boy is only six but reads at a fifth grade level, thanks at least in part to this school. And I thought about the little daycare where my son (18 months, for crying out loud) goes and wondered if they were "educational" enough or if they were "pushing" him enough, and then I felt sad for having those thoughts. And I started to wonder what was wrong with me. Why don't I worry about stuff like this? Why don't I care if my three year old can read? So what if he's not reading above grade level by the time he's 6? Don't they sort of level off anyway, based on ability and parental involvement?

And finally, after hearing all the praises for this school and that, I came to my own conclusions. A) Even with my years of teaching and subbing and degrees in education, I still don't really know what method is best. B) I don't care so much if my son reads way above grade level when he's six.

What I do care about, what I want most for my son, is that he be a good person. I care if he is comfortable talking with and interacting with all kinds of people. I care if he shows grace under pressure, shows kindness to his enemies, and shares and plays nice with others.

Of course I also want him to be academically successful. I want him to love to learn and enjoy books and seek understanding of his world. But do I care so much if he is the top of his class, the best of the best? No. Do I care if he can do his multiplication tables by the time he's seven? Not really. I value intelligence, and I value social skills, and all of those things will come. And frankly, I don't care what school he goes to, he'll get all that stuff, because I know who is raising him. And if the school he attends helps him to be a little more patient, a little more color-blind, and a little more respectful of people who are less fortunate than us? I think they're doing everything they need to do, at least for now.

I don't mind that his daycare is a little shabby around the edges. I don't mind that maybe they don't do a strict "curriculum" all day. I know that his teachers love him, the kids in his class are all from different kinds of families with different colors of skin, and I know that he toddles to his chair every morning and reaches for a piece of paper and a crayon and can't even be bothered to look over his shoulder and say good-bye to his mommy, for he is so content and happy to be there.


Erika Dvorske 7 years, 6 months ago

Megan, I can so relate to your post. Thanks for offering this reflection. Your son will be successful in ways that you cannot even imagine.

Cindy Hart 7 years, 6 months ago

"What I do care about, what I want most for my son, is that he be a good person."

Amen Megan! As a mother to an (almost) 3 year old and a 20 month old this is my constant prayer and the utmost responsibility that I feel.

Megan Green Stuke 7 years, 6 months ago

Thanks, ladies. It's good to know I'm not alone!

suggestionbox 7 years, 6 months ago

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suggestionbox 7 years, 6 months ago

I totally agree. We moved to a very average school system that is much more "behind the times" in part because having an easy-going-low-pressure school experience can be better for a kid...he can make up for lost time in college academically. Most of us do, right? He can learn about the high pressure stuff in his 30's right? Good plan. Pressure to do all that grown up fancy stuff comes soon enough. Why rush it?

Jan Brocker 7 years, 6 months ago

I've always liked the way you write and this is another example. You go girl!

Marilyn Hull 7 years, 6 months ago

I agree with Jan. You have a great writing style and always keep it real.

My kids are in their 20s now, and I can confirm that you are on the right track.

Check out this great column by David Brooks in the NY Times.

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