So we're a few weeks into the school year and I am very happy with the experience of having a kindergartener at this school.
You should know that ever since Miss P was BORN, I had a low-level worry simmering on the back burner of my mind (how d'ya like that metaphor?) I had to decide between public or private; and if public, which district and school would be best and if would we need to move in order to obtain a good elementary education for our munchkins. Private was ruled out because of cost, and I've never thought homeschooling would be a good fit for our situation. So I decided to try to enroll her in this school, and see what happened. We got her in (it's a first-come, first-register type of deal) and now Mr. Blue can attend there too. She doesn't have to switch schools if we move, either, as long as we stay in the district, which is not a problem.
The school she now attends is a charter school, the only one in the district. It's a public school, funded by the district and subject to the same curriculum guidelines and testing. However, there are some differences--some of which may not be that different from a lot of good neighborhood schools, because they are just good educational practices, and others which do seem unusual. Some things I like:
1) The kids wear uniforms, which is becoming more and more common even in regular public elementaries. But this school is pretty strict on having the EXACT type of skort or polo shirt, which I guess could be annoying if you weren't used to it. But I went to a church school where we had to have the clothes bought from a certain store, and shoes had to be only certain colors, etc., etc., so it doesn't seem like a big deal to me. Lucky for me, Miss P likes the uniform and it is about a million times easier to get her dressed in the morning than it is when I have to have elaborate negotiations with her about what matches and what clashes and why she can't wear the same clothes she wore yesterday even if they're not dirty.
2) There are really good teachers who assign interesting and relevant work to the students. Projects posted outside the classrooms are things like blueprints designed by students in math class or Picasso-esque self-portraits in art class. The quality of the work is better than I could get out of my eighth graders. Besides her regular work, Miss P is learning quite a bit of Spanish. She now knows what abstract art is and how to create it, and about solids, liquids, and gases. As her pre-K teacher said, she is a learning sponge and she is soaking up some good stuff.
3) They have neat ways to connect kids of different ages so they learn together. On horizontal schedule, which they're on now, the kindergarteners are with other kindergarteners for special classes (but not just the same kids from their own class, so they get to know more kids their age.) All the K-2 kids also have a "buddy" who helps them find their class and open packages at lunch and even go to class with for certain activities. Kindergarteners are paired up with a 3rd grader, 1st graders with a 4th grader, and so on. Not only does it help the little ones, the older kids get to be responsible leaders. Leadership is very big at the school, so that by 5th grade every kid has an extra job at school, whether it's being a tour guide or a traffic monitor.
On vertical schedule, the kids mingle by team. Each team has one class of each grade level. So they will go to P.E. or whatever with their team, no matter their age.
4) The big plus in my book, though, is that parents are truly welcome to get involved. In fact, we are required to volunteer ten hours a year in order to have our child at the school. There are tons of volunteer opportunities, including things that can be done at home for those who can't take off work. They also have a child care room available for part of every day for moms who want to volunteer but need a place for their younger kids. The teachers WANT you to volunteer in their classroom, or you can help in the office, the library, the nurse's office, or lots of other places. I am going to eat lunch with Miss Pink tomorrow, too. It's awesome!
5) The absolute best thing is that Miss P says, "I love school!"