Well a few months ago, I was out to lunch with a few other women who live in my neighborhood, and one of them started telling me about the charter school she sends her kids to. This was the first time I had ever heard of charter school. She had lots of praise to say about it, and because it is a public charter school it is as free as the district public school is. So I started giving it some thought.
I asked people that I knew what they thought of charter schools. I people had both good and bad to say, but most people were a little wary. Here are a few examples of the cautionary reviews I got.
- "If they aren't under a district, who knows what they could be teaching your kids."
- "Not all charter schools in this state higher certified teachers. You need to check and see if they are certified."
- "I don't know that it really matters that much where you send your kids to school, in elementary."
Then the school had an open house. My husband and I went and visited and talked to people at the school. Of course it was a night that was geared to convince people to send their kids there, so everything I heard was good. I asked about some of the negative things I had heard about charter schools in general, and I was happy with the answers that I got.
- They have really good curriculum, and have to meet guidelines imposed by the state. They teach the kids on a higher level than what you find in most district schools. For example, in kindergarten the children aren't just taught the alphabet, but are also taught how to read basic words. In math they learn basic addition and subtraction.
- They require all of their teachers to be certified in this state.
- The school offers really awesome extra curricular programs for the older elementary students (3rd through 6th grade). They have a drama club, ballroom, chess, choirs and orchestra, a homework club, a Korean club, a Spanish club and a science club.
My husband and I left that night, feeling like enrolling our daughter there would be a good choice.
The school has you enter your child's name in a drawing, and they pick who gets to attend. Children who's parents were the founders of the school, or have siblings there are given first priority, then after that it is luck of the draw. So I entered Cinderella's name. Now I knew that it was possible that she wouldn't be drawn, but that she could be. So I continued to research my options.
From my perspective, the only thing that the district school had over the charter school is location. Our local district elementary is only .8 miles from my house, and the charter school is 3.2 miles. OK so 3.2 still isn't that far away, but compared to .8 which is close enough that we can walk there in good weather, plus when you take in account the time that it takes to wait in the pick up/drop off line, and possibly stop lights, it could take an hour out of my day just to take her to school, and pick her up. That is a lot of time in the car.
So I had pretty much decided that we would go with the district school.
Then in February, it came time for Kindergarten registration. Accept I never found out about it, until a few days after. Now I know it isn't that big a deal, and I can take her in at any time during school hours and register her, if I have healthy kids and remember. Which unfortunately hasn't happened to coincide since then yet. So I still haven't registered her. "No problem. I'll still do it." I think.
Then yesterday, I happened to be looking at the blog of my neighbor who's children attend the charter school. They had had a ballroom competition, and the mother had taken some pictures. This reminded me of the extra curricular options. The school district that my parents live in, has had some problems lately due to a split in the district. The split caused a major deficit. To make up for this deficit the district has been cutting a lot of things. Many employees, teachers and others and loosing their jobs. They are doing away with a lot of the extra curricular activities the students could participate in. I also am aware that in our current economy there just aren't as much funds to go around and a lot of state programs are getting a cut in their finances as well, and there is talk of cutting funding for schools state wide. Now I know that this will affect state charter schools as well, but this particular charter school, at least in the past, has tried to balance it's budget in other ways than cutting programs. In our district the schools don't do field trips anymore, because of lack of funding. But the charter school, at least of this school year, is still doing field trips.
Anyway all of this was tumbling around in my brain suggesting that maybe I should give the charter school idea some more thought.
And then I read a different friends blog, about trying to make the choice about sending her son to a charter school. A lot of her friends had some good arguments that I hadn't thought of before.
One is that you can start the year off at the charter school, but if you decide it isn't what you want to do after all, you can change your child's school to the district one. But if you start in the district one, you may never have another opportunity to get into the charter school.
Another is the sibling preference thing. If I put Cinderella in the charter school right now, when Guy gets to be school age, I will have an easier time getting him in the charter school, if that is what I want.
Also because the charter school moves at a faster pace then the district ones, the child won't have as hard a time trying to keep up, if they start in Kindergarten instead of a later grade.
So today I heard from the charter school. Cinderella was accepted. So now I have to figure out which is really the most important to me. And get her registered, for one of the schools. And I only have 2 weeks to decide.
I hope this post made sense and isn't just a bunch of ramblings. But if it confuses you, sorry.