The Great Schooling Dilemma

Why is it that we are expected to make life altering decisions for our newborn (or still gestating!) babies, when we are yet to understand their personality and individual needs? Even if you live in a slow growing area with an abundance for placements and choice, how do you ‘know’ which path to take when your wee babe is still only 1 or 2 years into their life? My Sylar is coming up to his second birthday, and whilst I know that he has a vibrant and fiestily independent personality, I’m not 100% confident which mode of education would suit him best. I have even less of a clue when it comes to his almost 4 year old (eeek, next week!) brother, and yet I’m expected to not only have him ready to start 4yo Kinder next year and school the year after, I also ‘should’ have had his name on waiting lists since birth. I hate the word ‘should’, don’t you. My first choice, and what I’d class as the ‘gold standard’ of education, is to home school. I’m not quite clear on whether we’d unschool or followed a prescribed homeschooling path, but I guess that again, would come down to personality. Regardless, for several reasons this isn’t going to happen. Their father (yep, sometimes he even has a say too) is vhemenantly against it, and due to the financial decisions we’ve made in the hope of securing a comfortable future for our family, I work (between babies anyway *wink*) and study. Our second choice was a small alternative school. I first looked into our local Steiner School when Trystan was 2. We all loved the feeling of the school, the abundance of natural toys, the gentle teaching methods, and the whimsical stories. So, Trystan and I started playgroup when he was 2 and a half at the beginning of 2010. Newborn Sylar came along for the ride (literally, in the wrap and later the Ergo), and we all had a lovely time singing and dancing our way through 2 terms and taking leisurely walks to visit the farm animals or wave to the passengers on Puffing Billy. In the second half of the year it was time for me to return to part time work and the Playgroup was full on our days off, so we took the rest of the year to settle into our new home and explore the new playgrounds. At the start of this year Trystan went back to start Little Kinder (3.5-4.5yr olds). Disaster! Steiner starts the school year off slowly and over the 2 Kinder years the children move from 2 half day sessions (3hrs + 2hrs) to 4 full days after their 5th birthday. The transition is entirely child led. Poor Trystan couldn’t even cope with the 2 half sessions, so we made the decision to only attend one morning until term 3 where we’d reassess. The Kinder is lovely, and both the teacher and her assistant are wonderful, but Trystan always takes a while to warm up to new people and surroundings.. Sylar and I stayed with him (another perk of Steiner) in the hope that he’d make some friends and tell us when he was ready for us to leave. We’re now in term 3, and whilst Trystan is now attending the 2 sessions (dropping his afternoon nap in the meantime made the difference) he’s still not ready to be there on his own. He is also yet to make any firm friendships which makes my heart feel so heavy with sadness. The methods of teaching at a Steiner School, and the gentle approach along with socialising with peers from families with similar ideals all sounds perfect in theory. However, I’m starting to wonder if the reason why the real Trystan, who’s popular, outgoing and energetic isn’t shining through yet, is because it’s not the right choice for HIM. Sylar, I believe would love it and thrive. He already does as he joins in with the Kinder class much more than Trystan. I think Sylar’s independence helps.. sometimes Trystan just doesn’t know what to do with himself and then becomes upset when he finds a spot of safe solitude (like a cubby hole) to be interrupted by other children. He was in tears yesterday when I had to leave for 2 minutes to change Sylar’s soiled nappy – he could see the car out the window and I told him I’d be back but he still looked terrified and heartbroken! I think in my heart of hearts I know that all children’s needs are as different as their personalities, and perhaps this isn’t the right path.. It pains me so much because I know this method of schooling would benefit him, yet the mamabear within can’t persist with an experiment that is obviously paining him. So, the alternatives are to send him to either a private or public mainstream school. We don’t have the financial luxury of affording mainstream private tuition (not without returning to full time work, which would be to the detriment of our younger children), and I don’t see the value anyway. They may have access to more expensive technology and facilities, but the teachers, cirriculum, endless testing (*sob*), and mainsteamed children remain the same. Thus, we’re left with the local public schools. This hurts my heart so much that I don’t know if I even hold the capacity to investigate the local primary schools at the moment.. I did look at the new (private) P-12 school near us when Trystan was just a baby and the focus on performance was awful 😦 . What I will do though, is at least go and take a look at the local Government Kindergartens. That at least buys me another year, right? I ‘think’ the public schools are catchment based, so I only need to enroll 4 years ago if I want to send him to one of the private schools. Kinder, on the other hand is in hot demand around these parts and operates on a first come first served basis. I have recommendations for 3 off a friend of mine so wish me luck as I plunge into the mainstream world of 4 year old Kindergartens and desperately wish to be pleasantly surprised.


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