Saturday, October 24, 2009

Head Start

I really needed to see this. I instantly recognized two of the centers in the article from my childhood neighborhood and several were not familiar but the streets were.

My mission to find the perfect elementary school in Florida had reached a fever pitch. I've found a promising school with a gifted program, so now all my energy can be channeled into obsessing over whether or not they will "do well" on a psych education evaluation. I'm confident that I'm not transmitting my sense of desperation to the kids about the test, I haven't even mentioned it and probably won't until the night before their appointment.

But my state of mind was given a serious jolt of reality by the Slate piece on inner city day cares. The bright, cheery reasonably well staffed institutions, on tree lined streets surrounded by well maintained homes have little in common with the choices my mother had for me as I entered elementary school. My own IQ test almost 30 years ago ensured that I would be placed in a school a couple of miles away but infinitely different from my zoned elementary school. I would remain in the Astor Program until middle school, and that experience was largely positive. But not without its pitfalls.

The small, progressive private school my children currently attend has the resources and staff to individualize the curriculum to each child's specific needs. It is ideal in many ways. But the demands of most public schools don't make that feasible. So I'll pack the kids up to "talk to a fun teacher" and not sweat the outcome. I vividly recall the day of my test, what I wore, specific questions etc. It was a day that literally changed my life. I have no doubt that my parents, my mother in particular would have come up with another option had that Astor Program not panned out. But whether or not my kids test well, their zoned school will be a viable alternative. Which was not a luxury my parents had.

2 comments:

  1. I hear you. I'm sure many things in my life would've turned out very differently had it not been for the gifted program in elementary/middle school. And I was fortunate to be zoned in a school system that had it at all - the county over did not.

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  2. There were definite cons to my program that I will probably blog about soon. But the good definitely outweighed the bad.

    I'm glad you lived on the "right" side of the county line!

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