Educating our children

2 Nov

Note: I considered breaking up this rather lengthy blog post into two parts, but I already have another topic planned (as mentioned below) for next week. So grab a snack and please join me for a few!

In honor of a project I’m working on in one of my classes, I would like to dedicate this blog post to education. Not only is it a huge issue across the country, but it is also very important to me as a student–and as a mother.

I also want to talk about education because today is Election Day, and one of the Arizona ballot initiatives is Proposition 302. According to an article by Maria Polletta of Cronkite News, “Proposition 302 would transfer First Things First’s $325 million in funding to the state general fund and eliminate the program as of Dec. 1.” First Things First is an early childhood development program focusing on health services and early education for children ages five and under.

I realize that there are two sides to every story, and those who support this initiative believe the money will be better spent in a general fund and will, in fact, continue to provide support to early development programs.

As a new journalist, I am trying to learn how to remain neutral with regard to politics and hot-button issues in general, but this is one issue I am struggling to remain neutral about. So, rather than telling everyone how I voted, I will instead discuss my experience thus far with early education programs. I would like to follow this up next week by focusing specifically on health issues because Hannah has had plenty, and I have learned that programs focusing on child health and wellness are extremely valuable. But first, education in Arizona.

I decided a while ago, without the slightest hesitation, that Hannah should attend preschool. Why the lack of thought? Because I went to preschool and always just thought it was just the first step in the education process. The sooner the better, right? Fortunately, my husband and I seem to see eye to eye on this subject. I didn’t even realize until after having Hannah that preschool wasn’t actually a requirement! Maybe that makes me sound a little ridiculous, but maybe it’s also because I have always placed such a high value on education that I never thought any step was unnecessary or optional. I always expected to go to college, rather than trying to decide whether or not I should. It was never a question for me. Well, I have applied this same sentiment to Hannah’s education.

We haven’t decided where we intend to send Hannah yet, but I have found that Phoenix is full of options for not only preschool, but also facilities that provide education to children who aren’t yet preschool age. One place I was impressed with was Tutor Time, which has a number of locations throughout the valley. I was pleased with the variety of activities available to the children, and the structure of the program seems well organized and positive. Although it may be a bit out of our price range, I am definitely keeping that option on the table for further discussion.

KinderCare centers are also spread throughout the valley and many other cities in the United States, and word-of-mouth has led me to believe this may be another good option. You can go online to schedule a visit, which I intend to do in the near future. This, too, has a variety of programs for a variety of ages, and I am comforted by the fact that there are so many centers all over the country. Based on this alone, I assume they must be doing something right.

Before moving to Phoenix last year, I also spent hours doing online research on the elementary schools in the area and talking to people who already lived out here. Although Hannah still had quite a bit of time before entering elementary school (and she still does), I wanted to know how the schools were rated, what programs were available and which areas would provide her with the best education. Sean and I eventually developed an idea of where we thought she should go, but our plans fell by the wayside when we struggled to find a home in those particular parts of the valley. We actually ended up moving to one of the lowest-rated districts in the area, but I was thrilled to learn that Arizona provides the option to put your child in the district of your choice, which is called an interdistrict transfer.

I recently learned that interdistrict transfers are actually becoming a problem in the state because parents are pulling their children out of their districts and placing them in higher-performing ones. This leads to overcrowding in some schools, while others continue to lose students due to their poor ratings, inadequate educators or lack of attention paid to fundamental education issues within the school.

However, as with many matters in our lives, there are alternatives. Private school is actually becoming more and more appealing to me, although the costs incurred with this type of education are obviously higher than those incurred in a public school unless the student receives a scholarship and/or financial aid.

Montessori schools, which foster self-directed learning and development, are another option, as well as charter schools, which, according to the U.S. Charter Schools website, “are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools.”

It’s a relief to know that, as a parent, I have many options when choosing a school for Hannah, although I wish I lived in a district that encouraged me to enroll my child in its schools instead of one that causes me to avoid them. It may be a time-consuming uphill battle, but if you do nothing else for your children, ensure that they receive the best education possible.

One Response to “Educating our children”

  1. Karen Elliott November 2, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    You guys are so savvy and boss. You get Hannah into whatever program is best 1) for her 2) for you. And don’t accept sub-standard. More parents should be as involved and as investigative as you guys. More parents should care about their children’s education instead of just pumping them out and expecting the state to take care of them! And more parents should take a few minutes a day and teach their children “what color is this?”, “what shape is this?”, how to count to 10 or 20 (or to 100 as my grands can do)…etc. My three-year-old grandson knows the difference between a leopard and a snow leapard – imagine that!

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