Suddenly schooling

17 08 2008

Just like that, we decided to enroll the kids at the nearby public school.

When we first came to the realization that we wanted to stay in New Mexico for a while, we started talking about schooling options. Regardless of location, I guess there are really only three options: public school, private school or home school.

Home school seemed the most likely option at first. I’m not too sure about our ability to get out of the mud road here on any given winter day. What would be the good of putting the kids in a school that they can’t attend any time the road is too wet? And private school, which (speaking as a former private school student) has both advantages and disadvantages, just isn’t financially feasible right now.

I tend to approach home-schooling skeptically. I’ve known a lot of home-schooled children who turned out book-smart but socially stupid. It’s definitely not universal, but I think proper home-schooling takes a tremendous amount of planning, effort and time. Sometimes I can’t understand how anyone but the independently wealthy could spend enough time schooling their children and still have time to earn a living, unless the family never sleeps.

Still, it was the path we figured we would take, for this year at least.

And then Liesl looked up the school district’s website to see what school our children would attend if they went to public school. It’s called David Skeet Elementary, and it’s located about 10 miles from here on the north side of Vanderwagen, NM. I called to get information about the school, and I was reasonably pleased with the information I got. Plus, they offer school bus service that picks up right at the end of the mud road. It would be a shorter walk to the bus stop than it was to walk the children to school last year.

We decided to take this into consideration, and we didn’t deliberate too long before deciding we liked this option best. There are a lot of things we can teach, but there are some intangibles that I feel are developed best in a classroom setting with other children. I feel like last year at the public school in Colorado was very beneficial for both of the kids, but particularly Ryan, especially in terms of self-confidence and knowing how to behave properly in a group setting.

I guess I do have to consider that public school, by default, involves some level of misinformation that I will eventually have to help my children unlearn. However, I think this is probably minimal at their current ages. And I feel like having some basics, such as reading, social studies, and math covered at school will allow Liesl and me to focus more on their spiritual development. This certainly seemed the case last year.

My biggest hang-up was that I had heard some less-than-ideal things about the general underperformance of the Gallup-McKinley Public School District.

I logged onto a website that analyzes schools by taking test scores (among other things) into consideration, and then ranks each school on a 1-to-10 scale. Gallup-McKinley School District has an overall score of 3/10, compared to Jefferson County School District in Colorado, ringing in at 7/10. David Skeet Elementary, the local public school here in New Mexico, received a school score of 3, the highest of any surrounding elementary school.

Imagine my surprise when I looked at Lawrence Elementary, the school that Ryan and Aidan attended last year, and saw that it, too, received a score of 3, making it one of the more underperforming schools in Jefferson County. I guess, from a strictly surface-level analysis, I might be able to expect a similar quality of education here at David Skeet.

And then there’s the demographic information, which really sold me on the idea of putting the kids in school here:

David Skeet Elementary, in its most recent year, had 250 students. Out of these, 245 were eligible for the free or reduced school lunch program. 1 student was Hispanic, 3 students were black, and 246 students were American Indian. That’s correct, no white kids. Not even one.

I love this idea for one simple reason: I do not, under any circumstances, hope to raise children with what I have unscientifically labeled “Snotty White Kid Syndrome.”

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against white people. I come from both English and Spanish parentage, and I look like my white relatives. But I cannot abide the smug sense of materialism and superiority that I see so prevalent in middle-to-upper class, mostly-white schools.

I saw more than enough of it last year, and I started to make some decisions about how I want to raise my kids. I don’t want to raise children who constantly “need” new toys. I don’t want to raise children who feel inadequate if their clothes aren’t brand-name and brand-new. I don’t want to raise children who feel the need to constantly assert themselves as better than their peers, always driven to do more and have more to measure up in a system that judges people by their possessions and not their character.

Could we do this in a school full of kids suffering from SWKS? I suppose so. But something inside me is just so much more drawn to the idea of sending my kids to a school with children of other ethnicities, especially kids who don’t come from affluent families. I think that, regardless of what the future might hold, my children could potentially benefit from being the minority for a year, at least.

I think of the missionary kids I knew growing up, most of whom turned out to be fine adults despite having been raised in a vastly different culture, and in conditions that most Americans would consider severely impoverished. Many of these kids turned out to be adults who somehow manage to stay focused on things that actually matter, and avoid the traps of American, materialistic consumerism.

I like that.

I found out that we’re a little behind the buzzer, though. Public school here started last week. Liesl picked up enrollment materials, and we’ll all go together tomorrow to turn in the paperwork. I’m not sure if the kids’ first day of class (as the “new kids,” no less) will be tomorrow or Tuesday, but we’re all looking forward to it.

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6 responses

17 08 2008
Granny

Can’t wait to hear about the first day, no, the first week at David Skeets School!! Wonder if they’ll have fry bread for lunch.

17 08 2008
Janna

Bravo! I’ll call this coming weekend and we can swap stories. Lots of love…

18 08 2008
Terri Spratte

Sounds like the kids are in for some great adventures at their new school that is diverse. I look forward to hearing about the experience in up coming blogs. Thanks for sharing.

18 08 2008
Mom2

Wow that was fast! Good on ya…That’s from an old cable show called Maniac Mansion. You’ll have to ask Liesl about it IF she remembers or Granny she for sure will. Be sure to have the kids call and let us know all about it! Wonder what Kaylynn will think?

18 08 2008
Aunty Penn

If they give you any indication that they feel left out or are being harassed, take them seriously. They’re going to be a lot different in more ways than just skin color–they’ll probably be way ahead of their peers, and that may not be too popular. Just watch this experiment carefully, and maybe ask the Anast ‘kids’ about their experiences. White people don’t have the market cornered on racism, and kids from non-Christian environments have seen, heard and experienced things you’d never want to see, hear or experience as an adult. Cover them with prayer. You’re sending your most untried ‘warriors-in-training’ into a front line situation. Be as wise as serpents.

19 08 2008
Emily

Ditto to what Aunty Penn said. But I’m sure it will be great!

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