This is not a post about how marvellous education is in Finland, how in China the kids can recite their times tables whilst hurling themselves off balconies, or the pros and cons of caning. It is not a debate about whether or not we should test 4 year olds, teach them phonics, or have them running around forests designing their own curriculum. It is not about the merits of state schools, free schools, academies, grammar schools, private schools, public schools or home schooling. And it is not a commentary on the alleged infiltration of Ofsted by political OO7’s, with a licence to kill state education. Perhaps most surprisingly, this is not even a post that puts forward my views on what the best way to educate my children is.
Why bother mentioning what this post is not about? Because it illustrates all the many interesting debates put to parents about education, none of which helped me a jot when deciding on ‘the best’ thing to do for our children.
This is not dissimilar to the situation I have found myself in when faced with many a ‘key’ parenting decision, such as how best to give birth, nurse the babies, wean them, get them to sleep, get them through teething, and then stop them biting: I read everything I could get my hands on; every bit of information or opinion conflicted with the last; I worried that by making one wrong choice I would accidentally raise a serial killer; I pulled myself together; and I realised nobody actually really knows what a perfect way to give birth/get them to sleep/educate them [INSERT YOUR OWN PARENTING DILEMMA HERE] is, despite what the ‘experts’ and politicians (all making a tidy profit out of bewildered parents) might say.
Sometimes, when faced with a plethora of choices, with benefits and downsides that nobody seems able to agree on, doing what is best for me is the only choice that really makes sense.
The curious amongst you might be interested to know that putting me first meant sending our kids to the local state school at the end of the road. Here are the 10 reasons why:
- We can walk there. It’s good for our bodies, our spirits, our relationships, the planet and, as I discuss here, the community.
- We live within a 2 mile radius of most people that go there. Because we live near each other, we can help each other out.
- Paying tax (and for school trips and 50p admission to the school fete) aside, it’s free.
- I don’t need to pay the ludicrous £150,000 premium on homes in the catchment of the allegedly amazing state school 5 miles up the road.
- As a result of number 4, I am able to live in a community that has grown and evolved naturally, rather than living in one of those strange places where everyone there is there for that school.
- I don’t have better-school envy. Even if we found the funds for a private school, private does not really cut the English mustard for those that want to canter alongside the English elite. If that is the ambition for your offspring, it needs to be Public school doesn’t it? And good luck with that!
- The teachers are rigorously trained. And certainly at all the primary schools around here they really do care about the kids. The training thing and the caring thing matters to us.
- I can get involved and change things at the school, without it taking too much of my time. Via PTAs, reading to kids, or being a parent Governor I can make a positive difference. I opt for the parent Governor position.
- Being near the school, near school friends, and not in a ludicrous amount of self-inflicted education related debt, our life is relatively easy.
- We are happy.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. I cried for a week when the eldest started year R. He is young in his year and struggled adapting to the noise and activity in the first few days. I wondered if putting our preferred lifestyle at the centre of our decision making, rather than revolving our life around his educational needs, was enough. I guess we will never really know.
What we do know is that adapt he did, he is enjoying learning lots and lots everyday, both in and outside of school, and we are functioning well as a happy family.
I am hopeful that by putting me first, I have done the best thing for my kids. What do you think?