Last week, the girls both got their ears pierced, started school at a new school, and we, of course, found out about the bebes. Needless to say, it was a big week in our family.
Sweet reader Amber emailed this week to talk about public schooling, and she suggested I might give an update of sorts on where we are in our schooling decisions. As I looked back, I realized I haven't devoted much discussion to it since way back when Dacey was in Pre-K when I originally shared about how we feel called to public schools.
Before I share an update of the past few years and where we are now, I want to make clear from the beginning that as always, I am speaking of the direction we have felt called to take. We have family and friends whose schooling choices are all over the spectrum - homeschooling, private schooling, and public schooling. I affirm every family's choice and trust that each of you are seeking and following the path best for you, and no matter how similar or different that is from the path we have chosen, I encourage you onward in what is best for your own children.
Dacey is in 2nd grade now, so this the beginning of her fourth year in public schools, and AJ is now in all-day Pre-K. We are still very, very big fans of public school.
Dacey's first three years of public school were in a small town Oklahoma school system that is very similar to the schools that Kyle and I grew up in. Her classes generally had 20 - 22 kids in them, and they were as diverse as small town Oklahoma life can offer. I got to know her teachers each year, and there is no doubt Dacey absolutely thrived in the public school classroom. She is, in fact, the ideal public school student. She loves order, predictability, and rules. She is competitive and is internally driven to do her best work, every time.
Kyle and I never attempted to influence whose classroom she ended up in for the year. Every summer, we prayed that God would allow her to be placed in the room she needed to be in, and I have to tell you, every single year, her teacher was perfect for her that year. Her Pre-K teacher was the perfect blend of strict orderliness and loving compassion. Her Kindergarten teacher was an energetic teacher who loved hands-on learning and I think she really triggered in Dacey a love for science. Her first grade teacher was maternal and nurturing, and she perfectly met Dacey's needs last year.
Last year was also the first year that I got involved in the school as a parent. My dear friend Raylee and I spent every Friday of the school year selling treats as fundraisers during lunch time. Being on campus just once a week made a huge difference in my understanding of what was happening on campus - where the struggles were and what great things were happening. Raylee and her husband are very like-minded to Kyle and I and our beliefs on why our kids should be in public schools, so in many ways, our weekly volunteer time became a pep talk of sorts for both of us as we talked through the frustrations of what we saw and our dreams of what could be.
When we moved to Oklahoma City, many people both in the town we moved from and in our new neighborhood were curious what we would do about schools.
In Oklahoma City, there is an open transfer policy for elementary schools which means families can apply to go to a school other than their neighborhood school. There are three really stand-out public elementaries in OKC schools, and many families try to get their kids in there. These are genuinely wonderful campuses, and because of this, it is hard to get into them if you don't live in the neighborhood boundaries, and the classes are also overcrowded.
Oklahoma City also offers many, many private and parochial schools that are top-notch. It was kind of amazing and overwhelming to go from essentially choosing between homeschooling or the public school in the town we lived in to alllllllll of these choices! About half of the kids in our neighborhood go to either private or parochial school, and the other half transfer to different public school elementaries. I'm not totally positive on this, but I think our family and one other family in the neighborhood are the only ones who have chosen our neighborhood school.
Our only criteria for whether or not the girls would go to our neighborhood school was whether or not it was a safe environment. A little research confirmed that while our elementary may not be in a stand-out in OKC public schools, it's safe and perfectly fine for our family for now.
So, we (sorta) prayed about it, but I think we both knew from the start we would send our girls to the neighborhood elementary. To begin with, it's literally down the street from our house. Like, half a block away. Kyle and I have our differences on many issues, but there is one area where we are solidly on the same page - we believe in our very core that God placed us in our neighborhood for specific reasons, and that we live in the part of OKC that we live in for specific reasons, and that we are here to be involved with people around us for specific reasons. All of these reasons are bigger than just our little family. We feel strongly we are here to share common life with our neighbors and to allow Christ to work through us to bring a little of God's kingdom to earth.
Something else that Kyle and I put a heavy premium on is diversity. We absolutely want our children to grow up understanding people who look different from them on the outside, to be given that gift that comes from truly knowing other people, the gift of discovering how very alike people are on the inside. When I walk the girls to school and pick them up each day, I walk up alongside mamas who are Muslim and daddies who are Pacific Islanders; parents, grandparents, and care givers of every shade of skin and every language group and every economic background.
And it makes my heart happy, you know? I think all parents on some level want to give their kids what they didn't have, and growing up in very homogeneous and sometimes racist small towns did not afford an appreciation of diversity for Kyle and I in our childhoods. It's not that we appreciate diversity just for the sake of diversity - it's that we want to equip our children to know from their earliest days that no matter what our culture tries to tell you about someone who is different from you, people are people. And all of us want to be known and accepted and loved.
As always, we want to be open to God's direction each year. Oklahoma City has some really great charter schools that are administered by the public school system, and one of them is an elementary school that teaches the core curriculum with a heavy emphasis on science. I would really love to see Dacey there next year. I don't know what the future holds for Aliza Joy, but I know that God has a plan for her, too. So, we'll see. We'll be open and fluid and maybe all of this will have changed by this time next year. We don't know. But we know that for now, we are still called to public schools, and we know that for now, this is exactly where we are supposed to be.
Questions or comments on school choices? Want to share your family's story? Looking forward to great discussion on this with you today.