Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Right School For The Right Kid

The school year is finally over for the kids. The last tests have been taken, the books have been turned in and the awards (where applicable) have been given out.

Walter's first year of high school was a mixed bag. He had some trouble adjusting and I think he went through a bit of culture shock. He was used to an enviornment where, because of his intelligence, he could slide by without much effort. Now, however, he found himself in a school where the environment is more challenging. I can't say that Eeees and I are 100% happy with the way the school year went, but we're also pretty sure that this school was probably the best available choice for him and we think that things will be better for him there next year.

People often ask me if we're happy with the choice of school, and, for the most part, we are. Yes, there are certain things that we wish would change about the school (and about Walter himself), but we know that we can't have *everything* we want. Yet, when people ask us about George, they're surprised to find out that we are leaning against sending him there, despite being generally happy with it for Walter. When the time comes to choose a high school for George, we will certainly consider Walter's school. However, early indications are that he probably won't be going there.

The simple fact is that Walter and George are two very different kids with *very* different personalities and temperaments (in fact, sometimes so different that I find it hard to believe that they grew up in the same household). Just because Walter can survive and (we hope, thrive) in a particular environment, that doesn't mean that it is the right one for George. He needs a place that is right for his needs. What's good for Walter is not necessarily what's good for George.

It always amazes me, however, how some people completely ignore the child in the process of picking a school. People sometimes pick a school out of laziness (e.g. "Well, we have one kid here, so let's send all of them here"), competition ("we've got to be able to say that we send our kids to the *best* yeshiva") or even sillier reasons. I know of one parent who didn't want to consider a school because she thought it would reflect poorly on her family when it came time for shidduchim. The educational policies of the place weren't important, whether it was the right fit for her kid's educational level and temperament wasn't important. What was important was that her daughters might not get shidduchim later in life if they or a sibling attended this school. It apparently never entered her mind that sending her kids to the wrong school for them could send them off the derech, which would prove to be a far greater "shidduch stain" than a choice of elementary or high school.*

Parents owe it to their kids to send them to the right school *for them.* It doesn't have to be the right school for the parents -- they aren't the ones attending. It doesn't have to be the right school for the neighbors -- they can send their kids to whatever school they want to. It doesn't have to be the right school for some as-yet-unmet in-laws -- hopefully they'll judge your kid on the basis of his or her character and not what elementary/high school they went to (and, if they judge on that basis, maybe you don't want to marry them anyway). You have to find the school that is the right one for that kid. No one else -- not the parents, not the grandparents, not the neighbors -- not even siblings -- matter. Find the best school for *that* kid. The risk of doing anything else is just too great.

The Wolf

* I'm not suggesting that she actually did send her kid to the wrong school. She just refused to even consider a specific school as a possibly correct choice because of how it would look.


-suitepotato- said...

I was perfectly happy to go to public schools, even as badly as they are often run. I despised the parents of kids I knew who looked down their noses at us public school kids and insisted on places like Kingswood-Oxford and so on. Snob academies.

The most important thing is, is your kid being taken care of while at school. What it looks like is dead last. Substance should always go above style when rearing kids.

ProfK said...

You are 100% right Lion that you should fit the school to the child who will have to go there. I raised three "only" children, each with truly unique personalities and requirements. The type of school that might be ideal for one would not necessarily fit the others. But having said that, sometimes we don't have a choice between a great fit and a poor fit, where what to choose is obvious. Sometimes all of our choices are going to have a problem that comes with them. Sometimes you only get to choose from the best of what is available, which is not necessarily the best. For one of our daughters the best school for her would have been a commute of at least 1-1/2 to 2 hours in each direction. Boarding out a 13 year old girl wasn't a good option either. So we chose a school that was okay rather than a perfect fit. It was better for her sister, but it wasn't a perfect fit there either. It's sort of like shoes: unless you can afford to and are willing to spring for custom made you find the shoes that are most likely to give your feet the least trouble and go with them.

BrooklynWolf said...

Lion??? :)

The *Wolf*

ProfK said...

I absolutely apologize and hope you won't hold it against me. Could we just put it down to having a senior moment? You know the kind--wolf, lion, bear...I know it's a fierce animal.

Lion of Zion said...

nothing wrong with being lion.


this is exactly what i was referring to about choice

Lion of Zion said...


great post.
this is precisely one reason i think those who argue that one solution to the so-called tuition "crisis" are misguided.

SuperRaizy said...

I also chose 3 different schools for my three different children, precisely for the reasons that you mentioned. I just wish that the schools would be more comfortable highlighting their unique qualities so that parents could have an easier time making these choices. I'll bet that all of the schools that you're looking at for your son use the same generic phrases to describe themselves ("quality education", "strong Torah values", yada yada...)

mother in israel said...

You are right, but some parents take things too far the other way. All things being equal, and unless siblings are unusually competitive, it's best to keep siblings together (as much as possible in our same-sex educational world). It makes practical sense: books and uniforms can be passed down, activities and vacations don't conflict, you may get discounts, older kids can care for younger ones, and it means you have more invested in the school which is good for both the school, the parents and the kids. Some parents are never satisfied and keep switching schools because "the grass is always greener." (I'm not criticizing your decision at all--not every school will work for every child, and my kids have attended a bunch of different schools.)

Anonymous said...

Interesting post and sound advice. The school should fit the kid. Yet no school is perfect and kids should be aware of that too.