I watch where people send their kids to school. It’s a revealed preference for their values. Amongst my pals, Boulder is one of the few locations were public schools are the default choice.
One of the challenges our district faces is declining kindergarten enrollment – we don’t have a good idea “why.” Some things I’ve noticed with the families that have gone private:
- Private school is contagious, by neighborhood, by family and by peer group. It would be great to get those families back into the district. I’m not sure we’ve asked them what it might take.
- As elementary school enrollments shrink, the impact of a single weak teacher increases. How we support weak teachers is not clear to me.
- Having switched one of our kids to a full-enrollment, school… there is a quality of experience issue with the schools that aren’t full. The overall experience at a “full” school is better.
Thinking about the phases of our kids’ education…
New Parents: The #1 thing we got right, eventually… Listen to professional educators. My default position is seeking to understand why staff’s view makes sense. Take time in forming opinions.
Age 2 to 6 => choose your daycare/preschool/early education based on where the child will get the best socialization skills. This is particularly important if you have a high-energy kid. Early socialization trumps preschool “academics.” All three of my kids started Grade One at the bottom of the class, all three caught up in 18 months.
Parents: model the socialization techniques the kids are learning at preschool. Learn from the teachers so the child is in a consistent environment at school, and at home.
Remember during this phase… the most important money you spend is childcare that benefits your marriage. You are under more stress than you realize – make time for each other.
Age 6 to 8 => a daily focus on learn-to-read and learn-to-learn. Learn-to-learn is building on the early socialization work that happened before they arrived in Grade One.
Parents: 20-minutes a day (read-to, read-aloud) in this phase has the highest return in your kids’ education career.
10 minutes before school (read-together). 10 minutes before bed (read-to). HUGE.
The confidence boost from being able to read provides a positive association with learning. INVERT: smart kids (who can’t read) will wonder if they are stupid.
=>100 hours per year time investment. The highest return parenting time you will ever have.
PS => the read-together before school, should morph into read-to-self each morning. I used a summer reading prize (100 mornings = $100) to establish this habit.
Age 9 to 12 => Our theme here: don’t mess with the streak!
Siblings, routine and habit form a virtuous circle of positive reinforcement.
“Read to self” every morning, summer reading prizes, consistent bedtimes, 2-3 different after school activities, consistent weekly schedules. This phase is about locking in a routine and keeping it rolling.
Be the brand.
If you’re not then they’re going to call you on it. 🙂
My expectation on the kids is “perform at grade level.” This lets them take all the credit for above-average performances.
Earned Enrichment: there’s a joke that every parent thinks their two-year old is gifted. This is funny because it’s true.
In order to keep as many families in the public channel as possible… make it clear that all kids who want to accelerate their learning will be supported. Fairness of opportunity for all kids.
Related: make it clear that teachers will be supported. I’ve watched two weak teachers cause a (very polite) gradual exodus from a wonderful neighborhood school.
- My son wants to take combined Grade 7/8 math next year. We have a simple policy, if you want to accelerate then you need an “A” in current year math. You need… A’s to Accelerate.
- Seeing her older siblings ahead… our youngest wants to get ahead in math. At the start of each academic year, she gets a chance to test out. Once that test is done, we won’t intervene on the kid’s behalf. You gotta earn it, yourself. She’s been trying for two years and has a good shot next September!
- Overall, I’m in no rush for the kids to accelerate their learning. Just like their sport, they have 10-20 years (!!!) of formal education ahead of them. The heavy lifting will come when I’m out of the picture and must be internally motivated. Our job is to set the schedule and not screw it up!
- Same deal with sport. If school work falls apart then we will be dialing down the training load. You need to earn the right for extra training.
- Fair doesn’t mean equal. My kids are always comparing who-gets-what. My focus is on supporting them, fairly, to get whatever outcome they can achieve on their own merits.
- I was very unequal when they were young. In any given year, I over-allocated toward the kid who needed an early intervention of my time. I think school districts should do the same – prioritize early interventions across all demographics.
Finally, schedule time to focus on your stars. It is very easy to get wrapped up in problems.
1// One-on-one trips/special events in your best environment.
2// Acknowledge that successful parenting means getting out of their way — building their ability to live in the world — letting them go.
3// ABC => Always build confidence, or competence… depends on the situation!
INVERT: don’t crush their confidence when they are small.
The confidence point is a big one. Bad habits don’t take your family where you want to go.
That last point is a good one => take time to ask around…
Where do we want to go?
All too easy for strivers to keep striving, across generations.
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