Public School. So Far, So Good.

Sean’s first grade school year is about over and, for the most part, it has been a good year.

Nothing has happened over the course of this year which has made me regret my decision to put Sean in public school.  Which is kind of surprising to me.  I thought there would be something.

So, it looks like we’ll give public school a go again next year.  I say “looks like” because if there is one thing I’ve leaned as a parent, it’s that anything can change at any minute.  The minute I make a decision and plant my feet, it’s highly likely that something is going to change to make me look foolish.

At the beginning of the school year, I wrote about how our plan all along, from the day he was born, was to put Sean in private school. But a few weeks before school started we we had not fallen in love with any of the private schools we researched, so we enrolled him in the local elementary school by default.  But not without some trepidation.

One thing that is important to me is that Sean learns how to behave appropriately in public and I wanted a school that would reinforce what we do at home, which is not tolerate uncivilized behavior.  And it seemed to me, at the time, that a private school would do — could do, would have the freedom to do — a better job in this regard.  While Sean is a pretty good boy, I figured that in public school I’d be dealing with the influence of a population of people whose values and parenting philosophy may not necessarily align with my own. Whereas at a private Christian school, that’s really what you are paying for – people and an administration whose philosophy aligns with yours.

Last April, when we were looking at private schools, we attended an end-of-the-year show the kindergarten class at a particular private school put on for the parents.  The admissions counselor invited us suggesting that it might give us a feel for the school.  And boy, did it.  The children stood on risers in their cute little uniforms and sang a variety of songs. Each child had a line to say or sing and it was apparent that they had worked very hard all year on the show.

Unfortunately one little boy in the front mugged and waved and danced around, and shoved and stage whispered to the the kids around him, and was just generally disruptive and acted liked an ass a spoiled brat.  This went on for the entirety of the 45-minute show.  He ruined the program for the other kids and their parents.  Perhaps his tuition-paying parents thought it was cute, I don’t know, but I thought it was terribly unfair to the other kids that no adult stepped in and put the skids to his antics.

Is it unthinkable that a 6-year-old boy would act up and be silly?  No.

Is it unthinkable that at an adult would not correct this child?  Yes.

Had that been Sean being so disruptive, I would have yanked him off the stage by the ear with the intention of inflicting upon him the maximum embarrassment one could possibly experience.   And because I’m just that crazy, I’d probably make him stand up and apologize to the entire room after the show thereby decreasing the odds that it should happen again.  I am a mom who means business when it comes to courtesy.

When the evening was over, and not a minute too soon, I asked Sean what he thought about the show. He shrugged and said it was nice but he noticed that the boy in front was being bad.  I told him I was glad he noticed that because if he ever did anything like that, I’d yank him off the stage so fast his socks would be left behind wondering where he went.  He found the imagery amusing, but he got my point.

After that event, I was soured on the school.  That not one adult corrected this child — not a teacher, not the kid’s parents, not an administrator – indicated to me a top down philosophy that I can’t abide.  That sort of thing ought not slide and I wasn’t going to pay money to a school which allows it.  I don’t buy the whole “boys will be boys” thing.

And then soon after it was August, and we put Sean in public school, and now it’s April again. (sigh)

I thought back on that end-of-the year show when Sean’s 1st grade class presented their musical program for the parents this year.  And to be honest, I was expecting a fair amount of bad behaving kids. For one thing, there are 100 first graders, so the odds of bad behavior rises exponentially just by the numbers and – I just have to say it – its public school.  You might just sort of expect less in the behavior department for a variety of reasons.

But you know what?  Not one kid misbehaved.  Not even a little.

Not one.

Paint me surprised.  Pleasantly surprised.

32 thoughts on “Public School. So Far, So Good.

  1. I’m chicken because I picked homeschool of the two — er, three choices.

    And now that I’m nearly at high school level with my two tiny tots — er, 14 and 12 year olds, I am addicted and can’t quit.

    My kids get praised on their conduct where ever they go, but they know how to give each other the cold shoulder and slice-and-dice each other with a mean vocabulary when no one is looking. They stay grounded constantly for their rivalry even after reading “Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends”.

    I am hoping I can stick to homeschool for the duration… but sure took a serious hit after adding the 2 year old and 2 month old to our schedule (what schedule? it’s a free for all around here lately)…

    I think the best thing any parent can do in the school department is just to stay involved — very very involved — and to really, truly, love (as in the VERB — active VERB) their kids.

    God will work it out if we are seeking His will and loving the kids. 😉

    I’m glad you had a good year! Hoping I can say that when we ever get to the end of ours…


  2. I’m curious. For those parents with special needs kids, would you be okay with your child disrupting the program as this child did? Would you expect the teacher to deal with it, or if you’re present, would you deal with it personally? I have several friends with special needs kids and understand discipline and re-direct works differently for them than the typical child. But is it fair for the other childrens’ program to be disrupted in this type of situation?


  3. My 2 cents….
    My son is in 9th grade at a public school and I have only praise for the academics and the discipline there. This high school has had an excellent principal for about 10 years and I think that the whole school has benefited from his wonderful direction.

    However, the local elementary school has had about six different principals in that same 10 year time span and I think that lack of leadership has affected the whole school. Years ago when we observed there, I saw so many examples of bad behavior and, in fact, it seemed that the behavior wasn’t even deemed to be bad (pushing and shoving to get to the head of a line, kids choosing to ignore a direct request from the teacher…). So we sent my son to a private Montessori school, where grace and courtesy were taught and there were high expectations of good behavior.

    So, I think whether the school is public or private, it depends on the leadership.


  4. Did you ever convey to the private school your reason for not enrolling your son? As a former private Christian school teacher, I think the school administrators should hear from prospective parents.

    I know that my last place of employment (Christian school) allowed the teachers to set their own discipline standards. Some teachers were more strict and expected civilized behavior while other teachers just let class time become zoo time! It left me, as a more structured, discipline-style teacher very frustrated! I was the sixth grade teacher that received the former 5th grade ‘grandma-style’ teacher’s class and before that the 4th grade ‘let’s be buddies and paint all day’ class. By the time, those kids came into my class, they really thought that school was just a big joke. Arghhhhh…one of the main reasons I no longer work there.

    As a private school teacher whose children attended private school, home school and eventually public school, I have many opinions on educational choices. Every single choice has its positives and negatives!

    * * *
    You are right about that, all school choices have their pros and cons. And to muddy the waters, each school is different – some private schools are good, some are not, some public good, some not, some parents are excellent homeschoolers, some are not.

    Yeats said, “Teaching is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” I’m just looking for teachers/schools that will fan and protect that spark that Sean has for learning.


  5. I have a son in first grade too and I have been very impressed with his public school educaton. The teachers go above and beyond to really teach the children to treat others kindly and with respect.


  6. I found what Susan said very intersting .She said where you live and how the area looks you can tell if it is going to be a good school.Are we looking at the cover and not the book it self.


  7. Keep posting. I just can’t tell you how much I love to read your posts, your every word, for that matter.
    I can hear you calling for a restraining order right now. 🙂


  8. Oh. . .I am SO GLAD you are here and that Sean had such a good first year. I really haven’t read any of the other comments, because my innards get twisted when people talk about the “best way” to do school. I am the product of a Christian schools pretty much K-BA, but I’ve taught in public schools my entire career, and I have many good friends who homeschool.

    To each his own–much like parenting. Breast or bottle or both. Spank, time out. Home, public, private, private Christian. Private familial choices don’t always matter so much in the public sector, but nice–well, nice ALWAYS matters. So does courtesy.


  9. Okay, I’ll bite. I have a kid with “issues.” His father and I have been working with various professionals — developmental pediatrician, occupational therapist, social worker — for over two years now. His behavior remains unpredictable, and it will likely take years of continued structure and consistency to help him develop better and more consistent self-control.

    Meanwhile, we’ve gotten plenty of advice and disapproval from people who think his behavior is a result of our lousy parenting.

    * * *
    Okay, I guess I’ll bite back. This actually wasn’t about parenting but about schools. My point was that I was not impressed with a school which allowed one kid, with or without issues, to disrupt and ruin a program for an entire class.


  10. Hmm. I obviously wasn’t there, but I do have to wonder if the “spoiled brat” could have actually been a boy with a hidden disability such as autism . Probably not, but I don’t know. I know that often when my special needs son/ we his parents are judged for his behavior, it’s by people who haven’t had to work even a hundredth as hard on those same behaviors in their kids to achieve their far superior results. You’d be appalled by my son’s manners surely, even though we’ve worked literally more and harder than anyone could ever imagine to help him, and he’s come so far. It’s tough to be constantly judged, so I’m constantly reminding myself that we never know nearly as much as we think we know about where someone’s coming from.
    Glad Sean had a great year.


  11. In the above comment I meant to say that I couldn’t tell “who were parents and who were teachers.” But my Freudian slip works too.

    * * *
    Love the Freudian slip. Very much.


  12. As a public school teacher I am thrilled by this post. I think we work very hard to teach citizenship to students of all backgrounds. My church has a private school in it. I was shocked when I attended a “Multicultural Festival” there. The children ran to the food table like starving animals. The parents giggled and made weak attempts to corral the children. I wasn’t even sure who were parents and who were children. I think overly permissive parenting is everywhere.


  13. I always thought it was interesting that I spent all of my education in a public school, while my husband spent all of his in private. Now when we compare, it turns out that I was exposed to a wider range of literature and had better science classes, while he can still name state capitals and remembers how to do algebra. I guess between the two of us, our daughter will turn out okay no matter what kind of school she attends.

    (Besides, who needs to know the capital of Nebraska anyway?)


  14. Great post! I’m happy to say that our first year in the American school system has gone really well too! Sure it’s not perfect by any means, and I know that Ilsa in particular has found her school work too easy (but her twin has not…having twins is always complicated!), but overall it’s been good.


  15. I’m glad you’ve been pleasantly surprised by Sean’s public school experience so far. I’m curious: it’s clear from your post that your public school meets your disciplinary and courtesy standards for now. What has your experience been with the school’s values and philosophies in other areas? The possibility of a disconnect between my values and the school’s (as you mentioned in your post) in areas like language, appropriate dress, and other issues would probably be behind any decision I made to not enroll my children in a public school. I must admit, however, that the topics I’m most concerned about would be unlikely to come up for a first-grader (at least I hope not).

    * * *
    Yes, dress issues have not come up much in the first grade, plus I have a boy. However I don’t approve of how some of the others moms dress, which is to say, better than me… 🙂

    Kidding aside, 98% of the stuff at the school has been pretty much in line with how we roll. There have been a few programs scheduled at school that I checked into and decided to keep him home that day or take him out early, but nothing major. A few times Sean has come home using terms for body parts that we do not use that he heard from another boy and we simply corrected him and let him know that some people use that language, but we don’t.

    I expect this will get more complicated with each passing year.


  16. Great post, AM! I’m so glad Sean had a good year this year.

    Our experience has been all public school, and I don’t regret it for a minute. I was always amazed when our girls were in elementary school and the principal would put up his hand, counting “Three, two, one, zero noise” and within three seconds the entire school was silent. I’ve never observed the same at the private school events I’ve attended. Of course there might be some “irritating” kid or family–that’s going to happen wherever you go. Overall, though, most of the people we’ve met have been really decent people who want the same for their kids.

    To Renee above, I just have to say, don’t be terrified of public school (or anything related to your kids!). Pray about where God would have you and do it. Without fear.


  17. Our daughter has been blessed to attend great public schools so far. We recently attended a National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony. The kids were great, well dressed, respectful, did exactly what they were supposed to do. The parents not so much so. Many came to this fairly formal event in shorts, halters and flip flops. They talked throughout the ceremony. They allowed their children and grandchildren to misbehave. It was chaos and it disgusted me. One great-grandma turned around to an offending child (not hers) put her finger to her lips and said “shhhh, little girl… be quiet” the family just laughed it off. Finally the grandmother of the little girl crawled over 5 family members to take the child out but obviously could not control her because she soon ran back in the building yelling…”Papa”. They all thought it was hilarious…..we thought it was sad!
    It almost always goes back to the parents!


  18. Good to hear from you again and so glad your experience was positive and hope it stays that way. Sometimes I think people are too quick to go the private school route thinking that all public schools will be a negative experience. Just goes to show that you have to decide on a case by case basis.


  19. I would love to enroll my five-year-old at the public school but when I visited the one in our school district last April there would have been 38 kids in her kindergarten class with one teacher and a part time assistant. EEEEEKKKKSSS!!! What we chose was a private Christian school about 15 minutes away where there are 9 children with one teacher. My child is plenty bright and doesn’t need any special attention but PLEASE! And now our governor is hitting public education trying to balance the state budget. SIGH

    I understand why you did what you did. But this was the best choice for us. Even if it means we have to sacrifice our own extracurricular activities and pleasures to fund it.

    * * *
    Class size is one of the things that would make us switch back to private school or home school. Our district is in a severe financial crisis and they’ve laid off a bunch of teachers which, if you do the math, means that class size is going to have to increase — in spite of the state mandated limit.


  20. So glad to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t believe the “boys will be boys” line of garbage! Boys can behave in a civilized manner IF their parents insist on it. I have a 20 year old and he knew what the expectation were at home and in public. He is now a collge honor student. And he survived being raised by the “meanest mom in the neighborhood”! 😉


  21. Sometimes I wonder if the whole thing is in some way related to the ages of the parents (and the ages/experience in actual raising of children of the administrators). Antique people like us (wink) were raised with a different set of rules and expectations. There were no acceptable excuses for misbehavior. I have noticed that a lot of younger parents (and administrators) tolerate misbehavior, seemingly in the interests of preserving the child’s “self-esteem”. It can be hard to separate “bad” actions and “bad” choices from being a “bad person.”

    I have also found it difficult as an antique parent to discipline (or correct or train) consistently because I’m always afraid that if I say the wrong thing or with the wrong tone of voice, someone will anonymously turn me in to CPS, when a helpful suggestion or distraction might have been more appropriate. My son is pretty good at spotting the inconsistencies (and working them to his advantage.

    Having had experience in both the public and private realms, I have found the public schools to be more helpful and long-suffering, and they actually have better resources than the private schools when it comes to discipline and behavior. There’s some terribly interesting irony in there, I think.

    * * *
    I’m not sure about the whole age thing, at least not universally, because based on my experience, most of my friends by default are the mother’s of Sean’s friends, most of whom are in their early to mid-30s, and they are all sticklers about respect for others, courtesy, proper public decorum, etc.


  22. Hey! I was thinking about you the other day! Good to hear from you and good to hear things are going well. There are pros and cons to everything, eh? It boils down to choice and what works best for you. Last year we put one of our children in a charter school with some trepidation–but you know what? We love it! His sister followed the next year and I can see it in the youngest’s future. It is good to keep an open mind and keep your options open!

    PS It is snowing at my house today. Bleh.


  23. I have missed you! Thanks for the update.

    I am so relieved to see that manners are still important to some folks! As a child, I remember being horrified at having to answer our home phone, “Hello, this is Allison speaking,” so that the person phoning our home would not have to ask with whom he/she was speaking. HOWEVER, as an adult, I am often complimented on my phone manners…guess mom knew what she was doing after all. We are expecting our first little one in October and are already discussing how we can teach him/her to be polite and respectful…you need to write a book!


  24. Being flexible to change is one of the most important traits we as parents must have.

    Our daughters went to public school, but briefly attended private grammar school. The public education turned out excellent.

    We never regretted the change.


  25. I used to teach in private schools. There is good and bad to both. But from my limited experience I would venture a guess that the reason no one from the school dealt with that little terror is that everyone was afraid of ticking off momma. (or daddy)

    More of my tuition paying parents than I would like (but certainly not all) saw me as their employee and I was to deal with their child the way they deemed best. Woe to me if I hurt or embarrassed their precious baby. Even if it was ultimately in baby’s best interest. And in days when funding is scarce it is not a good idea to irritate your consumer.

    Sounds crass, but that’s the way I saw it.

    * * *
    That probably was what was at the root of this situation. But whatever the reason, if it a practice to tolerate that sort of thing, it’s not where I want to be.


  26. So glad you’re back AM…I missed you 🙂 I’m in the midst of the whole internal debate about school right now. I’m pretty much terrified of public school and can’t afford private school. What were your thoughts on home schooling when you were making your decision?

    * * *
    We are very open to home schooling; we know lots of people who do it and their kids are bright, courteous, articulate and socially well-adjusted – the kind of kid we want Sean to be.

    However. I don’t really want to take on homeschooling right now. It is a huge commitment and I’d rather do other things especially given that the school he is in is working for us right now — but as I said, it’s all subject to change. And we do our own little homeschooling everyday for 30-40 minutes simply because Sean is ready for more than what they are offering at school. That small bit of time we spend is enough that it keeps him challenged and moving forward academically.

    Whenever I write about school, the comments get heated, people tend to want to vilify public, private or home school — whatever choice is opposite theirs, but it’s just a choice we all make based on what is best for our families and the money/time/commitment we have to spend. A choice is only good or bad for the person making it, not for everyone else.


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