Your kid's education
Oh my. This school thing is interesting. Talk about people getting their (as an old southern friend of mine would put it "undies in a bunch.") In the first place, repeat after me: "Even if I send my kid to a private school, I want some of my tax dollars to fund public education. Otherwise the undereducated underclass will probably shoot my overeducated child some day, because they are frustrated that they cannot afford to live, clothe themselves, and better themselves." Period. And if you want to quote Ann Rand to me at this point, I would remind you that when ANN RAND was four years old, you can bet your sweet patootie that someone was teaching her the alphabet and probably feeding her nice white bread.
Yes, the anachronistic mom is a liberal. Quelle shock.
Now, about this school thing. For the most part, I'll be dealing with schools, both private and public, in my area of the world, which is the Menlo Park/Atherton area. The school thing is interesting. My child is only three, so I'm really not a scarred battle hero in the school wars. In fact, I'm just starting to look at a lot of this stuff, and it's pretty scary. (I mean, I have trouble choosing tennis shoes or an entree, you know?) And this site really doesn't reflect reality of the school situation in Palo Alto, which is its own Berkeley-esque world, replete with lotteries and so forth. In Atherton, where I live, I can send my kid to the nice little school here in Lindenwood (that he can walk to, about 3 blocks away), or I can ship him off to private school. That's what I'll be researching.
Some research sites and things to know
There are many sites which will help you research schools, school types, and information about specifics. Here are some of them.
ERIC is an awesome site. It's the Department of Education's Educational Resources Information Center. As of the end of December, 2003, though, it's being moved. The new url is http://www.eric.ed.gov . I am including link data in here, but am assuming that it will be broken shortly. However, they don't have the entire site moved yet, so try these links first, and then, if they don't work, click on the new url and start looking. ERIC contains tons and tons of information that can be incredibly useful. Among other things (and to digress), it has EROD, the Education Resource Organizations Directory. The ERIC Search Page lets you search generally, or browse through more than 2000 topics, arranged alphabetically. I am also fond of the ECAP (Early Childhood and Parenting) Collaborative at the University of Illinois. Here's a list of their projects, websites, and discussion lists. If you're doing general research, this is interesting stuff. If you need help with something, the websites might point you to it. And if you're in the middle of something, even just being a Reggio Emilio parent, they have a discussion list for it. ReadyWeb contains a bunch of reports and tips on getting your child ready for school, helping them learn geography, and so forth.
Hmmn. What type of preschool should you send your child to? Hint: they should not be teaching them 'academics." There is plenty of time for that.
For specific notes about preschool styles, see Thinking about Education. For more information about preschools, check back later. A lot later (there is a massive amount of info on this!)
Researching elementary schools
Researching elementary schools is a top priority for the Palo Alto Mother's Club (PAMP). The Elementary School Open House and Workshop, co-Sponsored by Parents Place and Palo Alto Weekly, was held on Sunday, November 9th at the Lucie Stern Community Center in Palo Alto in 2003. PAMP holds a similar workshop every year. An excellent resource for checking out any school is EduSource, which contains fiscal, demographic, and performance data on California's K-12 schools. Here is a page that shows how California's rankings compare with other states. GreatSchools.net also contains information, but they only give you 1999 for free. They want to charge you $40 to get more current information.
For more information about public schools in:
The Menlo Park City School District serves both Menlo Park and Atherton:
Language-intensive public schools and organizations
Palo Alto Chinese Education (PACE)
Thankfully, I'm not even close to this yet, but I did see some links today that looked interesting, so why not plug them in somewhere?
The Fiske guide seems as though it might be a help in figuring out a college. Good questions.
Everybody can use help at this sort of thing.