Monday, March 24, 2014
Very reluctantly pulling my head out of the sand about school!
Some of the getting out of limbo stuff kind-of happened and gave me a good kick-start.
Our pre-school goes up to Grade R so kids can stay there if the parents prefer... or go straight to Grade R at the school they'd go to for Grade 1.
We took K to an opthalmologist last year because D was worried about something she sometimes does with her one eye...(the doctor said there was no concern, just as I said) and in conversation, he said that his son stayed at the pre-school for Grade R and had some trouble adjusting when he went to Grade 1, so with his next one, he would put the child in Grade R at the school of choice to make the adjustment easier.
That was interesting for us to hear. Granted, a focus group of 1 but still.
(I really hate talking about schools since everyone has such strong opinions about it - it's like the breastfeeding/ bottle-feeding scenario X 100.... so I never consciously talk about it if I can help it)
So I emailed my friend with the twins and asked her if she was going to put the girls in a school next year or leave them at our pre-school.
She said she wants them to go to Grade R at the "big" school.
Anyway, in our discussions, she told me that a school in our suburb was having their open day. This was last Sat.
We went... met them there actually... and found that the mother of one of the kids in Connor's class is actually the one Grade R teacher. Her kids are a good ad for her because they're both really nice, well-mannered kids.
Visiting the school was a wonderful experience.
We were met at the gate by a lovely Grade 7 - well-spoken, friendly and unflustered despite us chasing after the kids every few minutes. This child escorted us around the school, to the Grade R classes, library, sports facilities and then to the hall for all the administration.
Each family was shown around by a Grade 7 and really, they were all lovely.
Both D and I had a really nice feeling about the school. Well-organised but still caring about the kids, etc.
So we're applying to this one.
For the benefit of my non-SA friends, a quick run-down as I understand it, because in "my day" and circumstances (coloured schooling in another province) things were not as crazy as they are here in Jhb and post 1994!!!
There are private schools - these cost a fortune but vary in their prices and beliefs. This stuff I know nothing about but apparently some are good if you're Catholic, some don't care about religion, some are focussed on well rounded kids, etc. Those who are experts on the private schools please comment!
There are some starting at R40 000 a year, some at the R70 000 mark (our nearest Christian private school) and some at R100 000 a year (very poncy one near my work).
I gather that the key benefit is a small children: teacher ratio. I heard from my friend that the school they have their hearts set on (private school) has a class size of 15 kids.
Then you get government schools and these vary all over the place too - really nice ones and some not-great ones.
The one we went to look at is subsidised about 50% by the government, and costs about R18 000 for the year. I can't remember the exact amount but I know it's less than what we currently pay.
Of course I'm not counting the extras but every school has these.
With one private school (poncy one near my work - Robyn, your friend's kid goes there :)) the extras were never optional, e.g. whether you like it or not, your child WILL come on a class trip and you WILL pay the R5000 even if your family has other commitments.......... actual experience from a colleague.
The school we looked at has a class size of 28.
We have to go see another government school in May (another really good one in the area) and we need to agree on a date to visit one private school (we missed the open day) - a Christian one but about 14 km away from our home. This is not a huge distance by Jhb standards but it is by mine (you all know I hate driving, traffic, etc.....)
The government schools have this "zoned" business. The street we live on runs across a main road. We are on the other side of the main road so we're 3 houses outside of the zone of the school we visited. Technically they have to take kids within the zone first (I think this is how it works???) and they can then consider those outside the zone if there are still places.
People are very passionate about these things.
I know one friend who really wanted her kids in a particular government school. They sold the house where they were living, consciously buying a house within the zone to make sure they get into the school. It worked - boy 1 is there already and boy 2 will go there next year.
Maybe I'm lazy, maybe I'm naive but I'm not willing to go to those lengths just for a school. Unless I love the house and was looking to move anyway.
I spoke to another colleague at work and she was saying things I actually believe too.
Her kids go to good government schools and she pays for extra maths tutoring for one son. Now that makes sense to me.
Pay R2000 a month and pay an extra R1000 for tutoring, rather than R6000 and you may still have to pay for that extra tutoring.
I'm also not convinced that what parents intend is necessarily what comes out of a private school, otherwise Excos of all companies would be privately schooled individuals, right?
I feel like I'm the only person who feels this way - we could pay for private schooling (if I remain employed :)) BUT I'm not sure that private schooling is all that great except for the smaller class size.
I actually want my kids to be exposed to lots of diversity - not only of race but also of class. It goes against everything inside me to think of them only associating with kids who've known every privilege in life...
Pre-1994 we all went to school with kids who looked exactly like we did. These days we're mixing in terms of race but now it's the haves and the have-nots.
I don't have the answers; I'm just sharing what's on my heart.
Anyway, where do you stand on all this stuff?
Where are your kids going to school? Are you sorted for next year?
How did you make the decision?
PS I do realise that no one school is going to completely satisfy me. Thank you, Julia, for that life lesson shared in Chef Pon's :)
PPS also, be gentle. I'm not judging anyone.