Last night Fletcher, Lola Gray and I attended an open house at the school Fletcher will probably attend for kindergarten – Jacob G. Smith Traditional Academy. This is the school we are zoned for, and while we are keeping our fingers crossed that Fletcher gets picked for Charles Ellis Montessori Academy, the odds are not looking good. A friend turned in her child’s application yesterday and was told that they anticipated 11 open spots in kindergarten (after admitting siblings of current students and those already enrolled in Pre-K) and they have already had over 100 applicants. He has better odds of getting into Harvard!
Oh well. I’m not giving up, but I’m trying to face reality.
Jacob G. Smith seemed like a perfectly nice school. It was clean and well mantained. The teachers all seemed friendly and happy (though a friend thought they did not seem happy to her – so who knows really.) The kindergarten classroom we visited was large and bright and seemed well suited to handle the 12-15 students they typically have in each class. It was just over a mile round trip from our house to school and back so we could easily walk or bike to school. There was really nothing WRONG with the school at all. It was just very different from Ellis and very different from preschool . . . very . . . structured.
The first thing I learned about the school, while we were being lead to the kindergarten classroom, was that children are required to walk the halls with their arms crossed across their chests to prevent any touching. The teacher seemed to think this was great, and told me that when they have students come back to visit after they have graduated from the school, they almost always immediately cross their arms when walking down the hall. It seemed really creepy and militaristic to me . . . though I imagine my child would be the one poking and pushing in line (he has trouble keeping his hands to himself) so this is a very practical solution.
When we entered the classroom, all the kindergarten teachers were there and they all introduced themselves to us and seemed pleasant enough. But when I asked them to tell me about kindergarten, the first thing I was told was “It’s not like kindergarten when you were a child, so get that idea out of your head now. We have work to do. This is much more like 1st grade than kindergarten.”
Wow. Ok. I knew this was the case, knew the trend, but to have her spit it out at me so bluntly was a little off-putting. She then proceeded to tell me about teaching reading and writing and arithmatic . . . you could almost hear the refrain “taught to the tune of a hickory stick” floating through the room. No, I do not think they actually use corporal punishment in the classroom. But she made it very clear that this was a no-nonsense learning environment.
The school day is from 8:30am to 3:30pm – 7 hours. SEVEN HOURS! She said they used to have nap time, but they eliminated it because there is too much work to get done. They have homework every night. EVERY NIGHT. In kindergarten. Good grief people! These are children! When do you expect them to run and play and BE CHILDREN? Where is the focus on building their imaginations, fostering creativity, learning to think and explore on their own?
OK. I’m being a little dramatic and I realize that. This is a traditional school. It says it right there in the name – Jacob G. Smith TRADITIONAL Academy. It’s old school. And Fletcher might do very well in that environment. Sturcture is not in itself a bad thing. It can be a very comfortable and nurturing thing. And the fact of the matter is that Fletcher will have to learn, eventually, to sit in his chair and focus on his work. Plus the school teaches Latin to all grade levels (I was terrible at Latin, but it is a great thing for building vocabulary), they offer string instrument lessons, free of charge, to any interested student (I think you have to be in 2nd grade to start), they have a Chess Club and Fletcher loves to play chess . . . he could be very happy there.
So why do I feel like I am sending my baby out into the trenches?