Thursday, November 28, 2013

(Pre) School



Dear Boy turns two in January and when he returns to child care later that month, he'll be moved up into the pre-kinder room. My heart skips a beat every time I think about it because pre-kinder is the step before kinder. And kinder, in my NSW-born-and-educated mind, is the first year of school.

When we moved south of the border to Victoria, we had to learn the ropes all over again. That stuff you just know because that's how it always was... was suddenly different. There was a whole new bunch of politicians to learn and not really care about; the RTA became VICRoads and you don't need to get yearly pinkslips before you do your rego each year; and you don't have to buy your own greenslip cause that's already incorporated into the rego price; middys became pots and there was a notable obsession with parmas. Lots of big things and little things changed.

And suddenly, all the public high schools have disappeared. There are colleges and a million independent schools. I'm sure there are regular old public high schools out there but I can't find them on a map. Where's This Suburb Name High School? Or That Suburb Name High School? At face-value, I can't tell the difference between public and private anymore.

A brochure for independent high schools laded in my letter box earlier this year. Some of my mothers' group friends have already put their sons on waitlists for these places. With the yearly tuition costs being mind-poppingly astronomical and most founded on particular religious denominations, it is highly unlikely Dear Boy will be attending those. That many of them are also single-sex schools gives me even greater pause. That's more of a metro thing rather than a state thing as it's common in Sydney as well, but it still feels like a foreign concept. Do boys do better in single-sex schools? How's he going to learn to interact with girls and women? How much more of a burden would it put on me in terms of his relationships with and ideas about women to educate him with only boys?

But that's all so far away. Much more front and centre is what I once knew as Kindy and now know as Prep. Pre-school has become... I don't know what.

Of course it's all becoming even more confusing with the introduction of three-year-old and four-year-old kindy, with government funding for this one but not that one. And that one's compulsory but not that one. I don't really want to think about it. I mean, Dear Boy won't be starting "school" until 2017.

But there are wait lists for kindy and tight zoning for the really great public schools and none for the completely average ones. So the thinking is starting now. Are the kindy programs at his current childcare any good? How long are the waitlists for four-year-old kinder when we're only just now getting phone calls for childcare places we were wait listed for months before Dear Boy was even born? How soon before 2017 do we need to shift into a zone to be eligible for prep enrolment at the local primary school?

Deep down I have the feeling that Dear Boy will thrive academically wherever we put him - city, country, suburban, small, large, private or public. More of a concern for me are the social aspects of a good school. I want him to have a peer group that lets him thrive, that accepts his nature to be bookish or sporty or funny or quiet or some combination of these or none of these, and that challenges him to be better without crushing his spirit or requiring him to crush someone else's.

But I don't think they have selective schools or zones for that.

This post has been simmering away on a back burner in my drafts folder for a few months now. It was scooped a few days ago by Dad Down Under, but I figure I'll release it into the world anyway because I'd love to hear about everyone's experiences with public versus private education, NSW v VIC or single-sex v co-education.

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