Tuesday, January 23, 2007

School Stresses

It is no secret that my kids are in private school. The simple reason is that public schools pretty much suck throughout Florida. Those that don't suck are overcrowded and filled with underpaid teachers who are struggling to meet the needs of the average student. To be clear, this house is in one of the two best school districts in the county. Our kids are not in that elementary school because the classes are huge, and because the gifted program at the time was part-time, pull-out and non-resident. Class sizes have largely remained the same, although our home elementary school now has a full-time gifted program. It's a mediocre program at best.

Wizard is not and never was an average student; he is extremely bright. This private school is meeting his academic needs and challenging him every day. In fact, his math teacher said to me today, "He will be valedictorian some day." Moose is not an average student. He walked at fifteen months, spoke intelligible full sentences at 18 months, and was computer savvy at two years. He is 4, nearing his 5th birthday, and is reading and comprehending Kindergarten to 1st grade books. Wild Thing is an average to above-average student. He has to work hard for every gain, but they are well-won. He has a good attitude about school and loves it. WT's teachers have fostered an engaged, happy learner in him.

The school has just issued enrollment contracts for 2007-2008. Middle school and high school tuition will increase 9%. [Wizard will go to middle school next year.] When WineGuy heard this, his immediate response was "Find out what the gifted program entails in the public middle school and get him tested. This tuition increase is robbery." I was angry and flabbergasted at his response. Wizard has been in private school since Kindergarten and to move him into public school because of a large tuition increase is reactionary and ridiculous. Public school classes are large; the gifted program generally means more work, not more challenging work. There are significant discipline and behavior problems in public middle school. If we put Wizard into public middle school next year, we will lose him. He will become another unmotivated, bored kid whose intelligence is wasted.

What to do? I remembered CK's sage advice about conceding to WineGuy's wishes on another topic, so I agreed to have Wizard tested for gifted. I'll take Wizard to our assigned elementary school next week for preliminary testing, and we'll take it from there. I also spoke with the director of admissions and financial aid for the private school. Unfortunately, there is no multi-student discount for families, although there should be. She encouraged me to submit a financial aid form. That's kind of laughable considering our income and where we live, but she said it's conceivable that we might qualify for financial aid considering we're paying three tuitions. I told WineGuy I'm filling out that form. He wasn't thrilled, but at least he'll see it's pro-active. My back-up position is to ask both sets of grandparents to pitch in for tuition. My in-laws have thrown away thousands of dollars on tuition for undergraduate and graduate programs never completed by WineGuy's brothers. I hope they would see the benefit of keeping Wizard in this private school through 8th grade. Public high school is viable option we'll seriously consider in a few years.

In the meantime, my desk is a disaster. I have no desire to clean it or fill out that financial aid form. I'm forcing myself to get right to it as soon as I finish this entry.

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