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OPINION: Choosing the right school not as easy as ABC

AS soon as I was born my mother put my name down at the local kindergarten to reserve my spot for when I came of kindy age.

I remember her telling me this when I was pregnant with my son and thinking that was a bit extreme.

I would have thought thirty-two years later there would be more education options available and I wouldn't need to reserve my son's spot at a local kindy so early on.

I was wrong.

Yes, there are more education facilities now but the good ones fill up quick. So you still need to put your child's name down as early as possible to score a spot.

I found this out the hard way.

When he was two years old we started looking for a day care for just one day a week so he could play with other kids.

I was lucky to get him in with a very popular family day just down the road.

But at the same time I put his name down with a highly sought after education facility. I had heard from one teacher that all the kids that came from this facility were top of their class when they started prep. I wanted my son to have this opportunity.

We spent a year on this waiting list only to find when he started that it wasn't the right environment for him. So we pulled him out and managed to get him in at a local kindy. It was a real fluke.

The kindy was great. Prior to enrolling him I spoke to other mothers who had sent their kids there, spoke to the educators, went and visited the facility -  there was lots of playing, bare feet and a midday snooze - and we could walk there. It was ideal.

But unfortunately the experience he'd had at the previous place had scarred him. Two days at the kindy and I had to pull him out. I would have persevered had we not been relocating.

Now he's three and a half and I am considering the options for him when it comes to starting prep.

The government has some good suggestions on what you should consider when it comes to choosing a school.

Your child's interest and needs:

  • Will the school cater for your child's needs and interests?
  • How important is it that your child knows other children at the school?

Your family circumstances:

  • Does your family have a connection to a particular school?
  • How far do you want your child to travel each day?
  • Are any schools close to home and/or your work suitable for your child?
  • What extra curricular activities does the school offer?

School philosophy and organisation:

  • Is the school welcoming?
  • Do you agree with, or at least like, the way the school approaches teaching their students?
  • Does the school's policy on homework and discipline reflect your own values and expectations?
  • What is the school's approach to dealing with bullying?

For me, there are a few definite things I want in an education facility for him. 

I want lots of play and a midday nap.

Play "shapes the structural design of the brain...playing allows them to explore, identify, negotiate, take risks and create meaning," says the Early Childhood Australia website.

"Physically active play allows children to test and develop all types of motor skills...dispositions for learning, such as curiosity, openness, optimism, resilience, concentration, and creativity are developed in play."  

However, other parents have told me the current curriculum in state schools doesn't support this. Nor do they support naps in prep.

I can remember my preschool year (now known as prep) pulling out my sheets and having a snooze. But apparently they don't do this anymore.

My son has a daily nap now. He needs it. Come lunch time he is stuffed. I'd like him to continue having a nap when he starts school.

So this rules out a lot of state schools. My options then are Steiner, Montessori or home schooling.

I know a bit about both the Steiner and Montessori methods of education but not enough to make a decision currently.

And I haven't ruled out the option of home schooling. I will look at this also because I like how this fits with Finland's schooling.

Finland's school system has come in at the top of international rankings for their educational system ever since their education reform 40 years ago.            

So what do they do differently?

  1. Kids don't start school until the age of seven
  2. For the first six years they are not measured 
  3. They rarely take exams
  4. They don't do homework until they are well into their teens
  5. The national curriculum is only broad guidelines
  6. There is only one mandatory standardised test that kids take when they are 16
  7. All children, regardless of competence, are taught in the same classroom. 

I think there are a lot of things we could take from this. 

What do you think?

Alexia Purcell is APN Australian Regional Media's social media editor.

Connect with Alexia on Twitter or on Facebook.

Topics:  heymummaschool opinion prep school



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