school saga

Well, our saga to find a school for Illyria has truly begun. On Saturday we went to visit a “Montessori” school in the wealthy northern part of the city; it kind of boggled my mind – the physical structure made me think of it as a Classical education theme park. Every classroom bears the name of some great world thinker, every great name from Marie Curie to Nelson Mandela, and a hallway facade evocative of Hellenic Greece (or some such thing). The music area in the preschool included a collection of miniature, child-sized baby grand pianos. There’s a faux fountain in a faux village square between the lockers in the elementary school section. The application form for admission cost $150 and asked for the entire educational and work history of each parent. I said to Gimli, “well there’s no ambiguity about the elitism of this school.” 

We’re also looking into alternative schools closer to where we live. We’ve talked about the public schools, but the truth is that in this city every middle class parent who can afford it puts their kids in private school. If there is any choice at all, that’s where they go. So the public schools are overcrowded and underfunded, and even as my populist inclinations protest, I keep thinking “I just don’t want her in a classroom of 40 kids.” 

I spent some time around the age of 12 in public schools in Peru and Chile, and I hated almost every minute of those experiences. In one school, there were 44 kids in my 6th grade classroom and the teacher would sometimes show up drunk. Some days every kid who couldn’t answer the question would be switched on the upper arm (although he skipped me because of my quasi-foreigner status, I suppose). There was a breakfast program at one school – bread and milk – and my sister and I hated the taste of the warm milk so much we brought chocolate powder from home to try to make it palatable. Completely bored by the rote memorization used in every subject, I was close to failing everything except math and art. I suppose it was good for me to be with other kids my age, and I learned the national anthems and hopscotch and the value of a school uniform. But oh how I hated going to school.

I want Illyria to like school, to enjoy learning. I want her to learn Spanish really well. Beyond that, I’m not too anxious about anything. Except her getting accepted.


4 Responses to “school saga”

  1. Rachel Says:

    Oh my, that sounds over the top. The process you are going through seems overwhelming to me.

  2. Wordgirl Says:

    I meant to write and tell you how much I empathize with these last posts. It occurred to me… My brother still has contacts where you are, locals, albeit those who have sent their children to the more elite schools. Would you like me to ask him to ask them for more information or an insiders take? My brother himself taught at a private school there. He may even know of something. Let me know if that’s something of interest to you and in the meantime just know that I’m thinking about you.

    That struggle between public and private… I think it’s so different where you are but perhaps not as different as we might think. My brother and I talk about how only the very naïve or very privileged will eschew the private schools for public … Following some mistaken myth of the meritocracy and that those who have struggled and gone through the public schools know bitterly how vast the difference in education and know that if you had the choice to give your kids the edge — of course you would send them to the best school you could manage to. Our feeling on this is all the more ironic because both of us were public-school teachers and children of a public school teacher. But you’re right it is more than simply giving them an advantage– it is giving him the opportunity to be in a school that ignites their imagination, their hope, their interest.

    I get it.

    At the same time, like you, I went to a very tough inner-city school for a year and it was brutal but it taught me things that I wouldn’t have known otherwise and things that I’ve taken with me all my life.



  3. tara Says:

    yuck- that sounds horrible and on top of everything else going on right now (writing, jobs). I’m sorry. Hugs dear

  4. happygoluckytireegal Says:

    This whole school thing is pretty similar in Chicago. Except some of the public schools are good and some are horrible. But it’s a rat race still.
    I know what you mean about your simple expectations of school for Illyria. I have similar ones too for Isobel. I hope you’ve made some progress and found sthg that’s doable sine you wrote this. Looking forward to an update!

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