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.