When I started on “my educational journey” – I say mine as my girls will have their time and place to tell you their story. For now this is from my perspective. It was during this time that Michelle and I discussed education in various forms and directions. I began to question things like, what value did I feel I was getting from the current institute, and also questioning what was good for my girls? Times are tough and when a massive chunk of your money is going to educating your kids, you do start questioning your decisions and making some tough choices. Michelle is both an educator and a private school parent.
You may recall that my previous post for the Explore Education series was also a Private School parent, but this interview is very different. Here is Michelle’s interview.
Personal Perspective Questions to a Private School Parent
Tell me a little about your family and the personality of your children.
I have two daughters aged 16 and 15., which is currently Grade 9 and 10 respectively. My husband and I have been married for 18 years. I have amazing children who are not only very good athletes but also top ten in academics. They are well adjusted, happy and loving life.
What does Education mean to you and your children?
Education is very broad. What school offers (academics) is only a small part of that. We are very invested in ensuring they have a high EQ (emotional intelligence) and RQ (Resilience quotient). Thankfully we have crossed the hurdle of academics and sport. We set great groundwork with them but it took a LOT of time and investment to get that one right. Ella is a bit more “ADHD” and does not like to sit still so working with her in a very different way to Eden to ensure she is still top ten (her goal).
They are mid teens so focusing now more on education of life – as I said – emotional intelligence and resilience. Education is also spiritual and community. They are both involved in outreach work to have education of the marginalised, poor, homeless, and hungry.
Education also involves lots of travel for us – exposure to lots of other cultures, foods, languages, art and just the general education of trusting that the whole world is your playground and not something to be feared.
Financial education (which is not taught at all in school) – we have taught them how to read the market. They have their own bitcoin wallets and invest their own money into bitcoin and ethereum. They manage all their own expenses per month by managing their pocket money. We expose them to all the property stuff we do, to try and help them understand the property game (we will increase this education as they get older).
What journey in Education have you chosen and why?
Pre school – Montessori (I am 100% behind the whole Montessori teaching methodology). I have trained in it too.
Schooling from Grade 1 to now was at St Dunstans. Rod went there and their cousins went there. I had high expectations of what a private school could offer. My high hopes were dashed along the way in many respects and I have supplemented all the gaps with what Rod and I have offered. I’m not sure I would follow traditional schooling if I were to do it all again.
What school year do you follow i.e. January to December, or September to August?
January to December
How old were your children when they started school and was this right for your children? If not, how old do you believe kids should be when they start school?
They were about two years old as I breastfed them both for two full years. Thereafter they went to school. It was perfect for them. They are extroverts so they thrived in a social structure.
What methods of schooling have you come across – give me your thoughts pros and or cons?
- Montessori – love love love
- Waldorf – love love love
- Scandinavian teaching – love love love
- Public schooling – don’t love at all
- Private schooling – love to some degree
Do you believe that every child needs a participation medal?
Yes. However, I am also deeply aware that society is hierarchical and that children have to geared for that reality. I’m also aware that children do thrive in an environment where there is a challenge to win so you quickly deflate competitive children if they don’t have the vision of working towards a win so I am also for medals being given to winners.
I do however believe that children should be given winners medals in far more areas than are currently rewarded in traditional schools, for example, if your mark goes up by 5% you are a serious winner, no matter what other kids got. If you achieve a personal goal (tying your shoes, learning a piece on a piano, raising money for a good cause) you are a winner. Besides having winners in the traditional sense (which is good because it creates an incentive to do better), I think children should be taught to have personal, achievable goals to strive for, where they are being bettered internally and rewarded for each milestone they achieve on that scale.
Let’s talk about your family’s current schooling experience:
Transport – How do they get to school everyday if they attend school outside the home?
Rod or I take them to school every day.
What is the size of the school and the size of their class?
St Dunstans has around 1200 student. This is from the preschool all the way to the college. Each class has about 24 kids.
What facilities does the private school offer?
The school has a variety on offer culturally, academically and from a sporting perspective. I’m not sure the standard is very high in what they are offering though.
What is the start and end time of your typical school day?
7.30 – 2.15
What curriculum does your child follow?
IEB – The Independent Examinations Board. You can find out more about them here.
Does your child do homework after normal school hours? If so, what type of homework do they get and how many hours a week do they spend doing this homework?
Yes. Shitloads of homework. As a private school parent, I’m not happy about that. With the Scandinavian method they would have no homework. I think the amount of homework they get is an indication of the failure of the school’s teaching methodology.
Does the academic programme your child follows use technology? If so, to what extent?
Yes. Electronic boards in the classrooms. All teacher – child interaction is on google classroom. Presentations are done on the ipad. However, they use electronics far less in high school than in primary school. Eden is in Grade 10 and does not use an iPad any more. She just does everything on her phone or in written form.
Sporting and cultural activities (in and outside of school)
Do you believe that sport and cultural activities are an important factor in your child’s life?
Yes. I believe learning how to be a member of a team is a very important life lesson. Cultural is just as important.
Does your child participate in sport or cultural activities with their school? Please elaborate.
Netball. But it is seasonal at school and not of a very high level so we do indoor netball at a club and provincially throughout the year. Cultural we do outside of the school through community service and church outreach.
Is there an additional cost involved in this?
Not at school but for all club activities definitely yes.
School culture: What is your child’s school culture with regards to:
- Discipline: I have not really had to deal with this issue.
- Safety: I have no idea but I don’t think the school is very secure as to who can get in and out.
- Diversity: It is racially diverse, but I don’t think they embrace kids who are “outside the box”. If you don’t fit in you are quickly made to feel you have a problem on your hands that YOU need to fix and eventually people feel it is better to leave the school.
What is one thing that you wish could be done better within the structure you have chosen for your child’s educational journey?
I expect properly qualified teachers, especially as a private school parent. Not just the cheapest person simply to fill a post. Also, more determination to embrace alternative teaching methods to cater for all brain types (traditional/ arty/ ADD etc). Teachers at the school are too lazy to work outside a very small defined box. That makes me very unhappy.
I have to agree with Michelle when she says a “very small defined” box. Not knowing much about Montessori school methodology I was quite judgemental, based on perceptions and not proper information. Thank you Michelle for being one of the many moms who gave me the strength to believe that my decisions are based on my girls and what is best for them. Being a private school parent does not mean you accept what the school gives you as enough either.
Dear Reader, please share your thoughts of Michelle’s journey and any thing mentioned, especially about Montessori. I am on the look out for any Montessori teachers, principals or parents of children that have gone through the Montessori programme to get your story. Thank you.
This post was edited by Blue Media Edit.