Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Charter School

I went to public schools through high school. I was offered the chance to go to a private high school, but turned it down. I could only see disadvantages. I wasn't interested enough to investigate the alternative.

I did OK at public school, though i can't say i was very enthusiastic. One day at home, my Dad asked me for my report card. I remembered using it as a bookmark, and went to fetch it. My Dad looked at it, then said that he'd have rather seen it than read about it in the newspaper - the honor roll. Why was that news? I was always on the honor roll. I said i'd try to show him the report card, but knew that i had so little interest in it that it would likely slip my mind.

The pace at school was slow, but i didn't mind - i was patient. Teachers saw i was bored, and gave me extra stuff to do. It did not bother me that i didn't get any credit for it. It wasn't enough. I bought a computer (in 1975, about as powerful as your watch) and taught myself machine language programming. I picked up a Japanese abacus (Soroban) and taught myself mental arithmetic. After three months, I computed a 10 digit sin(x) in my head using Taylor series. I was the only junior in the new high school calculus course.

But i would have done OK anywhere. I probably wasn't an average child after all. But where could i have excelled?

My son is in a charter school, and just finished 3rd grade. You get to go to a charter school if a parent fills out the forms and the school isn't already full.

He doesn't just get it like i did. And he won't stick with it forever like i would. So his mom and i help him out every day, and all weekend, and all summer. When the teacher calls one of us, we take it very seriously. I've gotten him through addition and subtraction. It took four years, but i've gotten him to read for enjoyment (meaning all the time). I've helped him with fractions and concepts of perimeter and area. We quiz him relentlessly on spelling, social studies and Spanish. His Mom has been, uhm, instrumental in getting him to be without peer on violin and piano.

The charter school has parents who care about their kids. After dropping their kids to the school in the morning, they'll often have discussions about school for an hour or so. I can't imagine that there is a single parent there who doesn't return a teacher's phone call right away.

I was very excited about this school after a 'parents day'. I got an appointment to sit in on a class for an hour, while my son was still in preschool. The teacher read a story to the kids, who all sat quietly in rapt attention. Even my son. Then, the kids each got out a rug, and some materials, and sat for at least twenty minutes working with them. Even my son. One child came over to the table i was sitting at. Soon a teacher came over and also sat down. The child began reading a book, out loud, fluently. It had to be 2nd grade level or better. But this was preschool.

OK, so when i was in 1st grade, i could read that well, probably better. But i was not encouraged to do so. No one else was doing it. We could pick any book out of the school's library to read, but they kept shepherding me to the See Jack Run section. So i read my older brother's books at home. Things happened in those books. You know, like real stories. At my son's charter school, it's OK to excel. This is Very exciting.

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