This morning MacTroll and I toured Next Generation Primary School in Champaign. X-man has been going to their early education program since he was 15 months old, but I was always ready to send him to public school. I'm a big time public school supporter. Huge, really. But Next Generation is one of the two non-parochial private schools in town, and I was curious to see how it is the same/different than the early education instruction he's been thriving in for the past 3 years.
But I really felt excited and comfortable about the idea of sending X-man to this school. It was similar to how I felt about Southside Elementary tour regarding the intimate atmosphere.
X-man is a small group kind of guy. The Primary School has a 1:15 teacher to student ratio. Primary B-F (1st through 5th grade) currently have two teachers per classroom for 30 students. Primary A (kindergarten) has 2 teachers for 25 students right now. Next year, Ms. Erin says they're planning on having a third teacher and upping it to 30 students making it a 1:10 ratio in kindergarten.
Students have 30 minutes of Spanish, music, physical education, science and social studies at least four days a week. They have art for one hour and 30 minutes once a week to do more established work.
The Music room has a freaking dance floor and is huge. There are instruments hanging off the walls everywhere. They have three music teachers who specialize in different areas and instruments, including an ethnomusicologist. The teachers went "dumpster diving" and the students created their own drums -- that are seriously large and functional -- out of plastic and old tires.
Overall, students are encouraged to work as a community together. They sit at small group tables rather than at individual desks. The rooms all have signs about how education and learning are about taking risks and recognizing that not everyone learns the same or at the same rate. They work with each child based on an individual achievement level. No Child Left Behind and teaching for such tests didn't come up once in the conversation as a level of measurement. However, according to the packet they gave me, they do offer standardized test taking classes for the middle school levels, if requested.
Recess always comes before lunchtime. Recess is 45 minutes long for Primary A students, 30 minutes for older kids. Lunch is then 30 minutes. Primary A students also get a 45-minute lights out rest period after lunch, so if your child is a slow eater... there's no rush to get back to something.
The art and science teachers have their own classrooms versus having carts come to the different rooms.
There is a good level of diversity among students and teachers.
The teachers in every primary classroom will e-mail parents EVERY DAY as to what the school day progress was like regarding academics and social development. Grades are not given at the elementary school level, instead it's more of a unsatisfactory/satisfactory/excelling breakdown based on progress.
Homework is given at a progressive rate. Usually a child in Primary A will have 10 minutes of math or writing homework ONCE A WEEK. Primary B will have 20 minutes of homework in Math or Language Arts twice a week, etc. By middle school they'll have 30-90 minutes of homework on most days, but students also have a 40-minute study hall so they can get work done there, if they choose.
The school runs on trimesters from the last week in August through Memorial Day weekend. They also get the week of Thanksgiving, three weeks over the winter holidays and a week for spring break. The average school day is from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The building was opened when X-man was 18 months old. The classrooms all have a lot of natural light and are structured a bit like his early education classrooms. That is -- they're cozy.
The rub for all of these things that I would put on a wish list for X-man's education comes with the price tag -- $9,500 per year, which makes my heart hurt because I know that x7 buys a hell of a lot of college. But at the same time is $2,000 less per year than the daycare that we're currently paying while I go to school, so we're already kind of used to not having that money.
There is also an assessment process for enrollment that is based mostly on your child's ability to be socially ready for their program. In order to attend, the teachers are looking for readiness to learn and a certain amount of self-control in a group situations. So, I guess when we get to the time they take the paperwork (next December), we'll see if X-man is assessed as a student that would do well in their classrooms.