I recently switched my daughter from her public rough and tumble preschool to a private one that my son also attends. And aside from the smaller class size, not having to wait for other students to grasp concepts, emphasis on art and science and project based learning---the thing I like best about the private school? I’m not forced to volunteer in the classroom as a condition of enrollment or as a mommy peer pressure condition either.
It’s not that I’m lazy. I am busy but I have made time in the past to volunteer in the classroom. I don’t enjoy it though--in fact other than getting a root canal, I can’t really think of anything worse I’d rather go do. I’m not particularly fond of other people’s kids, I've found out. I’m especially not fond of them when they come from households without manners or hygiene. At my daughter’s school, volunteering was mandatory---a sort of indentured volunteering for as long as your kid goes there. You had to do it at least once a month and were encouraged to do it at least twice.
At first I thought, great. Everyone pulling his or her weight in the stay at home parent world. It didn’t sound like a good idea after I read the ‘rules’ the director posted about what parents could and could not say to a student. If a student was jumping off the picnic table you couldn’t yell what I deemed to be the logical thing to say: ”Hey, get off that table before you hurt yourself or someone else! Now!“ But in the wonderland that our director lives in we were instructed to merely suggest that it might not be the best ‘choice.’ We had to say: ‘Well, junior, why do you think you want to jump off the picnic table and onto little Emily’s back? What would be a better choice?” Never mind that he’d already landed on the girl next to him and truthfully, it seemed more than likely like a fine choice to a hyper five year old.
I just didn’t have the stomach for it. I also noticed that I was more likely to come unglued after volunteering and hearing the teacher use ‘good’ when she should have said ‘well.’ And other parents whose command of English grammar was sweetly atrocious. Where did my kids learn double negatives and to say ‘got’ and ‘gots’ for everything? It wasn’t TV, it wasn’t music. It was public preschool. Straight out of the mouths of other parents.
Which brings me to this---are we really qualified to be in our kids’ classrooms? I’m a bit on the artistic side and since art has been done away with at most public schools along with thinking creatively--what possible place do I have in such a system? I don’t know the first thing about dealing with masses of small children. Nor do I want to know. Why should I be forced to volunteer? Why should my daughter be subjected to moms who don’t conjugate verbs? Each month it was getting harder to deal with the volunteering. And because I waited to have my kids in my 30s the other moms in their teens and early twenties weren’t really up to talking to me over coffee by the coat rack.
Yes, yes, I know. Schools are suffering. We need to pick up the slack, blah, blah, blah. But doesn't this sort of enable the system to screw with children more? If we keep donating our time and energy to public schools, the systems and politicians in place just begin to count on it and factor it into the budgeting. We don't need aides, we have parents. We don't need libraries. We don't need janitors. We have parents. That's a bunch of malarky.
But we’ve made the big switch. My kids lasted one and a half years in the public school system. I gave it the good college try. But this whole business of having unqualified parents in the classroom is a bit much. My time is important. I want to spend time with my kids at home, not school. School--their school--should not be my job (and as I just did my taxes and had little to write off I *really* feel this way).
The first time I enrolled my son in my kids’ school, I asked which day they wanted me to volunteer. “You don’t have to be here unless you want to be here.” Really? I was dumbfounded. How could they possibly survive without me? But they do. And they survive well. And that’s a major point in favor of their school. Instead of having my sleeves used as snot rags for an anonymous class of 25 kids in the morning. I get to sip my coffee and go work off the baby fat that's still lingering. This should be every mom's reward when the kids go off to school.