Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, they all teach the basics - math, reading, writing and a lot of them even seem to teach it in the same way. But some schools have other things they teach as well, or totally different ways of teaching. For instance, there's a school that's (unfortunately) too far south for me, but they teach "immersive language", one of which is Mandarin. As my step-mother speaks Mandarin and dad wants the kids to learn, that would be perfect! Unfortunately, I'd have to move to another city for my son to attend. It's still in my school district though - go figure. There's one that we have Garrett signed up for that's an 'alternative', K-8 school and they teach 'hands on'.
So, I have been to three schools now and done the open house, cirriculum night, tour thing - whatever name they desire to call it. And so far the only thing that I've learned is that I fear kindergarten and sending a kid to school is something like having a 2nd job. You may think I'm joking, but I'm not. They all want massive amounts of volunteer time - that's not including the sports, homework or other activities your child may be involved with. I think one of the schools was requesting 40 hours a week. I began to feel like they should be offering a bed and kitchenette too.
So, I went to the school that Pandora went to. I like that school - they deal with the children pretty well, even less than model students. However, it is very academically geared. There's nothing wrong with that, but I could just see Garrett getting into all sorts of not so happy situations. I listened to the orientation/cirriculum thing...and they made some pretty heavy statements. It's no longer about choosing a school or a kindergarten - it's about choosing the kids you want your kids to interact with. It's about choosing a group of parents that YOU want to interact with, because, frankly - you'll be spending copious amounts of time with these fellow parental units. They'll be your family by the end of your child's school career at that particular school. Wow. Nothing real haavy there or anything.
A couple days later we went to an open house at the school I attended when I was in grade school. It's been rebuilt since I've been there and I hadn't seen it since it was redone, but I have to say it was very, very nice. There was one teacher in particuar that I enjoyed and I liked her outlook on things. This school to is academically orientated, but the one teacher had a sort of free time session set up where the kids could choose an activity and just play. I really liked that and thought that would fit well with Garrett. Unfortunately, you can't pick which teacher you want your child to go to. I was less impressed with the other teacher, though she wasn't 'bad' by any means. She just didn't seem to have as much activity time. Again, we got the spiel of how we're choosing a community to be part of - do we think we like the other parent volunteers, etc?
The last school that I visited, I took Garrett with me. I foolishly thought he could get a feel for the school and that I could gauge his reactions to it. This last was a tour while school was in session. I spent so much time trying to keep out of the way and straining to hear over the older kids who were almost yelling in the halls, slamming locker door and rough-housing that I learned next to nothing about the school itself. Add to that trying to keep Garrett in line because he was...well, bored. I have to admit I was too. This is the hands-on school. We went through some classes in progress, but I didn't see much 'hands-on' happening, it looked a lot like the techniques of the other two schools to be honest. I don't know what I expected..but, it wasn't what I was seeing, that's for sure. This particular school also operates on a lottery system - so whatever slots aren't taken by siblings are lottoried out. Joy.
What have I learned from this rather lack-luster and frightening experience? I have learned that you really do have to shop around for a kindergarten to find the best deals. I learned that no matter what they say, there's really very little you can learn in an hour, hour and a half program designed to provide you with nothing but basic information that you can find anywhere. I've learned that having a child go to school ends up like a 2nd job for the parent. And I've learned to fear kindergarten.