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I am a mom who has made two changes to my children's education so far. I was not satisfied with the level of education of school at the first school so we switched to a more rigorous academic environment. Unfortunately, the fit was horrible at the second school, including the teachers, admin and most importantly friends. So we went back to the first school and are wrapping up our second year there.

The learning is still not at the level we would like, but our kids are happy and have a sense of belonging. I also have made friends with other parents who seem to be like minded individuals overall. I often think of the saying that "If you surround yourself with bright people, you become smarter." There are minimal bright kids at the school. I want the best for my kids in all aspects of their development but feel that they are getting cut short on the academics. By moving them, we would all be cutting ourselves short on the social side of things. Should I stick it out and supplement their education from home? I am a teacher by profession but feel stressed out in having to play mom and teacher, like trying to teach your kid how to drive. I don't want to make the wrong decision and have to go back a third time...that would be terrible!

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Could you please give some more details: What age are your children, and what was the curriculum at the first school lacking? –  Treb Jun 26 '12 at 13:14
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I'm sorry, but it sounds like you're applying too much pressure. At an early age, it's most important to learn how to interact with others. I've known academically advanced your children who became very uninterested in academics later and life. Similarly I've met brilliant people who were slackers in school. Mostly importantly let your child be your child, not the child you want them to be. –  Some Free Mason Jul 3 '12 at 20:19
    
@JessFlourith I've converted your answer to a comment and edited it to remove any personal accusations. Please focus on the topic and not the people here. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 30 '12 at 11:10

7 Answers 7

There are many reasons for prioritizing social development over academics. Just letting kids be kids-- learning social skills in an environment where they feel accepted-- is a critical part of development.

If your child is happy at their current school, and their friends are nice kids - easy going, well mannered, the type of personalities that you don't mind your kids associating with (forget about academic ability for a minute), then it is likely beneficial to let them thrive where they are happy.

My wife is a teacher, so I understand the difficulties of juggling your professional role and opinion with your deeply personal role as a parent. You may never be completely satisfied with the education provided by your kid's school (even if you work at that school!).

You can always supplement their academic learning at home. Parents should always be educating their kids regardless of the school's programs, the environment and guidance that parents provide has the biggest impact on a child's learning. It could be with more formal extension or catch up work as needed, but also by educating our kids about the world around us as we observe things and relate them to our kid's experiences.

In the end, school, including university, only really teach us how to learn and analyse the world around us, and how to get along in a society of peers. These are the essential academic and social skills we need as adults.

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+1 for "Parents should always be educating their kids regardless of the school's programs"! –  Beofett Jun 27 '12 at 12:07
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I would also add: Put your effort into making them love learning. Try to teach them how they can learn on their own, and focus on the things that interest them. –  Zottek Jul 13 '13 at 5:02

From moving various schools myself when I was younger I would say that changing schools is a very big upset to learning - the child takes time to make new friends, settle in, understand the new curriculum etc.

If you can supplement their learning at home I would recommend doing that - being a teacher you will probably be in a good place here to see what areas they aren't getting at school and building on those at home. Especially if the current school has things mostly right but just isn't quite hitting the spot in some areas, this will be the least likely to cause issues, in my opinion.

If you can get buy in from the school to discuss the extent of their curriculum with you you should be able to build on that to where you want their learning to get to.

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+1 I've moved between schools a lot too and I share Rory's experience. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 26 '12 at 11:40
    
+1 Similar experience to Torben & Rory. By switching schools too much, you end up forcing your child to focus on building friendships instead of focusing on learning. Some sort of stability is nice. –  Swati Jun 26 '12 at 18:20
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I had a different experience - moving schools actually helped most of the time - but I guess I was just used to it. –  justkt Jun 26 '12 at 20:24

We're struggling with similar questions ourselves. Our children are still in grade school and we made a cross country move this year. One of our kids adopted wonderfully and is happy both academically and socially. The other has been struggling with both. We're fortunate to have a few school options (albeit at a cost given they are private schools).

What I think is an important aspect to consider is one that it sounds like you already have--education is but one part of schooling. I know that sounds a little bizarre, but a big part of school--especially as they enter middle/jnr high--is maturing as a person. So that includes all the non-academic elements--namely socialization.

Personally, I think it's easier to supplement academics than it is to supplement social interactions. We've decided we need our kids to be comfortable at school. When they are comfortable, they'll be much more open to academics and at that point, we can gauge how they are doing.

As an aside, as a parent, I'm also slowly coming to terms with my own beliefs that rigorous academics in k-12, at least in the USA, is a bit lopsided. We have extremely strong emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic in this country and tend to base the study on repetition, memory, test taking and textbooks. This is not ideal for a lot of students, who would prefer and thrive much better with a broader curriculum with a focus on more hands-on interaction and discovery.

I'm not sure I answered your question, though. I guess I'd say that if you feel they are comfortable in their school, that's good. That's important. Give it a year to see how they are doing academically. If you feel they are getting lazy and could do more, I think you could certainly look at supplementing it. Perhaps a few after-school programs. Focus on non-school coursework perhaps (music? art? science?). Maybe enroll them in a local library kids book club or reading group. Or just take them to plenty of museums.

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To clarify my answer, there is no 'How to socialize' class. As Rory states, it's just part of the school experience. Life lessons. –  DA01 Aug 14 '12 at 14:56
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@DA01, there IS a 'how to socialize' class - that's what I teach. Albeit, it's not a separate class but woven into the fabric of the school/classroom in addition to actual experiential learning activities that reinforce a specific skill. I am on the board for www.SoundDiscipline.org, this is exactly what we do. Schools in the US actually don't often teach these skills and I am happy to provide more information on that to anyone who wants it. This isn't just 'my experience,' I research this stuff for a living. –  Christine Gordon Nov 30 '12 at 7:29

Yes. But you can supplement their learning through other means than basically homeschooling after school! Fostering a culture of curiosity, exploration, creative play, conversation, critical thinking and active inquiry at home will go a long way, probably further in the long term. But, as you are a teacher, I'm assuming you know this!

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You are obviously getting a lot of answers, this is a tough one. I taught preschool for two years and middle school (in what were supposedly highly rated, academically rigorous schools) for eight. I also taught twice exceptional kids for three (these are the ones that are often the targets of school "socialization" and most often bullied - sometimes even by their former teachers). My daughter began reading at three and at the age of five was measured as reading at a 5th grade level so we've had to make some similar decisions.

In addition to the choices you mention, there are a lot of partial school options such as virtual schooling and home school cooperatives. We participate in a virtual school that has community outings, Wednesday is classroom day (with an accredited teacher that is NOT me), classes are two-grade splits, but it is a full classroom with kids relatively close in age, and field trips in which we can choose to participate frequently. Such communities can be found across the US.

Also, Homeschooling does not have the social implications many people think it has. Our schools are not truly in the business of "socializing" our kids and a lot less socialization occurs than most people think. Yes, they learn to share and some conflict resolution happens, but that does not complete the picture of what needs to happen. If you think you'd like to consider Homeschooling, there are a few other questions that may be useful to you too. One is about the pros and cons of homeschooling as well as one about home-schoolers and social events/extra-curriculars (Pay special attention to Hedgemage's answer).

If home education isn't right for you, then I would definitely suggest supplementing. However, I wouldn't suggest supplementing with the stuff they are already doing. Rather, I would suggest supplementing in the areas the school is probably not even touching. Geography, a second language, History enrichment, music, theater, as a few examples - or do family reading books and introduce literature from the banned book lists that you don't have a problem with. Do lots of fun challenges, your kids can make cartesian divers and toothpick bridges for fun science activities with you. Try to frequently go on "field trips" and "outings" that will take you to an educational place and have fun while you are there together. . .

Whatever you do, make it fun and for the whole family or your kids are likely to resent the extra "pencil pushing" and the fun will be completely gone from learning(Having taught in private schools, I've seen this happen to great kids). Days at school are long and your kids are likely to start having a lot of homework too in the not-so-distant future. Teach as you live your life.

Whatever you decide, It will be what is right for you and your kids in the end, but be careful about "over supplementing" in too formal a way.

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The short answer to your question is yes! Life is a learning environment. The best thing you can do at home with your kids is learn things together. Especially dangerous things because they won't get any exposure to dangerous things at school anymore. And they can learn a lot of great things that will make their academic experience richer and their self-confidence much stronger. (Get Gever Tulley's 50 Dangerous Things Book, it's a great place for ideas.)

If you're kids get a great academic education at our homogenized standards-based public (and most private) schools then congrats! You just raised some exceptionally vanilla kids that will probably feel vanilla and may start to (oh noes!) rebel and seek their own identity at some point. Yay for teenagers.

Be careful about falling into the academic standards rat race. Today's standards are more about making parents and public feel good and are often a spiral of meaningless quantified results that can do as much harm to a young child's learning motivation than good.

Colleges are already starting to acknowledge the downside of all the academically knowledge-smart kids who are completely lacking in critical thinking skills, self-confidence, strong identity, and internal drive. Oh, they're also not really happy and don't know how or what happy is.

Health is the new wealth for kids entering college 2020 and beyond. The income requirements for someone to maintain an unhealthy lifestyle will be unbearable. In other words, if you raise a super healthy/happy kid who achieves mediocre academic results, their disposable income after managing lifetime healthcare costs may be significantly higher than their unhealthy peers who traded healthy/happy bodies for income and prestige.

As one admissions officer for an world-renowned university put it to me:

"We get these kids with perfect SAT scores applying but their average blood sugar is 120+ and they're already on prescription anti-depressants or mood-control drugs. They may be smart, but they're failing at life. We're going to start passing on admitting those kids."

Colleges are already starting to switch into placing higher value on social and emotional intelligence as well as human development measurements. We live in a world where knowledge is always a Google away. The colleges want more kids who know what to do with knowledge.

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The upset of changing schools now may be worth it in the long run. In 10 years, your child will be academically the person the school and the friends/peers have made them. Any supplementing will be additive, but not transformative, and has limited effect as the child gets older and develops their own motivations. Any academic motivations your kid has should be reinforced by the peers, not belittled, and the peer group and level of discussion in their classes will determine that, to a large extent.

Any of the friends will have been made, lost, forgotten, and regained at least once or twice. Are there any more options than just these 2 schools? The kids will make new friends wherever they go - and if, for whatever reason, you won't make friends with the other parents, that may be an acceptable loss to you.

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"The kids will make new friends wherever they go" = ideally. Though that can very much depend on the particular child and their age. –  DA01 Jun 26 '12 at 18:48
    
It can depend on the child, but building friendships is a skill set that children should learn. It may be hard, but if the peer group is a bad one, the difficulty of building new friendships can sometimes significantly outweigh the future cost of having friends that devalue education. –  David Manheim Jun 27 '12 at 15:16

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