So after some inspiration from my sister, Tonya, I enrolled my eleven year old daughter into a charter school. Her friend situation at the other school wasn’t the best, and I felt lukewarm about both the teachers and the principal who seemed less supportive of the accelerated program my daughter was in. Since I’d come to this conclusion later in the year, I figured there wouldn’t be any available for this year. But it turned out that American Preparatory Academy was starting a new campus in West Valley City and had several openings for 4th grade on up (to 9th grade). The educational philosophy of APA looked like it would be a great fit for both her and my precocious four year old who I knew just wasn’t going to be served well by traditional public schools.
Yesterday was my daughter’s first day there. It was everyone’s first day. I chose to go in with her, as many parents did. When we walked into the school, I became immediately excited. Because of the part of town the school is in, I knew there would be lots of Latinos. But there were also many blacks and Muslims. In Utah! Here, my child would be experiencing ethnic diversity that I never thought possible in this state.
The rest of the day I tinkered around, curious about what she was doing. The drive getting her was difficult, since I had to drop some kids off at one place just ten minutes before I could even go in her direction, and I knew she was at least twenty minutes away. New traffic difficulties made it thirty. I got a bit stressed on her behalf. I’d told her we’d be late, but I didn’t think it would be this much. And she gets a bit anxious about that thing. Then the carpool, since it was the first for everyone, was of course very backed up. We ended up parking and walking, and she was almost, but not, the last in her class. Looking out the window.
Eventually, we did make it. And their system looks good for safety: we now have a family number that we need to display. When it is seen, they will announce the number over the intercom and the kids can come out to load up. We’ll see how fast it goes in action.
She likes to talk about things, so she was all to happy to satisfy my curiosity. We already knew about the uniforms. They also have a school poem which is a parable rather than a list of virtues. Like that. Reading fluency is about correctness and speed, and they’re still working on that in sixth grade. The timing and method of correction is both strict and positive. Literature is a different subject than reading. Fantastic! History includes religion as an integral part again. Yay! So far math has just been drill tests, so we’ll see how that subject is taught. And science fell victim to first day of school instruction, so we’ll see there too. Desks must always be totally clean. Student must sit up straight while listening. Her papers came home in a soft case with folders inside already prepared. Keeping this organized is a must not a suggestion. I sign off her homework every day. Band is something everyone participates in every day. The teachers don’t just stand around watching the kids during recess, but play with them. Rather than interrupting class when the restroom is needed, there is a special hand raise, and the student can go when the teacher nods. How cool is that?
Anyway, the whole system just thrills me. Lots of structure, and an emphasis on being positive as well. The best of old school and new research on how children learn and grow.
Yes. I’m an artist, the writing kind, and sometimes offbeat and even disdainful of some cultural norms. You might think this strict structure would bother me. But if there is one thing to know about being a successful artist it is discipline. No other skill or talent makes any difference if we don’t put in the regular time and effort, in both our thoughts and actions. And any skill or talent can be learned with discipline.
I’m kind of wishful. This kind of well thought out structure would have really benefited me as a child.