This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month, our members are talking about how they extend their family’s natural lifestyle to their child’s school. Hop around to each post to get some tips and share your own!
My children are not in school yet but this fall my husband and I are looking into all the educational options for our kids. My daughter starts kindergarten next year and we are starting to tour private schools and arranging a visit to our local public school. Our mind is all over the place with options and what we think we might want to do. What I do know is I am going to look at the following things at all the schools.
Curriculum: Where does science, social studies, and environmental education fall in the curriculum. It is one thing to have an assembly or some activities around Earth Day but it is a another thing to incorporate it into the curriculum as whole. I want to see science lessons in the curriculum including education about weather, plants, and animals. Often in preparation for core skills testing mandated by state and federal guidelines science and social studies get pushed to more of an elective role, or worse, it is almost nonexistent. I want to see it incorporated as much as it can be even in kindergarten.
School Lunch: Or lack there of. Honestly I am fine if the (private) school does not have a school lunch program. I am happy to bear the full responsibility to feed my child a balanced, organic, healthy, zero waste lunch. If there is a program I would like to see healthy options, I do not want to hear my children come home everyday whining that their food was not the same and that they do not have brightly colored yogurt like everyone else who eats the school lunch.
Extracurricular activities: Being green is also about being healthy. I want to see schools that have activities that keep the kids moving and outdoors. Extracurricular activities do not all have to be about sports, I know that when I was in 5th grade the coolest club to be in was the Young Astronauts Club, fun innovative things like this that help kids explore their interests in more detail.
Fundraisers: I think every green parent dreads the thought of terrible fundraisers. How can I ask my family to buy plastic covered wrapping paper and at huge mark up when I am asking them to purchase less gifts for my kids. What about the candy sales! Yikes. Some schools have a pay option to opt out, pay $700 (or whatever number) and you do not have to raise any money. That is ok but I would love to see some environmentally focused fundraisers, but I have to say this topic is probably not going to turn me off to an otherwise good school but it is probably a place I will try to make a difference.
Cleaning and Supply Lists: This is a new concept to me. I learned a lot about it this year from my fellow green moms with older kids: the dreaded school supply list. Some schools are incredibly specific and demand that children bring in specific school and cleaning supplies that most would say are on the opposite end of the green scale. It puts parents in a tough situation, they are purchasing items they do not want to purchase but they are forced to do so because they are on the list. Ask to see what the supply list was for this year for the grade your child is going into?
Environment: Desk, computers, chairs, play space, outdoor areas are they nice, clean, and safe? Seems obvious but many schools especially in older communities may not be so new or state of the art. While that does not mean there is anything wrong with it you just should pay attention to how it is maintained.
Culture: You can pay more attention to this in the private school sector than the public school. Your neighbors are your neighbors in public school but when you are chosing a private school you are finding a community for yourself and your kids. Private schools are usually small and even the grandparents get to know each other throughout the years. Do the parents seem to hold the same values as your family does? Is your wild free-spirited child that takes after you going to fit in a very structured environment where testing and structured learning is the focus… maybe that is not right for you.
I know that when I am looking at schools and going to go to the open houses I am going to ask about all of this. But I am also going to ask for a tour when the kids are in school all the questions in the world will only tell you so much seeing happy kids who are excited to go to school is the biggest indicator of a great educational environment.
What other advice do you have for a parent looking at schools?
Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed: