Growing up, I knew what went to the same school in the same small town. We all knew each other. All through high school, it was the same for me. I knew teachers, I knew all my classmates, and there was nothing unexpected. My kids on the other hand, have a completely different experience. Frequent moves will do that. They’ve had good schools, horrible schools, and gone to school on and off base. Each duty station offers a new school and a new opinion from me.
We are on school district number four. My son has been through all four, my daughter only two. Only one was horrible in my opinion. Horrible might be a strong word, but I seriously disliked it. All the different schools and districts have shown me what is truly important to me as a parent, as well as pointing out how some places get it so wrong.
We started school at Ft. Leonard Wood. My son did Pre-K and a month of Kindergarten. The Pre-K he went to was needs based and he was accepted based on his speech impediment. He had a blast. It was half day, four days a week. He made friends, did some basic learning, and started meeting with a speech therapist. I honestly don’t remember anything of his time in Kindergarten. We were in the process of PCSing to Okinawa and it’s all a blur.
In Okinawa, he attended a DoDDS (Department of Defense Dependent School) school. He did the majority of Kindergarten, and then first and second grade. We went through the whole IEP thing and he continued on with speech therapy. I liked his school. The curriculum was to my liking and they had a lot of fun extras. He had Spanish class all three years, as well as Japanese culture classes. I’ve never seen a public school offer Spanish class to elementary kids who don’t already speak Spanish. They also offered a variety of extracurriculars. He was in the cup stacking club, the 100 mile club, and was in the group that made morning announcements along with videos for their website.
From Okinawa we went to Camp Pendleton. We lived off base here and found a house based on the school scores. That didn’t end up working out so well for us. My son did third and part of fourth there and my daughter did part of kindergarten. I couldn’t wait to get the kids into a different school. They did the bare minimum. School went from 8 to 1:45, which is a little too short of a day in my opinion. They also offered no bus service which was a huge inconvenience for two working parents. When I asked the school about options for picking the kids up since we each worked 45 minutes away, they said I should find someone in the neighborhood to pick them up. No recommendations for childcare that could pick them up. My daughter’s kindergarten teacher also didn’t like her. She accused of her of lying about things, then we had her parent/teacher conference and I informed her that yes, we really had lived in Japan. She thought she was just making stuff up. I could go on and on about that school, but I’ll refrain.
Then we moved here to Texas. Again, we found a house based on school districts. This time, it worked out for us. My daughter hadn’t gotten anything out of kindergarten in California, but she was caught up by the end of the school year in Texas. She is now in second grade here and my son in sixth. I’m happy with their schools here. They are back to having a good curriculum and extra curriculars. My son is in his second year of band and was in the Lego Robotic Club this year.
I had never really thought about it before they started school, beyond just wanting them to get a good education. Moving around has really shown me what I think a good education is though. It goes beyond the basic book learning. My son wants to be an engineers, so a Lego Robotic Club is something he jumped at the chance to join. They need P.E. and classed in the arts. We’ll soon be in the high school years and all this will become even more important.