My last tour (for now) was yesterday at an K-8 Open school about 5 miles from home. I wanted to be *SO* impressed. I thought this was really going to be our first choice at open enrollment (vs. our REAL first choice which is to leave her at her current private Montessori school and the 2nd best option is a Montessori charter school). I have heard so many good things about this school and their API is off the chart this year at 907 (that's impressive!). I attended a parent info. tour at another K-6 Open school and fell madly in love with their classrooms, theory, teachers, students....it really had that WOW factor. Even the group of parents that I toured the school with were left standing with their jaws open. It was seriously the next best thing to Montessori. I thought this K-8 school would send me over the edge and I was confident that I would like it even more.
But.......(and you knew it was coming)......
I wasn't wow'd. I was not even really that impressed. What I liked about the K-6 school is that it had a cozy feel to their classrooms, SWEET teachers (and I really get a vibe about people almost immediately), super smart, happy children that were really excited to be at their school. The classroom was physically very spacious with cute reading lofts and no individual desks. All the children work in groups (according to their ability levels - some alone and some with a volunteer parent) as opposed to having 20 or 30 children all sitting around with one teacher. We walked into a 4th grade class at the K-8 school and there were probably 30+ children in there, all sitting at their own desk, it was MAJORLY cramped in the room, and the were all doing the exact same work, at the exact same time, with the exact same teacher. It really felt awkward to me. At least the K-6 school had a very Montessori-ish feel about it even without the materials. The teachers at the K-8 school seem a little up tight (I actually know one of them because Shaye went to school with her son and I honestly always found her very odd) and overall they just didn't ooze "respect the child", ya know? So, I guess our decision has been made for open enrollment purposes. I think we'll put our first choice as the K-6 school and see what happens. Enrollment is done by computer generated random lottery and I have heard that there is a currently a waiting list of 117 kids. Ugggggggggh. That really sucks. So, chances are if you don't get in via the lottery, you are S.O.L.
The Montessori charter school has 2 campuses that I am touring in Jan. and they are not a part of the school district open enrollment, so I still have hope (and a good gut feeling) that we will be selected to get into that school. There is also talk about our current school to start a first grade program. If that's the case, we may just stay in private school if we don't get selected for the charter. There is also a K-8 private Montessori school a few miles from our current school that may be an option, but it's pricey. The older kids even work towards a HAM radio license and do a lot of really interesting work like that. I don't want to put my kids into a school and then pull them out in 3rd grade due to finances. It's an amazing school, but I'd definitely have to go back to work and I'm SOOOO not ready to do that yet. ;)
The bottom line is that I can't see past Montessori at this point. There truly is no education quite like it.