Thursday, August 16, 2007

Franklin's Preschool Plans

We'd been thinking for awhile about sending Frank to Montessori kindergarten after next summer when he's three and a half. The school was nice, and close to our office on the south side of town. There were a lot of kids with bright, shining eyes busy with their Montessori jobs, hard at work in their Montessori classroom under the occasional gaze of their Montessori teachers. There were about 30 students in each class, divided into three grades: Big, Middle, and Small class. There were three teachers per classroom, but I think at least one of them wasn't licensed, and one of them was definitely a student. The facility was beautiful and clean, but we heard a horror story from a parent in the neighborhood about the place, and Maggie didn't like that there was an indoor playground in the basement--that's an earthquake hazard and against the law.

A couple days ago, we decided to keep looking. Everyone in town, it seems, has an opinion on the kindergartens in town. Today we went to one of them Christian kindies. I wasn't sold on the idea, but someone's children have gone there and they sang praises (not hymns, mind you) about the place. I am unabashedly wary of such places--see the quote above. I'm sure that Christian education has churned out some fine minds in the last 1800 years, but my experiences in the American Bible Belt have led me to believe that they are the exception rather than the rule. I kept my mind and my third eye wide open as we walked into the place to look around.

There's a butterfly garden and lots of plants. There aren't millions of kids, and there is an unobstructed view of the sky which, today, was a brilliant blue. The sound of children's laughter bounced around the courtyard playground, painted green to resemble turf. There were perhaps a hundred red spots painted on the ground to show kids where to stand to do morning exercises or participate in weekly school assemblies. Standing there, watching Franklin negotiate the playground traffic in a toy car he found abandoned near a group of kids a year older than he, the teacher/tour guide/sales rep hit me with the question that I remember from that first summer at band camp: "Are you a Christian?"

It was an intimidating query that all those years ago was followed up by the justification "we just want to find out how many people in the band are saved." My answer today was delivered with more conviction than years ago, but now as then boiled down to "No."

There was something different this time, though. I was not made to feel as a pariah. The teacher told me, "Me neither, and neither are 90% of the students here." Holy Cow! This was unexpected. Vicky--the teacher had a name, after all--went on to tell me that the principal of the school was a Christian--Episopalian, I gather...drunk Republican, maybe--but he believed that God was something natural that kids should discover on their own. We agreed that kindergarten was not the place to 洗腦 kids.

It was as if the clouds had parted and my personal idea of what Gawd is was acknowledged and confirmed. All the plants, caterpillars, cocoons, and eventual butterflies on display give hope that life will go on forever. No indoctrination, no dogma. No doubt that the students there discover many beautiful things about the earth and the creatures on it. It's my hope to instill a healthy amount of curiosity in Frank and Gretchen and once it's there to keep it alive.

Question Authority. Frank will start after Chinese New Year.

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