Big Brother had his last day of kindergarten last week, but you wouldn’t know it by activities going on. No last day party, no family picnic, no mini-graduation. Just a small grocery bag of papers and art projects from the year. Maybe this wouldn’t niggle me so much, except the French Immersion classes, in the same school got to do all of the above.
Our school, Lord Selkirk Elementary, has two streams: French Immersion and regular English. French Immersion is by lottery and over the years it’s gotten more and more exclusive because there are more interested parents than spaces. I’d heard and read gossip that it was creating a two-tiered system, with the French side drawing more high-income, white, native-English speakers, while the regular stream was becoming a catch-all for those with higher needs, lower income and non-English speakers.
Whatever, I thought. If my child ends up on the English side, then he will get the benefit of diversity, culturally and ability-wise. If most of his classmates are Chinese-, Vietnamese- or Tagalog-speakers then he will get used to it: these are our neighbours after all. These kids will be his bike-riding, fort-building, sleep-over buddies. It’s the exciting part of living on the multi-cultural West Coast.
So although I was disappointed he wouldn’t learn French, as language really is his gig, I thought the benefits of attending on our block would outweigh in the long run. But, after talking to plenty of mothers, I am wound right up about the clear difference in school culture between the two streams:
French Immersion versus English-stream at Selkirk Elementary
- The French stream had five field trips this year, including Science World, the Pumpkin Patch and picnics at Trout Lake. The English stream had just one: a 10-minute walk to the public library.
- French-stream kids run three laps around the school yard every morning, with or without parents, to encourage physical activity. English-stream kindergarten begins with quiet desk work. There’s one gym period per week, which occasionally takes place in the computer room while they learn about hygiene or teeth or something. (My son quit gym after one month because he was terrified of gym teacher. We walked/rode bikes on our own instead.)
- French-stream kindergarteners get to play in the playground until 9:45 sometimes – I see them since I’m there still with Little Brother. English-stream follows the bell. The French-stream often has outdoor lessons as well, since the teachers are that way inclined. I’ve also heard the French teachers favour the child-led Reggio philosophy. So jealous.
- Assemblies, picnics, parties etc. are more well-attended by French-stream parents, than by English-stream parents. Do they care more? Maybe. But often I never heard about these events until two late, and often just through playground gossip with other parents. I think there’s a perception that since a lot of English-stream parents are immigrants they won’t be interested, so why bother asking. But I definitely would have participated given a chance. And many of the immigrant parents I chatted with were very open and friendly – perhaps they’d have wanted to participate too, given more information.
- Several parents of Big Brother’s classmates said their kids were so excited kindergarten was over for the year because it was “boring”, and “the art centre is always closed”. No kidding – every day there were more photocopied writing worksheets in the bag, pre-draw colouring pages, little booklets of pre-drawn pages stapled together. I was too bored to read it myself, so mostly it went directly into recycling.
Where is the glitter? The glue? The science projects? The rambunctious songs and action games? Doesn’t anyone play Duck, Duck, Goose or Red Rover anymore?
Signing up to Homeschool through Beaconsfield
Classes finished June 29th. Only one more administration day on the 30th before all school offices shut. I raced around gathering birth certificates, passports and immunization records to register for the Home Learners Program at Beaconsfield Elementary before end of day. It offers two days per week of class time (publically funded); parents deliver the remainder of B.C. curriculum on their own. Great compromise, I think. Plus the school is still only a 20-min walk (compared to our current five minutes).
I had to do this on the sly, because my husband definitely was not into the idea of homeschooling (I don’t even know if I am!) He was a bit concerned about my urgent texts looking for passports – ‘Are you at the airport?’
But we made it! Sort of. There is a waiting list, so who knows if we’ll get in. Plus, we are still 3rd on the waitlist for the French program at our own Selkirk school. What would I do if we got both places? French clearly has the programming I want, but I would feel guilty about the kids left behind in the other stream.
Expect more hand-wringing posts about homeschooling this summer. Will we get in? If we do, how will I convince my husband? How will I earn any money as a homeschooling mom? Is this really best for my son, or is it all about me?