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A Word from our Founder
In fall 2002, I trusted the advice of well-meaning friends and neighbors over my own gut instincts. There have certainly been times in my life that a “gut instinct” turned out to be no more than an irrational fear. This was not one of those times. According to everyone around me, our neighborhood school was (and is) “outstanding.” After all, it was rated “exceptional” with regards to standardized test scores.
Against my better judgment, I sent my precious baby off to public kindergarten. I was teaching preschool at the time, just two days a week, but on 2 of the other 3 days, I ate lunch with my son and volunteered for a little while in his classroom. Despite the fact that I had been a teacher for years, I was seeing “elementary school” for the first time as a PARENT, and I didn’t like what I saw. There were strict rules, misguided kids, and worksheets out the wazoo. Even in this “exceptional” school – the administrators were calling the shots, the teachers seemed frustrated and overwhelmed, and the lunch monitors were as friendly as pit bulls. Every time I walked in the door, the kids in my son’s class would clamor to get a word in – “Georgie – I lost a tooth!”, “Georgie – I got a new puppy!” “Georgie – that boy called me a dork!”
These poor kids were starved for attention and conversation because they spent their entire day being told to keep their mouths closed and their hands in their lap. Even at LUNCH, these kids were not allowed to talk! In fact, I was regularly told by the lunch monitors that I was not allowed to grab a fork for the kid who forgot his or to chat with the kids around me as I ate lunch with my son. And despite numerous conversations with the monitors, the classroom teacher, and the principal – my concerns were brushed off and swept under the table. I’ll never forget when the principal replied, “Can you IMAGINE how loud it would get in there (the lunchroom) if we allowed talking?” The final straw came when I received a letter in the mail sent to all kindergarten parents. The gist of it was that the honeymoon was over (I believe it was mid-October) & that kindergarten parents would no longer be allowed to walk their children inside the school building. This, to me, seemed like complete insanity and a clear message about the lack of importance placed on “family” at this school. My hubby and I pulled our son out the next day.
At the beginning, I had no intention of home-schooling. I visited 10 different private schools in town, certain that I would find the perfect setting for my precious son. Unfortunately, I found what felt like two extremes. On the one hand, there were the private schools with the same long hours, same types of boring curriculum, and same high student-to-teacher ratios that I saw in the public schools. The only difference seemed to be that they had entrance exams, uniforms, and a hefty price tag. On the other extreme were schools that aimed to nurture the “whole child” – a concept that I LOVE. I visited many of those schools, hoping to find the right fit. I was floored to see that Jack & Jill could garden organically and build a shack from underbrush, but equally floored to realize that neither Jack nor Jill could write a cohesive sentence or multiply single digits! Seriously, though – the academics in many of these schools seemed lacking to me. I was in a quandary. For the rest of my son’s kindergarten year (November through May) – I homeschooled.
I had a BLAST! Austin has an outstanding homeschool community & I’m an outgoing sort, so I thoroughly enjoyed bouncing from one activity to another, meeting lots of people, & learning from different sources. I also enjoyed planning little lessons for him and coming up with a host of games, field trips, experiments, and activities. My son, however, was miserable. He was a painfully shy kid so the myriad of homeschool activities/classes that we attended meant one new group/teacher after another. And as for having ME as his main teacher – well, let’s just say that he wasn’t NEARLY as interested in the exploding volcano when it was his MOTHER adding the vinegar and he didn’t really have anyone to ENJOY it with, except his 2 year old brother, who was too busy trying to DRINK the vinegar to notice its effect on baking powder.
When I realized that full homeschooling wasn’t the right fit for my son, I started thinking and talking some more. I couldn’t sleep nights because there were so many ideas swirling around in my head. I started meeting with a few friends and just brainstorming with them about what would make an “ideal educational setting” for young kids. What we came up with was the basic framework of what today is AHB Community School!
Georgie Georgákis [/rescue_box]