Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Chance to See the Dalai Lama

I have recently learned that the Dalai Lama is coming to Seattle, and I'm thrilled at the prospect of seeing him speak.

Check it out:

I personally believe that the Dalai Lama is one of the most compassionate, intelligent people on the planet, and every time I hear him speak (never in person, unfortunately) or read his writing I walk away feeling more committed to being a positive person in the world. I admire his teachings greatly, and I would be more excited than I can express if I got to see him.

This particular program is interesting to me because it is all about teaching children compassion, and raising our children compassionately. As I struggle to be a compassionate person, I know that I struggle to model to Tessa, and I hope that I can learn more.

Tickets aren't on sale or available yet, but I hope to be able to get my hands on some.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Churches that advertise

The UU organization is advertising in Time Magazine. I'm not sure how I feel about this; on the one hand, evangelism generally makes me feel uncomfortable; on the other, I'm grateful to have stumbled onto the UU faith but it was almost entirely by accident and I wish I'd heard of it sooner and these ads might help facilitate that for others.

Anyway, here's a link to the ad. It is next to an interesting article about Einstein's faith.,9171,1607298,00.html

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

More kindergarten talk

Well, prepare to hear lots of kindergarten talk on this blog in the next couple of months as I make decisions about where to send Tessa. We're just at the beginning and it's a bit overwhelming.

First, I realize that choosing a kindergarten is not the most critical decision in a child's life. I recognize that Tessa is well primed to succeed in kindergarten. I believe that she's the "ideal" student, in that she's able to sit and listen, she wants to please her teachers/authority figures, she doesn't appear to have any learning disabilities, she's social, and she has a love of learning and of books. Because she has educated parents who will be active in the school she's in, and because we care about reading in the home, and because we model reading and writing to her (mom's in a book club and writes in a journal; dad's constantly taking trips to the library to pick up books), and because we are well set up to support her homework, etc., it is my suspicion that she will succeed in just about any school. In this regard, she is like most of the children that we know: middle class children who don't worry about a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and parents who love them. These things alone are a great head start in education.

Still, I feel a lot of pressure to choose well for her. Success can be judged in lots of ways, and I need to decide where my own values lie in order to decide what a successful kindergarten placement will look like.

Now, this seems like it should be easy. I value safety, academics, community, diversity, love of learning, parent involvement, access to materials (books, technology, etc.), caring faculty, development of critical thinking more than rote memorization, development of social-emotional as well as intellectual strengths, art programs, music programs, foreign language, PE programs, encouragement of girls into math and science, excellent reading and writing programs, after school programs like running club or basketball or chess, a nice building, low student to teacher ratios, good test scores, pride in the school environment....

Can you see where I run into problems? That is a long list, and not one local public school meets everything in that list. Some schools emphasize community more than academics; some schools have art but not foreign language; some schools have great writing programs but lesser science programs. It's not a perfect world, so I can't have it all (no news there), so I have to decide which of these things is most important to me, and then make the match.

We know we intend to stay in West Seattle. We know that we intend to pursue public, not private, school options. I'm not going into it here, but we believe that we have excellent reasons for our family to reach these conclusions, and we're happy to stay the course on those two issues.

The first major decision I have to make is about academic rigor versus diversity (and how the encouragement of, or lack of, diversity impacts community). One local school (Lafayette) has the Spectrum program for gifted and talented children, and it's possible that Tessa could test into this program. The program is at a school noted for its high test scores, traditional learning styles, and lack of diversity as compared to other schools in the area. Another local school (Pathfinder, the alternative school) has an incredible approach toward community and diversity, and really works with kids' creativity, but I fear that they do not have the academic rigor that would help Tessa live up to her potential.

Two schools, Alki and Schmitz Park, appear to be more middle of the road and may meet all of our needs, but they appear to be very popular and we may not get in to either of them.

Our local reference school is Gatewood, and I just don't know enough about them yet. Academically, though, they do not appear to have great strength, or maybe I'm just judging test scores (and we all know how they are filled with falacies).

I have not made any decisions. I toured Pathfinder today, and I have tours set up for other schools. But in order to make my decisions, first I have to struggle through this list of values to determine what my ranked order is. This is tough work for Ryan and I, as we want only the best for our beautiful (her heart, mind, soul as much as her outsides) daughter.

Whatever we do, it will be okay. Nothing is irrevocable. Still, it would be nice to choose the right school from the get-go, and just enjoy the ride.