Saturday 25th February 2017

Troy and I spent a long time talking about schools today, and about the concerns we have over Nicholai and (to a lesser extent) Emma and their school. It’s really difficult. I have a lot of doubts about the education they’re getting, but I also don’t really know how to evaluate this, or what I should do about it. I mean, I don’t even know if all the things I am concerned about have validity, or if it’s just that I don’t get the information from the kids that would answer my questions and stop me worrying.

I really wonder about the amount and level of work that is expected of them. I am not a parent who wants their kids to have homework for the sake of homework, but the fact that Nicholai is in year 9 and appears to do maybe twenty minutes of homework in an entire week really bothers me. I wasn’t impressed with his report last year, as I said at the time. It was good, but I really don’t believe that it in any way reflects what he is actually capable of. His apparent lack of engagement with his schoolwork concerns me a lot, and I really wonder how much he is being challenged by what they are doing. I mean, he’s in the advanced class and they work a year ahead, but in primary school he was doing maths three years ahead of his class and basically teaching himself. Emma seems a little more engaged with school, but she never really seems to have homework either. Besides, she only had ONE novel on her booklist and Nicholai only had two- if they don’t expect the kids (in an accelerated learning program!) to read more than two books in a year I don’t even know what to say.

As I said though, it’s difficult to assess. Teenagers are notoriously unmotivated and lazy, and Nicholai is in Year 9 now, which is peak teenage awfulness honestly. He’s also never been good about communicating what’s going on at school, so he could be enjoying a rich, varied and challenging curriculum and I would have no idea. We went to the parent-teacher interviews last year because of the doubts I had, but it really didn’t do much to make me feel any more informed. I mean, all the teachers said that both kids were very bright, Emma is invariably quiet and impeccably behaved, Nicholai is extraordinary, both of them are achieving…which was nice to hear, but didn’t answer my questions about whether they were both just skating by on minimal effort because they are both bright, and if the school was providing what they need to perform to their potential.

The other part of our discussion was what alternative options we actually have for their schooling, and that was pretty sobering. We absolutely do not have the money for private school- that is not an option at all – so we’re left with government schools.

Local to us there is the school they go to, and another one in Lilydale that would be basically the same. Then there is the school in Healesville- it is much smaller than their school (which could be good in terms of attention/ bad in terms of subject availability), had a shitty reputation for a long time but is improving, has worse outcomes than their current school in terms of naplan/ year 12 finishes and scores/ uni offers, but also has a different student makeup to their current school. We’re not bound to our local area, unless a school is at capacity they will take students from outside their area, but once we go outside our local schools we would no longer qualify for bus services, so we’d be looking at public transport and longer travel times for the kids.

We talked about the select entry government schools, but that’s far from straightforward. I mean, the options there are MacRob (girls) and Melbourne High (boys), located in Albert Park and South Yarra respectively, so the travel times are huge. Troy went to Melbourne High for all four years, so it obviously can be done, but it would be so difficult. And first of all, the kids would have to actually get in, and that’s kind of doubtful. I mean, Ems didn’t make the accelerated learning class at her current school, so there’s that. And while I have no doubt that Nicholai would have made the cut off to Melbourne High to start in Year 9, since that is mostly based on the entrance exam and he has always done brilliantly on that kind of test, to enter in Year 10 he apparently requires excellent reports, significant extra-curricular commitment/success, and leadership…not impossible for him, but not a sure thing either.

So really, I’m not even sure that we have any realistic alternatives. Maybe it’s going to be a case of ‘good enough’, and we will stay with their current school despite any concerns because it’s the best choice we have available. I don’t really know, but it’s something I am really going to have to think about.

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3 thoughts on “Saturday 25th February 2017

  1. Does the school have a Parent portal (ours is called Compass) where you can check on their Learning Tasks /homework?
    Don’t hesitate to ask to meet with the head of the accelerated learning program to discuss their progress – I’m sure they would tell you that yes, he is expected to do more than 20 minutes of homework per week!
    Also, there is Nossal now in Berwick, which I didn’t know until recently is actually a select entry government school.

    • Thank you for this.
      Their school uses Compass too, and we generally check it once a week or so to see if they have anything overdue. It’s only useful when the teachers use it though- last year Nicholai was on the verge of failing science through not handing in things in, and the first we heard about it was an email from his teacher a few days before the final cut off. None of the assignments had been entered into Compass at all.
      I think you’re right about talking to the head of his program and seeing what they have to say. Doing that would probably also show Nicholai that we are serious about his schoolwork- we’ve talked and talked with him, but he’s fourteen and hears everything we say as nagging!
      I don’t know. I think in some ways I’ve always felt a bit out of my depth when it comes to Nicholai and education- he has always been such a rarity that there’s no established guidelines on how to handle everything. I also have an extremely hard time understanding where he is coming from, since I was always highly motivated to do well- my perfectionism was definitely not really healthy, but it’s also not at all Nicholai’s problem!

      • Last year only VCE teachers at my school were “expected” to enter all Learning Tasks onto Compass, but this year all teachers are. Don’t know if their school has the same sort of uptake timeline.
        Don’t know which Lilydale school they go to – but I have a friend who is head of music at Lilydale Heights

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