Monday, April 16, 2012

Was it this fraught for our parents? Highschool applications...

The oldest is going to high school next year. By rights, he probably should have gone this year, but of course, we home schooled him until he was seven and a half and when he started school, he went into grade one because going straight into grade two was going to be  too much of a challenge to him...

So, we've had a year's reprieve and we have spent it well...

What I meant to say is we've spent it, well, doing nothing much...

We thought we had it sorted, actually. I decided years ago which high school I liked the look of. At the time we lived in that high school's 'zone'. Then we moved. We still had a pretty good chance of getting in to that high school anyway because our primary school is a feeder school for that high school.

Then I read the school's site blurb and it seemed to be all about high academic achievement. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for academic achievement (a person with a couple of Masters degrees is very likely to have some strong feelings about academic achievement, and I do) but sometimes it feels like also school want to do is churn out kids with high Tertiary Entrance Rank scores (or whatever they're called today) and those kids who don't make the grade don't get as much respect or attention.

The thing is, several years ago, my child was just seven and I only knew him as a seven year old. I only had hints of what he might be like as a teenager. Many years have passed since then. I understand my child so much better now. He is bright. He can be motivated. He isn't terribly interested in academics, though.

So, okay, some might say I need to encourage him more; push him, impress upon him the great value of academic success. The thing is, I think I probably won't need to do much of that if he is in an environment which stimulates his imagination. I firmly believe academic success must come from within the child - from a place of inspiration, not from the need to please someone else.

It's this stimulation of the imagination which brought us to considering the high school we're currently in the process of applying to, and this is where is gets fraught.

The high school we've heard about and which sounds great for Erik, because of it's stimulating environment, offers many 'electives' in conjunction with the core subjects which must cover the Key Learning Areas (KLAs) as set out by the Department of Education (Dept. Ed.).

Many high schools offer electives. Besides English and Maths, Science, Geography, Biology, LOTE (language other than English) etcetera, most schools offer some sort of technology class, music, or wood work or something like that.

This school offers all of these and much more. It makes a point of offering theoretical (book based) classes and practical (hands on based) classes, specifically to help students who are more inclined to one to achieve some sort of balance.

Erik is artistic. He is very creative. Very, I guess, right brained. He likes to have freedom to explore and to communicate what he learns in ways other than words on paper. So, anyway, this school seems to be just right for letting him learn in a creative way but still encouraging him to strengthen traditional academic skills.

If only it was as easy as finding a school and signing him up.


You'd think in the public system, this would be the case. You can get into your local high school no problem, and you can get into other public high schools if they have space for you. The thing is, this high school - the one we like - has a small number of spaces (it's a small school), and this year especially, it seems to be in high demand (word is getting out about it's unique approach to learning).

Also, we left contacting the school very late. Partly because we just didn't understand what the school offered and we thought it was too far away (by public transports it's actually as close as the geographically much closer schools), partly because we didn't understand the application process.

We have to put in a form by the middle of the year listing our three top preferences. I think this list of preferences will then do the rounds of the schools and we'll either get picked up or end up at our local high school (which would be our second preference anyway).

To go to our preferred school, they require Erik to attend an interview with the Principal (who will also show us around the school at the same time). I'm not sure what they'll interview him about, but I know they need to weed kids out because the applications already exceed the number of students they can take.

They've mentioned a couple of times that they are developing specialist programs for talented children.

Erik has never been assessed as gifted or talent. He likes to draw. He draws quite well, but truth be told he hasn't been as enthusiastic in the past year as he was before then... So, I guess I wonder if his current level of enthusiasm for art will translate in the interview at all. His art teachers have unanimously been thrilled with his progress at school, and he's been given special projects and offered special opportunities here and there. He's entered the local art show twice and sold drawings both times.

He doesn't draw so much at home though... So, who knows.

Also, the high school has asked for his last school report - which is fine - and his last Naplan test results. The Naplan test results make me a little uneasy. Not because of how he did on the tests, he did fine, but because of how flawed that testing system really is. His scores don't mean much in the scheme of things. They can't be compared to the school of other kids unless those other kids went to his school or a school just like his school - which are dispersed all over this country! I just can't see how they would inform the high school of his suitability at all.

Did I mention the boy is ambivalent about high school because he won't be going to any high school his friends are going to? He said he has no interest in going to an interview. Yes, this is going to be fun, isn't it?

Gone are the days when you just transfer your kids from the local primary school to the (often adjacent) high school and no one questioned your 'choice'. Now, even for public schools, you need to impress the Principal. You need to prove your child will be an asset to the school...

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Good Job!