Why We Chose a Charter School
by RI Editors
Crystal Dever joins us a guest writer for the education mini-series.
When I first heard about my daughters’ current charter school, I wasn’t too interested because she was still a year away from starting school. I didn’t take the time to research it. Fast forward a year: I hadn’t heard too much more about the school besides a few things here and there, and since I didn’t hear much, it wasn’t really in my scope to find out more. I had my daughter enrolled in the local public school, and that was good enough for me.
One day I talked to a friend at the park and my world changed. She was so excited about the charter school that I decided to look into it. I went to the school’s website that night and spent the whole night reading the documents about its values, philosophies, and goals. I was completely enthralled and continued into the night reading, sharing with my husband, discussing and eventually submitting an application. After I had learned all about the school, I couldn’t NOT have her in it!
We went to the founder’s office (his regular job – this was the first year the school was going to be open and it hadn’t even opened yet) to talk to him and do everything we could to get her into the school. In the end she had no problem getting in and we couldn’t be happier. John Adams Academy has a focus on a classical education like our founding fathers had, learning from the classics and mentors. It’s also on creating servant leaders such as our founding fathers were. I love the model and feel like it’s a very authentic way to learn.
Many of the ideas for the school and my own learning about a good education have come from the book A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille. This book has changed my life and that of my children.
So why did I choose a charter school? The public school system is broken. I began learning about this when I was teaching in it a few years back. We received some really great training that was about engaging the children. But the instructors pointed out how our current public school system was built around another day and time. It has many problems for today’s society and needed a complete overhaul. DeMille calls the public school system a ‘conveyor belt education.’ You get on the belt, they put stuff into your head and you continue along the belt, repeating this over and over.
Public schools these days are spending so much time teaching to the test and not teaching kids how to really think. Our school’s model focuses on teaching students HOW to think. There is no focus at all on the tests. I love this. Another reason I love the charter school is that the teachers are not tenured. So many teachers in public schools really shouldn’t be there anymore, yet because they are tenured, they must be kept on. I very much dislike that. At JAA (John Adams Academy) the teachers are only there if they are of the highest caliber and if they are not, they are not invited back the next year. There is nothing that keeps them there if they are not GREAT teachers. I love that as well.
One more thing I love is that because it’s a charter school, we are not tied to the curriculum that the public school system is. We are free to teach what the individual students need, when they need it. Our school has chosen a classical education model, teaching from the classics themselves, even in the elementary grades. These are the stories good people have been learning from for ages and ages and the lessons in them are timeless.
One other thing I love about our school in particular is the dress code! We have a uniform, which I LOVE and when there are other events where the uniform is not required, a strict requirement of modesty is expected and enforced. The dances are uplifting instead of degrading. The whole school says the Pledge of Allegiance together at the flagpole every morning. They also recite the core values of the school, someone reads a quote, and they all sing a patriotic song. There is a wonderful atmosphere about the school, like real learning is going on.
Something else I appreciate is that there is a very high requirement (40 hours a year) from volunteer time from parents. I love that this makes our school a community. It makes it OUR school. And it makes parents involved. And when parents are involved, kids do better. I’ve seen what a lack of involvement does first hand, and it’s not pretty.
One more thing I’ll mention is that our school is K-12. I love that the older kids can interact with the younger ones and visa versa. There is so much they can each learn from each other. The school is also in an office building remodeled to be a school; I love the feel that that gives. It’s a beautiful campus and I love that they get to go to school somewhere special. I’m really grateful for the opportunity and freedom we’ve had to put our children in a school of our own choosing and that charter schools are an option for us.