Early this spring I vacationed in Portland, Maine for a couple of days. Portland has a handful of museums in addition to galleries, shops, restaurants, and beautiful outdoor space. Portland is home to a large art college. Clearly, the town is a haven for artists and artsy types (and foodies.) In every museum that I entered in Portland, I felt the presence of school children. Not only was there a class (or two) in the museum, but there were exhibits by children in both the art museum and the historical society museum.
In some ways, I found the children’s art more interesting than the big Degas exhibit in the art museum. The children’s work was good, for the artist’s age; some of the high schooler’s work was just plain good. But, more importantly, it demonstrated a serious and supported art curriculum in the area schools. There were works that were in response to Magritte and Van Gogh, showing that the children were being exposed to artists and artistic styles. There were works that showed a unique style, which shows that the students have room to experiment with their style.
The historical museum has a one-room exhibit on clothing and identity. It had a hallway full of children’s reactions to it, posted prominently.
Were I a parent with artistically-inclined children, I would be inclined to send them to public school in Portland. If I were a parent who valued history, understanding identity, and wanted my children to have a rich education that extended beyond the classroom, I would be inclined to send them to Portland public schools.
For most parents, the problem is that the presence (or absence) of this kind of enrichment program does not show up on the Department of Education website. There are some sites that have additional information, but parents frequently feel at a loss to really evaluate how a school will work for their child.
I have found that networking is the key to figuring out about complicated, nebulous questions like, “will this school district suit my child?” Frequently, I ask my past clients who are in a school district to contact my current clients that need to know about the schools. Sometimes, my current buyers get an earful! It is especially important for parents who have children who have particular needs. (For example: Big schools can be hard for shy children, but some more outgoing children thrive on the bigger-the-better.) So, I try to match current clients with former clients who are like them or who have children that are similar to theirs.
In the absence of someone like me to make the introduction, using other social networking will help the process. Ask on FaceBook or Linked-in. Check for a local list-serve. This anecdotal, purely subjective information is very useful in making a fully informed decision.
Have you tried this and did it work? What resources would you recommend to parents who wants to choose the right public school for their child?
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