Friday, 4 March 2011

Sleepless in Seattle - part 4

Another sleepness night. Jet lag and life changing decisions are a killer combo in the sleep stakes. So day 2 rolled in with a blur. We had to head out to the far side of Bellevue to go see a school. A high school. Our children are nowhere near high school age but we figured we needed to know what was awaiting us down the line.

The school was in a less affluent part of town but the buildings were immaculate and the sports facilities amazing. We met with one of the deputy heads. Apparently the school has 1500 kids (aged 15 - 18) and there are over 60 different first languages spoken by the pupils. It made my mind boggle. Despite the sheer numbers being overwhelming, we left feeling pretty impressed by what we'd seen. For a state school, it looked slick.

We then explored all around Lake Sammamish, the lake on the East side of Bellevue. Although nice, we decided that having one lake between us and the city was enough, so there was no way we'd consider putting two lakes between us in suburbia and life outside the picket fences.

We nipped into another private school for a prospectus (lovely looking school but completely stuck up their own backside reception staff who couldn't have been less pleased to see two prospective parents willing to shell out $60k per year for two kids to attend). So we left and headed for our third school of the day, another private one.

This school turned everything I thought about schooling on its head. For a start, the school building was an old office park. It's curb appeal was low. For a private school charging a LOT of money, where were the beautiful buildings and acres of sports fields? But once inside we began to realise that this was no ordinary school. They teach children in a completely different way. They teach them to think. Not simply to learn, but to question and enquire. We were given a mock science lesson. And both my husband and I sat enthralled as they took as through the content. It made me want to go back to school.

They use tablet PCs for the kids and if a child feels that a teacher is going to fast in class, they send the teacher a private instant message and the teacher knows to recap without the child feeling embarrassed. It's also hands on learning - the kids have built a rock climbing wall, a wormery for all the food scraps, their own black box theatre where they do all their drama productions and they have to build their own canoes. Proper wooden canoes. If they float, they've passed. If they don't, they have a swimming lesson.

Their mission is: think critically, act responsibly, lead compassionately, and innovate wisely. I love that. And it's so current. It teaches and prepares children for today and tomorrow's world.

I left with one thought: I want my kids to go there. Sure they'd have to make the grade (they have to be very bright and have a natural curiousity about the world around them) and we'd have to live on bread and beans to afford it, but wow! It was just such an incredible place.

After leaving that school on a high, we then discovered the suburb of Kirkland which actually had a little downtown area with restaurants and shops and access to the lakeside beaches. And although it was still a bit plastic, it felt more like a proper neighbourhood where you might actually get to meet your neighbours. What's more, it would still only be a 12 minute commute to work for my husband. 12 minutes vs his current 1.5 hours each way (when he's in the country).

And slowly the ticks in the pros columns started lining up.

We ended the day with a couple my husband works with, eating amazing food at their gorgeous house, learning all about what it's really like to live the American way with kids and a job. They seemed so happy and together. And I started to imagine us living in a house like that and it seemed doable.

We collapsed into bed with brains aching from over-stimulation. The see-saw of emotions - could we live here? could we not? - was leaving me feeling a little sick. Or perhaps that was just too much good food and wine. Either way, we had one more full day to make our minds up. Thursday would be decision time.


Muddling Along said...

That school sounds beyond incredible - that is exactly how I want my children to be educated (but not completely sure I'll be moving to the US just to get it...)

Hope you're doing ok and surviving the jetlag and everything else

Iota said...

I can feel the balance tipping...

nappy valley girl said...

The school sounds really interesting....

Mind you, some of the public (state) schools round here give out iPads to their pupils (!).

And the commute sounds good too....hmmm, I wonder what day 4 brought?

Metropolitan Mum said...

How exciting!! We are currently looking at schools in London and it's a far cry from what you have experienced at this particular school. Do they name the teaching approach? Is it Montessori? (clutching straws here...)

Curious to find out about your decision.

PS: Seattle is also the home of Starbucks. The small, original Starbucks, of course. I heard they once sold good coffee.

katyboo1 said...

I am desperate to find out your decision. I have been checking several times a day for your posts. HURRY UP WOMAN. I am living vicariously through your travels. The school sounds totally fabulous.

laurie said...

montessori? this sounds terrific.