28 Apr

A lot of my friends are facing a dilemma.  So many of us have gone through the same valley of the shadow of death and come out on the other side, myself included.  The particular dark valley I refer to is Life-After-St. Luke’s (hereinafter LASL) and it lasts for as long as you live after the age of 6.  It never gets any better.  St. Luke’s will always be the pinnacle of your existence.  So sad to peak at such an early age, but I cannot pretend otherwise.  It’s just heaven there, with the sweetest teachers and oldest facilities and finger paintings in the casement windows.  It is so fabulously old-school.  And I know the correct name is St. Luke, but the only person I know who says it that way is the director and they pay her so she has to. 

But all good things must end, or so they tell me, and St. Luke’s doesn’t do first grade.  So our precious ones have to go out into the big, bad world to real school.  Where to send them is always the burning question on every parent’s mind, and I have friends with children at the Catholic School, at Cornerstone, at our neighborhood public school – Santa Rita, at the gifted campus – Ft. Concho, and of course, my own wee ones attend Ambleside.

School decisions are hard.  I hate making decisions like this, and the only thing that helps me figure out what I think is to write about it.  Therefore, to be able to formulate an opinion on what they should do, in case they ask me for it, I shall now sort out what I would do if I were they.

The good news is something that my dad told me a long time ago when I was trying to decide between committing to Sewanee or staying on the waiting list at Davidson College.  (I had already just said no to Vanderbilt, Tulane, Rhodes, Trinity-in-San-Antonio because I didn’t like Texas.  The fates are laughing with me, I am sure.) Iska was going to Sewanee, so I would have a good friend there, but Davidson was closer to my beau, who would be at Wake Forest.  That beau is now a tired-looking man, driving a sideswiped car with two babies in carseats at the liquor store in Atlanta on a Saturday morning recently.  Let us remember that Davidson had not actually accepted me.  It was just a possibility.

And my dad said this: Don’t forget that you are choosing between two good options.  Neither one is a bad choice.  You can’t make a bad decision.  Isn’t he smart?  It’s a rare situation when both choices are good.

I already know what I would do because I am doing it, but I need to see if I can articulate why that is.  Primarily I love Ambleside for the same reason I love St. Luke’s.  Because I know beyond all reasonable doubt that my children’s well-being is the teachers’ and the director’s primary concern, and that nothing is going to happen at that school that won’t be handled lovingly and appropriately.  And if there is a problem at some lower level, the director will address it.  The children absolutely come first.  There is no bureaucracy, no administration, no red tape.

When my carefully propped-up house of cards fell apart, my mother uttered these wise words: “Between You (me), Miss Pat, and Ambleside, I think the children are going to be fine.”  Could she have said that about another elementary school?  Maybe.  But I knew exactly what she meant about Ambleside.  She meant that they were being taught excellent values, the Christian virtues, good literature, classical composers, art (actual, practical art) and art history, to play the violin, they would read Charlotte’s Web and Little House in the Big Woods in the second grade, and all material would be the very best that Western Civilization has produced for children.  They would learn to be respectful of one another and to be kind.  To be attentive and to be polite.  In those words.  Rudeness and disrespect would not be tolerated and no special consideration to political or social issues would be given to excuse such behavior.  Ambleside is not answerable to the taxpayers or any special interest group.  The thing I was most afraid of when we started there is that it would be too religious for our family, but for various reasons, that has been the least of my concerns.

I love that the values that matter to Miss Pat and me (pick up your room, be helpful, play nicely, and go read something) are reinforced every day at school.  I love that Ambleside encourages healthy meals and discourages holiday parties where parents are to bring a bunch of candy or stocking stuffers from the dollar store.  I love that the Christmas program is held in a church sanctuary and features little children wearing holiday finery playing violins and singing the beautiful, classic Christmas hymns instead of secular drivel.  There is no multi-culturalism.  We are all Americans and we have a beautiful Veteran’s Day chapel where the junior high recites the constitution and the lower school sings patriotic hymns and recite poetry.

We have a Shakespeare festival where preschoolers and kindergartners dance around a maypole and recite sonnets.  Then my tiny, reserved 3rd grader will perform as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  A classical education with a focus on learning good citizenship and habits is a rare thing these days and I feel very lucky that we have access to it.  It is one of the reasons that I haven’t tried to leave this town.

And certainly the school doesn’t advertise this service, but if I can’t be there on time to pick one of them up, I can call and ask them to keep the child an extra few minutes.  When I have had a bad day, Anna’s teacher has brought me flowers.  One day Wade’s teacher asked me if I wanted her to bring him home after golf lessons.  I gratefully accepted her offer.  When field trips leave early, at 7 a.m., teachers ask me if they can come pick mine up because they know I don’t want to get out so early with Henry.  When they were returning from a field trip in San Antonio, I could not be at school to pick Anna up, so the driver brought her to me at the Wall football game.  When one mom was busy decorating for the fundraiser, I picked her daughter up at their house and transported her to piano lessons so that mom could carry on with the decorating.  And the other parents would do the same for me. 

It’s a family.  A very dear one.  My littlest child has been welcomed since he was a wee bairn.  Every child knows his name and when we visit, he is taken out on the playground and fawned over by all the big kids.  It is a rare oasis in the big, scary world.  It’s a place where the innocence of childhood is nurtured and protected.


2 Responses to “choices”

  1. sonya April 29, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    your reasons solidified my choice for sure!! Thank you.

  2. Ann May 6, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    OK, so I want to know the name of the old beau at Wake Forest. I bet I was there at the same time! 🙂

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