Here in South Florida, schools offering the VPK program abound. If it’s the first time our little ones are venturing out into the scholastic arena, we must decide on the environment that best suits our children’s needs and most reflects our family’s values.
I have had my kids in many “types” of schools since arriving from Latin America over two years ago. All the schools they had attended in Panama were rather homogeneous; a majority of the kids enrolled were of the same religion, race, and economic status. On a subconscious level, I found this comforting thereby eliminating many of the prevalent concerns faced today associated with a “peppered population.”
However, there were other issues. The kids suffered from "entitlement," were spoiled by their parents’ wealth, and were relatively unaware of the daily realities faced by other societies. Academically, the curriculum reflected the student body’s lack of diversity. Many subjects were not covered in depth.
My kids circulated in this environment for many years, and I tried earnestly to compliment their studies with real-life exposure and lessons about other cultures. Yet the reality is that these kids live in a bubble; they don’t appreciate the comfortable life they lead. And it isn’t their fault. It’s all they’ve ever known.
Arriving back in South Florida after many years away, we initially put the children in another homogeneous-type school; one with people from all backgrounds and countries, but of the same religion. We believed this would make our kids' country-to-country transition smoother, and it did. The changeover was painless and seemless. We were satisfied.
However, after a year we realized our children were not only not socializing with “outsiders,” but furthermore, had developed xenophobia toward those unlike themselves. This made me uncomfortable.
So the pendulum swung in the opposite direction and we decided to place them in our district’s A-rated public school.
And, frankly, I am not thrilled with this arrangement either. Aside from our school’s academic excellence, socially, the kids are exposed to greater dangers. They are befriending kids whose caretakers are inappropriate. Playdates at some of these kids' homes are out of the question for fear of inadequate adult supervision. Additionally, my children come home each day with a more colorful vocabulary. They are blending in so much that we must work even harder to anchor them to their own heritage.
So the question begs: would you rather your child attend an institution that represents your own personal culture/religion/identity/ or one that resembles the United Nations?
Each family must explore this matter privately. There is no right or wrong answer.
I’m still debating.
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