At Home Mums' Blog

Take a light hearted look at the issues faced by mums home with the kids. Read some personal views on the challenges of raising children today, and the pressures mums face. My website - - has some more serious and hopefully useful stuff on all these topics. I'd love to get your comments and advice. If anyone out there can help this mum maintain her sanity, it would be much appreciated!

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Sunday, 28 June 2009

Choosing a School

I have spent hours agonising over the right choice of school for our daughter. I have done the school visits, I have questioned everyone I know on which school they chose or are choosing, and what they think, and this year I've sent the other half to all the open days, largely because he will definitely have an opinion and I want it to be an informed opinion.

Last year the question was should we send Holly to school at 4 1/2 or wait a year. We chose to wait, because no one else in our area was sending their child that young, and we would have been putting her at a disadvantage socially. I'm confident we made the right decision, but what it meant was I also put off making the choice about which school she will attend.

We have ruled out private education for junior school as the local public schools have a good reputation and it would add a financial stress, but even so, we have the choice of three schools.

The first is a little Catholic school, with a single class intake per year. The second is our catchment area school, which is a middle sized school that historically had a poor reputation, but in recent years has been very good. The third option is an out of area public school, which all our neighbours' children attend, and is a large school (900 children) with great facilities.

Having done the open days and dragged Holly along to interview, we are amazingly both on the same page, which is great, as I rarely win an argument/debate/discussion!

We both really like the Catholic school. Why? Because it is a small school with a lovely feel to it. It came across as a caring and nurturing environment for the children. And the headmaster was the most impressive of the three. Holly is not an outgoing child and we feel she will thrive in a small environment, or conversely might get lost in a big school.

But, and this is a reasonably large but, we are not Catholic. We have a place, so that is not an issue, but we neither of us have much idea of the Catholic side of Catholic education and there are a couple of concerns. Will Holly feel 'different' if she is not Catholic? And will Holly grow up with a religious outlook that we don't necessarily subscribe to? I asked the first question at interview and I left happy that they work hard at being inclusive, so there is no danger of feeling left out. I didn't confess to the second concern incase it affected us getting a place...

When I was growing up, my mum took us to a Methodist church every Sunday (Dad stayed home and got the Sunday roast started...) and I chose to be confirmed into the church and to believe in God. I became strongly disillusioned with organised religion at university. There were too many God botherers who bothered God and then bothered everyone else about God. They were too adamant that those of us who did not choose their brand of faith would rot in hell. I did not, and still do not, understand how any one person can be so absolutely sure that their faith is right, that they can impose it on others. Maybe that's why it's called faith.

Anyway I moved away from my Christian upbringing, but I like to think that the basic Christian values and ethics I was brought up with, have made me a better person.

I spoke to one mum whose children are at a Catholic school. Her husband is Catholic, but she herself is not, and neither of them go to church. Her opinion was that although she does not have a Catholic background, she likes the way the school applies the Christian values to every day life today. I think that's what I'm looking for.

The other half, on the other hand, is not a believer, and I think he fears his daughter might try and convert him, or in the very least, pose some tricky questions. I can just picture him... 'Ask your mum, Holly.'

I have to say, I'm guilty of putting my head in the sand as far as my Christian beliefs go. I like to think that if you lead a reasonably good life, and do not intentionally hurt anyone, you're doing ok. If questioned, I would also say I believe in God. I say a little prayer for my babies each night, and lots of prayers whilst flying (I really don't like flying), but when it comes to questions about how God can let people die in natural disasters or little children suffer in hospital, I find it too hard, and my preference is to avoid the topic.

I think if Holly goes to a Catholic School, we'll have some interesting discussions in future. But then again, there'll be religious education in any curriculum and children are inquisitive, so the discussion is likely whatever the education.

I also think that if a child is brought up exposed to Christian values, she or he can then make an informed decision as to whether to practice the faith or not. As it stands, the only time Holly and Michael have been in a church was at Christmas when my parents were here. It was very important for my mum to go to church. Christmas in Australia was weird enough without removing the Christian element for her as well as the turkey dinner. And my two had absolutely no idea how to behave or really what was going on. None whatsoever.

Anyway, I digress. The school debate has one other prominent element. Our neighbours. Three of the four children in the next two houses to us all go to the large public school. They are doing well, they like it, their parents are happy, and they share lifts on a daily basis. Holly is good friends with all our neighbours and the youngest one is in her class at pre-school and will follow her sister to the big school. So it would be natural for her to want to go there too and be with all her friends. And it would be so convenient to have neighbours to call on in emergencies...

We have a lovely neighbourhood here, and the children are always round at each other's houses. I guess I'm concerned Holly will lose some of that friendship if she's at a different school. And maybe I'm also concerned I'll lose some of the closeness with the neighbours if we don't see them as much...

But the fact is, it's not a good basis for choosing a school. Holly is a different child from the neighbours' children and we have to look at what's right for her. And as someone else pointed out to me, your neighbours can move on any time, and 5 year olds change friendships on a weekly basis.

So what does Holly think? I was briefly tempted to let her make the decision. After all it would save me the guilt if I choose the wrong school and ruin her childhood. But having heard her logic, I decided mine was probably slightly more sound.

Holly liked the Catholic school, partly because mummy is subtly plugging it, although the interview was a bit boring. She also liked our catchment area school because they took the kids away during the tour and gave them some colouring to do. And she liked the large school because she spotted an old friend from last year at pre-school and she'd like to be in the same class as him. Also the head teacher had pink hair.

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Blogger Tabitha Bird said...

Hey, Helen. Loved your blog. I can so relate to this post about choosing a school. My son is now in grade one and we had all sorts of 'interesting' difficulties getting him into the right school. But I am pleased to say we finally found one that has proved an excellent choice. I am a prep teacher so the choice was even more difficult being that I knew what goes on behind the sense and thus which schools I wanted to avoid. I have a blog at (called books, bubs and other blabberings) where I post about heaps of child related issues, including supporting your child in reading and writing. I write from both a mum perspective and a teacher perspective. Check it out if you have time. Like we mother's have heaps of that, hey!

2 July 2009 at 1:46 pm  
Anonymous Sonja Walker said...

Hello Helen

Your dilemma over choosing a school is such a common one!

Choosing the right school for your child is important because it's not just your child who will spend the next 7 years there - it's a place that the whole family will be attached to for a long time. For informed parents who want to be involved with their child's education, getting it right is a big concern.

From a professional perspective (I'm a teacher) there's just one thing I would sugggest to mums who are agonising about choosing a school - and that is, don't be afraid to make changes if, later on, things don't work out as you expected.

Schools, like adult workplaces, change. The place you thought was going to be fabulous for your five year old might take a different direction if a new principal is appointed or if, half way down the track, you discover that your child's needs are not quite catered to in that particular school environment.

We would all love to think that the school that was right for our littlies is going to be fabuous, not only for them, but for their siblings - but sometimes, that doesn't happen.

And that's OK.

As you mentioned in one of your posts about friendships, kids are very flexible and they can, and do,cope if a move to a new school is handled the right way.

Thanks for such an interesting blog site!

28 August 2009 at 6:12 am  

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