God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

What Makes an Education?

Casey, the student Posted by Hello

What makes an education? This is a question we ponder these days as we struggle with Casey's needs in terms of 80+ years of life--what is best for him, what will have mattered the most in the third grade, trying to be honest and know when we are imposing our own desires and when we are seeking the best for him.

The question we are struggling with right now is what would be best-----a local Italian school or an International School? Clearly there are pros and cons on both sides. When we first started talking about doing this, we knew exactly what we wanted--Casey was going to an Italian public school so that he could live a different culture, learn the language, make friends, develop a view of the world that was not myopically patriotic to the exclusion of validating other nations and cultures.

We wanted to live in a village or town where he and we could make friends, develop a degree of comfortability, know and be known--and a place that was centrally enough located that we could have easy excursions into larger cities such as Siena, Florence, Rome. We wanted to find if the ambience that has permeated our trips there--some as long as seven weeks--continues when "living" there for an extended time--or is there a romance of short term visits that dissipates in the reality of day to day experience? Would we find that we are more inseparately attached to our life style in the states than we think? These things were our thoughts as, after a lot of talk over several years, we decided "to do it."

Casey enjoying the simplicity of the small town. Would this work? Posted by Hello

But then, as we explored our thoughts with other people--especially both Italians and expats in Italy--we were given a different perspective. If we are going for just one school term, the language situation might be too much--not time enough to learn or settle in so he would remain an outsider the entire time. This certainly is not what we want--an unpleasant, unhappy experience and memory. Then--the other concern we have is the quality of what he will learn.
If we put him in the International school of Florence, where he will be taught in English, he would continue his learning in the 3 r's and so would not fall behind his contemporaries here at home. Plus--he would be able to make and communicate with friends right off the bat. The other real plus is the experience of interacting with children from so many different cultures and countries--somewhere around 43 according to the school.
Some of the negatives are that, although English speaking kids are given Italian instruction, from what I have picked up from other expats with kids enrolled, it is not enough to become anywhere near fluent. And--most importantly, he would not have the advantage we seek for him of living and finding his way in a different culture and country.
So the dilemma continues for us. We become so limited in living location options with the International school. Rentals close enough to commute to and from school are much more expensive than other areas of Tuscany--and that is not the area we would freely choose to settle in given our druthers. Additionally, the school fees are not negligible--not at all. But---if that is best for Casey that is what we will do even though some of the other things we want are sacrificed.
So, for now we struggle with this decision. Our hearts want him in an Italian school but perhaps our heads should rule. What do you think?

Casey and his science project. He was pretty proud! Posted by Hello


Deborah Horn said...

Jane, I'm so enjoying your blog. The photo of your back patio in the sunshine brought back such great memories of Casey "performing" in the pool for us.
I'm actually sending you this comment with a thought about his schooling dilemma.
I lean toward putting him in a local school. With his huge smile and gusto, he should make friends rapidly.
If it were me, I would go to Casey's current school and ask for a general outline of the learning goals for next year. Then I would ask for recommendations of home schooling materials.
That way Casey can have the best of both experiences. He can be immersed in Italy, and you can home school him for a few hours a week to keep him on track for a return to his current school.

Maryellen said...

I agree, go for Italian school! Both of my girls attended German school or kindergarten and had wonderful experiences. I know other Americans living in Italy who have done it. I'm an educator, too. Don't worry about his "falling behind," because he'll really be ahead . . . I could tell you many stories! Both of my daughters grew up in Germany and then went to terrific colleges in the USA: Washington U in St. Louis and The College of the Holy Cross. They are true international, third-culture kids.

You have a wonderful adventure ahead of you. I bookmarked your blog. If I can be of any assistance (I now live in Sicily), please let me know!