So I was talking to another local Mom about choosing schools for our kids. Part of the conversation went like this:
OtherMom: "I've never heard anything good about Natural Friends."
(Then she remembered that my younger daughter attends Natural Friends, and stopped, looking embarrassed.)
Me: "Really? What do you hear about Natural Friends? I want to know!"
OtherMom: "People say it's loosey-goosey, and the kids just do what they want."
There's a part of me that responds "I wish!", and another part that writes a blog post about it.
On the one hand, Natural Friends is loosey-goosey enough to hang in there with my sometimes difficult younger daughter, and that's a good thing for us.
On the other hand, they apparently haven't gotten Alfie Kohn's memo on the subject of homework, which they start assigning nightly in the FIRST flippin' GRADE.
On the third hand, the academics at Natural Friends can be pitiful, especially math. Just today I started working Younger Daughter through Singapore Math 1B, and if she stays at Natural Friends I know I will have to do a great deal more. So far she likes the Singapore Math workbook (knock wood.)
My dream school would be loosey-goosey and laissez-faire in re compliance issues (the classic triumvirate of "sit down, shut up and do what you're told"), but crystal-clear in re academic issues like content knowledge and procedural fluency.
Is there such a school? Probably not. I think the reason is human psychology. The kind of teacher who wants to provide nurturing and tolerance to children tends to be the kind of teacher who isn't very academic. The kind of teacher who cares about academics is often also the kind of teacher who wants to see compliant, on-task kids.
It is a source of constant amazement to me how often schools get these issues exactly wrong; that is, they require unquestioning obedience and endless hours of work (from kids and parents both!) without actually delivering content knowledge. That is the worst possible bargain.