As I sit here dipping into LP, IBTP, CRN and other delights, there is a sussuration of giggles and music and voices from the living room. Girlchild’s having a sleepover with some friends. It’s the school holidays. It’s a good time to do it, because they won’t be getting together again in a while.
A while back when we were talking about the public vs. private education thing, I didn’t really get into our own experience. Like many other people, I fervently wish for a situation where public education is properly funded and allowed to compete on its merits, instead of being progressively gutted to the point where if we don’t give it some attention soon, it will be turned into a safety net for the poor, a system which will instantly stigmatise and disadvantage the children who pass through it.
Like many such parents, though, I suffer from guilt pangs for not somehow finding a way (second mortgage? Third, for child no. 2?) to put my kids through private, or make them undergo the entrance exam and two-hour each-way commute to put them in to Selective High with Uniform. If you ask us for our reasons, I reckon there would be mainly two (others invited).
One, that we’re worried the gutting of the public education system may proceed at enough of a pace to ruin our kids lives right here and now.
Two, that the kids who go private (and selective public) get so many more life opportunities. Sure, the girlchild gets to study her current passions – drama and Manga drawing – in Melbourne, whether at school or not. But it’s the outdoor / external education programs which really had me salivating. I really, truly did envy these kids the opportunity to live and study at Howqua, Timbertop or even Nanjing.
I didn’t know this a year ago, but back in 1999, someone in the Education Department had the same idea. So, on the ninth of July, Girlchild’s going here.
For the whole of term 3.
They all get (ie. lent) their own laptop for the duration (MAJOR selling point for Girlchild).
After their study periods, they go out the back and take the poma up the hill to practice cross country skiing. Every day, if they want.
They get bussed to Mt Hotham for three days of downhill.
They do two overnight expeditions – one one night, one two nights, snow camping.
They also do a lot of personal development courses, Senior First Aid certificate, Food Handling certificate, and a project which they develop themselves for the benefit of the community.
Strangely enough, they are still given time to read books and relax, according to the Alpine School teachers. In fact, at certain times of the day they’re required to read quietly and comtemplate.
It’s a year 9 thing. And it’s not supposed to cost us anything (except for massive amounts of warm clothes and underwear). I’m sceptical, but the kids and program teachers have been fundraising with a raffle and sausage sizzles and such, and they are supposed to cover it. Anyway, the “cost” , we were told, was something like $1,200 per child, which no way would reflect the real cost of such an amazing program.
And it is amazing.
It’s drawing near now. We’re talking a week and a half. There are butterflies in the stomach. There’s a twelve hour round trip to do to drop her off, which means a 4 AM start. A night flit. Lots of packing. There will probably be tears, and lots of hugs for the dog (oh, the dog! How’s she gunna survive without her?) We’ll be driving up to the high country with the sun rising in the East. I am getting the front tyres replaced. Will we need chains? How the hell do you fit chains?
You would. not. believe the number of Explorer Socks I have bought. Rush out and buy shares in Holeproof.
Scary, and wonderful. The girlchild will be changed when she returns. She’ll be walking tall (er). She’s had to jump through many hoops to get there. I’m proud of her.