30 Jun 2006, Comments Off on It’s not all gloom

It’s not all gloom

Author: Helen

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.
Image from http://www.canb.auug.org.au/~alanlevy/Thumbnails/Images/Skiing/DinnerPlainTrail.JPG

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.

Comments (0)

  • blue says:

    What an amazing opportunity. I envy this – I don’t believe we have anything like it in SA.

  • phil says:

    Getting close to a decade since our pair left school. We often wonder whether a dose of private school might have, er, assisted the young bloke who, even by his own admission, didn’t have the self-discipline for the ACT college system. In the ACT, years 11 and 12 are seen as preparation for uni and the level of supervision etc in the secondary colleges is minimal. Fine for the driven and the swots, hopeless for the easily distracted. It’s only now, a couple of years into a full-time permanent job that’s he starting to learn the subtleties.

  • desert pea says:

    Lucky girl – but from the sound of it, also well deserved.

    The private / public thing is incredibly hard. My husband and I had state based educations. However, with one of the highest raw results in the State in an outer edge state school, I found myself penalised by the overall low performance in my school – just enough (1%) to drop me out of the university course I had been working towards (interstate applicants had to gain higher marks than residing to take a university place) – while students in private school who achieved lower raw results ended up with a higher or similar grade. My life has worked out okay – but once bitten, twice shy. We’ve made the decision to send our kids public during primary school, private for high school if they particualrly want to go to university. (By the same token, if they want to go down an industry path, we’ll send them to an appropriate college. We’re not proud of the decision – and have some trepidation as private schools have a tendancy to sink their claws into a family’s wallet and general being. But coming from a strong working class background, and fighting hard to get those opportunities, I don’t want my kids to go through the same heartbreak if they don’t have to. By the same token, I’m conscious we’re helping to prop up that nasty little man’s kingdom for the privileged – and while we will struggle to make it happen, I’m conscious that there are many families who simply will not be able to. Education is a privilage – but it is one that we are all equally entitled to, irrespective of class or finance.

  • suki says:

    Oh I envy your girlchild – What an experience!
    As for the dog– perhaps the dog could blog… 🙂

  • Tony.T says:

    One of these days I’ll get around to writing a lengthy post on my experiences at Exclusive Grammar. If only as a counter to the tosh of Dead Poets Society or the over … errr … kill of If.

  • Helen says:

    Suki, I hope you don’t mind me swiping the word “girlchild” from you? It was from you, you know. I’ll find another moniker if you do mind.

    The dog will be sending numerous emails. Sure, her paws will not be on the actual keyboard, but I will be her ammanuensis and secretary. We get one visit, but unfortunately the dog won’t be coming – 12 hour round trip, snow, motel, etc, etc. (I’m friggin terrified of snow driving.)

    Tony, I missed seeing IF and have been looking for a DVD of it with no success. Hire, I mean, I know you can get anything on Amazon. One of these days I’ll see it. Hope you do write that post.

  • tigtog says:

    Helen, I have an old video of IF (we’ve since gone DVD) – it’s mr tog’s favourite film. E-mail me with your addy and I’ll send it to you. (Yep – just checked and haven’t taped over it)

    I envy your girlchild this term though. What an experience. Does she already ski a bit?

  • Dan says:

    When I went to the snow fairly recently, the place that we hired the chains from employed an impossibly heroic guy who spent the day at the point on the road where you have to fit the chains, fitting them for you. He didn’t wear gloves or anything, scrabbling around in the icy grit all day. Failing that, they give you fairly detailed instructions at the hire place.

  • Came across this website and just had to say that my children’s experience in the NSW public system has been mainly gloom.

    I have a blog called “Education Keeping them Honest” where I set out just how much power and protection the Education system has and what they are capable of and how they do not appear to have a duty of care to the children.

  • tigtog says:

    Helen, I’m having some trouble sending emails to anyone from your ISP, so let me know if you got my last one replying to yours.

  • suki says:

    I’m honored!
    The more girlchild’s the better. 🙂

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