Wednesday, January 12, 2011

But, Do You Know What You WANT?!

By virtue of being a friendly mom and one who has friends in widely disparate groups, I get asked advice alot. I mean, quite alot. I get asked what the best birthday party places are, what schools are good, where to shop for various products, where to find the pork butcher, just the general information that makes life a tad easier. Each of these questions actually has the same answer (well except for the pork butcher)... Yep, such disparate questions all have the same answer. And it's often one that the asker hasn't considered. The answer to all three questions is, it depends on what you want. You know, when choosing a school you need to understand your goals and priorities for your kids' education. This question is, in fact, the one that I get most often from people who have no idea what their goals and priorities are.

So why is understanding what I want so important? Well, because Jordanian (and anywhere else) education is not one size fits all. Different schools have different strengths. Your child may fit better at one school than another. In fact, I was talking about this today with a mom who has her younger kids at a traditional Islamic school. Her older ones go to one of the well-known international schools. She mentioned that she has friends who would never consider the international school because it isn't Islamic. You know, I've got to respect that. At least her friend has considered what is most important to them. As has my friend. She has chosen a broader educational experience to challenge her kids. But so many people, say hey what's a good school around this neighborhood.

So, I always answer, it depends. Do you want a native level English program? Do you want a primarily Arabic education? (And no, these two are not mutually exclusive) What is your philosophy on learning? Are you willing to get a tutor? How much do you want to spend? All of these questions come together to form a different picture of the school that you need. But most parents get focused on one thing. Maybe it's Islamic schools, but are they willing to go that route at the expense of the education? Or do they want to seek one that is farther afield but offers better programs?

It's the same for birthday party places. The best option depends on your child and what you want to get out of the experience. Do you want a slides and ball pit kind of experience, very active and exhilarating? Do you want something somewhat educational where the kids do a craft? Is dress-up your kids favorite activity in the world? Does the space need to have both indoor and outdoor activities? How many children are you planning to invite? The responses to these pictures forms an answer to the question. We've done the Beans' birthdays at an awesome place that has a mix of outdoor and indoor space, plenty of room (we typically have invited all of the 3 classes), craft activities that serve as a major portion of the giveaway, and excellent staff who make the entire party experience better. But, it wouldn't be the right choice for someone who wants lots of slides and heavy energetic activity.

But how often do we, as parents, make decisions based on gut feel or the recommendation of friends without considering how well did my friends' needs match my needs? And then, how often do we end up regretting the decision? Each of us, as parents and people, should develop a habit of thinking through our needs and priorities before we make decisions like these. We need to know what we want so we can decide what works best for us and our family. I know this is something I continue to work on. El 3atal and I are currently rethinking our priorities for the kids' education. Not, mind you, the school. We're very happy with our selection, but rather the emphasis we place and what's of most value and importance to us. After all, 30 years from now, will I care if ButterBean's ability to express herself or tell a story in classical Arabic is limited? Or will it matter more to me that she is able to speak Arabic fluently? Where are my priorities because that has to inform where we spend our time and focus, now doesn't it?

Happy Decision-making!


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