Many attached parents choose an alternative to the "assigned" school district for their children. Not always, of course, and choosing alternative educational modes is not a requirement to be considered an attached parent. For some families who choose alternative schooling, it may mean home schooling, some may do an online school, others may choose a charter or private school.
For us, the Waldorf and Montessori philosophies line up nicely with our educational goals and family beliefs. We want our children to really choose what they want to be and we'd love to be able to be relaxed about how they learn, we do want to instill a basic love of learning.
Why not unschool?While I'd love to be a "radical unschool" family - long-term I just don't see this as okay for us. For one, my husband is not one for entirely allowing our kids to choose their schooling - especially if it is through television as some unschoolers are open to (the idea that children will always choose what's right for them does not ring right with me either). I've read a few unschooling books and understand that for the most part the kiddos will end up happy and will learn the things that are important to them, but we want to make sure that we're preparing with a solid base of both exposure to language, arts, science, math and more and also an open love of learning. Unschooling is great for ensuring your child is able to choose their materials as well as their mode of learning. Parents tend to be more relaxed about the when and why of what the children are learning and offer external ways of learning and allow kids to get deep into a topic they love. Field trips are common, but a family must be very organized to help ensure that opportunities are abundant. Luckily in our area there are a lot of options for families who choose this route.
WaldorfA Waldorf environment sounds quite nice - especially for young kids. I like that Waldorf promotes no media and non-battery operated toys. It encourages children to be introduced to materials at specific stages and is arts strong. Waldorf schools do not introduce writing until after age 7, and seeing as how Finland doesn't start formal education until that age and always has the highest literacy and one of the best places to live, it seems about right. The students also learn handwork, woodwork and music/rhythm is very important, among an extensive list of other important tenets of Waldorf education. One thing I'm not too keen on is their spiritual philosophy. I'm not sure how entwined a home school family would have to be, but for private schools, I must wonder. It isn't enough to entirely turn us off from the philosophy, but since we've ruled out really full homeschooling (even workbook based), we had to continue on.
MontessoriA Montessori environment is one that seemed to blend a lot of the philosophies we enjoy in alternative modes and includes blended age environment. For example, it is important to use all five senses learning and there are long work periods, standard supplies (that aren't battery operated, etc) in a certified school, introduction to materials as children are ready and still a strong basis in math, writing and science. When our daughter was 3 we enrolled her in a highly recommended AMS Montessori school. There are not a lot of blatant differences in a good AMS school and an AMI school, but for us changing from wanting part time (2 days a week) to full time (5 half days a week) meant a lot more commuting. Since I do overall like the blend of both structure and structure of Montessori, we decided to move our daughter to a closer school and make the switch from an AMS school to AMI. Luckily the school considers her a transfer and asks that we complete at least two years in Montessori so she can continue to build on her learning through scaffolding and introduction of materials as she's ready.
In the end each family should be aware of their options and ensure their children are in an environment where they are happy, thriving and gaining both academically and socially.