For the past year, against my wishes, the Things have been at Small Modox Girls School. Court-ordered attendance. True, I could have kept on homeschooling them had I stayed with Builder. But that would have meant putting up with his abuse. And he probably would have forced them into school anyway.
To my mind, school serves two purposes--keeping kids safe while their parents work (I'm still looking for a job), and giving them an education. Let's see how they did on those two areas.
Safety: Here I would have to give the school a very low mark. The building they were in is old and decrepit, and has some issues. During Thing 1's siddur play, there was no heat in the auditorium--in January. During one of the coldest winters I've ever experienced. It was so cold that we all had to keep our coats on. Additionally, their school bus managed to lose Thing 1 twice--once when she was with her little sister. I couldn't reach the school and wound up calling the police. They almost called in an Amber Alert when a neighbor found the girls. Since that day, I have not trusted the afternoon bus, and pick up the girls myself. I was also less than impressed with their attitude towards Builder. Despite the fact that we have a standing custody order and visitation schedule, Builder was free to "visit" the girls on campus whenever he wanted. He also took Thing 2 out of school one day, and no one notified me. I found out from Thing 2. At the beginning of the year, I informed the menahel and the preschool director that I had an order of protection against Builder. They ignored me. ACS also got on their case about the "visits," but the school allowed them to continue.
Education: Here, I'm not sure if I can give a fair assessment, since the school made both girls repeat. (Thing 1 needed work on her Hebrew, and there was no space in Thing 2's grade.) I'm not really sure that Thing 2 learned anything, but I'll give them a pass--it is preschool, after all. Thing 1 was really more of the evidence. Her writing and spelling improved, so I will give them that. (This may have come down to a difference in philosophy. I don't believe in encouraging independent writing for kids who can barely read--they have to rely on phonetic spelling and get into sloppy habits. Thing 1 did copywork with me, but no spelling tests or anything.) Her mathematical ability not only stagnated, but regressed. The work she was bringing home for math was the sort she did two years before she started. Thing 1 informed me that she did not do math every day in class. For reading, the school seemed to rely heavily on memorization and whole language--despite the fact that whole language techniques have been discredited. Thing 1 also told me that one of her teachers could not spell "Wednesday," and had to look it up. Not surprisingly, the school has lost its accreditation with the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (it ran out in 2011, and as of the website, has not been renewed.)
As for the Hebrew, I had two main issues. Thing 1's reading and vocabulary are not much better than they were at the beginning of the year (so, why did she repeat?), and all the homework assumes that the parents are proficient enough in Hebrew. The materials I used when homeschooling at least allowed translation. While I understand that immersion is the way to go, what do I do when I'm faced with a worksheet written entirely in Hebrew script that I have to interpret so Thing 1 can complete it? So far, I'm still in the range of my limited ability, but what happens when I'm faced with a page of Rashi? At the end of the year, Thing 1 brought home all her workbooks. Most of her English workbooks were two-thirds empty. One of her Hebrew workbooks had another child's name written on it. Thing 1 told us that the books had been distributed when she was out sick, and she never received her own. She had to share with another student. I can understand these shortages in an underfunded public school where there are 40 kids to a class and there aren't even enough desks for everyone (I attended such a school for a year), but in a $10,000-per-year-per-child private school? The least they can supply is TEXTBOOKS!
My final issue is summer homework. What sadist thought this up? Summer is supposed to be a time to decompress after a year of school. However, on top of attending camp (again, court-ordered), Thing 1 has to complete packets of worksheets in English, math and Hebrew, play a computer game that locked her out within hours of the end of school, keep a journal, and write five "reader responses" to ten books. I understand the reading and the journal. However, most of the worksheets amount to raw busywork. Thing 1 can complete three of them in about 30 seconds. Also, most kids either do them at the beginning of the summer just to get them over with, or in the last week or two before school starts because they've been putting them off. This means the effect on "summer brain drain" is negligible. It makes the school look more rigorous than it is.
Bottom line--I wasn't that impressed with yeshiva education going in. After a year of experiencing it, I'm even less so.