Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pre-School Stress

In the town where we live, we have what is called a Magnet system for the public elementary schools. Each school has its own specialty. (Environmental studies or global studies, for example.) There are seven elementary schools. Each spring, parents whose children are entering Kindergarten in the fall get to tour the schools, rank them in order of preference, and in theory get one of their top two or three choices. This all started in the 1970's as a way of integrating all of the schools and making sure each one is as good as the next, since our town is so socioeconomically diverse. This is the first in a series blog posts I wrote for a local website last year, as My Director and I began the process:

"My head is swimming."

That's the sentence I texted My Director after spending an hour listening to parents who've been through the Kindergarten selection process. Peanut's daycare was nice enough to set up this informal meeting, featuring at least one parent from each school. I sat. I took it all in. I asked questions.

And as I drove the swagger wagon home, Peanut in her booster, I felt wholly and undeniably unprepared. School visits have started. We are blessed here with the privilege of choosing to which elementary school we send our children. (That's what they tell us at least... that we have a choice. Wink.) But this blessing is also a curse of sorts. I've heard this process can bring out the worst in some parents. Bribing school officials with baked goods and pleading with them through letters. (Really, people?) And it adds a whole lot of undue stress if you ask me.

This is, after all, elementary school. Not college. Public elementary school, to boot. That is not to disparage public schools in general or ours specifically. It's just that we pay for these schools with our taxes. And since we chose to live here, we know we have great schools. It's a big reason why we moved here when our family was outgrowing our condo in the city.

Now I don't mean to sound like I'm not taking my daughter's education seriously. But isn't she going to get a good education no matter where she ends up? So, I ask, why all the drama?

The bottom line is, we are taking this as seriously as it needs to be taken. We're not going to write letters or bake cookies. We'll visit all of the schools at night. (Except one which we've already eliminated.) We'll set up day tours at the ones we like when our work schedules permit. And we'll make our decision knowing full well that we may not get our first choice. If we do get our first choice, bonus.

In meeting with those parents last week they used the analogy of buying a house. They said we'd "fall in love," with a school that "you just know" is right for your child. That sounds great, but why make this an emotional decision? Especially, like buying a house, if there's a chance of getting our hearts broken? That's exactly what happened when we bought our house here. We lost a few before getting the one where we live. It's where we belong. And you know what? We weren't crazy about its curb appeal at first. Now? We love it after giving it a facelift and making it our own.

So I asked those parents, "What if we fall in love and don't get our first choice?" They said, rightfully, that we'll be happy wherever we end up. So, I ask again, why all the drama and angst?

In the end, it's going to come down to logistics: which one fits the best with our work schedules. Peanut will ultimately end up where she belongs, and it will be a wonderful school.

Maybe I'm wrong. I'll have an update for you after the first round of visits... (You can read it HERE.)

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