I am lucky enough to live in a community with enough school choice to make your head spin; and, create a serious tendency towards FOMO – the fear of missing out. Homeschool? Homeschool with a cottage program? Online classes at home? Charter school of the arts? Charter school teaching French immersion? Charter school teaching classic education? Charter school that is Waldorf endorsed? Neighborhood schools? But, which neighborhood? Should I send my kid to the school four blocks away or choice them into the next neighborhood? Should I send them to the one that teaches Spanish or Chinese? Parochial schools? Private schools? I even know families who have hired private tutors as the primary method to educate their kids. Uniforms? The list of educational opportunities seems endless, as is the possibility of potentially choosing the wrong school.
Choice can be overwhelming. It feels like a million years ago when our parents just put us on whatever school bus showed up, to take us to school. We were expected to do our best, make the most of the opportunity to become educated, and mostly we were left to our own devices to make school work for us.
I walk my own kids four blocks to our lovely neighborhood elementary school. We are blessed to live in a great school district and have our kids attend a safe school that has educated my kids well. But, they don’t know how to speak Chinese and they are not learning to play the cello. I have to tell you that I had my kids on lists for charter schools since birth and that I assumed that I would choice them into some fabulous program somewhere. There are some really fabulous, unique schools in my area – I have friends who love these schools and have happy kids attending them. But in the end, a few other factors won out for me. Education is such a personal decision. This is just how I made my decision for my family. This is not meant to be an endorsement of any particular kind of school – nor should it be taken as a suggestion that any type of education could be seen as superior or inferior. This is just how it works for our family. This is a ‘no judgement zone.’
Now that we have that settled, here is how I made the decision on where to place my kids for school:
- Driving 20 minutes one way to school would mean that I would spend a minimum of an hour and twenty minutes per day in the car. Gas prices and traffic also make it less appealing. I did not want to drive my kids to a very nice charter school that is 20 minutes away and sit in the carpool lane. For my kids, especially my dawdler child, having a 6 minute walk to school has saved my sanity on more days than I can count.
- We are lucky to live near a great neighborhood school. It is plain vanilla, and I really like vanilla. My kids may not be fluent in French or learning how to play in the orchestra- but they are in a school that meets their educational needs very well. If I look at the bigger picture, that is something that hundreds of thousands of families on our own country, let alone the rest of the world, would be so grateful for.
- My kids play with the friends they go to school with. Playdates are easy. We live four blocks from the elementary school, where the majority of families walk to school. That means there are plenty of kids to play with. The old fashioned “just knock on the door playdate” is a daily pleasure.
- Their school is in our neighborhood, which means that their school is part of the neighborhood. Their field trips have included walking to the nearby grocery store, bank and local parks, as well as the nearby middle and high school. The kids get the picture that they are a part of a school, and thus part of a bigger community. On weekends and during the summer, we have run into the gym teacher at the store and other teachers at the nearby YMCA. I love that “Beaver Cleaver” sense of community.
- There is no perfect school. Any school is going to have its good points and its bad points. Whether it is administrative decisions that don’t seem to make sense or a teacher that does not seem to be the best fit for my child, there is no school that is going to be the perfect combination of Mr. Rogers and Harvard every day. Part of my job is to help my kid navigate the less than ideal circumstances in life, and teach them to figure things out. Sometimes, the best opportunities show up when things are not what we expected.
So that, in a nutshell, is how we figured out what works for our family. Some days I really do wish my kids wore uniforms or could speak French or could do all kinds of other things because I know they are missing out on something. But the same could be said for any other choice I could make. In the end, as mothers we do our best. And that is enough.