We have exhausted the “research” phase and now have to make a decision. This year our daughters will enter Kindergarten and 1st grade, and we are choosing our neighborhood public school. This has made me ponder what new experiences they will have at a new school. We want our girls to love school, have nice friends, good teachers, and place where they feel and are safe. Perhaps the very fact that we are going through this process can reveal some best practices for other parents.
Here are some of the broad topics we discussed when making our public school choice.
Education Starts at Home
It starts with my husband and I showing up every day. As parents, we are the foundation of education. If we care and value school and education, our children will also. The responsibility of education lies as much in our hands as with our wonderful teachers. It can be argued that children are prepared for school when they feel safe, are well rested, and have a healthy diet. However, children are also more prepared for school when we are actively involved in their education. Going through their book bags every night, attending PTA meetings, talking to their teachers, and asking about their school work. These activities alone will aid in their success.
All too often my children ARE the diversity at an event or gathering. Although we seek out diverse events, we often hang out with friends and family who are primarily white. A personal mothering goal of mine is to recognize my own limitations as a white woman raising strong black women. With that I ask, what implicit biases are we using to make this decision? What is the balance of diversity, class sizes, school funding, and location?
No school test scores can encompass the lessons learned from a diverse educational setting. These soft skills are important. Learning humility comes from having empathy for others. Learning how to talk and accept people for their own strengths is education. Helping others become the best version of themselves is a skill I value just as much as Algebra. After touring and visiting our neighborhood school, we saw the halls speckled with children of all colors, socio-economic levels, and ability, and we love it!
Our neighborhood school is only 0.6 miles away which is a 12 min walk from our home. We currently spend 60-90 min per day transporting our children to school and home. I enjoy daydreaming about the ease of our family logistics next year. My office is only a few short minutes away, and I love knowing I can have lunch with them, or simply be there immediately in case of an emergency. Additionally, walks to school give me more time to talk with my kids and get in tune with how things are going. These are all little things I’ve never benefited from before.
Let’s be honest, childcare/private school is expensive. A quick flip through our taxes reveals we have paid over $65,000 on childcare in the past 6 years. When the girls were very young and in childcare, I worked two 12-hour shifts/wk as a registered nurse. Since the hospital directly withdrew the expenses from my paycheck there were months when I only earned a couple of hundred dollars. I was lucky to have a job that I loved, but it certainly made me think twice before taking a shift reduction. With this new financial freedom, we can now give, spend, and save in different ways.
We are desperate for our children to have a wonderful school experience. However, this decision is ultimately more about us than about them. Knowing how kind, resilient, poised, and confident our daughters are reminds me that they will be ok no matter what school we choose. When my anxiety kicks in and I feel unsure and reluctant, I remind myself that behind every great kid there is a mom who thinks they are screwing them up. Here’s to my mom tribe…who are winging it, rooting on some super amazing kids.