I was not one of those parents who got on preschool waitlists while pregnant, touring every school in my neighborhood and enrolling my son at the most academically rigorous one we could find. Nope, not by a long shot. I'm a single, freelance working mother, and I needed a preschool that fit three specific criteria: affordable, flexible hours, close to home. It was preschool, for goodness sake, not SAT prep, so a safe place where he could play and learn how to take turns would do just fine. We found it and our preschool experience has been fantastic, but now kindergarten looming on the horizon this fall is freaking me out!
I had moved to this school district for my son to attend the public language immersion school and after their information night, I was sold. Let's do this! Where do I sign? Unfortunately, hundreds of other equally stressed-looking parents felt exactly the same way, resulting in a school lottery for very limited space. Looking at the numbers, hundreds of children apply for what amounts to less than 20 spaces. Yikes! Better have a backup plan.
I looked around my district. Private school was out, too expensive. There was a newer language immersion school, our local home school, or the elementary school in the district with the highest test scores. I have attended roughly ten kindergarten info nights, tours and open houses in the past month. I'm exhausted!
Here's the thing…most kindergarten classes seem great. Educational and fun, there was no shortage of art, music, math and reading. It wasn't until I looked at an older classroom that my parental fear was triggered.
Observing a 4 th grade class, I saw a teacher put a grammar lesson up on the projector. Being a writer and self-proclaimed word nerd, I caught an error, a verb being used in the wrong tense. I read it and reread it hoping that maybe it was part of the lesson for the children to correct the sentence. Even at home that night I tried to convince myself that I misunderstood the context and that it wasn't really the blatant error I had thought. But a sinking feeling in my stomach told me that I hadn't. I lay awake gripped by fear that my son would end up unable to read or write proper English and that my choice of elementary school would forever mar his chances of becoming a productive, successful adult. Would he end up illiterate and unemployable? Co-sleeping with me at age 35? All because I chose the wrong elementary school?
Once the fear abated, I realized this: I was doing my best to look at as many options as I could, and your school can only do so much. I can't control what or how the teachers teach, and no school is perfect. What I can control is my involvement. I vowed right then to be a continuing presence within my son's education, both in the classroom and at home. I know now that wherever we end up going to kindergarten, I am fully committed to getting and giving him the best education I possibly can. So right now, I just have to take a breath and have a little faith that he will turn out just fine. Right? Isn't that what we as parents have to challenge ourselves to do on a daily basis?
How did you choose your child's school?
-Diane Mizota, Host of This Week in M.O.M