The responsibilities of being a parent never cease to amaze me and, I’ll admit, frighten me. Now that I am a parent of a preschooler, the responsibilities have shifted to tasks that are just as scary in my opinion. It’s no longer enough to just enough to keep her alive and love her like during her infancy. It’s my job now to make sure that she is educated and getting the most out of her learning experiences.
In my opinion, it is a parent’s duty to set their child up for success in school starting as early as possible. My husband and I have always read to her, even when she didn’t want to sit still as a toddler. We’ve been singing her the ABC song and exposing her to as much learning as she can stand. She knows how to write her name and can write most letters on her own. I’m so proud! Things like math and tying her shoes (does she even need this anymore?) are coming along slowly but surely. To her credit, she is a sponge and so eager to learn everything she can.
This fall we will send our girl off into the world of kindergarten. When we moved into our house five years ago, the school system in our new town was considered very good. Our house fell into one of the top schools in the district so we felt confident that we would send our child to the schools in town. And since my husband is a high school teacher in the town, we figured it would be great to be able to keep an eye on her later on as she navigated her teen years. Not to mention all the spies teacher friends throughout the district that could help us keep tabs on her too.
Fast forward to the year before kindergarten. We now have a school system that is considered one of the 30 worst in the state and a budget that is likely getting cut rather than bolstered. I always assumed that my daughter would go to the public school in the town where we lived. I went to the public school in the town I grew up in, so did my husband. What was supposed to be an easy, already made decision is now causing me stress.
Private schools are out of the question due to high tuition costs. We could move to a different town, one with a better school system. Unfortunately the school system and the economy in general are having a severe effect on property values in our town. If we could even find a buyer, we would be losing money on our house now. That leaves us with two choices. 1. Send her to the local neighborhood school and hope for a turnaround, or 2. Roll the dice and apply for admission to one of Capital Regional Education Council (CREC) magnet schools.
In case you are unfamiliar with magnet schools you can read more about them here. They are basically regional public schools that offer special theme-based curriculum to suburban and urban students in a diverse setting. There is no tuition to attend and admission is done through a lottery. The deadline to apply for next year was January 31st. Of course, since I wait until the last-minute for everything, I was looking at the different school options online on the morning of January 31st.
There were so many options to choose from in elementary schools. Most of them are Hartford based, with others in locations such as Bloomfield and East Hartford. The themes of each school run the gamut, from science and technology to performing arts to global citizenship, even medical professions (I know-in elementary school?!). That was the hardest part when I was choosing my preferred schools. What theme would my girl be most comfortable with as she grew and developed through the elementary years. They don’t call them the formative years for nothing. Right now, she loves dancing and playing pretend and dress up, so is a performing arts school the way to go? How do I know if she would thrive in a science and technology environment? She can barely work her Leap Pad now, but should that limit her future career path? This is a big deal.
In the end, I went with my gut and chose three very different selections. I’m still not 100% sure that a magnet school is the way to go but at least now, if she does get accepted into one, I will have the right of first refusal. If she doesn’t get in, then I’m no worse off than I was, right? The one thing I do know is that her education is going to be so much more than I experienced. She is going to be exposed to technology, global perspectives, and diversity that didn’t even exist or, dare I say, matter when I was in elementary school. I’m nervous and excited for her at the same time.
While I’m waiting for the lottery results though, I think I’ll head over to the Hooked on Phonics website and see if they’re having a sale on their learn-to-read manuals. Maybe homeschooling is the way to go? Ugh! Such decisions!