Which Way to Kindergarten?

Much ink has been dedicated to the “-ber baby” conundrum. For parents of preschoolers, the big question is often “Do I send my child this year, or wait until next?”

We’re not having that debate. Our daughter has a summer birthday and is emotionally, academically, and physically ready for kindergarten (even though she’s a peanut!). Our debate is whether to keep her in her current elementary, where she is a magnet pre-kindergartner, or to bring her to our neighborhood school.

Both public schools have their merits. On one hand, her current experience has been amazing. The curriculum focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), they have Suzuki violin each week (she plays on a prototype – a mac n’ cheese box with a ruler for the neck and rubber bands for strings), and she is especially fond of her buddies and gym teacher.We love the idea of STEM, especially because her mathematical and creative mind are apparent, even at four years old. As a consultant in transportation, environmental, and community planning, I have a window into the real-world application of these disciplines, and the future is bright. Furthermore, my husband and I aren’t strong in any of these, so we welcome the exposure and confidence-boosting at school. None of this means she will be a scientist or an engineer, but I love her school day integrates the fundamentals. (As a stronger artist and writer, I never felt confident in science or math. Or maybe that was a learned thought pattern…)

A mighty little bus for a mighty little girl.
A mighty little bus for a mighty little girl.

Her school is very diverse. It’s a veritable melting pot of students. It mirrors the real world.

She takes a little bus to school. She likes it but let’s be honest – the bus is good for my schedule. It buys another hour of a work day and doesn’t require us shelling out for after-school care.

Lastly, because she’s a magnet student, we can move within town and she keeps her spot. There is a fair chance this’ll happen in the next couple of years.

On the other hand, we live two blocks from our neighborhood school (this was a big reason we bought our house). We play at the playground on the weekends. We live on a street with no less than five other children entering kindergarten. Everyone has good things to say about it. It’s a true neighborhood school, which is what my own childhood memories are made of, and it was wonderful. We fear that if we don’t bring her to this school, she’ll be left out of our little community.

Then again, we’ll lose the diversity, the STEM focus, the bus time, and the violin. (Anyone can call my bluff on this violin business. I NEVER make her practice, I just think it’s so cool she’s learning an instrument!!)

Each day, Dave and I flip-flop. One day, I’m feeling School A, he’s feeling School B. The next day, we completely reverse. We’re not in disagreement, we’re together in limbo, waiting for the AHA! moment. We’ve been to both schools, and will attend both parent nights this Spring, searching for clarity.

At the end of the day, she’ll be at a great school. She’ll make friends and we’ll build community wherever we choose. I can’t say how the academics will shape her life. Maybe they won’t!

Anyone been down this road and have words of advice?

8 thoughts on “Which Way to Kindergarten?

  1. Yes, we’ve been in this exact position as well. We had the benefit of experiencing both, and made the decision to go with the CREC magnet school. My oldest child went to our local elementary – he loved it, we loved it, no problemo. When his sisters came along, we entered them into the lottery because, hey! free full-day preschool! We felt very lucky to have gotten into our first choice. So, for a couple years our kids were in split schools…the girls in the magnet preschool and my son in our local elementary school. My son started seeing the “extras” in his sisters’ school (more diversity, field trips, technology, ect) and actually asked to transfer. This is our first school year with all 3 kids in the magnet and it has been wonderful, with the diversity being of particular importance to us. I have nothing bad to say about our local district school, but the magnet just offers all the typical stuff plus more. I’ve actually found more of a community feel from the magnet than I did with our neighborhood school. And my kids still have neighborhood friends whom they’ve connected with via camp, dance class, town sports, ect. I’d be happy to chat more about it if you’d like!

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  2. I have very strong feelings about keeping kids in as few schools as possible. Staff members spend a lot of time working on the transitions from one grade to another and building on what their colleagues developed the year before. My own boys have been in multiple schools due to circumstances beyond my control – and they have suffered. My point – if you’re thinking of moving in the future, this might be something you want to consider. Although… I cherish the memories of waiting for the bus each morning with my neighborhood gang…

    Thinking of moving west? 😉

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    1. Ahh Becky – so good to hear from you here! Thanks for your perspective….but then the curveball about fun neighborhood memories mimics my feelings exactly!

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      1. The neighbors will still be there regardless if which school. We have 2 kids my son’s age (stay at home) on our street less than 2 blocks from a good elementary, but we are going magnet becuase it’s full day pre-k and honestly how else would we swing that (my neighborhood pre-k is only 3 hours, either am or pm). His friends will still be here weekends and summers as they have been, but he’ll have new friends at a great school as well. Plus, again, we can always switch if needed.

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  3. I haven’t experienced this yet but I wonder, what is your gut feeling? Do you have one? Like deep down inside? From your post it sounds like you want to stay at the magnet school!

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  4. Yes! Last year at this time my husband and I were having the exact same debate. We chose the magnet school for the same reasons you mention above (diversity and STEM) and because our kindergartener is our oldest child and we want to be able to send our younger children to the magnet school pre school program (at a minimum) without having to experience the nightmare that is the CREC lottery. We further rationalized, if we are ever not satisfied with the magnet school, we always have the option of transferring to the neighborhood school – and that street only goes one way. Lucky us to have the “problem” of choosing between two really good schools. At this point, we LOVE our magnet school and don’t feel like we’re missing out on the community connection as the children are involved with extracurriculars in town and keep up the neighborhood crew of kids. We’ll see what happens down the road. Good luck with your decision!!

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    1. Yes Anissa! Thank you for sharing your experience, and good point about the extracurriculars to reinforce that community fabric outside of school.

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