How did you choose your school? What factors did you look at?
I remember being a ball of stress about which school to pick. I started researching schools when my daughter was two years old (yes, that early) and became an “expert” at the local school systems. I visited all of the local schools in the surrounding districts. I learned about the education styles. I researched the preschools to make sure my kid would get the preparation they needed for success in elementary school. I researched how long it would take to drive my kids versus put them on a bus, and what time I would need to get out of the house. I made sure I was living in the “right” school district or close enough to surrounding school districts to drive. I was fortunate that I started early so we could move. I spent sleepless nights preparing for a career for myself that is flexible so that I could drive, just in case. I thought deeply about how to provide and fund a Jewish education, and include my family language heritage in the mix. I discussed every option with my husband and the parents in my playgroups. I listened to and offered a lot of bad and good advice. Maybe this was your experience, too.
When I did my research, I found out I could choose from: Reggio, Montessori, Waldorf, classical, charter, public, independent, International Baccalaureate, language immersion, online, STEM, STEAM, arts, early start or late start times, Jewish day school, unschool and homeschool, social justice, forestry school, extracurriculars, outdoor/experiential education, boarding school…(deep breath)…we can choose a school that has great attention to neurodiversity and ADA accommodation, no bullying, lots of clubs, sports, high parent involvement, and low teacher to student ratios. Or high ones. Technology for every student. Uniforms. School board involvement. Bussing or carpool to and from school and extracurriculars. Open enrollment or lottery. Scholarships. An endowment. An alumni association. A specially marketed brand that fits my family. The song and dance that the school does to attract parents also mattered.
In the end, all my effort didn’t matter. What mattered was the fact that my daughter made a bestie at school and had said that they would be friends forever. She had friends who would play with her during recess and eat with her at lunch. She started a “Jewish Club” with her friends and taught everyone about her heritage. She found success in learning math and reading. She discovered a love for art blended with science. She made more friends, which brought on play dates and new family friends. She looked forward to summer break and when school would start anew. She is going to help her sister find her place when she starts kindergarten this year. I may have found the school, but my daughter did the work to establish our roots and I am forever grateful. She found our family’s community and that is what mattered.