Step 2 - REFLECT: Page 2

Thursday
Jul012010

What Will Work for My Family?

This page covers:

  • Practical considerations in your school search
  • Finding a school that works for the whole family
  • Guiding questions to ask yourself in the decision process

Another round of creating a vision comes with considering your family’s resources and the lifestyle shifts you are willing to make.  Before getting started, and especially before considering schools across town or that charge tuition, take some time to figure out your boundaries in the following categories:

Money

The most obvious resource issue is money.  Try to take a hard cold look at what your boundaries are on costs. Can you afford to consider private school, or would you qualify for tuition assistance?  Can you afford to pay for full time kindergarten ($200-300 a month for schools that do not get supplemental federal Title 1 funding - yes, for public school - sad to say this is the reality in Oregon) if that is what offered at the school where you end up? Do you need to factor in costs for before or after school care?

Also look ahead to future expenses as well.  Do you have thoughts of considering private school for high school?  What about (drum roll please) college tuition?   

Transportation

Transportation is a money, time, and availability issue.   Can you swing driving your child to school every day?  Transfer students are not bussed to their non-neighborhood school, so this must be considered if you are looking outside of your neighborhood.  Going to a school that is a schlep can also impact your family’s involvement and sense of connection to that school, and can make play dates a real hassle.  Especially in the case of neighborhood schools, commuting in from another neighborhood can impact your family’s chances to be socially spontaneous, and also affect your sense of connection with your own neighbors.

The counter argument to all this of course is that a great fit school is worth it, and there are carpools in almost every situation.  But without a doubt, going to a school far away will impact your and your child’s lifestyle, so take a clear look before you leap.

Finding a Whole-Family Fit

Another thing to consider is the collective interest of your family.  It is tempting to engineer a decision around that first child entering school, with the second or third child only as an afterthought. (We’ve been guilty of this one!)  But take a look at your other children, and assuming that you are hoping to put all your kids in the same school, do your best to make the decision with all of them in mind.

More: Sibling Rivalry & School - Learning to Live with Differences

What about the culture you are looking for as a parent?  The ideal situation is of course a community that the whole family can buy into – where your values will be echoed in the halls and homes of your new school.  What do you need to feel comfortable and excited to get involved, to find your tribe?

And on the subject of “whole-family fit” keep in mind that your co-parenting partner might have different notions than you.  Getting on the same page might take hours of conversation and will force you both to hone your vision and eloquently advocate for it – not always an easy task!

Note: There are Pros & Cons when you join a self-selected school community - whether in a Private School or a Non-Traditional School.

Leave Yourself Some Flexibility

All this said, give yourself a backdoor.  Many of our friends have set boundaries in place, only to visit a school and feel the cosmic pull that their child belongs there, and the plan is adjusted.  You’ll have ideals and you’ll have realities, but in the end some compromise or another will probably be made in the school decision, so leave yourself room to change your mind as you go through the process.

Keep the questions swirling around in your head.  Eventually you’ll start to feel the answers in your gut…

  • What resources – time, energy, money – do you have to put towards a good-fit school?
  • Do you have family or friends that could help you with transportation, money, or child care if need be? 
  • What are the common things that all your children need in a school?
  • What are the features of a community that you, the parents, would feel excited to join?
  • Which of these are deal breakers, and which are guidelines for you in your school decision?

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