Who would have thought that picking a school for our kids would make me feel like I was back in 8th grade again?? It’s a constant whirl of asking people what they are doing and having people watch us, or so it feels. It’s the constant going over of priorities in my head, what really matters to me I ask myself so many times in a day, and then so quickly I feel undermined by what other people are doing, next year, last week, in three years to come. Some of this is surely my own baggage, but as with everything else in parenthood my school-picking journey has been fraught with wondering how people will see me/us; I really am clear about what matters to me, my parents were public school teachers and then principles in New York City. My brother and I went to public schools in New York from kindergarten on, and it was a rich experience. We met people of all kinds, though I am still struck by the fact that the friends we became the closest with were so much like us. We were driven into East Harlem from K-8 to attend Deborah Meir schools (for those of you who don’t know, Debbie Meir received a MacArthur grant for her establishment of educational institutions in New York and then in Boston) and yet we remained the closest with the kids on our bus, the ones who lived in neighborhoods more like ours.
For numerous reasons, my family doesn’t feel that our neighborhood school is a good fit. I have a lot of anger that my kid’s neighborhood school is not a choice after having been the kid whose own parents never went on a school trip with me because they were teaching other people’s children. I feel like a good school should be a choice within easy reach and it’s not, really, in so many places in Philadelphia. We are waiting on the lottery to get us into one of the three public schools that we like from afar and that is a scary place to be. The obvious next issue is where we will live if/when the lottery doesn’t go our way and so I spend lots of hours in the night worrying about the slippery slope of it all. I am, on the one hand, dropping my jaw in horror at the tuitions our friends are shelling out for pre-K, even, many people we meet in Fairmount openly say that they had just one kid so that they could afford to carry on at such high rates of tuition for their child. But I am also somehow judging the people we know who move out to the ‘burbs. How, how, how will we live by our values and within our means when we too choose to move beyond our neighborhood school and try to opt in elsewhere?
[edited 2/22/2010, added “by anonymous” for clarification–Len]