Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Kindergarten Question

Oh, it seems like just yesterday I was posting about The Preschool Question. Time is flying by, to say the least. I was looking at J the other day, sprawled in his PBK anywhere chair that used to engulf him and now he can only fit in with his legs hanging over the arms, reading a pictureless book, his arm behind his head just like TH...yeah, time is flying.

We've started looking into kindergartens for J, and as expected it's a bit of a decision-making dilemma. TH and I are both proud products of public schools, and we have nothing against J just going to the school closest to us. But there are factors. Lots of factors.

  • The Clark County School District (CCSD) is one of the worst in the nation. There's no getting around that. I know they're trying alot of different things to remedy that ranking, and that it's not as big of a deal for the younger grades, but it's a factor. From a cost standpoint we are 99% sure we'll have to go with some sort of public school, but we have to choose carefully. Luckily for us, the area where we live has very good CCSD schools. So if we stay in this area, it shouldn't be a huge issue. (God I sound so snobby! "If we stay in this area." I just lost all my hood cred. Oh well.)
  • Money. Paying for both kids this year (full-time preschool and 3/4 time daycare for Jr.) was an eye-opener. We spent over 10% of our income on childcare this year. And our daycare is "cheap!" We've run the numbers several times and I just can't see how we could afford a true private school. We're scraping by paying for preschool as it is. Although J will be in an "all-day" program next year wherever he is, we will still have to pay for after-school care as "all-day" in kindergarten means until 2:30pm. And like most working folks, we don't get off at 2:30pm.
  • Location. This is the one giving us the most trouble. Right now, things are fairly simple because J's preschool is adjacent to TH's job, so he just rides to school every day with Daddy. I take Jr. to daycare, which is only 10minutes from my job. However. It's still a big triangle because we don't LIVE near either of our jobs. So if we send J to the public school nearest our house, we will have to coordinate that with work schedules and getting him picked up after school and finding a new daycare situation for the afterschool hours. There's no way logistically that he could go to the same daycare as Jr. (near my job). We've found a couple of other charter schools that we like, but again they're not really near either of our jobs. We hate the idea of the kids having to spend hours of their day commuting with us. So that's a factor.
  • J. He's a factor. I've alluded to it before, and I'm not really going to go into detail about it here because I don't want to come off as one of those "My kid's so gifted, he can't go to regular school because he's so SPESHUL" kind of moms. But after many talks with his preschool director and teachers, we know that J needs a challenging academic environment. They are already talking about skipping grades at some point, which I am pretty much against. I'd rather find a school that is challenging enough for him to stay with his peers throughout. This is a tough one. We've gone on a couple open-houses at some of these "challenger" type schools, and OMG, THE OTHER PARENTS. Good Lord. I told TH for some of these people parenting is like a contact sport. Everyone so hyper-competetive, rattling off their kids' accomplishments as if they should already have a resume. I can't stand it. I know what J needs and I want him to be in that setting academically, but I hate all the jockeying and elbowing that goes along with some of these schools.

As of now, we've narrowed it down to two schools.

School A is our local elementary school. Pros: It's brand-new. As in, construction just finished and the school opened this past fall. Therefore it's nowhere near capacity yet, so the class size is small. It's near our house, so on my off days during the week, drop-off/pick-up will be easy. It's a beautiful school in a very nice foothilly type area, with no major roads or commercial districts nearby. So far, the plan is for this school to have a science/math "emphasis" and all of the teachers/administrators are very enthusiastic and dedicated. All-day kindergarten is offered, although on days when we both work we'll have to figure out the 2:30pm-5:30pm gray area. I think there's some kind of afterschool program but I'm not sure of the cost.

Cons: It's brand-new. There's no track record yet. We don't know anyone who's actually sent their kids there, so it's a complete unknown at this point. There are lots of plans and agendas and goals as far as the curriculum, but only time will tell if it's really going to be All That. It's near our house - great on my off days, worrisome when I work. On those days we'll need before-school care as well as I usually have to have Jr. dropped off at his daycare (nowhere near the school) and myself at work by 8am. If J gets sick or something and needs to be picked up, it would be a hike for either of us.

School B: Public charter school. We visited a couple of weeks ago and LOVED the vibe. Pros: It's a "Science and Technology Academy" with a proven track record. All of the kids there seemed to love their classes. The projects they were working on were impressive. The kids get computer/technology instruction from day one, as well as foreign language. They also don't ignore the other subjects, meaning there are art and music classes, which is VERY important to me. It's a public charter, so it's free, and they do offer before/after school care which is reasonably priced. It's not exactly near TH's job but it's on the way, easily accessible to his commute. The classes are small and the teachers top-notch. If J gets in, as a sibling Jr. will be able to get in easier later.

Cons: It's a public charter with small class sizes, which means the only way to get in is The Dreaded Lottery. There's no interviewing or campaigning, which I like, but it's completely out of our control. The parents I met were still on the HyperCompetitive side but I think that goes with the charter territory. It's in a very busy area, right by the highway and alot of shops/commercial stuff. Not a bad part of town by any means, but the location makes me a little nervous. It only goes up to 2nd grade, and then kids continuing on with this charter go to a different campus for 3rd-5th grade, and then a different campus for middle school.

As it stands, if J gets into School B with the lottery, that's where he'll go. There's just ALOT to figure out, as usual. Our little baby, going to kindergarten, I can't believe it...


JenFen said...

It sounds like you have it figured out. If he gets into the charter, great and if not, the public sounds like a really good alternative. In our area there are a lot of in-home daycare and preschools that offer pickup from school and after school programs so I am sure you will be able to find something that works.

BUT yes when did our May 06 BABIES so big that we are all figuring out kindergarten. Sheesh.

JenFen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lindsay said...

Obviously, I love this post. =)

How does the lottery work? When would you find out?

I was actually thinking about J when we were talking with the Lower School head at The School last week. He was describing the flexibility of their reading curriculum, and I thought, "yeah, that's for kids like J who have been reading for a while!"

LauraC said...

This entire head spinning post is the reason we moved.... we were going through the same thing (not with the advanced reading but with the choices and pros and cons). So instead I did research on what school would fit all my must haves and then freaking bought a new house in that neighborhood. Not sure I would recommend this method or not.

Joanna said...

We are really limited on our affordable choices for Kindergarten. By limited, I mean we'll be registering at the local public school in March because it's the only realistic option at the moment.

I'll be honest, we didn't expect to be in this situation. We fully expected to move before Michael started school and our big debate was between two school districts. Then, the housing market crashed. Even though we are lucky to not be underwater on a mortgage, we couldn't sell for a high enough amount to make moving into either of those school districts reasonable for another year or two.

But I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Our school district sucks at the high school level, but the grade schools vary by neighborhood. (Which is disgraceful). The kindergarten Michael will go to is the best one in the district.

Something that I have tried to keep in mind is that while I know that Michael will need a more challenging curriculum, I'm not sure exactly what kind of needs he's going to have. I'm guessing that K and 1st grade are going to be full of surprises for both his teachers and for us. Hopefully, we'll have all the bumps worked out when when can afford to move, and then we'll have a better idea of which school district will be the best fit for him.

As for the competitive parents. Yikes. Kindergarten seems a little young to be starting with that crap.