Next school year, our precious little angel will be a kindergartner. It’s not our first kindergarten rodeo, but it is my first time feeling pressure to choose the perfect school for her. What’s worse is that the expectation of what it means to “shop around” for schools is quite excessive for my schedule. I don’t have time to plan 5-7 campus tours and sit-down conversations with recruiters and admissions folks. The task feels too much like choosing a college, and I’m just not convinced that macaroni artwork and googly-eyed toilet paper rolls require all of that.
Foundations are important though, so I could never pretend like what happens in kindergarten is irrelevant. It’s not. I know it isn’t, and that’s what keeps me up at night. I know what I’d like my daughter’s primary school experiences to be, and I worry because there are a limited number of schools in the city that could provide it–none of which are in my zip code.
Enter anxiety trigger number two…I believe in traditional ISD public schools. I learned in them, graduated from them, volunteered in them, and taught in them. It’s my belief that what I want for my child should be available to me in my district, in my zip code, and in my neighborhood school. To be quite honest, I’m very disappointed that it’s not, but because it isn’t, I am considering enrolling my soon-to-be kindergartner in a public charter school, a traditional ISD public school not in my district (thank you, in-district charters), or a private school. The amount of cognitive dissonance I feel is truly weighing on me because I know what happens to neighborhood schools when people start leaving. I don’t want to contribute to that breakdown, but I also want what I want for my daughter NOW.
I’m not asking for forgiveness in the event that I don’t “go public” despite being a vocal pro-public advocate, nor am I concerned about outside opinions on the decisions we make regarding our children’s education. What I want is to figure out how to rid myself of this worry. I don’t see it happening anytime soon though because now we’re awaiting the results of lotteries and other barriers to the program we want for Lil’ Miss.
Semi-relatedly, I’m struggling with the prevailing idea that kindergarten should be as rigorous as other grade levels to “prepare” children. I think it’s misguided, and I really don’t want her in a place that kills her thirst for learning and love of the outdoors. Her experiences thus far have been engaging and dynamic. That’s what they should be like everywhere, and I’m not confident that it will remain the same in the coming year.
The last, but certainly not least, anxiety inducer for me relates to the school’s culture. Having been in a number of schools that lack cultural proficiency from administration to faculty, I am extremely worried about my daughter’s experiences as a young Black girl navigating in a world that has preconceived ideas about her abilities and attitude. She hasn’t been exposed to teachers who have low expectations of her, and as much as I would like to ensure she never is, I cannot guarantee it. I spend my time thinking about how I will address it when the inevitable occurs, and it makes me want to homeschool instead.
Several things are still up in the air for now, but I’m doing what I can to mitigate the most common negative experiences I’ve witnessed or experienced with our first child. If I could snap my fingers and fix the issues that plague public schools, I would not hesitate. The varied quality of education within our city makes it so difficult to ensure that our daughter has the best experience she needs. We’ve been so fortunate with preschool programs, but the pressure is on for K-12, and I just don’t know what we’re going to get.