It’s not a big deal. I know this intellectually. But these are my preschool twins who are going into public kindergarten next fall in Montclair. My heartstrings are being pulled in six different directions in the following order: Nishuane, Northeast, Bradford, Bullock, Watchung and Edgemont. Emotionally, sending them into the wilds of kindergarten is monumental. So choosing the perfect academic setting has become, for me, all consuming.
I want to pick the perfect school that fits three criteria: It’s best for them; it’s best for me; and it jives with our family’s interests and schedules.
I am giving up three mornings this week to visit all six elementaries. (I’ll visit Hillside on April 12.) Each school hosts two tours per morning. The first and second tours start so closely together that it’s difficult to see two schools per day. But yesterday through Wednesday, I’m pushing through two visitations even if I have to leave the first one early. (I skedaddled out of Bullock on Monday). Every school is open all week, see the schedule here, but I can’t devote five days to this endeavor. It’s too overwhelming. Anyway, I need to work, go to the gym, and like, have a life.
So I strategized. I’m seeing two schools that are close together on the same mornings: Bullock and Nishuane on Monday, Northeast and Bradford on Tuesday, Edgemont and Watchung on Wednesday. Before I started this process, Nishuane was my favorite, so I saw it on Day 1. Bullock was low on my list–until I toured it. Now I think it’s amazing, too. In need of more tips, I asked seasoned parents. They told me to visit my favorite schools during the day when the kids are there and do night tours of schools on the bottom of my list. Secondly, they advised me to keep my mouth shut around PTA members because even before you get into a school, they’ll start recruiting for volunteer projects. (After just two tours, I can attest that the latter is true, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m just saying.)
Everyone who’s been through this process tells me the same thing: “All the schools are great.” It’s true, and I’m lucky, but this standard platitude offers me little comfort. I still have to do the research and make some choices. These choices will determine the direction and location of my twins and their little brother for the next eight years.
Once I’ve seen all of the schools, I’ll post how my favorites have changed and why. Then I’ll bite my nails until July 15 when I find out which school we get into. Read about the Board of Ed’s school assignment system here.
Sure, we’ll be fine wherever we land. My head knows that. But these are my first-born children. It’s difficult to grasp that they’ve almost reached this milestone (which means I’m five and a half years older, too). Anyway, in preschool, I got to make the rules. MMO Programs let me keep my kids home whenever I needed to, and homework was optional. In public school, parents and kids must follow all rules. It’s so, for lack of a better word, institutional.
So off I go today to Northeast and Bradford. They are among my favorites. Granted, my favorites are based on hearsay, friendships and start times. This is why I’m going to all the schools. I need to get my choices straight based on the right reasons instead of gossip. So while I keep telling myself that the kindergarten tours aren’t a big deal, my emotions are telling me quite the opposite.