Claire is 5 and will be attending Kindergarten next fall. The moms at preschool are starting to talk about which school everyone is going to end up at and oh! maybe these two will be in the same class? And a whole lot of them are talking about the dual language program and are you going to do it?
Our district offers a dual language program that starts in Kindergarten and it’s fairly competitive to get into/fills up fast from what I hear. (I have no idea what “hard to get into” means, but other parents keep saying it.) I am told that basically the students are instructed in English one day and the next day they switch classrooms/teachers and lessons are taught in Spanish. 50/50, all year long, all lessons. This is the extent of my knowledge of the program. (There is a parent information meeting at the end of the month I’m planning to attend.)
I have talked casually with parents who have older kids in the program, parents enrolling kids in the program for the first time like I might be, and my neighbor is even one of the TEACHERS in the district for this program. Kindergarten, even! Nobody (NOBODY!) has had even the slightest glimmer of anything negative to say about the program. They all love it and actually won’t shut up about it once started. I find that this is rare for just about anything, but for nobody to say something negative about a PUBLIC SCHOOL program? Even when I ask, “Is there anything you don’t like about it?” That feels a little noteworthy to me.
Another important note: You may get OUT of the program at any time (I think) but you cannot get IN. You join at Kindergarten and your child is supposed to stick with it for the long term to get the most benefit. You can’t join in third grade.
So, everyone thinks it’s great and the kids learn very quickly and the district is supporting the program through high school. Languages! Woo! It sounds like a good thing to try since it’s offered at the elementary school we are zoned for and who doesn’t want to put extra opportunities to succeed in front of her child? After all, if it’s terrible and we hate it we can quit.
The elementary school we are zoned for (that offers the dual language program) is one mile away. It’s not that far, really, but there’s a four lane busy road with a speed limit of 40 that most of the walk is on. There are several streets to cross and no crossing guards until you get to the school. It’s a bit too far for a five year old to walk alone, and there’s not bus service until you live two miles away. So, I’d have to drive her to school. Every day. What that really means is I’d have to drive Claire, Charlotte and Preston to school every day. And then I’d have to put everyone back in the car that afternoon. Every day. For a one-mile trip.
Sure, I could walk it somedays (I do have a double BOB after all) but let’s be serious and admit that October is the only fun month to walk around outside in Texas and the rest of the time it’s either cold, wet, or the surface of the sun. I am not super excited about walking two miles (and one way is a steepish uphill) pushing 100 pounds of kids and stroller, on the surface of the sun. I would wuss out and drive most days. Perhaps you would not? Then you are a better person than I am. Here, let me give you a towel to wipe up all your sweat.
But it IS the school we’re zoned for and it happens to be “good” (I am still not quite sure what that means) and it has the dual language program. All good, desirable things. Surely Claire would get good instruction in long division at this school.
If we send Claire to this school, then three days a week I will have Charlotte and Preston in the car with forty minutes to kill before Charlotte can be dropped off at preschool. Not really enough time to go home again and unbuckle everyone just to re-buckle 20 minutes later, too much time to tool around town. It’s a bit of an awkward schedule.
Ten houses away, and across one street with a trio of very vigilant crossing guards and a police officer to nab fast drivers in the school zone, there is another elementary school. We are not zoned for this school. We are about four houses too far away to be officially within their zone. When the children are on the playground and I am standing in my front yard, I can HEAR THEM playing. We are very close to this campus. (TEN HOUSES!)
This school is also “good” (again, whatever that means) but it does not offer the dual language program.
I would be very comfortable walking Claire to this school (it would take less than 10 minutes round-trip) and in a year or so even sending her out the door on her bike by herself. It’s SO close and we are only three houses from the school zone part of the road where the speed drops to 20. Drivers would not be going fast near her. It is a well-supervised intersection with a light and it is always busy with lots of kids (the middle school is actually right next door to it, so we will end up walking over there in a couple of years anyway). And I would walk her over there anyway next year, for Kindergarten, with the two littles in the double BOB.
If Claire goes to this school, then three days a week I will take Charlotte to preschool by car an hour later. We will come home, get out of the stroller, finish up breakfast or whatever, go to preschool. Our district is an open enrollment district and I think I can easily get her into this school with a single signature on a form come June.
As I am writing this I feel like I’m placing a lot of emphasis on how much I DON’T want to do multiple cycles of get into the car/ get out of the car per day. But really, that’s a hard thing for me! It takes a lot of time and it can be frustrating and also, precious fossil fuels being wasted. If you have small people I think you’ll understand and if you don’t have small people then just trust me. Buckling everyone up for a one mile trek twice a day is so dumb it almost makes me want to walk it. ON THE SURFACE OF THE SUN.
When I think about this, I keep coming back to the part where this trek to elementary school is really just the start of a DECADE of getting children to school every day. I have three kids, Preston will not be in sixth grade (when middle school starts) until 2023. THAT IS FOREVER FROM NOW. And, yes, maybe I would be comfortable sending Claire on the one-mile trek by herself in fourth grade, but will she be taking her second-grade sister with her then? Or will I just feel better driving them all? And what about the days when it’s like the surface of the sun? Do I make a second-grader walk a mile in 100-degrees? I don’t know! I’m not there yet! I don’t know if Claire is the most mature 8 year old ever or not! NO WAY TO TELL.
In a situation like this I tend to revert to a “do the best you can with what you’ve got” decision making process and what I keep thinking is that I am still in a difficult season of life with lots of small people and MY life would probably be easier next year if we could walk to school. I also think that a few years from now it will STILL be great to walk to school – for everyone in this family. I walked to school in kindergarten, first, and second grade and it was awesome. The language program at our zoned school sounds great and I’m still exploring it and keeping an open mind, but I’m reallllly leaning towards that closer campus.