Kindergarten Thinking

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.



27 Comments

  1. Melanie
    January 11, 2014 4:00 pm

    Have you thought about switching preschools, maybe something with a more convenient schedule? Just a thought. I’m a big fan of dual language programs.


    • A'Dell
      January 11, 2014 4:04 pm

      I totally HAVE thought of that but almost every preschool around here follows the other schools and their schedule. So, elementary starts first, then middle, then high school, THEN the preschools start at about 9. I think it’s because a lot of the preschool teachers have kids in high school/middle school, or are waiting for younger kids to catch busses.


  2. Megan @ Mama Bub
    January 11, 2014 4:03 pm

    I would be inclined to go to the closer school. I did the math and I won’t have my kids on the same school schedule until Bub is a SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL. Even with our elementary school just under a mile away and the middle school maybe only half a mile farther, that’s a lot of driving. I really don’t see myself letting them walk alone, ever. Because I’m a freak. As it stands, I do the elementary drop off and then we have thirty minutes to kill before preschool and it’s annoying. I end up spending more money at Starbucks than I would like, or sitting in the preschool parking lot for an extra fifteen minutes. We can walk, but we just don’t as often as we should. If it were down the street it would be an absolute no brainer.


  3. Jesabes
    January 11, 2014 4:18 pm

    I hate these kind of decisions, because I feel like either choice is the wrong one. (I’m cheerful like that.) I’d probably choose the closer school, because passing up nine years of an elementary school 10 houses away just seems silly.


  4. Jeannie
    January 11, 2014 4:28 pm

    My kid is in a language immersion program that I really like, and it’s a good choice for him. It’s also great for him for the future, because we live in Canada, and bilingualism is a requirement for certain government jobs. Where we live it isn’t a big deal, but if he wants to move it might be a huge deal.

    But: the school is also the closest one to us, and I love the fact that he can walk. It’s not a big deal now when my husband walks him over and I pick him up, but in a few years when he will go by himself, it will be awesome.

    I think the dual language program might well be worth the hassle if you live where there is a lot of Spanish spoken and it will help the kids with jobs, but I wouldnt at all discount the wonderful convenience of walking for so many many years. They can learn Spanish another way, after all.

    So …. No help at all whatsoever, sorry. I think convenience counts for a lot.


  5. Elizabeth
    January 11, 2014 4:36 pm

    I think the closer school is a no brainer, personally. I will say that I do drive Eli to school, because we entered the lottery to go to a better school than our neighborhood school, so there’s no bussing and it’s too far to walk, and I only had to park and walk him in for Kindergarten. Now I just drop him off right in front, he walks in, and it’s much easier.
    Still, if there was a good school I could walk to from my house? I’d go there, no doubt.


  6. Holly
    January 11, 2014 4:38 pm

    Another thought…. Bert was raised bilingual, French/English. He only heard French at home until high school, when he took the top levels of the class as the AP exam. He is very conversationally fluent, but that’s it. He says he speaks like an elementary age French person, and his French gets worse every year because he doesn’t use it. So, playing devil’s advocate here, in all likelyhood, unless you anticipate Claire really using this all the way into adulthood on the same 50/50 basis, she will likely “lose” quite a bit. Was it worth it? Did it impact how she learned other subjects??? Bert’s cousins in Vancouver went to a French immersion school from kinder through high school, no English ever, except at home. They’re just in college now, so hard to say how it will go for them. I’m curious to know what the criteria are for admittance to this program… is it basically a gifted group of kids, essentially a honors class, so parents are glad not to have a typical mix of students, behavior problems, etc? Cause that’s a whooooolllle other thing I personally would avoid like the plague. Way to teach kids how to live in the real world, folks. … young grades are meant for social learning as well as academic. Seperate kids out in high school for honors and AP, but not before.


  7. Katie
    January 11, 2014 5:08 pm

    Well… you could start at the dual language program and see how it all comes together. It might not be as bad as you think (ha ha). If you la la love the language thing, but it is horribly awful moving all of those small people around, then perhaps you can work out a carpool situation with another parent? Or our elementary school has a board where moms (and dads) looking to make extra money, post errand services, which can include transportation. They have to have a background check through the district, as well as provide proof of insurance, and have age/weight appropriate car seats installed in their cars.

    If you find the language program isn’t worth the hassle, then switch to the closer school with no regrets!


  8. Bre
    January 11, 2014 5:09 pm

    I would vote for the close school. As your kids get older they will likely make friends with kids they are in school with. If your kids are at the school down the street the likelyhood of those kids also living down the street is greater. This translates to the kids eventually WALKING to their friends house, rather than you driving them.


  9. Salome Ellen
    January 11, 2014 5:12 pm

    Languages can be learned in other ways, but that ten-house walk to school is MAJOR. The elementary school for all six of our kids was a mile away, and although they walked as they got older (no major roads to cross) I could still drive that route in my sleep, even though the house isn’t there any more. SWITCH ASAP!!!! (Yes, I yelled that.)


  10. Marie Green
    January 11, 2014 5:32 pm

    I am fascinated with the language program, but I am almost certain that I’d open enroll in the other school. The fact that it’s more convenient is a really, really big deal, and it’ll remain more convenient for all the years your kids are in elementary school. If you really want your kids to learn another language, you’ll find another opportunity, one that doesn’t make your whole day a pain in the ass. (You can have a family tutor! Enroll them in fun community Ed classes! Etc!)


  11. Lindsay
    January 11, 2014 6:02 pm

    Uhhh… I have ONE kid and stroller/car seat/etc… Is HARD!!!

    Also, long division was hard when I had to learn it, I can’t imagine learning it in Spanish! Eek!


  12. Kelly
    January 11, 2014 6:16 pm

    I am so thrilled about dual language for Samuel that I am going to enroll him in a school that we are not zoned for and have two kids in two different schools that start at the exact same time. I am not sure how I am going to manage this but I will find a way. I will just drop N off after those two.


  13. Shannon
    January 11, 2014 7:07 pm

    The walkable school seems great, and having an elementary that close is amazingly convenient, and will make all of your lives so much easier! You could eventually send Claire to pick up Preston (quite a while off, but still!). If there was a serious difference in the quality of the school, I would consider the dual immersion program, otherwise no way.


  14. becca
    January 11, 2014 7:08 pm

    Take it from someone who lives a mile from school and has multiple younger sibs–CLOSE SCHOOL!!

    Everything you have said about the cons of the one mile commute are true. Huge pain!


  15. Sarah in Ottawa
    January 11, 2014 9:43 pm

    For us, it came down to the feel of the school. We have 4 options in our neighbourhood – English public or Catholic, French public or Catholic (all publicly funded). Even the English schools are 50% French instruction (which is great in our neighbourhood, as both of our next-door neighbours are francophone families). We opted for the Catholic school, even though it is slightly further away, because it is smaller and reminded us of our beloved Catholic elementary school. And it has been a great fit so far. As we are going to have a child in that school for the next TWELVE YEARS, that is key.

    Good luck!


  16. Elsha
    January 11, 2014 10:49 pm

    Ugh, tough choices. Kalena is at her assigned school, which is a great school, but we’re too far to walk and too close to be bussed so twice a day I load everyone up to do drop off and pick up. And man it SUUUUCKS. (Good thing I’m about to add a baby to that. YAY.)

    What really gets me though is that there are kids IN OUR COMPLEX that get bussed because you can PAY for that. But it’s expensive and I’d still have to haul everyone out to wait for a bus twice a day because she’s too little to wait/walk to a bus stop on her own.

    Anyway, apparently I have no advice, just complaining of my own.


  17. Erica
    January 12, 2014 12:22 am

    This is a really tough decision .


  18. Dr. Maureen
    January 12, 2014 2:14 pm

    Wow, tough tough call. The quality of your life will be VASTLY improved by going to the closer school. Vastly. Vastly vastly. I really really know. But a language immersion program? I would love that. Man. Is there anyway for you now to find out if there is a carpool possibility for the far away school? Because my kids have been getting a ride to school from my sainted neighbors every day since Ann Marie was born, and what a difference it makes in my life! I still have to pick them up most days, but I can almost always walk – it’s only 0.5 miles and I walk in all kinds of weather – and Ann Marie usually naps in the stroller and, again, this majorly improves the quality of my life.

    But on the other hand, things change, like you said. You might be willing to let them walk when they’re older. Or you might find carpools. When I was in middle school, my mom shared weeks with another family so that my mom would drive us to and from one week, the other family the next, and so forth. And when you don’t have to use car seats and they can get in and out themselves? The mile won’t be as huge of a deal.

    I don’t know, man. This is a tough one.


  19. Erin G @ebum1101
    January 12, 2014 9:54 pm

    Okay so I know I am late to this post and commenting, but as someone who JUST went through a similar process choosing a school for Nathan for this year, I will say this:

    1.) Meetings/tours at the school will hopefully clarify the decision for you. You might get a gut feeling about one.

    2.) Big-picture, it sounds like the close school makes more sense, especially if at some point you will have 1-2 at the elementary school and the other(s) at the middle school. THAT IS NICE.

    3.) Choose what is best for YOUR family, even if it isn’t the trendy thing everyone else loves. It might be a great opportunity, but if the logistics make your life stressful, then maybe it isn’t the best opportunity for YOU. Don’t talk yourself into what everyone else thinks is cool. (It seems you are generally good about that anyway.)

    Umm okay that’s it and I hope it isn’t assvicey or anything but I am totally leaning towards the second (closer) school, with zero weeks/days/months of you feeling like you have to justify that decision to anyone. :)


  20. Tara
    January 13, 2014 2:33 am

    Carpool? That is what is saving my life right now. I trade off with a friend for elemtart school so I only have to do half the drop off /pick-ups. And then! A few weeks into the school year I befriended another mom and discovered she lives around the corner, so we have been trading preschool carpooling too. So I am spared half of The Buckling and my baby actually gets to nap! Sometimes!


  21. Courtney
    January 13, 2014 10:31 am

    I was thinking about you this morning as I was doing drop off… If both the schools are equal as far as the quality of instruction and after you tour and sit in on the kindergarten classes you don’t get a feeling like one is the wrong fit for Claire, then I don’t think you will EVER regret doing the easier thing for you right now and go to the closer school. It will be years before you are comfortable with Claire walking to school alone, but when she can and Charlotte is also attending school there, you are going to be even happier. If you could carpool and all that stuff (which I know you cannot possibly fit another child in your car!) and if Claire had the opportunity to use her Spanish at home or at least reinforce it over the summers, etc… then sure Spanish immersion would be cool. But you can’t even guarantee that she would like it. Then what happens?


  22. HereWeGoAJen
    January 13, 2014 4:07 pm

    I feel like I am basing this too much on my experiences, but I would pick the closer school. We move so often that I know Elizabeth would never finish the language immersion program so it doesn’t seem like it would be worth it for us. I kind of feel like you’d need language immersion through all of school or at least a daily use of a second language for it to really be worthwhile. And we are just too moving prone for that to work out.


  23. Purdy Bird
    January 13, 2014 4:32 pm

    So we are doing language immersion pre-school and elementary school and really love it. That said, my kids are in two separate schools in opposite directions and the carpool/timing with 3 kids is a real pain. If language immersion isn’t your thing, I’d go with the closer school because quality of life improvements are not insignificant factors.


  24. craftyashley
    January 16, 2014 11:49 pm

    Just throwing my two cents in there, I would totally go to the walking school. I really enjoy walking to our bus stop, like six houses down the street, even on hot days sometimes. It’s nice to be outdoors, I need the push of the girls drop off & pick up. It’s really made our daily routine.


  25. Jen (@SaitoAbroad)
    January 17, 2014 4:44 pm

    Yeah, this is TOUGH. I hear you on the commute to school – it will suck, there is no getting around it. Annoying and really time consuming.

    But I am a HUGE fan for having the kids learn another language at this age. And immersion is the easiest way for the kids to learn it, no studying required, they just … acquire it.

    My vote – go to the close school and start a petition to get an immersion program at your local school :)


  26. Pingback: An Update on the Dual Language Kindergarten Thing | A'Dell Stevens

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