School Hopping

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As I leisurely walk from home, towards one of the few schools I’ll be visiting before sending my daughter to middle school, I remember my insane K school research. I remember the stress that I and my friends experienced while selecting a K school in San Francisco, including:

  • Visiting dozens of schools, both private and public.
  • Thinking that we had to do private school, because we all loved those beautiful schools we visited and wanted to do “the best” for our kids.
  • Thinking whether to do single language, immersion, or bilingual.
  • Thinking that we wouldn’t have any luck in the public school lottery in San Francisco. A lottery that people deem impossible to get through (before really trying).
  •  Researching like crazies in blogs and web sites like Greatschools.org
  •  Getting books from the library about schools.
  • Endless discussions with “battle-hardened” parents with older children who had gone through the process.

Six years ago, when my daughter Isa was about to get into Kinder, my husband and I were some of those stressed people.  We 741applied to 6 of the 20 private schools and got into one. We also applied to public schools and after visiting about 20 as well selected the seven to be put in our list and got none of our public choice schools.

907I’m from Ecuador and speak only in Spanish to the kids since they were babies. I also do trips to Ecuador twice a year to maintain the Spanish Immersion. See some of my Ecuador stories in my blog at IncultureParent.com magazine. My husband is American and  studied history of Asia in college and was interested in exposing the kids to an Asian language. So, most of our school public school applications were for immersion schools with our top choices in the Asian languages.

Since we did not get any of the public schools of our choice in the first round of application, we resubmitted our public application, and got ready to start our daughter in the private bilingual school to which we were accepted. After a couple of days of private school, we got a notice from the SFUSD that we were accepted into a mandarin immersion program. We had the difficult choice of deciding between leaving our daughter in the school we had already payed for (and got a partial scholarship for), or move her to public. I had a hard time with the decision, but thanks to my more practical husband we decided for the latter.

After 6 years with my daughter, and later on my son, in a public school, I have nothing but good things to say about our choice. Thanks to that decision and to the fact that I didn’t have to go back to work full time:

  • We didn’t become stressed parents who had overextended beyond our means to be able to afford private school.
  • Our kids learned a third anguage for free. See our Una familia treslingüe: Español, Engles y article at the Miparentscounsil web site.
  • We have been able to, with the money we saved from private schooling,  go back to Ecuador every year for two months. We have been able to expose the kids to Spanish immersion and visit that culture and live with their Ecuadorian family.
  • We have been able to take time off to go camping for weeks, or go to other places within the US ( like our road trips from San Francisco to Phoenix, or Williamsburg to Miami, or DC to NH among others) or internationally (aside from Ecuador, El Salvador, Dominican Republic and hopefully soon Costa Rica).
  • We have provided our kids with a down-to-earth experience about life, thanks to the exposure to more cocioeconomic and racial diversity.

As my kids get older, I don’t rule out the possibility of doing private school in the future.  I feel though that aside from whatever school you choose, it is highly important for parents to be present in their kid’s lives.

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