Settling for Okay Schools
posted by Amy

If you have a kid, and that kid might go to school someday, you'll want to read Elizabeth's post about choosing less than perfect schools.

For, oh, about five years now, I've been consciously trying to be a good-enough mother and to stop letting perfectionism make all of my family members' lives harder. I figure I'll get good at being flexible and serene by the time my kids are parents themselves, at which point I'll be incredibly annoying to them as I urge them to loosen up and enjoy the ride.

One of the things I'm slowly coming to terms with are my own very real limitations. I don't have endless time, money, or emotional resources. That's meant, in part, moving from believing that I could homeschool my kids if that was the best option available to thinking that well, at least I could drive them to a local magnet school if THAT was the best thing to saying, "Hey, look! There's your school, right down the street. Run to it--the bell's about to ring!"

This summer, we had to decide whether to send Henry to the magnet GATE school his older brother attends or keep him at the very local (like I can hear the kids playing AND all the announcements on the p.a. system from our house) school where he'd attended kindergarten and first grade and where his little sister just started kindergarten. After four years of having a kid at a relatively prestigious local public school, the decision was pretty easy to make--I'll take the good-enough school over the prestigious one any day.

See, it turns out that for us, even the short drive to the magnet school is an added stress we can do without. The required school uniforms and the endless lists of rules which seem to go along with being at a school where many of the parents are very, very involved and perhaps just the tiniest bit overprotective have worn us out. (Another mother of a graduate of this school says that her child calls it "the school where no one is allowed to have fun," a reference to the rules about No Running on the Blacktop and No Going on the Grass Where an Adult Might Not Be Within Arm's Reach.)

So, we're sticking with our small, friendly, and adequate neighborhood school for now. I've promised to attend PTSO meetings, where a committed bunch of parents have come together to raise enough money over the past few years to provide two full-time music teachers and visiting art and science programs. Note that I've only promised to attend them. I'm considering this year my apprenticeship year; next year, when all three kids are in school for full days (kindergarten is only three hours around here), I'll actually volunteer for something.

The benefits we reap include walking to school, knowing everyone on campus (some of them since birth), and much more free time due to the short commute and fewer hours of homework given at our local school. Wednesdays are homework-free for the whole school; the intent is to give families a break mid-week. I walk the kids to school and then continue on to my own campus, on foot. We're incredibly fortunate to have been able to buy this house, in this neighborhood, by this school. I've also been, I have to say, a little slow to get that.