It's his party and he'll cry if he wants to
Antsy

Because if it's not one thing it's another

I decided we had to find a new preschool. 

(I know, I know. But now that the house drama is mostly over I need SOMETHING to obsess over!) 

Jack's preschool, for various very good reasons, has staggered start times. So if we were to attend next year, I would drive 15 minutes to the school, drop Jack off, wait twenty minutes in the parking lot, take Molly in, then drive 15 minutes home. Then do it all over again when it was time to pick them up. 

At first I thought that was manageable. Then I remembered I was having a third baby. So, um, no.

After extensive research (aka Googling) on preschools in our new neighborhood and not really liking any of my options (or perhaps none of them can quite live up to The Perfect Preschool in our old neighborhood, SNIFF) I think I've hit upon a Half Decent Solution. Today I dropped off an application for the Pre-K program at the church near my house. We can manage the three days a week out-of-parish rate. But they don't have a program for three-year-olds, and since Molly has been announcing, "When I THWEE I go to PWEESKOOL" for, like, months, I HAVE to find her a spot. Today I called the Lutheran preschool a few minutes away and they have openings for two days a week. 

Soooo ideally Jack would go Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and Molly would go Tuesdays and Thursdays. The times don't match up exactly, but because both schools are SO close to my house, it doesn't matter so much. I will not have to sit in a parking lot for twenty minutes twice a day. 

Also! Bonus points for being cheaper than sending them both to the old preschool. 

DEEP BREATH. 

But NOW I am back in the Catholic School vs. Public School vs. WHICH Catholic School quandary. My options are (as far as I can tell): 

1. The public elementary school, which is a few minutes' drive away. This school is not rated very highly online, but since I find those rating systems a bit questionable, I basically know nothing about it. The husband of a friend of a friend works there and I totally intend to grill him at some point. Otherwise I need to take a little tour or whatever it is for prospective kindergarten parents and just see what it's like. Pros: Free! Nearby! Cons: Perhaps not the GREATEST school? 

2. Our parish school, a 15-20 minute drive on the freeway. Pros: We know everyone, we love our parish, I love the IDEA of Catholic school even though I still feel like I don't really know much about it. Cons: Not free. An annoying commute, especially when there is...

...3. The parish school that we WALKED to today. Pros: Nearby! Catholic! Highly spoken of by a friend who taught there for 8 years. Cons: Not free. Would have to switch parishes. Stomachache-inducing. 

Now I wouldn't necessarily have to be freaking out (okay, not freaking out, perhaps Thinking Intensely) this early on, except for the fact that I would be applying/registering for kindergarten in FEBRUARY of next year. And if we wanted to send Jack to the parish school down the street, we would have to switch parishes (because we can barely afford the parishioner rate let alone the OUT of parish rate) by the fall. THE FALL. 

Phillip is not so hot on switching, for all the obvious reasons. And it IS "family". We've been going there since we were DATING. We got married there, had our babies baptized there, made so many wonderful friends, got involved in so many wonderful things. People KNOW us and Phillip and I are very much about being known in a churchy community. We met in one and it was so very important to us to find another one when we graduated. Switching would be a Huge Deal. 

But I feel... well, at this point our church friends have become regular life friends we would still see, no matter where we went to church. I am no longer a young adult with no clear identity striving to find a place in a big church. It's fairly clear what I am now: A Parent, and now I've got tons of Church Experience under my belt. I would know how to get involved again. And we're at the perfect stage of life if we're going to attend a new church. The kids would just be starting out in the school, we're having another baby, if we're going to go, it seems like as good a time as any. And I would prefer our kids to go to school where we live, rather than an entirely different neighborhood. (Seattle is SUPER neighborhoody. You should visit. I'll drive you around.)

Also, everyone we've talked to who has attended Mass at Neighborhood Church has said they loved it, so I'm hopeful we would love it too. 

Then again, Catholic school is not free. And I'm not totally sold on it. My best reason for Catholic school right now is: It Sounds Nice. Which may sound stupid to you, but to me it makes total sense. I like the smallness, the uniforms, the prayer, the participation in Mass, the observance of religious holidays, the melding of school friends and church community. Notice I say nothing about academics, and that is because I honestly have no idea if it's better in a Catholic elementary school. I'm tempted to say it is, but I really don't know. I'm also the product of two public school teachers and the public school system, and for most of my schooling there was only ONE SCHOOL. You don't get options when you live on a military base. (Well, I did know a handful of people who went to Italian high schools, but they were loony.) I am PRO PUBLIC SCHOOL! I'm just also Catholic and Pro Catholic and Catholic school, again, Just Sounds Nice. 

I've spent my entire life immersed in Teacher Talk, and it's clear that wherever you go, wherever you are, there are good teachers and bad, good administrators and bad, kids who want to learn and kids who don't, and parent involvement is big fat gigantic factor. So I'm of the admittedly not terribly informed opinion that public school would be just fine, but Catholic school Would Be Nice. Phillip is of the opinion that public school would be just fine, Catholic school would probably be better, but thousands of dollars better? Because, well, we DO like to go on vacation. And buy groceries. 

I'm hoping this Pre-K program gives me a better idea of what we should do. I did try to get them into the preschool at our parish, but it was full. So, as I was telling Annie, perhaps it is A Sign. I am a super huge fan of Signs.

Blah blah blah, obvs I need to head directly for the tub of frosting in the refrigerator. 

Comments

Sarah in Ottawa

??? Who am I to discern for you?

I am, as you know, a big fan of being a part of the local parish. Especially in our case, when I believe we were led here. In our case, there are more vibrant parishes in the area but if people don't get involved in our local parish, who will make it vibrant?

Can't wait to hear about the outcome! Also - when is your next ultrasound? Did you decide to be surprised or find out? Or did I miss VITAL INFO?!?

Megan

Oh dear. I think I have emailed or commented on this topic before, and I don't want to go back and resay things (You: I got it, Megan. You like the Catholic school...stop telling me the same stuff over and over) but I do love it, more than I thought I would and for different reasons than I thought I would. I too, went to public schools my whole life and was a public school teacher before I had kids (not saying I don't like public schools, BTW...I have just had a great experience with our kids attending our Parish school). In any case, definitely go to a few masses at the new neighborhood church. Go to different times so you can hear the different priests and for sure go to the mass that the students attend during the week to see what it is like. This was big for me when I was trying to make my decision. At our school the younger grades go to a different mass than the upper grades, but evey month or so they ALL go together so ask at the school office when those masses are. (The younger grades are very cute and the second graders most likely just had their first communion so they will be all fired up about that!) As for me, I just filled out the paperwork for the third (and last) child to start preschool in the fall and so I am alternating between really really excited and happy to a sort of bewildered sunrise/sunset state. The time, how it flies!

Steph

I wonder if you could talk to your priest or the other parish priest about it. Surely they could see how it would make sense for Jack to go to the closer Catholic school? If you went to your old Parish I'm sure you would still do all of the parent stuff at Jack's school parish if you needed to. I think a lot of Catholic parents wouldn't necessarily go to church every week but would attend for special school masses. Surely they'd be happy that you go to church regularly even if it's at different parish. You never know!

Maureen

If this is your "forever" house, doesn't it just make sense to switch to the parish that is walking distance away? Your kids will love being able to walk to school, their friends will be close - down the road, your life will be so much easier! (I'm a mom of an 18, 14, and 11 yr.old - the years really do go quickly!) I would give some very serious consideration to switching. You can always switch back if it doesn't work out but as you pointed out, you are at a perfect time to transition. I did send my kids to Catholic schools by the way. I was the product of a Catholic elementary school education and went to public high school.

Christiana

I don't know what public schools are like in Seattle, but here, there is a published grading system based on the state/county evaluations of test scores, etc. that you should be able to find (call your Dept of Education, maybe?) if you want to know about your school.
If we could afford it, we would/will be putting our kids in private school

HereWeGoAJen

I moved a lot and I went to all public schools and one private. My sister went to two privates (I am older and I was in college for the last move).

Public school is absolutely fine. But our private schools were better. I mean, this is by no means a conclusive study or anything, but I liked my private school a lot better and they had a lot more resources. I mean, I took a class in glass blowing.

Beth

I love reading about the worry, because my daughter is 15 months old, and I'm already freaking out about her school choices. She can go to local parish school, which is good for elementary school, but all the high schools are pretty far commutes, or we can move to get into the good public school system, and it would only involve moving across the road, but moving across the road would cost at least $150,000, which seems like a lot.

My two cents on the Catholic school thing (and I'm in the midwest, though I'm from the Olympic Peninsula, so I get that Seattle is different) is that it's great for elementary school. But I teach at a Catholic university, and it seems to me that a really good way to make an atheist is to send your kid to Catholic high school. I think that part of the problem is that teenagers are really hard to get to church anyway, and if you end up making them go twice a week, they can get really resentful. (So there, there's another thing to worry about for you!)

Emily

Hmmmm. Maureen makes a REALLY GOOD POINT. If you keep them in your parish school, what will you do when they're older and need to be driven back and forth all the time??

When I was visiting you, I didn't say it, but I got the sense that you would really be okay switching parishes. Like you said, you will maintain friendships that you already have - the scary part is wondering if the NEW parish won't measure up to the old one. But you're comfortable with the old one - and I say, you could be comfortable with the new. Plus, how awesome would it be to send your kids to the new parish school (THAT THEY CAN WALK TO) and you would have an automatic "in" with all the other parents at the school, instead of being stretched between two worlds. I think it would be so fun to have them going to school with the children of people you would meet at church!

Jessica

I first read this post last night and definitely identified with Phillip. I hate change. Especially changing churches. If your old one is only 15 minutes away, I just don't think I could give it up.

But the more I thought about it, the more I'm in favor of switching (regardless of whether the kids go to Catholic school). It would be awesome to be able to walk to church. And have the kids J and M (and third baby) meet at church live really close. That just sounds like a great childhood. I wish we had more of a "neighborhood-y" feel in our area.

On the other hand, I personally just couldn't spend the money for private school unless they were significantly better than public school. So since I'd probably go with public school, the church decision isn't quite as vital.

Lucy

We are kind of in a similar boat, only our parish is the one in walking distance and the school is pretty good academically (I think). The big question is "is it worth the price difference?" My idea is to send our daughter to pre-k at the catholic school as kind of a trial run to see if we like the school and such. Although she is still a year away from that, so we are trying to figure out what to do in the mean time. She will likely go to school in the fall, but where. I don't want her to have to switch schools every year (preschool, pre-k, and then maybe K if we go with public school), so who knows.

I agree with Maureen, that if you guys are going to live here for a long time I would much rather switch now since it is SO much closer. I think I would switch Jack to the close Catholic school for next year and maybe just start attending mass every once in a while this summer. Then in the fall you can decide if you want to officially switch or not, in time for registration. Good luck!

Melanie

Kudos to you for not taking school rankings too seriously! I teach at a pretty good public school, but our "rankings" always put us slightly below a neighboring school where they start prepping kids for standardized testing from the first day. Seriously, kindergartens practice filling in test bubbles. Not my idea of a quality education at all...

That said, if you did decide to go the Catholic School route: I would probably switch to the new parish. It's the perfect time before the kids start school and it'll give you the chance to really feel like a part of the new community.

Marie Green

As a parent to 2 school aged kids, my thoughts are:

1. Visit all the schools. See what kind of vibe you get.

2. If the public school seems friendly and loving, I'd probably lean towards that. Even if it's not "the best school", we're talking about elementary age here, and we're talking about YOUR KIDS, who will do just fine. In the "not the best schools", it's not kids like yours that fall between the cracks. You're on top of things, etc.

3. I'd do public for the younger years and switch to private if I still felt strongly about when they were older, because THAT'S when things start to matter (college prep, and all that). Meanwhile, I'd save myself a crapton of $$$$ by using the public school.

I'd also use my GUT INSTINCT a great deal when making this decision. And I'd also try (probably unsuccessfully) to remind myself that NONE of the choices are BAD or will lead to anything DIRE.

Amy F

My kids are in 1st grade and pre-k, plus a 10 month old. The big kids attend the Catholic school where my husband teaches. Because he's there, we pay virtually nothing instead of $13k/year, which is why they go to that school, 18 min/8 miles away instead of our parish school, less than a mile from our house. I suppose public school is an option too and the district is thinking about adding a STEM magnet, which I would consider for our little nerdlets. It's sort of awkward at Husband's School because everybody else there is paying gobs and gobs and we don't go to Hawaii over spring break or want to pay $100/qtr for chess club for 6 year olds. But as a daughter of a public school teacher and Catholic convert who is a product of public schools, I've been darn impressed to see all the ways they incorporate Catholicism into their days and I really appreciate that. Driving back and forth is annoying, especially the pre-k year with its noon pick-up. The other times they're usually able to carpool with Daddy. I get grouchy spending so much time in the car.

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