I have already explained that we chose to send our kids to our local school for pragmatic reasons – it’s right there -walking distance. And believe it or not, we do make an effort to walk them, unless there is a homework crisis or we all woke up too late. But, I do occasionally wonder like all those other parents – is there something better out there for my kids?? Every kid has different needs and abilities and who else to know what those unique issues are but the parents? See, I do ‘get’ those other parents I didn’t mean to criticize in my previous posts, if that’s how it was taken. “It isn’t the kids,” we were told by one of the parents that has spear-headed the parent support group for the last 10 years or more when discussing why families leave our school. “The kids are always happy. It is the parents who are not.” Did their child need something different or did the parent just want something different??
It seems to me that school choice has become a huge blessing and burden in Los Angeles. It is like those studies that show that people are not happier to have 50 different mustard choices in the grocery store. It stresses them out. Or single men we know who never settled down with the right woman, because there are so many fish in the sea, the better one might be about to swim by. I have asked my third grader every year when I break it to her that this or that friend isn’t coming back the following year, if she wants me to look for a different school for her. “NO!!” she exclaims. “Why are you wanting me to leave my school??” It is her school. She knows most of the teachers and vice versa, she knows kids in upper and lower grades, she is excited to go to school each day and has a real sense or pride about it.
But, maybe I shouldn’t be asking my 8-year-old what makes her happy, but instead finding out what is best for her? She tests at “high achievement” level, but the school over all does not. Does this matter? Is she under-stimulated? Am I selling her short academically? Would she better off somewhere else where more of the kids were high-achieving like her? Will she get bored and/or lazy because she doesn’t have to work too hard? Does this matter for elementary school? Is she already getting behind?? All questions that I do ask myself, but then do not pursue because she is happy and I am focused on so many other things during my day ( like getting myself to work and back through LA traffic, figuring out what to make for dinner, etc).
One of our very close friends just moved her son to one of the “better” LAUSD schools from another LAUSD school that did not sufficiently handle bullying issues that were effecting her son. I am relieved, as I know he and his parents are, that he may now be in a better school for him. They are lucky to have had that option. In this case, choice was good. Other very close friends and neighbors have a child who is “highly gifted” and tests 99.9% in achievement and ability tests for his age. He goes all the way to North Hollywood for middle school now and would be bored out of his mind at a regular school. For him, choice was a blessing, despite the major schelp or elaborate carpool scheme his parents have to execute on a daily basis.
I certainly am envious of the schools that have language immersion – the private Jewish schools where some of our friends kids go, where they do Hebrew half of the day, the public schools in Culver City , Santa Monica and Venice that have Spanish, Japanese or Chinese immersion. How wonderful would that be to give our children that gift – to be fluent in another language before even getting to high school! Our friends up in San Francisco send their daughters to a Spanish immersion public school and were able to send them to day camp in Baja California for a week over the summer. Language really is a marvelous tool that opens up new worlds. But is this enough of a reason to change our life around – for elementary school? You do hear about people moving to Culver City for their language immersion schools, just as you hear about people moving to the slums of Beverly Hills for their better schools ( wait, I think that was a movie!). But, we don’t want to move. We like our neighborhood and our home. Also, I didn’t go to a language immersion school growing up and I still managed to learn how to speak fluently enough in Spanish to get me by traveling on my own in Mexico and in Russian in college to do a semester abroad in Russia back in the 1980s. My husband can converse in French from high school and Peace Corps. We are successful adults products of Orange County and Los Angeles public schools and don’t resent our parents for failing to give us this gift. We went out and got it ourselves.
Sometimes I wish we had a crystal ball that could tell us what path of parenting would lead our children to more content adults, but if there was such a thing, they would constantly be sold-out and on back-order. It is a guessing game and hopefully we are guessing good enough.