I had just dropped my daughter at preschool-preschool mind you, when I struck up a conversation with the dad of another child. At some point, I mentioned that I had 2 other kids, one in middle school and one in high school. He suddenly became very interested. He wanted to know where my son attends high school. I told him and he became very excited. “Oh, that’s where I want Katie to go, I’ve heard amazing things about it. I’ve heard they have the best test scores in town. I’m just not yet sure how I’m going to get her in there yet.” Yet? Katie is 3 years old. I’m not sure if this is a phenomenon of Los Angeles or if it is prevalent elsewhere as well. When I was pregnant with my son, people asked me if I was on a preschool waiting list yet. I thought they were joking. They weren’t and not only that, they were willing to pay what I paid to go to college for their 3 year old to learn to share and play in the sand. I think I signed my son up for preschool about a month before he started. We couldn’t have been happier with our choice and his best friend is still a boy he met there. When my oldest daughter was of age, we signed her up for preschool about a month before as well and same with the little one. Somehow, despite my failings at working the preschool “system”, our 2 eldest have managed to learn to read, to perform complex algebra equations, and are incredibly well adjusted socially and just happen to be straight A students. My 3 year old just got a certificate from her preschool acknowledging that she can recognize all the letters of the alphabet. Yea! (read that with appropriate, yet not over the top, enthusiasm)
To get back to the conversation I had with the dad-I told him where my 2 big kids went to elementary school. There is another, slightly more prestigious school near our home. I never had any interest in sending my kids there. Most of the kids there are white and come from affluent homes. That is perfectly fine, but explains why they might just have higher test scores than our school. I told him that at our home school, children from many cultures, and all socioeconomic classes are represented. My kids’ friends look like a contingent from the United Nations. Also, our school has a great visual and performing arts program. I told him that to me there is more to a school than it’s test scores. As we parted ways, he said “Thank you. I really never thought of that at all. You have definitely given me something to think about.”
I was a teacher for 14 years, but I have been a mother for 15. Schools matter, but not nearly as much as parents.