I said goodbye, and didn’t look back.
As soon as I left the campus, I sobbed for nine minutes. Nine minutes and 20 seconds to be exact. I captured the unbearable saga on my phone because I wanted to remember the exact moment. Snot, tears, ugly cry, emotions, I wanted to capture it all.
First day of school drop off was very hard. My son and resilient tiny human, Suremikal Taiyari Pleitez, did well, but I did not. The process up to this point had not been easy, and my quest to find a good school for my son had been a unique experience that only parents can understand. It started when he turned 20 months old (one year and eight months in non-parent lingo). My husband and I were expecting a second child at the time, and our amazing birth photographer, who over time became a dear friend, shared that she home schooled her daughters. I was somewhat familiar with the homeschool environment, since my best friend has been homeschooling all three of her kids for as long as I can remember.
It occurred to me that we did not have a plan for Suremikal. I began to think about this often and began to feel the pressure of the school search process. Had I approached this school thing too late? Had we reached a point where we’d have to wait-list for a good school because of procrastination? When was I supposed to prepare my toddler for preschool? Was preschool the next best step? These questions sent my heart racing. After all, I didn’t want to let go of my adorable little baby.
My initial attempt to search for a school was uneventful. It felt as though I was gathering survival tips for one of the most notorious passages of parenthood. What a process! I started to research some schools, some left me dazzled, some depressed. The longer I looked, the clearer the differences became. I did not have many friends who at the time had been knee deep in this whole school search process, so it became a little challenging to receive thoughts, advice, recommendations on either approach and/or schools.
As a parent, you want to be confident that you decide on the right school and program for your tiny human, but how do you make the best choice? So, I did what any parent would do, and I googled the heck out of everything and anything I could find (thanks internet!). Google became my best friend, I narrowed down several options, and then I approached each school with specific questions. I want to share three things from my school-hunting experience that I hope will help guide new parents in their journey. Plus, I think it would be a shame not to use all of my mommy angst for the greater good!
- Trust the process and your instincts. If you need to visit five schools and bring a list of questions, go for it, it is absolutely normal to do this. No shame in your game. Be THAT parent.
- Go for a test drive. No one school, educational philosophy and/or approach is perfect, and no one educator is perfect. Visit the schools you’re interested in, talk to the directors, assistants, see how they engage with the kids and how kids engage with each other, and discover if what you see aligns with your values and educational interests.
- Keep pushing for more choices. As parents, we have the right to demand stronger academic performing schools. For my husband and I, the academic quality of the school is important, as well as the socio-economic composition and home-school distance. As a military wife, whose husband is currently deployed, it is even more important to help my tiny human excel in school and connect to the best resources in the area.
Still, to this date, I’m learning. I’m learning to enjoy the journey. When I picked up Suremikal from that very first day of school, most of the children in his classroom were taking a nap, while those that were still awake were working quietly and purposefully. The kids were doing a bit of everything: playing, sleeping, eating, or simply taking in the world. They were all happy and engaged, and that is all I can hope for my little brown and fierce boy. I find solace in knowing that he is quite adaptable and already amazing us with his presence, not taking life so serious approach, and ability to learn different languages. Spanish at home. English at school. And Mandarin on the horizon!