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Kindergarten Angst -- Is It Worth It?

For the past several months, many parents have been running on the kindergarten stress treadmill. Private vs. public? The county's language immersion programs vs. the neighborhood school down the street? Redshirt your child or not? After all, kindergarten is the new first grade, more academics and little play. That's what we've all seen and heard for many years now.

On local parenting forums such as DC Urban Mom, parents question whether children ever get off of Sidwell Friends' kindergarten wait list. Or why one acceptance along with several wait lists makes a mom sad. Or whether language immersion is a good choice or which neighborhood elementary and middle schools are good and which ones aren't.

True, some of this angst begins even earlier, with parents vying for spots in the "best" preschools. But there's something about choosing an elementary school that makes parents feel as though kindergarten is THE decision. As though the kindergarten choice means a child's future path is set in stone from that moment forward. In case you're wondering, that's not always the case. In Montgomery County, for example, public school parents can apply for various programs for 1st and 4th grades, in middle school and in high school. In Fairfax, parents can apply to one of two magnet programs at the elementary level and many middle schools house special programs.

Even though my second child is heading to kindergarten in the fall, I found myself starting on the treadmill only to pull myself off of it. Were the decisions made for Child No. 1 the right ones for Child No. 2? Will the same school be a good fit -- easier for me, yes, but what about for him?

And so, for the second time, I attended immersion school open houses and then observed an unfamiliar teacher's kindergarten class at our neighborhood school. In Kindergarten Choice Round 2, I saw my options through the eyes of someone with two years of elementary school parenting under my belt. Friends have children in private school. Other friends have chosen immersion schools. Us? Our son goes to the school two blocks away. What I've found thus far is that what matters most is us, the parents. Yes, having a great teacher makes a HUGE difference. But every school has good and bad. Yes, learning more languages early is great for kids. But, it may come at the cost of learning to spell, one immersion principal told parents. Some schools will have more science than others; some will focus on writing more. Some will have more art and music. Ultimately, what's important is finding an environment in which your child will be happy and want to learn.

The rest, it seems, will fall into place. How much focus did you put into finding the "right" kindergarten or on the decision of whether to redshirt or not? Was it worth it?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  April 24, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers
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Um, where I live, kids go to the school for the district where they live, or they go to the one private school. It's not really a big choice. And, maybe folks need to calm the heck down. Where a kid goes to kindergarten really does not map out a kids future (for the love of mittens, I can hardly believe I just typed that.) As we have discussed here before, even undergraduate college doesn't really have that big an impact after the first job out of school.

Posted by: VaLGaL | April 24, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse

"How much focus did you put into finding the "right" kindergarten or on the decision of whether to redshirt or not? Was it worth it?"

None whatsoever. The older two went to the private kindergarten affiliated with the daycare center, because it was full day vs. the local half-day and that was easier for two WOHP at the time. The younger two went to the local public kindergarten.

Was it worth it? You bet - the results we got were perfect given the total lack of effort we put into it.

I won't break OP Rule #1 - we don't brag about our unexceptional children - but they seem to have achieved very well so far.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | April 24, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Where I live there is only the choice between public, private or religious. Thankfully we live in a good district and there was no stress involved. I think that a child's future is determined more by parental involvement and establishing a love of learning and less by where they went to kindergarten.

Posted by: thosewilsongirls | April 24, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

"for the love of mittens" I must steal that! :-)
How many of you actually remember kindergarten? I remember the naps...

Posted by: Catwhowalked | April 24, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Well, we bought the house we did because the local schools were good. So it seemed like the obvious decision to send our son to the local public school - otherwise we would have bought a house closer to DC and/or in a cheaper neighborhood.

The fact that almost all the kids in the neighborhood go to the local schools only helped - he rides the bus with his friends most mornings and afternoons and there is lots of help if you are running late to the bus stop.

We considered keeping him at his preschool (which has an elementary school as well), but it seemed silly for the reason mentioned above - why we bought the house. I've been very happy with our decision.

I'm not a fan on the kindergarten as the new first grade, but I'm learning the live with it. I still have a fundamental problem with homework assigned that requires parental participation, but I've learned to keep my mouth shut.

As for redshirting, our son has the first birthday of the year but we technically didn't redshirt him since it is after the cut off. Still, I'm very happy he got an extra year of just playing before being subjected to learning how to read and write and do math.

Posted by: cqjudge | April 24, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

I don't think the school issue is so much kindergarten, but the rest of the grades as well. The focus is on kindergarten because ideally that's the school they'll attend at least through 5th grade.

We chose to send our kids to a charter school that we love. Our neighborhood school has a very good reputation but it is very overcrowded -
30+ kids in a class, classes in teachers lounges and such because there's no space, etc. Also, we are looking ahead to middle school, and our local middle school is huge - 1,200 kids in only 3 grades. We felt our kids' personalities, especially our son, are more suited for a smaller school environment.

The school they are going to is K-8 and has only 450 kids in the entire school. The class sizes are much more reasonable and they can stay there through 8th grade. And the teachers are all fantastic.

I agree with those who say that there are more important factors than what school a child attends that determines their future. But IMO, what school they attend can have a big effect on their happiness while they are growing up.

Posted by: dennis5 | April 24, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I'm with ValGal, holy moley.

If someone is so serious and perplexed about Kindergarten choices, they will be basically apoplectic when HS and college choiced come along. Just pick a Kindergarten and relax, your kids will be fine.

I don't buy into the "kids have to be reading chapter books by the end of Kindergarten" either - I think this was in the redshirting article. Every pre-school and early education public and private school teacher I have talked to warns against the expectations game. Normally parents learn very early on with crawling, walking and potty training that comparisons between children can be dangerous. Everyone should have a watchful eye for physical or learning skills that may be lacking, but to measure one 5 year old child against another in reading is bad news for any parent.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 24, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

"I'm very happy he got an extra year of just playing before being subjected to learning how to read and write and do math."

how refreshing to see this. I'm a bit freaked because I saw that little girl on the Today show or something reading a newspaper-- at 2 and half! she was reading simple words and prhases at 18 months! For the love of mittens!
My five year old can read simple words and phrases, but not the newspaper. And my 20 month old can barely talk. She is very bright in other ways-- early walker and LOVES doing puzzles. eh.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | April 24, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

"How much focus did you put into finding the "right" kindergarten or on the decision of whether to redshirt or not? Was it worth it?"

We put a lot of focus on kindergarten as the entrypoint to a particular elementary school experience. All we cared about was what school environment would be a good fit for each kid - not whether anyone else would agree about what is right, or what would lead to later academic achievement. Did we carefully evaluate whether our kids were ready for full-time school before we enrolled them? Yes. That's our job as parents. Is the term 'redshirting' offensive and an insult to parents who pay attention to developmental readiness? Yes. When your kids have August and September birthdays, it's not up to the school or your best friend or local columnist to decide what's best. You know your kids.

Posted by: anonfornow | April 24, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

here's the baby reading vidoe-- she's actually 17 months. She seems like an exceptionally bright child, but I'm sure folks will be piling in saying that their kids were just like that. If that were my child I don't know what I would do, but I would certianly worry that she isn't sufficiently well rounded. that her fixation on reading comes at an expense to other interests. But I guess having an exceptionally bright child isn't a problem I have to worry about. Instead I've got fabulously normal kids. whoo-hoo!

Posted by: captiolhillmom | April 24, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Where we are, there's only two kindergarten choices-public or religious schools. Since the public schools in our town rank in the top 5 for the entire county, we had no doubts about sending our older daughter to kindergarten there. She was a member of the "inaugural" class of all-day kindergartners there, and she loved it!

Preschool prep was the same dilemma. Two choices, either seriously expensive secular preschool or church preschool, both of which we vetoed. No public pre-K in our town-it's only at certain schools in the county, and I refused to drive more than 10 miles for just a couple of hours a day, what with gas prices being where they are. So we went the homeschool route for preschool, and it worked out well. We plan to do the same thing with our younger daughter, and for both of them we refuse to participate in any pigeonholing as far as developmental and school scores go. Kids learn at their own pace, and even in the same family, one child can learn faster or slower than the other, or have talents in different areas. That does not make one kid better than the other; it just adds to the variety of life!

And yes, I find the term "redshirting" offensive too-it's another negative form of pigeonholing that society can just as well do without. Whatever happened to education for its own sake? Why does everything have to be so dad-blamed competitive nowadays? Is it me, or is society going completely bizonkers that way?

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | April 24, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

"Why does everything have to be so dad-blamed competitive nowadays? Is it me, or is society going completely bizonkers that way?"

I keep thinking the worst is behind us, the early years and starting school seemed to be rife with overly competitive, helicopterish parents. Or maybe we have learned to concentrate on producing happy, healthy kids and ignore the nitwittery.

As for redshirting, what I found most offensive was the supposed "research" that if you started your child one year late to Kindergarten, their SS benefits would be adversely affected. Who thinks this stuff up?

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 24, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm. Post got eaten.
My little one is goign into PreK next year, and I'm keeping him where he is, rather than moving him to where his brother was. I like where he is, he loves where he is, he isn't so good with change etc (the other one went there because I thought he was ready for the longer day and it was me).
I'm already concerned about the little one and whether he will be okay for kindergarten in a year (his birthday is end of May, so he's likely going to be the youngest in his class given that his brother, and end of april birthday is...and many parents are keeping summer birthdays back).
The older one is great...and was great in kindergarten. There was an annex for his school nearby for kindergarten, so all the kids (200!!!) were together, which let them bond somewhat. Of course now there's a new school, so half the kids will be going there next year...but...anyway...
So, I definitely am thinking about how the younger one will do in the 'big school' and already wondering about it. not really angst (we are where we are for the schools - eventually we might decide private for middle, we'll see, but not elementary).
It's so interesting that the parents everywhere keep saying: i wish the kids didn't have to read in kindergarten, i wish they had more free time, i wish the day wasn't so long...and yet, we all (as someone mentioned above) seem to just grit our teeth about it. I don't think any of these things are good, and I don't think that there is any study to back up these changes (most countries don't have their kids reading til they're 7 or so).
But yet, we all seem to just 'do nothing' - it's kinda sad (don't get me wrong, I do the same)...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | April 24, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I find the whole "redshirting" concept frustrating. I remember reading an article a couple years ago quoting parents who held their son back from starting kindergarten so he'd be the biggest kid on his *Varsity!* football team. I mean, seriously! Who is this about, anyway? How do these parents know their child will like football, let alone be bigger than other kids and even make the team in the first place? Or, will football just be forced upon him? I think letting "kids be kids" means letting them advance with their peers, unless there is a serious social, emotional or intellectual reason they should be held back.

Posted by: vtma | April 24, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

The term redshirting might be offensive to parents who hold their kids back because they aren't developmentally ready, there are a lot of parents who hold back their kids because they think it will give them an edge in sports. It's unfortunate that it has put a stigma on parents who do it for the right reasons. Of course, some people would say that giving their child a better chance to succeed in sports or anything else is a "right" reason to do it.

And the parents who do it because they want their kids to excel in sports might be on to something. There was a study done in Canada showing who the birth month plays a huge factor in kids' opportunities in youth hockey.

The comparison to the U.S. would be high school sports since they are grade-based. If you kid is a little bigger and more physically developed than his peers - especially with boys since they mature later than girls, he has a better chance to stand out on high school teams, and that gives him a better chance at a college scholarship.

Posted by: dennis5 | April 24, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one with a really rotten local public school? We bought our house before kids were even thought of, and unfortunately the local schools are quite poor - PG county. There are 2 charter schools in the county, both with low probability of making it through the lottery. Even our modest little house is about to go underwater, so selling and moving to a better school district is out. We're hoping for enough tuition assistance from a private school to make it. I wish I had the option of a decent - not even great - public school, because it would set my mind at ease.

It shouldn't be this way in this country. If I lived a mile north or east my kid would end up in a good school. Its just wrong.

Posted by: mamabean | April 24, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I agree about redshirting being frustrating. For the most part, I find it's mostly boys who get held back. Why? So they can be bigger, more advanced, more socially mature? What is this (mostly American) obsession about having your child be the biggest/best at everything? I would say that unless there's a real issue with the child, s/he should be enrolled in K if s/he's of age.

My kindergarten daughter, a spring baby (so she's still 5), is in a class with a child who turned 7 in December!

One of her old preschool friends, a boy who was born in August, was redshirted, and now is apparently reading at a 1st/2nd grade level. Before he attends kindergarten this fall! Now it's up to the school district to deal with this so-called "gifted" child and provide enough resources for him, etc. when he should have just been enrolled in kindergarten on time. (FWIW, my daughter, just a couple of months older, is reading at around the same level herself, as are most of her classmates. I don't think this is a bad thing at all, to learn to read in kindergarten. My daughter's confidence has soared as a result. That said, if kids aren't ready to read yet, they should be allowed another year to come up to speed on their own.)

Redshirting is going to have interesting ramifications in the years ahead, as some students will be legal adults for the last couple of years of high school. Some of my daughter's peers may be driving cars a year or more before she can.

Posted by: Jaybird5 | April 24, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

mamabean - I feel your pain. We moved out of PG County for exactly that reason - the schools - when our oldest was four. Laurel's a nice town; we liked it, but....

Are there really that many people holding their sons back from kindergarten because of sports? That makes no sense to me, because up through high school essentially all sports is by AGE, not GRADE, so it makes no difference. And unless you're in a one-high-school town/district, it's risky to predict now that in 9 or 10 years(a) your son will like/be good at a sport; (b) the high school won't be swamped with players that are BETTER than your son, no matter how good he is; and (c) you'll even be going to that high school - you might be redistricted out in the 9 to 10 years it will take to be there.

I am aware of parents forcing their sons to repeat 8th grade for sports reasons; that's a different case, though. Most of the people I know of who start their sons late in kindergarten/first grade do it because of social/academic reasons. If your son's birthday was December 31, would you really want him starting at the end of August, 4 months before his 5th birthday?

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | April 24, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Jaybird, No one needs to be held back from or in Kindergarten because they don't read. It is my experience that if a kid reads early the parent will sing like a bird to anyone that will listen about the grade level their children is reading. It is annoying.

I will break the no-brag rule (mentioned by AB) and say that my oldest did not read till the end of 1st grade, she had just turned 7. Every other kid in the class was reading, but I took the advice of the teacher and did not panic. She assured me it was not uncommon for kids to learn to read late. I'm glad I listened to her. My daughter read when she was ready and is entering MS next year being recommended for and taking all honors classes. She is an excellent student. She has never read very far beyond her grade level, but intelligence and succeeding in school is not based on who reads first, although you would not know that from listening to other parents.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 24, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

AB, it's more the kids with late summer/ early fall b-days. The cut off is usually the Sept timeframe. As an example, if Sept 15 it the cut off for 5 year olds for K, and your son's b-day is Sept 14 and he is not quite ready - you might decide to hold him back. I know a couple boys with late Aug b-days that were technically old enough for K but their parents made the deicison to wait a year.

Kids must be 5 to start K in most states.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 24, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I get that some find labeling kids egregious, but how is the term "redshirting" offensive? What are we supposed to say instead (since I imagine "being held back" is also offensive)?

The term comes from college sports not from hate speech, so I'm truly baffled as to the offense.

Posted by: skm1 | April 24, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse


Will the DC-area schools even let a 4-year-old with a December birthday into Kindergarten? Down here in NC, the cutoff is August 31, so you pretty much have to be five within weeks of starting school. DD, a December birthday, will be close to six before she starts kindergarten.

The big deals around here are year-round school and school redistricting, which happens every year. Every year, our school board moves a good third to 1/2 of the kids to different schools, touching off a storm of protests and (sometimes) lawsuits. Frankly, I'll be glad if by the time DD gets to kindergarten, we're still in a school within a few miles from home.

Posted by: newsahm | April 24, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Armybrat, my son has a November birthday and so he was a few months shy of five when he started Kindergarten. He is also a bit on the skinny side for his age. So at every Parent Teacher conference, I state that I would be completely supportive if it looks like he should repeat Kindergarten. She said he is doing fine and that likely "won't be necessary."

That seems to be the test, not "what is ideal for my son." I can't say I'm too upset though as it is public school-- move em out ASAP!

I confess I don't press him to read much (I read to him every night, but rarely ask him to read to me) in part bacause I think he isn't ready to progress to the 1st grade. I don't think kids to be pressed period at the age, but also I don't like the fact that he is the youngest in his class and likely will be unless a "Gifted" child gets bumped up (what class will that 2.5 year old who can read a newspaper start when she turns 5? Just skip right into high school?).

On the upside, I saw a study that suggested kids that are youngest in the class actually end up doing better as adults ("fewer arrests" and "higher salary" I think were the data points) than the eldest. So I guess I'll go with the flow. Don't push him to read, but not hinder him either. Fingers-crossed, it'll all work out.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | April 24, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

newsahm - I'm showing my age (and my kids'). :-) When our kids were entering school, Maryland's cutoff was in fact December 31. A few years after that they started moving it back one month per year, until it's now August 31(I think - I don't have to worry about this any more). So yeah, the parents with kids born in November/December used to have to make that decision.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | April 24, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

My step-son goes to school at the local public school that is two blocks away from his house. I have no idea if there are other choices but it is unlikely the means are available for other choices. PW County allows him to enroll in a 3-4 week summer school for free to improve his math/English skills. This is really nice and I am fairly certain it is helpful to him.

SS definitely seems to be progressing so it doesn't seem to be a bad choice. I can't say he likes his school but I think that has more to do with the fact that he has to do something other than play. Being required to do things other than play tend to go against his nature.

We would have liked to have enrolled him in immersion but that option is simply not available in PW County. Perhaps immersion would have delayed his acquisition of English skills and wouldn't have been a good idea.

Posted by: Billie_R | April 24, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I remember when I was going to go to kindergarten.

My mother told me that I had to learn to wipe my own bottom because the teacher wasn't going to come and do it for me.

Life was simplier then.

Posted by: RedBird27 | April 24, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Just to pick up on the unusual comment from the language-immersion school principal: Our child has been in a language immersion program for several years, and I have never heard of any of the children having difficulty spelling in English due to the language immersion environment. (Of course some children are better spellers than others!) Most schools switch to a bilingual model after the first few years of immersion. At that point, some children may find themselves a bit behind their one-language peers in English reading and writing, but they quickly catch up. My child never fell behind in English-language skills; in fact, our child's reading/writing skills in BOTH languages are significantly above grade level.

Posted by: glovpk77 | April 24, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

"If you kid is a little bigger and more physically developed than his peers - especially with boys since they mature later than girls, he has a better chance to stand out on high school teams, and that gives him a better chance at a college scholarship."

.....unless they want to be a coxswain! My 4'10" 85pound 13 year old is headed to the CREW!

My little dude is headed to high school next year (after he turns 14 in July). He's always been the smallest and one of the youngest - but an extra year wouldn't have done much to help given his parents' height-deficiency. His lack of stature has only ever really prohibited him from playing basketball. It really stinks to be the short guy when it's time to play basketball in gym.

I'm with ValGal and cheekymonkey on this redshirting thing. I always thought the discussion of the "right" preschool or kindergarten was restricted to comedies featuring uber-blueblooded parents named "Muffy" or "Chip." If you are lucky enough to actually have a choice in the matter, nothing is set in stone - if you get into a school and you or your kid hate it, you can always change your mind.

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | April 24, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

"We bought our house before kids were even thought of"
Posted by: mamabean | April 24, 2009 1:13 PM

Why do people do this? Why would you make one of the biggest investments of your life without thinking about what your life may be like in a few years? When my husband and I bought our house we were no where near ready for kids but we had enough sense to look at the schools and chose a house in a good school district. Believe me at the time I would have loved to live in DC in amuch livelier area but I knew wanted to have kids and not send them to crappy schools or go broke sending them to private schools.

Mamabean, I am truly sorry that this happened to you but I hope it has helped you learn a valuable lesson and that you can pass that lesson on to your kids when they grow up.

Posted by: Stephanotis1 | April 24, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

AB - Laurel, yes. Sigh. I love it, but the schools are a problem.

To Stephanotis, why did we buy? First, because we didn't know we wanted kids. Turns out we did. I'm pretty thrilled our minds changed. Second, we chose Laurel because I work in Baltimore, my husband works in DC and we wanted a real town with a sense of community and public transportation into both DC and Baltimore that was halfway in between. Oh, and that we could afford. Add those things up and you get Laurel.

My kid is going to be okay. He's well loved and well educated at home, so whatever happens he'll be okay. But I think it is shameful that in our country the side of town you live on determined whether you get a good education or not. You should not have to plan your living situation, your house buying, your neighborhood choosing, based on the public school situation for as-yet-unconcieved children. It warps the way communities and neighborhoods grow, and it drives people out of nice, neighborly, diverse towns like Laurel.

Posted by: mamabean | April 24, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse


I agree that a sense of community is quite essential as well but what I have found is that when an area has that then the local schools will benefit and be much better. Good public schools are good because the parents and the community make it that way. Just because you are in PG county don't discount all the schools. If your community is so great(which is sounds like from your description) then it could definitley overflow into the school.

I also agree that it is a shame that all schools are not equal depending on where you live but it is a reality anywhere you go in any country and it has always been the reality.

I am sure your child will be great because you obviously care.

Posted by: Stephanotis1 | April 24, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Mamabean, It is absolutely a shame. I won't go on a tangent, but suffice it to say there are hundreds of DC kids that are not going back to private school next year because the funding is being pulled by Congress. Kids should never be sent to schools like the DC public school system, it is a national embarrassment.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 24, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

mamabean: I hear ya. Why is it that SOME people have school choice, and some do not? That is the real crime. Some people can afford to live in certain places, some people can afford to send their kids to private school...etc...and others cannot. Why is this? Shouldn't all kids have the same opportunities?
And..another tangent...well, um, I don't need ANYONE to test the kids in the schools - we ALL ARE WELL AWARE of the good schools and the bad schools. Why do we spend so much time testing the kids?

Another option is to NOW get VERY involved in the school (I don't know how young/old your kids are) - and know what's going on - help in any way you can - NOW when your kids aren't even there yet. It takes time for schools to get better, but they can. Team up with others who want to send their kids to the school (or must) - and make the school a better place. What's the worst that would happen? You'd either be able to afford private school or move - and you'd know that you made a difference in other kid's lives. That's wonderful.

As for redshirting...with all the push to make 'kindergarten the new first grade' - well, many boys aren't mature enough for that. Nothing to do with sports, or anything else - just that that type of curriculum is much better suited for girls at that age than boys. So waiting a year for the boys is a good idea at times when the boys aren't mature enough to sit still or whatever.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | April 24, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

and cheeky: i don't know much about the whole situation, but I do completely agree re: the DC schools and what congress is doing. It IS a crying shame. Again, CERTAIN PEOPLE have school choice, and certain people do not. When was the last time a president sent his own kids to the DCPS - and don't give me the c*** re: it's 'safer' in private school - if that's really the case - then make the public schools safer.
(I could go on, but...).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | April 24, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Why do people do this? Why would you make one of the biggest investments of your life without thinking about what your life may be like in a few years?

Posted by: Stephanotis1

Because there are a lot of factors that go into buying a house than just the schools. Not to mention that life doesn't always go according to your plans. It's great that you knew exactly how your life was going to go and things worked out perfectly for you after you bought your house. But it doesn't work like that for most people.

Posted by: dennis5 | April 24, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

dennis: well put.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | April 24, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

RE: "DC public school a national embarrassment"-- yes, but that is more the fault of those who live in DC rather than the naiotn as a whole. I say that as a DC resident.

For example, as Atlmom suggested, I started volunteering and checking out our neighborhodd school when my first wasn't even 2. I lobbied hard to get other parents to take the school seriously-- to give it a chance rather than go to a charter school across town or to the private schools-- or just leave for the suburbs as so many do. I lobbied to get community funding to the school (and several others in the neighborhood) and to policies popular at charter school worked into the neighborhood schools. (I LOVE charter schools-- they keep the pressure on the neighborhood school, to the advantage of the parents.)

And my hard-work as a manipulative, pushy neighbor has really paid off. The school went from being so underenrolled it was on the list of schools to be closed, to now having waiting lists for every grade. That is a 3 year turn around.

Good luck-- hope this advice helps!!

Posted by: captiolhillmom | April 24, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Altmom, the last President to send their kid to DC public schools was Jimmy Carter, that was 1976. Granted, the only school aged kid since then was Chelsea Clinton, she too went to private.

The question is a good one though and I would hope people start pondering the reasons for the disparity in our schools systems. Why are the schools in large urban centers failing, and why is it that minority and poor families are the hardest hit?

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 24, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

nitwittery - I LIKE that one! Note to self: File that away next to "for the love of mittens" so I can use it the next time something's driving me totally batso without my older daughter telling me off for cussing!

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | April 25, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

One of the big reasons we decided to homeschool was to escape the insanely competitive private school admissions process. The most well-regarded schools where we live are more selective than Ivy League colleges :-( We have a friend who started homeschooling after her perfectly bright and well-adjusted DD did not get accepted to any of the ten schools to which they applied.

Posted by: CrimsonWife | April 25, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

CrimsonWife, maybe you should have tried the public school admissions process. It's very simple, you go down to school, fill out a few forms, and your child is in.

Posted by: dennis5 | April 27, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Ok we chose Montesorri in the public school for 3-5 year olds. I think it was an excellent decision for both of our girls. One is a go getter and early bloomer and one is more reserved and quietly learns along the way. The first is now still in the same fabulous public school doing a blended 1-2 grade class which she loves and is thriving in. Recently the teacher commented on trying to find any one else in the class as verbal as she.

The second one benefits from this program because next year she has choices for repeating Kindergarten to stay in the Montessori or find a traditional K class.
We are choosing to repeat due to her age, early September birthday, and size, she is the size of a 3-4 year old (but my husband and I are petite too.) I waited a year bored at home and it didn't hurt me. At least she was able to participate in the Montessori program.

some times I think there are too many choices. And agree that it is all in what you make of it as a family. A school is only as strong as the weakest parent. And in Arlington we have fabulous parents ;-)

Posted by: lrwilson | April 27, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

My oldest will likely just attend our neighborhood school. With my twins, I'm going to have to find a principal who isn't going to force us to split them up (since it seems like most schools are ignoring the federal law barring splitting up twins without considered parental input).

Posted by: floof | April 30, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

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