by Erin Tarr
We’ve over-thought, over-talked, over-analyzed, over-everything… so, I finally just stopped talking about it. My husband and I stopped, our friends stopped and we just pretended there wasn’t a decision to make. But now March is here and I have to RANK my school preferences for my child (or risk being “unassigned” gasp).
There was a part of me that longingly read through the private school listing published on chambanamoms a couple of weeks ago. Since before my children were born, the plan was to send them to the BEST private school in this area, but plans changed. The change has been a welcome one for our family, but has resulted in a distinct lack of disposable income to afford any type of long-term private education for two children. I still have distinct thoughts and preferences regarding each of these schools, but that’s for another day.
So, here I was feeling stuck. Honestly, apart from the “balanced calendar” vs. “regular calendar” – there just isn’t enough different in the 13 Unit 4 elementary schools that would truly make me more or less worried/excited/anxious/happy to send my child to school there.
Sure, there are rumors of the “good” vs. “not so good” schools. Better principal, better facilities, better teachers, better neighborhood… etc. etc. etc. but for my purposes of choosing a school that my family will stick with for the next nine years these aspects of the schools are all transient – you can’t count on any of these things to remain the same at any given school.
The amount of time spent on math and reading are roughly the same at each school. They all have (in my opinion) way too little music, art and PE, and don’t get me started on the 15 minutes to eat lunch, 15 minutes to play. They all (probably) have some great teachers, good teachers and not-so-good teachers… bell curve right?
So, what’s a mom to do?
This mom decided to suck it up, stop moping about the perceived lack of choice, and just.made.a.decision. So we ranked and will request sometime this week.
And then when we receive the school assignment, we will decide to get involved. We will encourage our child and take responsibility for her education regardless of which school she attends, because at the end of the day I truly do not expect any school system to be able to teach her everything she needs to know. It is my responsibility facilitate this – no one else – and I choose to do so in conjunction with Unit 4 schools.
Part of me has always wanted to create an ideal environment for my child to grow and thrive and discover the world through rose-colored glasses. But this is not to be her reality, and I sincerely believe she will be a stronger, smarter, more resilient child at the end of each day, week, month and year. Not because of or in spite of the school she attends, but because of how we choose to communicate with her about the not so rosy aspects of life – that she would encounter no matter where she went to school. And because we will choose to discipline her, encourage her, challenge her and support her the way every child deserves to be disciplined, encouraged, challenged and supported.
We will also decide to support, encourage and love her teacher, principal and school staff. As an educator, I firmly believe that children learn best when they see the adults in their lives on the same page – working towards the same goals.
So, in spite of the fact that I truly, truly, truly hold disdain for the “Everyday Math” curriculum, I will make every effort to withhold these feelings from my child as we work through the “home-links” together, all the while praying that the district changes curricula soon.
At the end of the day – even though my protective mama gig sometimes gets in the way – I truly do want to be an agent of change and improvement in our community and world. If there are things I can do as a parent, big or small, to help make my child’s class, school or even district better for all the children, this is the commitment I make as a parent and a citizen of this community, because it isn’t only my child that deserves the best we have to offer, it is all of our children – the entire next generation of Champaign-Urbana – that deserves the commitment of their parents and their community.
I recognize the loftiness of these statements – trust me I do. Wish me luck and say a prayer for all the Kindergarten parents this month – I think we all need it.
Erin (Trent) Tarr made the three-hour drive from Southern Illinois to Champaign in 1997 to attend the University of Illinois and never left. Mother of two beautiful girls (2 & 4 years old), she is currently working at the University of Illinois and enjoys reading non-fiction, listening to leadership podcasts, singing, taking pictures of her kids, and blogging at www.erintarr.com. The epitome of an extrovert, she is an active participant at Quest UMC and loves getting together with strong women for book clubs, writing clubs, and wine tastings. You can often find her (with two kids in tow) at Champaign Centennial sporting events where her beloved husband of nine years, Adam, works as an athletic trainer.