Editor’s note: In each of the last few years, we’ve had a parent write about the process of going through the Champaign Unit 4 kindergarten lottery. Today we introduce Kari Croop, our 2017 “Lottery Mom.”
By Kari Croop
We didn’t have a school lottery where I grew up in suburban Pennsylvania. If you went to public school, as my older brother and I both did, you simply enrolled at the elementary school that was closest to your house. No element of “choice” to it, really, unless your parents wanted to move or put you in private school — and that was that. In fact, the toughest decision my mom probably had to make for my first day of kindergarten was what I’d be wearing, what she’d be packing me for lunch and whether I’d carry it in a “Strawberry Shortcake” or a “My Little Pony” lunch box. Simpler times. Simpler times, indeed.
Starting kindergarten in Champaign, by contrast, is a little more complicated. You have to do research months in advance, you have to compile a ranked list of favorites and submit it by a predetermined deadline — and, after all that, you still have to wait for “The Letter” to learn whether you got into the school you wanted the most. Though I understand the reasoning behind Unit 4’s Schools of Choice Program, I’d be lying if I said my perfectionist self isn’t quietly freaking out from all the added pressure. Because there’s one more thing that makes school choice particularly complicated for me as a parent: I’m not choosing a school for one kid; I’m choosing for three.
The thing is, I’ve got triplets.
When Chambanamoms.com first asked me to be this year’s “Lottery Mom,” I agreed with a little hesitation. After all, how relatable would my experience as a triplet mom actually be to the average parent who’s focusing their energies on just one rising kindergartener? But after checking in with some of my triplet mom friends – women I know both in real life and online – and comparing their responses to those of “normal” moms I know, I realized that, no matter how many kids we’re dealing with, we’re all going through a range of similar emotions.
Luckily, I’ve lived in Champaign long enough — more than 10 years now — that I’m familiar with the overall process, so once-puzzling terms like “proximity priority,” “cluster school” and “sibling preference” aren’t quite so strange. My veteran parent friends with older kids helped answer some of my earliest questions and clear up my most egregious misunderstandings, of which there were many. And now my husband, Andy, and I find ourselves poised, a bit nervously, to dive in and make the choice for ourselves.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m an organized person. (You kind of have to be to take care of preemie triplets.) So it might not come as a surprise to know that I’ve been preparing for this whole kindergarten thing for, well, a while now. In fact, I may have created a calendar reminder for myself *mumblety-mumble* two years ago *hangs head in shame* and set it for January 1, 2017. And an event titled “Begin Kindergarten Registration for the Fall” might have been the first thing that popped up on my iPad screen when I flipped it open on New Year’s Day. It’s also true that I maybe have issues, but I’ll save that for another time.
Not that I’d forgotten about kindergarten, mind you. Nora, Connor and Cameron turn 5 at the end of this month, and we’ve watched all three of them grow by leaps and bounds in the past year especially, getting farther and farther away from toddlerhood and closer and closer to school-age independence. They no longer nap. They put their plates in the dishwasher. (OK, sometimes.) And more often than not, they wipe their own butts, a day I swear to you I thought would never come. They’re even experimenting with using the word “like” in casual conversation — like, as an interjection. So, clearly, it must be time.
When it comes to kindergarten, a lot of my mom friends are already weepy, while others I know are in full-fledged denial. But please hear me when I say that I am ready. I’ve spent the majority of my waking hours these past five years at home with my kids, caring for them, teaching them and having a lot of truly great times with them because a) I wanted to, b) I could and c) my kids are kind of awesome. But I also attempt to work 15+ hours a week as a part-time writer and editor for a certain global streaming service, occasionally do local theater, and somewhere in there manage to get some sleep. So to go from my daily cacophony of sound to roughly 6 HOURS OF COMPARATIVE SILENCE A DAY while they’re in school? Well. The very thought makes me giddy. Not to mention the fact that having huge blocks of time to myself during the day will radically improve my work-life balance and allow me to reclaim a full-time paycheck for the first time since my doctor put my belly on hospital bedrest. After years of cramming random writing sessions into my kids’ naptimes and pulling vampire hours at night to meet weekly deadlines, getting evenings and weekends back is another major selling point.
I know it’ll be a big change for all of us, and of course I’ll miss them when they’re away. (And you can bet I’ll get misty when I kiss the three of them “goodbye” on their very first day.) But a long-awaited milestone has finally come for this tired triplet parent. And to that, I say in my best Batman voice: “Let’s do this.”
Champaign Unit 4 Kindergarten Registration: Where to Start
Kindergarten registration in Champaign opened on January 2. The deadline to register is March 31.
Here’s a list of helpful steps to get you started:
Visit the official Champaign Unit 4 Schools of Choice page to view important policies and critical dates, and browse the updated “Welcome to Kindergarten” booklet for 2017. You’ll find most of the answers to your questions there.
Attend one of the district’s upcoming kindergarten registration information sessions: Tuesday, January 24, at 6 p.m. at Stratton Elementary School or Thursday, February 16, at 6 p.m. at International Prep Academy.
Follow Champaign Unit 4 Schools on Facebook for registration reminders and important updates.
Follow Chambanamoms.com on Facebook, if you don’t already to join me and my family on our kindergarten-registration journey.
Kari Croop, a proud graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, is a writer and editor who works part-time for Netflix from her home office in Champaign, where she lives with her husband, Andy, and their fraternal triplets, Nora, Connor and Cameron. Bonus points if you can guess how many times she was interrupted while writing this column.