Actually, we started checking out our (her) options last year, going to the open houses of three different schools. Before the open houses, we had schools A, B & C on our radar. Going in, I liked school A, based just on what I knew from other families. Annie liked school B, and we were both mixed on school C.
After the open houses, I liked school B best, she liked school A best and school C had pretty much been thrown out. So I was pretty sure that we'd be choosing between schools A & B this year. However, last May, enter school D.
D was really out a bit out of my comfort zone. It's a public school; I've always thought that our kids will spend 12 years at Catholic school. But, it's a charter public school, so it does have some of that private school feel. And it's got an arts bent to it, which sold Annie on the idea of school D even before she set foot in the building.
Mike and I decided we wanted to check out school D for ourselves before we allowed her to get all carried away with excitement (too late!). We scheduled a tour and spent an hour or so in the school during a regular school day. We were very surprised to find that we really liked school D. Some of our concerns -- there would be lots of weird kids there, it would be too small -- were just not true. The curriculum structure makes sense to us. But we still wanted her to look at schools A & B.
On Wednesday, Annie shadowed at school A. When I picked her up, she was all smiles -- so much that I wondered if someone had injected her with Botox in the science lab. She had a great time. Everyone was so awesome. People were very friendly. She knew a lot of the answers in Spanish class. The art teacher was really cool. And it was fun to see kids she knew from grade school. She said that on a scale of 1 to 10, one being "get me the heck out of here" and 10 being "sign me up now!," she would give school A a 9.
I began to wonder how schools B & D would hold up in comparison. The next evening, school D hosted an open house. I wasn't sure we needed to go. Mike and I had already seen the school and Annie will be shadowing there in a couple of weeks. But Annie really wanted to go and since we didn't have anything else planned and since it is kind of her FUTURE, I piled everyone in the car and we headed down there.
First, we went in the wrong door. Here I am, not even a school parent yet and already breaking the rules. We made our way to the cookie table first, to
As we went from room to room, Annie started warming up, asking a question here and there to either the students showing us around or to the teacher at the front of the room. By the time we got upstairs, she had actual conversations with a math teacher, an art teacher and was deciphering Latin with the help of one of the school's Latin teachers.
By the end of the night, she'd made friends with a sophomore that one of her current school friends introduced her to and said she wanted to shadow with that student on her assigned visit day. I looked across the large room where we were standing and saw her standing there with these kids, absolutely at ease, not at all nervous.
Because the open house was drawing to a close, I gave Robbie and Charlie another cookie (so I didn't have to hear "what's for bedtime snack" when we got home) and tore Annie away from her conversation. On the way to the car, I asked her what she thought of school D on that same scale of 1 to 10. She said, "well, if school A was a 9, school D was a 13!"
She did not stop talking all the way home. She must have said "I love that school!" at least a dozen times. If I had said, "If you go to school D, you must scrub the kitchen floor with a toothbrush every night," I'm pretty sure she would have said OK.
We are still making her do the shadow day for school B (and for school D). But I'm afraid school B is going to have to spin upside down on its head while twirling firecrackers to get Annie's stamp of approval. And if it can, more power to them.
I wish I could explain how awesome it felt to see how alive she came just at the prospect of being part of the school D community. Awesome doesn't begin to describe it. But I looked at her, I watched her eyes, I listened to her talking to the teachers and I felt joy...JOY....to see that she knew where she belonged.
(Of course, she's a 13-year-old girl. So probably next week, she'll be all about schools X,Y, and Z and I'll be left shaking my head...)