Moving and Public School Reflections

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago I was blessed with parents who worked hard to give my brother and I a very comfortable life.  Going to college wasn’t really something I ever wavered on.  I was surrounded by friends who were also attending college.  I also lived in a pretty stable community.  In fact, one of the main reasons I can remember people moving had to do with wanting a bigger house or wanting to be in a better school system.  Even with those moves, we often would still see people at church or shopping, because everything was still fairly close.

When my husband took his first full-time coaching job I was very excited for him.  I knew moving was a part of the deal, so it didn’t really phase me.  I remember sitting with someone who had lived in the town we would shortly be moving to.  She talked about how disappointing the schools were, and that it would end up being a frustration for me.  Of course, having been married less than 2 years, I was confident we would be long gone before our kids ever had to attend schools in the cornfield, so I smiled and forgot all about it.

Fast forward several years and I found myself clinging to the advice of my MOPS girlfriends who all had kiddos in our only elementary school.  Our oldest boy went through 2 years of KRP, Kindergarten-2nd grade in the cornfields, our younger boy finished Kindergarten right before we moved to VA.  Because of the timing of our move, I was not able to tour the schools before finding housing.

Our move was fairly overwhelming for many reasons.  1) It was our first more with kids 2) We were moving out of state for the first time since birth 3) Our college sits on the state line, and we not only needed to consider what area to look for housing but what STATE to live in.  I can’t emphasize enough how clearly God lead us to our current house and school. That being said, I’ve reflected a lot about how the coaching life changed my thought process regarding choosing a community to live in including school choices.

1)Living in the cornfields, I began to understand how privileged I was growing up.  It always bewildered me that people would attend private school.  The classes were so small, and they didn’t have nearly the resources our public schools had.  Plus, the only people I knew who attended there had been kicked out of the public schools.  In the cornfields many people homeschooled, and some drove 40 minutes to attend the closest private school.  In most of these cases, the kids had an equal or better education to the public school.

2) Because we see coaching in part as a ministry living close to the college is a priority.  Growing up, my dad commuted via train to Chicago every day allowing us to go to better schools.  Although living 30 minutes away from the cornfield would have given our boys access to schooling similar to my upbringing, our first call (ministry) took precedence.

3) State to state standards are very different.  In the cornfields Kindergarten emphasized reading, but it wasn’t something that all kids moved up to 1st grade knowing how to do.  Thankfully my boys have always been quick learners and our younger son had picked up reading.  In VA where we now live, it is a requirement that 1st graders know how to read.  Had we moved without that skill, he may have had to repeat a grade.

4) Not only are standards different state to state, but testing is also!  We moved from a Common Core state to a Standard of Learning state.  Oi!  My sweet 3rd grader had no idea what he had stepped into.  Thankfully, we are surrounded by, and amazing community and I had been warned a bit of what we were getting into.  The boy’s teachers were very understanding as well and sent home plenty of study guides for us  um our son.

5) Moving gave my kids opportunities I didn’t even realize they were missing out on.  Within a few weeks of the school year starting I received a letter from the teacher in charge of the gifted program.  This was not something previously available.  Also, they were able to go on AMAZING field trips.  Not to mention competing in a reading bee.

6) Sometimes the grass isn’t greener.  Although there are several great things about our new school, IL has a must stronger emphasis on PE and Music.  I cannot express how sad I am at the lack of resources devoted to these subjects at our new school. Truly a frustration.

SO, with all these reflections I’ve some up a few tips:

1) ALWAYS work on reading and math throughout the summer.  Kids loose up to 2 months of knowledge over the summer, and that could be significant when it comes to placement testing.

2) If something is, a priority to you (like your child learning to read music) be willing to invest in private lessons.  We have a kiddo who has decided he likes golf.  There is a middle school golf club around here, but that is several years off, so I called around and was pleasantly surprised to discover golf lessons were reasonable.  We are also investing in Science camp and Pottery lessons this summer for both boys.  I understand that tax dollars go to the public schools, but the reality is dollars can only stretch so far.  Priorities will be different area to area, but that doesn’t mean you need to compromise.

3) Pray Pray Pray.  Really, this should be number 1.  Got directed my husband to a great house for us, and it was in an area that allowed our boys to attend a smaller school. This was a blessing for our introvert who doesn’t need to stress about meeting new students each year as the whole class stays together.  Also, even though we had been warned our corn field days would be disappointing, the truth was, we always had great teachers who loved the boys like crazy and saw their potential.  Their teachers always pushed them to work hard in class even if it meant being a bit ahead of the group.  They laid an incredible foundation that set my boys up well for VA.  Knowing some of the other experiences first hand from their friends, this was a God thing for sure!

4) Engage with the teachers.  Our teachers have always been willing to answer questions when we haven’t understood things.  When teachers know they are working with parents who are willing to work at home, they will help.  Every year we were given access to free resources online or locally to further our kids learning.  Some of those resources have been available to us even though we have moved.

5) Don’t feel guilty.  A dear friend told me when we moved to VA that she had wrestled with the schools for years and finally realized that if God had called them to serve here, then He would also take care of their kids.  There are plenty of kids who go to top schools and still struggle in life.  Knowledge is power, yes, but it doesn’t mean that the knowledge must exclusively be taught by teachers.  Being freed from the guilt and worry of “are they going to succeed?” has given us the ability to pray more specifically for our boys.  It has also allowed for the perspective that our kids may need extra help in certain areas, but that they will learn even through the struggle.

6) Private school or homeschooling might be the way to go.  For us, so far, it hasn’t been the preferred choice.

7) People move for jobs all the time.  In the coaching world, it is often more frequent than others, and it is somewhat more limiting.  Coaches often need to go where the jobs are, and that might mean being far from family in an area of the country you know nothing about.  Have no fear, I can testify that even if you don’t have a CLUE about Virginia history, your kiddos will survive! 😉

**Disclaimer I realize that some of this might rub you wrong or make you feel defensive.  Please understand that I am not trying to impose these tips on anyone, we are all trying to do what is best for our kids.  11 years in, I’m still learning.  At the same time, had I known any of this when our first born entered KRP I would have had many fewer times of unnecessary worry!

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