Our family

Our family
Christmas 2010

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Take 47 at this blog (and Choosing a School)

OK, I know i tell myself rather frequently that I should be updating this blog and yet find a million reasons to procrastinate in doing it. Lately I've been feeling stressed. The search for a suitable school for not only Ethan, but one that Aidan would thrive at the following year has proven to be quite a challenge. Maybe we were a bit over zealous in our search (OK, who are we kidding...it was all me, not Jay). We started by visiting schools back in the fall.

Earle Brown Elementary was the first school we visited. To date, it is still one of, if not, the best school we have seen. So many pros associated with this one. The principal was incredibly friendly. He even answered his own phone which impressed me off the bat. When I scheduled the tour he was open to having us come whenever it was convenient to US and to BRING Ethan along! The building is only 6 years old, third graders get MacBooks, each wing has their own bathroom, there are multiple all-day kindergartens including an all boy/girl class, Ethan was talked to by the principal and staff, and it is an International Baccalaureate Program School (they'd learn Spanish language and culture). He was even encouraged to try out the automatic sink outside the bathroom and to walk around each class and look at everything. It was an awesome visit and we enjoyed it so much....then to come back to reality we learned that we had to "open enroll" to the Brooklyn Center school district since we are about 4 blocks south of the border. We happily filled out the paperwork and sent it in...now we wait for the school board to approve/not approve our application on February 14th.

Then we were brave and ventured into the world of private schools and went to an open house at Breck. Nothing terribly wrong with this school beside the price tag on it. While weighing the pros/cons....we would need some SERIOUS financial aid to pay for two boys at that school at the same time. We ended up deciding to not even apply to this one as that would've cost us $150+ just to find out if both boys were eligible and what sort of financial aid we would receive.

Next up....immersion school. We visited the Park Spanish Immersion school in St. Louis Park. Jay's cousins attended this school and it seems like a good program. However, we had again a strike against us not living in the SLP school district. There are very FEW spots for outsiders. But we filled out the paperwork and are waiting to see where we fall in the lottery results.

We visited a school on the way to daycare (hoping we could partake of the transportation available at Kindercare for before/after school care). We found out about their open house/information night. It is called Monroe Elementary with a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Sounded like a great program up until they were even MORE against outsiders in this district. We were pretty much asked to leave and laughed at when we suggested we apply via open enrollment. We still did send in the paperwork. Now we wait, but definitely not holding our breath on this one.

We also (without visiting mind you) have open enrolled into Woodland in the Osseo School District. This one would logistically be a challenge, but we know a couple of fun families that attend this school. We're not expecting to get in, but it only cost us $0.44 to send in the paperwork.

Finally the Minneapolis School Fair came around in January and we narrowed our choices prior to attending to approximately 6 schools. Once we got there, some of them impressed us and some of them did not. We were enticed by several more and scared by others. We came home and had our choices to visit narrowed down to a handful of schools in the district. I set up tours at a few and found out about information nights at others.

We started off with one that looked great on paper, but the location was less than attractive. Elizabeth Hall International. This one, too, is an international baccalaureate school with a focus on Mandarin Chinese language/culture. Cons on this were the location, the uniforms, the scary parents walking around the hall....needless to say it did not make the final cut.

The next option on our list was Armatage. Again, this one would be logistically challenging, but we thought the Montessori program there would be interesting and so we toured. Turns out they combine grades 1-2 and 4-5, so potentially Ethan/Aidan would be in the same class or one of them has a lesser teacher than the other for two whole years. I also have this gut feeling that Ethan would very much thrive on the Montessori program, but Aidan would find it a great excuse to goof off and not work hard. I'm not sure I'm right about this, but just didn't feel like a good fit for both of them.

One of the "treasured finds" at the school fair was the Yinghua Academy (A Chinese Immersion school). We went to the information session and it was so awesome. Not too far out of the way for me to drop off before work either. This one will take some convincing to Ethan though as when we asked how he liked it he said "What is it when you speak normal?" "English" "Yeah I want to go to English school." Unfortunately my hopes rest on less than 75 spots in a lottery process for this one. We left our application at the office though on our way out. So we wait until February 11th to find out how we fair. I'm not sure how Ethan would do in immersion, but for some reason I think Aidan would really like it, so I'm really hoping we do magically get chosen. I'm thinking on the night of the lottery, we all go out for Chinese food to give us more hope.

I ventured out with Ethan to an information night at Kenwood Community School. Prior to going, I did not consider that they call it Kenwood because it is in the Kenwood neighborhood, which is a very affluent part of Minneapolis. When we pulled up to very nice houses in the neighborhood....I was sold (of course we'd NEVER be able to afford to live in this neighborhood). I spoke with all three Kindergarten teachers and they all won me over. No immersion, language, specialty programs though. I was ready to sign him up on the spot (if that were how it worked) until the head of the PTA said they had to fundraise to keep the 3 all day Kindergartens since they do not have enough kids with free/reduced lunch to get funding for it, so each family is asked to donate $2K each year. My stomach sank for the rest of the information night. We'd never be able to afford that and keep up with the birthday parties and vacations the other kids would be having in this neighborhood. But after discussing how much we pay in daycare now, we COULD figure out how to pay the $2K IF we got in...the rest we'd have to figure out later. (This one made our first choice on our Minneapolis choice card.)

Deciding we should at least visit ONE of the neighborhood schools we are guaranteed, we visited Loring. No "extras" at this school, but it was a fairly cute school nonetheless. I was a little upset with a teacher calling a student "annoying" rather loudly from the hallway and the classrooms were more cluttered than others. Plus not being the outdoorsmen, the community garden did not win any points from me. This one did not make the cut.

Needing one more choice on our Minneapolis choice card, we chose Whittier. Have we visited it? No. Have we heard of it? No. But it is an IB school and most of our hopes fall on Earle Brown (the first choice in this LONG journey of discovering all our choices), so we threw it on as Choice #2.

Now we wait...which is the part I am not good at. I hate waiting. Ask Aidan...he'll tell you that. EVERY DAY, we wait for his cute pokey butt every morning to get dressed, pick out a book for school, put his shoes on, put his coat on, find his hat, put on mittens, get in the car.... I wouldn't trade him for anything though. By the end of February we're hoping to hear from all but the two Minneapolis schools we've applied to via open enrollment. By the end of March / mid-April we should should hear from Minneapolis on which of the two choices we chosen we've gotten into. So until then we just wait!

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