Now that my son is about to turn 4, I have come across the very confusing, emotional and absolutely overwhelming task of finding him a new school. Joseph Alexander is currently in the most loving, safe and beautiful environment that one can imagine for a toddler. He attends a very small and charming school hidden within Coral Gables in Miami, Florida. For those of you that are familiar with Miami, you know there are countless schools, limitless schools of thought regarding early education and an unbelievable amount of choices.
Deciding on his first school was quite easy. It was a matter of finding the right place for my son and his personality. Joseph Alexander being a very attached child, needed a small environment that would make him feel safe away from me. His current school is the perfect place. Everyone knows each other. There are only a handful of classrooms and most importantly, every child is treated with the utmost attention and care. His first year was a bit rocky (mainly because he had major separation anxiety), but this second year has been wonderful. He loves his school, his friends and his teachers. As a parent I could truly not ask for more.
Sadly for both Joseph and I, it has come time to venture off into the world of larger schools. As he approaches the age of 4 I have to start thinking of the bigger picture. Part of that bigger picture is finding the perfect place for him to attend for the next 6 years, his elementary school. In Miami this means private school. There are so few public schools available, and many do not have room for all the children in the area. We are very fortunate to live a few blocks from a great public school; unfortunately the school doesn’t accept all the residents that belong t the area due to limited space.
Most parents in the Miami area are left to choose between the endless and very expensive private schools in the area. Having taken part in the application process I can only think of one two words…emotionally draining!
Lets start with the first dilemma we parents come to face. Schools do not let you know if you are accepted until late February or March. By this time, if you do not get accepted into one school, you may have very little luck getting into others because all the spots have been filled. So the game consists of applying to every possible school, paying all the application fees, attending every open house and going to every interview and child assessment. This entire process takes about two months. Two months of going to schools, touring the schools then taking your child to the school so they can be assessed and then waiting…and waiting…and waiting until you have an answer.
To me this process has been draining. It simply makes you feel so lost! Eventually you find a school you love, maybe two; but again you have to continue to apply just in case you do not make it in. And here is my question, “Is this really the process for a 4 year old to get into Pre-K?” I mean this is crazy! I cannot even imagine when he has to apply to college!!! Apart from the stress they put parents under, it is stressful for our children. These kids that are only between 3-4 years old are placed in rooms and asked questions, observed and basically measured, and compared and rated. I truly believe there has to be a better way, a more child friendly way to find a school, but as we have no other choice we have played the game in hopes of finding the perfect setting.
Today I received the acceptance email and call from the school that I loved. It both made me feel elated and sad. I was so happy to hear that he has the opportunity to be part of a school I found charming and warm. A place that is both going to nurture his emotional and intellectual sides. However, I felt sad because it is truly the end of our time at his first home away from home. I may be simply overly emotional, but to me his first school has been our haven, our paradise, and our second family. I can only hope that as Joseph Alexander moves to this new stage of his life, he finds the same happiness, love and success.