It’s only Kindergarten, right?

When I was in college, I took an entire class focused on Maria Montessori.  I fell passionately in love with her educational philosophy on child-driven education and discovery, and on one late night in the computer lab with my best friend finishing our terms papers, I think we both swore our children would attend Montessori school.  And what could be more important than securing the very best education for our children?

That was over 15 years, 3 busy careers and 3 children ago.  Suddenly, I am faced with the reality that this fall, my oldest must leave our day care that provides a safe learning environment between the hours of 7:30 a.m. -6:30 p.m. and head off to Kindergarten.  So, like many parents before me, I have thrown myself into the whirlwind known as the Boston Public School lottery process. Of course that means I’m also feverishly researching any and all private schools in the area. For those of you who don’t know how the Boston lottery system works, each neighborhood in Boston is assigned to a “Zone” which is a roughly drawn area that may or may not be anywhere near your actual home. We live in the North Zone, which includes Allston/Brighton, Downtown Boston, and East Boston.  For those of you not familiar with Boston, believe me when I tell you that these neighborhoods are not at all close to each other.  The bottom line is that your child is not guaranteed placement at any school of your choice, and also could potentially go to a school fairly far away.  Thus, I would prefer that the city of Boston not call this “School Choice Time” but instead call it “try your luck with your child’s fortune time.”

My first mistake with the private school search was not realizing that all private school applications (and the related teacher evaluations) are due mid to late January. One excellent private school in the Back Bay actually closed applications for this fall’s incoming Kindergarten class 18 months ago. Oops.  In addition to researching all of my “Zone” public schools, I now need to research all of my private options.  Like this weekend.

My second mistake?  Forgetting about the teacher recommendation.  I had a meeting with E’s teacher about the recommendation form and she said, “you need to give me some notice to get these completed.”  Well, how does a week sound to you?  Not to mention that E is still on “Observation,” which is two steps away from expulsion.  I asked her teacher what I should expect from the evaluation.  Meaning, is all hope of getting into private school lost?

“E is very smart,” her teacher replied.  “She knows how to write and recognize every letter, she knows all the sounds, her numbers…”  “But what about her behavior?”  I asked, dreading the answer.  She gave me a weird look and said, “Well, I would have to say all the areas that she needs to work on.  Like sharing.   And transitions.  And managing her emotions…”   Ohhhhhkay, thanks.

E would thrive in a Montessori environment.  Part of the reason she’s on Observation in the first place is that she is fiercely (stubbornly?) independent and likes to move at her own pace. If she’s really engrossed in an activity, it’s hard for her to stop.  Even as a young toddler she always just had a sense of how things fit together.  When she tries to learn something, she’ll do it over and over until she gets it right.

I have no idea what her chances of getting in are, given the mixed recommendation I am expecting.  Even if she does get in, our local Montessori school costs the same as I paid for a year of college.  For Kindergarten.  And classes end at 3:30.  After school care, summer care will all be extra $$$.  So I will continue to look at all of our options, including some of the very good public schools in our zone.  I’m just not sure if we will have good options come March.  But it’s only Kindergarten, right?


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