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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Another school year started and already thinking about the next one

It's been a while since my last post and I've actually received a few emails asking what gives. Well, life gives, it seems. Not that things are going poorly, by any means, but new school schedules just mean transitions and adjustments, none of which are necessarily easy. But now that we're in the swing of things, it's starting to go a bit smoother. Juggling the therapies, pick-up times, and occasional illnesses has always been tricky with a full-time job, and this school year is no exception. But I'm lucky to have a great job with an understanding administration that makes it possible for me to keep working, a luxury that I refuse to take for granted. And even though one of my 10th graders just made a joke about poop that was alarmingly similar to the one Atticus made just last week, I really do love my kids and my job enough to work my butt off and balance them both. So far, so good!

Quinn and Atticus are doing great and loving their new school almost as much as I am. I've seen a vast improvement in not only their cognition and development, but in their general desire to learn. Quinn is walking with the help of push toys and cruising on furniture with ease. It's only a matter of time before he lets go and starts walking independently. He's learning more signs everyday and using them without prompting from us and starting to repeat sounds and words. He still has a way to go, but we're in the process of finding new private therapists to reinforce this development outside of school. Other things, like drinking from a straw and holding a toy phone to his ear, activities that most parents of toddlers take for granted, are starting to emerge with the help of occupational therapy (and teachers with more patience than rocks. I can't even imagine giving 8 toddlers open cups of milk at lunch time, especially since Quinn is prone to throwing said cup across the room).

Atticus is currently working on sight-reading and can't ride in the car without spotting words and letters that he knows. Our dinner table sounds like a quiz show: "Pumpkin does start with P! What else starts with that letter? If I had 4 pumpkins and gave two to you, how many would I have left?" Pumpkins are big right now, as are ghosts, candy, and pirate costumes, the combination of which makes for a rousing game of make-believe that leaves my head throbbing from the noise, but I digress. He's also writing his name, doing simple math, and coming up with creative solutions to his problems in a way that makes me confident in his future success. Of course, how he'll reach that success is a topic of lengthy discussion in our house...

Atticus will be entering Kindergarten next year and Houston is notorious for having a small handful of excellent elementary schools that are highly coveted, juxtaposed to an alarmingly large number of campuses that I wouldn't send my children to if they were the last places on Earth. It's an abominable system. The few transfer spots that exist on these exemplary campuses are based on a lottery admission and, from what I've learned this week, it's easier to get into Harvard University than it is to get into our top school choice. Yes, you read that correctly. Travis Elementary, which is 2 minutes from our house but out of our attendance zone, has a 6% admission rate for Vanguard transfer students, while Harvard's admission rate is closer to 10%. Of course, to even be entered into this lottery, Atticus has to pass the Vanguard test, which assesses his giftedness. He'll apply and take the test, but we're not putting too much stock into it. Even if he passes and is considered Gifted and Talented, he still has to be chosen in the lottery. The crapshoot of this system has me nervous. Our neighborhood school isn't a bad school, per se, but I'm worried that it won't be rigorous enough for Atticus and challenge him in the ways we want to see. I know this problem exists everywhere, but it's especially bad in Houston, where the best schools are in some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country. Even middle-class suburban neighborhoods (like where we moved from) don't offer the programs I'd like to see for my children. The selection is even worse for middle-class urban neighborhoods (where we are now). And last time I checked, we can't afford a $800,000+ fixer-upper of a postage stamp house zoned to one of the few good elementary schools in the city, so selecting a school that can cater to both of my boys' different needs is daunting, maybe even impossible. It shouldn't be this difficult for middle-class families to find quality public education. And yet, it is.
Homework with Daddy

So what do we do? Right now we're rolling with it. Maybe we'll win the academic lottery and Atticus will get a spot at one of the better schools in the area. Maybe we'll try our neighborhood school and see how it fits. But we definitely need a plan B in place, just in case the aforementioned options fail. The lack of good plan B's has me nervous...and seriously considering that commune we've always wanted to start in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Who's with us? I'll churn the butter and teach the kids, but we're going to need someone else to do the cooking, for everyone's sake.   


  1. You can always move to Kansas City. We have some great schools in the Blue Valley School District. :)

  2. There are parents camping out for weeks to get their kids into good schools here. It's sad to me. I can hope that education can be equal someday for my kids.. :/