There we were. Sitting in uncomfortable chairs meant for mini-mes a third our age, listening to stories of past students’ accomplishments, test score averages, extracurricular activities, drop-off/pick-up zones … you guessed it. We were sitting in a school auditorium at the first of many grammar school open houses my husband and I attended in the past few weeks. My head was spinning. Was it not yesterday I was contemplating the perfect age to become a mother? When my water broke at Costco? When I first thought of the things I wish I had known before becoming a mother?
Parents have an incredible responsibility choosing where their children attend school in the early years to give them the tools to succeed later in life. As my husband and I discussed, to and from our way to these open houses, it’s not an easy task. Our area has so many choices, whether it is homeschooling or attending a parochial, private or public school. I believe we can all agree that every school is unique and enrolling our offspring to what we consider “the best” is not an easy decision. And, the school we choose for their education in the early years will pave the way for high-school. (As I explained to my husband, who grew up outside of the Jefferson and Orleans parish area, “where’d ya go to school,” also known as high-school, defines your character in the eyes of most New Orleanians and follows you through your adulthood.)
To be honest, I became more obsessed as the process continued and as registration dates approached. What if we made the wrong decision? What if … I even reached out to current parents and past alumni associated with our top schools to hear their own reviews of their personal experiences to ensure we were considering an environment that would not only provide a rigorous curriculum but where they would be nurtured and ultimately become happy, successful young adults.
As I read comments from other local parents I realized our “list” was as unique as each of us. I reflected on my past experiences while visiting these schools and examined the impact my education has had during the course of my life and where I am today. My grammar school consisted of a rigorous curriculum and prepared me very well for my high school and college of choice. My education was enriched in a religious program and my teachers helped me excel and learn fundamental skills such as studying, memorization and comprehension. Everything else – faith, drive, resilience, respect for one self and others and determination to succeed – are attributes I learned and inherited from my parents and grandparents. Sacrifice, to put it mildly, and not in the terms of dollar signs, is the time, examples and willingness to give up of our own self for the betterment of our own children’s emotional, physical and educational well-being. I recall my mother sitting with us for hours after school each day to help us complete our homework and prepare for graded exercises; she also assigned additional reading books for us to read to ensure that we mastered her second language, as well as her first. My dad, between deadlines for his own business, helped us brainstorm ideas for science projects and sat with me for hours on end while I struggled with biology. The reality is no matter how much energy and time we invest seeking that “perfect” school for our little ones, our actions and words as parents play the greatest role in raising happy, successful adults for the future.
I understand even more so that being a parent becomes a harder job every.single.day. As I fill out my first born’s application it brings tears to my eyes that my baby is growing up. I pray that my husband and I have made the right choice but I realize that choosing the “perfect” school is only a snippet of the impact it will have on our children’s life.