Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(Literal) School shopping

Open season to choose (and apply at) a school for Miriam is just around the corner (her current school only goes up to KG2). I've set up a Google Doc to keep all the facts and numbers straight. I even added a column for "Notes/Hearsay" because you get so very much of the latter from other parents whenever the conversation turns even remotely toward a school-related topic. I actually don't mind, because it's one thing to look at a school's website and maybe tour its grounds. It's quite another to hear praise or criticism from an experienced, caring parent.

This blog post will deal with Round One of the process, which is simply a fact-finding mission to decide which schools to visit in person. The results of those visits will be Round Two. After that, I should be able to pare down the number of schools to two or three so that we don't run up exorbitant application fees.

I want to keep this nice and anonymous, so I'm redacting the names of the schools. Sorry.

Unless otherwise noted, all schools are K-12ish, require uniforms, and use the British curriculum. They're not big on American schools here so I had better get learning all my GCSE and A-level acronyms.

School S. This school is the favorite of the university community. I would say that most people in my acquaintance send their kids to School S. And most seem to be very happy with it. It is very close, which is nice, but it's not close enough to walk and the school does not offer bus service to our area. Probably because it's so close, you know? Joining a carpool or even driving Miriam to and from every day is not a deal-breaker in and of itself; however, I've heard that their Arabic program is weak which is a major strike against School S.

School V. The underdog, for sure. It's not super well known but every parent I've talked to who has a child there has had nothing but good things to say about it. It's smaller and farther away than School S but then again, they offer a bus service. Their Arabic program is stronger and I've heard that school/parent communication is very good. Another plus: one (possibly two) of Miriam's best friends from KG2 will be going to this school. I know you can't count on that kind of thing but it is a slight incentive.

School R. If you can believe it, this is a Catholic school. I know, right? However, the student body is made up of students from other religions, too. I haven't heard much about this school but I am intrigued enough to visit it in person. However, this school inexplicably appears to have no website, which kind of makes my head explode.

School C. The website of this school got me really excited. Then I started talking to parents, many of whom told me that this school is very Islamic. I'll go and see for myself and try to get a feel for how Miriam would fit in there. The dress code is strict (no makeup, nail polish, henna, or jewelry), but that's not always a bad thing, now is it?

School W. The thing that sets School W apart seems to be that it separates its classes by gender starting at a certain (early) grade. I think that could be wonderful. It could also be stifling and disastrous. Just like School C, this is going to require a visit in person to figure out.

School I. I am very hopeful about this school. It's funny because while School C has a very un-Islamic name but an opposite reputation, this school has a very Islamic name. We'll see how the reputation turns out. From parent comments, it seems like a very good and nurturing environment.

School F. I'll go ahead and state openly that this is the French school in town. It gets very good reviews from the almost exclusively Tunisian and Quebecois parents I've talked to. There's just one small problem: neither Jeremy nor I speak French. I don't think I'm prepared to go into Miriam's education so blindly. Sorry.

I am so glad we have so many good schools within a reasonable distance. I am absolutely not willing to put my 5-year-old (or 6- or 7- or 8-year-old...) on a bus for 40 minutes each way, twice a day. Not even for the very nice American school that I know of. And especially not when we don't have to, you know?

I'll keep you posted on Round Two, coming up in January! If you have specific suggestions of what to look for in a school, please share. This is my first time school shopping so I need all the help I can get.


Amanda said...

There are two school options here in Sahuarita. School A is the public school. It's within walking distance and parents like it OK. There are uniforms and it has good test scores. Option B is the charter school. It is 20 minutes away and does not offer a bus. The class sizes are smaller, there are no uniforms, but there is no inside gym (i.e. recess outside everyday regardless of temperature) or cafeteria (not that I was planning on letting Lillian eat school lunches, but what if we wake up late?) All the parents I talk to absolutely LOVE this school even though it doesn't test as well.

I think driving/having to arrange a car pool is a deal breaker for us and Lillian is going to go to the public school. I mean, I went to public school, and I did OK.

Liz Johnson said...

Out of curiosity, are these all private schools that are paid for by AUS? Or do they have one that's preferred?

I find myself cheering for School V, or School R if they end up having a website. :)

I have two options where we live: get my kid into the Magnet/gifted elementary school, or homeschool. Or I guess we could move into the (far better) school district further away. As you can imagine, I'm really, really, really hoping for option A, because I don't want to move and there is no way I could homeschool my kids (or want to). Luckily (or not, ha), Connor doesn't start school until Fall 2012. Bah.

Bridget said...

Amanda, the public school sounds dang good to me. And I love how you seem so reluctant to "let" her eat school lunch. Is it that bad these days??

Liz, yes, all these schools would be paid for so price is not really a consideration. School S is far, far pricier than the others but like I said, it doesn't matter. However, bus service costs extra and I've heard mixed reports of it getting paid for by the university. So that could be an issue.

Jeremy Palmer said...

Dad respectfully says 'no' to schools C and F.

Bridget said...

Yeah. I think the no henna rule would crush Miriam's fragile spirit. She loves that stuff.

Crys said...

So bus service is a non issue for me. I absolutely refuse to put Captain E on the bus. The only person in charge is suppose to be watching the road. NO THANKS!!!! Our schools has rules about colors of socks, color of shoes, color and ammount of hair bands, no makeup, or jewlrey. It is a non issue for E but I thank my lucky stars every day we are moving before Gigi enters school. Crushing blows to a child who actually cares :) And no website...WHAT ARE THEY THINKING!!! These things matter. As we've been looking for residencies I'm not going to lie, badly put together websites actually get residencies docked in our book :)

Susanne said...

My friend in Abu Dhabi sends her three children to a British "Christian" school -- I wonder if it's Catholic too. Seeing the R school on your list made me wonder. Her kids still have Islamic classes there to her chagrin. She's not your typical Muslim and doesn't really want her children to learn about the Quran from any ol' teacher. Her little boy was upset recently when the Quranic teacher taught them about the last days by taking something like a snow globe and smashing it on the ground!

How awesome that Miriam's schooling is paid for as well. It seems you have have almost nothing to buy over there except fabric softener! ;-)

Happy school hunting!


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