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.