Morristown Mama Drama is two Morris County moms with two different perspectives– one from the land of Mardi Gras (New Orleans, LA) and one from the land of WaWa (Bucks County, PA)–sharing insights and tips from the trenches. We met in Morristown when our oldest kids were 6 months old and have been navigating this delightful, and sometimes harrowing, journey together ever since. Check out our latest escapades and local recommendations right here on Morristown Green.
Kindergarten….the next frontier
We have been on this journey together since we they were six months old. Here’s how it went picking a preschool: ”Oh, you’re doing that one? Sounds like a good place.”
How important could the decision be about where to send them, in their diapers, to make projects with Popsicle sticks and eat graham crackers?
But now, as they face the big diaspora, once they start punching their card for kindergarten, it feels so real; they are in the system. Now it counts.
Could this be the decision that leads them to a life of greatness or mediocrity? Too much pressure, Type A academic pressure that leads to eating disorders or worse?
Or conversely, leaving them forever wondering what could have happened if they had just been given an extra push, more personal attention, how far could they have risen if the bar kept rising?
Private vs. Public
Wawa: Where to send them? Do we want to be the poorest kid at the $30K-a-year private school? There are some incredible private school options in the area. But there are also amazing public schools.
My 4-year-old budding entrepreneur has started multiple businesses in the fertile field of our cul-de-sac. He created a “sandwich cart” out of a car seat box and some extra training wheels, filled it with Ritz cracker sandwiches and used a jump rope to tether it to his bike to ride around hawking his wares to our neighbors.
I want him to have every opportunity to explore his love of building things (and eventually selling them, Mama wants a nice nursing home), and to have teachers who will nurture the way his brain works. But does he need to go to an elite private school starting in kindergarten to make that happen? I don’t know. Will there be those opportunities in the public schools? Again, I don’t know.
Clearly we need to do our homework, visit the schools and think long and hard about what’s realistic to do and realistic to expect. What we do have on our side is that the preschool our kids attend has taught them to love school, so no matter where they go, they will go into it thinking school is cool and fun — the goal is to make sure they continue to feel that way. Also that they not turn into jerks.
Mardi: Honor Code–yes please. A school that teaches honor and integrity every day kind of takes the onus off of you as the parent. Sort of. Of course, you’ll teach values at home, but positive peer pressure is really the most effective.
As a former private school teacher, I saw freshmen from public school often weren’t used to seeing the teacher for help, every day if necessary. They would often tell me later that “being smart just wasn’t cool at my old school.”
Inevitably after a couple of months, they’d be grade-grubbing with the best of them. “B+…oh no!” But…$41K in tuition means having to earn about $80K before taxes just for school, and that’s…uh..times two is a number too big to comprehend.
Then there’s the pressure on the kids to provide a “return on that investment.” I imagine the future conversation going like this: “You what?! You wanna sell cupcakes instead of going to college? Organic farmer? Do you know what I could have done with that private school money?”
We just want them to be happy, well adjusted, intellectually curious and, dare we say it, successful (in the conventional way…yeah, I said it). That said, private school education doesn’t guarantee Ivy league entree the way it once did. Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell–all attended public universities. Not all roads need to lead to Harvard. And yet….
Making new friends
Wawa: Is there anyone for whom this isn’t a scary thought? I get nervous walking into a new exercise class at the Y. These kids have been in the loving cocoon of preschool with many of the same kids for their whole organized educational experience so far. The idea of entering this big school with all these new kids seems super-intimidating. Although that might be me projecting my thoughts onto my kid — maybe he’s thinking, “Alright! People who haven’t heard about my monster truck collection yet!”
Mardi: The cafeteria. Will someone sit with her? This baby born from two infertility surgeries, Clomid, piles of IVF needles, poked and injected nightly with a horse-sized needle of progesterone in olive oil that had to go in intra-muscularly, not to mention 15 hours of labor followed by a harrowing emergency C-section…to have that baby sit by herself in a crowded cafeteria?
Will a teacher be looking out for her? Will she eat lunch alone in a stairwell somewhere? OK, that’s probably not coming till Mean Girl Middle School, but it’s out there looming and igniting 4 am anxiety. Did I share too much?
Oh yeah and is she already behind? What about reading? Some 5-year olds are already reading. How are they going to go from walking around their classroom barefoot, playing dress-up, feeding their guinea pig, making art with feathers, to sitting in rows like good, productive little Capitalists?
And yet, when I was in kindergarten, we fought over who got to play in the sandbox. We didn’t learn to read until first grade. Can’t See Spot Run wait a little while? Do they really need a briefcase to head into kindergarten? Yes, I know Finland is the most literate country in the world and that they don’t learn to read in kindergarten. But dammit, we aren’t in Finland…are we behind?!
Wawa: You’re supposed to have a police officer inspect how your car seat is installed. You have to keep your child rear-facing until 2 years old even if their legs are scrunched up, you have to keep them in a five-point harness until they are four years old and 40 pounds, but barely a year later, you’re throwing them on a bus!
I know everyone does it. I know a lot of kids have been doing it already to go to camp but it just freaks me out. What if he can’t find a seat? What if he falls off the seat he eventually finds? What if he bumps his head on the window? What if he has to pee? What if he has to POOP?! What if he forgets to get off at his stop?
Clearly this is nothing new. These concerns probably aren’t founded in the reality of how things really go but, ugh, he’s my baby and I’m putting him on this giant bus with someone I don’t know driving. I’m sure what it really comes down to is that I need to trust my child.
I need to trust that he can recognize where he is and know it’s time for him to get off the bus. Trust that he can stay in his seat even if he’s not strapped. Trust that he will have the confidence to ask someone if he can sit next to them. Trust that he will have the control to not pee himself on the bus. Trust that I’ve done all I can to prepare him for success wherever he ends up and that he’ll be ready to take it from here.
And that whatever it turns out I’ve screwed up, I can try to fix for the next one.
Reporting from the Trenches
We’ll keep you posted on where our academic journeys lead us. If you have a little one who will be starting kindergarten next year, the information sessions for the local elementary schools are:
- Woodland Elementary: Jan. 11, 2019
- Hillcrest Elementary: Jan. 11, 2019
- Normandy Park: Jan.18, 2019