If applying your child to kindergarten seems like an overwhelming process, I’m here to tell you that’s because it absolutely…..is! I mean, right? Or at least it can be. I’m smack dab in the middle of it with my 4-year-old son, and I’m trying really hard not to let it stress me out.
The pandemic isn’t exactly helping matters, for a lot of reasons, but when it comes to the process itself, trying to figure out who is doing what and how adds another layer to this challenge. Though there is a positive side to having so many open houses on Zoom: a) you can attend a bunch of them, and b: you won’t run the risk of stumbling in late because you just had to get a Starbucks on the way!
I decided to put together a list of some DOs and DONTs for the kindergarten search, as much for myself as anybody else!! I figure if you have a good plan of attack, it can keep doubts from creeping in, the kind that wake you up in the middle of the night to ask: “Did I turn in the forms I needed to” or worse: “Am I considering the right schools?”
Since I’m a rookie with this (Wade is my oldest child) I’m leaning on friends who are veteran parents for advice. This list is a mix of what I’ve learned from them and what I’ve figured out on my own so far:
DON’T wait for the CMS School Choice website to tell you when open houses are for the magnet schools. Go to the individual school’s website. For example, Myers Park Traditional had open house dates posted on their webpage before CMS School Choice caught up. If schools don’t have something posted, e-mail them. That’s how I found out Charlotte LAB isn’t doing any open houses until later in the year for an April lottery. Smarty Shoutout: Thank you to CSP for putting up our School Open House Guide in September every year, I am living by this!
DO: If you’re applying to independent schools, sign up for CAIS (Charlotte Area Independent Schools) cognitive assessment early. I learned this from a friend who had done a lot more homework than I and was nice enough to fill me in. Even if your child isn’t tested until December, these psychologists’ appointments fill up. If your child tests early in the fall, that’s fine too. The assessments are based on whatever age your child is when the test occurs.
DON’T be afraid to start your search early. One thing I’m 100 percent sure I’ve done right so far is starting my search last year. I wanted a head start, just to ease the time crunch. As a mom of three sons, including 3-year-old twins, I figured, “What if one of them gets sick and I can’t make an open house?” What I didn’t know at the time was that by working ahead I got to make on-campus visits then that I can’t now because of COVID. You just never know what’s coming, do you?!
DO what you can to take the pressure off your child – and you – on evaluation days. One of my mom friends who has already been through this with an older child made an adventure of the WPPSI-IV testing day with her younger daughter. After meeting with the psychologist, they went to SEA-LIFE Aquarium and out for lunch. Made some memories instead of stressing!
DON’T put so much pressure on yourself that this is a decision you have to make for the rest of your child’s life, or try not to anyway. I’ve had multiple mom friends tell me their children’s needs changed over time, so they changed schools, and it was fine. Nobody can foresee the future. You do the best you can at the time.
DO geek out and get organized. Create a saved e-mail folder. Make a notebook like you’re a 7th grade schoolgirl. Whatever it takes to make sure you’ve got your information in one place and readily available. This process is stressful enough without forgetting an important deadline or losing paperwork that you might need at a moment’s notice.
DON’T try to keep up with the Joneses. This is easier said than done of course, but when considering a school for your child, it should be based on what’s right for your family. Nothing else really matters.
DO keep an open mind. Listen to your gut. Go with your heart. Trust your instincts. And all the rest. I will have to let you know for sure when this is all over, but the closer I get to the final outcome, the more I feel like the only decision that will be right for our family is the one that feels right.