Finding the Right School Options for Our Family

This post is sponsored by KinderCare

Last  year was a big change for our family in the educational department.

For Ella’s kindergarten year, she went half-day the first part of the year (even though it was a full-day class) and then, at her request, did full-time homeschool the second half of the year.

Then for first grade, she wanted to keep homeschooling so she stayed home that whole year, while I also did a co-op preschool for Ani.

Last year, Ella attended public school full-time and Ani went to a half-day Kinderprep preschool.

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Having them gone so much was a huge change from the previous two years where they were both around nearly all the time.

And it was a fantastic experience for all of us.

I loved the idea of homeschool, especially because my homeschooling experience was almost entirely positive.

I was homeschooled full-time from kindergarten until eighth grade and then went to high school part-time for four years (I actually didn’t even graduate from high school).

I felt like I got a great education and, even more importantly, learned to love learning.

So I really wanted homeschooling to be the right option for our family, and for that short period of time, I think it was.

But it became increasingly clear to me as first grade wound down that it wasn’t a great long-term option for our family.

Education is deeply important to me, and I could tell that I just wasn’t in a position to give my girls the kind of educational experience I’d had in homeschooling.

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If I’m going to do something, I really want to do it well, and I simply didn’t have the capacity to do homeschooling in a way that was satisfying to me or to my children.

As first grade was wrapping up, Bart and I spent hours discussing the options for both Ella’s second grade and Ani’s preschool.

We could send Ella back to the local public school she’d attended in kindergarten.

Or, because our district is open enrollment, we could send her to any one of the other elementary schools in our district, including ones with Spanish or Chinese immersion programs or a STEM focus.

There are a ton of charter schools here too with ones that were focused on performing arts or a very traditional academic experience or highly rigorous college prep elementary schools.

And that was just for second grade.

There were just about as many options for preschool.

We ended up choosing to send Ella to one of the public schools in our district and Ani attended the Kinderprep class provided by the district as well.

I was so happy with how the year played out for both of them – they each had teachers who really cared about them, who made them feel special and appreciated, and who worked hard to accommodate each of their individual personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.

It was a massive relief to feel like their education wasn’t entirely in my hands – to know that I had other smart, passionate people on my team to help my children learn and grow and develop.

This fall, Star starts preschool for the first time for a few hours twice a week and we’re both so excited about it.

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I’ve been so grateful for all the amazing preschool teachers my girls have had over the years that help them grow and develop in ways that I’m not always able to.

It always feels like such a big important decision to find the right place and the right teacher for each of my girls, who all have wildly different personalities, strengths and learning styles.

And while part of me always aches a little to keep them at home with me for as long as possible, I’m also grateful for teachers and institutions that help expand their worlds, give them a bigger network of grown-ups who care about them, and help encourage all the brain development that happens in those early years.

It feels like such a big responsibility to find the right educational options for each of my girls and as I look around at our community, where children attend so many different schools, I know that it’s a weight that many parents feel, from those earliest preschool days through college.

I’m grateful for amazing public school teachers who have helped encourage and accommodate Ella.

I’m grateful for our babysitter who plays endless games of zoo and pet store with my girls at home and reads them stacks of books.

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And I’m especially grateful for KinderCare, our back-up childcare provider through Bart’s employer, that means I don’t have to stress about finding someone to care for my girls when I need to travel for work.

One of the things that matters most to me in a school setting, of course, is a program that values literacy and I love that KinderCare believes so strongly in the power of books.

As we get ready for school to start again in a few weeks (our summer is already more than halfway over!), I was looking over the KinderCare guide for choosing a preschool for your child, and I loved that they mentioned that one of the things to look for was a classroom that was set up to encourage reading.

I remembered how many times last year I came to pick up Ani from school and found her curled up in a bean bag chair paging through a book on her own or listening to one of the amazing aides read to her.

I loved hearing Ella tell me about the book her teacher was reading aloud to the class or what books she was reading during silent reading (always my favorite part of school when I was growing up).

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It’s been such a great experience for me over the past year to recognize that I don’t have to be solely responsible for every part of my children’s childhood.

My job is to try to find the best circumstances for them and then let other people be part of their growing up.

It also lets me focus on the parts of being a parent that I’m good at and really enjoy, while knowing that other people are getting to do what they’re best at.

It was hard for me to give up my dreams of homeschool for our family, but accepting that it wasn’t the right choice for us has opened other doors for both me and my children and let us have other wonderful experiences both together and separately.

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Since 1969, when the first red-roofed KinderCare opened its doors, they’ve been helping families find the balance that works for them.

That balance is different for every family, and I know it will change every year (and probably a lot more often than that!) but for now, I’m so grateful to have found solutions that have worked so well for our family.

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Photos by Christie Knight Photography

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  • Reply Courtney June 27, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    This was very freeing. I’ve been struggling with the fact that homeschooling was just a season for us, and not a permanent lifestyle. I was fortunate to be able to homeschool for about 2 years with my oldest. Then, I went back to classroom teaching and he was able to come with me to my district. We’ve decided that I will stay home again with our youngest, and I’ve struggled with the idea of not being able to homeschool during this season. I read your lines “My job is to try to find the best circumstances for them and then let other people be part of their growing up. It also lets me focus on the parts of being a parent that I’m good at and really enjoy, while knowing that other people are getting to do what they’re best at” about ten times. That’s exactly what I want. There are certain things that I am just simply not capable of doing for them during this season, and it was comforting to know that I’m not the only mom in the world who feels a little guilt over sending my children to school. Thank you!

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw June 27, 2018 at 2:01 pm

      I’m so glad it was helpful – thank you so much for letting me know.

      And it’s so helpful for ME to know that I’m not the only one with these kinds of internal conflicts.

  • Reply Diana June 27, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    I was homeschooled for 5 years in grade school and LOVED it. I always had it in the back of my mind to maybe try with our own kids some day but then just trying to homeschool our son for pre-school last year convinced me that full-time homeschooling is not for me. I really like ability to control our schedule but I had a hard time buckling down and doing school with him, figuring out a routine and a “curriculum” (using that VERY generously). So while I DREAD sending him off to kindergarten in a few weeks I also know it’s best for him. But I’m also really really glad I’ve had 5 solid years at home with him!

  • Reply Paige Flamm June 27, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    I loved this post! We recently visited our local Kindercare and I was blown away by how accommodating they were to kids with special needs as well. It’s always stressful for me to find people that I trust to take care of Em, and after I left our Kindercare tour, I knew they would have Em’s needs met anytime we ever needed to use them.

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw June 27, 2018 at 2:00 pm

      Doesn’t that give you SUCH peace of mind to know you have good options?

  • Reply Miranda June 27, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! As a classroom teacher, I have struggled greatly with stepping out of the classroom and in to my home to teach my children or staying at my job – and the oldest is only two!! But I work at a Title I school so I feel guilty leaving my students. When you said it was your job to connect your children with the right circumstance [paraphrasing, of course], I felt like a weight was lifted off of me. My children will go to the school system my husband works for, which is where we live and is absolutely phenomenal, and I will still be able to follow my passion of helping children who need someone to fight for them. Plus, I still have my breaks to work with my children. I also admire you for always talking about how something turned out differently than you thought. It makes this parenting thing easier knowing others change their minds, too. 😉

  • Reply Mandy June 29, 2018 at 5:22 am

    Me too here!!! I wasn’t able to do justice to homeschooling although I don’t regret the years we did it for. Like you, had enormous relief finding a School environment where our kiddos thrived in schooling (more so than with me, haha!) What I love about NOT homeschooling now is that I’m just Mum, 100% Mum. I have plenty to teach them…while any teacher really can teach them school skills only families can teach them so many life lessons as well as family values and morals. I feel much better about this! But next to decide if I’ll homeschool #4 for his first years or not…

  • Reply Faye June 29, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    This is random, but do you remember the paint
    color for your daughter’s room shown in this post? I just had a little girl and I love that color!

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw June 29, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      Yes! It’s a Benjamin Moore shade called Love and Happiness (although we actually used Sherwin Williams paint, but they tinted it that color). Good luck!

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