High-quality academic offerings. Distance from home. Campus culture. Student safety and supports. Access to the arts, sports, and cultural opportunities. Price tag.
These are all things that my children and I researched as we have looked at colleges over the last year. Yet the categories were familiar, as these are the same concerns that fueled our school choice journey over the previous thirteen years.
Now that first journey is nearly over as we head for the next.
When my wife and I decided to have a child (little did we know that twins would result!) and to stay in Columbus while raising our family, we knew we’d have to be proactive and hands-on in regard to formal education. My parents had opted in the complaints about lack of funding, churn among building administrators, high-profile of test-rigging, whining about the “drain” of public money for , judgmental comments from our neighbors about our duty to “ ” no matter what, and a troubling on rigor and achievement (“all kids are successful, somehow, some way”), even in the district’s better-performing schools.to move out of the city, choosing a small rural school district as a better fit for my siblings and me. In 2001, Columbus City Schools didn’t look a heckuva lot better to me. They were getting low marks on school , there were constant
So we worked at it from start to finish, and that meant making changes whenever warranted. From preschool through twelfth grade, one of my kids attended four; the other, five. None was a traditional district school. We did our at every decision point—researching our options; talking to other parents (“Your kids are fine. They could do yoga all day and still ace the test.”); visiting schools, although our resident district made site visits very difficult to arrange; and attending multiple . (That helpful event was offered to families in but nowhere else in the city.) Transportation was a no matter where we went, as it has always been for many Ohio attempting to utilize school choice. We were seeking all the elements noted above, but academic rigor was always at the top of the list. These priorities required multiple school moves over the years—when a change in school leadership changed the academic emphasis, for example, or when opportunities for extracurricular activities were limited by school size or grade level. We even made the difficult decision to send the twins to two when one child’s needs gradually made an otherwise excellent school a bad fit.
Did it work? Was it all worth it?
Now that we’re looking at colleges and watching our children choose for themselves which institutions fit their aspirations, we believe our school choice journey was largely successful. At the least, our kids seem to have internalized the ways in which we researched and chose schools for them in the past, and are now applying those methods in their own way to the next phase of their education. They must now own the choice and the next journey.
Child-rearing in general seems like one of those puzzles that you can’t be sure is getting properly solved until you’re nearing the end. The moves seem right at the time; all the pieces fit in the moment. Often you can adjust on the fly when things seem to be off kilter. But “properly solved” doesn’t become clear until very far down the road.
We as parents are expected to do our best for our children throughout their lives. The process of researching and choosing a college is a time-honored tradition for high school seniors, counselors, teachers, and families—one that I am immensely pleased to be partaking in right now. But that process should start sooner. Here’s hoping that such efforts will become a vital part of the K–12 system, too. I feel that a child’s education journey should begin in the same way it ends: finding the best fit, with the help of a system designed to serve them, so that all children can become the highest and best versions of themselves. The smartest, most thoughtful, most confident versions ready to take on the world.