I wrote my first post addressing this question almost 7 years ago. I can hardly believe the time has flown by so quickly! My daughter is now almost 9 years old. The last week of school she attended a program at Loyola University. Her school counselor–at her CPS school–nominated her to participate in the National Youth Leadership Forum: Pathways to STEM. I hear concerns over schools more often than any other concern when families are looking for a new home–whether they are relocating from outside the city or just considering a new neighborhood. I could not be more pleased with the education that Sophia is getting at her CPS magnet school. That is not to say that the process of getting her into a school was not painstaking and terrifying–because it was! But, having a few years under our belt and meeting lots of other parents both at our school and others, I’ve learned a few things.
- The way CPS is organized and the process for finding and enrolling in a school is NOT user friendly.
- By and large, your kids are going to get a perfectly good education and be safe and happy.
- Of course there are exceptions to #2!
- How stressful the process is in direct relation to how convinced you are there is only ONE good option.
- Sending your child to one of the “good” schools in the “good” neighborhoods does not necessarily mean that they will get a better education, have better friends, be safer, love all their teachers/staff or that they will not feel the sting of social exclusion at times.
- You MUST know yourself and the type of parent you want to be to your student–more on this below.
When Sophia was in pre-school she attended a parochial school because I needed full day coverage so that I could work. It was a lovely experience and I enjoyed the small classes and the openness that encouraged parents to come to the school and visit any time, volunteer in the classroom etc. For kindergarten, she started at CPS at her current school, LaSalle II. In pre-school I was used to walking Sophia into her class, saying hello to everyone, helping her take her coat off etc. Not at CPS, at CPS parents drop off their kiddos to a teacher outside and may not go into the building. I FREAKED OUT. And I continued to freak out all day, thinking–“she doesn’t know where her class is, she is going to get lost, she doesn’t know anyone”. You get the idea. Guess what–she was fine. Better than fine actually. Sophia’s birthday is in late July so she is always one of the youngest in her class but it turns out our kids are more capable than most of us give them credit for!
It did take me a while to adjust to the new process–no longer could you just drop by for a visit, you had to schedule with the teacher and school and make a plan. Again, it worked out great and I have continued to help out in the classroom and go on field trips ever since. Now that I am more relaxed about it, I really appreciate the formal organization of these things. I also really appreciate our school community–never have I met or heard of a more energetic, committed bunch of parents! Until I talk to a parent at another school and realize that they have just as energetic and committed bunch of parents! It’s really impressive and inspiring and I stand in awe–and gratitude–to these amazing and friendly people that seem to be in such abundance that all the local schools I know of seem to have plenty of them to go around.
I have to say, my favorite part of living in the city, of living in my neighborhood, and of Sophia’s school, is the diversity all around us. LaSalle is a language academy and so focuses on other cultures as a critical part of the curriculum. Sophia is on her fourth year of taking Mandarin Chinese 4 days a week. In addition to the curriculum, the school community itself is diverse and honors diversity. I took this picture at a school dance a couple of years ago–have you ever seen such a beautiful rainbow of children? And they don’t just have different skin colors, they come from every kind of family you could imagine and they are friends and they love each other.
With the challenges our beloved city is facing including wide spread violence, I am also happy and grateful to report that we have been untouched by anything of concern. I continue to walk my dog late at night and have not had any issue, we also walk about a half mile back and forth to our friends house, oftentimes coming home after dark, and no problems. I am not so naive that I don’t realize something COULD happen, but that is true anywhere. I maintain that I feel safer here in my Chicago than I ever did in my other resident cities of Cleveland, OH, Raleigh, NC, Dover DE, Wichita Falls & San Antonio, TX.
Bottom line is, I love living in the city, my daughter is thriving and I couldn’t imagine wanting anything different for my family! If you are considering a move and want to chat more about my experiences or I can help you with your transition, give me a call or drop me a line.