Waldlaw Blog

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Watching Our Kids Grow Up -- High School??!!

I wrote a blog in July about moving my sons into separate bedrooms, and the ways that the move brought home to me that my sons are growing up. Well, one thing inevitably leads to another, our older son is now an 8th grader, and I seem to be spending all of my free time (what's that?!) checking out high schools. Yes, you read that right. I said high schools! When I was getting ready for high school, there were two choices: a private prep school or the public high school that served our whole city. (It never occurred to us to look at the parochial school alternative, since we are Jewish.) We decided that public school was the way to go, and off I went -- to Cambridge High and Latin, which shortly became Cambridge Ringe and Latin. If you went to public high school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that's where you went. In San Francisco, there are three choices that demand consideration: private schools (now euphemistically called "independent" schools), public schools, and parochial schools. And nothing can be taken for granted, in any category. In other words, if we decide that public school is the right way to go for my eldest son, then the next step is to figure out which public schools we are interested in, apply, and hope like heck he gets in somewhere we can live with. Same, of course, for private schools. And given the level of uncertainty and competition, apparently even Jewish lesbians like me are supposed to seriously consider Catholic school as a reasonable alternative. (And then, of course, there's home schooling...NOT.) The current system for "choosing" high schools in San Francisco has me spending at least one day per week shuttling my beloved child around to high schools for "shadow" days and interviews and open houses. And this will go on for at least one more month. But if this sounds like a complaint, it isn't really. Because through this process, my son is getting a chance to look at himself in a lot of different environments, and to really think for the first time about what he enjoys, what stimulates him, and what he wants for his future. I am sure things will get tense at some point along the way, when friends get into schools he doesn't get into or something else prevents him from going somewhere he thought he wanted to go. But right now, each visit produces a self-reflective gem: "that school puts too much of an emphasis on technology"; "that school didn't seem that challenging academically"; "I would get to travel outside the U.S. if I went to that school"; "I loved the shop program at that school." When I looked at preschools for my son, I was still guessing at what would work for him; when I looked at elementary schools, I had a better idea but still was going largely on instinct. Looking at middle schools for my son, I had a much clearer idea of what would work for him -- both academically and socially -- but it still was me visiting the schools and picturing him there and checking out the curricula and feeling out the social environment. Now, for the first time, our older son is picking a school for himself, and through the process he's thinking in a completely different way about ... well, about who he is. So the high school admission process is actually being an opportunity for introspection that I had not anticipated, and yet another step along the way to self-awareness for this rapidly maturing young man that we live with.


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