Over the summer, my kids and I were playing on the jungle gym at a public elementary school one block from our home. I was showing Alice how to play hopscotch, when she asked, "Mommy, is this where I'll go to kindergarten?"
"Woah! Wait a minute!" I remember thinking, "I'm not prepared for this question."
At that point, I hadn't started my frenzied search—kindergarten wasn't on my mind 24/7. But I was reading Alice Ramona the Pest, a book in which Beverly Cleary's central character starts kindergarten—so this is what was on Alice's mind.
I can't remember exactly how I responded to Alice's question. I'm sure I stumbled through a lame explanation: "Well maybe, but I'm not sure. I . . . uh . . . I'm figuring that out. Ask me again in a month."
Alice's question makes a strong point. She used logical reasoning to assume that she would go to the kindergarten that's a two-minute walk from her house. She also assumed that all the kids on our street would go to the same school because she went on to tell me that she would be attending school with the twin boys living next door. "We could walk to school together, Mama," she said. Alice's vision is logical—but unrealistic in our city.
It makes me sad that Alice won't go to the school down the street with the neighborhood kids. This is something that I enjoyed in a suburb in the South Bay. I walked to grade school with a group of kids. On the way, we hid in the bushes from Doberman pinschers, collected rocks, and ran through sprinklers. After school, we gathered at one of the kid's houses and ransacked the refrigerator before heading outside to make mud pies or build forts. I don't keep in touch with any of these kids or have a clue where any of them are, but they helped define who I am today.
If we stay in San Francisco, which I'm 99.9 percent sure we will, Alice and her brother won't ever experience that neighborhood school community. It's unfortunate but actually I think I'm OK with it. I'm trying to be enthusiastic about the fact that I have many options and that I can find a school that's a great fit for my family. I can send my kids to a Chinese immersion program or an arts-based school or a place that emphasizes reading—the choices are endless. Plus, Alice can always meet the kids next door at the park on the weekend.