Our Family: We are a bi-racial/tri-cultural family. I'm a 1st generation Chinese American and my husband Godric is Caucasian. The "tri" reflects Godric's experience living in Japan during high school and fluency in Japanese. We have 2 sons, Hugo (entering K in Fall 2011) and toddler Gideon, who both attend a wonderful childcare center at my work in NW San Francisco.
Our View on Education: Godric and I went to public schools (SE Washington and DC suburb) and trained in the martial arts in our pre-parent, singleton days (Godric seriously; me not so much). This may have formed our view on education: A quality education is the right of every child, but it should be viewed/treated as a privilege. Parents and children should treat teachers/administrators (and one another) with respect. Additionally, from our experience with the childcare center, parents' involvement makes the curriculum stronger and children learn better when their environment is safe. Children (and their parents) are accountable for the children's behavior and should follow a "code of conduct."
Initial Research: In Spring 2010, we planned to move from the South Bay closer/back to San Francisco after Godric completed his doctorate in chemistry in June. I researched schools along the Peninsula and in San Francisco on GreatSchools.net, Parents for Public Schools-SF and the SF K files websites as well as attended the JCC Annual Kindergarten Information night in May.
I was so fixated on quantitative factors such as API and test scores that Hoover E.S. (an academic-oriented, teacher-directed curriculum in Palo Alto with a 982 API score) was my #1 choice. However, I had a "Yikes!" moment when I came across the trailer on http://www.racetonowhere.com/. I was so affected by it that I read books listed on its website during my summer vacation: The Trouble with Boys, Motivated Minds and Nurtureshock. I also read the Hassels' Picky Parent Guide for elementary schools based on GreatSchools.net's referral.
With humility, I realized by focusing only on the "quants" that I had a very narrow view of what a great school was and that I hadn't even considered Hugo's needs at all. (Hugo would survive, but not thrive at Hoover.) Using the Picky Parent Guide, I came up with the following and hope we can find a good fit for these needs in SFUSD! (Any suggestions for schools are welcome!)
Hugo's Needs: Per Baby Hearts, Hugo is a "slow to warm" child; he flourishes in familiar places and with familiar people, but is extremely cautious and shy in new situations. He is an observer in new activities; he prefers to watch others do something first and then he'll try it. He would prefer the following:
- Classes that allow for small group activities (teacher aides/parent volunteers to help reduce class ratio)
- A smaller sized school
- Time for free play, physical education/activity
- A curriculum that is project-based since Hugo enjoys this at his preschool
- A curriculum that allows for hands-on activities
- A curriculum that includes Critical Thinking (analytical, conceptual and creative thinking) and problem solving. The "why" and "how" are as important as the "what, when and where."
- An environment where Hugo will love learning.
- Principal and teachers that seek parent support and ideas.
- Safe & orderly environment (e.g., "code of conduct" for students and consequences for inappropriate behavior are clear & consistently applied)
- Parent community that we feel comfortable with and that shares our philosophy on education
- Logistics: Starts (or has before-school care) before 8:30am and has after-school care that is available to us.
Our Nice-to-Haves: Located close to my work in NW SF (or secondarily close to Godric's postdoc in SW SF), integrated science curriculum, music, Caring School Community or TRIBE, arts, computer technology, Mandarin or Japanese as a foreign language.
- Hugo speaks English; Gideon speaks toddlerese.
- I had learned Mandarin in Sunday Chinese school in my tween-to-teen years, because my mom "Po Po" taught there. Since I didn't choose to learn it nor use it (my dad who actually speaks Cantonese wanted us to master English in the household!), I lost it. It would be nice for Hugo to be able to speak with Po Po when we visit the DC area. I could probably recall enough of it to help Hugo with homework, but I'm ambivalent about it.
- Godric, who is passionate about Japanese, would help Hugo with homework. Godric's best friend and former host family are still in Japan, so it would be nice for another visit. (Hugo came with us to Japan when he was 13 months old. The 16 hour time change and ensuing sleep training back to West Coast time was brutal though.)
Choice: In the end, we chose to move to San Francisco (over the Peninsula), because
- I was really inspired by what parents from both PPS-SF and SF K files have done to turnaround schools. (If it's not there yet, built it. "If you build it, they will come." from Field of Dreams.)
- Proximity trumps assignment certainty... maybe it's the "helicopter" parent in me! : )
Helga the Hopeful