By Richmond Mom Charla Eastep
With my baby girl comfortably in kindergarten now and my twin girls already in second grade, so much of me is nostalgic for the baby days: those endless but sweet days of diapers and formula and coupon clipping.
But there’s another part of me that is thrilled to have big kids who are in school. Real School - that place I drive them to every morning, where they are learning and playing and becoming more of who they will be.
The taking them to school was not difficult for me–it was the deciding where I would be taking them that was a bigger decision than I imagined. If you’re the mom of a current preschooler, perhaps you know what I mean.
Before I had kids in Pre-K, I giggled at moms who obsessed over the “right” school, agonized over pro and con lists, and researched teacher-student ratios as if they were college stats. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I mean, it’s kindergarten, right? How big a deal could it be?
Well, quite a big deal, actually. Whether you are a transplant (like me) or a Richmond native, what do you really know about the schools in town? We all hear what our friends and neighbors have to say, and we can all read the school reports in local publications. Unless you are a teacher, however, the last time you were in a kindergarten classroom was likely 25 or 30 years ago – when you were the kindergartner!
In order to select the best fit for my family, I embarked on a tour of five area schools so I could see each one for myself. All were well regarded and highly recommended public, private or Catholic schools. Rather than leave this important task (and decision) to chance or memory, after each tour I made lists. Many, many lists.
The first school I visited was easy to love. I had attended Catholic school for 13 years, and this school looked, smelled, and felt just like the school I grew up in. It felt like home to me.
When I visited our neighborhood public school, I discovered a coveted, state-ranked program with great teachers and resources to spare. Some of the best kids I know from my neighborhood graduated from that sweet school. Being able to go to a neighborhood school that was so competitive, for free, was an incredible option.
The first private school on my tour was impressive, as was the second. Each had distinct and important offerings that left me reassured my girls would receive an excellent education. It was easy to see why many friends of ours had chosen these schools for their children.
And then, Collegiate. Just as leaders at the other schools I visited had, my Collegiate tour guide warmly welcomed me. And just as I had at the other schools, I brought along my notepad to list the pros and cons. By the end of my tour at Collegiate, however, I found myself trying to find reasons NOT to send my children there.
I loved every single thing about the school:
- The individual class size was right, yet each grade level was big enough that my twins would not always be compared to each other.
- The incredible teachers of course teach academics, but also stand at the classroom door at dismissal and teach the kids to look them in the eye as they shake hands and say ”Have a good evening.”
- The door was held open for me by young students on three separate occasions during one visit.
- The fantastic campus.
- The traditions of the school. I just loved that each grade had a major event that my girls could be excited about and participate in, and also got them looking forward to being old enough to do that next thing.
- The skilled resource teachers who come into the classroom to work with small groups in reading and math.
And that was just Lower School!
The fact that Collegiate is a K-12 school meant that these sweet “Kindies” could look up to the Middle and Upper School students, and even interact with them on special days, such as the school’s Homecoming Pep Rally. Those interactions would help ease my kids’ eventual transition into Middle School. Collegiate’s middle school is so awesome and unique: it’s the only local school where girls learn separately from the boys (a major plus during those crazy, awkward, hormonal years). Then in UpperSchool, the kids come back together for co-ed learning; and UpperSchool was so amazing that it made me wish I was able to go to school there.
I had done my research and had listed myself to death…this was where I wanted my daughters to be.
Flash forward two-plus years of being Collegiate Cougars: The twins are loving second grade, and my baby girl is a spunky, happy kindergartener.
We have never made a better decision for our kids than sending them to Collegiate. It is not always the easiest decision: tuition can certainly make our budget tight. But as they say, nothing that is worth doing is ever easy…and I haven’t yet found a more worthwhile, or rewarding, reason to clip coupons.
Charla Eastep lives in Short Pump with her husband and their three daughters, ages 7, 7, and 6.
Editor’s Note: Collegiate School is an advertiser of Richmondmom.com, and more information may be found at the Collegiate Website.