by Gwen Jimmere
They say babies are expensive. For me, my son, himself, isn’t what’s expensive. It’s all the big ticket items we have to purchase to accommodate him that’s expensive. Case in point: Prior to his arrival, we owned two Ford Mustangs. Realizing there was no way his rear-facing car seat was going to fit comfortably into my beloved electric blue “˜Stang, we took on a more expensive car note and increased gas fees to cop an SUV (I refused to be rolling in a minivan).
Additionally, a good sized chunk of our monthly income now goes in to his college savings program. I figure we have 18 years for the interest to compound, let’s get started now and maybe”...just maybe”...we’ll have saved enough to cover at least half of his degree. (I joke, but don’t get me started on tuition prices.) Prior to him, that dough was allocated to my shoe fetish fund.
Now we are in the process of house hunting. When we moved to Michigan from Ohio, we knew that we’d rent for about two years before buying. And here we are at a year and a half in. Before my son arrived, we were pretty much thinking about looking anywhere that had an awesome house we could see ourselves in for about five to seven years. Now, we’re looking in only the “˜burbs with superior school systems and a great house we could see ourselves in at least until he graduates high school.
We all know how it typically goes: the better the school system, the more expensive the cost of living in that area. My priorities have changed so much since lil man arrived, so it is what it is. I am willing to settle for a great (rather than awesome) house if it means he will receive a world-class education. In my eyes, Caiden is a little black boy and he is going to need every possible opportunity he can get. I have rejected putting in offers on absolute dream homes because the school system is mediocre. Sure, I could send him to private school, but the cost is crazily expensive. My nephew attends a $40,000-a-year private school in Ohio. Luckily he is on scholarship, but just think about all the kids who aren’t. Their parents are forking over two car notes a year for schooling. I’d prefer to live in a district with wonderful schools that my son can attend as a tuition-free resident.
So now I am trying to balance it all: find a superb school system, in an area that we love and a house that we adore. However, I am willing to forgo a little of the latter two in order to achieve the first requirement if necessary.
I have done the research and found out that the number one rated public school system in the state is a mere 13 minutes from where we live now. Their high school has been on U.S. News and World Report’s “Top Ten High Schools in America” list for the past 10 years and the district has a long standing partnership with Harvard. They have a 99% graduation rate and a 98.9% college attendance rate. 90% of students are accepted to their first choice college or university. Now that’s what I’m talking about.
These kids have the common football, baseball, soccer and basketball as sports, but they also have equestrian, lacrosse and figure skating. I didn’t even know figure skating was offered as a sport in schools! Each school in the district is a certified “green” school; the district also owns a full fledged farm where k-12 students can work, raise farm animals, and rent horses to ride and individual plots of land to grow plants and fresh vegetables. And their 40 acre-spanning nature center, includes fresh water rivers and natural wildlife for k-12 students to explore. Even their school lunch offerings are some of the healthiest I have ever seen. They even start teaching children Mandarin Chinese in Pre-K! (In comparison, I was first offered a foreign language in seventh grade and Chinese wasn’t even on the list of options.)
Even on a basic level””their website is more thorough than any other district I have checked out to date. I truly feel Caiden would receive a phenomenal education and have incredible opportunities here. Thus, I have informed our realtor that we want to search exclusively in this area. Pray for me that we can find something here. Just the thought of him attending these schools gets me giddy.
Upon watching Waiting For Superman, my bias toward excellent schools has become even more solidified. Our black children are often getting the shaft when it comes to educational opportunities. It really is unfair. Every child should have the same opportunity to excel. But since that’s not the world we live in, we parents have to find ways to give our kids the best we can.
I have been told that all I need to focus on is the elementary schools right now because he is so young. I find this to be incredibly “in the now”; it is imperative we think toward the future. No child will be in elementary school all their life and I feel I would be doing a disservice to my son by focusing solely on elementary schools and not taking into account the level at which the middle and high schools are performing and have been performing over time.
Another school of thought is not to worry about elementary because middle and high school is where he will have more difficult subjects. This doesn’t work for me either. Elementary school is where the first foundations are laid.
His future lies in the hands of my husband and I and it is our duty to give him the best education we possibly can. Education is the key to success and I will do whatever it takes to ensure our son’s future is not stifled.
Gwen Jimmere is an award-winning and nationally syndicated editor who authored the relationship manual for young women, If It Walks Like a Duck”...and Other Truths My Mother Taught Me. She blogs about relationships, dating, marriage and parenting at The Duck Walk and works in social media/digital marketing.