You’ve just signed up for 5 — wait no, 6 — campus tours at local kindergartens and preschools. You’re a parent now, and your special charge is a little person — aged three or four perhaps — clutching a knitted rabbit or a favorite toy fire engine in one hand and, with the other, you. You’re a parent now, and life is different.
We remember from the other side as well; we are joining up with our own childhood selves; we’re being big, encouraging and reassuring to the little person we once were — and in part still are.
There is an unfamiliar surge of anxiety and a revolution in one’s unlimited choices when it comes to schooling nowadays, and a new alertness to pedagogies and philosophies: can those early years truly be the ideal foundation for a prolific life? Will middle school be as bad for her as it once was for me? Will that high school give him a leg up for college applications? You’re acutely aware that you’re about to set a path to potentially-marvelous things, and yet the feeling right now is terror. Nothing seems as good as the perfect safety of your arms.
Of course, you know precisely what you’re not looking for in a school. But at this very moment in time, you find yourself easily astonished with the bold claims and lavish pamphlets you’ve collected from a dozen renowned institutions around town. You’re starting to feel as if you’d be missing much greatness by choosing one of them and refusing all the others. You wish you could mash up all these promising claims and craft your perfectly-tailored school. And anxiety continues to climb.
Luckily, one bolder statement resonates. Both you and your spouse are finding yourselves compelled by the magnificent oak tree remarkably photographed and meticulously varnished on the cover of that private school view book. You know you shouldn’t look at education in that price range, but nothing seems more important than your child. You’re a parent now.
When schools do engage in marketing, they all start to look and sound the same. Rather than broadcasting catch-all blanket statements designed to appeal to growing range of applicants, institutions would benefit from remaining honest with themselves. Parents would benefit from seeing more clearly through their options. And most crucially, your child would benefit from being at a school where she truly belongs, from engaging in activities he genuinely finds interests in, and from forging relationships with like-minded individuals.