December Mortgage Update: And money and school zones

Last month (November):
Years left: 2.75
P =$1,054.86, I =$159.55, Escrow =$788.73

This month (December):
Years left: 2.5
P =$1,066.94, I =$147.47, Escrow =$788.73

One month’s prepayment savings: $7.90

DC1 currently goes to private school.  Ze goes to private school because ze needed to start K early and the public schools wouldn’t talk to us about that.

The public schools have now changed their tune.  They have a district webpage on how to start K early, how to skip individual classes, and how to skip grades.  They note that enough people have taken these options that they now offer 7th grade algebra and 8th grade geometry at the middle schools.

At the same time, while we’ve been living in this transition neighborhood (the last frontier not changed into student housing, though I’m fairly sure there’s a houseful on our block), our school zones have changed twice.  And each time they’ve gotten worse.  We are now in the worst elementary school zone, and the “athletic” middle school.  Note that neither of these schools are the closest to our house… no, we’re the “rich” neighborhood that gets moved every 5 years to even out the “poor” districts, instead of the actually rich neighborhoods that never get touched.

If DC2 doesn’t need acceleration, then we have a chance at lotterying into a bilingual program at one of the better elementary schools.  That still wouldn’t have been enough for DC1 (and hasn’t been enough acceleration for some of our collegues’ kids, though it did work out until said kids became fluent in Spanish, at which point the lessons became much too slow).  Of course, DC2 has been, if anything, hitting milestones earlier.  Hir birthdate means that maybe only one year of acceleration would be needed instead of two (ze just makes rather than misses a cutoff), but that’s still one year too many to be eligible for the bilingual program even if ze did get in.

So that leaves us with choices.  1.  We could move before DC2 needs to start kindergarten, which could happen sooner than we think.  If we’re going to do this, it might make sense to sell the house before sabbatical/unpaid leave so we don’t have to deal with renters, just storage.  (Untold moving costs, though we’d probably buy a smaller house if we bought again, but I’d probably also get a longer commute which would suck.)  2.  We could send DC2 to the same private school that DC1 goes to ($9K/year).  3.  We could not try to accelerate and see what happens with the bilingual program lottery.  (Free, except in potential future therapy bills)  4.  We could accelerate as fast as possible through the elementary school and just cope and deal. (Free, except in time spent in conferences with the school.)  We could also rent an apartment in a better school zone, but the quality differential isn’t enough for that to be a feasible option like it might be in a large city– none of the elementary schools are all that great.

And who knows, the school zones might change again.

I’m guessing we’ll probably just stick with the same private school if it’s still in business.  Who knows.

Why is this all so hard?


38 Responses to “December Mortgage Update: And money and school zones”

  1. xykademiqz Says:

    Ugh. It does sound tough. From what you said, I would likely opt for the private school. Second option would be to sell and try to move to a small house in a rich neighborhood, if you can afford it.

  2. becca Says:

    We’re struggling with our school and acceleration now.
    It’s really maddening- last year, Roo went to academic-boot-camp preschool (we were the low income-eligible type of at-risk). He was writing paragraphs at the end of that. Now they are back to tracing letters. And he is scribbling all over the pages on some days- bored out of his gourd, I presume (legibility may have suffered a minor summer slide, but he actually sees the point of writing much more now than before…). He’s reading fluently, and his math is at least as far ahead as the other stuff. This school, despite much-better-than-average reading test scores, gets only somewhat-above-average math scores, and they don’t even start money and time units till this time in 1st grade… I think they really need to improve the rigor of the math for everyone, based on the recent research on Kindergarten and math.
    At conferences, the principal did say she’d look into the district policies on acceleration. Part of my trouble is that I don’t know how much of this is “your curriculum is inadequate, let’s use some of the PTO mini-grant money to cover a workshop for the teachers on math instruction” and how much of this “look, you’ve been teaching in this role for 2 whole years, statistically you’ve never had a kid like mine and you probably don’t recognize them, here’s what this type of kid needs”.
    I really desperately want to believe that we can work with the public schools to get what we need. I’d rather Roo have a group of peers who are more diverse. But my partner is starting to push for private school (any private school- religious brainwashing does not worry him) and it’s hard to pinpoint why we shouldn’t (except that Roo *also* went to a religious co-op preschool last year, and they were even less rigorous than the public school, though maybe the extra play time was a good thing in its own right).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Curriculum-wise it sounds like you live in our state.

      Many of the privates around here are also not that great academically; there’s a big variation in what they emphasize. DC1’s current school (~50% white) is actually a lot more diverse than the ones the rich people in our town go to (which are mostly white and asian).

      • becca Says:

        Private schools do vary a lot! I had a close friend in high school who went to a Lutheran school where kids literally told her she should be burned at the stake for Tarot cards or something. In that case, I think the emphasis was on a certain type of socialization, and not a healthy one.
        On the other hand, I remember *lusting* after the U of Chicago lab schools when I found out they got to use the university library and had a swimming pool (those were my priorities at the time). And one of my early boyfriends went there and came out pretty well educated- though truth be told I think it was a little bit wasted on him (he ended up going to Tulane and was DJing at raves last I heard).

        My partner tends to think a private school with a class size of 7 will necessarily have better academics than the public Kindergarten with 26. He might be right, religion or no.
        There are actually a couple of very intriguing independent (non-religious) schools in our area that don’t emphasize academics but do emphasize things I think are important (creativity, healthier socialization)… but it would be a step down diversity-wise, and the tuition is still pretty pricy for our income.

        The school thing is hard for a lot of us. Even when you know in your head it’s because you have comparatively good choices, it’s hard.

      • Katherine Says:

        I think the idea that tiny class sizes are always better academically than publics is wrong. A class that size will be exactly as good as the teacher, and in many religious schools the teacher won’t be phenomenal.

        My experience (I was gifted and my parent sent me to a small independent Catholic school for 6th and 7th grades rather than to the public middle school, which had a gifted and talented program but the class sizes were >30) was that the small school didn’t have enough room for differentiation, and the teachers weren’t able to recognize that I was bored out of my mind and weren’t willing to do anything about it when my family brought it up.

        The small school was also very homogenous and I had a very hard time finding friends I fit in with.

        Both problems were solved when I transferred to the big public middle school, which had about 400 eighth graders and four different academic tracks. Mostly I’m grateful that my parents were flexible with school choice. I never attended any school for longer than 3 years because they were willing to re-evaluate and choose the best school for me every year.

  3. Saskia Says:

    How do you know if your kid needs acceleration? My 4-year-old can read a little (easy chapter books) in English and simple sentences in her second language (she’s at a bilingual preschool). We’ve taught her basic math at home (addition and subtraction with regrouping, a little multiplication, a tiny bit of fractions). So, she’s not super advanced or gifted, just a little bit ahead of the curriculum.

    But she doesn’t seem bored at preschool. Would it hurt her to keep her with her age mates?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      …your four year old is doing addition and subtraction with regrouping, multiplication, and fractions and she’s not super-advanced? I think we have a rant on that need to say “my kid isn’t really gifted, but” somewhere on the blog, maybe I’ll dig it up.

      As in whether or not it would hurt… we can’t tell you. We both went through some pretty bad psychological trauma in middle school from being out of synch with our peers. But preschool was fine.

      My DC1 very obviously outgrew preschool and was getting bored and into trouble and they’d run out of stuff for hir to do. Perfectionism was (and is still) a problem. You can read about our experiences at age 4 if you hit the “gifted” tab.

      In general, probably because of the way culture is, girls tend to acclimate more with their same-age peers than boys do. (That wasn’t true in our cases, but that’s what the books on giftedness suggest.) Girls are better at hiding being smart, or are more likely to prefer getting along with other kids and teachers to showing their intelligence (if you believe that start-up-guy-whose-name-I’m-forgetting article on why smart kids don’t have friends in middle school).

      For us, we’ve been playing it by ear each year. That’s probably the best we can do.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      No, it was actually a rant about moms saying they weren’t especially smart as kids. Well!

      That was a very ranty rboc. IBTP.

      • Saskia Says:

        Interesting. I was actually a super smart/advanced/gifted — whatever term you want to use — kid. Way ahead in terms of math and (especially) reading of where my kids are now.

        Which is probably why I don’t see my kids as being particularly advanced. Yes, they’re ahead in certain academic subjects. But that’s mostly because I like working with them at home.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I’m not sure what to say to that…

      • Saskia Says:

        Sorry. Did I sound like I was bragging too much? Or not giving my kids enough credit?

        My kids are about a zillion times better adjusted and less terrified of other people than I was/am. So there’s that.

      • xykademiqz Says:

        Re Saskia’s comment that (I presume) she was much more gifted than her kids. These things are hard to eyeball. A lot depends on the kid’s interests. Often a kid who is very intelligent but is also into sports or very social seems less gifted than a comparably intelligent kid who is more bookish in his or her pursuits.

        I have a few examples with my kids. Middle Boy, who is 7 (2nd grade), is not a big reader at all. He taught himself how to read, with minimal input from us, at about 3-4 so he could play his older brother’s video games. He rarely reads at home because he says books are boring (we have books everywhere, all levels, he could read whatever he wants). In contrast to our eldest whop was always a voracious reader, middle boy never picks up a book without prodding. So we were really worried about his reading, but when I went to the parent-teacher conference, his teachers say that he reads at the 7th grade level. He apparently chooses to work hard at school and play at home. He also sings very well, draws, and is way ahead of his peers in math.

        I also thought my Eldest was “smart but nothing special.” He is in high school now; he is accelerated in math and having all honors classes and doing great in all. He actually surprises me how fluent and quick he is doing math in his head (e.g. various algebraic manipulations), he’s as good at it as the best of my college students. I don’t know if he took off once puberty hit, or if he has always has great capabilities, but I feel I might have underestimated him as a young kid because he didn’t seem like whatever skewed idea of “smart kid” I used to have.

        My mom also told me that I had always done well in school, straight A’s throughout, but that nobody thought anything of it until I took off really rapidly in middle and high school and got markedly ahead of the pack (I was an international physics olympiad kid). I know there is brain development that goes on in puberty and enables abstract thinking, so I wonder if that’s just it — the kid always had the potential, it just got unlocked at some age; or maybe we expect kids to behave as certain types of baby-geniuses at age 2, and anything other than that is just not smart enough.

        Also, let me reiterate that kids have different interests. Your kid may be as gifted in the same area as you, but may have other talents that are more of interest to them, so the lack of interest in something doesn’t mean they don’t have the ability to do it very well. For instance, I don’t foresee Eldest doing a physical science or math, even though he’s accelerated. He’s exceedingly verbal, and absolutely adores social sciences and history, as well as writing. He also likes bio stuff and wet lab work (blech!), in no small parth because he was exposed to some cool university labs as part of a special program. He disliked middle school as it was boring, until we got him accelerated, but is great now.
        Middle Boy seems to be inclined to math and engineering topics. But he also sings and draws quite well and is quite physical; who knows? He seems happy at school and they keep him plenty challenged. He is also very social and quite popular (little alpha male), so this aspect — having his buddies around, having playdates, going to afterschool that he adores, are all important factors.

        My point is that early ability means something, but it’s hardly everything. Don’t dismiss your kid because he or she is not exactly the same as you were at their age; they might turn out better, and they will sure be different. And as someone who has lost plenty of focus thinking about boys/guys and volleyball, but turned out quite successful anyway, one should never ever forget the importance of extracurricular and other interests for one’s health and happiness.

        (Sorry for the longwinded post!)

      • Saskia Says:

        Great points! And it’s good to be reminded of this. I too had written off my eldest (now in college) as reasonably bright , but nothing special, based mostly on his lack of interest in reading as an elementary-school age kid.

        Lets just say. I was very, very wrong.

        Maybe the moral is that I’m not a good judge of my kids’ abilities.

  4. The frugal ecologist Says:

    Wow, that sounds tough. Seems like there are a lot of advantages to having both kids in the same school (except the price tag). I am extremely pro public school – mostly for diversity reasons – but who knows once our kiddo gets a little older. Thankfully we are in a good district & there is also a good, small private school within walking distance.

    You are so close to paying off your mortgage – wow!

  5. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    Schools were part of the big reason I was so willing to move when Greg had a career crisis and quit his job last year. Our old town has iffy schools, but our new area literally has the top public school system in the state. It’s not a huge deal now since my daughter is just in kindergarten but it will make a big difference later on. Housing prices are more expensive here, but at least you get something for it.

  6. anandar Says:

    We picked option #3 (small public school with language immersion, but less opportunity for acceleration), and so far it has worked out great, the proximate cause of our school aged child’s therapy is still TBD. :) We are still in early elementary and the second language is still challenging, so things could change, but it helps that (a) the well-designed and non-traditional curriculum is really interesting and engaging even if there aren’t easy opportunities for a gifted child to move “faster,” per se; and (b) although students are a very diverse bunch, I’ve found here at least that kids whose parents sign them up for bilingual education are generally on the bright and verbal side– there is some sort of positive self-selection going on, and I’m happy with the peer group. Also, our area’s political/cultural/educational climate is, I’d guess, very different than yours…

    In your case, though, I would be very motivated to consolidate drop-offs and pick-ups! Now that our youngest is getting close to kinder, and really excited about it, it would be kind of sad not to be at the same place as older sibling.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DC1 would be taking the bus to public school, so no picking up or dropping off required (bus stop is across the street from our house), though I don’t know how they work it for bilingual kids, since the bilingual program is at the other schools (ironically, one of them is the elementary school closest to our house).

      One nice thing about changing preschools is that the new preschool is literally around the block from DC1’s private school. So one of us will do pick-ups and the other drop-offs rather than both of us having to do both.

      Which reminds me, if we’re going to give a one month notice today at the bad montessori we really need to make sure DC2 has a firm slot at the new place. Gotta make that phone call!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Correction, we only have to give 2 weeks notice. Whew.

  7. omdg Says:

    9K per year! I am so jealous! It’s more like 22K for private kindergarten in my neck of the woods.

  8. jlp Says:

    I hate this dilemma. I spend an obnoxious amount of time worrying about how my kids are going to fare in school, and which school(s?) we should try.

    Currently, Elder Child is in the public school system in a program that is accelerated, but only differentiated in reading, and ze has learned and will learn (we have seen the book for the year) no (new) math at school this year. (Math at school: addition and subtraction; math in hir head for fun: squares and square roots, cubes and cube roots, etc.) We are struggling with the decision of whether to keep hir there (ze loves the school, the community is great, ze seems to have a few peers) or move hir (not learning any math, the school is poor in resources, the class sizes are huge). Oh, and if we move hir and decide it was a mistake, since testing was required for entrance, ze has to test to get back in, and that’s obviously not a given.

    Younger Child just misses the cutoff for K, so is not eligible for 2 more years. In the meantime, ze does the Elder Child’s homework (we make a copy for Younger Child, who loves worksheets) each week. So, clearly, ze will also not be challenged by the same math….in TWO years time. (They absolutely will not make an exception for early entrance – we have talked to them.)

    (To add to the fun, both kids have other special needs. Elder Child’s school is currently copying with hir needs reasonably well. Younger Child’s needs are not too hard to handle, and most reasonable schools should be able to do it, but it’s not a given.)

    Er, sorry, this turned into an angsty reply all about the obsessing I do over the same subject! If you have a school that you like, I would say, stick with it, even at the cost of 9k/year.

    Though I will also mention that I recently learned from an acquaintance in the suburbs of our city that she was able to choose among the schools in her district for her child simply by asking the superintendent. She said the downside is that it’s not guaranteed that she’ll get the school she wants each year, as it depends on enrollment. Any chance your public schools would allow not only acceleration/early start but also allow attendance at a school outside your boundaries, if you asked? Maybe they are loosening up on multiple fronts? Then you might not have to move, and could try things out….on the other hand, if all the elementary schools are not so great, maybe it doesn’t matter much.

    Anyhow, best of luck in your decision! I feel your pain. =)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Who knows… last time we were completely shut out, but you’re right, they may have changed some things. In two years time we’ll probably be in yet another elementary school zone. But probably not a better one!

  9. Cloud Says:

    I hate double drop off/pick up so much that I would do whatever it took to get both kids in one place, unless that place was great for one kid but sucky for the other kid.

    So, I guess given your choices, I’d go private school for DC2, and consider the tuition a payment towards my own sanity.

    But maybe you guys don’t mind the double drop off as much as I do!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Since they’re 5 years apart, we’re going to be doing double drop-off unless DC1 takes the bus or we send both DC1 and DC2 to the private school. Chances are, we’ll take DC1 out of private school into public just when DC2 is starting because the private school isn’t so great in the upper grades.

      • Cloud Says:

        Ugh. You have my sympathies.

        The Spanish Immersion is working out great for us- but we’re in a big city and there is a gifted program at the school (it starts next year for my older daughter) so I don’t think our experience translates to your situation. Also, I don’t think my kids need as much acceleration as yours- but that’s hard to say. My second grader has shown signs of boredom this year. Part of that is probably due to the 2nd grade curriculum, which seems to be about review and consolidation a bit more than introducing new things. I’ve heard things pick up next year, and even more so if your kid tested into the gifted program (which she did). If not, we may have to re-evaluate. In the meantime, she’s reading a lot.

  10. Leigh Says:

    I went to the same school as my sibling who is only one grade apart age-wise for only 5 years of our 13 years of schooling. My mom was a SAHM and she drove us around town to the school that was best suited for both of us. We also never went to the public school that was closest to our house.

    I love reading about you guys figuring out what school is best for your kids. I know it caused a reasonable amount of stress for my parents and it took years for them to figure out that they didn’t have to accept what the school told them at face value. I still remember skipping a grade of math in high school and how much more challenging math was that year than usual. Or falling asleep in senior math since I had already taught myself the teacher’s lesson plans.

    It’s still hard to find a job that keeps me motivated.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Gee, maybe you should take that pay cut and get a phd. But you might end up doing the same stuff you’re doing now after you graduate…

      • Leigh Says:

        If I went to grad school, it would be for a subfield of my field that I haven’t managed to explore at work or in school yet. My undergrad institution wasn’t doing any research in the subfield :( There’s a university in my city now doing so though! And my new employer would help pay for a part-time Master’s degree. So I think I’m going to give it a shot at last! :D

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        ooh, employer paying for masters is a good thing!

      • Leigh Says:

        yeah! My current game plan is to apply for and start the Master’s degree part-time while working. If I turn out to like it more than my job, then I can always switch to Master’s degree full-time and/or go on to the PhD full-time after I’ve finished the Master’s degree. I’m totally okay with taking a pay cut at this point to do something I’m interested in. The money is (I think) no longer worth doing something less interesting.

  11. hush Says:

    This is all so hard because, in the US today, there are usually very few truly awesome educational choices. There are a lot of awesome daycares/preschools, and there seem to be a lot of awesome colleges – but for those 13 school years in between? Not so much.

    The best theory I have ever heard about WHY American schools are generally not up to par is in the excellent book “The Smartest Kids in The World: And How They Got That Way” by Amanda Ripley.

    I used to be a public school proponent before I actually became a parent. I wish our local (rural public) schools were acceptable, but they are not — and they will not improve in time enough for me to feel ok about sending my kids there.

    So, private school. My kids (each have been accelerated one year) go to a private, wonderful, hippy dippy, nurturing, lovely bilingual Montessori that costs $11k a year all-in for both. It is a major bargain and is well worth every penny. The kids love it and are excelling. We are beyond thrilled. We pray this school eventually expands into 7th grade and beyond. If not, we’ll certainly consider boarding school.

  12. First Gen American Says:

    I chuckled at the comment about religious brainwashing. If anything, the radical religious approach to schooling alienates more teenagers than converts them. I can’t think of a single kid in my class that got more devout after watching an abortion video. But maybe Catholicism is too dry to appeal to the average youth. Maybe if I belonged to one of those “cool” churches where people sing rock ballads about Jesus, I would have been more persuaded to get brainwashed.

    I feel pretty guilty about not caring more about schooling for my kids after hearing so many people obsessing so much about it. FWIW we moved from a “bad school district” to an excellent one and I haven’t noticed a huge difference with the exception of budgets. Both still suck as far as after school activities that are impossible to be part of unless you have a nanny or stay at home spouse. Both are about the same with regards to state test scores. (But I did choice in to a better school in my last town because the one in my district was really really bad and the town was mandated to give me an alternate option).

    I am in MA, and maybe it’s relative. I think even the comparably bad schools here are pretty good relative to some schools in other states and inner cities.

    The other thing is that the good private schools here are about $25k/year so for me with 2 kids, it doesn’t really seem like the marginal improvement in experience/learning is worth the extra $500k out of pocket for pre-college education. We are paying more now in terms of housing costs for the better school, but at least we can sell our house in the end and get our principal back. I do envy some of the charter options out there though. They do amazing things that I don’t easily have access to because I am in a smaller community. Our closest one is 45 minutes away. I love my kids but there is no way we would travel that far…although some parents here do.

    • Leigh Says:

      My mom was a SAHM and she spent about two hours a day driving my sibling and I to our special schools. I am very greatful that she did that, but it was a lot of time for her to spend in the car!

  13. Down the Memory Lane: Math in Low-Level Science Classes | xykademiqz Says:

    […] expected to find a way to excel anyway; they sometimes do, but they rarely do if they are poor.  (nicoleandmaggie write a lot about challenges in getting access to education for gifted […]

  14. Down the Memory Lane: Math in K-12 Science Classes | xykademiqz Says:

    […] expected to find a way to excel anyway; they sometimes do, but they rarely do if they are poor.  (nicoleandmaggie write a lot about challenges in getting access to education for gifted […]

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