When I was growing up, times were easier. You see, nobody really went to preschool. We all went to the neighborhood elementary school and then it was spelled out from there, depending on the location of your home, through high school. After that, there was probably a choice of college for some people, but, in my family, we all pretty much applied and went to the same college - which was located all of 15 minutes from the home I grew up in. Yes, times were easier.
Way back then, nobody knew or cared if their elementary school was the "good one" in the "good district". Schools weren't required to make their success (or lack thereof) a public record. There weren't magnet schools and performing arts programs and such. There was just the school. Everyone went there. Well, times have changed. I do think it is for the better, but it requires that choices be made and that parents remain diligent. But, since I get stressed out when presented with decisions, and I prefer lazy parenting, I do long for the old days (you know, way back in the eighties).
My oldest son, whom we call J, is at a gifted and talented magnet school this year. He is in the third grade and they work at least a year ahead in all subjects. It requires that we drive him back and forth to the school, which is located downtown. Luckily, we have a pretty nice carpooling system set up. This program doesn't start until the third grade, so he was required to change schools. He also has a strict dress code at his new school. In order to get into the program he had to score very high on both an IQ test and an achievement test. Then, we had to apply and present specific documentation of his "gifted characteristics". Nothing about this was easy or conducive to my lazy parenting style.
Then there is Spencer, my first grader. He is going to the local elementary school about a mile from our home. The problem is that we are not actually in the boundaries for this school due to some political situations that could only happen in Kentucky. So, I had to apply "out of area" for him to attend this school. This was also not an easy process, and required, once again, that I break out of my comfort zone of indolence. I am also in the process of trying to get him into the primary talent pool - which is the gifted, talented program for those younger than the third grade. You would think that naturally, since he is my child, that they would just see the last name and sign him up. But, no, they want me to fill out checklists and show specific documentation. In fact, after seeing the packet that was sent home with him for me to fill out, I am questioning whether or not he is gifted enough to justify the extra work on my part.
Lastly, there is my sweet little Michael. He doesn't even turn two until October 13th, so you would think that I would not have to worry about his long term academic pursuits at this point, but you would be wrong. Because, if I want any chance of getting him into a preschool that isn't glorified daycare, I have to sign up at least a year in advance. That's right folks. Not only is preschool now expected in our complex society, but the waiting lists are a year long. So, this morning, I went down to the Walnut Hill Day School and toured the grounds. The two year old curriculum includes music and Spanish along with the other more common preschool academics. When I informed the director that my son was still struggling with the English language, she laughed like I was obviously joking. Apparently she hadn't noticed that the kid, sweet as he is, doesn't speak. So, I wrote out my huge deposit check and guaranteed him the last slot for the 2009-2010 school year. After all, maybe Spanish will turn out to be his language. If I had been more diligent, I would have done this years ago, like the woman in there with the 7 day old child who didn't want to take any chances.
So, yes, I hate the complexity of it all, but I am still attempting to master the system. I'm sure my children will have plenty to talk about in therapy one day, but it won't be because I didn't try. Next time, tune into my primer on extra-curricular activities for the lazy parent. Subtitled: How to convince the piano teacher to come to your house for lessons.