moving on, school edition

No, I’m not moving on from this blog, though I’ve definitely been on vacation. After the first week of July, I’ve committed to daily visits to the library to work on my next book proposal. I sometimes hit a wall in my writing, unsure of where to go with a sentence or a complete structure. To keep or to cut? And often, whilst writing my other books, I turned to the blog with questions. I intend to do the same thing this time because y’all are damn helpful. Moving on…

Holy hell, we’re finally moving. We started out renting in our current 3br, 2.5 bath, zero basement back in 2012, when we still owned our home in Austin, TX. We wanted to be sure that we liked the schools and people. But paying $5500 per month for my kids to share a bedroom, paying off someone else’s mortgage, taking no tax benefits is just crazy pants. Not to mention the fact that this home is all electric: stove, heating, laundry, everything, so our monthly electric bill is $900. Yes, every single month. Apparently it’s the electric heat that sucks. Oh, and power outages are awesome in this ‘hood. No soup for you!

So, we started to look to buy before our lease agreement came due for renewal, this June 30. I looked in our current district and also in nearby districts with good reputations: Garden City, Manhasset, North Shore, Syosset, Plainview, Cold Spring Harbor and even further out, Harborfields Central School District. Sure, we found so many options, but before deciding, I’d better go tour the schools.

I was very surprised, shocked that one elementary school had no kitchen. That I was required to make cold lunch and snack for my kids daily wasn’t exactly a deal-breaker, but “Hi, torture. I remember you from pre-k.” I’m paralyzed by options, by trying to create creative lunch ideas. I’ve lived at this address once and didn’t want to return. Still, this was only minor, if the school was incredible. Though, I had a major problem with the fact that they separate students based on skill/aptitude tests, giving a “gifted and talented” entry exam mid-year in 3rd grade.

“All the students take the test over 3 days.”
“And what if your child is easily distracted and requires testing accommodations?”
“Oh, well we’ve never had that situation before,” says the assistant principal.
“So, a child who may be twice exceptional is then put at a disadvantage?”
“Twice exceptional?”

That right there, that she wasn’t familiar with the concept that a child could be both intellectually gifted while also classified as dyslexic, for example, made me way too nervous about placing my children there. Also, I believe that things “click” for students at different times in their lives. They might get to fourth grade, and suddenly, everything comes together, and they’re off and running. I’m really just not a fan of “gifted classes.” Having had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) myself, and having been denied entry into my high school AP English class based on “3 days of testing,” but then taking the final AP exam despite this and earning a 5 (the highest grade possible), I am deeply against this model. It kills the idea that perseverance and hard work can actually, you know, work! Raise the level of expectation in any class by teaching to a higher level, and students will rise to the occasion. Especially in 3rd grade! No way could I send my kids here.

There were other considerations: an elementary school without bussing, where I’d need to walk the kids to school daily and pick them up each day at 2:40pm. Schools that didn’t offer the same teacher/student ratios (not a deal breaker, but a huge change). Currently, in my son’s co-taught class there are 21 students in all, 7 of which are classified with IEP’s. Not only is there a full-time general education teacher in the classroom, but also a full-day special education teacher, along with 2 full-time aides. With 4 full-time adults, the class is able to break up into smaller groups, where the teaching can be more personalized. I adore this model, as gifted students may learn at their level, while those who need extra help get it inside the classroom, without being stigmatized by being pulled-out into the resource room. Any time you can offer push-in services, where an educator pushes into the classroom, without singling out students who need the extra help, is always preferable to the more restrictive “pull out.”

In all the districts I toured, none of them but Jericho (where we are) offered “push-in” services. And the co-taught structure at some schools had no aides, and the special education teacher only worked half-day. This was the deal breaker for me. So, now we’d better hurry up and buy a house in Jericho.

Only, crap. I can’t find anything we both love. Nothing where we said, “Okay, this is great. We’ll gut the kitchen and create the kitchen of our dreams.” No fixer-uppers, no turnkey move-in-ready homes. Nada. So, do we continue renting this home we’re outgrowing?

Screw it. Let’s just rent another year so we can look more seriously into buying. So, instead of looking at new homes for sale, I checked out the rental section, and “are you shitting me?” There was a 4br/2.5 bath house with a finished basement and gas cooking and heating for $1400 less per month in rent alone. I’m not gonna lie. I’m gonna need a lot of lipstick for this pig. The kitchen is outdated, lack of hardwood floors, lack of fireplace, but I’m going to focus on the positive. And I LOVE to purge when you move, toss, toss, toss. It’s in our same school district, so the kids wouldn’t have to repeat, for example, the rainforest unit they completed in 2nd grade in 3rd grade at another district. Yes, our district has 3 elementary schools, so they would need to switch schools, but the singapore math they’ve been learning, the mandarin program, are all the same.

Clothing Purge

Ask yourself, “Would I buy this today?” If not, out it goes!

So, now I must get to packing and purging! Yes, that was the photo of my bedroom floor I posted to instagram last week (If you have an account, follow me, so we can chat on there). We’re all very excited and eager for our new adventure. I only know 2 other moms at our new school, one via my Girl Scout Troop! So, we’re all looking forward to making new friends and keeping the old.

Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, and the other is gold. –Girl Scout Song

Stephanie + Dulce

Speaking of “dear” friends (lest I say OLD friends), thank you to sweet Dulce for making the trip yesterday to honor me for my Girl Scout Volunteer of Excellence award. What a great surprise!

Stephanie + Dulce


  1. You are right on with the gifted & talented stuff. Read Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset. Empirical evidence to back up your own experience. Don’t put your kids in gifted ed.

  2. I loved reading this. Sounds like the move will be a good and positive one.

    Schools are a tricky thing. My darlings started out in private school, but when I got divorced, that was not an option (a zillion dollars). So, they all tested into the gifted program at a downtown public elementary and did fine. Then, they all tested into the IB program at a downtown high school (starting in 7th grade). Two of them (eldest son and youngest daughter) thrived in the fierce academic climate. Middle daughter, however, shriveled and nearly croaked. So – we plucked her out of that poison (for her) soil and replanted her in a private Lutheran school. (We’re not Lutheran, but who cares?) There, she was nurtured and watered, and turned into an absolutely fabulous person.

    Eldest son is now a successful financial analyst (what?!), little daughter is now fluent in Korean, German, is learning Chinese and living in Seoul where she wants to start a doctoral program and become a professor, and middle daughter is a free spirit who creates the most breathtakingly beautiful ceramics, blown glass, glass beads, anything she can get her hands on. She is also on the Dean’s list at college, but to her – school is simply a place to play with other people’s art supplies, to find what she loves, to be in and attend theater productions…she’s easy and happy and lovely to be around.

    Fascinating – when they were little tots and I started sharing on this blog – I had absolutely no idea who they’d grow up to be. I thought my son would be a scientist, my middle girl a doctor and the little one a lawyer. I am (as of now) 100% wrong.

    Anyway – happy to see you writing again. I look forward to seeing your posts and always sit back with a cup of coffee and catch up.

    (Oh – and your pictures are beautiful – don’t worry about diets babe – you’re gorgeous!)

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