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March 26, 2013


I'd walk him to the bus stop at the end of the street and let the bus take him to his neighborhood school. Then again, I'm pretty happy with my local public school system.

How awesome is it that you have the option of Mandarin immersion school, though? My husband and I live in Canada and might be moving to Ireland for a job--they have Gaelic immersion schools there. I am just imagining our (currently) three year old speaking Gaelic. It kills me.

Glad you are doing OK. Do I under (over?) estimate him, or would Steve in fact enjoy a carefully chosen RV? I'm thinking a full ton 4wd pickup with a slide-in in the bed, or perhaps a rugged class C? Something that handles well in snow.

We have one kid, a SAHP (not me), and Mandarin and Spanish immersion options available in our public school system, each about a ... 20? minute drive away (that's allowing for traffic, though not for the logistics of getting the kindergartener into the car), and the available data suggest that I am/DH is willing to walk the kindergartener precisely 1/3 mile to our neighborhood English immersion school. Since you asked. And don't get me wrong, I think immersion and second languages are great, but apparently not enough to put any effort into taking advantage of them. Go figure.

Well when my kids were in kindergarten, it was 1/2 day and no afternoon busing. We only had one car so I would have to drive my husband to work (1 hour 40 minute round trip, morning and evening) did that for 3 kids . So over 3 excess hours of driving for a 10 minute trek to school every school day for 3 years, lol.

My mom drove me 30 mins to 45 mins to school. (The school moved). Looking back on it I think it was to far. Not so much the time in the car per say but the fact that you then live that far from your friends. No quick play dates. No meeting up on weekends. And if I was it was my mom doing the driving. No other parent wanted to drive there kid that far to play with me when they could play with Jane who lived down the street. I now live about 12 mins from my kids school. I think that is completely doable. I think you could do 2 schools, but three seems like you are a glutton for punishment.

Hi Julia, Long time reader delurking to offer my $.02. I am a midwest (Iowa) transplant to NYC. My children ages 13 and 15 have never been in the same school, not necessarily by our choice, but given the insanity that is the NYC public school system, its not unusual. We have had various situations, including being able to walk the kids to their schools, one taking the subway, one taking the bus, as well as taking the car. Currently my 15 year old goes to a Catholic school in the farest flung neighborhood of the Bronx, so my husband drives him, while my 13 year old travels with a friend to a neighborhood school, either walking or taking the city bus.
In all my experience, the biggest lesson I have learned is that quality of life can not be underestimated! If I had it to do all over again, I would have placed my youngest in the same elementary school as her brother (in our neighborhood), even though we had some issues with the school, I know she would have been fine, and oh how nice to have one PTA to support, events on the same night and one drop off/pick up. Instead I literally tried to split myself in two, or relied on the kindess of neighbors to bring one home.
If you have the stamina/logistical ability to do multiple schools, my hat is off, but it is not for the faint of heart!

What is the loss/gain both to child and family? A year from now, do you think you are more likely to look back and wonder what the hell you were thinking? They have no basis for comparison, so if this opportunity isn't the best for all of you, they will never know the difference. OTOH, if the logistics prove to be overwhelming, it could easily negate the benefits.
I say this from the perspective of a mother of a 20, 22, and 25 year old. I did too much damn driving to charter schools and activities and sports. It was fun in the moment, but big picture wise I regret so much time in the car, and the impact it had on the stress levels of the household

Is there a bus system that any of them will be able to use to get to school without parental driving anytime in the foreseeable future? If so, go for it.

20 minutes MAX! Ideally, whatever school he goes to it it must be close enough for him to get himself there on a bike. The end. :)

Oh heavens, how very cavalier I look coming to comment on only the movies! I'm sure that really means that I have a deep faith that it will all work out in the end or if it doesn't, that you'll fix it. There, better?

Save both of those two that you mention. They aren't kid movies. Just like Strictly Ballroom isn't. Not even for really smart and fun kids. All fun and great movies, but showing them too early ruins them -- clearly, Patrick isn't going to be rushing to recommend Strictly Ballroom (which I LOVE). And heaven knows you don't want to ruin him for Moulin Rouge later on too, "Oh, the same guy who did Strictly Ballroom, you say?! Never!"

There's plenty of time for them (I'd wait to 14-16) and it's always nice to leave them some movies to find on their own, too. But, really both of those are love stories which is really not the strike zone of a Patrick aged and gendered type human.

I have nothing substantive to add, just wanted to say thank you for asking this. We have just the one child and kindergarten is a couple of years off, but we have a rather unique opportunity to relocate just about anywhere soon. I have started looking into the school systems of the various places we are considering and pros and cons of transportation options hadn't made my list yet. So looking forward to reading the opinions of your readers!

I'm looking from the same perspective as Rose (my girls are now 21 and 16).

In the end, they'll still get in to great colleges, go to trade school or even join the Peace Corp.

Believe me - they aren't going to thank you for wasting your life sitting in the car...

I love ticket to ride! I recently have been a convert to the game. Do you do any of the other editions?

I went to a neighborhood k-8 & high school 45 min away (the closest high school bc we lived in the boonies). We didn't have a choice but as one of the other commenters said, it's not just the drive (which I hated) but that friends, events, etc were far away.

My kids happen to go to a (private) French immersion school, which I LOVE, but it's 5 minutes away from our house. I have friends who drive upwards of 30 minutes (one way) to take their kids to school & I CANNOT imagine a school so good I'd sign on for that. I already drive kids all over for activities, but at least school & friends are all close. I can't see sacrificing hours of our day on getting people to school.

I drive my son 20 miles each way (at least 40 minutes in DC traffic) to a French immersion program, so I hear ya. I only have the one kiddo, though, and French is near and dear to our (my husband's and my) hearts so this is of major importance to us. Worth the sacrifice.

Our neighborhood elementary school is 2 blocks away. There is a desirable charter school about 1.5 miles / 5 min drive away. My kids' needs are really not being met at their "home" school, while the charter school is based on an educational philosophy that is a great fit for them. DH refuses to consider switching them to the charter school because it's too far away. 5 minutes. I get to listen to way more than 5 minutes of complaining every single school morning about how my kids don't like their school and aren't learning anything. (I am green with envy every time you mention Patrick's school. It sounds amazing.)

So THERE'S a data point for you. Did we lock down the "ridiculously short" end of the spectrum?

We opted for a private progressive school. It is 15 miles or so from home--30-40 minutes in morning traffic. 20 minutes in the afternoons.

Our local school is a disaster and we can't move so we're stuck. All of the private schools near us require membership in churches we couldn't bring ourselves to join.

But we have one kid and we listen to audio books. I don't know what I would do if I had to juggle more than one at different schools.

We drive an hour and 20 min each way-that includes a ferry trip-its crazy and hopefully by next year we'll be in a new city!

Dont do that to yourself. This is the first year i have to drive a kid to school alone since i put her in a charter and its only 3 miles from where i work and thats 3 miles from home. She and i are in the car way longer than either of us like. Of course its all city driving but still. Its not fun. Next year she will start taking a bus.

I thought you were happy with Patrick's school, or did I miss something... Do tell

It's funny, I really think your answer to this depends on if you grew up with a commute or not...or at least in my social circle it would. I barely remember not commuting somewhere. Starting in 7th grade, my school was 30-45 minutes away through high school. Then in college, I commuted almost 100 miles daily between my apartment, my job and my school.

Currently, I drive my twins 25 minutes to a preschool I just love. The private elementary we're looking at would probably also be a 30 minutes drive. Neither of these bother me, but I am only going to one place. I'm trying to picture the kid of commute you're looking at, and gosh, even I might think long and hard about that!

Would any of the schools be conducive to carpools, at least a couple days a week?

Giving your kids the gift of a second language is an awesome opportunity.
Perhaps compromise and see if it's possible to get them both in the French school? Mandarin is useful, but you can travel more widely with French.

Also, consider the high probability of field trips to Montreal that will need chaperones.

Stand By Me!

Has Edward done something he needs to be punished for? Immersion school sounds like something Caroline will love and will turn Edward into Inigo Montoya. I would be extremely frightened of the form his revenge is likely to take.

Love love love your blog and all your little puddleducks and reading about them & you but ... I have to say this post makes me really glad we're homeschooling! LOL!

My only comment on the commute issue is to point out (along with others) that the more time spent in the car, the less time for other activities (including the truly important -- and I'm not being snarky here -- "just hanging out").

The language thing, though ... I have recently arranged for our six-year-old twins to be in a Spanish language class, and I chose that language not because I'm madly in love with Spanish, but because (a) their father is already pretty fluent in that language, so he can chat with them in Spanish when they get to that point, and because (b) Spanish is extremely useful in the U.S. I was also cognizant of wanting them both to learn the *same* language together so that they can chat together, at some point down the road. I do think there's a lot to be said for at least two of the sibs learning the same language. If all three of them learn different languages, well, you'll have your own little U.N. at some point, but just like the U.N., you may also need an interpreter! ;o)

I felt pretty damn oppressed by having one child in a city public school that had a school bus three blocks from our house, and another in a charter school a twelve minute drive away. Then the charter school moved so that it was now about a twenty minute drive, and both my kids were in it, so we bought a different house. This one is seven minutes away, which feels about right. (If it were eight, we'd probably qualify for busing, but alas.)

Your description of your potential driving arrangements makes me cringe in horror. But overall I think suburbanites have a higher tolerance for spending their lives on highways than I do.

I suggest talking to each of the schools and emphasizing the TWINS and how it would be So! Much! Better! for the entire family but especially the two of them that they be in the same school. I second someone's idea that the twins learning the same language would be excellent.

Hi Julia,
Our son is in Japanese immersion (3rd grade). The homework is hell and we cannot help him with it. It is such a commitment. Personally, I would put the twins in French since you know the language and your life will be a million times easier. Caroline can always take Mandarin lessons on the side.

My daughter is one grade above my son and they will never go to the same school because we took her out of the program (wasn't a good fit for her). Now we have crazy schedules and commutes and can't be as involved in volunteer work with the kids at different schools.

There is my cautionary tale with Asian languages, and same age siblings in different schools. Bonne chance!

I second Stand by Me. Glad to hear you are recovering.

I can't imagine driving to the ends of the earth every day but then I don't have kids so it's not a problem. I do like the idea of Edward and Caroline following their passions but at what expense to your sanity?

Yes, very glad you are doing better.

Re different schools and commutes: been there, done that. And I don't even like driving, so my heart leaped up when finally, for two glorious years, all three went to the same school about a mile from our house.

I would consider this: is it a good fit? I would second what Justin said about Edward and languages. Speaking from experience, exposure to two languages causes all kinds of interference, and English is hard enough by itself. Also, from the seven years I spent ferrying our children to an International Primary School and observing what happened to classmates: if the language they are immersed in isn't really present in the home, you're, well, not exactly wasting your time and money, but it just isn't very effective. Also, the school system (assuming that they won't go the full route of French or Mandarin to the end) never knows what to do with them, so there's years of boredom ahead, too.

Three different schools means three different summer fetes, three different Christmas concerts, teachers' days, parents meetings, you name it. Re distance: if you get that dreaded call from school that your child isn't feeling well, you have to go pick them up. Playdates and birthday parties are always a trek -- it seems that best friends always live on the *other* side of the school, so play dates often involve twice the driving. Speaking of best friends: our International School had a much greater turnover than the local school, because parents would get transferred back to their home countries after a while. So that is kind of a heartbreak.

So I would suggest: put them in a decent local school, bribe a French au pair to stay with you (bribe them even more if they come with a driver's licence) and have the kids start music lessons. (Music! The food of love! Give them excess of it!)

One more thought, in fact, a Gedankenexperiment: imagine Caroline (Cayayine) as a mom, in your place. Would you be happy with her spending four hours every day driving her offspring to and fro? No? So why would she deserve a better life than you?

Movies: Stand by Me, E.T.???

As a mom who spends a lot of time in the car . . my kids would rather have that time at home being able to sleep in, or just play. Your kids are exceptional, but they are still kids.

I'm not early, but since you asked: I'm obsessive about second or multi- language acquisition (work at a language school and my son is taking classes in french and mandarin)and I hate driving. So in your position I also would be begging to get Caroline into the same school as Edward and keeping up the exposure to mandarin outside school (yay for youtube). Or you could get an au pair at your house and pick any language you like, as suggested by Annette. There are no immersion primary schools here - backwater Brisbane - yet so that is one of our main options for language. Here at least an au pair actually works out cheaper than paying for two children at kindy/preschool. Also, like someone else noted, at least you're in a position to access a french-speaking community...

We love ticket to ride (we play the german one), carcassone, stone age, and another archaeologically themed one we haven't played since child was born as is too complicated for child to participate in... nope, the name isn't coming to me. We like other games to, but being limited to two players meant that these were the ones we ended up with.

Clueless about movies though, sorry :P

And, if and when Patrick is looking for his Australian job, he's welcome to stop by ;)

My parents prioritized our education over everything else and it made an enormous difference in all three of our lives. I am deeply grateful. When I look back on some of the amazing experiences I have had, I know it was because of some of their difficult choices on our behalf. (For them, those choices were largely financial, but also about granting us unusual freedoms that must have made them worry.)

Now I am a parent and I am always trying to balance that incredibly high value placed on education with our collective quality of life. It is very hard. It is also dependent on the kids' personalities: I have one who needs to be on the go and constantly challenged and one who likes to be at home with a book and her music.

Basically, I am saying that I would seriously consider the immersion schools. It's definitely okay to let great opportunities pass if there is no way to make it work for your family, but I would try to work through every angle before dismissing it. Good luck! These are happy decisions to have.

One last thought regarding the distance and some of the other comments: both of my kids are happy socially in school, but there are very, very few playdates. Almost everyone is too busy with after-school activities for multiple kids, homework, and downtime/family time at home. Most of the kids get all of their social time through school and playing fields, etc.

Oo Oo Oo! Ticket to Ride. Also available on iPad and iPhone. Great time waster in waiting rooms and on hold! Wait for it to go on sale though (I got them all for free). We have most of the versions, but with a 2 year old and small pieces, the electronic versions are more useful right now. We also like Pandemic, which is a collaborative game where everyone wins or everyone loses. It's better to play the first time with someone who knows the game, though.

Settlers of Catan? If you haven't tried, might be a good next game (just don't accidentally buy Settlers of Caanan!).

I have a 2 year old. No kindergarten transportation ideas (except that as many problems as I have with my school district - mostly that it is too big - at least they bus to most of the magnet schools, even the elementary ones), because in the part of the county I live in, carpool can take 90 minutes.

Kindergarten? I wouldn't drive far at all. High school, yes, I'd drive far. If it's perfectly fine, I'd go with the close kindergarten.

Our kids adore Ticket to Ride, too, and will chose it over video games. I noticed one at a store yesterday with a security tag strapped around the box. No other game was given this treatment. Is it that popular?

Dixit is another great game, catering to creative minds and story telling. Lovely artwork, too, and there are expansion packs. Also, Fluxx is a fun card game with many different editions, including a hilarious Monty Python edition.

I think that the ultimate must see on your movie list should be "Clue" - perhaps one of the funniest films out there. I think Patrick would get a kick out of it.

I spent my childhood commuting long distances to various private schools and it was so awful, for all the reasons everyone has mentioned here. When I think about how much of my childhood was spent in traffic trying to get to one place or another, I feel sad, especially because in hindsight I think there were closer options that would have been fine if my parents had been open to them. Probably my childhood average was 1.5 hours a day and I find now that I place a VERY high value on short commutes, or public transportation commutes where you can knit or read or something. When my daughter started kindergarten, we were deciding between our neighborhood school (which she could walk to with other kids on our street) and a gifted magnet elementary (~15 minute drive across town). We decided that our neighborhood school was good enough to at least try for a year, and we are quite happy with how it's turned out, and with what a deeper connection to our community/neighborhood we have now with a child in our local school.

I'm bad at movies but if you ever want nerdy game recommendations, just say the word! I've only played Ticket to Ride a few times when a friend brought it over, but it does seem like a good one.

While I do think the immersion options are awesome, I personally would not consider it unless C&E were able to be in the same one. I think some others have hit the point that your quality of life and sanity is important and them spending that much time in the car is not valuable for anyone. I like the idea of an au pair and/or continuing classes on the side.

God. I just...I can't...I'm at a loss for words. What I wouldn't give to have immersion options for my kids. And I'd drive for them (admittedly, though, not likely for kindergarteners (even though, yes, I know it's easier to learn when younger.)) My 12-yr-old isn't even doing so well in beginner's Spanish. I think starting her brother, at 3, with basic classes now will do wonders for his comprehension and ability and GOD I JUST WANT THOSE OPTIONS. But then, living in DC, my kids' SE schools' offerings don't even compare to those across the bridge in NW. Goddamn horseback riding.

As for games, I giggle. We have so many but cannot seem to rid ourselves of the desire, the incessant need (OK, mainly just my oldest and me), to play Scattergories (and now, Scattergories categories.) We cannot be saved (although Beat the Parents is starting to play a close second.)

I guess the first question is this: Is the crazy commute even physically doable? In my experience there is a five-minute window between the time the school doors open and the kids are considered tardy; what if Edward's and Caroline's schools drop off during that same five-minute window? You could probably drop Patrick early/pick him up late and he can fend for himself, but you might have to pay for before/after care for the twins in order to have the flexibility to do the pickups/dropoffs at different times.

I too am jealous that you have so many good options!

Such a serendipitously timely question. We find ourselves in a similar predicament, schoolwise.

Son, age 10, is the sort of kid who will quite likely get eaten alive in the middle school he is tracked toward. Also, we are increasingly displeased with the crowding at and defunding of our city's public schools, both of which seem to get worse each year. We can't afford a private school, period, even with financial aid.

So we explored the one school that seemed like it might be a good fit for both our kids (daughter is 7): a K-12 charter Montessori/IB school that comes highly recommended by families and teachers (at other schools) whom we trust. We loved what we saw and applied, thinking there was NO WAY IN HELL either of our kids would get in.

Daughter got in. Son is waitlisted #14 for his grade. After much angst, we've decided to go for it. And that means we'll be driving precisely 25.8 miles round trip each day next year for 2nd grade, while our 5th grader buses (thank god) 9.6 miles each day in the opposite direction.

If it's doable, I'd keep Patrick where he is, put Caroline in the Mandarin school, and have Edward at Patrick's school or the local school he can ride to on a bus. He doesn't want to do immersion, sounds like a kid who'd be excited to ride a bus, and wouldn't Steve be home to make sure he got on the bus while you drove hither and yon?

I went to our local schools until university. I was the only gifted kid in my 4-classroom, 6-grade rural elementary school. I was one of the few in my high school, which was a 50 min commute by school bus that picked me up at the end of my driveway each day. (I read there and back - thank god I don't suffer from motion sickness - and tried to ignore the Guns 'n Roses blaring on the speakers.) I did not enjoy my schools and I was incredibly jealous of my good friend that got out of our high school and went to boarding school when her parents went abroad.

So what I'm saying is, I don't think it ever occurred to my parents that they should do absolutely anything to see that I was in a school that was a good fit for me, and I don't intend to do that to my kids. Having said that, I'm more likely to move houses to be close to a good school for my kids than I am to do the drive you're describing, and I'd look for a good compromise school for all my kids if possible. Life is too short to spend it in the car.

We love Ticket to Ride. We taught my son to play when he was 6 (yes, the box says 8 & up), and amazingly, he really gets it. He'd been bugging us to learn for over 6 months at that point and we finally gave in.

Our friends have the original, we have Europe and my parents have Marklin. And then for this past Christmas we got the Switzerland/India combo pack and the expansion for Europe. We've played the two new maps, but have yet to crack out the expansion pack. I forgot all about it, might be time... All of them are great, and the rules are just a little different for each, so it's a slightly different game depending on which one you're playing.

As for the schools, keep in mind what all that running around will do to you. Is it OK now? Some people don't mind. I couldn't stand it, personally. Which is why my children will go to the same school as much as possible. I hate having to spend 25 minutes every night picking them up because they're in two different places. Can't wait for fall when the little one starts 4K at her brother's school. Cuts my pickup time down to about 10 minutes!

Yes, and Groundhog day was 20 years ago. Heh. Heh, heh. Sob.

Julia, LONG time reader. Rarely to I comment. I am speaking as a mom of grown children. Back years ago, one of my best friends and I had daughters the same age. She put her daughter in a school for gifted children. I entered mine in the local public elementary. Then along came our second and third children. To make a long story short, she shuffled her kids to many different schools. Her oldest went to 5-6 schools, trying to find a good fit for her because she was so bright and gifted. My three girls all went to the same elem, middle and high school. Fast forward to college. Her daughter ended up at the University of Michigan, right alongside my daughter. It took her daughter 5 years to get her BA and mine 4 to get her BS. Her daughter always seemed to be searching for something better. She did keep her two sons in the same schools and they seem pretty well adjusted. I just remember her always having to run here and run there. They never were just home enjoying the evening or hanging out with their local school friends. I guess I like simple, it is so much easier, why add all that stress? I am sure whatever your decision your kids will do fine. We didn't have immersion schools in our area. That is a wonderful opportunity. Just remember, you are only one person and stressing yourself is not good for you or for the kids. Love your blog. I get really happy when I see a new post. Thank you for sharing your family and life with us!

I would drive about 15 min I think, but I would still hate the commute. I love, LOVE, LOOOVE that big yellow school bus. It drives me batty that I end up picking up my 8th grader after activities so often, especially since school isn't out until 4pm, so pickup isn't until 5-5:30, and usually runs late. Makes it awfully difficult to get dinner on the table some nights, especially when there is an evening activity as well. There was one stretch of about 2 1/2 weeks where I had to do pickup every day - not a fan. I'm looking forward to next year, when he will attend the magnet high school. This would seem like more commute for me, but luckily DH teaches there, so he will ferry the kids (older one is already there) both ways.

Love Ticket to Ride, though we haven't played in a while. We have a large collection of German board games, thanks to BIL, who is a big gamer. Check out boardgamegeek.com for more suggestions.

The furthest I've driven to keep my boys in french immersion was about 20 minutes each way. We lucked into our neighborhood school's immersion program since then so, I guess we're lucky in that regard. We still have three seperate schools given their ages but all told they only take up about an hour and forty five minutes each day.

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