Zsuzsi is going to school this September. Choosing a school for her has been more fraught with indecision than I'd care to admit. And after all that agonizing, she's just going to be attending her district school.
This is the school that is obligated to accept her because of her address. It is a 5 minute walk from our house, though it is necessary to cross a very busy street on the way there. It's small; they will start only two classes of first graders next year. It is rather unassuming and tends a little to the shabby and run-down. Their values are old-school, middle class; hard work, no frills. Their main strength is music education; children have music classes 3 times a week, dance once a week. Kids who are interested can pick up an instrument (the fife?) in the first year, then can "graduate" to other instruments later.
Although we do not have a tradition of musicality in the family, much less any talent for it, I do think music education can only benefit Zsuzsi.
However, I have to say the decisive factor was the fact that Zsuzsi decided very early on that this is where she wanted to go, and because I realistically cannot take her to a school that is farther away, when her sister will be staying at kindergarten for one more year. In other words, I cannot take the two girls to two separate places each morning, especially if one of those places is more than 5 minutes away.
The one serious runner-up to our district school was one that is a 5 minute car drive away (but I don't have a car right now, and there is no convenient public transportation there), operates on Montessori methods, and is bilingual English-Hungarian with native English speakers. And they emphasize visual arts. If any of you have seen the artwork of Zsuzsi's I've been posting on Facebook, you know why it breaks my heart not to be able to send her to a school that could nurture that talent of hers.
But it would take at least an extra hour of commuting each morning to get her there by public transportation (30 minutes there, 30 minutes back), and then an extra hour in the afternoon to collect her. And that's just one kid, when I have two of them, and I have no help carting them to and fro school, except the babysitter on occasion. Under my current financial circumstances, paying the babysitter to do this 5 days a week is out of the question.
Not to mention that I'd have to work extra hard to convince Zsuzsi that she wants to go to a different school than the one where most of her friends from kindergarten will be going. So, it would take coercion to get her to go there, and getting her there and back each day would be a struggle. And I've decided that it just wasn't worth it.
So she'll be attending her district school for the next 4 years, which is when the first natural break comes in the Hungarian system. And she can then transfer to a different school, quite possibly the artsy, bilingual Montessori one. By the time she goes to 5th grade, she can take public transportation by herself.
Today, her (future) school organized a program for the incoming first graders. They had a short recital by some of the current students, demonstrating their skills on various instruments. Then the incoming first graders (read: little kindergartners and even littler younger siblings) could go and make their own instruments out of dried bamboo sticks and used plastic containers and rubber bands and plastic bottle caps. They also let the little ones touch and try out the piano, the violin, the fife and the flute. Afterwards, they had the kids use their hand-made instruments to make some music together.
So I think this will be a good school for Zsuzsi.
To bolster her visual arts education, she'll continue to go to the Saturday art classes we started attending a while ago. And David and I will have to pick up her English education, so I'm looking into home schooling supplies from the States. She has such an interest in books and workbooks and worksheets, she does these all by herself and with real joy, so I just want to take advantage of that and use it to make sure her English stays strong (and improves).
- School choosing agony