Six years ago our family moved to our current home. We chose the house for its location, in a lovely town that feels like a small town even though it’s just another part of the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles. We are separated from the rest of the city by a shifting barrier of traffic. Sometimes it’s not there at all, sometimes it’s impassable.
Besides the general loveliness of our town, the location is perfect for another very big reason. The schools.
We live a mile from the boys’ wonderful elementary school. They ride their bikes to and from school – they come clanging into the house, usually fighting, around 2:45 every day. If it gets to be 3:00 and they’re not home yet, I find things to do in the front. Cleaning out the car, deadheading the camellia bush, pulling weeds from the front lawn. I busy myself until they tear down the block.
When we moved here, Kyle was about to start Kindergarten.
Now he’s in 5th grade. It was a given that the boys would attend the middle school that is right behind our house. If we lived in a more adventurous neighborhood, he could zipline from his bedroom window to the school’s office.
My, how you’ve grown.
In the years since we moved, however, the district developed GATE, a program for gifted and talented students, but it only exists at a different middle school, a 10 minute drive away. Even though Kyle seemed destined for this program, its geographic disadvantage made us kind of ignore it all this time. He took the test for it anyway. He was curious. We were, too.
He got into the program, of course. You knew this story was going there, right?
There’s an equally challenging set of honors classes at the closer middle school. We assumed Kyle would stay here, take the honors classes, get involved in some of the cool electives and enrichment opportunities they offer. Kyle seemed happy with that. He looked forward to the short walk around the corner to school with his friends.
Until the gifted program had their showcase.
Even though our family was 99% committed to the local middle school, I didn’t mind attending, because I was hoping for a sign. Something to tell me either way what the clear right choice would be.
And here it was. In a morning of presentations and classroom visits, our family got to see the other middle school’s campus, meet the teachers and principal, and ask the students themselves about their experience in the program. These 6th, 7th, and 8th graders were articulate, engaged, and enthusiastic about their school. Every time they spoke, Kyle’s eyes lit up with recognition. I could practically see him processing this discovery. He looked at me and smiled, and flashed a thumbs-up.
When a kid seems excited about going to school, that’s a pretty good sign.
A ten minute drive isn’t a big deal, really. It’s a luxury, even, for most residents of Los Angeles. For me, it’s about adjusting to the loss of the easy morning routine I thought I would have, and accepting a carpool life. Kyle is undaunted. He looks forward to it.
There are some formalities. It’s not our home school, so I had to apply for a “school of choice” permit, which was virtually guaranteed by his admission into this program. Still, when I received the email with the subject “Permit Approved,” I felt a shift.
It was a door opening for our family, a gate if you don’t mind the wordplay, to something unexpected. Something that could be wonderful, if we just give it a chance.