The City we live in, Richmond BC, has lots of smallish elementary schools in various neighbourhoods. Several of these feed into larger high schools. These elementary schools are often surrounded by large fields and have playgrounds so they become a neighbourhood park in many cases. Lots of children walk to school.
When we were looking at Kindergarten for Lindsay (which seems like just yesterday) we made a choice that meant us driving across town to go to school. We made this choice because we really liked the kindercare and after school care that was available in that part of town. We also made the choice to send her to french immersion which is only offered in a limited number of schools so we were very pleased she got into a non-catchment school and into french.
Since she started school the School District added a second French Immersion High school very close to our home (less than 2 blocks). Only 2 of Lindsay's Grade 7 class came over to McMath - the rest went to the high school closest the their elementary school. Of course we worried she would know very few kids having not been at elementary school in our neighbourhood. But that was not the case at all. She knew so many kids from soccer, from dance, from church, just from the neighbourhood so the transition has been remarkably easy. She also walks to school now. And as I leave at a similar time to her I see the kids walking from all over the neighbourhood, backpacks on, iPods in, or with a group chatting as they wander their way to school and home everyday.
On a rare day I offered to drive her, but just down the street she spotted some girls she knows and hopped out to walk the rest of the way with them.
I am now seeing how being at your neighbourhood school builds community. She knows just about every teenager who walks past the house and I feel a curious benevolence towards them too, even when they are playing silly in the back alley because there are "our" kids, from "our" school.
It feels like we live in the "Village" that is, at least, looking out for its kids.
I do regret taking them out of the neighbourhood for elementary school.....
I listen to many parents of the preschoolers in my child care centres going on about the best schools and where the most advantageous placement would be for their child...... and I do wonder what happens to "us" when we make all these other considerations (academics, programs, special services, nicer buildings) more important than letting our children grow up in a community.
I can't wait for David to be finished Grade 7 (one more year) and then he can come back to this community and wander off to school and back everyday and for my kids to be connected to where they live....and the people who live there alongside us.
When we left our townhouse complex which was a great little community, we really worried about finding community when living in a house on a busy street. We are so blessed to have found great neighbours who have a son the same age as David and who moved in a month before we did. We try and get together for a glass of wine and some snacks a few times a year. In the summer we chat over the fence and share veggies from our gardens. The boys bike up and down the alley together. They are bigger Canucks fans than we are so when our pre-planned visit tonight ended up also being Game Day (Go Canucks Go) we agreed we'd just watch the game together..... David and Noah will head off to school together in 2012.... 2 kids from the "village"....
I am very blessed to live here, now, with this family and these friends....
And it is sunny and warm today!!