One of the most stressful parts of a move with children is facing the challenge of a new school for your kiddos. With three kids each, this topic is near and dear to both Kim and myself. For that reason, this very important topic will be covered by both of us in multiple parts.
First thing you must understand that unless you homeschool, where you house hunt is going to have the biggest impact on where your kids go to school. Even if your kids go to private school, location and commute are huge factors. This is probably a good time to share with you that Kim and I for the most part, have had our kids in public schools but not exclusively. Our kids have attended private preschools and I’ve had at least one child enrolled in private school (but then we moved and switched her to a public school). For this next school year, I will have each of my girls in different schools with my middle child enrolled in a private university model school. More on that later…
So doing your homework BEFORE you begin the house hunting process is huge. You and your spouse need to come to an agreement as to how important schools are in your housing decision. For example, there have been moves where I ruled out fabulous homes solely based on school feeder patterns (which middle and high school the elementary school would feed into years later). Honestly, looking back, I may have been a bit over the top at the time. However, in that phase of my life and that location, school feeder pattern was a huge deal breaker. You need to know what matters to YOU at the time. In this particular move, I was looking for the trifecta of good schools (elementary, middle and high schools) within a certain large school district and short commute for my husband. This narrowed the possibilities way down and I ended up in a house that I did not love, lots of phone calls to Kim and daily tears for a while. That lead me to ease up on the crazy school requirements in the next move.
If this is your first move with school age kids, you may be asking how do you do this elusive school/house hunting homework? I’ll walk you through my process!
First, get a handle on where you and or your spouse will be working and how much of a commute you can tolerate. Things to consider are proximity to airports if regular travel is involved, price of toll roads if needed, number of possible routes, public transportation etc. And remember, alway add at least 15 minutes to whatever someone tells you, especially if they are trying to sell you on a place or location. That is my experience.
If this is a job transfer, you may know someone who lives or works in the same area. Ask them! My husband knows that he should immediately start asking around to where potential co workers live and their thoughts on the cities/suburbs, neighborhoods and schools. But also know that what works for one family, may or may not work for your family. You are the expert on your own kids. You know what they need over anyone else. For example, during our last move, I was much more interested in the size of the school and certain school programs than I was about the reputation of the school. We went with a smaller school district instead of buying a home in the neighboring school district with more students and unquestionable high reputation.
Become familiar with online school reporting sites. My favorite is www.greatschools.org and is similar to www.schooldigger.com. I also spend time exploring possible district and school websites. Basically, as soon as a possible move/location is brought up, you can find me on my computer or iPad, looking at houses and schools! As for houses, my favorite sites/app are Trulia and Realtor.com. Usually by the time we are in contact with a realtor, I have a good idea of how much house we can afford in an area and what school districts we are willing to consider.
I have so much more to say on this topic! However, I’ll give you a break for today and maybe let Kim get a chance to jump in on the conversation…maybe.