Back to School…Registration Time

Tick.  Tock.  Tick.  Tock.

galvanized-wall-clock

Do you hear that?  It’s the sound of summer slipping by as we get ready for a new school year.  I know it’s still July and honestly, it’s beyond hot here in Texas so the thought of back to school shopping might be depressing.  However, In many regions, students are back to school as early as the first Monday of August (I’m looking at you Georgia!).

So what happens after you house hunt and you know where your kids are going to school after a move?  First, you need to make sure you know what you need to register your kids at their new school. Please don’t wait to do this with the excuse you must pack up your current house before you can focus on the new place.  Can you imagine the frustration of not being able to register your kids because you have no idea where everything is that you need?  Exactly.  If you don’t already have a file of important papers for the move, you should.  And in this file, you need copies of birth certificates, social security cards, immunization records, insurance information and contact information for anyone doing any part of the move.

My oldest daughter attended her third elementary school starting in third grade.  This doesn’t count the first school that she was enrolled in but didn’t get a chance to attend before we moved.  Each school was in a different state – Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia and Texas.  And each school had different requirement for registration.  So for your easiest transition, you need to call the new school BEFORE you move.   We moved to Georgia during spring break of her first grade year.  In Cobb Country, kids are required to have a certain health and dental form completed before they can attend school.  So one of the first errands I got to run in my new city (with a 1st grader, a preschooler and a baby) was to visit the Health department.  My daughter’s immunization records had to be transcribed onto the form and then her mouth had to be visually inspected for decay.  And I had to pay for this privilege.  My point is this – had I waited until I moved and tried registering her for school on the first day, I would have really been scrambling and who knows when she would have been in an actual classroom.  And although she wasn’t likely going to miss a great deal in first grade, we all needed to be back in our school routine pronto!

keep calm

When it comes to new schools, especially in new districts or new states, remember that you are your kid’s expert.  No one knows your kid like you do.  And if your child has special needs, do your research and be ready to be an advocate for your child.  I’m not saying you show up at the principal’s door demanding your child get special treatment.  I’m saying that be educated in your rights and try and research district, state or federal policies based on your situation.

Starting a new school is just one part of the moving journey.  But it is an important part.  The more you do before the move, the better.  However just like Kim mentioned in her Back To School post, even the most prepared mom can have a curve ball or two thrown her way.  And that’s ok too.  Unfortunately, curve balls are also part of the moving journey.  But remember there is no curve ball to God.

angeline3

 

 

 

 

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Back to School…Looking for the Right One (part 2)

prov3Oh how I know the anxiety and stress a momma can have when searching for a new school for her little people in a completely new, strange city. It’s stressful knowing that your decisions on selecting a new house can affect your children and their education. I mean there’s enough pressure finding the right house but mix in the kids and it can be brain overload.  First and foremost, if you are a Christian, TRUST the Lord with ALL your heart.  Have faith that God will  lead you to the right school for you and your kiddos.  If you do, the stress will dramatically decrease and you will feel such a peace.  I’m not gonna say I’m perfect at this (I’m human) but I can tell you that looking back with each move, God’s hand has been all over each and every one.

As Angeline pointed out in Part 1 of our Back to School series, there are a lot of resources you can utilize to help search out schools in this unknown territory known as your future home.  My process is pretty similar to hers – one word – RESEARCH!
keep calmMy man and I make a great team!  We’ve got our system down.  He asks around with coworkers and does the logistics research (commute and such) while I focus on community and school life.  Oh and let’s not forget to mention reaching out to all the many friends I have made across the country to see if someone, anyone knows anybody familiar with my new town.  Desperate times call for desperate measures people – I am not shy to ask around!  When looking for a realtor, find one who has kids.  They will know about schools and family life without a doubt.  I would also highly suggest a house hunting trip if possible.  Just spend a few days driving around trying to find an area you like (you’ll get a good idea when you see it).  For example, when we moved to the DC area, my man and I took a week long house hunting trip and drove from one end of the area to the other.  An entire week of driving, need I say more??  My hubby kept saying that he wanted, and thought I would like, Loudon county in Northern VA so that’s where he took me first.  I kept saying no, because the only person I knew in the entire area lived in Fairfax county and I wanted to be near her. (HAHA – what a reason, right?)  I should know by now to listen to my husband -shhh don’t tell him that.  After that week of driving, where was it I liked best?  The very first place we visited.  The one my husband thought I would like most.  Of course.  Sometimes just driving by schools and communities can determine the location you like best and then you can do more in-depth school research.

Another reason I didn’t want to even look at Loudon county was because my research showed 1/2 day kindergarten for that county.  WHAT?!?!  That was NOT in my plan!  LOL.  Thank goodness life doesn’t go by our plans.  However, there is a point to all this…..there are still states who have 1/2 day kindergartens out there.  As a Southerner this was so foreign to me.  There are also schools who require tuition for full day kindergarten.  (I’ve had two boys go through both scenarios!)  Do your research.  I know this is all about kindergarten but it can go for any grade.  Go to the school websites.  District websites.  Read everything you can about every aspect of the school.  Know what the schools teach and make sure you agree with it. Look up busing information for the district (some require a certain amount of distance for transportation). If you have special needs (gifted, autism, speech,etc) – look up the information regarding those services for the district.   Greatschools.org is a great resource but don’t just go by the number rating scale.  Read the parent comments.  A school can rate low just because of test scores – and we all know how most people feel about test scores.  Anyway, parents will give the truer indication of the school and its environment.

My move to Vegas was really interesting.  We had a house.  I had researched the school, it rated awesome and I was ready.  However, our move out there, the seller backed out of the sale and we had to house hunt all over again!  Talk about stress!
stressedHowever, we found a great house (with a better commute) but the school didn’t rate as well as the first school.  The school building didn’t even look as nice on the outside.  BUT…it wasn’t the worst school either.  Just the average norm.  Well, we were blessed by that school, and the teachers, and I got very involved and by the time we left I felt like that school was on the up and up and was taking off to be the best in the area.
IMG_2504 All that to say….God had a plan.  One I couldn’t see.  You see, because of that school, I became friends with a gal from Minnesota.  I was blessed (when God’s in control – it’s not luck folks) with a friend who just so happened to be from the Twin Cities area in MN and knew everything about it.  At the time did I know I would move to MN and need such a friend?  Lord no!  But God did and that friend really assisted and reached out to her MN friends in order to help me with my school search here.

TRUST in the Lord with ALL your HEART.  God has a plan.  We may not recognize it or see it but He does.  He cares about the big things and the little things in our lives and our moves.  TRUST He will help you find the right school for your kids.  It may or may not be the award winning school but if you let Him be in control, He will direct your path.  That’s when you know you found the right one!
kim4

Back to School…After a Move (part 1)

BackToSchoolBlackboardSign

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.

angeline3