Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cause You Never Know What Hand You're Getting Dealt

After arriving in Asheville a few weeks ago I immediately went to meet with the principals/directors of several schools in our neighborhood. Every single one of them (private, public, & charter) were full for the coming school year. Every single one. The school system is different than a typical public school system. Here the city schools are run on a Magnet program and you get in by lottery. This means that desirable schools fill up quickly and those may or may not be in your neighborhood. If you want to have control over what school your child attends, and in what neighborhood, you may be out of luck. The same goes for the charter schools and the private schools. Relocating a month before school starts and attempting to get in anywhere has been a nightmare!

I had resigned myself to homeschooling for Kindergarten and taking the time to research all of our options and apply for next year. Then while on vacation Up North (which is technically what the region is called I'm not juxtaposing to the South!) we got the call that there was an opening at the private school in our neighborhood. I was so relived I could have cried. As much as I think homeschooling can be both doable and rewarding, I was very worried about being socially isolated in a new place. This school is maybe a bit more "hippy" than I would choose for myself socially but it is perfect for Kid academically and hey that's what school is for... right?

Okay so I've been juggling all the new student paperwork and writing checks up the wazoo (it is NOT cheap) and generally stressing about Kid's first step out into the big world. And then...

Not one week after we committed to this placement and paid our fees and 2 months of tuition (and signed all the paperwork binding us to the entire year's tuition) we get word that Mr F's main freelance client is pulling out and he won't have that work anymore. You see where this is going right? If I had known that ONE week ago I would have turned down the spot. We had been counting on the freelance work for things like... oh I don't know... private school. I'd be wringing my hands right now if I still wasn't still so relieved that someone else will be teaching Kid to read and that maybe (just maybe) I'll find a friend of my own. That just might be worth 8K right?

But this is our life, this is how everything turns out. It has become almost laughable... for every up there is a down. It's hard to ever feel like we're moving forward. We felt good about being able to put extra money down on our mortgage and then, after signing all the papers, we discover that we needed all new appliances... how much did that cost?... exactly as much as the extra we put down when we closed on the house. And now with this we've gone from feeling as financially secure as we've ever been back to exactly where we started... overnight.

It's hard for me to process all this. I mean we just made a huge financial commitment (which may still be for the best) and I'm not sure how we'll make it work. We can make it work... but it will require very careful budgeting (which will be done by you know who). The upside to all this... and it is a huge upside... is that Mr F will not be working 2 jobs anymore. Mr F still has a couple of projects but for the most part our evenings will be family time... which we haven't had in 4 years (seriously). So it's not all bad, in fact I think in some ways it's better, just a bit more stressful.


Laura said...

Sorry to hear about the school problems! I'm so confounded by the whole system though... so they don't have enough public schools for everyone? Isn't that illegal? It seems like they should have to be able to fit Kid in somewhere, though I suppose it's a moot point now that Kid is all set for private school - hopefully it will be better and it will all be for the best!

Mrs Furious said...

I'm curious about the whole lottery situation as well. I don't know if they don't have to place you for K since it isn't mandatory... or if they would have just found a spot in a random school. I do know we were not getting into our "neighborhood" school or the 2 top desired public schools. Busing to an undesirable one just sucks.

Laura said...

Whoa, I had no idea kindergarten wasn't mandatory! I think in New York State it is... I just assumed it was the same everywhere.

michelline said...

We have the magnet school system in Jacksonville as well. It's Southern codeword for "Desegregation". I would imagine Asheville does it for the same reason Jacksonville does - it was a way to end court ordered desegration which involved mandatory busing from the white areas of town to the black areas. Jacksonville was under these court orders from 1971 to 1995 (or so) until they implemented the magnet system. There's no way I would allow Tori and Libby to go to our neighborhood schools - too many rebel flags and rednecks. We were lucky enough to get Tori into one of the top public middle schools in Florida (it's an academic magnet that is invitation only) and Libby is in an IB Primary Years elementary school. Of course, the trade off is both of these schools are in areas my family would...well... stand out in due to our looks. And their schools are both in high crime areas.

I really like the magnet system. It's a pain for people just moving in (John is going through this right now trying to get his son into Libby's school), but it's a wonderful opportunity for the kids to go to high quality schools.

Haley said...

Oh my goodness! I'm so sorry you have to deal with all of this. When it rains, it pours (sorry, cliched, but true). There are few things more stressful than feeling financially insecure -- believe me, I know! I have no doubt, though, that you will apply your furiosity to your budgeting and be very successful.

Julie said...

Aw, man. This is annoying, huh.

It sounds like Boston public is fiercely competitive to get into the desirable schools. The thing I don't get is why can't they just make all the schools better through out the city.

They probably would have found a random spot for Kid.

8k is a ton of money, but here in the Boston area, private preschool can cost $18k. Primary grades in the, huh?!

I hate that financially insecure feeling. I know how it feels. I always feel like that and with winter heating around the corner, frankly, I am scared!

Hey, maybe budget-wise you guys will save on heating costs down in Asheville as opposed to Ann Arbor. There's a savings (maybe not 8k worth, but still....)

Torey said...

Ugh. Sorry Mrs. F.

I'm sure it will all work out in the end, and it will be perfect for Kid. I bet she's the kind of child who will just thrive in school!

gooddog said...

I hear you on the upside (more time with Mr F and kid in a good school) and downside ($$!!??). It sucks that our society has made it so we have to trade time and money for education so often. I agree with you though, it feels so good to have my kids in a (pre)school where they're happy that I'll do what it takes! And hey, potential mom-friends too!

Heather said...

If it makes you feel any better, in my opinion investing in your kid's education is the BEST use of money and the best predictor of where and how far they'll go in life. So it's money well spent!!

Mrs Furious said...

That is exactly why they went to a Magnet program (1989). Our neighborhood school is still the most segregated and I thought that would help us get in but no it's full. Here if one sib is in then they reserve spots for the younger sibs... I think with Kid entering K that worked against us.
Everyone has had a different school they recommend that I have asked... I think it takes time to figure out which of the schools is "really" the best one. The whole process is really intimidating.
Several people have said "all the Asheville schools are really good" then I met a district teacher who said "I'd never ever send my kid to X school".

dude it's always pouring (jk... kind of)

"The thing I don't get is why can't they just make all the schools better through out the city. "
Precisely. Run for school board :)

Oh believe me if we moved to NYC K was going to be 26K!!! That's my entire post-tax salary (when I worked).


"And hey, potential mom-friends too!"
And that is worth any amount of money ;)

I couldn't agree more. Look at how great I turned out! ;)

Heather said...

Me too! I look at where my cousins and other family members have gone, and am so thankful I went to college and grad school, etc. Yay!

P.O.M. said...

You're the QUEEN of budgeting and can make anything work. Family time is a really good thing (until he starts to drive you crazy, ha ha). Kid will do great in her hippy school. Hippies are great with kids. ha ha. (My parents were totally hippies)

Deb said...

Family time is a huge bonus, and that's a great way to look at the upside. (Well, besides the stellar school, of course.)

I'm sorry things aren't going smoothly right now. I hope it all eases up soon and goes your way.

Tiffany said...

Isn't that what they call Murphy's Law? Good luck and best wishes for all you've been through. You are a stronger person than I am.

Mrs Furious said...

"until he starts to drive you crazy, ha ha"
it's already happening ;)

maybe I need to call upon the power of "The Secret" ;)

thanks... I'm not sure I'm all the strong though...I've been very short tempered these days!

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