Kindergarten!  Yikes!!  How did my kid get to be so old already?  If your preschooler is about to embark on thecreated at: 2011-01-07 next phase in his or her educational journey, you are probably starting to feel this way.

My kids are now past that stage – but I remember vividly the anxieties … What kind of environment do we want her in next year?  How will her creativity, curiosity and abilities best be nurtured and harnessed as she begins her career as a learner?  Will the teachers be able to figure out what makes her tick?  Will she feel at home there?  Will her friends be influences for good?  How much should I factor in where her preschool friends are going to kindergarten?  Will I like the other parents?  Will it feel as comfortable as preschool has felt?  Will she make academic progress?

As I have heard time and time again, no one gives you instructions when you bring a new person into the world!  With each new stage our children enter, we must start a whole new parenting learning curve.  My husband and I found that choosing the right school was no exception to this rule.

We gathered all the information that we could to best understand our options. We spoke with many:  family members, friends and the leadership at the day school in our area.  We visited the school to get a feel for what really went on inside those walls. We understood the financial strain that this decision would have on our family … and then we looked to families we knew with older children.  More often than not the older kids who impressed us were day school kids.  With that — we took the leap of faith and decided on Jewish day school for our child.  And at this later stage in the game, now with three kids almost through with middle school — I can say with confidence that our choice was the right one for us.

For our family, the development of a strong foundation of ethical and critical thinking coupled with the instillation of pride in Jewish identity since kindergarten has made the experience at our kids’ day school unparalleled.  I am convinced that this foundation  is the direct result of a full-day Jewish educational experience and it will anchor them for the rest of their lives.  Knowing all the creative energies that our school has poured into our kids during their formative years gives us confidence that as they enter the next stage (yes, just when you figure out one stage, another one comes along!!) engaging in the broader world as young adults, they will do so with a deep understanding of who they are and from where they have come.  We hope, of course, that this foundation will enable them to make good choices as they progress to full adulthood.
Full disclosure:   I work as an Assistant Director of CJP’s Initiative for Day School Excellence.   So I guess you might say I am a bit biased.  Actually, most day school parents are – they are so committed to their school and they want others to be too!  I have chosen to work in this field because I am a believer in the Jewish day school enterprise and want to make it more accessible to others who may share the same values. 

And in that context, I want to share the following exciting news:
As you think about where your child will attend kindergarten next year, now more than ever, consider Boston’s Jewish day schools – check out CJP’s incentive program at www.DiscoverDaySchool.org!  Like all good schools, Boston’s Jewish day schools offer outstanding educators, small classes, innovative and creative curricula, extra-curricular activities – and the obvious list goes on – but I have found that they also offer our children deep connection to a school community with a Jewish soul and spirit and an ethical and moral center that may not be found just anywhere.

We Boston Jewish parents are lucky!  Our choices for educating our children are rich and varied and the day schools in our area cater to a diverse set of students with different interests, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.  Parenting is no easy feat, having a school to truly partner with you as you make your way is a priceless gift.