24 Jan

Potential Aid

Wombat has a kindergarten screening tomorrow morning and I wish I could be cool and breezy about it but I just can’t. Those of you who are surprised at this development, please form a line behind the unicorn.

I’m not sure what all is involved in the screening–some group circle time and some one-on-one time with an administrator, from what I can gather; perhaps there will be an impromptu talent show during which Wombat can prove his well-roundedness by showcasing his “dance” “moves”?–and I promise I haven’t worked myself into a mess of unnecessary froth about him not passing muster as far as “readiness” is concerned. He’s beyond ready, no question about it. (And he still has to wait eight months arrghhbffttapp!) No, friends, I’ve worked myself into a very necessary froth over the plain fact that for Wombat to get into this school (and the other private option we applied to), he can’t be deemed merely “acceptable,” he has to be exceptional. He needs to be desirable. They have to want him/us.

Here’s how it works: If you have a jillion dollars and want to send your kid to a private school, you go to the kindergarten screening and hope your precious spawn doesn’t bite anyone or pee on the rug while muttering profanities, and then you wait six weeks to receive your acceptance letter in the mail, and then you fork over $25K a year and then you pat yourself on the back for a job well done. When you’re us, though, you fret about the kindergarten screening because you know you’re not just competing with 150+ kids for one of 20 spots, you’re competing with who knows how many kids and from who knows what backgrounds for an unknown portion of whatever amount of financial aid is budgeted not just for entering kindergarteners but for kindergarteners–and any upcoming siblings–whom the school anticipates giving an equal amount of financial aid every year until they graduate from high school. It’s kind of a big deal.

So yeah. They have to want us enough to pay for us is the thing. And one of the admissions people told us straight up that a child’s acceptance not only has a lot to do with how he or she contributes to the balance of classroom demographics in terms of sex, age, ethnicity, family makeup, etc., but also how the money thing shakes out, i.e., if they have two applicants who are equal on all other counts, they’ll usually pick the kid who can pay full/more tuition because it’s better for the school that way. This is why when we got our financial aid assessment back from the national organization who decides how much each family can afford, we were on the one hand happy that we qualify for so much aid but on the other hand nervous that we might qualify for too much. We could totally be rejected from the private schools for being too needy, which, hello, we own a house and have two cars and two jobs and college degrees and live blocks away from people who are actually needy, and a can of worms just exploded all over my brain. (In theory, every kid has a chance to go to a good school, but my experience over the past month has shown how very wrong that theory is, but that’s a story for another day.)

Perhaps what’s wigging me out the most about the situation is that there’s very little we can do about a decision that rests so heavily on factors beyond our control. I’ve felt at times like a desperate girlfriend in the way I’ve whispered at the schools’ webpages “Just tell me what you want so I can be that for you, baby!” but the thing is, if they want to balance their classroom demographics with, say, a Chinese girl who has two dads, we really can’t give that to them, at least not without some Hollywood special effects and a wig.

And of course we don’t want to be what they want, we want them to want who we are. (Is there a difference? I don’t even know anymore.) While it’s frustrating that we have so little control over the situation, I guess you could also look at it as totally freeing because we can’t really be anything other than ourselves. All we can really do at this point is wait.

I hate waiting.

As for Wombat, the whole thing has been presented to him as a zero-pressure deal–”It’s a day of pretend kindergarten! Woo! (Please don’t bite anyone.)”–and I’m honestly not hoping for him to go into the screening and present himself as better or “more” or in any way different than he is. I just want him to be himself, which sounds easy enough, but five-year-olds are mercurial beings and I can’t lie that I’m crossing my fingers he’ll give the admissions committee a two-hour window into his bright, bubbly, wonderful, charming personality instead of a too-long snippet of him acting like a total spaz.

Then again, maybe they’re looking for someone to fill in the spaz spot of the diversity quota?

Photos by the amazing Carla, who took our holiday card photos, which I want to share with you because they’re SO PRETTY because she’s SO UNBELIEVABLY TALENTED because we’re really not as sun-kissed and love-soaked as we appear in her photos. At least I’m not.

By    11 Comments    Posted in: Photos, Regular Entries


  • Good luck!!!! I am so right with you on the waiting. Haaaaaaaaaate waiting. Especially for big stuff like this.

    • Swear to god, my anxiety would lessen by 90 percent if we didn’t have to wait so long.

      (Funny thing: We met up with Holly and Sean last weekend and they asked when we’d hear about school decisions. We said “Mid-March” and they were all “So soon!” whereas of course our feeling is that mid-March is eons away.)

  • I’ve been following this application process, and every step has just BAFFLED me. I grew up in a small town (pop. 4,000, back then), where there was one elementary school with great teachers, and unless you were being sent to Catholic school, that’s where you went. End of discussion. Now, well, between watching your saga play out, and think about raising my own [someday] children in Venice, CA (which we love dearly, but not mama’s childhood…), and I’m terrified to one day have to be making school decisions! We bought our house in the “good” elementary school district in Venice, which is somewhat comforting, but there are also other options (charter schools)…and then once they hit middle school, charter or private is pretty much a necessity, because, heh, Venice High School, no. Anyway, in all this long-winded-ness, I’m just trying to say…what you’re going through is sucky and I’m sorry. But based on the limited knowledge I have of W…he DOES seem to be an extraordinary kid…smarter than your typical 5 year old, and certainly wise beyond his years. I have a feeling he will be just fine, and possibly even have OPTIONS! In the meantime, I won’t tell you not to worry, because you will anyway…I’ll just say, I’m pulling for you guys (and W), and hope the rest of this process isn’t too painful!

    • Yeah, it’s nuts and not at all what we’d planned to do. We were gung-ho for public school (albeit nervous about our options) until December, and then BAM, here we are. And you’re right, even though none of our options is totally ideal (the private schools are amazing, but the money stuff sucks; the public schools aren’t all terrible and depressing), at least we have options. I keep telling myself that there are several ways we can come out of this happy and excited, and that’s pretty lucky, I think.

  • Man, I would be a total wreck if I were in your shoes, so you seem to be handling it well (I was a bit of a basket-case about our son starting pre-K at our pretty good public option; can’t imagine how freaked out I would have been by a selection process). Anyways, hang in there. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you–W is obviously such a great kid and I know it will work out one way or another.

  • I seem to be operating in two modes with this stuff: hyperventilating freak-out mode or zen “it’s all beyond my control” mode. It’s exhausting and I can’t waaaaaait for it to be over. Six more weeks!

    And thanks for your kind words and good thoughts!

  • Crossing all my fingers and toes for you; but it sounds like it’s something you just have to relinquish all control over, say “Wouldn’t it be lovely” about, and have a very workable Plan B ready and waiting. Do you have your Plan B?

  • Wow! Good luck Wombat. And I’m going to be his Internet grandma here and say, If they don’t want him, they’re CRAZY. Good riddance and all that. He’s a very special kid.

    Keep us posted and apply wine as necessary in the interim.

  • I know it’s not OUSD or private, but have you looked at Nea CLC in Alameda? It’s a K-12 charter, (and it’s where my daughter is a 2nd grader). We’ve been really happy there. Might be a good in-between option. They give priority to Alameda residents, but there are certainly lots of out of district kids there.

  • I am so nervous for kindergarten stuff, and I live in a mid-sized Colorado town. I have anxiety for you, along with you, whatever.

  • Here’s to a little retroactive good luck! Hope it was whatever it needed to be! We lucked out when Liam started school and his “number” was picked in the lottery to go to the favored school district (we lived in the very much less than favorable one at the time). Getting the acceptance letter was better than my college acceptance letter!

Have at it!

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