June 19, 2007

graduation day

Paige completed kindergarten today. It was a monumental day filled with tears of happiness and sadness. When we moved into the city we contemplated the options for our kids' education. Both Brooke and I attended private schools growing up. Our blue-collar families worked hard to keep us in those schools. But we don't have very many positive things to say about our private school experiences. So that wasn't option.

We looked at almost all of the city charter schools in the area. This has been a growing phenomenon. But overall, as the popularity of the idea grows, the more of the schools flop. Some of the schools we checked out seemed okay but we weren't convinced it was the best fit for Paige.

There was the idea of homeschooling our kids, but both of our kids can be quite introverted at times and we were convinced that socializing was a big need for them.

Honestly, though, it came down to one thing. Our missional impulse for even being in this neighborhood in the first place. If we cared about this community, both the haves and have-nots, than we couldn't just abandon the system that so many had no other choice but to use: the neighborhood public school.

McKinley Elementary was a big scary place for all of us at first. Our petite, first born daughter going onto this big campus. But there were things that were a plus right away for Brooke and I. For one, it was very diverse. Her class alone had a global representation. And the school had raised money to keep arts and physical education on campus. So, we gave it a go.

It's been an amazing year for our whole family. We've met so many wonderful people. From students, teachers, principal, staff and parents. Yes, we've tried to be as active as possible. Brooke has volunteered every week. I've been at as many events as possible; Dad's club, field trips, plays, etc. We know not everyone can do that. But what we weren't giving in funds to the school we wanted them to know they had in our love and attention.

Paige was invited to a birthday party this last weekend. We were the only gringos and some of the only English speaking people present. And it was wonderful. I began to realize, while talking in broken Spanish with the dads, that we were all connected not just because of our kids but also because we all live in this neighborhood. And the good will of this neighborhood matters to us all... Geographic proximity is so huge!

Paige has grown so much this year. She has excelled in both math and art. Go figure, she's certainly our daughter; a funky mix of right and left brain. She almost cried this morning when walking up to her classroom. I think the excitement of it being the last day and the thought that this was the end was a bit overwhelming. I ran over to the school on my lunch break to thank her teacher for what she had given my little girl this year. Brooke and Paige's teacher exchanged hugs and tears at the end of the day. We are grateful to our neighborhood public school. It's become a common ground for so many of us in this community. And it really has been a healthy place for our daughter to be and we hope will continue to. To be honest, its kind of like what Church should be... I've seen the kingdom popping up all over this school year.

I'm glad the summer is here. Paige is ready to PLAY. But I'm looking forward to next school year for her too.

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