One rainy late August afternoon, after the kids and I had just emerged from the public pool, hair dripping and that kind of relaxed-tired that you get after a good swim, I ran into an acquaintance of ours that just happened to have a daughter the same age as my oldest.
After all the niceties were out of the way, we had this conversation:
Aquaintance: So, have you thought about what high schools you are going to visit?
Me: Wha? Why would I visit high schools? You are clearly insane so please step away slowly from my children. (Okay, that wasn’t exactly what I said)
Aquaintance: Well, next year around this time of year you have to register for high school, so you probably want to have an idea of where you want to put your child.
I stopped backing away, because that seemed to make sense. But coming from a place where you just enrolled your kid in the local high school, and where the quality of education was such that you could do that without much hesitation, I had never thought of researching high schools the way one would research Cegep or University.
Me: Shit. (and this, in front of the children). Oldest child, did you know about this?
Oldest child: I was thinking of the Theatre school.
Me: We should do some research when we get home.
Oldest child: Can I do it?
Me: Sure. Make a list.
Acquaintance: Okay, I have wreaked my havoc in your brain now. I am going to go and try to see when swimming lessons registrations are. (and lo and behold, this same lovely acquaintance was the one ahead of me in that registration debacle.)
So my daughter researched schools. I researched schools. I talked to other parents who were cleearly more on the ball than me about this and usurped their list of schools. But all in all, we only visited 3, including the school I work at. I think in our minds we are all decided on one particular one, however, you have to audition to get in and have good enough grades to hack the extra curriculum (it is a theatre school- like her father, she is interested in the production and design side of things). The school I work at was lovely, but even as a staff member I don’t think I could afford it. The other school was academically strong but void of all colour, hygiene, and, weirdly enough, teachers. We all hated that one.
So here are some of the issues we have to face when our children reach high school age in Quebec:
1. Private vs. Public? (And apparently there is a big difference in quality.)
2. French public or English public? (And if you want to send your child to English Public you must get a certificate of eligibility which means that one parent has had to have been educated in English in Canada- we can get this, but it will be a pain the butt).
3. French private or English private? I work at an English private school so could get a discount, but even then, apparently the French private schools would still be cheaper. But do I want to send my daughter to private school? Also, there are entrance exams that your child must study for. Apparently, on average, a 6th grade kid applying to private school will write around 4 exams.
4. Regular public or Charter public? There is a whole range out there, with schools focussing on music, theatre, international programs, public schools with uniforms, etc.
Not to mention the fact that I am offended that this is so stressful. She is 10 years old for pete’s sake! I feel like those crazy mothers in the Nanny Diaries who are prepping their five year olds to get into the right pre-schools. I feel like this is an instance of mass insanity. I was talking to a coworker who has two kids in private schools. She said that before each of them applied she spent the summer cramming with them, prepping for their entrance test. I so adamantly believe this is wrong on so many levels. It is draconian, and altogether american (no child left behind nightmare) to think that you can measure a child’s worth for a test where they make books to show you how to take the test. My coworker’s view is that she hates it, doesn’t believe in it however, if she didn’t do it, her children would suffer by not getting into the best schools and therefore…what? Doomed for failure for their whole life? Destined to be a paper hat wearing hot dog selling person? I think not.
So what will we do? I have no idea. Home school?