I’m hungover, lacking a lot of sleep, and my head hurts with decisions to be made. So I’m brain-dumping.
When we moved here, we didn’t give a second thought to schools. It wasn’t that I didn’t think it was important. It was that it wasn’t a choice.
We went with the only London town (and anywhere within reasonable distance inside AND outside the m25) that came up when we put in our budget on Right Move.
Primary school choice was a luxury that we didn’t have. Even if it had been a choice, I think it would have been a massively complex thing to attempt to gain knowledge of when our heads were busy with the adjustment to becoming an overnight family. We were on a race against the third trimester to find somewhere to live on an impossibly small mortgage loan that wouldn’t buy us a studio flat in most parts of South East London. (Why didn’t we rent instead? Couldn’t afford that either. Renting was actually more expensive than a mortgage repayment).
The fact that we couldn’t think about schools but I felt we probably should be thinking about schools was another thing to feel guilty about. And so I pushed it to the back of my mind, like a lot of things.
Fast forward four years and we are about to apply for Arlo’s primary school place. And maybe, just, maybe, we might be in a position to ‘upsize’ in the next year or so. Decisions are suddenly hurtling towards us at once.
Moving house year the same year your child is starting school is not the best (“we should wait until we know he’s happy at school before moving”, “But waiting delays all other life plans… I’ll have another baby in this house but I will NOT entertain the idea of having another baby in transit”) – and apparently it’s also not the best to do either of these things in an election year.
2010 was a GREAT time to accidentally start a family.
Our town is still the best for us, budget-wise, but ideally we want to move to a house we can comfortably live in for more than the next seven years. But I HATE what this stupid government has done to the secondary schools in Croydon. I am not sure I agree with the grammar-schools-in-disguise tactics of the borough Academy sponsor, and they really do have the monopoly – unless you are going non-secular you have no option. So will that mean another move in 6 years or will things have changed again by then?
Does anyone have a crystal ball?
And then there’s the more pressing primary school decision. I thought I’d quickly find a clear favourite between the schools Arlo is likely to be offered a space, but they all have their very good points and they all have rather strong negative factors for our family. But none of those factors were total deal breakers. I figured schools would be much of a muchness but it’s been an eye opener to realise just how different all the schools have been, they all have their own identity, and each of the schools we’ve visited has been a completely different experience. I definitely need to expand on this further in a dedicated blog post.
If we apply for and get the school that’s a decent drive away, how will that affect my work options? I couldn’t get in to London and back again in time to pick up the kids even with wraparound care. Am I then opting to remove the choice for myself of having a ‘proper’ job in London for the next 11 plus years? But if I choose a school based on our nearest, it might not be our nearest school in two years (moving house, remember?) So then where does that leave me, work-wise?
Trying to work out every single future scenario right now is just not possible.
I thought the important thing was to focus on the best choice for Arlo, and for Rory, who will be following him. Which school will best fit their needs? But this decision isn’t just about the kids, it’s a decision that will affect the whole family. I’ve found it’s making me do a lot of soul searching about what I might possibly want out of my life over the years my children are at school.
I promised myself to try and be all cool about this decision making process, to focus on my gut feeling and to not look at it as the be all and end all. But my mind is feeling pretty engulfed right now. The school decision and the house decision are going to dictate the next decade of our lives.
I guess the norm, or perhaps the ideal, is to be settled by the time you are choosing a primary school, and to have your family home by then. We aren’t there yet. But I really don’t want to be chopping and changing the boys’ schools. In an ideal world, I want to give them the same stability as I had – the long term family home and the same school from reception all the way through to year six.
Having choice feels exciting and important and scary. And also a bit like a Mumsnet thread calling for opinions on schools in not-so-desirable areas and whether it’s ‘safe’ to live there.
But these are good problems to have, I think. Because although I will be in a perma-fog until my brain sorts the overload of impressions and information, it’s reminding me that this is the first time I’ve actually had these big family choices to make. Before now, it’s felt very much out of my hands.
But the luxury of choice is slowly increasing for our family. It’s been an interesting few years, but we are steadying ourselves now. We are getting there.