The school year is finally over for the kids. The last tests have been taken, the books have been turned in and the awards (where applicable) have been given out.
Walter's first year of high school was a mixed bag. He had some trouble adjusting and I think he went through a bit of culture shock. He was used to an enviornment where, because of his intelligence, he could slide by without much effort. Now, however, he found himself in a school where the environment is more challenging. I can't say that Eeees and I are 100% happy with the way the school year went, but we're also pretty sure that this school was probably the best available choice for him and we think that things will be better for him there next year.
People often ask me if we're happy with the choice of school, and, for the most part, we are. Yes, there are certain things that we wish would change about the school (and about Walter himself), but we know that we can't have *everything* we want. Yet, when people ask us about George, they're surprised to find out that we are leaning against sending him there, despite being generally happy with it for Walter. When the time comes to choose a high school for George, we will certainly consider Walter's school. However, early indications are that he probably won't be going there.
The simple fact is that Walter and George are two very different kids with *very* different personalities and temperaments (in fact, sometimes so different that I find it hard to believe that they grew up in the same household). Just because Walter can survive and (we hope, thrive) in a particular environment, that doesn't mean that it is the right one for George. He needs a place that is right for his needs. What's good for Walter is not necessarily what's good for George.
It always amazes me, however, how some people completely ignore the child in the process of picking a school. People sometimes pick a school out of laziness (e.g. "Well, we have one kid here, so let's send all of them here"), competition ("we've got to be able to say that we send our kids to the *best* yeshiva") or even sillier reasons. I know of one parent who didn't want to consider a school because she thought it would reflect poorly on her family when it came time for shidduchim. The educational policies of the place weren't important, whether it was the right fit for her kid's educational level and temperament wasn't important. What was important was that her daughters might not get shidduchim later in life if they or a sibling attended this school. It apparently never entered her mind that sending her kids to the wrong school for them could send them off the derech, which would prove to be a far greater "shidduch stain" than a choice of elementary or high school.*
Parents owe it to their kids to send them to the right school *for them.* It doesn't have to be the right school for the parents -- they aren't the ones attending. It doesn't have to be the right school for the neighbors -- they can send their kids to whatever school they want to. It doesn't have to be the right school for some as-yet-unmet in-laws -- hopefully they'll judge your kid on the basis of his or her character and not what elementary/high school they went to (and, if they judge on that basis, maybe you don't want to marry them anyway). You have to find the school that is the right one for that kid. No one else -- not the parents, not the grandparents, not the neighbors -- not even siblings -- matter. Find the best school for *that* kid. The risk of doing anything else is just too great.
* I'm not suggesting that she actually did send her kid to the wrong school. She just refused to even consider a specific school as a possibly correct choice because of how it would look.