April 22, 2024
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April 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I am not sure who invented the open house. And the open house I am referring to is the one that introduces parents to the school they might send their child to. There are open houses for nursery schools, elementary schools, high schools and colleges (and I will not even touch upon the topic of camp open houses).

I have no idea if these rituals exceed beyond college. The nursery school open house, as I recall, consisted of juice and cookies, teeny tiny chairs to sit on and a syllabus ranging from Jewish holiday themed songs, arts and crafts to other very stimulating activities like learning how to put on your own coat and shoelace tying, for more advanced toddlers. Parents would ask questions about manual dexterity and wonder if their child be placed in the same group with the child who only knows how to pick his nose.

Will the advanced “readers” be placed with the children who hold the book upside down? Some people would ultimately choose their child’s nursery school based solely on the toilet training policy. If my kids can come in diapers, they are all yours. If they have to be trained by age 3, I gotta look elsewhere. I don’t care how detailed your explanation of Noah’s Ark is or how often you sanitize the legos, I am not driving to school every time my kid need’s his/her diaper changed. When my boys were little, we had this rotating playgroup and I still remember the mom who would screen the calls from one of the nursery schools because she refused to go change her kid’s diaper. Poor kid, wonder what rehab he is in now.

So after you survive the nursery school open house and, hopefully, the nursery school, your completely toilet-trained toddler has begun to transform into a real little person and it is time to find him an elementary school. Those open houses are a little more fun. For starters, you have a better chance of fitting on the chair and the food assortment has progressed to including fruit and vegetable platters and perhaps, if you are lucky, some wraps and beverages, but never wine (when will they learn).

Then the principal fills you in on all the amenities of the building and the smart board and the teachers who are there to help with your child’s reading and writing, comprehension of math and gemarah, how they deal with their emotional needs and their spiritual needs. How they reinforce midot and love of learning and blah blah blah. It is all very exciting. Your child is a clean slate and you are going to pick a school that is going to help mold him/her and turn them into a fine, well-educated young man/woman. He will make his first friends, develop relationships with teachers; so just close your eyes, point to one of the brochures and hope you are making the right decision. Fun, right?

It only gets better. It is time for the high school open house. The high school open house is where the teachers and administration have to convince you that whatever type of child you have, their school is the perfect fit. If it is a big school “we have lots of options for your child.” If it is a small school “we have the ability to really get to know your child.” And then, for some reason, each school needs to demonstrate how whatever the kid is learning in English, they can tie into biblical studies, art and lunch (well, not really lunch, just trying to prove a point). I never remember any of this from high school…(only that I almost failed chemistry and French and they never tried to tie those two subjects together…) They talk about all the extra-curricular activities and how even though there are only 24 hours in a day, your child will have time for EVERYTHING…(except, perhaps, sleep, as I have learned from watching my own high schoolers.)

To put it into perspective, high school is four years, but mazal lasts forever. You can have a horrible high school experience wherever you go..Frisch, TABC, Maayanot, Ramaz…but then flourish in college and be a successful member of society. You can have an amazing four years at any of those same schools and never really find yourself after that. Mazal, my friends, we all need it. A lot of it. And they aren’t serving that at any open house!(some open houses had really good mac ‘n cheese, but still not the same as mazal)

So my advice to the parents out there who are trying to pick a school, any school…do you think it will make your child happy? Do they have friends going there? Do the teachers seem to know what they are doing? Have other people been happy there? When I talk about my kids’ high school I always preface with “You know me, I complain about everything, but my kids are really happy here!” That is vote of confidence that cannot be taken lightly.

As with any decision you make, just remember, nothing is set in stone, if your child isn’t adjusting and you think you made the wrong decision, you can always switch them because, in the end, every school is more than happy to take your building fund! Good luck to all of you and may your choices be the right ones and may all of your kids be happy always…..

Banji Ganchrow is a self proclaimed writer who truly believes that she wouldn’t go back to school even if someone offered her a zillion dollars.

By Banji Latkin Ganchrow

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