31 days UNFILTERED - school

Day 19 The number one question I've been asked since we moved out to the sticks is, "What about the schools?"

And this remains the toughest question for me to answer.

Our new school district is small, rural, and simple. The athletic and extracurricular options are minimal and the state school report card is fairly decent but not quite exceptional. Because there are dozens of school districts in the surrounding area, our school district is only slightly above average in comparison.

At least on paper, anyway.

So when folks ask me about the schools, I think what they really want to ask is, "Are you concerned that you are making a decision to live in a school district that can't offer your children the academic rigor of some of the surrounding districts?"

And that's a fair question. We live in a highly competitive world, and in order to keep up, kids must stay ahead of the competition.

And the fact is that compared to our school district, some schools are better positioned to crank out a lot more kids who are better able to compete.

Why wouldn't a parent enroll their child in a school that boasts near perfect school report card scores if that parent is able to do so?

Well, that brings me to my answer, the answer to the question that is so difficult to answer.

The truth is, my concern for my child's education pales in comparison to my concern for my child's character.

Yes, high educational standards are well and good. I won't argue that for a second. However what matters even more to me than how my children are excelling academically is how they are developing personally, socially, emotionally and spiritually. Essentially, I care more about WHO my children are becoming than I do about WHAT they become.

Please don't misinterpret what I'm saying. I have nothing against schools that place a high value on academics. Heck, that's what schools are designed to do, in most cases. If my child excels in a highly competitive academic environment - holy cow, that's awesome. But if it's at the expense of his or her ability to engage the world and people, I'm a lot less impressed.

I actually don't care a whole lot about raising intelligent kids.

Which may sound crazy because I am constantly telling my kids, "You are so smart."

I tell them they are smart when they stop and think about a decision rather than acting flippantly. I tell them they are smart when they are faced with a challenge and they press in rather than give up. I tell them they are smart when they try a new way to solve a problem when other ways haven't worked.

I don't want my kids to think that smart equates to high IQ. Because the truth is, there will always be more intelligent kids. Always. But there will always ever be only one Henry. One Harper. One Greta. And I want my kids to be confident in who they were made to be regardless of their grades, test scores, and class rank.

As for our new district, I have sat at the board of education meetings, the PTO meetings and across from my son's principal, and there is no doubt that these leaders have a vested interest in my son for who he is, not for who they want to make him for the sake of performance on standardized tests.

And so our new school district, while not the cream of the crop academically, it is beautifully fit for our family and our values. The school climate is superb. The district community is second to none. The staff is melt-my-heart divine.

And if I do say so myself, choosing it makes us pretty darn smart.