My Mommyology

Learning from Motherhood.

Adjustment Phase 1A: A School for Sam


It’s the Adjustment Series again. 🙂  Can ya blame me?  With each move I need to re-wire my brain.  I told my husband I hoped this would be the last though in a LOOONG time, because I think another move will just cause me to short-circuit!

Where do I begin.

While the main reason for relocating to LA was for Jamie’s over-all health (and secondarily for my husband’s career), the biggest concern for me was Sam’s future school.  I’d gotten quite comfortable with the fact that she was adjusting nicely to my alma mater.  She was grade 1, was starting to make those life-long friendships we all know begin in grade school… and she was doing well.  Everyone loved her — teachers, classmates and community helpers alike.  The system was working for us (and you know me with routine and predictability!).

And to think when we moved to Manila, I had stressed over the school choice too!  Now after going through it a second time around outside of my comfort zone, I realize that choosing a school in Manila is (was) a walk in the park.  Who was I kidding?!

We started our school search months before we even confirmed our relocation plans.  While my husband searched the net, I talked to Moms I knew and trusted.  After all, we’re not the first family to do this!

My first instinct was to move Sam to a private school, which so many people said was crazy.  And that was the first mindset shift.  They made me realize that in a developed country like the US, there are good public schools.  Read:  Free tuition.  And websites like Great! Schools had a listing and some ratings and reviews public schools, complete with all the facts.

I have this bookmarked for life.

I have this bookmarked for life.

Then a good friend pointed me towards the API Index.   It’s a statewide measurement of all the public schools in the various cities.  Apparently it is a well-known trusted index.  I was advised to look for schools that ranked 800 and up.

Somewhere along the way, another friend sent me the list of California Distinguished Schools, which honors some of the exemplary public schools in the state.  Of course who parent wouldn’t want to send their child to those schools?

I was taught to look for this symbol when visiting a school.

I was taught to look for this symbol when visiting a school.

Here’s the other thing I had to wrap my head around:  We needed an address that was within the zoned district of the school.  (Say what?!)  Meaning to say we needed a home before we found a school.  But we also needed to pick a school so that we could look for a home.  And while this “law” is common to other states in the US, it wasn’t familiar to me.  In Manila, you could live in the deepest recesses of the province, wake up at 430AM and go to school in the city by 730AM!  But that’s besides the point.

Of course, each school had a maximum capacity too.  So if your chosen school was at full capacity, the school district would assign your child to another school in the district that was possibly of a lower ranking.  By the time we’d confirmed our move though, most of the schools we looked at had closed enrollment.

Then there was her age.  Sam is admittedly a year younger than her current batchmates, because she missed our school cut-off by 29 days.  She had a guidance assessment and they saw her fit to go into the level she’s in now.  Here, it’s not the case.  The district will look at your date of birth and last completed level, and all transfer students will start with the students of their age level.  So if it were up to the system, Sam was going back to Kindergarten.  When I spoke to some administrators, they said the Department of Education is strict about the ages because of the bullying, and it would have to be at the discretion of the school’s Principal.  My reply was always – my daughter may get bored in Kinder and then SHE may be the bully!  Plus, the only thing that excites her about moving is because she understands she’s going to continue in Grade 1.

With all these considerations I was about to go nuts.  It was a long process.  I was worried about putting Sam in a lower ranked school and then moving her again a year after.  I felt that was too much of an adjustment, be it private or public.  I seriously considered home school, but that scared ME more.

All of that said and done, my husband and I finally decided on a district with schools that were all ranked in the above-average level.  That way even if we couldn’t get into our California Distinguished school of choice, it would still be a school that was top ranked.  He would have to drive 35 miles to work (which is far by LA standards they say), but we decided it would be better for the kids in all aspects.

My husband left 6 weeks ahead, and he found a school (and an apartment near it) that had a slot for Sam.  It was a year-round school, which was ANOTHER jolt to my system because I didn’t even know I had to consider that!  Apparently there are two “schools of thought” (pun intended) about traditional and year round schools.  There are pros and cons to both systems, but in any case, the only school in this wonderfully ranked district was the one with the year-round calendar.

When we arrived two months ago, school had already been in session.  We had our alma mater’s full support that she could handle the 1st grade, and they backed it up with OLSAT test results as well as assessments and personal recommendation letters from her teachers.  And thankfully, this particular school has taken Sam in at 1st grade.  It was ranked a 10 on Great Schools, and has an API Index of 942.  It was a California Distinguished School in 2010, but aims to get that distinction back soon (which is good enough really)!

She's being led to her new classroom.  I followed holding back tears.

She’s being led to her new classroom. I followed holding back tears.

She started immediately 5 days after we’d arrived.

I snuck this note into her lunchbox.

I snuck this note into her lunchbox.

She’s made some friends and according to her teacher, has no problem adjusting at all.  I went through Sam’s Mindprint results with her, and in the last few weeks the teacher has seen and verified on her own that Sam is quite the exemplary student.  Phew! 

There are days Sam tells me she still eats alone and is shy about joining the other kids.  She misses her old school and her friends back home.

Sam's Manila classmates gave her and another friend a send-off before we left!  So sweet.

Sam’s Manila classmates gave her and another friend a send-off before we left! So sweet.

She doesn’t cry about it though (which makes ME want to cry even more)!  What else can I do except take it in stride and hope that time will help.  Everyone here seems welcoming and very friendly after all.

I may have lost a couple of years of my life going through this transition, but I did learn a lot.  And with Sam doing so well, I’ve recently discovered there’s still MORE to learn about the education system in this country.  That is a happy problem I shall willingly take on. 🙂

Author: mymommyology

I am the mom that I am because of my two wonderful little girls. They teach me everyday.


  1. Gosh. I remember moving here from NY and thinking what a huge adjustment it was for us. Gia was about Sam’s age and like Sam she had no problem adjusting, save for the fact that she missed some of her friends and the routines from back home. My hat is off to you Jenny. One for making the decision to move because of Jamie’s health…and two for being such a trooper about the whole thing. I still live vicariously through your posts…of the familiar things from The States that sometimes remind me that I lived somewhere else before here…I’m so glad that the internet allows me to keep up with you and the girls and see how wonderfully they are blossoming and how well you are adjusting…I think I love your Disney pics too!!!

    • Thanks Mish! I just think as parents, we do the best we can to give our kids the best life possible no? 🙂 It was the same with you when you moved there too many years ago! And I’m glad indeed for the internet to keep us all in touch still! Miss you all!

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