Our academic year is off to a decent start. The girls got their mid-quarter progress reports a couple weeks back, and all three are doing well.

C has really taken to fourth grade, which is when the teachers at St. P’s begin pushing students to be self-motivated for getting their work done. Unlike the K–3 years, we don’t have to review her assignments and sign her folder every night. She’s done a great job of balancing her practices and games for kickball and cross country, getting all her school work done, and still having some time to herself each night. With fall sports winding down – she has one more week of running – I hope she stays as focused once she has more free time.

M had a good progress report, too. After those two years of getting more independent in 4th and 5th grades, the St. P’s middle school teachers really start hammering the kids to get them ready for high school entrance exams in 8th grade. M is never happy at how much work she has to bring home, but she does a pretty solid job of knocking it out between dinner and bedtime. A couple of her teachers are notorious for being extremely nit-picky when it comes to getting things turned in correctly. We know several families with very smart kids who have gotten horrible grades because they aren’t able to lock in those little details the teachers want. So far – knock on wood – M has yet to trip up on any of those little landmines.

From our perspective as parents, M’s school year has not felt all that different. Sure, she’s in middle school, but she’s in the same hallway she spent the past two years. We drop her off and pick her up at the same time and building as her sisters.

But over the past couple weeks it’s starting to hit home that she’s in a different academic stage than her sisters. She’s getting mail from the two high schools that the majority of St. P’s students go to, CHS and BCHS. Some of the mailings are just passes for sports events, which she had been getting for a year or so.

What’s been different this year is that she is getting mail – and I am getting emails – that are more formal recruiting pitches. She’s been invited to open houses at each school, to informational nights at St. P’s for both schools, and to private open houses at the homes of St. P’s families who have kids at each high school.

Getting so many of those in the past two weeks has been a big reminder of where she is in her academic life. She’s advanced beyond the building block years and is now taking bigger steps in developing her mind. Grades are beginning to mean something. Just showing up in class and being cheerful isn’t enough to keep you in the A-/B+ range. And for a lot of families, it’s time to begin weighing the different high schools choices available to them.[1]

There’s not much of a debate in our house. S and her siblings all went to CHS,[2] and that’s where we’ve always planned on sending the girls. After they spent some time on the CHS campus last winter when L played basketball there, they were all convinced that was the school for them. We do leave the door slightly cracked that the girls could attend BCHS. It’s a little closer, and way more convenient in the years we’ll have kids at two schools. It’s more affordable. They will have many friends who go there. There’s also a much newer Catholic high school, GCHS, just three miles straight up the road from our neighborhood that is fantastic as well. But it’s the opposite direction from St. P’s, so any advantage it gets for being more proximal to home is eliminated by how it would complicate our daily travel until L is a freshman.

So let’s say 90% CHS, 9% BCHS, and 1% GCHS.

It’s a fairly stress-free decision for us. We’ll make it once in the next couple years for M, and then her sisters will follow her.[3] Despite that lack of drama in our process, it’s still hard to believe we’ve reached the point where we have to start taking it seriously.

One other quick note about the early school year. At the risk of jinxing us, we’ve had pretty awesome mornings getting ready for school. My first alarm goes off at 6:40. I hit snooze once and get the girls up just after 6:50. We have a quick breakfast and then they get dressed, brush teeth, fix hair, etc. We meet back downstairs to get lunches ready on days they’re taking one. Bags get packed up, clothes for after-school activities set aside so I can bring them to pickup, and we review the calendar for what’s on the agenda for the evening.

I can drop them off any time between 7:30 and 7:55, and generally aim to get them there earlier to avoid the parking lot backup that begins around 7:45. Last year, we were often out the door between 7:25–7:30. Most mornings this year everyone has been ready to go by 7:20. This morning, they were all sitting around, completely prepped to leave the house, at 7:10! And I think we’ve only had crying in the morning twice so far this year. It wasn’t that long ago that we had tears more like four times a week.

Some of the credit for their briskness in the morning goes to Catholic school. They have uniforms, so there are no decisions to be made about what to wear. They can’t wear makeup, so there’s no lengthy morning bathroom time to get their looks just right.

But the bulk of the credit goes to them. Maybe it’s just done to avoid being yelled at when they can’t find their backpacks or shoes or jacket when dad is trying to get them out the door at 7:27. I think it’s more a matter of them maturing and understanding the morning is easier for all of us if they take care of their business without delay.

  1. Best way to break the ice at a social gathering of private school families: ask what their high school plans are. Guaranteed 45 minute discussion if you can rope enough people into it.  ↩
  2. As did their dad.  ↩
  3. We have neighbors who sent their kids to CHS a decade ago. The first son picked it but then the second fell in love with the Jesuit school across town. They told him unless he could scrape up 100% financial aid at the Jesuit school, and find a ride every day, he was following his brother’s footsteps. He ended up doing just fine at CHS.  ↩