Seattle Culture

One Family’s Topsy-Turvey Journey

The kids switch schools often. Here’s why.

By Juliana Stancampiano October 30, 2023

School Bus

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

My husband and I are among the lucky ones. Our careers have afforded us the resources and flexibility to meet our goal of having education options to choose from for our two young children, who are entering seventh and fifth grades this fall. Our story begins with my French husband, Jean Phillipe.

 

From the beginning, we had a few important goals, one of which was for our children to have a strong start with the French language at an early age, beyond what was spoken at home. Thus, our kids’ journey started at a French preschool, which was conveniently located in our neighborhood, and was not cost-prohibitive.

 

After preschool, we pursued our next goal, which was for them to have a community of friends to spend time and grow with. We were lucky to live in a neighborhood that was known for its superb public elementary school. The decision to attend there was obvious for many reasons. For one, specifically for our first-born son, I had noted some of the things that boys and young men were struggling with. And a lot of it revolved around sensations of loneliness and the absence of a community they could rely upon.

Given that we didn’t have family in the area, I also realized that we needed to create the sense of family within our friendships. Our son had, and our daughter continues to have, an amazing experience attending this school, and not only found friends, community, and solid education, they had/are having a consistently positive experience throughout their elementary school years.

Next, it was time for a middle school for our son. And that was a different story. We had always looked at middle school as the time when one forms the foundation of study habits and experiences more independence while making important choices that carry into high school. We also wanted to return to more emphasis on his French education.

Together with the fact that our local public school has had its ups and downs, as is common in so many communities, we opted for private school. We found one where they were teaching French at my son’s level, had the “middle school social experience” he was seeking, and checked the boxes for comfortable size and teaching mentality (fewer lectures, more hands on).

However, navigating private school required us to confront some things we didn’t necessarily see coming. Primarily, we felt conflicted witnessing the amount of money going to the private school when we were acutely aware of how much additional money our public schools so desperately need. Nevertheless, the benefits to our son could not be overstated. He expanded his circle of friends, had an amazing adviser, and got a strong overall education, including French.

Stretch Limousine

Photo by NYCShooter / Getty Images

And now for the next step: We’re moving to France for a year. This had always been something we talked about and wanted to experience. Covid and busy jobs delayed our timing, but it was Dan Pink and his book, The Power of Regret, that convinced us that now was the time, and if we didn’t take this opportunity, we would live to regret it.

Flag of France

Photo by Mr Doomits / Shutterstock

Has this been difficult to organize? Absolutely. Were our kids happy about our decision? Absolutely not. Are we still going? Yep. We know going in that it will be hard, from missing friends to the difficulty with language, juggling work routines, and adjusting to a school system that sounds considerably stricter than what we are used to.

But we want to help shape our kids as global citizens with an authentic sense of empathy, and an awareness that “different” does not mean good, bad, right, or wrong … Just different. We hope this path of education
will provide them with the experience so that one day they are comfortable as they discover more of the world on their own, be more flexible in their judgment, and feel confident in many different settings.

As with any plan, our path through education doesn’t always unfold as expected. But knowing what we want our kids to experience, and having an end goal in mind, has helped us remain resilient to change and stay creative in our planning.

Juliana Stancampiano is founder and CEO of Oxygen, a consulting company that works with corporate enterprise and mid-market companies to help them manage change. Her book, Radical Outcomes, details how leading people through change improves productivity, culture, and business outcomes.

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