Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday Madness #3 - back to school

My kids are back at school - this is our first full week. It's also school picture day today, so I'm a bit apprehensive about how my kids are going to pose/smile for those - we don't have a great track record with school pictures so far. At some point I'll have to share Abby's kindergarten picture - let's just say that it's not my favorite picture of her and leave it at that for now, shall we!

1. Do you have children in school? Yes, Abby is in first grade this year and Hannah is in Young 5's, which is Michigan's version of a pre-kindergarten or developmental kindergarten for kids who are legally old enough for school but (for whatever reason) not quite ready for kindergarten yet. Hannah's birthday is November 29th, just two days before our school deadline of December 1st, so she's not even 5 yet. And although she scored high when evaluated and they recommended kindergarten, I felt that she's not ready and I don't want her to be the absolute youngest in her grade, especially when so many kids are being held back until they're 6 years old nowadays too.

2. Are YOU currently in school (any level)? Nope, although I've thought about it off and on. I did start working on a Masters degree in Computer Information Systems but that was almost 10 years ago - before marriage and kids. If I did go back to school, I'm not sure what I'd want to study, which is part of the reason that I haven't pursued it. I also would much rather see Ron go back (since he doesn't have a degree at all), but his work hours just don't allow it right now and he's not very motivated anyway.

3. Did you (or your children) attend a public or private school? I grew up going to public schools and my kids go to public school. I really like the school district that we live in (a big part of the reason why we bought the house that we did), and have been very happy with the school so far.

4. As far as formal education, what level have you completed? I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography, specializing in Urban and Regional Planning. My minor was Public History, although it would've been a second major if I'd finished one more class and another internship. I also started minors in French and Computer Science that I ended up not finishing either for various reasons.

5. Do you, or did you have loans out for your (or your children's) education? Oh yes, I have student loans. Please don't remind me! I was awesome about paying on them for 6 years and had all but a few thousand dollars paid off. Then came marriage and kids and they've been on deferment or forbearance ever since. Yes, I know - they've been hanging over my head for several years now and I've love to get them paid off. When we get back on our feet financially. Eventually.

And don't even go into Ron's student loans - did I mention that he never finished his degree?? He owes more than twice what I do... At this rate I joke that we'll still be paying off our loans when our kids start college. It's a bad joke. Really, it is. It's so not funny. I think I mentioned at some point that we both had made financial mistakes before we met? Student loans were a big one of Ron's. Although other than our house and one car payment, the student loans are our only current debt, so hopefully we can start working paying them down soon.

6. What are your thoughts on the cost of tuition for colleges and universities? I think tuition costs have become outrageous. The rate at which it's gone up since I was in school is just incredible. The colleges and universities here in Michigan are really struggling though and are victims of the economy here, just like so many other organizations. I really hope the girls will be able to earn some scholarships when the time comes. That really helped my brother out - he graduated from a much more expensive school than I did but ended up owing a lot less in loans because of several small scholarships he'd gotten that really helped when all added together.

I seriously thought about moving to Kalamazoo when the Kalamazoo Promise was announced. If you haven't heard of it, basically a scholarship fund was set up for every student who graduates from Kalamazoo Public Schools (about an hour south of us) to completely pay for their college educations if they attend a public college or university in Michigan.

Yes, you read that right. It's all funded by private (anonymous) donations and at least one college in the area has also offered free room and board for Kalamazoo Promise students as well if they go there. KPS was a struggling school district (like pretty much all of the urban districts are) but in just a couple of years the Promise has really helped grow the school district, the local economy and the whole area - it's been very positive so far. Other communities in Michigan are talking about trying to replicate the program, but without the private donors, they're looking at public funding options, like grants and tax increases. Which is a lot more difficult and controversial.

Moving to Kalamazoo, at least in our case, isn't really practical or feasible - no matter what the eventual benefit. I did live in Kalamazoo for years and went to college there so I know and like the area. But selling our house in the current market would be next to impossible and we've done the two house, two mortgage thing once and that was a big cause of our financial mess to begin with. Plus, Ron's family is all within the Grand Rapids area - he grew up here and has absolutely no desire to live anywhere else. One of the big reasons we made the move here to begin with was to be closer to family, so moving back away from them wouldn't make sense. Plus we do really like where we live.

Sorry, that was a long answer to that question - I didn't mean to drag it out so much!

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4 wonderful people said...:

Suprina said...

I so which that they had pre-Kindergarten or Young 5's at our school. My sons has a speech impedement and it would have been nice to start him out in pre-kindergarten. Although, he was ready for Kindergarten last year, I just think that ONE year would have helped him speech wise.
He is now is 1st grade.
We are fixing to take out the one and only student loan that I hope we ever have to take out.
Great MM!
Have a wonderful week.

Julie said...

my middle daughter was born in Nov. too so had to wait to go to school. That is so cool about the universities in Mich. Wish more places would do that to help out parents paying for college.

DawnK said...

Sarah was due August 31, 1989, but was born August 4th, so she almost ran into a problem with the September 1st deadline, but then came early and took that out of the equation. She started kindy, when she was 5, but has been at the younger end of her class. It really only made a difference in kindy, and that was only that first quarter. I never saw a problem after that.

She got great grades in school and is in college now. Let's hope she keeps up with her good work ethic.

Heart of Rachel said...

I also observed that tuition fees have dramatically changed over the years.

Thanks for sharing about Kalamazoo education. Very interesting.