by Anna Seip
Because of today's unstable economy, many families are downsizing, changing jobs, and making other life-changing decisions. For many children, those changes will include new schools. What can a parent do to make this transition as easy as possible for a child? Sometimes, it's as simple as breaking a promise.
The child of divorced parents, I changed schools often. When I became a parent, however, I vowed that my son would have it easier. My goal was to keep him in one school district from kindergarten through high school graduation. But, when he was 11, I had a second child, a daughter who made our house suddenly feel very small. So, my husband and I scouted around our district for a larger place.
Fifty houses and one exasperated realtor later, we couldn't find a single place that felt like home. So, we talked to our son at length about considering buying a house in another school district..
I felt like I'd failed as a parent, breaking a promise for an uninterrupted academic experience for my son. The new house was only 30 minutes away from our old one, but that might as well be a world apart when you're 13. I found myself giving my son the same advice my mother had given me: "You'll see. It'll be fun." He didn't believe a word of it and neither did I.
Then, slowly, the benefits began to add up. We were moving to a better district-from a school ranked an 8 to one ranked a 10, according to www.greatschools.net. My son would be attending a smaller middle school, one so small that the kids walked or biked to school and came home every day for lunch. As an added bonus, a colleague of mine had son the same age at the same school, so the two boys starting hanging out before the school year even started. On that first day as a new kid, my son saw one familiar face and said the new school was "awesome."
Although we don't know what the future holds, my husband and I hope that we stay here forever. We want to see our son graduate from high school in this new district. I'm also making a promise to myself that our two-year-old will spend all of her school days here-unless, of course, something even better comes along.
A Checklist for Registering at a New School
Although the requirements vary from district to district and state to state, here are the basics you'll need to bring to register your child at a new school:
1. Proof of residency (signed lease, agreement of sale, a utility bill, etc.)
2. Immunization record
3. Phone and fax numbers from previous school
4. Documentation of special education (if applicable)
5. Legal custody agreements (if applicable)
6. Past report card (if available)
7. Results of standardized tests (if available)