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Simon has something he’d like to say:

“I’m taking my talents to __________.”

I kid, I kid.* I do honestly understand that this is not as high-stakes a game as most incoming kindergarten parents make it out to be, even if I can’t totally shake the anxiety myself. Honestly, I think Simon would do well at Bloom or Brandeis. It’s some of the other options that worry me, the ones that are far away and post terrifyingly low test scores. Having said that, between the two excellent options with reasonable odds I’ve explored, one is a better fit than the other.

The cock-roach Matt met at Brandeis last week belonged to my niece Maddie, and one of the kids listening to a third-grade presentation about a famous mathematician was my nephew Ben. We’re going to see if Simon can get into Brandeis for the following reasons:

  1. Test scores: I know they don’t tell the whole story, but it seems foolish to ignore them. Bloom and Brandeis are pretty much tied in reading and math scores. But Brandeis is up 18 points in writing over Bloom, and 30 points in science, and that difference is significant. I think part of the issue is that Kentucky recently changed its required science standards and Bloom is working hard to catch up, whereas Brandeis has science at the core of its curriculum all along. I can’t explain the writing difference as neatly.
  2. The media lab: If I had to guess what put Brandeis’s writing scores so high, I’d put it down as the results of Ms. Bell’s work in the media lab. Surely having kids write dramas, poems, and essays about all topics improves writing skills across the board. And I’ve got to say, the creativity on display in the students’ written samples just blew me away. I wish I could remember some of it to quote.
  3. Art vs. Science: Bloom gets the nod in the former; Brandeis in the latter. Five year old Jessica would have been happier at Bloom. Dancing and painting and sculpture oh my! But Simon’s not an artsy kid unless you count music. He’s happy enough to sit down with some play dough or do a bit of coloring, but it’s neither his passion nor his strength and he bores of it quickly. On the other hand, he loves to write numbers, type numbers, and obsessively count, measure, and quantify everything else. He can do simple addition and subtraction in his head, sometimes up into the teens. He used to always ask me to pop up the hood on the car so he could see what was under it, he’s made me give him a tour of household plumbing, and he loves “helping” Matt put together model rockets and the like. And remember his solar system derby hat?  I think his talents and interests are in the math and science arena, making an MST magnet a good choice for him.
  4. The fun factor: This is one of those intangibles and hard to judge based on a 60-minute tour, but I think the kids and teachers at Brandeis might be having a little more fun. The science essays at Bloom were fine, but nothing can compare with the fifth grade goof-balls at Brandeis creating a talking blood cell and imagining a doctor passing out at the mere mention of blood. I also liked that the teacher let them keep that bit in.
  5. The diversity: This is the part where I can’t take myself out of the equation. When I was a kid, I was interested in and befriended just about every kid whose parents were from somewhere else I bumped into. There weren’t many, but I managed to have friends who were Filipina, Indian, Chinese, and Persian. And when the ESL kids had an open house in high school, I was one of the very few Kentucky-born kids that dove into the Vietnamese food unafraid. I took one look at the student body at Brandeis and knew that (a) I would have loved it myself and (b) it would provide an education for Simon. We live in a world that’s getting smaller all the time; I’d like Simon to grow up comfortable around a wide range of cultures.

So that’s that. Next up is the paperwork, a two to three month waiting game, and doing more tours to decide what our third and fourth choices will be. I won’t bore you with that, though!

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