Is it just me or are kids’ lives today way more complicated than when we were young? Between soccer practice, dance recitals, taekwondo lessons, swim class, and all the rest of it, their days are so much more… scheduled, structured and regimented. We only want what’s best for them, of course, but I didn’t expect these kinds of decisions to come so early. Like, what’s the deal with choosing a kindergarten these days?

The Default Is the Default

Maybe I was just oblivious to what was happening behind the curtain at the time. Perhaps my parents were just too busy. Or they not as socially connected with other parents in the community to know the difference. Whatever the case, if I was in a school’s catchment area, that’s where I went. The exception was for K-3 when I went to the school closest to my grandparents’ house. My parents would drop me off in the morning before heading off to work, and either my grandma or grandpa would walk me to school.

Realistically, it wasn’t until it was time to decide on my post-secondary education that we started thinking about what school to attend. And even then, I more or less had my heart set on either Simon Fraser University or the University of British Columbia, the two “local” universities in Metro Vancouver. I went to the latter, partly because my brother went there before I did.

But now, it seems like these kinds of decisions are coming much, much sooner. Before choosing a kindergarten, even.

From Preschool to Choosing a Kindergarten

As I’ve discussed previously, my daughter is currently enrolled at a parent participation preschool. And an award-winning one at that. We chose it for a variety of reasons, and we’ve been very happy with our decision. Me? I went to the local community center for preschool, which was more “daycare” than “school.” Meanwhile, my daughter has been learning about human biology, the science of magnets, and what it takes for sunflowers to grow. The difference is staggering.

From what I can gather, kindergarten registration in Vancouver started last November. For Burnaby, kindergarten registration runs the month of February. During pickup and dropoff, we’ve chatted with the other preschool parents about choosing a kindergarten for their kids. Some are opting for private school, not necessarily for religious reasons (though that is part of it for some of them), but also about the expected level of structure and discipline.

Even among those of us who intend on sending our children to public school, the decision isn’t completely straightforward either. Early French immersion is only offered at one school in our area. Or one school may be more conveniently located based on typical schedules or siblings. Or some other school may offer certain programs that other schools do not.

In all these cases, you must apply for a cross-boundary registration. It’s a single application form, which isn’t terribly complex, but it is an extra hoop. The assumed “obvious” decision, the default choice because of catchment area, isn’t so “obvious” or “default” anymore.

The Best Opportunity?

While it never really came up in conversation, you can even look up performance ratings for elementary schools. You want your kid to go to a “good” school, don’t you? Even if the Fraser Institute consistently ranked my high school among the lowest in the province. And I turned okay, didn’t I? And we haven’t even brought up the possibility of homeschooling either.

Why are we stressing ourselves out so much over choosing a kindergarten? Is it because of the inevitable domino effect? By picking a school, all else held constant, we’re choosing where our daughter will attend for the next eight years of her life. Are we going to go through the same process when it comes time to pick a high school? What if we move in the meantime?

But she’s only four years old.

It wasn’t all that long ago that we were losing sleep over how preschool would affect her nap schedule. And that turned out just fine. As cliche as it may sound, it’s true that they grow up so fast. We’re talking kindergarten today, but we’ll be talking Oxford, Harvard, and Yale tomorrow, right? I thought this parenting thing was supposed to get easier.