Choosing the right school for your kids

One of the most important and stressful decisions a parent will ever make is where their child will go to school. Especially in today’s world, we all want to make sure our children are in an environment where they are safe, accepted for who they are, respected, and challenged to grow. For me, this desire for them was innate, and before penning this, I hadn’t really articulated it. 

When Atlas was 3, he started asking to go to school. I started him on at age two, and he really enjoyed learning. I remember him watching an episode of Bubble Guppies where one of the fish had his first day of school. Atlas really wanted that experience, and I needed to figure out how to make it happen. As any 2021 mom would do, I went to Facebook!  I posted that I was looking for a preschool for Atlas with a real curriculum. I preferred him to be in a diverse community with teachers who cared. I noted that I was looking for a school that wouldn’t expect him to sit still at a desk for hours at a time. I made the post and waited. The Virginia Chance School was suggested multiple times, even by young women I’d mentored in pageantry. I put them at the top of my list and decided to reach out for a tour. 

I remember conversing with Jamie, the Admissions Director, and I was blown away at the intentionality behind the school. I’d never seen a school that was so focused on social-emotional learning and used research to back up its claims. As a nurse scientist, this spoke to me. I loved the idea of child-led learning and the opportunity for them to spend a significant amount of time learning in nature. Needless to say, we enrolled as soon as a spot became available. 

Chance has been the perfect place for my boys, Atlas and Ace, to grow and develop.  It does matter where you start, and over the last two and a half years, I've watched them grow academically. I've watched their vocabulary expand beyond my wildest imagination and I've watched their development from my little babies into well-rounded young men. 

But soon after Atlas was accepted, I went through a divorce and had to rebuild my life from the ground up.  In all of the uncertainty swirling around us, the one thing I knew for sure was that I needed to figure out how to keep the kids at Chance. I didn't want what was already an immense transition for them to include pulling them away from their most steady constant and the foundational experience that I knew would project them into incredibly successful futures.  Through this transition for the boys, the teachers have been incredible. The student support team and Dr. Betsey have always been there and taken extra care to keep an eye out for them. Whether it was making space for extra time in the “calm corner” or being willing to work with our family therapist to ensure they had what they needed during this time, they have gone above and beyond every time. 

I've been extremely impressed with the way cultures are embraced at Chance, whether by alerting the campus body of certain awareness days or holidays important to the students and families enrolled. This year, in Atlas’ Kindergarten class, they did a focused learning block about different types of families. This made him feel seen and helped him understand that he wasn’t the only one from a divorced or blended family. That level of intentionality brought tears to my eyes because I knew how much it mattered to him. The community and culture of Chance is one to which everyone belongs. It feels almost like this little utopian world on top of the hill that I wish everyone could experience. 

At Chance, my children are taught they are capable and have significance and influence in their lives. They are taught to inquire and think critically. They are taught about their own agency, and I know they will be prepared to transition to middle school and beyond. I am so thankful for the grace and support we have found at Chance, and I truly wish everyone could have the Chance experience for their children. 

Dr. Ashley D. Anderson, PhD, WHNP-BC