The first choice isn't always the right choice

...and no matter what, a grand adventure.

When I was applying to colleges, twelve years ago (omg. wtf?) I had my heart set on one school and one, alone. NYU was the only school I could picture myself attending, the only school I toured, the only school I HAD to get into.

And of course, because life is a mysterious genius, it was the only school that rejected me. In my rejection letter, it clearly stated that the overwhelming amount of applicants had to do with what they called "The Felicity Factor." The show Felicity (which took place at a fictitious University of New York) had just premiered to smash success, thus projecting NYU's applicant numbers into what far exceeded the norm.

I was crushed. I worked my ass off to be the kind of student NYU wanted - I stayed late after school every day to produce our school television show. I took all necessary AP classes. I had, at that time, published dozens of stories in a best-selling book series. And to top it all off? I wrote a killer essay. Screw So-Cal. I was brooding and creative. I smoked clove cigarettes and did poetry slams. I made cameo appearances on MSNBC thanks to my Chicken Soup* pseudo-fame. I worshipped Woody Allen.

None of those things mattered, of course. I got shitty SAT scores and sucked at Math and Science. It was far too competitive a year to be imperfect.

"If I don't get into NYU, I don't want to go to college!" I said to my mother, before tearing open my rejection letter, spending the next hours, days, even weeks feeling like my life was over, the end.

At the time, my parents just figured I was being dramatic.

Which I was. But also? Totally serious.

And even though I moved to Los Angeles to attend Loyola Marymount University in the Fall of 1999, I only spent one day on campus before deferring my admission for six months, and then, indefinitely.

Because college was not for me. Because I had a job offer to work as a book editor. But also, and perhaps most importantly to me at the time, I only had eyes for one University and it didn't have eyes for me back.

It sounds crazy, now. And idiotic. And WTF-inducing. But back then, my feelings were real, my decision, a no-brainer.

My (extraordinarily academic) family was as supportive as they could be - all of them thoroughly disappointed in me and my decision. It was clear they thought I was delusional which was probably true. But I was also confident in my decision and passionate about utilizing my rejection and taking a new road into unknown territory. And because of that? They stood by me -- dropped me off at the airport, waited for me at the arrivals gate when I came home.

I was able to do grand things with my college years. I spent four years traveling, taking night classes on subjects that interested me - worked amazingly bizarre odd-jobs, edited three books, wrote two more and spent my summers in Europe, floating from music festival to honeymoon hot spot, as a freewheeling photojournalist, all before I turned twenty-one. I was a force to be reckoned with. And all these years later, take great pride in what I was able to accomplish on my own.

I wanted desperately for plan A to work.

Decided Plan B was not for me.

Went with Plan C instead.

And it's been a grand, grand life. Full of opportunity and love, good people, interesting things, stimulating encounters with mentors and heroes and teachers of a different kind.

All of this to preface what happened last week:

Archer didn't get into our First (and really ONLY) choice for Charter School. The school we were supposed to have first -priority when it came to acceptance. The school every one on our street got into last year and the year before that and the year before that. But this year, the school received more applicants than it ever has before. So we got the #71st slot on the waiting list.

Which means... yeah.

And so?

Plan B: We take Archer out of school and travel the world.

Just kidding.

Plan B. We move. We move a few miles west or a few miles east, to where one of two decent public schools live. We put him in music programs outside of school (which we have already planned for this summer.) We provide him with incredible life experience, nurture his strengths, carry on. Play it as it lays, Joan Didion style.

People put a lot of pressure on their kids and themselves to get them into the right schools. The right preschools and charters, private schools and Universities ... So they can be the best and brightest and have every chance at amazingness. (Because, Hello!? We're their parents. We want them to have IT ALL!!!!)

But the truth of the matter is? A great education is about so much more than school. My genius of a little brother was educated in the mediocre California public school system and is now getting his PHD at Harvard. Me? I have a high-school education with the same resume as my Yale-alum friends.

So, no, my kids won't attend the very best schools. Because we didn't make the cut. Because we can't afford to pay 25k a year for kindergarten. But that's okay. Education is only a SMALL part of one's learning. Opportunity is about SO much more. It's about love and support and books at bedtime, it's about intellectual conversations over dinner and weekend trips to art museums. It's about exposing our kids to beautiful music, and poetry -- star-gazing with them during meteor showers -- hiking with them in the back-hills behind our homes. Volunteering with them in our communities. Motivating. Inspiring. Being there.

My parents were and still are my greatest educators, nurturers ... and that has made all the difference.

So, even though Archer didn't get into our first choice for school? I know that whatever will be will be.

Speaking from experience, I can say that all plans lead to a grand adventure. And if a worst case scenario means it's up to me to lead the expedition?

Well then. Forward ho!


*I was the lead contributor (as well as spokesperson, editor and ghostwriter) to the Chicken Soup for Teenage Soul books in my late teens and early twenties, contributing dozens of stories to the series as well as defending teenagers on various news outlets because let's be honest, the media gives teenagers the shaft, and I was like, "oh, hell no, robot. The children are the future!" Because, duh -- they are.


Caitlin | 6:37 AM

Did you write 'You Kiss Like a Horse?' I vaguely remember remember reading it a few years back. Well I remember the story well, but not the byline. (And I'm a writer! We should ALWAYS take note of the bylines!)

This post has a message I wish everyone would understand. It's not as simple as first-choice, second-choice. Life can be incredible no metter what path you take.

Kristin Steiner | 6:39 AM

Great Post.

I fought tooth and nail with my ex husband to get my daughter into the public school in our district. At the time, my ex lived in a better school district (the best in the state, actually) and he insisted that she go to the school in his neighborhood, even though it was over 50 miles from my home and she only spent weekends with him.

Besides the inconvenience factor for me, I wanted her to have a more well-rounded school experience. Sure education is important, but so are friends and feeling like part of a community and being able to ride the bus home--it's a right of passage.

Eventually, it went to court and cost me thousands of dollars. Some people thought I was being silly, spending all of that time and energy. I ended up winning because he ended up adjusting his schedule and therefore his custody down to one day a week and it just didn't make sense for her to go to a school in a neighborhood that she didn't live at least most of the time.

So my daughter doesn't go to the best school in the state (it's actually the second best), but it's the best school for her and it's the best decision I've ever made.


Sarah | 6:43 AM

My copies of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul are battered and tattered because I read them so much. I would love to know what name you wrote under then, because I love the idea of having *known* you way before I started reading your blog.

Kayla | 7:05 AM


Dude CHIN UP. I get that it sucks and I totally get why you are down, but if this is as bad as it gets, THEN you are doing pretty good.

I went to such a shitty school that at 8 years old, NONE of my teachers were able to figure out that I COULD NOT READ. My poor parents speak no English so there was no way they can tell. So what did I do, you ask? When my little brother started going to school, my parents put me in charge of helping him with his homework, SO through his "baby books" I learned to read. By 12 years old I was reading Nabokov and have not looked back since.


Someone Being Me | 7:14 AM

Great post. My oldest just turned three and I am already starting to struggle with the decision of which school I want to send him to. We live in one of the best school districts around but I am still really leaning toward private school. I went to public school and I am ok with the education he would receive but I just want more for him. However the idea of blowing the money I could be saving for his college education on K-12 scares me a little. So we are just looking at our options now.

AVB | 7:32 AM

I didn't get into my first choice private middle school/high school. Didn't get into my first choice college. But you know what? I ended up at a fabulous perfect-for-me middle school/high school and a decent liberal arts college, which though it didn't challenge me, allowed me to create my own major AND whose minimal-pressure environment allowed me to take on work in the industry in which I still work, 12 yrs later. Through these rejections (and more) my mom has always said there's a reason it wasn't mean to be. She's always been right about that because the adventure of the less traveled path has always been more exciting, surprising and educating. It's also taught me to live a more flexible life. The world will never come crashing down people like us because we know there's always another answer, another way. And that's something you can't teach in a classroom.


I totally wrote I Kiss Like a Horse, yes.

Sarah - I wrote mainly under Becca Woolf in early Chick Soup and all Teen Love Series (offshoot of chick soup) books but also under Rebecca Woolf, Zoe Graye, Jennifer Fox and Derek Whittier. My name's actually on the cover of Teen 3 which I co-edited.

And Kayla - I'm not really down. Just coming to conclusions by way of my own experiences. Which is all a person can do really. I'm very aware that by all standards and comparisons we have it crazy-amazing good. xo

Lindsey | 7:38 AM

This post brings tears to my eyes with its truth, its optimism, its love. You are SO right about all the ways that learning and growing take place in life that is NOT in the classroom. And our role, as parents, in that. I have a great school track record and yet have a real dearth of meaningful adult experiences, so I feel like I'm on the other side of the coin, and I can vouch for it not being so great.
Fable and Archer are very, very lucky. Thanks for being such an inspiration.

messyfunmommylife | 7:44 AM

I remember devouring those chicken soup for the teenage soul books. You were like my teenage role model without even knowing!

We are dealing with a similar situation. The options for preschool around here are slim. Much lower priced than LA but still either expensive or dangerous.

Rita Arens | 7:44 AM

Am now going to have to go find Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul!

I admit I have never worried about my daughter's academic career because I feel pretty good about my career and I went to public school and a state university and a small city college and none of it seemed to hurt me much. Clearly, it didn't hurt you. And, as you said, I learned so much more from my parents than I did from school. Basically you just need to learn how to learn and how to prioritize, and everything else comes out in the wash.

You can't boost a kid who doesn't care about school up too far, and you can't keep a kid who loves to learn down.

Jill | 7:44 AM

This is such a great post. I went to a "so-so" school, one which my in-laws look down on, but I took advantage of opportunities to expand on my in-class education in ways that my husband and SIL, who went to "elite" schools didn't and I honestly feel like I got a better educational experience than either of them.

Also, NYU seriously listed "Felicity factor" in their rejection letter? That cracks me up!


"You can't boost a kid who doesn't care about school up too far, and you can't keep a kid who loves to learn down."

Love this, Rita. Exactly.

MommyLisa | 7:53 AM

This is awesome. I quit college really spontaneously - almost as spontaneously I went to a trade school to be a dj, of course just before stations all started going digital!

Only once did I know FOR SURE that no college degree kept me from getting a job I REALLY wanted.

So, when the opportunity arose, I enrolled in college online and in just 11 days I will be done with my BS, yes BS, with hopefully a 4.0...we will see what happens with my last grade!

Ashley Parker, 2008 Class Reporter | 7:53 AM

This post more eloquently puts into words exactly what I think all the time re: schools and the whole public vs. private vs. charter debate than I could ever manage myself. I don't have kids, but I worked with kids in H.S. and college and saw the gamut of where they were educated. I attended public school, and then a private women's college, but being out of college for just two years, I can honestly say I draw far more from those "non-educational" experiences, like travel, and odd jobs, and the extra stuff I did like music programs & sports in my every day life & career than I do what I learned within the confines of school building. Regardless of where they end up, Archer and Fable will grow up to be smart, intelligent, beautiful independent thinkers because they have parents like you and Hal who are all of those things and will teach them that, which I think is the most valuable education of all. :)

Pants | 8:07 AM

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post.

foodiemama | 8:12 AM

No matter what Archer will succeed because of what you just wrote and what is important to you. All those reasons you stated above and major factors into us home schooling and avoiding the system- public or private. Our days are filled with nothing but nurturing the love of life, learning and beauty.... its truly amazing.
Good luck to you guys!

Calee | 8:24 AM

Here's the scoop on what you missed at NYU: Clove cigarettes, yes. 2 visits to jazz clubs. Lots of sleet (that's ice rain, fun stuff, folks) Great professors who taught me things I never use. 3 years in New York subsidized by scholarships and parents. Oh, and 2 weeks of living in the Sheraton because my dorm happened to be in a certain blast zone. And the therapy that followed.

NYU was a great experience and in many ways, a great place to grow into who I am today. But what did I do as soon as I had that diploma? Move my ass back to southern California.

In our years of waitlist for the perfect preschool it now seems they've discontinued their half day option and the neighborhood with the great public schools we moved to, looks like its been so popular that by the time she reaches Kindergarten, she'll be sent somewhere else.

This was a great post and a great reminder that school does not equal educational success.

leel | 8:32 AM

well done. the post, the choices you made, the achievements you have under your belt already, at such a young age. you are so right. education is just a small part of you child's set of tools in his toolbox. anyway... there is a reason i have Frost's The Road Not taken painted on a dresser in my hallway that i can see from my studio: "I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

Boston Mamas | 8:37 AM


I live in Boston -- a city notorious for its overachieving and brainy parents. I grew up here and went to (an admittedly excellent) public school but was an average student (more interested in performing arts and writing), went to a small liberal arts college, got a Ph.D., did a postdoc at Harvard and MIT, then turned my back on academia entirely for more creative and flexible work. I have never felt more fulfilled than I do now.

I subsequently am a huge proponent of following one's passions and will support my daughter however she sees those things sprout for her. And I don't care that we don't live in the best school district because as I have seen from my husband and my experience, you can either be a valedictorian at a so-so school (him) or a mediocre student at an excellent school (me) and basically come out the same if you explore the world and are a creative person.

You are awesome Rebecca. It's flat out guaranteed that Archer's life will be awesome and enriched, no matter where he goes to school.


Anonymous | 8:46 AM

SO TRUE. I didn't do any of that the way it's 'supposed' to be done, and you know what? I'm a better person for it.

Also? It's obvious through your posts that Archer's going great places with or without an amazing school.

hayley | 9:20 AM

hey rebecca - i went to NYU and it wasn't all that great! don't get me wrong, i'm an east coast girl and luv luv nyc, but imagine almost getting hit by cars when you're just trying to get to class? not the greatest school environment ever.

Laura | 9:23 AM

As always, a very lovely and very relatable post. My daughter is #60 on the waiting list for our preferred school!

Anonymous | 9:30 AM

I am your age and NYU was the only school I wanted to go to as well. I got in for screenwriting and was psyched. $60K of debt and 3 years in I ended up dropping out and moving to SoCal as I quickly learned that a week of PA work on a TV show or film is often times much more respected than 4 years of navel gazing at NYU. You did the right thing, and you avoided a black hole of debt as well!

Danny | 9:41 AM

I guess it all boils down to opportunities and options.
If a door closes, somewhere else a door opens.
I really love your view on the whole matter.

And I couldn't agree with you more: school is just a small part of education.

Mom101 | 9:43 AM

Thank you so much for reminding me that I'm not alone here in this stupid school shit. We also are not doing the educational paths of our dreams for our kids, and living very much in the world of Plan B.

I think the worst part of it all isn't that Plan B is quite so bad - it may even turn out to be better - but that we somehow failed our children. That we aren't _______ enough or ______ enough or ________ enough.

I hear myself so much in the post. The part of me that knows everything will be okay, and the part of me that's justifying.

W | 10:00 AM

Love this post. Yes, we want the best for ourselves, for our kids, but it's up to us to foster love of learning in our kids, and then up to our kids to snatch up opportunity where they see it. And opportunity is EVERYWHERE.

My mother in law is a kindergarten/first grade teacher in the CA public school system. And she pours her heart out into those kids. I am sure that Archer will find teachers such as her, and that my son will too, when he gets to school age. Go Public School!

phoebe | 10:18 AM

just in case no one told you today, you totally rock. and your children will too, no doubt.

Katiedidtoo | 10:22 AM

Very recently my 15 and almost 13 year old step daughters scoured the library for every chicken soup for teens book they had.

How old does THAT make you (and I) feel??

That series inspired so many people and yourself to keep on keepin on and it is still holding up to time.

Thanks for it all.

Leball | 10:22 AM

This is an awesome post! It hit home hard! I can't believe you edited those book...gosh, Rebecca you are just so fuckin' awesome! I'm sure your kids are due for greatness! I feel the same way you feel, we feel like our children shoud HAVE IT ALL! But education at the best schools is just a LITTLE thing of the equation of our life and grand journey.

Abigail | 11:16 AM

One thing to note--lots of studies show that a kids' school doesn't have nearly as much to do with learning as does the individual teacher--and I know from experience that there are excellent teachers in "bad" schools and clock-watchers in "good" schools. Don't be afraid to do your homework on which teachers are strong and then get him placed in those classes!

Mandi | 11:34 AM

I know it has nothing to do with the post, really... But right when I came and saw the title of this post I about passed out. We just bought a van on Saturday and today (monday) it is in the shop being repaired. Yes, my brand new van is being repaired. And the van I wanted was a Chrysler but the van I bought is a Chevy. Everyone (the repair man and dealer guy mostly) are telling me that once it's fixed, good as new! No more problems! Everything is lovely! So I am hoping your title is an omen or something... On the school note, my son will start pre-k in the fall and we had to go through a dvelopmental screening and parent interviews for him to TRY to get into public school. WTH?

Tanna | 11:47 AM

I whole heartedly agree! I believe Being a present parent is essential to a child's education, confidence, and well-being. Archer will be great, no matter where he goes to school. If you are positive about his learning he will be too.

Nancy Syzdek, APR | 11:51 AM

Good for you. In my experience, the parental involvement matters just as much as the school and the teacher. I have no doubt that you and Hal will remain active participants in Archer and Fable's education.

Heather | 11:51 AM

We haven't heard yet on our transfers apps for Miles. But now I feel less stressed about what happens. Thank you.

Heather Sellers | 12:06 PM

I know that this was not the point of the post however, can I just say that I love even MORE now knowing you wrote for Chicken Soup? AM DYING!

Also, back to the point of the post-you are such a good mother. I know that Archer and Fable will be educated and amazing children because they have such a dedicated mother.

Glenda | 12:17 PM

You are dedicated to Archer and Fable and they will succeed. No doubt! Keep doing what you're doing!

Amanda | 12:17 PM

LOVE this post (but then that's the usual). I grew up on the "wrong side of the tracks", went to the "ghetto-ish" high school, had parents that were blue collar and hard working but still stuck in the lower middle class. I was supposed to be "the golden child". When they realized my potential they invested tons of time, money, and love to produce a daughter that would be a future college graduate. Something nobody in my family had really done. Well, I bailed on "the plan". Opting, instead, to live life, be free, read books at my own leisure, ones not assigned by professors. I regret it some days when salary is a factor, when my ideas are stunted by lack of funds. Funds that could have been achieved with a degree. And other days I'm glad I stayed true to myself.

My husband is the exact opposite. Grew up in a family much like yours (father is an engineer, dentist, has built an airplane, has multiple degrees all of them either of the Master's or PhD variety). He went to a good University, did his work, got the best grades, graduated Magna Cum Laude as an undergrad and finally received his Master's in Biomedical Engineering. Then he met me.

Then we had our unexpected pregnancy.

I like to think that the two of us will give our son a great outlook on education. With me knowing that sometimes Plan A isn't the best way and not to fret. With my husband knowing the fruits of staying the course, pursuing higher education. Our different outlooks will hopefully mold a well rounded individual who will seek truth beyond "the right way".

I think Archer is going to go places no matter what. That child is so bright he will turn anything into opportunity.

Sarah | 12:55 PM

ooh! you've alluded to the fact that you published some writing when you were in high school, but never said which ones. (I've always wondered...and am off to the library to check it out)

I wish I could have more friends like make me see the bright side of following Plan C, but you're not all "hey, bright side! look at it! whee!"

Your viewpoint on things inspires me to be more thoughtful - to really pay attention to my own views without getting swept up in the expectation, opinions and thoughts of others.

and you know? any teacher will tell you that with parents who truly care more than make up for what a school might not be able to give.

best of luck...and best wishes. -S

Rebecca at Toothwhale | 12:59 PM

I had no idea before we went through it over the past months that the WHERE? of kindergarten could be such a big deal. I compared it to college numerous times in my mind. We now know where our Henry will go in the fall, but that doesn't say where he will go in life.

Thilie | 1:05 PM

love this post!
I went to great schools (in Brazil though), did cultural interchanges, was accepted into a NY University (didn`t go), went to a great University in Brazil and became a Veterinarian and I worked in a badass Molecular Biology Lab doing research for my PHD in my early 20s.. and now I`m at home taking care of my baby and sewing fabric flowers. My degree is not valid here in the USA, I`ve to make tests and validate it.. everything I learned was in portuguese.. I dont really know if I want to work for badass labs anymore.. I`m so happy at home with my baby sewing flowers!
My husband went to not-so good schools in Brazil, didn`t go to any University because he didn`t have the money to and he turned out this bad ass entrepreneur, the best in his area in Latin America with no diploma.. he rocks!
I don`t know where we will live in the next months, years.. we don`t want to go back to Brazil but we don`t know if Miami is the place for us either (I know schools here sucks) but u know what I don`t worry about my girl`s school b/c I know we`ll teach her what really matters.. of course we`d love to take her to europe and pay for the best schools where they teach art inside the Musée d`Orsay but if in the end of the road we can`t achieve that she`ll always count on us!

Crystal T. | 2:11 PM

Wow, I didn't even know families had to pay for kindergarten! What kind of craziness is that???

Deidre | 2:31 PM

I totally admire that you went with plan C. I also didn't get into my first choice college and I went with plan B and went to another institution which I hated. But I certainly wasn't brave enough to not go to college at all - and I really admire that you were!

Unknown | 2:55 PM

I love this post. I cared way too much about school and raced through with a meanly competitive attitude. Needless to say it was a huge let down to be a 20-year-old with a B.A. and no freaking job. No one has ever cared that I skipped two years of school. Blech. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to chill the eff out.

It blows that Archer didn't get into the schmancy school. We have our eyes on the same school or else we'll just give up on H'wood and flee to South Pas. If it helps, we sometimes go on walks in the morning by your public school and it seems nice in a lot of ways. There's a yard aid out front that greets every kid by name and a regular fruit guy that seems to be part of a lot of kids' after school rituals. In its own highly urban way, it seems just a bit picturesque. Of course, I've never been inside or on a tour or anything, but it's API scores aren't terrible. I'd be a lot less likely to be fetishizing South Pas if we were assigned to that school instead of ours a few blocks north. And I totally agree that, especially with younger kids, it matters much more what's going on at home with learning.

Anonymous | 3:27 PM

.I went to a "good" elementary school that was a real soul-sucker. Decided in 3rd grade they would no longer teach me math or reading and sent me to do unpaid secretarial work in the front office for THREE YEARS.It would have been so much more humane to let me read or something instead instead of punishing me for being ahead and ridiculing me publically in front of the others kids so they wouldn't feel bad.I became withdrawn so my parents opted for the magnet system in middle school.Great experience 6-12. So yeah I agree that some extra free time to explore interests is a good thing as long as the kid isn't actually in an environment that actively makes discourages thought and curiosity.

Mama Bub | 3:55 PM

LMU! I know that's not what this is about at all, but I graduated from LMU in 2001. It was not my first choice, in fact it didn't even make my list. My mother insisted that I apply there and when I didn't get into my number one school (USF) and did get in there, I deigned to visit. Four years later I graduated knowing it was the best possible choice for me. We're now mired in the preschool hunt, which is small potatoes on the school search, but weighs on my heart no less. I just want someplace that he'll look forward to attending, to hopefully set the groundwork for a love of learning. Is that too much to ask?

Missy | 4:07 PM

Have you seen the movie "Away We Go"? One of the main characters, Burt, talks about wanting his chid to have these amazing experiences as a child. And he tries to learn how to whittle wood and learn all kinds of dad-like knowlege before his baby is born because he wants to be able to pass along that kind of stuff to his daughter. This post reminds me of that.

Motherhood Uncensored | 5:08 PM

Both you and Hal give Archer and Fable such amazingly rich life experiences (much, in part, due to your own) that I'm guessing they'd flourish in any school.

It takes much more than a great school to raise a life long learner (and a lover of learning at that).

Judit | 5:30 PM

Inspiring words. Inspiring life. I wish there were more of you out there (over here is what I mean).

Mrs Catch | 6:02 PM

As someone who is parenting a teenager, this post spoke very eloquently to me. Like you, we want to give them the "best" (whatever that may be), but this has to be balanced out by their need for experience and to make their own path.

You see your life in a great context. The lower parts contributed to the happier parts. One could not exist without the other.

I'm going to keep this in mind as I attempt to help my son with his decisions and support him through the good and bad times he will surely have.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

Sarah | 6:02 PM

I'm a public school teacher at a middle range school. We do fine, but we're not the Harvard of the district. I am so glad to hear you say that your child's education is not just about what happens at school, but is truly more about what happens outside of school.

Also know that there are thousands of amazing, dedicated, loving teachers working at our nation's public schools...and they will inspire Archer in ways you don't expect. He will remember some of them and think about them when he's making choices for the education of his children.

Good luck - and don't worry, public school can be more than it's cracked up to be.

Unknown | 6:55 PM

Archer will be fine, education only takes you so far, natural ability is irreplaceable. I have been educated my entire life in the american prep school system with their overpriced tuitions and let me tell you good schools are not everything. 100% agree, parents are the main educator and I think your doing a fantastic job so far, fyi.

I am a loyal reader, like refresh every day waiting for a post..hmm a tad addicted. I'm only in college, but I aspire to be the type of parent you are, seriously. But you were lead contributor for Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul? The one I read late at night with a flashlight even though I wasn't a teenager yet? Those books made me feel normal as a kid and I have so much more respect for you now (if more was even possible)

Tiffany | 7:46 PM

Great post. Those roads that we thought we would have taken have lead us on a crazy journey filled with good and bad times, but times that would never want to get rid of. I know my path would have led me far from where I am now, but I adore my boys and couldn't imagine life without them. No to mention all the time that I have gottent o spend with my mother and beign my fathers caregiver all those years before he died. It's a blessing.


Estelle Hayes | 8:22 PM

How did you know that I needed to hear all of those words right now. Thank you does not feel like enough but thank you. My stepson may not graduate from high school in may (his choice) and has attended pricey and exclusive and amazing private schools since preschool. We don't know what the future holds for him and it's hard to watch. You just gave me a split second of hope.

Teacher | 8:30 PM

I teach. I chose to teach in a low-income area. Not the highest test scores, but the kids who need the most - they need the best. I pour my heart out everyday, and every weekend. They have my heart, and I give them everything I can. I go to summer institutes to learn more, teach workshops to share my knowledge of what works, and welcome student teachers into my room. I could move to a higher-testing school and my test scores would jump. From the outside I would look like a better teacher because of my scores, but in reality I wouldn't be working nearly as hard. California has the best credentialing program, the best teachers. A good school is so much more than test scores. Ranked #1. By who? My brother went to Loyola, and I to a Sate college. My degree was cheaper, and my heart was in it so I learned so much more than him. If students want to learn, they will. If they don't, it doesn't matter how much to pay or what the ranking is. Your kids have a strong foundation, like you, they will soar. Love your inspiring posts. And, I read Chicken Soup books to my class. I'm going to look you up. :)

Asha Dornfest {Parent Hacks} | 10:46 PM

So what I needed to hear, R! Thank you for this, the reminder that school is but one chapter in what is hopefully a long, exciting, surprising book.

Ethel | 11:07 PM

Have you looked at Open Community Magnet Charter in Westchester? If not, do so! It's one of, if not the BEST charter/magnet schools in LA and was actually the first of both (magnet and charter) for the city. I urge you to visit! It's all lottery yes, but worth looking into for sure. They also bus from all over the city, which is the beauty of a magnet. The parent involvement and overall community collaboration with teachers and parents is overwhelming.If you don't get a slot for Kindergarten, try for 1st grade!!

Anonymous | 12:17 AM

oh thank you so much for writing this. it concluded my evening on a light and confirming note, after a day of musing over lost opportunities and ridiculous feelings of inadequacy.

thanks for your candid honesty, always. i don't know you, but i'm sure it's got to be one of your best traits. no?

Hanasu | 2:40 AM

You are so wise, Rebecca. I've always thought the real education you receive is in your home, from the people that is around you 24/7. And from the world. In school you only learn the basics for the rat race. And not even.
Your children will be fine... more than fine, with a mom like you.
Thanks for sharing.

Unknown | 3:37 AM

I wanted to thank you for this post. I could not have come at a better week for me. I am 23 years old (24 in June!), and graduated from college in the spring of 2008. I took 2009 off from find a job teaching elementary school, and entering the 'real world' and spend the year traveling, making great friends, and seeing what else is out there, beyond my comfort zone. Of course, that meant I came back to a crappy economy, where schools have no money, and no jobs. So I've spent this year substituting for a 2nd grade class, who had a teacher leave in early Nov, and is not returning because she wants to stay home with her baby. And *everyone* has been telling me how likely it is that I will be offered a job at the school for the 2010-2011 school year.

And then yesterday the budget came in. And while nothing is ruled out, things don't look so great for that jpb. And if I don't get hired at that school, its not going to happen elsewhere in my area, because there are so few jobs, and I have no edge. And all last night and this morning, I've been on the verge of tears, ignoring all the people telling me not to stress yet, that things will all work out, that cream rises to the top. Because the truth of those things is that they are only true when circumstance allows. But your post, it reminded me, that i *have* veered off the path, and loved it. And that whatever happens with this job, I will find something to do. And if its not teaching at this specific school, or even in the US, it will enrich my life in ways I can't even know yet. And if I do get then job, well then that's great too.

So, thank you for being able to do what no one else has been able to. I'm printing this post, and reading it every time I begin to panic,


Anonymous | 4:22 AM

Would love to see you write about your persona(s). Brooding, clove-cigarette smoking poetry girl becomes her Southern California suburban high school's Homecoming Queen. Lost boys' girlfriend/pseudo-mother becomes spokesperson for the pedestrian Chicken Soup for the Teenager's Soul series. Good stuff. It's the making of another memoir.

ufos8mycat | 7:13 AM

I always love reading your completely neurotic posts. You are a really great writer, Becca. I'll send you a joint and a certificate for a week at a spa. :)

Keep up the good work. -Tony


Anon 4.22 - Interesting. I've started so many memoirs about my contradictory teen years and then felt like my story wasn't interesting enough -- maybe you're right and I should revisit the concept. Thank you. :)


And thank you all for your words. So glad mine could have been helpful to you! I have so much to say re: education, specifically college and how important it REALLY is - especially for those of us looking for work outside of law, medicine, science, etc.

No one has ever cared that I didn't have a college education. Not one single employer - mind you, I've only ever worked in creative fields and I live in a city who hires on experience vs education but I think its important for us over-achieving types to see the other side of education. Smart girls don't always go to college. There are plenty of ways to self-educate - to carve your own niches for yourselves.

Adrianne | 10:10 AM

"Life is a mysterious genius".... I freaking LOVE that! I work Admissions at a rather large university in Austin, Texas. You don't know how often I hear from students just like you who think that our school is the ONLY school at which they could possibly be happy. It's heartbreaking and I wish I could just admit them all. Sadly I can't. But like you say, life is a mysterious genius, and I have to figure that they will end up exactly where they need to be, when they need to be there. And if it's here, somewhere down the road, great. If not, I think it's equally great, but oh is it hard to see that when you're stuck in the moment. Archer will be great no matter where he is! How do I know this? Because his mom kicks ass!

NaturalAsPossibleMom (aka Karen Bannan) | 10:39 AM

I wanted to go to Columbia for my Master's. Got into NYU. (Grad school is different than undergrad -- don't hate me!) My opinion: I was glad I didn't pay for the experience. Instead, my employer paid.

Schools don't matter THAT much unless you live in an economically disadvantaged district. Archer is going to kick ass wherever he goes since he's got you for a mom. We moms actually matter more than the schools would like to believe.

Unknown | 1:20 PM

This was a great post. My parents thought it would be a great idea for us to go to a small school. It wasn't - it was grossly underfunded. But my mom taught us all to read early, and she read to us every day. That made all the difference.

Lauren | 2:16 PM

I applied to NYU as a transfer student and got in, but at the last minute chickened (!) out about leaving my small college for the big city. I used to regret it. Then I had Eloise - and I can't regret anything anymore because all of it lead me to having her.

Reading this post makes me want to call my mom and thank her for the effort she made to ensure my education happened inside AND outside the classroom.

I'm sure one day Archer will want to thank you too.

Lindsay Q | 4:30 PM

You are my hero. Just sayin'.

Amy | 4:59 PM

It's the economy. Rich parents are pulling their kids out of private schools and putting them in charter schools. Kinda sucks for the rest of us. We are going to do what you are doing. Moving to an area with a better school district and give our kid experiences that no private school can match.

Christina | 5:06 PM

We are selling the house we love ... in an area we love ... b/c the public school our kids would attend? Finally became "not failing" school ... ranked 3 out of 10 ... thus they can't go to the Charter School and yeah, that particular public school was NOT going to happen.

But on the great side ... yes, we are moving farther away from DC BUT we are really excited about the school district (awesome schools all the way up to High School, I'll be walking my kids to the elementary school) and our house will be pretty darn great.

As parents we definitely make sacrifices for our kids. And, for me, making sure they love school is soooo important! Good luck with your decision ... I'm excited to see what happens with you guys!

Ray | 7:32 PM

I love that first photo of you with your gold shoes on the train tracks. It’s like your own version of the, “Wizard of Oz.” With you leading the way.

You are awesome Rebecca Woolf and there’s no doubt that Archer & Fable will be awesome individuals as well, because of you. And from what you wrote you’ve accomplished a hellavue lot more than most people ever will, without college.

Also: You wrote, “Education is only a SMALL part of one's learning. Opportunity is about SO much more. It's about love and support and books at bedtime, it's about intellectual conversations over dinner and weekend trips to art museums. It's about exposing our kids to beautiful music, and poetry -- star-gazing with them during meteor showers -- hiking with them in the back-hills behind our homes. Volunteering with them in our communities. Motivating. Inspiring. Being there.”

That is all so true. It is said that kids are more intellectual when they are stimulated with different activities. Whether it be a cooking class, a painting class or a music class for Archer, having him be able to experience these things will expand his mind and his opinions. Also his outlook on life.

Show Archer & Fable the world and they'll be fine (although I know I don’t have to tell you that). ;o)

Question: So since you’ve decided that you’re moving have you done any house hunting yet? ;o)

Jena Nicole | 8:24 PM

Seeing as I am a college drop-out, that feels as if she has had a pretty great life, so far... Well, I'm glad you've found it in yourself to give your children that same sense of freedom.
My Mother didn't find it in herself until she was nearly 50, and she practically made herself crazy trying to be the perfect student... To achieve an ideal she didn't need.

kimbrali | 9:29 PM

hells yeah. high five to you. this was an excellent post and all so true.

Margie | 11:50 PM

A great post Rebecca. Have you heard the lecture about education killing creativity by Ken Robinson. A MUST.

I have sat down and listened to it a few times now, particularly after my son was born.

You have a brilliant blog.
Thank you (from Australia)

Anonymous | 11:10 AM

This is inspiring.
You are totally right and you've got proof: parents ARE the most important, you cant just throw your kid into a nice school and expect them to turn out into this amazing thing....

The Random Blogette | 12:35 PM

Such a great post! We are actually in the worst school districy in the area, but we are lucky enough to be in the area with the best elementary school in the district which may not seem like much but it is a good school. We are having issues with sending our son to the junior high which is in academic emergency. We had planned on not living here any more but life happens and things just don't happen. I appreciate you stating that it doesn't matter where you go to school, because I do agree.

Sarcastica | 6:39 AM

So true, education isn't the end all and be all..opportuntiies are. Archer and Fable will have tons of opportunities!

You rock my socks, by the way! xoxo | 8:49 PM

My family's Plan B is homeschooling all 3. You know what? It's awesome. There really is something to be said for keeping an open mind... I'm sure Archer and Fable will learn more from you guys than he will ever gather at any school!

Anonymous | 11:44 PM

This sentence didn't make sense to me: "Me? I have a high-school education with the same resume as my Yale-alum friends." If you don't have Yale on the resume, then it isn't the same. (?)

Julia | 10:01 AM

I love this post. I am so over the concept that you are as good as your degree, or your job, or your credit score. If your value is rooted in things so fragile, you too are going to fragile. Love your words, love your photos, love your insight. You are pretty fucking lovely lady.

MommieV | 5:55 PM

Thanks for this, it was something I needed to hear. (Isn't that why you blog, just for me??) I was in a conversation with family about whether to move to a better school district. This reminded me to also keep in mind the books and hikes and museums and music. You rock.


Abby | 8:16 PM

I teach at a less than stellar public high school. But I truly believe that you can get an AMAZING education in any public school if you look hard for it. I am excited by your presence on the PTA of a public school, even if it is on the opposite coast from where I teach. Your children will grow up well educated, of this I am sure.

Anonymous | 12:21 PM

I think you're teaching your kids the right attitude, Rebecca. I've watched my husband deal with over-achiever feelings left over from our competitive school days and it's not fun. His parents still prize academic/intellectual achievement above everything else and still don't get why he didn't get his PhD. Cuz he didn't get into any PhD program he applied to! 7 years later, they still wonder about that. Meanwhile, we're thrilled about our life now.

I think if you work hard, make the most of the opportunities you do have and TRY not to take yourself too seriously, you'll be happy. And that's the goal, right? Happiness!

Anonymous | 6:09 PM

Dude, I feel you on this on sooo many levels. I was expected to go Ivy League, become a world-famous researcher/doctor, and look down my nose at all the "regular people". Instead, I traveled a lot, became a prolific activist, and wrote and performed my little heart out. And I gotta tell ya, I don't regret one minute of it. Life (education, included) is what you make of it. Word. Booty.

steiny | 11:44 AM

so, this is slightly out of context but i totally dig your shiny gold shoes, and i think you've actually mentioned what they are before but I just can't seem to find the reference in your archives. if you have a moment, can you let a shoe-fiend know? thank you!

Dinner Party Central | 12:49 PM

I cannot tell you how many times I read those essays. Countless, and then a few more times for good measure. Thank you for those, they made being an awkward teen less lonely.
Remember education is what you make of it, there are kids graduating from not the best schools, who go amazing places, and kids who graduate from the "best" schools and dont go very far at all.

hayley | 12:13 AM

Just book marked this post to read again when I start poppin' out some babes. Really, this is the exact mindset I want to have through child rearing. As a future wannabe public school teacher, nothing irks me more than people bashing the public school system. Education is SO MUCH MORE! Well said, GCC.