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How I Didn't (But Really Did) Find The Perfect School

I feel very honored to share this latest guest piece from Heels in the Hills’ resident mommy blogger, Barbara King. She’s written before about the madness of the Los Angeles school system, and all of the things that cost the same as private school in L.A. Today, she’s sharing her very personal and important decision on the school she and her husband ultimately chose for their daughter…

There were a lot of lists involved in my search for the “perfect” school for my soon-to-be kindergartner. A lot of charts and a lot of phone calls. A lot of stress and a lot of tears. After many coffee dateswine dates with moms who had been through the school circus already, and after a good look inside my wallet, I decided public school was the best option. And I was pretty hopeful I could get into the PERFECT school. After all, I just had to “get lucky,” right?

I ended up applying via random lottery to 14 of the most sought after public charter and magnet schools in Los Angeles and got into not one single school.

Not one.

You know that scene in Cinderella when her step-sisters tear apart her carefully crafted handmade dress, and Cinderella has no other choice but to run into the courtyard and surrender into a heap of tears? That’s how the lottery system felt to me and I don’t think I’m being over-dramatic. I felt completely defeated.

How I Didn't (But Really Did) Find The Perfect School

{ I have so many amazing memories from my elementary school so I want to give that same gift to my daughter. Here’s my sixth grade graduation photo. Good luck trying to find me! }

Like many young girls dream about their wedding day, I dreamt about school. I LOVED school as a kid and my mom likes to remind me that I cried on the LAST day of school every single year. In first grade I already knew I wanted to be an “artist and teacher.” In fifth grade I made-up my own school called Peaches and Plums School, outfitted in a campus of imaginary stone buildings. I can spend hours in the back-to-school section of Target and I take SAT books on planes with me TO DO FOR FUN. I love personal statement essays. And despite how infuriatingly frustrating this process may seem, I actually enjoy seeing what the best public schools in L.A. are doing to make their school succeed.

How I Didn't (But Really Did) Find The Perfect School

{ I wonder if they play Oregon Trail at computer class like we used to. }

But, as the lottery results began to trickle in – You are #351 on the Waiting List. You are #144 on the Waiting List. You are #NeverGettingIn on the Waiting List – every single one of those “perfect” schools fell rapidly out of my reach and became a “perfectly unattainable” school. I even decided to attend a few of the lotteries in person to masochistically witness the disappointment of parents in real time. It pretty much crushed me.

As the weeks went by, we actually did end up “getting in” to two schools. And guess what? We said no.

How I Didn't (But Really Did) Find The Perfect School

{ Matisse explores the oceans as part of an awesome science fair we crashed at her future school. }

We said no because this whole crazy process made me realize something crucial that I should have grasped earlier. Every school has good teachers AND bad teachers. A community has supportive parents AND crazy ones. High test scores can mean aggressive teachers or too much homework. Low tests scores can mean the school may be more inclusive and welcoming to kids with disabilities. There is no perfect school.

How I Didn't (But Really Did) Find The Perfect School

{ A medley of photos from Matisse’s future school. }

How I Didn't (But Really Did) Find The Perfect School

{ Is this where the cool kids eat lunch? }

How I Didn't (But Really Did) Find The Perfect School

{ Her future school is surrounded by murals and artwork. }

And so, kind of by default, we decided on our local neighborhood school: The same school I had first visited over a year ago but immediately dismissed because it didn’t have brag-worthy test scores or offer Mandarin. So what DOES it have? It has a location just down the block from our home. And that close proximity means our family gets more time to lounge in our pajamas each morning, to make pancakes together, and to walk hand in hand to school. And that extra one-on-one time with my kids – Monday through Friday – is immeasurably worth more than anything else. So she may not attend a 10/10 school, but she will get to grow vegetables in the school garden and watch chicks hatch in the chicken coop. She will learn about planets in the science lab, the magic of stories in the library, the beauty of the violin in music class. Every day, her teachers and fellow classmates will inspire her and nurture her curiosity about our world. And maybe more kids from our neighborhood will share our walk home after school. This may not be the perfect school. But it’s perfect for us. Until next year, when I just might do this whole lottery thing all over again for first grade.

How I Didn't (But Really Did) Find The Perfect School

{ My daughter at her future school – taking it all in. }

Barbara King-Wilson is an actress and writer living with her family in Los Angeles. Follow her @TheBarbaraKing and visit her at!

More from Barbara:

10 Things That Cost The Same As Private School In L.A.

Three Schools You Can Only Find In L.A.

26 Questions To Ask On A School Tour

How I (Almost) Lost My Mind Applying to My Kid’s Elementary Schools

10 Questions L.A. Kids Have Asked Me

3 Signs You’re Ready To Be A Mom

Mommy Choices

2016 Resolutions Reality Check

My Minor Obsession with the PERFECT Holiday Photo