Choosing the Right High School

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Well, I am about to enter completely unknown territory!!!!  My only child, my son, will start his 8th-grade year and subsequently his last one in middle school.  Time to get down to business and start thinking about what high school he will be entering this time next year. (Uh, YIKES)!  Time to start preparing a checklist, or at the very least, a guideline, for what his Daddy and I will use to help make this next big step in our son's life that much easier.  I thought I would share my family's personal checklist for choosing the high school our son will attend. (Disclaimer, this list is prioritized first to last in what we determined, as a family, was most important for our own son).

Are any of his closest friends attending the same high school? 

As our son has gotten older, we have realized that the quantity of friends is not as important to him as the quality.  He has three or four close friends, but he has always put one particular friend above the rest. If he can have this type of strong, loyal, intense friendship with this other boy all the way through high school, he will have more than most.  (I am actually friends with the Vice Principal of one of the two schools we are considering, and I ran this sentiment by her.  It was a relief to receive her affirmation of how important this type of friendship will be, for both my son and his best friend, during their final four years as a child).

What kind of academic programs are offered

We like the idea of schools that offer both AP (Advanced Placement) and IB (International Baccalaureate) course work.  Since his Father and I both took Advanced Placement courses in high school, ourselves, we are more familiar with them and love the way these courses focus relatively intensively on one particular subject. But with IB courses, we were also intrigued with the more holistic approach that a particular subject may be given.  In the end, both schools we are considering offer a beautiful mix of classes that use the IB and AP curriculums together, which will hopefully allow our son to benefit and grow from the strengths of both programs.

What extracurricular activities are offered

For my son, his most important extracurricular activity is sports, so we made sure that both schools we are considering have programs for the three sports he has played since starting elementary school.  Other programs we looked for the schools to have include arts, volunteer work and community service, music, governance, and clubs.  It is very important to us for our son to be involved in character building activities outside of the classroom, and regardless of his first passion, it is very important to us for him to have the opportunity to explore other extracurricular options BESIDES sports.  Diversity is definitely key, here.

What is the overall school culture

After speaking with parents of high school graduates and teachers and administrative staff, the consensus was that the only way to really get a feel for a school's culture was to "get in the trenches", to actually go to each school and physically walk the halls while a school day was in session, and do this as many times as necessary, with and without our son present.  The goal is to get a feel for what we expect the school to teach our son about life beyond academics and the classroom, itself.  The goal is to see how students and teachers interact with one another in the classroom setting, to see if students and teachers greet each other personally, to see if students and teachers greet parents, to get a feel for student mood and how students treat each other whether they know each other or not.  The goal is to just get a sense of if the school has an overall feeling of joy and hope and happiness.  No science or numbers or stats involved here....just going to give it a go and trust that Mama intuition!

What is the graduation rate and what is the college attendance rate of the school

This was our last priority as a family as we are not the kind of family to base our decision on what high school our kid attends based on numbers alone, but, alas, numbers DO (kind of) matter! Plus, certain stats can suggest how successful a particular school has been at bringing our children to the next most important stage of their life....adulthood. 

This list is not inclusive, obviously, and may not even be any of your own priorities, but hopefully, it can at least serve as a jumping point for your family's own list if you, too, have a son or daughter who will be entering high school next year. This list for us, though welcomes balance, a concept we try to practice and live by routinely and day to day. We simply hope that addressing these five issues, as we choose a high school with our son, will create the ultimate opportunity for balance for him.  

Good luck and Happy High School shopping to you all!  See you in the trenches!

One final note:  It is too cliche' to even think about, much less type into words, but when I was growing up, I do not remember my mother having the option of choosing where I went to high school. Oh, you live in Hixson, Tennessee?  Yes.  Okay, your child will go to Hixson Junior High School and then Hixson High School.  And so, I did.  Regardless, I am grateful that, in this day and age, parents have the luxury to live in a certain area of Colorado Springs, (a city I have now called home for 25+ years) and choose for their children to go to school in a completely different area!!!!     

 

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Preparing Your Teen for Driving

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Back when I was a teen getting a driver's license was pretty simple. We enrolled in driver's education offered in public schools and at the end of the course we took an exam and upon passing were eligible for a learner's permit. The permit was obtained at the local DMV where you fill out an application and maybe showed them your birth certificate (if you even had one). You had to be 15 1/2 years old to get this permit and then your parents would take you out and teach you how to drive. You didn't log your hours on the road.  It wasn't that formal. We just drove with adults until turning 16, at which point we could go get our actual driver's license. There wasn't a lot of regulation to it.

Well, times have changed. Today it's quite different than that. My daughter recently went through the process, so it's fresh in my mind. Allow me to enlighten you about obtaining a Colorado driver's permit and license today.

Start with Driver's Education

First, driver's education is no longer offered in the public schools. So you have to find a private driving school and enroll them in it. In Colorado Springs we have many options for schools like Academy School of Driving, 1st Drive or Master Drive. I opted for Master Drive since they have a great reputation here. The student must be at least 14 years old in order to enroll. They must take 30 hours of classroom training. Additional behind-the-wheel training is available through each school but is not mandatory. Upon completion of the 30-hour class, the student takes a written exam, but he can only do that after turning 15. This exam can be taken at the driving school or at the local DMV. In order to pass the exam, the student cannot miss more than five answers. Otherwise, they must re-take the exam.  After passing the student can now apply for a learner's permit.  

Obtain the Learner's Permit

In order to get the permit the student must meet the following requirements:

1. They must be at least 15 years of age

2. They must show proof of 30 hours of driver training school

3. They must show proof that they passed the written exam or be prepared to take the exam at the DMV

4. They must have a valid birth certificate

5. They must have a valid social security card

6. They must show two written proofs of their current Colorado address (which I found a bit challenging because my 15-year-old doesn't receive a lot of official mail at the house yet)

7. They/you must pay a fee of $17

8. They must have a parent or guardian with them at the time of application so that person can sign as the responsible party for the minor behind the wheel (basically, if your kid crashes and does any harm or damage to another it's your liability).

Once you've done all this the applicant is issued their learner's permit. The student driver must have that permit for one year before they can obtain an actual driver's license. During that year the student driver must log at least 50 hours behind the wheel with an adult who is at least 21 years old. Those driving hours are written on a form provided by the DMV, and that form must be signed by the parent or guardian. 

Finally the Driver's License

After the year is up and the student driver has logged the required hours, they can then go to the DMV and get their driver's license.  There they will have to pass a written exam and actual evaluation behind the wheel. 

I know it sounds like a lot to go through, and at first, I was slightly overwhelmed by the regulation involved here. But I have concluded that it's all good. Requiring kids to spend more time learning how to drive is a plus, not only for their own safety but for the safety of all drivers on the road. Requiring more documentation at the time of application is a plus because driving is a privilege for US residents, and proving proof is a small price to pay. And requiring kids to drive for at least one year before obtaining a license is a plus because it's more supervised time behind the wheel. Thank you, Colorado, for holding us to this higher standard!

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The Value of Colorado Springs Farmers Markets

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It’s not news to any of us that summer is here. We’re getting more consistent sunshine here on the front range. AND we just enjoyed a beautiful Memorial Day Weekend. I hope you got the chance to enjoy time on your favorite trail in town...take in a picnic or some reading at a local park...spend time in the mountains...run the BolderBoulder...catch up on some DIY projects around the house...grill out in your backyard...

Whatever you did this past weekend, not only was it gorgeous but it was the beginning of... ALL THINGS SUMMER! Can I get a big shout out!?!

Summer in Colorado Springs is grand. I’m not one to have a favorite season. I love them all for the wonderful and distinct features they each offer. In summer, I love getting outside as much as possible. I crave time in the mountains and on lakes throughout the state. The long days and cool nights are the best! I’m sure you have your favorite things too.

One of the best parts of summer is access to local produce and other Colorado local products available at farmers markets all around the Colorado Springs area. We have some fantastic markets in nearly every corner of the Pikes Peak Region. You could hit up a different market every day and get a tour of the town. How fun!? You could even make it fun summer bucket list - visit all of the available farmer's markets in town!

Why Farmers Markets Matter

Some people might think, why not just hit up your local grocery store? Besides getting a chance to combine being outside and visiting different parts of town, it’s also incredibly valuable to support local farmers and other local merchants! Did you know that your dollars go further in our community’s economy when you shop and eat at locally owned business?

Another enjoyable part of farmers markets is the chance to meet friends and neighbors...whether it’s just you or you bring the whole family. What a fantastic activity on a Saturday morning or since the kids are out of school...any ‘ole day of the week. You can hang out in your own neighborhood in town and interact and buy products from the people who live nearby. Or try visiting a new area and explore its local parks, restaurants, and coffee shops before or after your time at the farmers market. You will be supporting the people and the produce of that community.

Other Thoughts on the Value of Local Farmers Markets

I have always been a fan of farmers markets, but I thought I would see what others have to say about them. I reached out to some folks I know around the community about why farmers markets are a valuable part of our community and here is what they said. 

“Farmers markets help to connect rural and urban communities and thus are an invaluable piece of civic architecture. They are a vibrant spot for our neighborhoods, they signal the value that Coloradoans put on local food, help to keep these dollars in our state, and preserve our precious farmland. Moreover, having these markets helps community members who may have difficulty accessing fresh fruits and vegetables through programs like Double-UP food bucks, where every dollar becomes 2 when spent on meat, produce, etc. at these markets -- this is not available at grocery stores.”

Michelle Larkins, Ph.D., Food & Environmental Sustainability Researcher, Colorado Springs Food Rescue

“I like spending Saturday mornings at the market with my kids. They gain a better understanding of where our food comes from and why it's valuable. Meeting farmers and planning our meals based on what's available keeps us grounded and in touch with the realities of our sustaining resources. It's real life, real food, and real people. We need bits of that in our modern world. The farmer's markets are gifts all over our city each summer for those who will go out and enjoy all offer!”

Niki Parks, Local Colorado Springs Resident, Gleneagle

"Farmers market season is exciting because we get to experience the bounty of our local region. From the Pueblo Chile to Rocky Ford melons, we have rich and diverse agriculture in southern Colorado. By buying local produce, you are supporting family farms and strengthening our community. Palmer Land Trust partners with farmers to ensure our region has a vibrant local food base, resilient farming communities, and protected land and water resources."

Rebecca Jewett, Executive Director, Palmer Land Trust

"Shopping at markets that sell locally sourced food provides a valuable outlet for farmers who are mostly small, family operations. Their fruits, vegetable, cheeses and other products retain the flavor and nutritional value that is lacking in supermarket products. Do something good for yourself, your family and your community and buy locally produced foods."

Matt Heimerich, Lower Arkansas Valley Conservation Director, Palmer Land Trust

Go Meet A Farmer!

So, get outside this summer (and into the fall at some markets!) and meet a farmer. Enjoy a slow Saturday morning picking out some Palisade peaches or finding that perfect Pueblo chile or scoop up some local honey. Yum!! And at every market, you’ll find local and regional vendors offering other creative, unique products for your kitchen as well as your home in general. Right in your own neighborhood!

Colorado Springs Area Farmers Market Schedule

Here’s a rundown of the Colorado Springs farmers markets that might be around you. Some markets opened this past Memorial Day weekend. Others will be opening throughout June. Some only go through the summer. Others will run through the fall. So, make sure to check the links, if provided, to get more details on dates and to stay in touch as markets will make last minute changes for holidays, weather, etc. Hope you find your local, neighborhood market! And enjoy the adventure of another neighborhood’s market features.

I frequent farmer's markets a lot during the summer, so if you see me browsing around, stop and say hi and we can talk a little about zucchini recipes and the latest about the Colorado Springs Real Estate Market.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturdays

Sunday

Other helpful links to get information on farmers markets in the Pikes Peak region as well as around the state.

https://www.springsfarmersmarkets.com/

http://www.colorado.com/co/food-wine-beer/farmorchardsfarmers-markets

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Things to Do in Colorado Springs this Weekend (May 20-May 21)

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One weekend before the Memorial Day holiday and we're still getting snow, freezing overnight temps, and cold breezes to make you think winter is back. No matter! There are still plenty of fun events happening in Colorado Springs this weekend. 


Things to Do This Weekend

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Colorado Public Lands Day Celebration -  Sat May 20, 8:00am, Red Rock Canyon Open Space Ridge Rd. & US-24

Admission: Free. We are the first state in the nation to have our own state holiday to recognize Colorado public lands! Join together to work on improving our trails followed by a guided hike tour and other outdoor activities. Minimum age is 16, or 13 with a parent/guardian. For more info, visit: Rocky Mountain Field Institute.

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Tesla’s Toolbox: Water Widget Races -  Sat May 20, 10:00am - 12:00pm, Space Foundation Discovery Center 4425 Arrowswest Drive

Admission: Included in admission ($5-$10). Engineer your own self-propelled boat and race it against others! For more info, visit: Space Foundation Discovery Center.

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Run to the Shrine -  Sat May 20, 7:30am - 5:00pm, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo 4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Rd

Admission: Registration fee $30-$55/person. Take advantage of the one day of the year you can view Colorado Springs on foot from the scenic road leading up to the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. Proceeds benefit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo! For more info, visit: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

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Colorado Springs Philharmonic presents Carmina Burana -  Sun May 21, 2:30pm, Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts 190 South Cascade Avenue

Admission: $21+. Enjoy the medieval cantata Carmina Burana performed by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. For more info, visit: Colorado Springs Philharmonic.

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City Wide Gaming Event Benefit -  Sun May 21, 10:00am - 8:00pm, Imagination Space 750 Citadel Dr. E

Admission: $7/day. Come play role playing games, board games, card games, and miniature games with proceeds benefiting the Imagination Celebration and Dragon Theatre. All skills levels welcome. For more info, visit: Facebook Event.

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Things to Do in Colorado Springs this Weekend (May 13-May 14)

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Happy Mother's Day! Perfect weekend to take out the important women in your life to fun events in Colorado Springs. Many things to do with Mom including a Victorian Tea, Pikes Peak discounts, and more! 


Things to Do This Weekend

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Victorian Tea and Ball -  Sat May 13, 4:00pm - 10:00pm, BeMore Event Center 3958 N. Academy Blvd

Admission: $35/person. Learn Victorian era history and enjoy dance and music. For more info, call: (719) 635-1773.

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Treat Yourself Mother's Day Fair -  Sat May 13, 10:00am - 1:00pm, PPLD - Briargate Library 9475 Briar Village Point

Admission: Free. Massages, chocolates, clothes, and crafts will spoil moms on Saturday. First 50 moms will receive goodie bags!  For more info, visit: Facebook Event.

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Active Adults Club: Spring Birding Photography Workshop -  Sat May 13, 11:00am - 1:00pm, Fountain Creek Nature Center 320 Peppergrass Lane

Admission: $20/person. Mike Pach, award-winning local photographer, teaches how to take bird photography. Hobbyists and professionals welcome. For more info, visit: El Paso County.

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Mother's Day on Pikes Peak -  Sun May 14, 9:00am - 3:00pm, Pikes Peak - America's Mountain 5089 Pikes Peak Highway

Admission: Mom free with paid admission. Treat Mom to free visit to Pikes Peak on Sunday. For more info, visit: City of Colorado Springs website.

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Pike’s Peak Antique Machinery Days -  Sun May 14, 10:00am, Western Museum of Mining and Industry 225 North Gate Blvd.

Admission: $5/person. Last day to attend the first annual Pike's Peak Antique Machinery Days featuring antique tractor pulls, silent auction, antique engines, and more! For more info, visit: WMMI.

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