Recently, I was asked to share my parent testimony for Charlotte Prep. Delighted with the prospect of being on camera, I channelled my inner Kate Winslet (she’s from the same town as me) and started to recount the story of how we ended up here.
As I recounted the story, it occurred to me that being asked to take part might not just have been about my sparkling wit and stage presence, but perhaps more to do with the circumstances surrounding our move to Charlotte. Because we signed the children up for Charlotte Prep before we did anything else. Before we had even been offered a visa.
Matt and I are from the U.K., and were living just outside Toronto, Ontario when the opportunity arose to move to Charlotte. Having never visited the Carolinas, my first question was a simple one: does it snow less than in Canada? The irony of this question became clear to me some weeks later when waiting for my flight. But I’ll get to that.
As the news got out that Matt might be transferring to the Charlotte office, a colleague called, offering his wife’s telephone number and the promise of advice. I immediately called and started asking questions; the most important one being about schools.
The boy already attended a Montessori school, and when I mentioned this, my friend explained that she had previously been Head of Early School at a wonderful place called Charlotte Prep. What a stroke of luck!
I duly made plans to visit, excited at the prospect of living somewhere that didn’t have snow on the ground for 8 months of the year, only to arrive at Toronto airport to receive the news that Charlotte airport was closed because of snow. This was not part of my plan.
After several hours of delays and a lot of ‘should I stay or should I go’, I made it to Charlotte to be told that the following day when my visits were scheduled, all the schools would, in fact, be closed.
But as I mentioned, my friend and host knows Charlotte Prep like the back of her hand and after a quick phone call the following morning we set off to be welcomed by Vicky Wilkison who had opened the school especially to show me round.
At that point, I realised I had found something special. As soon as I walked into early school, I knew that this is where I wanted the boys to be. And when we returned a few weeks later with the children, it only confirmed my thoughts.
We were greeted with so much enthusiasm, made to feel so welcome and every single member of staff that we spoke to was so kind.
And I realised that this is what I really want from a school. Strong academics are important, as are the sports facilities, the fine arts, and opportunities to explore new things.
But what I really want is somewhere that my children are known by all the teachers, not just their own. I want them to be loved and challenged and to feel confident to be themselves, because I think that’s when children truly thrive.