I'm just going to choose the one with the best mascot

All of a sudden, the Critter has grown up. Two seconds ago she was a squalling little meat monkey in swaddling clothes. Today I'm in the midst of helping her pick a major and plan her graduate education.

The Critter is three years old. One would think that this would leave us a little time yet before the educational (rug)rat race began. I admit that I've never really thought about it too much, but I kind of assumed that one day a bus would show up to take her to kindergarten and then she'd be told to show up at first grade. And sometime before they're 18, the kiddies take a stab at figuring out what task they want to take on in return for a steady income.

Ha! Apparently these pages were missing from my 'Care and Feeding of Your Progeny' manual.

In the UK, a kid is required to be enrolled in 'Reception' (kind of like a pre- pre-school experience) in "the school year [September - September] in which they will turn 5". This semi-complicated math means she'll actually enter Reception next year, when she's 4 (turning 5 in June of 2007). OK, no problem. Just tell me where to show up next year, and I'll pack her lunch and sharpen her pencils (to defend herself from the 1st graders on McHormones).

But wait a moment, Pa. You can't just take her to your nearest educational institution. You have to apply first. It's required that she go to school, but you must first select and then plead your case to allow the fruit of your loins to attend the institution of your choice. And don't screw this up, because this is the first step on her path to Harvard Law. This is not about coloring and story time and maybe singing the 'ABCs' anymore, you know. She's already 2 years behind the kids in Hong Kong, who are enrolled in trigonometry & Ancient Greek as soon as they can walk.

Now that we're properly daunted by the task in front of us, my bride and I have set about the task to Find A School. And oh, the choices: There's the local Catholic school (who want to see her baptism certificate from California to make sure they're not letting in any heathens. They've heard about California, you know). In the town next door is a private school, which has a campus of old dark stone manses like something out of a production of Hamlet, but doesn't rate up there on the National Learning Averages scores. And then there's Queen's School, for which we had to request not a brochure, but a 'prospectus' (Latin for 'brochure'.) Apparently the holy grail of girl's schools in the area, it has a campus of light and beautiful brick tudor buildings, and a brochure which features pre-teens in ball gowns playing the harp. Seriously.

Even thinking about applying to Queen's School is stressful. They want to 'assess' the Critter for admission. For what, I'm not sure. Don't get me wrong, we already know that the Critter is a genius, but she's also three years old. At any given moment she may be picking her nose or scratching her butt. Or both. If you come over to visit, I can't guarantee she'll have pants on when she comes over to sit in your lap. It's not that we haven't been working on her ABC's and numbers; we have. It's just that those kinds of things have occasionally taken second priority to teaching her the lyrics to 'Mr Roboto,' and to respond to all questions with the phrase "Cool, baby."

I'm trying to convince my bride that maybe these skills will actually impress the assessors.

A: 'Can you tell me what shape would complete this pattern?'
Critter: 'Cool, baby.'
A: 'OK. Can you tell me what sound this letter makes?'
Critter: 'Cool, baby.'
A: 'Hmm. How about you tell me what your favorite story is?'
Critter: 'Cool, baby.'
A: 'Good heavens, she's unflappable!'
Critter: 'Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.'