But How Do You Decide?

I am very blessed to have an amazing group of girlfriends who are all very different yet all strong, independent, compassionate women. We lift each other up, we show up when we are needed and we listen without judgement. These friendships are invaluable. I know I can count on these ladies (and their husbands) for advice on everything from potty training, to what math class my middle schooler should take (6, 6 PLUS, Compacted). No matter what my kids are going through I know someone else in the group has been through a similar situation. This support circle is exactly what I wanted to cultivate when I started SchoolUp four years ago. Collecting and interpreting advice from other parents to share experiences is an invaluable way to navigate parenting.


So as you are going through this school choice journey, I have profiled a few moms to get their story. I sat down with three different families to find out how they chose their school home. We discussed values and goals, how they narrowed down their choices and where they finally ended up. I hope their journeys can be valuable and reassuring to you as you go through the process.


Tell me about your family and the age of your kids/kid.

I have a small family of 4. Terrance who is a Professor at NC State, Miles who is a 2nd Grader at Green and we also have Oakley who is a 3-year-old rescue. I am Kiara Ruth, I am a writer, coffee lover, and shop local enthusiast .

What was most important to your family is looking for a school?

I think my why and my husband’s why were different. I am more interested in a loving + nurturing environment for Miles and my husband wants to know the stats for testing and the quality of the teachers.

How did you approach the process?

My husband is in education so I allowed him to drive the process and I took a back seat. I felt that he was well equipped to make some major decisions for our family. I went into the process with an open mind, ready to learn, and also willing to let go of whatever expectations I had.

What most frustrated you about the process and how did you manage those frustrations?

I grew up in a state where if the school was a magnet school everyone had the opportunity to be a magnet student. I was a little frustrated that I had to apply for my son to be a magnet student at a magnet school. There is a lot of pressure in making sure that your student gets magnet status. When we applied the first time, Miles didn’t get into the magnet program at his elementary school and we were bummed. I was a little upset because there is so much weight on being a magnet student and what that means for your child and more specifically Black and Brown students. So, my husband and I had to reset and apply again and play the waiting game. Miles eventually became a magnet student and while we were excited we felt for our friends who didn’t get the status specifically our Black and Brown Friends.

I felt the weight of getting a magnet seat because I knew the benefits of it. I know that Wake County Schools Magnet Programs are exceptional. It was important to us that Miles had access to specific areas of study. The magnet programs specialize in sciences, performing arts, and career educations. We heard so many “good” things about what it means to be a magnet student — the bar was set very high. But, I also knew that magnet or not I wanted Miles to have a solid education.

What school did you choose in the end, and why?

We chose our base school, which is Green Elementary and they focus on World Languages. We loved that they offered Mandarin. The principal, Dr. Brown is amazing and she truly cares about ALL voices. We ended up moving closer to downtown and decided to keep Miles at Green because of the quality of education, the staff, and the Mandarin Program which Miles is excelling in.

What advice would you give parents going through the process now?

Learn what your child is interested in, go to the magnet school fairs, and ask questions there. Take your time and explore what options you have and be open to exploring new things. I will also say don’t be intimidated by the magnet program application and don’t give up if the first answer is no!

Kiara Ruth is a master at multi-tasking and simplifying. She gracefully juggles her life as a mother and wife with her presence as a social media influencer and NC tastemaker. Kiara drifts from mom to mogul effortlessly because she remains authentic and true to her brand in every step while keeping Jesus at the center of it all. This authenticity means telling her story truthfully, acknowledging faults, and being transparent while growing and learning. Kiara is a mom to Miles who is 7 years and the wife to Terrance Ruth who is a professor at NC State. Kiara and her family recently rescued a dog, Oakley who is 3 years old. Kiara is the author of The Banana Moon blog. 




Tell me about your family and the age of your kids/kid.

My name is Stephanie Llorente, and I run two businesses – a public relations consultancy called Prep Communications, and a community for working moms called Restored. My husband works for a large software company, and we’ve both worked from home for many years before COVID forced everyone into doing the same. We have two elementary-aged kids who keep us on our toes. One’s introverted and the other isn’t. They both love learning, but learn in very different ways. They are enrolled in a private school.

What was most important to your family in looking for a school?

  1. Warm, diverse environment
  2. Stability (not redistricting often)
  3. Small class sizes
  4. Learning differences programming
  5. Value system alignment

How did you approach the process? 

We’re fortunate to live in an area with many amazing schools, but that can be overwhelming. We were very naive about what options were available, but investigated two public elementary schools as well as three different private schools. There weren’t any that we truly disliked! Kicking schools out of our consideration set when they were truly good schools was difficult, but we narrowed it down to what we felt was best for our kids, their needs and our lifestyle.

What most frustrated you about the process and how did you manage those frustrations? 

We were most frustrated by the uncertainty that accompanied many of our friends’ antidotes about the county school system. Instability with redistricting, the newness of curriculum (at the time they were switching to common core) and class size fluctuations made many of our options seem a bit more flexible than we wanted for our family.

We did our own desk-side research and held conversations with those who had school-aged children. We also spoke with friends employed as teachers to get some of our questions answered. We toured schools and reviewed websites, but there wasn’t a “hub” where could easily review information for all of our school options.

What school did you choose in the end, and why? 

In the end, we selected GRACE Christian School. Truth be told, we always assumed we would send our kids to a public school because we are both products of public education. We also don’t come from “old money” or have someone footing the bill for us. However, after touring the school, meeting teachers, and talking to others with children already enrolled there, it quickly became the obvious choice for us. GRACE feels like a public school – people from diverse backgrounds, no school uniforms, collaborative thinking, laughing and joking in the hallways, programing for kids who need learning support. We really liked that. At the same time, it offered smaller class sizes, eliminated the instability of redistricting, and aligned with our family’s value system.

The biggest hurdle, for us, was (and still is) the funding of a private school education. We don’t like paying for education in our taxes, then paying for it again when the private school invoice shows up. However, once we discussed the cost, reviewed our family finances, and determined it was doable, it helped us to understand more about the extra effort the school takes to engage the community around it. It offers tuition assistance to those who need it. It values diversity in its student body. It engages teachers and students in local service opportunities that create positive impacts. So, the non-tangible return on our investment helped us greenlight the spend.

What advice would you give parents going through the process now? 

Explore your options, and don’t eliminate great schools because of price tags, preconceived notions, or assumptions. Our assumptions of private school could have kept us from enrolling our kids in a great program where they are thriving. We love that our kids are known – like, every teacher in the lower campus school knows their name, understands their struggles, and cares deeply about who they are and who they are becoming. We’re so thankful for the family-style community at GRACE and hope that it takes root to produce well-rounded kids.


Stephanie Llorente is the mom brain behind Restored, a community that purposefully equips working moms for life at home and at work. She is in passionate pursuit of helping moms in the workplace feel seen, connected to like-minded women, and supported in their faith.

In her spare time (yes, it’s OK to actually laugh out loud), she runs a public relations consultancy that uses strategic communications to manage organization reputations. She also enjoys helping women employ their God-given skillsets to pursue what’s right over what pays well. She can occasionally be overheard praying for clients or coaching moms to build their careers on a firm foundation of faith and grit.

A native of North Carolina, Stephanie is involved with multiple nonprofit organizations, volunteering in leadership positions to help organizations set and meet goals. As a graduate of North Carolina State University, Stephanie, her husband Chris, and their two beautiful children can often be found wearing red and cheering for a Wolfpack win (laughing’s OK here, too).

Stephanie is not short on thoughts when it comes to motherhood. Please read her latest blog post and follow Restored on social media.



Tell me about your family and the age of your kids/kid.

My husband and I have 3 girls ages 9, 7 and 3.

What was most important to your family in looking for a school?

We had a very long list of things that were important in schools. Ultimately, we wanted a place our children would learn to love learning. For us that meant a school where they could be both challenged and creative.

How did you approach the process?

I did a ton of research on the public, private, and charter schools nearby. We made a list and went to visit 10+ schools. It was overwhelming to be honest.

What most frustrated you about the process and how did you manage those frustrations?

It wasn’t clear what schools were options initially. Once I found my choices on the address finder and narrowing down my list I learned how challenging it would be to get into my top choices.

What school did you choose in the end, and why? 

We ended up at our base school for k-3. In 4th grade we were accepted to a charter school.

While it was not our first choice, we initially liked our base school after all of the research we did and it was a good fit for our children.  We later changed schools for 2 reasons:

  1. The charter school met our kids academic needs better than our base school, and
  2. The charter school goes through 8th grade and our base middle school was not a good fit for our kids.

What advice would you give parents going through the process now? 

Know your options and have a plan. If your base school is not an option you need multiple backup plans. The biggest piece of advice? Relax! Ultimately, your involvement in your child’s school is more important than the school itself.

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