Jennifer King and her children, Emile 8 and Remington 5 at her art studio in the SOMA District of San Francisco. Emile holds his artwork.
Jennifer brings her passion into painting.
While Jennifer paints, Emile and Remington do their homework first then play with computer.
Remington does his homework, practicing to write the alphabet “P.”
Emmanuel comes to pick the family up. Before they head to a park nearby, Emmanuel lets the sons wear jackets.
The brothers love to climb up high and are very fast to reach to the top.
Remington plays at a park near Jennifer’s art studio where the family often comes.
Jennifer hugs Emile after he played with his brother at a park near the studio.
Balancing your family life with your personal passion is hard for all families. It is even more difficult in a city as expensive as San Francisco.
Jennifer King is dental hygienist by profession, but her passion is painting. That led her to rent an art studio space to create her artwork in the SOMA District of San Francisco. Jen’s had outgrown painting at the condo her family lives in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. On the weekends she splits the child-rearing duties with her husband, Emmanuel of their three children, Emile, Remington, and Maya. This gives Jen some time to work on her paintings. On a Saturday afternoon, we met up with Jennifer while Emmanuel had to go to a meeting. He had dropped Emile and Remington so they could do some homework while she painted.
“They will do their books and then go on the iPad and go on an educational website. After that it’s free time, it’s electronics city,” Jen explained what her kids did while she painted. Then they play “video games, watch movies or play games while they are here. We try to not abuse them too much with electronics at home.”
Part of the reason for doing homework is that Remington needs extra help with his school load. He’s one of the younger children in his class Jen noted. His teacher said Remington didn’t recognize the words fast enough as the other kids. “We were wondering if he has a specific learning style where he has to feel and touch,” continued Jen, explaining she learns the same way and has difficulty learning in a lecture setting.
Emile is 8 years old and in Second grade, and Remi (short for Remington) is 5 ½ and is in kindergarten at the [Private] French-American International School in San Francisco. Jennifer has another daughter, Maya, from another father. She is in high school at the French American International School.
Jen always wanted to make sure her children received an excellent education, especially her oldest child Maya. She raised her as a single and wanted her to excel in life. Jen was afraid Maya would fall into the stereotypical path of a problem child that has only one parent.
She wasn’t satisfied with public schools and decided to send Maya to the private French-American school. She admitted that her choice was based mostly on fear of poverty and the need for her child to have a quality education even if she had to pay for tuition.
Although she has been happy with the quality of the education at the French-American school, she wishes the school was more diverse and representative of San Francisco. Jen noted that there are some same-sex parents and a lot of international students. To increase diversity, the school does offer some full scholarships to disadvantaged families. The scholarships are paid for by fundraisers from parents that can afford to donate money to the school. Finding the right mix of diversity for the student body is tough Jen noted because of the cost of the school. The only way she was able to send Maya there was with a partial scholarship she received.
“Socioeconomically we were probably very attractive to them [the French school]. A single parent who made enough money to pay part of the tuition and she was attentive and smart,” Jen said.
The school has an excellent academic reputation and is based on the French system of education. Jen likes that there is peer pressure to succeed and to stay up with the rest of the students at the school.
Jen remembers the public school she attended growing up had low academic standards. She is glad her kids are at a school with a higher standard at the French-American school. Because of their quality education, she isn’t worried where they decide to go to later in life.
“I didn’t go to a school like that,” said Jen, who went to a public school in San Lorenzo, a working class town in the Bay Area. “They [the teachers] didn’t care. Nobody [the other students] even knew why we were there. They would say why we should go? Because we have to.”
The French-American school discourages over-bearing parents because they want the students to become independent. They have travel trips in early grades for the kids without parents. From kindergarten on the kids take overnight trips that get longer and longer. Emile had just gone on a skiing trip with his class, and in the fifth grade, the kids go to Paris.
Her husband Emmanuel is an administrator at the school. They met when Maya was a student there. Now that they are married and have two kids. Her sons also go to French-American school because as an employee the kids are able to go there at a discount.
“I like that it’s bilingual first,” Jen said about the school noting that Maya learned French and Mandarin. “And I like that the kids are prepared to be independent thinkers. And they actually learn to take the initiative on their own.”
When asked how her children deal with diversity, it’s more questions for her children figuring out how to address it because they are ethnically mixed with African American, Asian and French descent.
“I think that because of the nature of our family already, it is very diverse as it is,” said Jen. “I teach them how to react to people that ask them questions because they are the different ones usually. Like when Emile brings for the cultural day something to eat, he brings Ethiopian food. And their teachers are like, huh? Remi had an African outfit, and I did it because I wanted people to ask questions and for them to be able to answer, ‘Well my grandfather is black and Ethiopian.’”
It’s important how they react to people that ask them questions and want them to be prepared to answer the questions. As they get older, they want to talk about their differences even less. She is proud that Maya is a diversity leader at her school and started a student diversity council.
She wants her kids to be open about everything. “I feel that we are pretty open at home talking about stuff even when we are uncomfortable.”
As for living in San Francisco, “It’s a challenge. It doesn’t feel like the city wants to have us here,” Jen said. “I’m angry about it.” She said It is not kid-friendly in SF and feels like there are no advocates for families in the cities. She could come up with a dozen examples why it is difficult.
Jen was born in San Francisco and lived there for her first five years before her family moved to the suburbs. After she became a dentist and had Maya, she moved back to San Francisco.
When she tells people that she lives in SF and has three kids, “’What how do you live here [in SF] with three kids?’ Everyone I hear with kids they want to get out of here and move to the suburbs because of the [better] public education system, the lack of space and parks and the dogs and the animals.”
The good things? She likes the diversity and being exposed to living in the city gives her children street smarts, but she fears her kids will not have a love for nature residing in an urban environment.
She wishes the city had ways to make it easier and relief for families would be substantial. All the extracurricular programs, like learning how to swim or kung-fu, for example, all have to be paid out of their pockets.
She wishes there was some sort of relief for families attempting to live in the city.
“But you learn how to be resourceful. You figure out ways to do it,” to live in San Francisco. But it is nice to live close to work and everything instead of commuting because there is barely enough time as it is.
You have to take the good with the bad in SF,” Jen notes. She likes that her kids are sheltered here because they would have to deal more with racism elsewhere in the country. As a kid, she had to deal with racism in the East Bay especially because of her mixed diversity (Jen is half Chinese and half African-American). “Being here, people are a little more careful about what they say [in San Francisco.]”
“I like the exposure they have to all these different ethnicities and cultures and the food. Maybe it’s San Francisco, but they are sheltered by the little bubble that we live in here [compared to most of the United States].”
Asked what she thinks about the changes in America and President Trump?
“I feel angry about it,” she said. “I’m an anti-Trump person. “I think that when he became President, it’s really divisive. But everyone is emboldened now. Everyone is really fired up and ready to speak out [against his plans and idea for the country].”
“There is a real fight going back and forth especially on social media. It’s a weird time. I feel like if he was going to come out, I am glad he came out now. Because now people have enough balls to stand up against it.”
“It’s a weird time. But I am glad he [President Trump] came out now when people can fight back.”
We also interviewed Emmanuel Weisgant as well. What does he like about the French American International School? He likes the bilingualism program at the school which helps the brain develop. “For me, it’s important because I am French and I like to see that my children will learn that language be interested in the culture and perhaps want to live in Europe,” said Emmanuel.
The school is based on a French system of education. Emmanuel noted that it is an immersion school program which is in vogue with educators right now.
However, he also pointed out that his kids can only go there because he works there. They wouldn’t be able to afford it as a family if they didn’t get a discount on the fees for the private school.
But saying that he would be ok with his kids going to public schools. For example, Oakland has a public charter school where they teach French.
Like his wife, he likes the diversity and the openness, the liberal culture, the food and the proximity to nature in San Francisco for his family.
Emmanuel feels that there is a lot of pressure on families living here. “You feel like you are excluded from some of the amenities of the city when you have a family because you can’t afford it.”
The cost of living and not well adapted for families puts pressure on families. Their element of SF that young people and single people make families feel unwelcome in SF. The cost makes you feel excluded from the amenities of the city.
Also, he is not happy about some of the changes of the city. It has been bad for artists that have been forced out by the high cost of living. He also feels like although the city says it cares about families. He also doesn’t like the congestion and stress to go shopping.
He likes that the city helped them get the condo with an assistance program that helped them buy their condo that they live in. He also appreciates that his family is exposed to different cultures and racial identities in San Francisco.