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Old 02-02-2011, 01:41 AM
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we live in denver, co and we are relocating to boston. we have two young sons ages 3 and 4. we are looking for an area with a reasonable commute to boston (my husband will need access to the financial district), a wonderful family neighborhood (i'm a stay at home mom), a great town center that has enough on offer that we feel a sense of community and enough to do without having to head into boston for everything, and EXCELLENT public schools. we love denver for its easy living, high quality of life, warm community, and hoping to find an area in boston that has a similar feeling. we would prefer to be an area that doesn't feel too urban. for schools, we are primarily interested in a warm, nurturing, caring, creative environment, great and challenging curriculum, small teacher:student ratio (we also happen to like project based learning). we are liberal and jewish. so far, we have a heard that newton, lexington, acton, and winchester might fit the bill. we are going to rent for the first year, but will probably be able to afford up to 900k, when we buy. thanks so much for your thoughts!!!
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Old 02-02-2011, 02:12 AM
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Newton was the first place I thought of after reading your description. Newton is inner suburban--tree-shaded streets, well kept older houses, local commercial districts with eclectic shopping--but definitely suburban, aside from maybe a few small urban pockets. Newton has excellent schools, a large Jewish presence, and the best commute to the fin. district of any town you've mentioned. If a town like Newton appeals to you, I'd also suggest that you give Brookline a close look.

Lexington and Winchester are both nice towns. Both are more clasically suburban in feel than Newton, but both do have fairly active downtowns for medium-sized suburban towns. I know that Lexington has an active Jewish community, and am not sure one way or the other how Winchester is in this regard. Both have good schools, though according to hearsay, for what hearsay is worth, Lexington has a reputation for having high-pressure schools where the kids are really pushed hard to achieve. Depending on your husband's preferences for commuting, Winchester could have one advantage over Lexington in that Winchester is on a commuter rail line.

Acton would make for the longest commute of any town you've previously had recommended. Acton is significantly farther out from Boston than the others, and is somewhat of a low-density exurban kind of town. Acton does have commuter rail service, if that's of interest, but again it would be a much longer commute than the commute from any of the other towns. Acton is another town known for good schools. I'm not sure one way or the other what this town has in the way of a Jewish community. If Acton sounds appealing, you might also check out Concord, which is in the same general area, on the same commuter rail line, and also has an exurban feel, semi-rural in the outlying sections, but has a more substantial town center/downtown area than most towns out in that area.
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Old 02-02-2011, 05:12 AM
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I'm not Jewish but there is a large JCC in Newton:

Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center, JCCs of Greater Boston, Newton MA
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Old 02-02-2011, 05:19 AM
Location: North of Boston
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In additin to the towns mentioned above, you may want to consider Marblehead, Swampscott and Sharon.
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Old 02-02-2011, 05:52 AM
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When I think of commuting to the financial district I think of being on the red line or taking the commuter boat from Hingham, but that may be because I live in the South Shore. All the places you mention sound like a good fit for your family, but I always think about commute times. Taking the boat from Hingham could be a good fit and there's a Temple there with a JCC preschool.

Congregation Sha'aray Shalom, Highham MA

However, it's not always said to be the most welcoming of communities. A place like Newton is a lot more international and transient- meaning there seem to be a lot of families from overseas who come and live here for a while- all good things in my book because you get cultural diversity and a community that is not stagnant when it comes to identity or relationships, as many New England towns can be. I worked at a school in Newton for a while, so I've seen some of the "young family" scene.

Right now we live in Weymouth and I found it hard to make friends until I had kids and started a playgroup, and now most of the people I've met are not originally from here or they're from other parts of Mass- relocated people are more likely to be up for making new friends!
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Old 02-02-2011, 07:03 AM
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Wow....great input, thank you. We are coming to boston end of feb to pick a neighborhood and school, as our older boy will be starting kindergarten in the fall. We also will need a preschool for our little shaver, but first things first! Newton does have great appeal to us, but we will also spend time looking into the other towns everyone suggested. Does anyone have specific advice about really great elementary schools? I looked up elem schools in newton and there are 15....whoa! We aren't much into the high pressure thing, as ogre suggested might be the case in lexington. In an ideal world, we would love a small community feeling, a place where kids can be kids while still learn and be challenged, not huge classes, and a place where kids love to learn, and perhaps even a project based learning environment (which I think is pretty great). THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR HELPING US! Please keep both neighborhoood and school advice coming!
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Old 02-02-2011, 07:10 AM
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I will also add that we hope for a school that has some diversity...thanks!
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Old 02-02-2011, 07:15 AM
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Lexington definitely meets the criteria on your list. Very suburban with bustling town center, bike path, a very strong liberal Jewish Community, a great playground walking distance from the center, a town beach and a lot of amenities. The town itself is very liberal and there is some pressure to do things like recycle etc. (which is just fine with me.) Honestly, as a Jewish family in NE it is at the top of my list for a places to live. You just don't get a lot of house there for your money.

Winchester you have an easier commute. It is more conservative (comparing to Lex/Newton) does not have a huge Jewish presence, but is able to support a temple.

Acton is really nice but not as good of a commute as mentioned above. So, if you were open to looking in the Acton area, I would definitely add Sudbury, Wayland, and Concord (mentioned above) to your list.

So, when Lexington schools are mentioned there is always a reference to high pressure schools. That instantly made me nervous. However, growing up in the Sudbury school system, the pressure was incredibly intense as well. Lexington's school system is top 3 in the state, Newton, I believe is 9 and 10, Winchester's is in the top 20s and friends complain about the pressure, Concord top 5 etc. You get the point. All these top schools are very competitive. There is huge pressure on all these schools to outperform. I think a lot of how a student responds to this pressure - either positively or negatively has a lot to do with parenting styles as well. So, in short - I don't think you can avoid the high pressure school of Lexington by chosing a school like Newton. If you want a top school system in Massachusetts, you are not going to escape the pressure. Just my opinion...
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Old 02-02-2011, 07:23 AM
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slumberg, thanks~ we do like lexington too, and i appreciate your opinion on high-pressure schools. makes sense. its reputation has made me nervous too, so i'm glad you addressed that. what are your favorite lexington elementary schools?
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Old 02-02-2011, 08:50 AM
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I don't have direct experience with Newton Public, others here might know more. However, I have to say that as someone who had no experience with Newton I was really pleasantly surprised with how friendly and welcoming everybody was- people and families that I met and even just walking down the street or frequenting restaurants in Newton Center! I didn't really have many preconceived notions about Newton, but I have to say that I may have pegged it as being more pretentious/snobby/unwelcoming and that was not the case at all from my point of view. Now when I'm in Hingham everybody asks me (casually) if I live in Hingham and when I tell them no then they stop talking to me. The best reaction was when I went to an open house at a Hingham preschool and told them I wasn't from Hingham- haha. Hingham does have great schools, the ocean and the commuter boat goes directly to the financial district, which is great, but it's not diverse at all.
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