For great schools, you can go pretty much any direction from Boston. Just as examples, to the north you have Andover and Melrose, to the west you have Belmont, Natick , Weston, Wellesley and to the south you have Milton. You can't go east, you'd be in the ocean, so I stand corrected. With you being open to a one hour commute, your options are limited only by what you are willing to spend.
I would personally recommend you avoid going south, but that is only because of the traffic you would face commuting into the city. Your one hour will get you less miles when going south. Otherwise, the south shore has some of my favorite communities. I should mention that there is commuter rail access to the south shore, and there are commuter boats as well. Great towns, I just don't like the traffic.
The towns west of Boston, known as "metro west" are my favorite for convenience to the city and great schools. If you are looking for $500k+, take a look at Newton, Belmont or Lexington. All have great schools. Belmont High is actually rated by the Wall Street Journal as one the schools that have the best success at getting their students into Harvard.
I grew up in the northern suburbs, and a lot of my family still lives there. Take a look at North Reading. The high school was recently on MSNBC.com's top 1500 schools, and it is a nice quite town.
So, I am not sure if helped, except to let you know that once you find out what direction from Boston you want to live in, there are many options open to you.
If you are going to rent, I recommend you rent in Newton. You will be able to get a decent place with parking and access to the express buses to downtown Boston. The buses take the MassPike and make very good time. Also, your kids will be in one of the best school systems in the state.