Friday, June 26, 2009

Back and Forth

I have gone back and forth on my children's education. After many pro and con lists, trying to get opinions from both camps, and finally listening to my child (who'd a thought?) I took Dalton (my eldest) out of private school and put him in our local public elementary school. It was an incredibly difficult decision. He was my oldest. I had all of these stupid plans for him...he'd go to private school, then go to an Ivy League school, then be a genius, then save the world and thank me for every minute of his magnificent, brilliant life and the way I'd molded him. Did I say molded? I meant pushed, smothered and cajoled.

Do you know the feeling that you get when you are doing something that's "right" that makes you feel a little queasy? The thing you are doing is great...there is nothing wrong or bad about it. And on the surface it looks fantastic...but you just feel blahhhh. You can't put your finger on it, but something is a little off. That was Dalton in private school. He was academically succeeding, he had darling friends, and he could have been happy enough there. But every day I would drop him off, it just didn't feel quite right. I'd watch him in class, and it was like there was an invisible weight hanging around his neck. He was not "himself". I justified, and rationalized until I was blue in the face about all the reasons to ignore these little signals. "Kids don't have to love school....he'll appreciate you later in life...this is what you wish you'd had...." and on and on and on. In the beginning you tell yourself that the blahhishness is coming from something else...maybe it's time for a new spring wardrobe, or it's time to really start that new exercise routine....but isn't it interesting how the blahhh just keeps getting blahhhier until you can't take it any more. And so eventually I caved. I gave in to the red flags and really listened to my son and myself and told my ego to take a hike and put him where he would flourish- public school.

Two grades later he is still in love with school. Kid you not. He came home crying on the last day of first grade, because he was so sad to see it end. He said that he "loved Miss Brown and would miss her so much." Luckily his 2nd grade teacher has been equally amazing. No idea how she does it, but she puts up with 25 of the most energetic, talkative and inquisitive little kids I've ever witnessed and NEVER loses her patience. I get hives just watching.

Dalton is thriving in all subjects (although he did get one N on his report card for "Not Listening".) He loves Art, lives and breathes for P.E. and recess, feels confident in math, LOVES to read, and is really doing well in writing. Science and Social Studies are on track too. The kids in his class are some of his best friends. He rides his scooter or rip stick to school with his buddies who live across the street. He is a stellar student. Point of all this blathering...I think I did good. All that ag-o-ny...was good for something.

Now it's my turn to agonize over Shelby. Granted, I have already done this once. When it was time to sign her up for pre school, I put her in the foofiest, danciest, pranciest, most non-academic school I could find. But guess what, after the year was half way over, I felt just as awful and uncertain and blahh about that choice. Isn't that what kids are supposed to like??...just fun, and movement and art with no structure or academics? Turns out that Shelby needed a little of both. She would ask me, on the way home from school, if she could learn about letters. When I asked her teachers about it, whether they could introduce some letters, they looked as though I were asking them to teach her about sex positions. I could tell that she didn't love school. At her school program, while all the other kids were flitting and floating around the stage, she was standing there observing them, as if this were just far too babyish for her. She was bored. So, at the holiday break I told darling Miss Misha that Shelby would not be returning. She was shocked. Kids just didn't leave this program. There was a wait list a mile long with kids who were dying to get in to this program. But indeed, we were leaving, and I told her why. And so, I enrolled her at the very school that Dalton had been dying to get out of the previous year. And the blah went away. When I'd pick her up from school, she'd talk the whole way home about the letter "C" or how she learned about digraphs, or did I know what 2+2 equalled?...things that Dalton would have found truly torturous, she could not get enough of. Sigh of relief.

Fast forward to now...So we have already made the decision that she will go to Public School when she's old enough...but THAT is the problem. She is an October 11th birthday. In Massachusetts or California, it would be a non-issue where their deadlines are December 31st. But in Utah, the deadline for school is September 1 or August 30th..anyways- she misses it by a hair. Which means ANOTHER year of pre-school. That means that every one of her friends goes off to Kindergarten in the fall, without her. And that is where I have been agonizing. Do I send her to another year of pre-school and then test her in to 1st grade the following year, having her skip Kindergarten all-together? Academically I don't worry. She is in a super-academic school that would enable her to be on par with the other kids who are a grade ahead. It's the social that I worry about. Would she fit in, would she make new friends?

After reading the book The Outliers, I think that I will keep her where she is supposed to be, and have her be the oldest in the class. There is research that says that it pays off to have that advantage of being the oldest. The bummer for her is that she is a tall girl (I know, boo hoo), but as a girl, especially in Jr. High, it is hard. You have all of these little pip squeak boys who aren't going to give you the time of day, because to them you look like Godzilla (trust me, I know how this feels). And she already is mature for her age, so I worry about her finding peers that she feels that she can relate to.

For now, I am going to "go with the flow". My spirit tells me that this is the path that would suite her best in the long run. But nothing is in cement. And worst case scenario, we reevaluate at the end of kindergarten if it's not working. For now I will let her be the top dog in her class... knowing that she can make some new wonderful friends. To be honest, pushing her ahead was making me feel a little blahh. This feels right... for now.


dan shaw said...

Great post! Sometime you just have to go with you gut. I think you are doing a great job. Keep up the good work, love you guys.

Danielle Hatch said...

Ah the many stresses of schooling. My little guy just turned one and I'm already feeling some bizarre internal push to attend Montessori preschool orientation sessions just to see if it'll be right for him two years from now, crazy crazy!

Delia said...

What a blessing to decide what is right for each of your children even if it means something totally different for each child.