Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jumping in with Both Feet

A little over a month ago, David's 1st grade teacher sent home a letter telling us that she didn't feel David was going to do well in 2nd grade. He was doing fine academically, but new tasks are hard for him at first and he gets easily frustrated. He also tends to cry easily. Now, David has always been a high-stress child, resistant to change. When he was a baby, he used to hold on to his head and cry. I have no doubt when he was born, that first cry meant "I'm not happy! Put me back in right now!" But the thing is, he has really made tremendous progress since then. Yes, he continues to get stressed out easily, but nowhere near as much as he did at age 3. He has actually had a very good 1st grade experience. His teacher is kind and understanding. He doesn't cry in the morning about going to school like he did in Kindergarten. I also understand that in a class of 18 kids, his teacher doesn't have the time to work with him to try to have him cope with his anxiety. I know 2nd grade, where the work load doubles and the teacher is not quite as understanding, would be that much harder.

Still, the letter came as a shock. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. We were all set for next year - David was going to 2nd grade and Isaac had passed his test to skip Kindergarten and go to 1st grade. Now, we weren't sure what to do. So, I did what I always do when faced with a life-changing decision - I started praying, in this case, a 54 day Rosary Novena. I prayed for David to do well in the remainder of first grade and to make the right decision about whether to home school the boys for next year or leave them at school, and to have the courage to live with whatever decision we made.

I have to say, my prayers have been answered. David is doing better in school. I set up a chart for him at home where he gets a sticker for every good day he has in school where he cooperates and doesn't cry. So far, only one day he came home and said he didn't deserve his sticker. His teacher even sent home a letter last week saying that he has been doing much better. I was so happy to hear that. I hope that it will continue. We also made the decision to home school next year. I had seriously considered homeschooling before David went to Kindergarten but decided to try the traditional route. I had tried contacting homeschooling groups at that time, but everywhere I turned I met up with dead ends. This time, all the doors have opened amazingly easily. I have joined a Catholic homeschooling co-op which meets right in the city I live in. It meets on Mondays. I will also be attending a homeschooling function on Thursdays in which the Moms do Bible Study and the kids get to play. I already know two of the families that take part. I am thrilled that both the boys and I will have social outlets. I was just filling out my paperwork to enroll the boys in Kolbe Academy. I like that they provide a classical curriculum and that the boys will still get a report card and a permanent record, and should we continue homeschooling, an 8th grade and high school diploma. It provides accountability both for them and me.

I also got the courage I needed to face the principal, especially since I currently work in the school that my children attend. He called both my husband and I in for a meeting to discuss his "concerns" about our decision, but I showed him the letter that the teacher had sent and he understood the reason for our decision. The meeting really wasn't that bad. We also plan to continue to support Catholic education. My husband has just taken over running Bingo for our parish which provides money for the school, and we will continue to support them financially as well.

Both the boys and I are excited about next year. It isn't necessarily a "forever" decision. I'm sure that there will be days next year that I will be pulling my hair out and wondering if I made the right decision. But, I'm about 99% sure that I did. I think this will be a very interesting new chapter in our lives and I feel more at peace about my children's education than I have for the past two years. When my homeschooling friend, Karen, who has been a tremendous help to me through this whole process, asked her Bible study group to pray for me before I had to go face the principal, the other woman I knew there said that from the first time she met me she always knew I would eventually home school. Karen said she knew it, too. This is something God has been calling me to do for a very long time. I was just very slow at saying "yes!"


Heidi Hess Saxton said...

99% sure? Sounds like you hit that one out of the park ... I can't remember the last time I was 99% sure about ANY of my parenting decisions!

The great thing about parenting is that most of our decisions -- even the tough ones -- can involve midcourse corrections if and when we see they are needed. I think you are doing the wise and courageous thing to give your son the attention he needs at such a critical phase of his education.

God bless David!

Lisa M. Hendey said...

While I can't beat Heidi's words of wisdom, I can add my support and encouragement. Your boys will have the world's best, most caring teacher! I wish I would have had the courage and energy "way back when" to take the homeschool route.
I'm hoping you'll be writing some homeschooling columns out of this experience!!
Hugs and prayers,

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