You wouldn’t think that three little words would get a greater negative response from me than the time the doctor in the ER told my awkward 16-year-old self in front of my high school boyfriend that I had to have my “Sphincter reflex” tested after I was thrown from a horse, now would you?
You would be wrong.
I would rather be back in that ER with people probing my mortified and battered heiny for all the world to see than experience the hell that is “back-to-school”.
Granted, this year has been much more difficult than previous Augusts in my children’s education process. There are many reasons for this, but today I am only going to write about one of them. It’s something that I have been hesitant to write about here because, well…the more people that read this blog, the more protective I am of my children.
I can write about my hoo-hoo and mental state and subject it to the whim of the beast that is the internet all day long.
My kids are another story. I’m much more protective and selective when it comes to them.
However, this is a key moment in our lives and while this blog is often very (ehem) silly, I hope that sometimes my writing and experiences help someone out there feel a little less alone if they are going through the same things I am. For example, I know that a lot of you must have taken a lot of comfort knowing that you are not alone in your opinion of morning sex. (For the record? “It burns us.”)
Our oldest son starts middle school next week at a brand new school. A school that doesn’t have a strict dress code. A school is almost as large as my high school was and is certainly larger than the 40 kids that made up his entire GRADE at the charter school.
I thought that my kids would stay at their charter school all the way up through high school. It isn’t working for James. He has always struggled in the structured setting and with the advanced curriculum. It’s not that he isn’t smart, he is. It’s just that he struggles with academia in general.
He needs bigger programs. Programs that fit his personality. Theater, art, debate. That is where he will excel. Besides, I realized how lonely it’s been for him at that school. He has very few friends.
I want him to have a lot of people to find friendships with and when you are a very unusual kid, that is tough when the pickings are so slim. His personality is very like mine, damn all the Gods above.
So? We are allowing him to transfer to the local middle school.
He will be starting 6th grade.
For the second year in a row.
Do you know the mounds and mounds of paper work and number of meetings and hoops you have to jump through that comes with transferring your kid into middle school and holding him back a grade to boot?
A whole freaking buttload would be the somewhat ungracious answer to that little question.
I know that holding a kid back is a big deal and not something to be taken lightly. I skipped the third grade. (This is NOT the grade to skip. Just in case you were wondering.) Yes, I was reading at a phenomenally high level in the 2nd grade, but I had average math skills. Going into the 4th grade not knowing how to read the alphabet on the wall or knowing all your times tables created big issues for me that continued for years.
In college, when I was really struggling in Music Theory, I went through about 8 hours of testing. When I went back for the results and gave my name the young secretary said, “Oooooooh…Um…We’re going to have to pull in some more people for this meeting…Um….Can you wait in the conference room?”
I sat there, chewing nervously on my fingernails, thinking “OH, MY GOD. They are going to tell me that I have been mentally retarded my whole life and they are JUST FIGURING IT OUT!”
Turns out that I am not retarded. Although, the official statement wasn’t much more encouraging. Apparently, I am either “off the charts brilliant or dumb as a post”, but not to worry because the areas that I struggled in were probably due to “the gaping holes” in my education.
EXACT words, people.
So, to say that I am wary of moving kids a grade would be an understatement. I struggled a lot academically in areas like math and grammar from then on. (Like you couldn’t tell this from reading this blog, right?)
We won’t even get into the social stigma I went through, like getting mercilessly mocked for the rest of the year by Geoff in row 4 for not understanding the advanced 4th grade slam lingo of, “You cut the cheese, didncha?!”
James was born FOUR DAYS from the cut off to start school. I decided, despite apprehension, to start him in school. He didn’t go to preschool because we were too poor and I was worried about his social ability. I have always regretted starting him when I did. What did I know? I was barely 26 years years old and it was my first kid. I knew halfway through Kindergarten I had made a big mistake, but everyone involved was very reluctant to let me hold him back and repeat Kindergarten. Every year I have discussed and voiced my opinion and every year I was vetoed. And every year I regretted it.
James has wanted to change schools for a long time and now that we have moved into a different district, and after a lot of thinking, we decided he could.
He had to repeat the 6th grade. I know he is smart, that has never been a question, but socially and responsibility wise he struggles and it hurts his grades. He fails (FAILS! In elementary school!) something every term. If we concentrate extra hard on math, his science slips. When science is in hand, it’s his history that is sucking a duck, etc., etc., etc. For once I want him to know academic success instead of always coming up short. To feel confident about his classwork and to get a chance to find other kids that suit his temperament.
The school structure had a lot to do with the decision to hold him back as well. They attend from 6th grade until 8th grade. When you are a little 6th grader, they really mother-hen you. You are guided closely, watched over and are housed in your own 6th grade wing. Once you are in the 7th grade? They figure you know what you’re doing and you’re pretty much thrown to the wolves.
There was no way I was going to throw my fairly sheltered kid into the middle of a huge middle school when most kids there had a full year to make friends, cliques and judgments.
So? I agreed to let him try this school out as long as he did it as a 6th grader.
I am scared as hell that I am making the wrong choice for my child.
And yet, I feel instinctively that I am doing the right thing.
I guess time will tell.
Now I just have to wade through the mountains of back-to-school shopping I have yet to finish.