The School Switcheroo

In my August 24th blog, I mentioned that we ended up switching Theo’s school at the last minute. It’s kind of a long story, so I decided it was best told in its own blog post. So, if you’re curious, here’s the school saga, about which I am kind of heartsick, to be honest….

I loved Theo’s kindergarten. LOVED it. It wasn’t perfect, because nothing is perfect. But it was great. Theo did very well. He struggled sometimes, yes…but by and large he did very well. His teacher was fantastic—I can’t say enough good things about her. I think she was exactly what he needed: She was warm and loving and obviously genuinely liked her students, but she also took no crap. And while Theo needs love and support as much as any child, he also does best when people are fair with him but don’t put up with any crap. Because he’s smart enough to try to pull lots of crap. 🙂

So I thought his teacher was excellent. She really, really liked him, and he knew it—but she also didn’t let him pull anything. And he respected her, as much as he respects any adult. Theo does like to challenge, so he’s not one to mince words with an adult. But he largely liked and respected her and did well under her teaching.

What’s more, I loved the model. His school was a parent co-op, and I loved that. I liked volunteering in the class every week, and I liked that other parents were volunteering, too, and getting to know my awesome kid. And the parents, I found, were mostly a lot like me: down-to-earth people who weren’t judgmental and who liked to laugh and have a good time. So I got along well with them. It was a great, fun community.

And I liked the kids. They were, for the most part, a very sweet bunch. And they were a fairly diverse mix, which I liked—a good mix of girls and boys, and a good mix of nationalities and backgrounds.

I liked the uniforms. Easy! Just make sure you have a uniform clean for school, and you’re set! None of that “you don’t wear the right clothes” BS that often goes on with kids.

And I loved all the extracurricular opportunities available with his school. It was like a program for gifted kids, only those programs don’t exist in our area anymore! I felt so lucky to have found it.

To be honest, the only thing I didn’t like about his school was the commute. It was dreadful. But I was willing to do it because everything else worked so perfectly.

And then we reached first grade, and the bell schedule changed. Theo was due to be released every day at 2:45, which happens to be right when Sam is napping. And Sam needs his naps so badly—he is nowhere near ready to give them up. He naps for 2.5–3 hours a day, and he is exhausted after a full morning at Early Intervention. He doesn’t get home until 1:15, and I would’ve had to leave at 2:15 to get Theo. So what would I do—put Sam down for a 45-minute nap and then wake him? That wasn’t going to go well, and I knew it. Kid doesn’t do well when his nap is cut short….

But I had a solution! After-school care! I would sign Theo up for that, and he could go for just an hour or two while Sam napped. As soon as Sam woke, I’d go pick him up. Perfect, right? Oh no…

Turns out Theo’s school’s after-school care is somehow government-funded in such a way that the kids have to go five days a week and have to stay until 6pm every night…and they have to be fed dinner by the program, but the program can’t really accommodate dietary restrictions. And I wasn’t allowed to send him with a dinner from home, either—the program has to provide it.

Clearly, this was a no-go. Even if I eased up on the no-gluten rule (which would be a bad idea) and told Theo not to eat any dairy components, there was still the issue of leaving him until 6 every day! His bedtime is at 7, so we’d see him for a whopping one hour a day (30 minutes of which would be spent sitting in the car). And his kindergarten teacher (who was slated to be his first-grade teacher, too) was very forthright about the fact that she thought it was a bad idea for Theo. He struggles enough with school that she felt having him there from 8­–6 every day would just be way too much…and Chris and I agreed.

Unfortunately, though, we had no other options. No one else at the school that we know of lives near us. It was far too late to set up some sort of daycare provider near the school—I just found out about these ridiculous rules on Wednesday afternoon, and school was due to start Monday! So on a whim, I checked our neighborhood school, which actually is rated as one of the top in the district and which people seem to love, and lo and behold they had a spot open in first grade. What’s more, they had a spot open for a first-grader in their after-school program, and I can pick him up whenever I want, and they don’t insist on feeding him meals. And so, with heavy hearts, we made the switch.

One other big factor played into our decision. Sam likely cannot go to Theo’s old school, because that campus doesn’t have special-ed services. He can, however, go to Theo’s new school—and in fact I’ve spoken to a woman who has a seven-year-old with DS who goes to that school, and she’s very happy with it. I’ve been worried about this for a while, because when Sam starts kindergarten, I need to have both boys in the same elementary school. It is physically impossible for me to get them to two separate schools in the same district every day, as the schools would have the same general bell schedule but be in two different locations. Eeek! So I knew in the back of my mind that I might eventually have to switch Theo to the neighborhood school anyway, and part of me thinks it’s better to do that now, when he’s still so young that he makes friends very easily. But I do feel bad about it, because he had some good friends in his old school, and he misses them—one in particular who he claims he’s going to marry. 🙁

So hopefully this is a good change. Both boys can now go to the same school when the time comes. This new school is much closer—it’s a 20-minute walk or a five-minute drive. It’s supposedly a very good school—I’ve never heard anything negative about it. These are all good things. But I will miss the community at his old school. I will miss the extracurricular opportunities. I will miss the co-op atmosphere. And I will miss the people. And Theo has to go from a class of 20 to a class of 28, which may be hard on him because he tends to get a little overwhelmed and distracted in crowds.

So this is a hard change that may come with some challenges, but I hope in the long run it will be a good change. At this point, it seemed like the only possible solution. But hey, look how ready he is for the challenge, sporting his first-day-of-a-new-school attitude!

Pure Theo...
Pure Theo…

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