September 10, 2013

School update, and life in this town

A little over two weeks have passed since K started school. And it has been a whirlwind.

He started on August 22nd in the second grade. The first day was so good! He was excited, only a little nervous and really ready to get started in this new world of school that wasn't at home. We had rain that morning, but decided to walk anyway. Jim went to work late so he could be there for K's first day. The kids had their umbrellas and raincoats and we had fun joining in the throngs of other families walking to school.

On the front stoop.

About to go in for his first day.

First day was a success!

Side note about our neighborhood: I LOVE the mindset/habits of the people here! And the way people participate in the goings on of the neighborhood. There are always tons of kids outside playing, walking, riding their bikes. Families go for walks in the evenings or on the weekends. Men, women, teenagers are always out jogging or walking for exercise. Whenever anything happens weather related (snow, storm, etc), there will be at least five people outside as soon as they can be to shovel, clean branches off of the street, etc. I would say about 40% of the families and kids walk to school. And a lot of the dads participate in the walking, many of them doing drop off AND pick up. 

When we were ready to move, we had certain things we wanted from a neighborhood. As a one car family for most of our marriage, being able to get around even without a car is important. Not to mention a priority as a cost saving and environmentally sound way of life. So, we required a place that would allow us to walk to activities and necessities. Our current apartment is 1/2 mile from the Metra train station, library, a local grocery store and numerous shops and restaurants. There are three parks within a short walking distance. And the best things is that the rest of the people in the neighborhood take advantage of the proximity to all of these things as well, so we aren't the "weird" ones using sidewalks and bringing a stroller into the library and grocery store.

Anyway, after a few days, the principal called about K's reading and writing skills. I met with her and with K's teacher and was able to see quickly that the high standards they have for these subjects, and the fact that he was also not quite up to par with some of the math expectations, meant that he would really struggle if he continued in second grade. I chose not to take it personally that he needed to go into first grade, because our standards for K's learning these past years have purposely not been the same as institutional school's standards. We wanted to allow him to gain character, mature emotionally, have time to play, enjoy learning about areas that appealed to him, gain spiritual knowledge and slowly take on more responsibility for himself. Often school messes up all of those areas, especially for kids who aren't ready for it.

So, after Labor Day, K moved into a first grade class. He was really sad for one night at the prospect of leaving the kids he had just met and the teacher he really liked. It was so hard to have to watch him go through that. (Especially since I've contacted the school about once a month since last January to try to get them to test him or show me their first grade curriculum so we could determine where he should be academically. Arg!) But, as Jim said, in the scheme of things, this is a pretty minor disappointment. Plus, since we've home schooled, K doesn't have the same stigmas about grade level that come from always identifying yourself that way. He doesn't see second grade as inherently better than first, or that first graders are dumber than second graders.

The new teacher isn't as good as the second grade teacher, so that's a little hard. But he seems to mostly like the class. He's learning all the rules of the school and expectations of a classroom very well.

The biggest adjustment is spending so much time away. Last year he was tired of being home and this year he is really missing being home! We're also seeing some real attitude problems when he gets home from school that we have to work on. We had some with him anyway, but I think spending so much time having to follow rules and not get into trouble and being around a lot of people all the time is wearing him out more. We might have to institute a little quiet time when he gets home each day to help him reset or something. But the time crunch is pretty intense now. School, work, Awana, church, errands, etc. We will definitely be a lot busier this year!

But, my sense of freedom feels very good. I've gotten overburdened by the feeling that I'm the sole person in charge of his learning. It was hard not to second guess, get frustrated with myself, give up when he raised lots of resistance to new things, etc. I'm very comfortable helping him with homework and stuff, and we still read and learn in other ways together. But it's nice to have the bulk of his academic life in someone else's hands for now. And the time alone with S has been so nice. We've gotten very little of that in his three years, so we're both enjoying it.

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