I’ve written before about our mental struggles over what to do for Mister Man with regards to his education. Do we keep him where he’s at, or do we try something different?
Prior to this year, it hasn’t been too much in the forefront, because the answer was easy. He was significantly delayed in his fine and gross motor, and he needed assistance in learning proper social behavior. While he doesn’t have an official diagnosis, he is definitely in need of special services. Ergo, he attends the early learning center in our district.
He’s spent three years there almost, and in that time he’s made huge progress in all areas. His first year teacher was so wonderful and engaging, and she made a big difference. The fact that I didn’t have to drive him because there was a bus available and — oh yeah — the preschool was free were just added bonuses.
He’s a child who has physical deficits, but academically, he is way ahead of where he should be. He’s just spent the last hour or so reading the last book in the Andrew Lost series. And he has just a few pages left in the nine chapter, eighty-six page book. The kid also does math in his head and just generally figures things out.
That’s where the challenge comes in. When he’s bored, he acts out by wandering the classroom and disturbing other children. We were concerned about this last year and wondering if we should have him try kindergarten (he’s a deadline misser) since I was younger than him in the grade and had no issues. In the end, we kept him with his class, but we definitely saw some problems arise over the course of the year.
In elementary school, it’s a whole new ballgame. You’re a special needs child in a “normal” classroom setting, and once you are labeled a problem child, that dogs you through high school in our unit district. They don’t do any sort of differentiated education, which means that he will do Jolly Phonics for the fourth year in a row. He will learn how to count to twenty. And I just don’t see that working out too well for him.
We were hopeful that we would get into a special program our district offers where you learn Spanish. Half the kids in the program are native Spanish speakers, and the other half are English speakers. While he knows most kindergarten material in English, the Spanish part would be a good challenge for him. Unfortunately, the spots in that program filled up before they even got to the lottery, so no dice. That particular program also had the added benefit of being an extended day program, so he spent more time in the classroom giving him more chances for interaction with the other students, something we know will benefit him.
The other possibility was a local private school. It’s really hard to justify paying tuition when we live in a “good” school district, but this merited consideration. The school offers full day kindergarten and because it’s full day, they are able to offer gym, music, art and Spanish twice a week. I love the idea of having a full day kindergarten to transition to the rigor of elementary school. Oh, and did I mention that they provide differentiated instruction? Whatever level your child is at, they’ll teach him there. That’s a huge benefit for the kids who need some extra help and support to avoid getting frustrated by constant failure, as well as the children who have mastered the basic concepts.
But, it’s a private school. They don’t offer special services. And I don’t want Mister Man to fall behind on any of his problem areas. Oh, and did I mention private school tuition?
We’ve been debating back and forth for months, knowing that we’ll never know what the “right” decision is until it’s too late. I did find out that the private school is supported by the school district and has to offer services. That made me feel better, even knowing I’d have to drive him to the therapies on my own time. Except that they only offer speech services to private school students.
We continued dithering.
Mister Man has been in summer school so far this summer, and I’m amazed at how well it’s going. We had him do a gym class and a kindergarten class through the school district, never saying that he was special needs. He loved it and did well. The teacher told us that he was a model student. Hmm.
This week, he’s doing a program sponsored by the Junior Women’s League, and it’s run by middle school students (supervised by adults!) in small groups. He loves it. He comes home telling me all about the friends he’s made, and how he’s getting to be better and better friends with the children in his group.
He’s down to forty minutes a week, and twenty of them are speech. Ten of them are likely to only be for the fall quarter. I can do some work with him at home, right?
So we took the plunge this afternoon. Luckily, the economy means that the school still had openings in the kindergarten program. He’s officially registered as a Catholic school student.
Now I have to worry about uniforms and packing lunches. And carpooling. And finding a way to be in two places at once, since Little Miss’s bus is bound to be dropping her off or picking her up when I’m needed at the school.
But Mister Man? He’s in heaven (no pun intended). He is so thrilled that he’s going to that school. He fell in love with it when we visited, especially the music class, the classrooms, and the fact that he could have pizza on Thursdays there.
When I told him there were still openings, he started his happy dance.
When I told him that he was officially registered, he gave me a huge hug and kiss.
I’m at peace with our decision. How can I not be? If only I’d had the wisdom to listen to Mister Man in the first place!
Soooo wish us luck as we start school on August 24!
PS Does anyone have any good recommendations for fun lunchboxes that I can do bento style that aren’t $$$$$?