Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Fork In The Road

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 $$$$$?


MaBunny July 15, 2009 at 6:33 PM  

Wow, good luck with your decision Michelle. I understand how tough that can be. Whichever you choose - its your decision and you know your wee ones best!

Melanie July 15, 2009 at 6:46 PM  

Good luck with everything!

septembermom July 15, 2009 at 9:12 PM  

I think you made a wise decision. You have so much to consider. It's wonderful to hear about Mister Man's excitement and enthusiasm for the new school. I wish you all the best luck in the world!! I think Mister Man is going to flourish in this new environment. He's got a great Mom in his corner:)

Martha@SeasideSimplicity July 15, 2009 at 9:14 PM  

Good luck! It sounds good and with this decision you can always go back to the public school if you find you've made the wrong decision - it may not have been possible later the other way around.
I had similar issues with my daughter. We ended up moving to a place that had a public school strictly for gifted children by 2nd grade - her IQ was just off the charts even with the delays and issues in other areas. She thrived and although different then the average kids she fit right in with the gifted kids - they are all bit different.
She's in college now to become a special education teacher :-)

Cookie July 15, 2009 at 9:28 PM  

Good luck! It seems no decisionis ever easy when it comes to our kids. Where is the crystal ball when we need it???

morninglight mama July 15, 2009 at 10:16 PM  

Oh, the challenges that these BIG decisions present! I wish him all the success in the world, and you all peace of mind with your decision! :)

Claudya Martinez July 15, 2009 at 11:16 PM  

Wow, that's a big decision, but it sounds like you made the best choice at this point in time.

Pop and Ice July 15, 2009 at 11:21 PM  

I had two children with *hidden* special needs go through 9 years of Catholic school. I had to be VERY forceful to get my points across as to how they were to be handled and NOT handled. Be ready to encounter static. Catholic schools typically don't want to deal with that which is *different*. I was able to bully them into doing as I wished, but it was very tiring.

Also be prepared for the avalanche of paperwork coming your way. It was never-ending and voluminous for all 9 years.

I will say, however, that my kids had an excellent education and that when they transitioned to public high schools (not worth the money for son and daughter refused), their overall basic skills were commented on. It was "Oh, they went to Catholic school." So there are pluses. Just keep your eye on what is best for your child.

The Desperate Cook July 16, 2009 at 5:46 AM  

The Best of Luck to you!!!

Pat July 16, 2009 at 8:43 AM  

It sounds like you made the right decision for your son, after much thought, weighing the pros and cons. All the best to him and to you ! Thanks for visiting my blog. Those carvings are at this timeshare where we're staying on the Oregon coast, not at our house...I wouldn't want them at my house, either!

Mrs4444 July 16, 2009 at 9:33 AM  

By the end of this post, I was thrilled, too. It sounds like a perfect solution! I wish you all luck :)

P.S. Yes, I'm doing the walk/run. That said, I do not get much exercise as a rule, so I will definitely not be running the entire time. I am a very fast walker, so that's how I'll start and run here and there to pick up my heart rate. Everyone is meeting in the lobby of the hotel that morning at 6am. Maybe I'll see you there? (Lord help me, as I am NOT a morning person!!)

P.S. Love your blog and will be back!

Michelle July 16, 2009 at 9:32 PM  

MaBunny - Thank you, I appreciate it. Part of the problem of course is that it is MY decision!

Reluctant Housewife - Thanks, I know we'll need it. I'm not a worrier, apparently except about the wee ones.

septembermom - Oh I sure hope he flourishes. He's so excited. And thank you for the support.

Cookie - Ummm no. Nothing is easy, is it? When you find that crystal ball, let me know!

morninglight mama - It's definitely big for both of us... and you know Little Miss is going to want to go there next year, too ;)

Unknown Mami - At this point in time -- that's exactly what it is, isn't it?

Carol Lynn - One of the reasons I chose this school is because it ISN'T the traditional Catholic school. I have high hopes for them -- and the fact that they are good with different and recognizing it. And we'll only be there for a year or two. So I say now :)

The Desperate Cook - Thanks! You know I need it!

Pat - Yup, after much thought. And thought. and overthought!

Mrs.4444 - I sure hope it is! Fingers crossed. 6am huh? I actually have been running, but I hurt my knee at softball two weeks ago and haven't been able to run since. I'm going to have to think on it :) But ohhh swag, huh?

anymommy July 17, 2009 at 3:21 PM  

This is wonderful, it's such a huge relief to find the right solution for your little one and school. I never realized what a struggle it might be (kind of being of the we live in a good school district, they'll be fine mind) until I started really thinking about the kind of education I hoped for. Thrilled the decision is made and I can't wait to hear about how well it goes next year!

As Cape Cod Turns July 18, 2009 at 7:06 AM  

So great that you weighed all the options!! Sounds like you made the right decision for this year! Try it out and maybe next year you can decide whether he is good where he is or switch him to public school!

Michelle July 18, 2009 at 9:12 PM  

Stacey - It's amazing, isn't it? We live where we live because "It's A Good School District" -- except that it doesn't really take the needs of individual children into account. You know you'll have updates! :)

Sue - I sure hope so! I'd love to go back to the public school next year. Fingers crossed this is the right choice, regarless!

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