Friday, October 5, 2012

Yes, Changing Schools In The Middle Of The Year Works

As my friends have children who are school age, more and more of them are becoming concerned about waiting until the end of the school year before they move.  So many of them want to be sure that they finish the school year at the current school and start the school year at a new school.

Me?  I have a different perspective.

When I was growing up, I moved around a lot as my dad was transferred.  Sometimes we moved in the middle of the year, and sometimes we moved during the summer.  And honestly?  It was always easier to move during the school year than it was during the summer.

Why?  Well, there were a lot of reasons....

First, when you come into school during the year, everyone knows you're the new kid.  In elementary school, you're likely to be assigned a buddy to help you find your way and make friends.  I usually got cards from the entire class welcoming me, which was an amazing feeling for the new kid.

It made it easier when everyone knew I was the new kid.  When I didn't know how the lunchroom routine worked, they knew why and the teachers were patient.  When the curriculum was different from what I'd studied before, they got why and were easily able to assess what I needed to work on to get where I needed to be.

At the beginning of the school year, the kids are so excited to see their friends, many of whom they haven't seen all summer.  A new kid easily gets lost in the shuffle of everyone else.  It wasn't ever as easy to make friends at the start of the school year.  The teachers were less likely to know that I was new to the school, as well, and they weren't as patient when I made mistakes - whether it was not knowing how to get to gym class or not understanding the curriculum because it was so different from what I'd learned previously.

And the biggest part for me?  When I moved in the middle of the year, we moved, and I started school right away.  In the summer?  We moved and then I waited.  The anxiety of the first day of school built up while I waited and waited to start at my new school.  It was a lot harder in that sense, too.

I get the adults wanting to make a clean break.  We know about finishing a task before starting something new.  Kids?  That's not always how their minds work, and it isn't quite the same for them.

Why do I write this now?  We moved Mister Man in the middle of the year.  In fact, we moved him from the private school he had attended since kindergarten to a public school with three weeks left in the school year last May.  It was a shock to many of my friends at the school, but I explained the whys to them, and they got it.

Last year was a rough year for Mister Man for a lot of reasons, but the loving and nurturing teachers he had in kindergarten and the teachers who supported and then challenged him in first grade were not what we experienced in second grade.  The second grade teacher was one who wanted all students to fit into the box, and we weren't the only parents whose child was not in that box, not the only parents who had issues with the teacher - although I was lucky in that the teacher was still speaking to me, unlike her reaction to other parents in the classroom.  By spring, it was obviously a toxic environment.  When we had the opportunity to move - because we didn't move him to our home school - we took it.

moving during the school year was easy for Mister Man

And it was amazing.  His teacher was incredibly supportive and let us know how wonderfully he was doing in the classroom.  Instead of saying that there were 18 kids in the class, so no she couldn't put his math sheet upside down while giving the verbal instructions (not mentioning the fact that there is also a full time assistant in the class), the new teacher figured out on her own what she needed to do to keep Mister Man engaged in what he was supposed to do.  I never once heard "He just wants to do what he wants to do" from the new teacher, because that was not my child.  There are so many stories I could tell about last year that are just flat out wrong that led us to pushing for a move.

Had I not had the experience of moving during the school year and knowing how smoothly it can go, I might have had him finish out the year at the old school before moving.  I was lucky.  We made the change, and Mister Man's experience of moving during the school year was exactly as mine were years ago.

So what about you?  Did you ever move schools during the school year or over summer?  What was your experience?  Would you do it differently?


Pat October 11, 2012 at 3:02 PM  

My family moved in the middle of kindergarten (spring 1954), and it seems to me now that the transition was pretty smooth. One difference was that in the new town, I walked to school with 2 other little neighbor girls who were in my class whereas at the old school I'd ridden a bus. The glitch came when one day both neighbor girls were sick, so I walked by myself for the first time. I got to school OK, but I git a bit lost coming home because I couldn't remember at which street number to turn. We lived on 26th street (which I couldn't remember) and I had to walk past 30th, 29th, 28th, etc. I finally found my house, but I was crying. I survived.

The summer after 5th grade (1959), we moved to another nearby town, and I had the next several weeks to get a bit anxious about going to a new school. I did meet a neighbor girl who ended up being in my class, so at least I knew her and we walked to school together. So now, looking back on it, I agree with you...moving mid-year seems a bit better, at least in elementary school, than during the summer.

tiarastantrums October 12, 2012 at 8:10 AM  

I went to the same school with the same students my entire school year life! - NOt so good either I guess thinking in hindsight! BUT - my kids have been all over too! School here and there and in another country and back to an academy and then a private christian school and now home - but various co-ops - new each year - trying to find the right FIT - that is what we do right - try to find the RIGHT fit for our kids!

Sarah October 12, 2012 at 9:02 AM  

You make some great points - stuff I wouldn't have thought about. I never moved or changed schools so this is a foreign concept to me but I'm betting we will move during my kids' school years so it's good to keep in mind!

Brandie October 12, 2012 at 4:26 PM  

I switched schools a lot, always at the start of the year and hated it. But I was very introverted, so I'm not sure I would have liked it anymore in the middle of the year LOL!
That said, it's awesome it worked for you and him and that the switch was great for him!

Houseful Of Nicholes October 14, 2012 at 8:27 PM  

I moved at the very beginning (about two months in) of second grade and my transition was a bit hectic. Not bad, just hectic. I will say that the experience kept me interested instead of bored like I was at my other school, but I had to learn to keep up, and quick! I do remember that my teacher was patient with me though, and that was appreciated.

Not a Perfect Mom October 14, 2012 at 9:32 PM  

we're closing on a new house in the beginning of November but won't actually move until December, so I figured I'd keep my kids in their old school until after Christmas break and move them then, but you make a good point...maybe I'll move them right when we get house set up and let go the last couple of weeks...hmmm...just when I think I have everything all figured out

Emily October 15, 2012 at 9:02 AM  

What you are saying is counter intuitive for adults, but you make really compelling points. So glad it worked out for MM.

Michelle October 15, 2012 at 12:45 PM  

Pat - Oh no, you poor thing! That's a little scary. The things we as parents never think of, right?

Teresa - You are so right. The fit is most definitely the most important thing for the child, regardless of when you find that fit.

Sarah - Trust me, I moved enough that I thought about this :) I actually enjoyed moving and finding new schools and new friends and such, which I'm guessing was a little unusual.

Brandie - My sister liked it less than I did, too, partly because she's an introvert. But it was still easier for her in the middle of the year - when we had to do it because we were moving. And you have no idea how glad I am that this is a good fit for him.

Nichole - The change is hectic, you're right there. If the curriculum is way off from your previous school, it's a challenge to figure it out - but at least the teachers know WHY it's a challenge for you, rather than starting the year off lost.

Holly - Oh yay for you (I think?). You'll figure it out. Maybe call the new school to see what they do and how they get new kids acclimated and that will help you figure things out, too?

Emily - It is totally counterintuitive, isn't it? But as adults, we want to dot all our i's and cross all our t's before we move on. Kids don't always work that way.

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