Monday, April 11, 2011

The Saga Continues

It is not news on my blog that I am struggling with where to send my son to kindergarten in the fall. I briefly posted last week that his lottery number for our "dream school" pretty much guaranteed that he will NOT be going to that school. I also received a letter from the school district (I applied for an inter-district transfer to a different school; one where he had speech therapy ages ago and really enjoyed...) that the school I was hoping to get him into was at capacity and they would be doing a lottery for a remaining spots. So not much hope there either. So it appeared that the only answer was to send him to neighborhood school for kindergarten and hope that, "We LOVE it! We were so WRONG about this school! I love being proved wrong; I am so thrilled he is going here..."

And for my commenters out there, I should mention that I am in no way tainted about this school based solely on test scores and the fact that over half the kids don't speak English. I agree that having a bilingual school is not at all a bad thing, and I also know that when a good portion of the kids don't come from English speaking backgrounds, that test scores are not necessarily indicative of whether the teachers are good or bad, or whether the kids are smart or not. But without getting into the murky waters of "saying too much on the internet when people could potentially figure out who and what you're talking about..." I will say that I have a few people in my life in the education field and some close enough to have some pretty good "insider information" about our neighborhood school and while nothing horrific is going on at all, it has been politely suggested to me that perhaps there might be a more suitable place for my child. Enough said about that, but I wanted it on the record that I am not keeping my son away from his neighborhood school simply based on race and test scores.

Long time readers of my blog know that my son has some unique challenges. He had some health issues long ago and still struggles to keep weight on his tiny frame, and he lost about a year of growing. So you combine that with a Mommy who is 5' 3" on a good day, and a donor Daddy who claims to be 5' 8", but is really lucky if he hits 5' 6"...and well we have quite a little boy on our hands. He is also still in speech therapy, has severe muscle tone issues**, and by personality is a "highly sensitive child." So he is unique and his needs are unique. My biggest fear about him starting school (aside from the normal "he won't fit in..." etc) is that he gets overwhelmed and goes from being a boy who LOVES learning to a kid who hates school. I think all of us parents fear that on some level. If a child really enjoys the learning process and school itself, it makes for a much more successful school career.

On both of my recent parent/teacher conferences his teacher has expressed to me that she thinks he really thrives in the Montessori environment (he has been in a Montessori daycare/preschool since he was 2 at the recommendation of his therapists at the time. And they were right--it's a great fit for him). She has asked me on several occasions if there is any chance to get him into the public Montessori elementary school in town. Even though this school is "in town," it is in an entirely different district than we are, and to get an out-of-district transfer is really difficult. I looked into it, but unless there are extenuating circumstances, it doesn't happen. So I looked online at some of the private Montessori elementary schools and realized pretty quickly that A) they are super expensive, and B) most of them don't go all the way up until middle school. So that means he would have to transfer to a new school in 3rd or 4th grade, and I am not sure that would be a decent transition for him (see above highly sensitive child). So, in all of this school drama, I sort of gave up and moved on. Plus I found "dream school" and secretly tried to convince myself that he would be lottery number 1!! And how lucky we would be!! And also made myself stop thinking about these super difficult decisions until it was apparent that some decisions really DID need to be made (no entry to "dream school," and no inter-district transfer). So now that we appear to be at that crucial MUST MAKE DECISIONS time, I have been a bit panicked and bummed.

This weekend I was doing my weekly grocery shopping at Joe.'s and ran into a woman who used to work at his old daycare (the one The Girl is at now). She was so lovely, and we LOVED her when she worked there. The Boy adored her and her son was The Boy's very first BFF. It was wonderful to see her and catch up (although The Boy was with The Ex so she didn't get to see him, which she was bummed about), and at the end of our conversation I asked her where she was working now. She said, "Oh, I'm at this GREAT school...xx elementary school." I said, "Is it Montessori?" (She had left his daycare to go back to school to be certified in Montessori) and she told me yes. It was a private Montessori elementary school, and she couldn't believe I hadn't heard of it. I told her a little bit about my struggles to find the perfect school for The Boy and she told me she thought this would be a great fit. She begged me to at least check it out. She said that admission for kindergarten was probably closed by now, but that I should seriously consider it for 1st grade if I wasn't happy with neighborhood school because this school would be wonderful for him. Plus, even though it was a private school, it was moderately priced and also went up through 6th grade.

So I, of course, ran home and looked up the school online and it looked fabulous. It had "primary care," which is kids ages 3-6 working together, and then "lower elementary" (kids ages 6-9), and then "upper elementary," (kids 9-12). One of the things I love about Montessori is the kids at different age levels working together. This has worked out GREAT for The Boy thus far because, like I said, he tends to be on the smaller side. And working in a classroom with kids of all sizes and ages allows him to not ever have to be the "small one." Plus, for him, he really excels in all things science and nature and really functions at a level much "older" than he is. But in language and math is probably just about at a normal 5 year old level. Being with kids older and younger than you allows you to excel in certain areas while making sure to not fall behind on the areas where a little extra work is needed. Plus, his muscle tone issues make it difficult for him to sit at a desk for long periods of time (not that I think kindergartners are being forced to sit in a desk all day long...), and the Montessori method of going from "job" to "job" really works for him. ***

So while I was excited at my find, I also found the portion of the website that discussed enrollment for the 2011-12 school year, and we had indeed missed all of the cutoffs. Not surprising, but a bummer nonetheless. But I liked what I read enough to decide that I would contact the school directly and see if there was any chance to still apply to get him into kindergarten, and if not, inquire about what the process would be to get him in for 1st grade. So I emailed the school today and explained our situation and someone called me back not 4 hours later saying that there still was room for kindergarten this year. Apparently they have room in their "primary care," but once you get to "lower elementary" there are significant waiting lists. So this was a lucky break. I scheduled a tour of the school for Wednesday the 27th of April. And I am super excited to see it, and hopeful...

But there is a down side (isn't there always?). The reason they have room at this school is because it is a private school. As in...costs a lot of money for the privilege to go to this school. And I am honestly not sure if that is something I can swing. According to the website, the tuition for a year is not much more than what I am paying now in daycare, so it wouldn't be that much different. But I had really been hoping to be able to "exhale" a little in terms of finances come August. It is do-able, just not what I would have liked. But The Ex and I had been talking a lot about this possibility once we learned "dream school" (charter so therefore free...) was off the table. We both agreed that we would give neighborhood school a shot for kindergarten but that we would explore private school possibilities for the upcoming years. So this wasn't completely off the table, we just obviously would have preferred a public (and therefore "free") school career so that we could save more for college.

So just when I thought it was a done deal that he would be attending the neighborhood school this fall, this other option dropped into my lap. I haven't seen this woman that I ran into this weekend in 3 years. What are the chances that we would run into each other in a parking lot, and that she would be working in a school that is a perfect fit for my son...AND that school would still have kindergarten openings in mid-April? When I told my mom about it, she said, "I think that might have been fate. Perhaps this is where he is supposed to be." I think she might be right. But we will have to see. Of course, I'll keep you all posted... :)

**I owe you all an update post on The Boy's OT and how it is going. Short answer: GREAT!!

***Everyone has different beliefs and just because I strongly believe in the Montessori curriculum doesn't mean you have to. And if you think that Montessori is a bunch of crap and you would NEVER send your kid there, more power to you. That is your decision to make. I could write an entire 10 page post on how Montessori works for my son, but that is my story and is not relative to this post. I am not putting down public schools, or any other type of academic learning. As parents, we learn what works best for our kids and this particular process works great for mine. Hopefully if you are a parent, you will find a situation that works equally as well for your child.


Laraf123 said...

This is great news! As a public school teacher myself, I have worried about my son's schooling since the day he was born. Our neighborhood school isn't bad, it just isn't good enough for him. (They teach to the middle, and just the bare minimum at that--of course I want more for my kids.) I need to sell my house by the summer of 2012 and well, good luck with that.
As far as Montessori...obviously it works for the Boy. If he's been in that setting for years and you really like it--I say don't fix what isn't broken. What a wonderful stroke of luck to find an elementary Montessori. Sure it's a lot of money, but you'll still be able to exhale--- with relief that he is in nurturing, responsive setting.

Yellzer said...

You'll find a way to afford it. If it's the best fit for Boy and you love it you shouldn't turn your back on what fate has brought you. Best of luck!