Alden hasn’t been talking about starting school much.
Although it must seem to him that the grownups in his world can’t shut up about it.
I somehow feel compelled to tell every grocery checker, every librarian, every aquaintance we run into, and certainly every person I talk with on the phone, “Yep, startin school next week! Big day! Oh, he’s ready… Not sure I am…. blah blah blah.”
At the haircut the other day, when he replied “kindergarten” to the question, “What grade are you going into?” …he was then asked, “Are you nervous?” He didn’t answer and I don’t blame him.
After all, this is the third “first day of school” he has had, and all three at different schools. He has handled each “first day” with aplomb, being a sharp cookie who wants to get it right and be one of the gang. New situations bring out his most watchful, still and contained self. (They always have. At the library’s Tiny Tales story hour for toddlers he would sit on my lap silent, wide-eyed and motionless, for forty minutes, while other toddlers careened around, tried to grab books, and shouted along with songs and stories. Alden would leave my lap only when book baskets were placed around the room at the end of story time, and then he would happily bring me book after book after book. And, of course, at home afterward, sing all the songs that had been sung and talk about the books that had been read.)
The thing is, his still, contained, watchful self is only one aspect of this five year old guy. Just like the boisterous loud exterior of the kid who won’t be able to sit still on day one (I’m sure there will be one) is only one aspect of HIM. I’m trusting his teachers to know that, of course, and that they will do their best to really know each one and kind of fall in love with them the way teachers of five year olds do.
I’m trusting them to know that….. in spite of the baggage I know is MINE, when it comes to this particular “first.” First day of public school.
Swirling around the calm, sure, steady knowledge I have that my guy is as likely to be Absolutely Fine as any child in the world…. there is a cacophony of voices that I just keep trying to silence…
Fine? He’ll be “fine?!” Since when is “fine” good enough?
Since always! You don’t want him to grow up in a hothouse.
No, but, I don’t want him to grow up in a zoo either. The teachers don’t even go outside with them at public school! Is anyone paying attention and helping the kids learn social skills? Not just rewarding and punishing, but helping?
It’s the neighborhood school. You LOVE your neighborhood. You want those connections for him.
No, mostly, I’m just being selfish, selfish. It’s free. We aren’t willing to sacrifice hard enough to send him to private school. Gah. Mother of the year.
Just because YOUR public school experience was a nightmare, doesn’t mean his will be.And, actually, it was only 5th and 6th grade that were hard…. Kindergarten was pretty good, right? What I remember about it anyway.
What about the lunch room. I’ve heard they don’t even wash hands. And twenty minutes to eat? That’s insane. Yes, three outside recesses, but they’re only 15 minutes long! How’re they supposed to have any quality play in that amount of time?
Stop being such a freak. I’m sure he’ll be fine.
And then there’s the reading. I mean, he’s reading like a second grader. What are they going to do with THAT?
OK, A) Braggy McBraggerston, ease up. And B) there are plenty of things he does exactly at a kindergarten level. There’s plenty to work on.
But… but…. I have spent so much time decrying our industrial-age public school system and its structures. Its needless chopping of the day into tiny fragments, its rigid definitions, its merciless ranking and testing and sorting and separating. There are countless great people in the public schools but it is not a system that eases their path to doing great things, or inspiring great things in students.
Why is it elitist to wish for something more? Something more human-scaled and authentic and flexible and loving?
Maybe it’s there.
Maybe it’s there and you just won’t know until you try it.
Maybe what “it” is can truly be shaped by your family’s input and involvement and connectedness. What if? I mean, wouldn’t that be the best possible thing? What if he loves it. What if YOU love it. What if in a year, you are so thankful you made this decision?
…. What if.
And you can always change your mind.