Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

May 27, 2009 at 1:07 am 4 comments

We’re contemplating transferring Jon from the small Catholic school that he’s attended since kindergarten to the public middle school that kids in our district attend. He would begin attending the public school in the fall, as a seventh grader.

There are a few reasons behind this, but basically I’m just not sure that his current school is able to meet his needs adequately at this point. It seems that some of the very things that attracted us to the school when Jon was 5-years-old have now become the limiting factors.

It is a small school, about 350 students in grades pre-k through 8. We’ve loved that it’s small enough that we know most of the other kids and their families. We’ve loved that the same kids have been together for years and have grown up together. We’ve loved that sense of community and the continuity that the same schoolmates and school staff provides. Things have been a bit overwhelming here at home a time or two (I know, I know. I hear you gasping and exclaiming, “Say it isn’t so!” But it’s true!) and it’s been comforting during those difficult periods to know that Jonathan was well-supported and cared for at school.

But being a small school has some downsides, unfortunately. They’re unable to offer much in the curriculum beyond the standard subjects plus P.E., Spanish, and very basic lessons in art, music, and computer. Specifically, that means no band/orchestra program. And that’s something that Jon really wants to pursue at this point.

The woman that conducts the string Sinfonietta that he participates in through the Richmond Symphony’s youth orchestra program is amazing. She really connects with the kids and manages to hold their attention without coming off like a drill sergeant (that cannot be spelled correctly, is it? spell check says it is, but it doesn’t look right). Anyway, she teaches them so much, way more than Jonathan has ever gotten from the private lessons we’ve been paying for over the past almost two years. In addition to teaching them them whatever music they’re working on, she instructs them on sight-reading and how to play different notes and how to audition and tips for competitions and things I never even knew about, having never been in an orchestra myself.

And she just happens to lead the string orchestra program at our middle school. So Jon would have string orchestra three times/week with her, plus he would get to meet and play with a bunch of other kids on a regular basis. And he would have the opportunity to compete against other orchestras, something he can’t get at any of the private schools I know or through Sinfonietta.

Aside from the music thing, I think Jon would benefit socially from moving to a larger school. There are about 35 kids in his grade at his current school and by now, those social boundaries are pretty well-drawn. He has a couple of good friends, but neither of them live nearby so he pretty much only sees them at school or for an occasional sleepover. And there are no freaking boys his age in our little neighborhood! Actually, there are only a couple of other boys period. There’s a little third-grader down the street that comes over looking for Jonathan and Jon will take his DS and go out and play with him sometimes just for something to do. Otherwise, Joe or I end up going out to play with the poor kid. I really wish Jake wasn’t autistic if only so I could send them out to play together to get them out of the house more often, especially with summer coming up.

So, I went and met with the principal of the middle school this morning. Toured the school. Discussed the curriculum, homework, the student population, the schedule, testing, parent-teacher communication, etc. Talked about what level classes Jon would be placed in. He’s in the advanced language arts and math classes at his current school, the public school offers a couple of different levels of advanced and gifted classes, we’ll have to get his transcripts to see what he’s already studied to determine where he belongs exactly.

It’s an older school, built in 1958 and due for major renovations as soon as the county can find the funds. The principal proudly showed me the large artist’s rendering of what the school will look like after the renovations and made mention several times during our tour of what would be different/improved after the renovations. The school is definitely outdated and a bit dreary, but it wasn’t falling down around our ears or anything.

It’s a large school though. 1200 students, fed from eight elementary schools. That’s a lot of kids. With a lot of different cultures and backgrounds. I worry about Jon adjusting, I probably shouldn’t. While he’s a bit nervous about the prospect of attending this school, he’s also very excited about it. He’s pretty independent when it comes to social situations with other kids and doesn’t seem to care much if someone doesn’t love him, he just moves on. But the thought of taking him out of the safe little bubble where he’s been for seven years, where everyone knows him, where he’s safe and protected…oh, where did I put that freaking Xanax now…

I’ve talked with a neighbor who has a child that attends this school and I’m going to try to catch up with one other parent I know to get their opinion. And I’ll talk to the orchestra/Sinfonietta conductor to get her opinion of the school in general, etc. And then we’ll sit down with Jonathan and decide what we should do.

Is it too early in the day for vodka?

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Entry filed under: Jonathan.

Artifacts Jakeisms

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Becky  |  May 27, 2009 at 4:24 am

    I understand your angst! Being so torn between all the social and academic factors and implications, and simply wanting the best for your child. {{hugs}}

    Reply
  • 2. yujie  |  May 28, 2009 at 12:20 am

    wow, I totally with you, it is a difficult decision, but it looks like you have thought it through well, good luck in Jon’s new school !

    Reply
  • 3. Hansi Brittain  |  May 28, 2009 at 10:50 am

    It’s a hard decision. Sounds like there will be new opportunities for Jon. He doesn’t sound like a wallflower and if he isn’t super concerned with people liking him, he will be less susceptable (sp? no Spell Check here) to peer pressure. Some day he will have to leave the cacoon. Might not be so bad to do it now when he is still young enough that you have more influence with him. Just my thought based on what you have laid out.

    Reply
  • 4. Helen Marie  |  May 31, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    OLL has given him GREAT life skills that he will take on his next adventure! And, it’s not brave if you’re not scared….

    Reply

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