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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Bruce and I met with Jack’s first-grade teachers today during the lunch hour. Also present at the meeting was Jack’s principal. Later, Jack’s former kindergarten teacher wandered in to the meeting to give her two-cents. And later, his new second grade teacher came in for introductions.

Yes, it has been decided. The Monday after Thanksgiving, Jack will move up to second grade.

It was a good meeting and though I felt like we were inconveniencing everyone present, they were all gracious and affirming.

Two years ago, when we decided to wait until Jack was age six to start him in kindergarten, I thought that the pivotal, painful decision regarding his education was done and over with. He would go through school one year ahead of Sabrina, and it would mean that there would be two elementary years when all four kids were going to be in school together. I loved the idea of Evan in kindergarten with Ellie in second-grade, Sabrina in fourth, and Jack in fifth. I pictured Jack graduating high school at the end of his eighteenth year instead of at the tender age of seventeen. I pictured him being the first in his class to drive, rather than the last. I imagined him always have an edge academically, emotionally, and physically. A lot of factors went into our decision to start him late. It was such a nice picture.

So much for MY master plan.

Ultimately, the autumn we moved to Alaska would have been his kindergarten year had we started him at age five. During our move, it was one less thing to worry about not having to pull him from elementary school. This seemed to confirm our decision. And then, once he finally DID enter kindergarten, his emotional sensitivities were still a concern. This also seemed to confirm the decision.

Jack’s kindergarten teacher was in our meeting today, and she made sure to affirm the original decision of waiting, citing that emotionally he was still very immature during the year in her class.

The huge blossoming that took place between last winter and now is mind boggling to me. I never thought Jack would have difficulty academically, but I never dreamed I would be hearing teachers refer to him as “one of the brightest kids I’ve ever taught.”

So now we start down a new path. A new class, a new teacher, new friends, different academic challenges. We are working towards testing for entry into a pull-out gifted program which would start second semester. It will be interesting to see where his IQ comes out when we have that tested.

This process – only a week old, so far – has been an interesting, humbling experience. But it’s only just beginning. No longer will we be able to downplay homework time. Until now I’ve always had this thought: “Oh, he already knows all this so it won’t matter if he slacks off every once in awhile.” Danger, danger! Now comes accountability for not just Jack, but for Bruce and I as well. It also means being the youngest in his class, and perhaps returning to struggles with emotions and physical development. I don’t know.

I didn’t realize how carefully I’d planned out everything until now; how tightly I try to control things. I’ve always wanted to be a go-with-the-flow kind of person. Now is my chance to exercise that a bit. This has been very good for me. I have to admit I’m very thankful this has taken place as a result of a “positive” string of events. I dread to think how paralyzed I would be if things changed direction in a “bad” way. No, I DO know how I’d react. It wouldn’t be pretty.

I have to say that I’m thankful that Jack, and the other kids, will have opportunities to do and learn things at school that they would never be exposed to at home. At home, the children are left to their own creative devices, interacting with each other and their environment. In my efforts to set boundaries on the amount of chaos in my house, I find I establish parameters that restrict what the kids can learn and experience here. When Ellie asks if she can paint, I always say, “You can paint at preschool.” (That’s why we pay them $145 per month.) At home we cuddle, tease, wrestle, and talk about our feelings.

As much as it pains me to admit it, I will never be the kind of mom who drags her kids out into the world for adventures and object lessons. I am the kind of mom who will hand them a book, then discuss it later. We don’t do crafts, we don’t do science projects, I don’t have the patience for art. (At least not so far – it may be different in a couple more years when Evan is four.) I am glad that in school they will learn about things that I will NEVER be good at, or have any interest in.

It is one of my fervent prayers and hopes that my kids will discover, either at home or elsewhere, something to be passionate about. I hope they are eventually exposed to enough athletics, arts, music, and science that in one of those disciplines they will find a niche. For the present, in the case of Jack, I am faced with an exceptionally bright kid whom I can love and affirm and encourage, but on whose behalf I am unable to discover gifts and talents. That is HIS journey, not mine.


At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations and Go Jack Go!!!! I'm sure you'll do great and love the change.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Gateway School and Learning Center said...

This is so great. I'm proud of you for making a decision you can all be peaceful with. Now for handling Jack when he's actually challenged. Hang in there mom.

At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Letting go of them and letting them live their own lives (and make their own mistakes) is one of THE HARDEST things in the universe. It ranks right up there with letting go of our own plans. Jack will do just great...enjoy this little curve ball!

Liz :-)


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