Monday, March 11, 2013

Kindergarten Stress (Picking a school)

We have a 5 year old foster boy, "Wreck-it Ralph", who will likely be with us until January 2014.  Originally, I had planned to homeschool him utilizing a homeschool program through a local public school.  In the fall I had planned to enroll both "Ralph" and our own son "Baby Bop."  I figured, it would be easier to have them both in the same program since they are so close in age (16 months apart).

However, now that things are progress so well toward reunification, I think it would be better for "Ralph" to be at the school he will attend when he transitions home.  That way, the school routine would be a constant and he wouldn't have so many changes in his life at the same time.

His father is in the process of moving into our school district which makes things easier on one hand and harder on the other.

Here are my options:

1) Enroll Ralph in my neighborhood school which just happens to be by my house.
 +  This is convenient for me.  I just have to walk across the street to drop off and pick up.
 +  This is the school where Baby Bop does speech therapy.  I know the staff and the
      principal is quite nice.

 -  This school is not in the neighborhood where Ralph's father will live.  It would make
     it unlikely for Ralph's father to arrange play dates and such with children who live
     so far away from his home.
 -  Even if Ralph stays at this school for the whole year, he would like change schools
    next year.

2) Enroll Ralph in the neighborhood school near his father's home.
 + This school has a better demographic than my neighborhood school.
 + This is a neighborhood school. He could build relationships with his neighbors.

 - While I can request this school after I register at my neighborhood school, until the
    father has moved in the school boundaries, we can not register directly.  The school
    could be "full" by the time he moves and Ralph would be assigned to a different school.
 - I would have to drive and pick up at a school 11 minutes from my house. : (

3) Try to enroll Ralph in one of the parent participation lottery school.
 + This is a school I would actually consider sending my child.

  - We missed the open enrollment period, and could only get on a very long waiting list.
  - The parent participation requirements would be a burden to a single father.
  - The school culture is very child centric.  Ralph already thinks he should do
     whatever he wants whenever he wants it.
  - The children live all over the district, so setting up get togethers and networking would
     be harder.

4) Try to enroll Ralph in another school in the district with a better after school program to make childcare easier for the father later.

5) Try to enroll Ralph in another school in the district with a better API.

I have this personal rule about foster children.  I try very hard to do for a foster child exactly what I would do for my own child. That doesn't work in this case.  As much as I love homeschooling, beginning school for the first time in the middle of the year and moving to live with his father, doesn't seem like a good idea.  Also, it would be a big burden on the father having to deal with the transition to school on top of everything else.  If Ralph was already at the school, he would have one less thing to worry about.

And, I will admit it, there is the tiny part of me the thinks "Man, my life would be so much easier if this kid (Baby Bop) were at school."  Somebody else to worry about  the curriculum.  Somebody else to tell him what to do all day.

Many of the schools I've looked at recently have a lot of neat things to offer, at least on paper.

However, with Baby Bop's speech impediment, this would not be a good option in the long run.  Baby Bop's new speech therapist recently commented to me that she was so surprised how willing Baby Bop was to talk with her the first time they met and how unselfconscious he was about his disability.  Because Baby Bop has never been to school, he has never been teased or compared to another child.

Then there is the whole competitiveness issue between the boys.  If one is at school, and the other at home, I can image both boys feeling a little defensive and jealous of the other's schooling.  This is what bothers me the most.

No matter what we do, I'm going to have little boys who will resent where ever they are, sometimes.

Then there is the whole competitive issue with me.  I find myself feeling a little defensive when I see all the homework that the kindergarteners now do.  My son is just barely beginning to write and read. Much of what we are doing (Explode the Code) would be considered on a preschool level at most schools today.  My neighborhood school had the kindergartners doing spelling words in the first week of school. 

I have this little voice in my head saying we should spend more time on workbooks and less time in the yard even though I've seen the studies that show that playing in the yard is better for brain development in the long run.

Most of the time, it is easy to ignore what the schools these days are doing since I have so little contact with the school. That is about to change.


Fatcat said...

ignore that little voice. It's wrong! Let your little boy be a little boy! They are wonderful!

I can't offer any advice on schools, but probably the fewer changes for the child the better.

Happy Elf Mom said...

Is it possible or healthy in your situation for the biological dad to have any input? He might actually want to homeschool, or have this year be less academically grueling. He might want a gentle introduction to learning for his son, that is, if you feel open to homeschooling.

It's very nice, though, that you have some sort of choice of schools for both these children. Here it's not so at all. You can ask, but they will make it difficult. :)

Ami said...

Yes, you want to do what is best for both kids, which is great and right - but, if you have to lean one way or the other, you have to do what is best for your child. Reading between the lines (and in the lines), I would say keeping him home is best for him. You are a good parent, you can deal with any fallout from a different education, if there even is any - I'll bet they will understand if you plainly state that Ralph is going to go to x school because it is closer to his father - unless, of course, Ralph is not aware of the reunification plan or timeline. I would echo the comment about trying to involve the father if possible in deciding which school is best for Ralph - and, lining out the pros and cons as you have, may help model for him the way he should be looking at decisions like this.

Janine Cate said...

The Dad will follow my lead on this, even if I wanted to homeschool Ralph. I've discussed the options with Dad but it is so outside his experience that he just trusts my judgement.

If reunification runs off the rails, then I would homeschool.

Either way, I'm feeling like I need to do more structured homeschooling for Baby Bop, including his OT (occupational therapy) routine. We haven't done OT in months because of Ralph.

However, in many ways, Ralph is the best OT of all for Baby Bop. Since Ralph has been with us, Baby Bop's exercise level has tripled. Baby Bop now rides a two wheeler bike, dresses himself, has taken oven all toileting. These are things that he resisted doing in the past.

Another reason why it might be a good idea for Ralph to go to school is that Ralph is very quick learner and Baby Bop is slower. If Baby Bop starts competing and comparing himself to Ralph, that would be bad.

Right now it is not too much of an issue because Baby Bop is 16 months older. Pretty quickly Ralph could pass Baby Bop. Because there is such an age difference between Baby Bop and Daughters 1, 2 and 3, this has never been an issue.

Happy Elf Mom said...

Ahhh... the complexity. Sometimes there are no "right" answers. Sometimes you can try something (whatever it is) and change it if it doesn't work. The children also could go to different schools, but that would add more work for you in so many ways.

Good luck and God bless.