Wednesday, September 7, 2011

~Another First~

Oldest headed off to school this morning. I managed to coerce a couple photos before he headed down the street, head up, out into the world. I also managed to keep the tears to a minimum as he hugged me good-bye.

Oh the things he must put up with!

For a family used to the regular school routine, sending one's son off to the six grade would probably not be quite such a big a deal- other then the fact that it's also the start of middle school around here, which is a big transition in itself. But add to this our situation - a mom who has home schooled that son since he was three years old- and you get the equivalent of a mommy waving good-bye to their baby on the first day of kindergarten with an extra five years of growing up and hormones thrown into the mix. All I can say is that I have been processing this day for the last nine months- and I'm not exaggerating. 
But I'm happy to say that as he walked himself to school he looked confident and I'm feeling pretty confident as well.

The decision to stop home schooling this one has been a year in the making.

First off, it needs to be explained that I don't home school exclusively. I work in a partnership with what is essentially a school for home schooled kids. Three days a week, I teach here at home and twice a week they spend the day at school. Both boys started this program in kindergarten, and it has worked out well for our family. It has it's flaws no doubt- it's a public school program and is therefore subject to regular district/state standards and evaluations. I have some mixed opinions about this, but that's for another post. It also happens to be across town and the driving back and forth is extremely wearing.

But nonetheless, the program has been worth it for several reasons; they offer classes and opportunities I can't give my kids (chess class, drama/theater production, leadership and service class, certain computer skills, science experiments that are too messy for me to handle) and they get to build relationships with not only kids their own age, but of all ages (they are a k-8 school)- I really believe in the mixing of ages and opportunities for students to teach each other. I also like that classes are small (ten kids or so) and the teachers are really dedicated.
But the biggest thing that has convinced my year after year to be part of the program was simply time away- as in time without them, and time for them without me. There is just no way I could have handled every single day always together. I know that for some families that home school this isn't a issue, and I admire that ability. However, I know my own limits, and there they are!
So for the last six years this is what we have done- three days a week learning and working at home together, and two days a week away at school.
~Older back in kindergarten days~

But last year, I was starting to feel like what had once worked so well, was no longer working. Older one (who has always been an overachieving self-directed learner) was beginning to surpass my own knowledge to some extent and was not getting as much challenge either at home or at school. I was kept too busy with the constant needs of the younger and spent way too much time playing referee between them both. We've always taken it one year at a time, and I could just sense last year that a transition was coming. And it did.

 I wasn't excited with the idea of putting older directly into a public middle school- he's passionate about learning and he is always grade levels above his peers whenever tested (please don't think I'm bragging- I'm only being honest in explaining our dilemma!) I didn't believe he would thrive in a regular public school environment after all the different freedoms and environments he was used to, but I didn't want him stiffled at home and bored either.

Enter the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics.
I had heard about this school for a few years from friends at church, and even some attending students. They love it. It's a sixth through twelfth grade public school designed for kids just like my son. This is how it's described:

"The Vancouver School of Arts and Academics offers a complete middle school and high school program where the arts are at the core of an interdisciplinary curriculum. All students study science, mathematics, social studies, English, and can pursue artistic studies in dance, music, theatre, literary art, visual arts, and moving image arts. The daily atmosphere of creative work, self-discipline, and dedication prepares students for both college and future careers. Advance Placement classes are available in English, history, government, math, and visual arts. (All students attend the school full time.)"
This is not your regular school program. For starters, my son had to go through a lengthy application process involving five different teacher/principal recommendations, then a workshop complete with group problem-solving, an essay to write and an interview. They have eighty spots and around four hundred kids trying to get in each year. The waiting list stretches for miles. If you get in, the kids sign a contract that basically states that if they don't take the program seriously, there are others waiting to take your spot, thank you very much. In other words, only kids who really want to get in, actually get in.

 I had no idea what we were getting into when we started the whole process back in January. All I knew was that this felt 'right' despite the poor odds of getting in. I was okay with him not getting in, too- I wasn't too excited over letting control of his education go. And I can't overstate how stressful the entire process was- especially coming from our particular background. Over and over I wanted to just chuck it and keep doing what we've always done. But I couldn't get over the feeling that this was the direction we needed to go. And God was so present the entire time- I knew His will would be the outcome. And let me tell you, it was totally God that paved the way. We had circumstances that really should have stopped the whole thing dead in it's tracks- and God just came right through.

So today was the day. All of the processing and emotion over months and months has culminated in my oldest child walking out the door, off to school for the entire day, five days a week. For the next seven years he will make that trek- and only God knows the outcome of it all. It's in His hands, and I know that it is good.

1 comment:

  1. Wow.

    You wrote this so well. My heart goes out to you, honey. And WHAT A HANDSOME guy he is! The school may have a problem with him as a classroom distraction for the girls.


I love comments and I will always do my best to respond!