So, what exactly happens when you decide in January to quit homeschooling your kindergartener? What happens when you decide to “throw her to the wolves”, so to speak and send her to kindergarten at the public elementary school? What happens when your kid who has never been in any sort of “formal” school setting is suddenly in a traditional school…all day…from 9am-3:30pm? This week is the start of Addison’s 4th week of public school. In case you missed the story behind us throwing in the homeschooling towel, you can read about it HERE. I thought it might be a good idea to share a homeschool dropout update to give you a glimpse of what the transition has been like for us.
There was a lot of anticipation leading up to the first day. But anticipating something of which you have absolutely no concept is a tricky thing. Addison had no frame of reference for what school would really entail. That first day, she was GIDDY with excitement. I brought her to school early so we could say a quick hello to the teacher, then we headed out to the playground to wait for the bell with all the other kindergarteners. I was relieved to learn that Addison’s school has a separate playground for the kinders, so they are not mixed in with all the big kids. When the bell rang, the kids lined up, the teacher came out to greet them, and Addison marched in to her class and never looked back.
When I picked her up later that afternoon, she looked battle-worn. Turns out all-day kindergarten is a LONG day for a kiddo who still occasionally napped in the afternoons! Addison had mixed feelings about school, but overall, she agreed that it was good.
The next morning was a different story. The excitement of the first day had worn off and the reality of another long day sunk in. Addison collapsed to her knees in the middle of the kitchen floor and cried. Through her tears, she told me she didn’t want to go to school because she didn’t want to do everything wrong. She felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of “procedures” that exist in kindergarten…lining up to go everywhere…raising your hand to get everyone to quiet down…stacking your chairs at the end of the day…bathroom procedures…lunch procedures. Kindergarten is a well-oiled machine, and Addison was totally in the dark. I pulled her on to my lap in the middle of our dirty kitchen floor and held her while she cried. And I looked her in the eyes and told her that mom and dad had only TWO goals for her for kindergarten. The first goal is that she learn to listen to and obey her teacher. And the second is that she make a new friend. I told her that if by the end of the year, she had accomplished those two things, than kindergarten would be a total success. It was as if a weight lifted. She dried her tears and said ok.
And you know what? She’s already reached those goals. Addison’s teacher has told me on numerous occasions that she is a wonderful student, a great example of good behavior for the other students in the class, and that she is THRIVING in school. In fact, the teacher said it’s really incredible how well she’s made the transition…that you’d never know she started in January. And as far as making friends, well, that goes without saying in kindergarten. Every day Addison comes home with the name of a new “friend” she wants to invite to her birthday party.
Now that the initial adjustment period is over, there are so many blessings for our family that have come out of this move to public school . Here are just some of them.
1. The relationship Addison has with her brothers is actually STRONGER now that she has begun school. Everything I had read about sibling relationships in regards to homeschooling said that the opposite would be true. For our family, time away from one another was exactly what needed to happen. Now, instead of breaking up fights all day long, the children are SO excited to see each other and to play together once Addison comes home from school. It’s not uncommon for them all to vanish in the backyard until dinner is ready.
2. Addison has begun teaching Doc what she is learning in school. She is teaching him the short vowel sounds, how to write simple words, and basic addition math facts. He is excited to hear what she is learning (although 99% of it is still way over his head). But she is learning by teaching! These are all concepts that she DREADED practicing during homeschool…but the change in environment has sparked a new love of learning that was missing when we were trying to do school at home.
3. Addison is excited about learning. The work she brings home from school is nearly identical to the stuff we were doing for homeschool. But the difference now is that she is excited to show me what she’s learning. It’s not like pulling teeth to get her to read or write anymore (we still have some nights where homework is a struggle, but they are few and far between).
4. Homework has gotten dad involved in the schooling process. When we did school at home, DAYS would go by without Addison’s dad asking what we were learning. But now, he asks every day what she learned, and he is very active in helping with homework. We’ve begun taking turns helping with homework or helping bathe the boys. Since I can’t do both at the same time, he has really stepped up to help, and the kids enjoy knowing that it’s a “mom night” or a “dad night”.
5. Addison is getting to try SO many new things. Because her kindergarten is full day, she gets to do P.E., music, computers, and art (which she LOVES). The exposure to all these different subjects is huge. We touched on all of these things during homeschool, but the excitement and novelty of having a full “class” one day a week in each of these subjects is really wonderful for her. She loves to tell me which “special” she had each day.
If I can be perfectly honest for a minute, the hardest thing about this whole transition away from homeschooling has been with ME. I went in to this public school endeavor with a very judgmental attitude. I was defensive from day one because this was not the picture I had mapped out in my brain for what my family would be doing. I struggled with learning that Addison’s teacher is a long term substitute. I struggled with the idea that there are 22 kids in her class and no aid. I struggled with the idea of weekly homework packets in KINDERGARTEN. But once I put my judgment aside and looked at what school has done for Addison, it all becomes clear that this is the best for THIS kid at THIS time.
I am not naïve enough to think that public school is the right answer for everyone. But for right now, I’m feeling grateful that we have a great elementary school in our neighborhood to save us from the homeschooling monster I created. And I’m especially grateful that Addison is doing so well in school, and that she is finally HAPPY about learning. Putting my own desires aside was not easy, but it was worth it.
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