The Summer of Back-to-School

I have been preparing to sending the kids back to school since May.

All four of my kids are going to new schools in the fall. Two are leaving a private Montessori school that has served them moderately well over the last two years. The other two were homeschooled last year.

In the fall, the triplets will start Senior Kindergarten at the local public school and my eldest will start at the congregated gifted program, which he is finally old enough for.

I am under no illusion that this will be an easy transition.

We are in a new catchment area, having moved since my eldest started homeschooling, so I am entering into the relationship with the local elementary school without all the baggage that we left at the old school.

However, we continue to live in an area where the School Board believes that the Provincial standards forbid acceleration of any kind, even within the gifted program. My two kids who have been homeschooling are both at least 3 years ahead in both mathematics and reading while also being unbelievably stubborn and unwilling or unable to work on things that do not challenge them intellectually. And, both of them act out frustrations in extremely dramatic ways.

Getting ready for school involves a lot of work with the kids on emotional control and following instructions. In addition, I have already been in conversation with new Special Education Resource Teachers and the School Board about how to work with these children. I will spend much of August writing letters to their new classroom teachers to help them get things off to a good start. Because, for both of these kids, if the first week doesn’t go well, the whole year will be hard to redeem.

The two kids who have been at the Montessori school have not demonstrated challenging behaviour in the classroom, and I am hopeful that they will adapt well to the new style. Because of the change in curriculum, our summer is including academic work in the new style to help them demonstrate what they know in a way that fits into the teacher’s expectations. 1/2 of the team is enthusiastic and 1/2 of the team is resisting doing any work. I am hoping that this resistance is not an indicator of how this kid will act with a non-Mom teacher. However, working with them in this new way, I have a hunch that this change in schools is going to reveal some of these kids’ asynchronies in ways that frustrate them.

Honestly, I am so worried about the academic fit for these kids that I haven’t given any thought to new schedules and routines. I expect I’ll start panicking about those elements in about two weeks.

In past years, it has taken me until Halloween to get into a groove with the rhythms of school. I have no reason to believe this year will be any different.

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19 thoughts on “The Summer of Back-to-School

  1. Good luck hun! I have no doubt your children have a fabulous advocate in you.

  2. Hi Kate, The upside is they will be adjusting with a lot of other kids who are also adjusting. I don’t know if you’ve experienced public kindergarten, but when we went, half the kids didn’t say anything to any adult other than their parents, five of them were “stonewallers” (refused to do anything). The following year when I visited our old kindergarten teacher she said one half of her class still had accidents (forgot to go to the bathroom or were nervous or afraid.) Kindergarten was our best year in elementary school. Our school was a lot like yours but in kindergarten, at least, there was a lot of tolerance (also it was 1/2 day). We had an old school teacher and that worked very well for us. She had seen a lot of kids and had a lot of intuition, could spot bright kids regardless of their behaviors. If you don’t, though, don’t let them talk you into believing that the types of behaviors I mentioned are uncommon and that though they are 4-5, they should act as if they are 10. I didn’t realize how young your kids are. I was thinking of writing a blog on this, but I’ll just say it now, often the best and most underutilized resource in a school that doesn’t believe in differentiation or acceleration is the school librarian. They know kids read at different levels, they know the importance of choice in reading material, etc. I know folks who have gotten the librarian to run an advanced bookclub, I once recommended the librarian supervise EPGY math on the computer. I’ve always thought the librarian would be a great person for the PTA or other parent body to invest in (gifted education professional dev), bc the correct mindset is often already there. She/he may also be the only staff member other than the psychologist at an elementary school with a masters degree and is usually flattered that someone sees how much more she/he could be doing. Wishing you and your kids all the luck!

    • I hadn’t thought of turning to the librarian as an ally, but it makes perfect sense. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.
      My eldest was in public school for 1/2 day Kindergarten and tolerated it reasonably – unlike the later years. The province is changing over to full days and the new school starts for the first time in the fall, so I am not familiar with the new curriculum. They completely changed the curriculum for moving to full-days and the approach is more play-based, with more differentiation in math, reading, and writing. Combined with the fact that the personnel at the new school have gone out of their way to be friendly and open to discussing options, I think that if the triplets don’t thrive in this setting, they wouldn’t thrive in any public school kindergarten.
      I am less confident about the eldest because he was admitted to the program very late in the year and I haven’t spoken as much with the people at the school. But, the gifted program at that school has a reputation for being really good with 2e kids. Once again, I have reason to believe that if this setting doesn’t work out, then public school is never likely to work for this kid.
      But, just because I think this situation is as good as possible given the lack of acceleration options doesn’t mean I have any peace in the waiting for it to get started so we can see what happens. (My own imaginational overexcitabilities are having a field day in worst case scenarios every day.)

  3. Forgot perhaps the most important thing. The library is quiet. I think if I was doing kindergarten again, I’d talk to the teacher and the librarian and see if this could be a get away from the stimuli place for my child if need be. It could work bc the teachers need a break from the child and the child needs a break from the noise.My husband told me he spent a lot of his school years in the school library. He was more resourceful and knew himself better than I as a child. I just suffered thru it w/o advocacy and eventually shutdown.

  4. Hi Kate. I hope things go smoothly for you all, fingers crossed! Sometimes I find a the issues I worry about are non-issues and things I hadn’t considered pop-up unexpectedly. @Andrea thank you for celebrating the librarian! When I was in elementary school, Mrs. Evans was my saviour! My reward for finishing my work early was a visit to see her. She always had a book or two set aside for me and she was eager to discuss what I just finished.

  5. Love you librarians! Kate, it sounds as if there is a lot to be hopeful about. That’s wonderful, can’t wait to hear all about it.

  6. The library in my middle school was centrally located and had multiple entrances. I used to walk through it as often as possible to avoid the comments I used to get in the halls. It was definitely my safe space.

  7. Wow! Good luck with all of that! Looking forward to updates on how things go –especially with your kids that are accelerated, but in a school district that might not continue to challenge them? Yikes! At the beginning of each school year, my daughter actually gets angry because everything is too easy. I try to remind her that they review a lot at the beginning of each school year, and not to worry because things will get challenging soon enough. While things did eventually get more challenging for her, her idea of “soon enough” and the school’s idea of “soon enough” were a bit different.

  8. Yes, we found that too. The first two months felt like a waste and then it was Thanksgiving and then Winter Break and as a former teacher I know that teachers “give up” to some degree in that window. In our house, we do a combination of new and maintenance over the summer (Mon only), which school can’t do, but I can’t help thinking that…if there was better communication between teachers from year to year, there would not be this long period of reassessing the child. I know it can be beneficial if there is a teacher who just doesn’t get our child, but if there was year after year of commentary in a file, I would think the present teacher would be able to contextualize. One option is to start with something challenging but something that kids can do at their own level, like a fiction writing unit. I find that instead of reviewing and losing kids at the beginning of the semester, review is best integrated with challenging material. It also might be just the right thing for those weeks between TG and Winter Holiday, bc it’s just not true that one thing has to be mastered before the next thing encountered. Knowledge is just not accumulated/structured that way, teachers are. ;)

  9. Pingback: When Summer Is the Hardest Time to Write « Kate Arms-Roberts

  10. Our school does “Character Dress Up Day” where children dress in the costume of their favorite character in a book they love. We parade, and give out treats. For Thanksgiving, each class takes a food group and families bring in a favorite dish, the friday before Thanksgiving and we call that “Harvest Feast”. Christmas is not Christmas but “winter fest”. We do these things apparently because some families either do not celebrate holidays or disagree in some manner with these normal traditions. My problem with all of this is the lesson it clearly imparts to our children, and that is that you can put a spin on anything in just such a way to make the other person feel as if they’ve been satisfied. I think its incredibly distasteful. I see nothing wrong with celebrating Halloween just as we always have, afterall it really is just a FUN DAY for children, nothing more. Since we all know this, I see nothing wrong in telling the crazies to simply back-off with the nonsense. Its not fair to subject all the kids to a notion that is ridiculous in the first place.

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  12. Pingback: Kate Arms-Roberts » When Summer Is the Hardest Time to Write

  13. Pingback: When Summer Is the Hardest Time to Write | Kate Arms-Roberts

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