Changing schools

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Changing schools
Thu, 05-02-2013 - 2:16pm

Our 12yo DS has been doing poorly in middle school.  6th grade was bad, but 7th grade has been a disaster.  After an 8-hour psychoeducational evaluation and a 4-hour speech & language evaluation, and talking with teachers about Section 504 accommodations, we've realized he just doesn't have the ability to thrive in a public middle school that has 1200 kids and where each teacher sees 125 kids a day.  He doesn't qualify for an IEP, and his teachers are dedicated people who want to help, but with all the pressures from state standards and the vast number of students they teach, they just don't have the time for it. My poor son looks and feels...lost.

Yesterday he visited a teeny-tiny private school for grades 6-12 that has only 75 students and an average class size of 6.  He LOVED it, and they loved him.  Sending him there this fall means we are opting out of standardized state testing, grade levels, and competition entirely.  It feels like the perfect environment for him - teachers and students who know each other extremely well, and staff who care HUGELY about each child.

In a way, I feel a little sad.  It means my 18yo DD, who is graduating HS next month, will probably be the only one of our kids to graduate from our public school, with its amazing music program and huge drama company.  DS is very musical, and there will be other opportunities for him to play in ensembles, but I'm sad that our days of sitting in the audience with the other parents from our district are over - no more orchestra, small ensembles, pit orchestra.  I felt the same way when our 20yo DS graduated from his single-sex Catholic high school - he would be the only one to go to that school - no more Christmas pageants, religion classes, chapel on feast days, etc.  I guess each school has its own community character, and we'll find out what that is for DS when he goes to this one.

A new phase of life is beginning. . . I'm both eager for it and a little sad too.

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Thu, 05-02-2013 - 4:41pm

I can definitely see how you would be sad about that, but knowing that you are moving your son to someplace he will thrive and get the individual attention that he needs will be more than reward enough I am sure!  It sounds like a great place for him and its great to hear he really liked it!

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Fri, 05-03-2013 - 3:18pm

I have BTDT and I know well that sense of loss. But if your son was that miserable in his school, he would most likely not have taken advantage of everything it had to offer, so you're expanding, not limiting, his choices with this move.

We got a lot of flak from people about our decision. They were genuinely shocked that we'd pull our kids out of a highly-regarded public school system and pay to send them to a tiny Christian school they'd never heard of. But it was the absolute best decision we could have made. A school is "good" only if your child is thriving there. If he's not, then a wealth of music, theatre, AP and arts classes are meaningless.

What surprised me about our move (we actually ended up moving house, too, because our commute to the new school was horrendous) was how much happier I became in the new community. It's a much more nurturing environment for the parents as well as the kids, and I don't feel like I have to be on display every time I show up for a school play or concert.

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Fri, 05-03-2013 - 4:00pm

Thanks, Ash.  I was thinking of you when we went to visit this school on Monday, wondering if it's about the same size as your kids' school.

This school is not religiously affiliated, but I loved that at least half their mission "words" were things like kindness, compassion, nurturing, caring, validation, mutual respect, and so on.  We saw that working in the kids and teachers we met, who all seemed to support each other.  It's a non-competitive school, with no class ranking or valedictorian, but the kids mostly go on to the same colleges that my other kids (and your DD) applied to - smaller liberal arts colleges and major northeastern universities, including the Ivy League.  I love that he will be supported as a person at school as well as at home while he's learning all the academic subjects he needs to know.

DD would have hated this school - she loves the rush and the bustle and the friendly competition of our public HS.  While DS loves the new school's "peaceful" campus and slow pace, DD would have been crazy without the stress and stimulation of hordes of people, six AP classes at a time, and four musical ensembles.  She takes after me (including her personality pitfalls!) while the others are more like DH. 

We're lucky that it's right in the next town over from us.  Not so lucky that the tuition is similar to private college.  However, I suspect you understand how we view our kids:  that we are stewards of these people God gave us, and we have to use our resources properly to develop them.  It doesn't always mean making choices others approve of or agree with.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999
Sat, 05-04-2013 - 12:41pm

Change is always hard even when it's the right thing.  It means letting go of the known and when the experience has been a happy one, it means letting go of all those good associations.

My youngest changed schools twice, each time because of a move.  The first move was to the kind of school you're describing, though hers was religiously affiliated.  She'd been very happy in her first school and we were reluctant to leave it.  The new school environment was a shift but it was to this day the best educational experience she's had.  The teachers were very involved with the kids, the kids were very involved with each other (in a good way), and the community feeling was strong.  We knew how lucky we were that our daughter was being so supported during the so-called dreaded middle school years.  I still look back wistfully.

 I agree wholeheartedly that we, as parents, have to do what we can to find the best learning environments for our children, whether or not they mesh with the choices others have made.  I hope that this new school is such a good fit that it provides you with lots of new and happy memories.