Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Changing Schools Mid-Year

We confirmed yesterday that Jonas' daycare set-up is changing at the end of the month. That means I'm going back to "work" and he's changing schools. It's going to be a massive change for him. Setting aside my own issues about finding and starting a new job, my biggest concern is making this transition as smooth as possible for him.

He's been at the same school for four years now. He has good friends here and we're finally starting to get him the support he needs to be a successful student. His speech difficulties and ADHD have made both difficult for him but he seems to be starting to find his groove. The last thing we want is to disrupt that, especially not in the middle of the school year. Heck, it's even worse that it's happening in the middle of the term. Because of my Dad's job, I changed schools a lot during elementary school. I went to six different schools between Grades 4 and 8 and I remember vividly how stressful it was. I swore I'd never do that to my kids, and yet here we are.

There are a lot of upsides about changing schools. We're trying to focus on the positive and cultivate optimism in him. His new school is very close to home, which means his Dad and sister can be part of his day now, helping with morning drop-off, afternoon pick-up and homework. The move also means he can get more sleep in the mornings and eat breakfast with them instead of in the car. The new school is also much smaller than his current one, with less than 200 kids instead of 750. He'll be starting with a clean slate, which means he can shed any "trouble-maker" images the other kids may have of him now.
We've got some work ahead of us to set up his support systems at the new school. Thankfully, we're staying in the same District so his speech therapy will transfer with him when he starts his next block. The new SERT teacher is going to assess him when he gets there, and will hopefully accerlate the occupational therapy we've been fighting so hard to get for him at his current school. He needs one-on-one support to work on his fine motor skills, organizational skills and math or he's going to fall further behind the other kids.

One more thing that remains to play out is whether he is put into a Grade One-Two or a Grade Two-Three split class. The new school is much smaller than the rest in the District, so there aren't as many resources, or teachers to choose from. I've heard wonderful things about both teachers from the other parents in our neighborhood, and can see advantages and disadvantages with both. I suspect it will come down to class size and we won't have a decision to make.

He's home sick today with the croup and I had an important, time-sensative errand to run near home, so we stopped by the school to pick up the transfer forms on our way. We were greeted at the door by the school secretary, who introduced us to the Princpal. They were both warm and welcoming, and really put him at ease. We're going to go back mid-month to meet his teacher, his class, the SERT teacher, and to have a tour of the school. Hopefully that will help everything be more familiar to him on the first day of class on February 28th.

We've been talking about this change as a possibility for a few weeks now, but I think today was the first time it became real for him. He was a little shy and nervous when we were at the school. He quietly asked a lot of questions and seemed unsure about the idea, at least until we went outside and checked out the school yard at recess.

There were a quarter of the kids running around, and he saw someone he knows. One of his best buddies from home goes to that school, which he thinks is pretty cool. We watched as a bunch of kids tried to roll massive snowballs that were bigger than some of the kids, and then the magic happened. We noticed a teacher heading towards a hill where a bunch of the kids were running up and sliding down. He walked over the them with a determined look and his eye, and I thought "Uh oh!" Then he yelled "Which one of you can slide the farthest?"

"Mom!" Jonas said. "The kids here get to slide down the hill! That's AWESOME!"

He smiled the entire way home. So did I.


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