Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Readin, Writin, Reflux

The beginning of the school year has been a momentous one. Big changes in these hills.

I will start with Ray because his change is much less complicated. Ray started going to Young Children’s Center for the Arts for preschool. He attends three 6 hour days to get him ready for fulltime Kindergarten next year. I was a little nervous about how he would make the change but I needn’t be. He was so excited leading up to his first day and he has loved every minute of it. And unlike Noah whom I have to drag information from, Ray comes home and tells me what songs they sang, what paintings he made, and what his teachers and classmates say. He is just itching to share. And he calls all his playmates “my friend.” He is doing great and I am so proud and excited for him.

With Ray and Noah in school I am home 3 days a week with just Lee. This is fantastic but also a bit overwhelming. I can’t remember what in hell I did with Noah at 18 months old to keep him busy all day. I’m going to start operating on more of a schedule to keep us both busy and entertained after our upcoming vacation.

And then there is Noah. When the time came to figure out where Noah was going to go to Kindergarten I was petrified by the steps and all the options. In the public school district there are 3 kinds of schools. Charter, which enrolls by lottery, Magnet, which enrolls by application and ability – and is for upper grades, and Neighborhood which enrolls by geographic area. Our neighborhood school is Moffett and I wasn’t satisfied with sending Noah there. When you don’t want to send your kid to the neighborhood school you can fill out a Neighborhood Transfer Form that says you want to go to a school in a different neighborhood. However these schools take the kids from their neighborhood first and only after that do they take kids outside if they have spots. Often they do not. How each neighborhood school handles the spots open to transfers varies. I put in Noah’s transfer form and put his name in for some charter school lotteries but really I wasn’t crushed when those didn’t yield results. The moment I went to Frankford Friends I fell in love with it. It was small, modest, and close knit. I could tell that they weren’t just going to be teaching my child the basics but also contribute to his character and his view of the world. I could see from the middle school kids who were all so individual and warm that it was a very special place. A place I wanted to be a part of. And we couldn’t have been more thrilled with Noah’s Kindergarten experience there. I will always love Frankford Friends.

But this summer I started to think about two tuitions. Three tuitions. And about the inevitability of moving our kids to public school. I came to the conclusion that even if we could struggle and make ends meet to send all the kids there – that it would cost our family other opportunities for growth and learning. I began to think that if we didn’t have to pay for school we could use even a portion of that money to supplement education with lessons, sports and educational trips – things that would be harder to do, even impossible while paying tuition. And so I realized that a change was going to have to be made eventually. But when? Which made me come to the realization that sooner was better. Better to move Noah before he became more entrenched in his Frankford Friends friendships, accustomed to the smallness. Better to move him when there was just him to move. And I realized I should have tried to transfer Noah to First Grade at Greenfield, a neighborhood public school downtown with an excellent reputation and a Gifted program that begins in Second grade. Noah had spent the summer playing with friends who went to Greenfield and whose parents were very pleased. But of course it was too late to make such a change. I should have done that paperwork last September.

I decided I’d write the Principal on the off chance they had a space for Noah. I told him about Noah, about how awesome he was and why I wanted to make the move to Greenfield. Of course he wrote back right away and said basically “No, fill out forms to transfer them both next year.” But I decided to pursue it further anyway. I asked friends whose kids went to Greenfield to mention us, and how great Noah was to the Principal. I wrote him again and I called and talked to him on the phone and he told me the same thing but also said they had a policy that if a child doesn’t show up for the first ten days they strike them from their books and then they might have a space. So I had to think whether I would have N go to FF for 2 weeks and then transfer him. I told him I’d do that – that it would be hard for him but it was for the best. That he should let me know if they had a vacancy. I also stopped into the office to meet the Principal in person and give him copies of Noah’s report cards and again said how much we wanted it. On the first day of the Philadelphia public school, after a sleepless night spent obsessing over it, I wrote the Principal an email that said PLEASE - how it would be great if he could find an opening for Noah before he started his school on Thursday – how it would be a lot less stressful for him. He didn’t respond to my email.

So I called Wednesday afternoon. The conversation went like this:
“Hi Dan, It’s Nicole Eggerts.”
(Perceived sigh.) “ Hi, Nicole. You are persistent.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to irritate you.”
“No. You are not. Noah starts school Thursday, right?”
(To his secretary) “Sherry, what are the counts for 212?”
To me “You can bring him in and register him tomorrow morning.”
I signed him up the following morning satisfied that I left him in a class with one of his neighborhood friends, after seeing another one of his friends in the hall with her class.

But of course now I’m wringing my hands about whether it was the right thing. Frankford Friends was so wonderful, so small and precious. Greenfield is enormous in comparison, A REAL schooly feeling school with 3 first grades, an auditorium, cafeteria, gym, computer and science labs, gardens and new play equipment. Its such a big change. Noah seems to be doing fine with the adjustment though he said he does miss his old school. In a way I know Noah will do good any place. He is really a self motivated learner and I’m glad that during first grade he will be tested for admittance to the gifted program and that should help to challenge him. But I’d be remiss in not mentioning that I am not sold on his new teacher yet. She is new to the school but had previously been teaching middle school for 20 years. Noah says he likes her but it seems they have been doing a lot of copying off the board and uninteresting worksheets. And she’s unexpectedly out the beginning of the week and didn’t leave any lesson plans for an ancient sub. So now I’m spinning my wheels about whether I should have tried to get him into Second Grade – since he’s only 2 months past the grade cutoff mark and already reading at a Third Grade level. Always something to obsess about. The feeling of triumph is fleeting. Am I doing enough for them? Am I doing the right thing? It’s dizzying and I feel a bit ill.


lonna said...

Remember when we are all so stressed out when to introduce solids, and what those solids should be? Those questions seem so innocent now compared to all of these educational and social questions that can keep us up at night. You will do the right thing by Noah, even if it takes you a while and some advocacy in order to see that happen. You have to do what's best for all five of you in the long run.

What great news for Ray. I'm glad that he's so excited to go to school. You just want to bottle that up and give your kids a refresher when they are in high school, I think:)

If I remember right you hauled Noah around to keep him busy when he was 18 months. You were always the mom at the museums and the parks. Maybe your old blogs would give you some ideas.

abby said...

I came upon your blog by chance. We're also YCCA parents (we have two daughters there, one a Rainbow and the other a Pumpkin) and are in the midst of the crazy kindergarten quest. Frankford Friends is at the top of our list, though the commute from S. Philly is less than desirable. We've also put in for a transfer to Greenfield (since we are one block out of the Meredith Catchment). I'd love to hear more about what your feelings are re: Greenfield versus FFS at this point in the year.