The kids are out of school for summer, but that doesn’t mean its a free for all around here. While we have plenty of camping trips, movie nights, park picnics and lazy days of summer fun planned, I’ll be damned if I let them experience the ever so typical summer brain drain. I’ve mentioned a few times how transitioning to a new school can be hard on kids. I think it was harder on my third (soon to be fourth-grader) than it was on my Kinder, soon to be first-grader.
Jaydon spent all year trying to catch up in reading fluency. He finally caught up by the end of the year and I’m excited to say that they get to start fresh again at a wonderful charter school not far from us that will teach them the things I know they are longing to learn. The school that my kids were going to didn’t teach science and had some other issues that I found disturbing. The school had no PTO, the school was in a shady neighborhood and even some parents seemed a bit shady at pick up and drop off. The neighboring middle schoolers released about 20 to 30 minutes before the elementary school would come over and used the school park. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the F-word and other obscenities from these kids every single day as I waited to pick up my kids from school. I watched them vandalize the park equipment or make-out on swings in front of onlooking elementary students. I was really close to calling the police on a few occasions. One parent had the courage to ask the teens to stop, to which the response was “F U lady!”. My kids often asked to play at the park after school and the answer was no unless the teens had moved on. If that is Middle school I’m really dreading it! I’m hoping it was just the location of the elementary and middle school and not the true nature of kids today.
I can also attest to routinely taking a nine-year-old boy home because he had no one to pick him up after school. The boy’s habit every day was walking up to vehicles asking for a ride. He’d play in the park, or wander the streets. I once took the boy home and found out some terrible things about his home life. I’d take him home anytime he asked, but he never went home to an adult. He was always by himself. One time his teacher walked out and wanted to speak to me. She told me not to drive him home, that his mom asked that he walk. It just seemed really far for him to walk, and I’d feel bad about it on days that it rained or snowed. Even after being told by his teacher not to give him a ride, he’d still ask. It was really hard to look him in the eye and tell him no. It was an awkward situation to be put in. I cared for the boy’s safety, but I obviously didn’t want to break any rules or upset his mother.
I also volunteered any chance I got at this school. I soon learned about the demographics of most of the students and also learned there was no PTO or parent involvement hardly ever. The school was on its third Principal in five years and there was a 43% enrollment rate with kids and teachers flocking to other schools any opportunity they got. I found out that nearly half the staff left after the last Principal left. I’m not even really sure why, but I know the location of this school is a big problem for many people and one of the primary reasons might be some of the illegal activity in the area. Many of these kids are latchkey children after school.
I will say that I got to know some of the staff through my volunteering and that it has many wonderful teachers. But the school lacked a lot too. There was no science or STEM teaching. No after-school activities or organizations which I felt might help kids from wandering the streets. I organized collecting box tops for the school and shocked many teachers as to why I’d even want to. So it seemed like volunteering here was just not an ordinary thing. I volunteered on Jaydon’s third-grade field trip to the Colorado History Museum and was shocked by the outright disrespect and verbal abuse teachers and volunteers received from these kids.
I was in charge of a group of five students. Before loading the kids on the bus I went over rules with the students about always being within eye contact and not moving to a new exhibit until we were all together. The response I got from the girl in my group was, “You aren’t my teacher and I don’t have to listen to you!” I told her that she’s in my group and that, “her teacher has asked me to head this group which means that listening to me, IS listening to your teacher.” I got an eye roll, a “whatever”, and an “I’ll do what I want from her”, then a muttered, “fuck this field trip”. The shock on my face was enough to have my son hug me and say he was sorry, even though he did nothing wrong! Jaydon was the best child in the group that day and I was very grateful for him and realized that my parenting and persistence in treating people with basic human kindness helped him see that behavior was wrong. He stayed close to me the whole trip and looked embarrassed by his classmate’s actions. Which made me relieved. If he could see that it was wrong and disrespectful, then I was doing a good job at parenting.
So when I got a call last week that my children got into the charter school I signed them up for back in February, I was elated, but a little nervous for them to attend yet another school! When I talked to my neighbor about my hesitation, she said, “Oh they’ll be fine. I was a military kid and lived in Guam and Germany for a while and I survived. All this does is make them better at adapting to their surroundings and difficult situations”. Having that reassurance from her and seeing the kids excited about it, made me realize we were doing the right thing.
This charter school does amazing on standardized tests, they teach Spanish from Kinder all the way up to 8th grade! Here they will get full immersion into the language. They have a wonderful STEAM and robotics program, organized sports and many clubs the kids can utilize to help with their education including the Junior Honor’s Society, newspaper and photography clubs. We did a school tour on Friday and the kids were truly excited! This made me feel even better! Not only that, parents get to be on the school board and they get to help make decisions vital to the school’s success. I also love that parents and teachers work closely together. If there’s even a hint that a child might be struggling in a subject, an email is sent to the parent and a meeting is held. You don’t have to wait til quarterly conferences to learn that your child is way behind in something. It’s addressed immediately! THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE!! I hated learning at Jaydon’s 2nd grade conference that his reading literacy was below grade level, if I would have known before, I could have helped and it wouldn’t have taken him an entire grade level for me to grasp that while his vocabulary was at a 4th grade level in the second grade, his fluency was below grade level. Understanding that, took some time because it wasn’t explained to me well enough.
I will be so grateful to be around like-minded parents here and to work closely with teachers. I love teachers so I really want to be an aid in their teaching and when I feel like I’ve been left in the dark due to lack of communication, it feels terrible. Anyway, we are going to enjoy our summer, but the kids will keep learning and building on their skills all through summer in preparation for an epic school year ahead!
Have you ever been in the situation that changing schools was best for your child?
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