It’s the First Day of School! Sigh. It still feels like the middle of summer here – probably because it is still the middle of summer, so no-one was really ready to go back. But then again, I am not sure there would be a time when the kids or I was truly ready for back to school. Nonetheless, the time has come. I now officially have a 7th grader, a 4th grader, and a 1st grader. As I type this my children are sitting in new classrooms, getting to know new teachers and I am blessed (?) with peach and quiet as I write this post.
Our morning went amazingly smoothly. We had a visit from our Elf-on-the-Shelf Pete, who tends to make appearances for birthdays and other special occasions. Even with an emergency run to the store to acquire uniform-required belts for Belle and Bob (which my husband pulled off flawlessly), because Belle misplaced her belt over the summer and Bob did not need one in kindergarten so he didn’t even own a belt, we arrived at school about ten minutes early. Everyone woke up without complaint, had plenty of time for peaches and cream oatmeal and seemed excited as we gathered on the front steps for our traditional First Day of School photos. After some quick pictures, the children heaved their 90-pound backpacks, weighed down with countless binders, notebooks, folders, notecards, crayons, pencils, pens, markers, planners, tissues, clorox wipes, plastic bags, band-aids, paper towels and hand sanitizer, into the car and we were off. By the time we arrived at school a few minutes later the parking lot was buzzing with activity and the children broke into grins as they greeted friends they haven’t seen since June.
For us, this back to school season was a little bit more stressful than usual. Our children all attend a private Catholic school, and have since the time my oldest started pre-school – 9 years ago. For a long time we really loved everything about it. It’s a small school, with small classes, an emphasis on religion (obviously) and a family atmosphere. Our oldest son received a wonderful elementary education and we felt deeply rooted in our school community. But, we are also blessed to live in an excellent school district that is able to offer its students many more academic, athletic and extracurricular opportunities that a Catholic school can. So, we have always said that each school year we would assess our options and make the right decision for each child at the time. Unfortunately, over the last couple of years our school has been plagued by a lack of leadership, poor administrative choices and a complete breakdown in communication. My husband and I have even questioned the commitment to stated Catholic education principles. Last year was particularly troubling for a number of reasons and we seriously considered moving our children in the middle of the year. Actually, there were fewer than six weeks left in the school year when we considered the move – yes – it was that serious of a problem. However, due to some last-minute decision-making and a long overdue conference with the President of the school system, we decided to give it one more year to see if they lived up to their promises. So far, they have not. But, we were not fully aware of these continuing deficiencies until about ten days ago, at which point our children were already invested in their classes for the year. My husband and I decided that our younger children would do better remaining at the Catholic school for now. We feared that a last minute switch would do more harm than good. They both have terrific, professional teachers and will have a phenomenal year in spite of the poor leadership. We tried to convince our oldest son to transfer this year; but, after spending a lot of time with his school friends during the last two weeks of summer he wasn’t ready to make the change this late in the summer. I freely admit that as recently as Friday afternoon I wasn’t confident that we had made the right decision for this year and I was engaging in a lot of second-guessing. But seeing the joy on my children’s faces when they saw their friends and feeling the collective anticipation and excitement of a new school year that was almost buzzing through the hallways I felt a huge sense of relief. There may be no perfect solution when it comes to school – but I am confident that they will all have amazing years and will grow personally, academically and in their faith….
Several hours later – I am thrilled to report that the first day was a smashing success for everyone! Bob absolutely loved first grade. He couldn’t stop talking about all the boys in his class (there are 9, and in kindergarten there were only 4!), the classroom library, the volcanoes they are going to erupt on Friday, and all the great things Mrs. T told them. He even declared, “I can’t wait to go back again tomorrow.” Belle also had a terrific day with her wonderful teacher. She was excited to start learning social studies and happy to know that in fourth again they will once again be allowed snack, water bottles and Chapstick. Ah – the small things can make such a big difference. My oldest son was excited to get his favorite teacher for homeroom and to greet eight brand new classmates, including some boys that he knows from baseball. I’d say we have definitely gotten off to a great start and I will hope and pray for a year of full of positive experiences.