Monday, March 3, 2014

The Public School Experiment Begins

The oldest little E will be starting school today.

It's a decision we've collectively wrestled with for months and one only exacerbated by her diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder, which technically makes her a special needs child.

To us, she has always been special, from the long wait for her actual delivery to her rushed first steps and delayed first words. In many ways, she's far ahead of many of her 4-year-old peers. She knows her colors, counts to 20 and usually remembers 16, can count by 2s and sometimes 5s, reads a little, and like all children has a mind like a sponge that soaks up everything. It's been our job to give her plenty to soak up.

SPD, however, means that sometimes she soaks up too much, or doesn't absorb it in the way we would. She wants to taste and sniff things we don't think about, her aversion to stinkbugs drives us up the wall at times, food has to be far from hot on the cold to warm spectrum. She's in near perpetual motion, humming and thrumming when she lies down to rest like an old-time telegraph wire so that we can practically hear her thoughts still racing. Too much of the wrong thing, or sometimes anything can push her over some unseen line, sending her into a meltdown that strikes fear in the hearts of parents and grandparents, not to mention siblings.

So going off to school of any kind has been a long debated prospect. We have researched home schooling, weighed the pros and cons, and in many ways found it preferable -- something I would never have said a decade or so ago. The resources are available to make it a viable option, even if you don't think you're a teacher. The support groups are there to provide help and social outings.

Ultimately, however, her mom came to the decision that we just couldn't unless we absolutely had to do it. She sees our work as the barrier, but while I agree I think even with work it would be possible, if E1 were the only child, or even the youngest. While her mom doesn't have enough hours to give her the time for school, I have the hours, but don't see how I could structure them so that she had time to learn without her little sisters, especially E3, driving us insane.

So after a visit to one of the county's pre-K classrooms last week, even as the debate on her future isn't quite settled, a decision of sorts has been made.

We're going to see how it goes.

While there isn't a lot at stake, while the structure may be more forgiving, while if it proves to be too much we can write it off as a failed experiment that she isn't ready to undertake, E1 will be going to school.

Perhaps she'll do well and the structure of a classroom will be what she needs away from the roller coaster days of life with a teething toddler. Perhaps other children who aren't her easygoing sister will help her to balance herself in ways we can't foresee. Perhaps the little girl that she hugged goodbye after her brief visit last week will turn into a real friend.

Perhaps all our worries will prove to be ill founded.

Or perhaps, as her dad said, we'll get called to the school a dozen times in the next few months. She won't take the transition well and she'll become the meltdown queen of her elementary school. In that case, we'll know we have a few months to come up with a workable plan B and prepare for kindergarten at home.

Either way, we're looking at a few weeks of adjusting. My house will be so much quieter without her little voice. E2 will be lonely without her playmate. Naps will be reconfigured to make time for after school pickup. Rough evenings for E1 are anticipated as her routine changes.

It will be a learning experience for us all because this week, E1 is going to school.

I'm not sure any of us are really ready for it.

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