Today would have been Joey's last day of Kindergarten. He would be moving up to 1st Grade in 10 days. (year round school... no summer break) But it's not his last day. In our house it's just another hot day in North Carolina. It has taken me 7 months to get the courage to publicly share what I struggled with most as a parent thus far. But on this Last Day of School it seems appropriate.
Joey started Kindergarten on his 5th birthday last summer. He made the age cut-off for Kindergarten by 7 weeks. Meaning if his birthday was 49 days later he would not have been eligible to attend school until the following year. He is a smart boy, and we knew he was academically ready, but struggled with whether or not he was mature enough and socially ready to begin Elementary School. I went back and forth for months. I spoke with professionals, friends, family members, and strangers. I prayed that we were going to do the right thing for our son. Ultimately we agreed to send him, to "try it," and make a change if necessary.
The first couple months were relatively smooth, with a few minor bumps in the road as our boy learned the routines and expectations of the big school. Joey was making friends, learning tons, and happy to go to school. He was lucky to have a teacher who is fantastic in every sense of the word. After about 3-4 months, I was in close contact with Joey's teacher. And not because he was winning the citizenship award. Listening became an issue. Keeping his hands to himself became an issue. Impulse control became an issue. My calls from Joey's teacher started to mimic calls an emails that I had made when I was a teacher. Calls to parents of "that kid." We discussed things like "thinking time, reward systems, and behavior charts."
Nothing prepares you for the heartache that comes when you find out that your child is having trouble. We have been blessed and fortunate as parents. Our children are healthy, happy, and adjust well to just about everything. But suddenly it became very clear to me that something wasn't right. One day in late November, Joey came home sad and disappointed when someone told him, "I don't want to be your friend anymore." My happy in life boy was deflated. I believe it never crossed his mind that someone wouldn't want to be his friend. In the coming days, as I watched Joey interact with his classmates, there was a painfully obvious gap in maturity. Joey was struggling to fit in. So he acted out.
After shedding more tears than I knew my body could produce, and many in depth conversations with Joey's teacher, my husband, my mom, my husband's parents, and anyone else who was within ear shot, I knew what we had to do. I knew he wasn't ready. So why all the emotions? I was so scared to make him feel like a failure. My child is a success. No matter what. Needing more time is not a failure in my book, and I had to carefully consider how to make it not be a failure in his. I also didn't want him to get the impression that he could get in trouble and then not have to go to school anymore. I did not want to send him back to Pre-K, because I felt like he would most definitely get a feeling that he did not succeed. I felt sad for him. He made friends that he liked. He liked school. He worked hard to learn new things every single day, and he truly loved his teacher. I felt like I was ripping him from everything familiar in his world, and not even sure if it would make a difference.
We approached the topic with Joey by telling him that Mommy was going to homeschool him for the rest of the year, and then he would go back to Kindergarten when he turned 6. This made sense to him. He did not question it, never said he didn't want to stay home, and honestly hardly asked about it since. There have been a few times over the past several months when we've had to remind Joey that his "friends" from his Kindergarten class will be moving on to 1st Grade. He's a pragmatic child, and this has been OK with him too, knowing that many of those students are turning 7 when he is not even 6 yet.
Now... Did I make the right decision? I believe I did. Joey may struggle in school regardless. But at least at this point I know that I did everything in my power to give him the best start. There is no "what if?" or "maybe we should have..." There was a point in April when I knew he was ready. A feeling that I had after working with Joey on some school work, and watching him interact with some peers when I realized that he is demonstrating readiness signs that were not there when we made the decision to send him to Kindergarten last year.
So, on this Last Day of School, I am hopeful. I am happy that I've gotten some extra time with my son that I never would have had if we decided to have him finish out the year. I've witnessed some huge changes in Joey. We've had some great conversations, lots of fun times, and I've appreciated every moment with him knowing how quickly it will pass. Tomorrow we go on vacation, and about 5 weeks after that Joey will start Kindergarten. And I will miss my little buddy (and probably spend a week crying all over again!) as I see him go off to the big school once again, but I am grateful for every minute we've spent together during the last 6 years. I'll leave you with his first and last day pics:
First Day of Kindergarten, July 16th, 2012:
Last Day, June 29th, 2013