A year ago, we made the decision that the 2016-17 school year would begin with all of our children in the public schools. Sarah had been in the public high school for her Freshman year and had a great experience and done well. There were things we learned that might have been beneficial if she had been in public schools before high school. Her Catholic school education was good and had prepared her well for the academic load, but there were things like band or orchestra or theater or, or, or. Because she played volleyball, she had the opportunity to make friends with that similar interest. It just so happened that almost all the girls who played volleyball also shared a similar commitment to academics, so that worked out well.
So, we took the plunge and decided to put all of them in public schools. There were a couple of things right off the bat we were looking forward to: bus transportation and having all five kids on the same academic calendar. The bus was great because with Craig’s job at the Ford plant, and the changes that can take place with scheduling, knowing the kids could be dropped off close to the house (about 1.5 blocks away) at a time of day when there would be a parent home within the hour (my workday about 15 minutes after they get home), I didn’t have to worry about them being picked up at school. Even though we lived really close to the parish Catholic school, having the kids walk home seemed to be a bigger hassle than it was worth, so we always tried to have a ride home for the kids. Having all of the kids on the same school day calendar needs no explanation. 🙂
There was sadness from the kids when they learned they would change schools. There is still some wistful longing to spend the day with close friends instead of in a new place. But the kids have thrived in their new environments.
When Craig and I attended the Volleyball banquet for Sarah, I sat with Craig and watched as Sarah sat at a table full of other sophomore ladies. The week before had been the assembly to award Academic Letters from Sarah’s freshman year. To earn an Academic letter, the GPA must be 3.75 or higher. Of the full table of sophomore girl volleyball players, every single one of them had also been awarded an Academic letter the previous week along with Sarah. Watching Sarah interact with them, Craig and I realized how happy she was. She has continued to make excellent grades and is on track for a second Academic letter for sophomore year. On top of that, class ranks came out and she’s sitting in a really great spot. Going to Parent-Teacher conferences is almost an occasion of sin of my pride because I enjoy hearing the teachers tell me what a great kid I have. It’s clear that she is happy, she is healthy and things are looking to get even better.
Dani was in that weird spot for a switch. 7th grade. Sigh. It’s just not my favorite. But she’s also adjusted well. She made friends quickly and was involved in Cross Country in the fall, Drama in the second quarter, did the school musical for third quarter and is doing swim team this quarter. She’s had a few hiccups and had to learn a couple of lessons the hard way. One thing I have thought about all year with Dani is that there is quite a bit of lee-way and freedom granted to kids in middle school at the public school. The teachers are more likely to handle things directly with the students than they did at the Catholic school. I learned about some things at parent-teacher conferences that I figured I would have heard about WAY sooner at the Catholic school. But I was impressed with the fact that they work closely and directly with the students to handle most problems and when parents get involved, it means it passed over to a more serious nature. I have seen this as an opportunity for Dani to grow up a bit and take some accountability for her own actions. A couple of things have been painful, but I think it’s better to learn the lessons she has learned now at the age of 13 than later when she is, say, 16 and there is more on the line. Watching Dani in the musical gave me goosebumps because I could see how happy it made her to perform. She has become much better at tracking her own assignments and ensuring everything is turned in, and that’s a big deal, too. Overall, she also appears to be happy and wants to do well.
The younger three started attending an elementary school that was awarded the National Blue Ribbon of Excellence in September. It wasn’t due to that award that we knew it was a great school though. My kids felt save and included in everything that was going on at the school. There was a little bit of adjustment, but since there are multiple classrooms for each grade, lots of other kids were meeting new people, too. Helen made a few friends over the school year, graduated from the reading group that requires extra help and started to excel in math, science and all her other subjects. She works hard at school and was recognized for her effort as well as her performance. As we’ve worked through her anxiety this year, it really boosted her to find out she was good at so many things. She continued to do cheer and still hangs out regularly with one of her closest friends who was still at the Catholic school. Dominic also thrived academically and continued to play sports so he could see his friends at the Catholic school. He really missed his best buddies, but the moms made it happen for them to get together a bit throughout the school year. Vincent was starting school for the first time, so everyone was new and he didn’t have to adjust as much. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him grow this year. He is reading quite well. But math is more his thing. Numbers make sense to him in a way I have not seen with my other kids. We received two “good phone calls” home this school year for Vincent. These are awesome! The school called to let us know that Vincent is “kind to those around him” and that he is a “hard worker” and has made “excellent progress.” He even was selected for a recognition luncheon at Pizza Ranch with the school counselor!! LOVE LOVE LOVE that kid.
One thing we worried about was whether the kids could maintain the fervor for their faith. This year, I’ve noticed an uptick in Sarah’s faith life. She has maintained regular attendance at our Parish’s young women’s group that meets on Wednesdays. This gives her regular access to Confession as well as talks and discussions among the group directed toward women her age — things like boys/dating, vocation, future plans, college, parental relationship — great things for her to get to discuss with people she trusts and respects. All of the other four kids attend Catechesis classes on Sunday nights and Dominic’s prepared for his Sacraments of Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. We continue to pray together and the kids and I are committed to making the Easter Triduum this year (we attended Holy Thursday Mass tonight!) The support from our Parish is great for families who discern that perhaps public school is the better fit for them. We are grateful to have it.
It was a tough decision, I’m not gonna lie. and honestly, we couldn’t know whether we’d made the right decision until well after the point of no return. What a blessing to catch glimpses that let us know we had indeed nailed it!