There was a time when I thought the baby years were the hard ones. I had no idea that one day, I would look back with fond memories on the days when I was sleep deprived because of a baby’s cries rather than losing sleep over the many complicated worries of childhood drama. My oldest is only in 2nd grade and I’m already terrified of the teenage years. If I could shrink my kids down small enough to carry them around in a sling again and take them with me everywhere I went, I would do it. Judge me all you want but after a hard day in the trenches of parenting, you would do it too.
We homeschooled last year and, while we loved it, my now 2nd grader wanted to give public school a try. As a work at home mom, I certainly wasn’t going to turn down the extra time in my day but I’ve been surprised at how hard the transition has been for both of us.
I went to public school for my entire school career, and like anyone else in the public school system there were ups and downs. I can’t remember what I did this morning but I have vivid memories of spit wads being thrown at me on the bus and nicknames that just wouldn’t seem to go away. On graduation day, I washed my hands of all that and joined the real world. I had no idea that school would actually be harder as a parent.
I’ve decided that my ability to survive elementary school as a parent will boil down to trust and communication.
Turning your child over to a complete stranger for 6 hours a day is a bit overwhelming. you hope that everything will go smoothly but it’s hard to ignore the stories of bullying and school violence that appear in the news far too often for comfort. While my son is young, I’ve decided that the person I need to have trust in is not necessary his teacher (although that helps too) but him. From the moment kids are born they work to be independent and as a parent, we have to trust that they can make good choices. Children may not have experience on their side but they understand right and wrong far better than most adults and that by itself can go a long way.
Communication in Public School
One of my biggest complaints when I sent my son to kindergarten in public school was the lack of communication. My son, while generally chatty, could never be counted on to give me an account of his day at school unless I wanted to know about which games were played at recess. I was hoping that as an older and wiser 2nd grader things would be different, but personality is fairly ingrained and my accounts of the day still consist of lunch menus and playground games.
After hearing that my son was physically bullied on the playground during the first week of school (likely on one of the days when all I heard was that he ate his full sandwich at lunch), I made a point to do my part to communicate better with his classroom teacher. Several lengthy conversations later and I finally feel like I have a better idea what is going on during his day.
Returning to public school has also made me realize how vital it is that my son and I communicate with each other. I’ve always thought we knew how to talk to each other but I’m starting to suspect that I didn’t teach him how to express his feelings. As the oldest, he’s used to taking charge of a situation and fixing it. He’s not used to asking for help. The first few weeks of school could have gone much more smoothly for my son if he had known how to open up with me and his teacher about things that he didn’t understand and a few things that were causing him stress.
This is a new stage of parenting for me and it certainly comes with it’s challenges. We’re all still undecided whether or not we’ll ultimately continue on with public school or go back to being a homeschooling family long term. For us, the decision will be determined by our kids and what is ultimately best for them as individuals.
Photo by Megan Skelly