I've talked a lot about our choice to homeschool Jay for preschool, what our curriculum looked like, and that if we had the choice, we wouldn't be holding him back from Kindergarten this upcoming school year. As it turns out, the new Georgia law for birthday deadlines and Kindergarten attendance is not changing, and so we do in fact, have a choice.
Derek and I have always been on the same page with our kids and their education. Our stance is that we pray for each kid, each year, and decide what will work best for them. Jay has always shown interest in pursuing academics and wanting to learn and do worksheets and projects at home, which is why I started doing a preschool workbook with him right when he turned three. It's always been one of his favorite times of the day, and he's always picked up on topics really quickly. Most recently he's learned a few facts about George Washington, and loves to tell them to anyone who will listen, and can also tell you Abraham Lincoln's name when shown a picture of him. He's a pretty bright boy which is why despite him being four when the school year starts in July, we will be sending him to Kindergarten at our local public school this fall (summer).
There are some reservations and hesitations that I have with sending him, and I am prepared to pull him out and homeschool him for Kindergarten if needed, but I think our best bet, in this moment is to send him. My main concerns are that Jay has never been in a classroom setting, and he's pretty shy, so if someone hands him a worksheet and says, "here do this", I wonder if he's just going to stare blankly at his teacher and just not do the worksheet. And then because he doesn't do any of the worksheets, he fails out of kindergarten, or the teacher says he has behavioral problems, even though he's just shy and needs to be shown a little love, and then the entire thing backfires and there's a lot of fingers pointing at me saying, "I told you so." Which I'm fully ready to accept and swallow that when the time comes. It also takes him FOREVER to eat his food sometimes, so I worry that he's never going to eat his food in the cafeteria, and then he's going to be hungry, and then he'll be cranky, and then he won't do his worksheets, and then they'll label him with behavioral problems even though it's just hunger and then we're back to square one again. Also, I have no idea where this "worksheet anxiety" is coming from, please tell me it's a real thing...
When we put the fears aside though, there are many reasons why we feel sending him is the right decision, and I'd like to share some of those with you as well. The most important one is that he's verbally said that he wants to go to school next year, and that he want's to ride the school bus, and that he wants to bring a lunch in his lunchbox, and for a kid who is as shy as he is, I feel like I need to honor his request for bravery. I need to be able to support him in his desire to spread those wings.
Another reason we think it's best to send him is because Em will be attending the special needs preschool for children with disabilities for ages 3-4 at the same public school. So in that case, how do you tell your child who has said that he wants to go to school, "Sorry, your little sister who is two years younger than you is going to go to school, but you'll have to wait just one more year." There was even a ton of hesitation with sending Em to the special needs preschool. My main thoughts were, "Why on earth does my sweet baby who is so little need to be going to school everyday?" I fought it tooth and nail for a while until someone from back home who is a TA in a special needs classroom told me, "You need to think of what's best for Em when she's a 25-year-old adult, and not as a three-year-old little girl." And then there were the tears, and the sobs, and knowing that she was right, but feeling so helpless and so lost in the entire process as well.
And then God stepped in, twice. The first time was around November when I was raking leaves in the front yard. A little boy who lives two doors down wandered into our yard, and then his mom cam over looking for him. He and Jay played, while the mom and I talked for a while. After a few minutes it had come up that Em had special needs, and then she'd told me that her son was in the special needs classroom at our local public school. She'd told me all about her fears with sending her kids to school, how she was half in the door, half out with homeschooling vs public school, and how she was going to drive her kids instead of the bus... literally all these same thoughts and feelings that I had, she had too. She then told me that she ultimately decided to send both of her kids (she has a daughter in 1st and the son is 5), because of her son with special needs, and she said that she has had zero problems with the school, that it's the greatest school ever, and that even though she was hesitant about the school bus, there has been zero problems. She even said that the special needs department is what mainly sold her on the school and that all the teachers there have been nothing short of amazing. Her son didn't attend the special needs preschool like Em will, but her overall approval of the school was so comforting to my worrying heart.
A couple weeks later someone from the HOA in our neighborhood came over to our house to talk to us about ordering a new mailbox since ours was broken, and then he started telling me about another family who lived a street over who has kids that were one year older than both of my kids, but that the younger child had Down Syndrome, and that I should meet her sometime.
Since that conversation, I'd been on the lookout for her around the neighborhood when we go on walks, or to the playground, and then on Martin Luther King Day, we finally met. We were both at the park with our kids and Em was in the swing and she was playing with her younger son a few feet away, and then I spotted her older son, and knew exactly who she was (but I of course had to act like I hadn't been seeking her out for weeks...)
I said, "Hey I have a random question for you... Does your older son attend Kindergarten at (insert name of local public school here)?" She said yes, and then went on and on about how much she loved the school and then followed with, "My youngest is actually at the preschool there too, and I couldn't be happier with it." I then told her without going into too much detail about Em that she would be attending the preschool next year too and she said, "I just really love that I don't have to worry about where my kid is each day, and that I know he's in the best hands possible."
It was piercing daggers right to my mommy heart. The words that I needed all along. Everything is going to be okay. It was that five minute conversation on the playground that reaffirmed for the thousandth time, this is why we needed to be here. This is why the Lord put us in this house. This is why we had the most horrific home buying experience. Heavenly Father was just waiting for us to find this house, for this school district, to meet these families, these neighbors. It's that constant reminder that we need to just trust in the journey. This is where our children need to be.