Month: September 2014

Is Private School Worth It? (Week 1)

There is a question that will plague me for, at least, the rest of this school year:

Is Private School Worth It?

After less than one week of Dylan attending this absolutely wonderful Quaker school, I am utterly exhausted.

First, there’s the drive. Thirty-five minutes (highway driving on a toll road) to the school in the morning, then 45 minutes home. Then I take Shane to school. A few hours later, I drive 45 minutes both ways to pick him up (and save the toll). Someone else picks up Shane.

The bus just didn’t work out, and my parents have graciously offered to help. But I miss Shane.

Second, there’s the problem with Dylan’s classes. He needs to be in Algebra I but he will lose music/art/P.E. if he takes Algebra I. There simply aren’t enough teachers to teach two Algebra I classes in a school this small.

We’ve also learned this week that his science curriculum is an exact duplicate of the curriculum he had last year in public school. He is going to be bored to tears in science – or we’re going to have to rearrange that part of his schedule as well.

Then, there’s Dylan’s reaction to the school itself.

Before I tell you about his reaction, in case this is the first blog entry you’ve read, let me explain why he’s in private school. Dylan was miserable at his old school. He was bored to tears in class, bullied by several students, anxious beyond the breaking point, and taking medication just to make the day bearable.

So one might think that a school where all of those issues are alleviated would be absolutely spectacular!

After Day One, Dylan said, “It’s good.”

When pressed for more detail he said, “There’s nothing wrong with it.”

After a few days, I asked him if he thinks he needs to go back on medication. He snorted, “That wouldn’t help! I am already the most focused person in the room!”

Apparently, the classes are a bit “looser” than those to which he is accustomed. The kids talk “even while the teacher is talking,” for example.

“I’m going to keep at least some of my public school behavior,” he said, “so that I’ll be ready when I go back.”

So – that is the middle-schooler’s take on the (really, really, really great) private school.

I know he’s getting used to the kids, and the classes. It’s all new. But so far, between the commute and Dylan’s reaction, NO, emphatically NO – private school is not worth it.

Great things will ensue, I’m sure. And I’m not sorry I sent him. But I don’t know that I will be sending him again.

Grab That White Bag.

The night before Dylan’s first day of private school, I stayed awake too late – like I always do when I am stressed, and like I did last week before Shane’s first day of school. I woke in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep, worried that the alarm wouldn’t wake me, worried that Dylan wouldn’t get up in time, worried that Shane would be lonely while I made the trek to the new school.

So much for my “faith versus fear” lesson.

When the alarm did wake me, and Dylan wandered in to use my hairbrush a few minutes later, I knew we were all ready to go. (Except that Dylan admitted that he hasn’t seen his own hairbrush for three weeks.)

School supplies had been ordered and packed weeks earlier. Dylan had an enormous, stuffed-full, very heavy backpack. In addition, we had a bag full of classroom supplies to donate.

“Grab that white bag,” I told him, “and put it in the car, too.”

Four-course breakfast in hand(s), we clamored into the car for our 45-minute drive. I started the car and turned my head to back up.

There, in the backseat, were two bed pillows in a huge white trash bag.

“Why are the pillows for the dog shelter in here?” I asked Dylan.

“You told me to get the white bag,” he said.

“Not that white bag,” I said, putting the car into park. I went back inside and got the bag with the paper towels and hand soap from the school supply list.

“This white bag,” I said.

“Oh,” Dylan said. “That’s a lot more logical.”

I briefly considered what people would think if Dylan showed up for his first day of private school with two ratty bed pillows. I had to smile.

Correct bag in tow, we talked about his day – where he should go when he got out of the car, for example, and how to smile when he meets a new friend.

Please smile, I thought. He smiled for the first 12 years of his life, beautifully and quite naturally. Then he stopped.

“And if it makes you feel less awkward,” I said, “you can take the stuff out of the white bag and just carry it in.” We were both anxious about him lumbering through the door with his 12-ton backpack and carrying an additional bag of supplies.

But when we pulled up to the curb – on time! – we saw a dozen other kids going into school. And every, single one of them had a 12-ton backpack and a white bag.

I’m not sure what was in the other white bags. Maybe they were carrying gym clothes, or even lunch. We could have speculated, but we didn’t. It probably didn’t matter all that much.

At that moment, the only thing that mattered is that Dylan fit right in.

You Can Have Faith or Fear.

Shane spent much of his morning crying, which he announced at breakfast.

“First, I was wondering what I would do if Dylan died,” he said, starting to cry again.

Oh dear, I thought. He is so much like me. I worried about death all the time, when I was way too young to need to worry.

“Then I started thinking about what if there’s nothing after Heaven,” he wailed.

That one stumped me.

I let him talk for awhile. Other things had happened, including the toothpaste falling off of his toothbrush and his hair sticking up. I considered that hormones might be starting to kick in.

When Shane was finished talking, I said, “There are only two attitudes to have.” I held up two fingers. “You can have faith or fear. You can choose either one as a way to live your life – and you can change from one to the other at any given moment. But you can’t have them both at the same time.”

Then I set up two Fisher Price little people on the table.

“These two people are going to have a race. Rusty here, with the red hair, she has faith,” I said.

“Hello!” I squeaked, being Rusty.

“And Maya with the blond hair, she is having some fear. But they are both going to race.”

“I think I need some new shoes,” I squeaked again, being Maya.

“I’m ready,” said Rusty.

Then the two girls hopped down the table, together. Rusty was out front, then Maya, then Rusty again.

“I probably should have eaten a better breakfast,” said Maya.

Then WHAM! Rusty ran into the milk pitcher and Maya won the race.

“I win! I win!” yelled Maya, jumping around. “I am awesome!”

Rusty dusted herself off. “I did my best,” she said. “Maybe I didn’t win, but I am happy that I ran as fast as I could.”

I went back into my own Mom voice. “Fear means you think you’re in control, and faith means you know that everything’s going to be okay, no matter what.”

Shane half-smiled.

“So you are in charge of what attitude you choose every day. Do you understand?” I asked.

He nodded.

“I’m going to make a Little People Ninja Warrior track today!” he said.

And he did. It took him a long time, and then the dog knocked it down and he started to cry all over again.

Sometimes I think my lectures should be boxed into a vault somewhere, for later. Much, much later.

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