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School Decisions

Growing up in rural Arkansas did not prepare me for sending my kids to school in Southern California. When my oldest was 4, we started looking into schools for her kindergarten year. Where I grew up, there were very few options for schools. Most kids just went to the school in their district. A few were homeschooled. I didn’t know what a charter school was until it was an option for us as parents. We toured several schools before deciding on (and luckily getting into) the school that seemed best for our older daughter.

When it came time for our younger daughter to start school, things were a little more complicated. California changed the date that kids had to be five by to start kindergarten (from December 1 to September 1) and formed a new program for kids with fall birthdays called transitional kindergarten. Since our little one falls in that category, we were looking for a TK program for her and there was not one at the school were our older daughter attends.

We found two TKs that seemed like they would be a good fit. Deciding between them was hard, but eventually we choose the one with a shorter day and smaller class size. Two days before the school year began the teacher of this TK program quit. Other indicators of this school not working for us started to come up, but our kid seemed happy, so we stayed. A month into the school year, some more significant things started to happen. I called the other school we had looked at to see if they had space for our little one. They had one space open.

I took C to look at the other class. She fell in love with the class and the teacher in the afternoon we spent observing. The office told me that someone else was interested in the space, and the spot would go to whomever turned in the paperwork first. Matt and I talked it over and decided to switch schools.

Through out this, my stomach was in knots. How would we know if this would be a better situation for our kid? How would she deal with the transition? Would I be scarring her for life by pulling her out of a class where she had settled? I was really worried.

Her first morning, I stopped her and took a picture. She was excited about a new adventure and making new friends.

The school has a dress code that only allows red, black, and white clothes. We had stopped by a thrift store to look for anything that would work in this dress code and she found this dress. Her second day she insisted on wearing it. I stopped her to take a picture because the dress was cracking me up. If ever in her teen years she’s embarrassed about anything I wear, this will be the picture I show her.

By the third day, this was the established routine: stop for a picture at this spot. I went with it.

I was so worried about this child starting a new school. I should not have worried so much. She loves school. She loves meeting new people, learning new things, trying new foods.

On the fifth morning she was skipping in the uncoordinated, methodical way only five year olds can skip, literally dancing toward her classroom. This kid cannot wait to see what the day brings and what she will learn. Yesterday she got to watch construction workers pour concrete. Who knows what she will experience today? Whatever it is, she’s ready for it.


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Last week as we were driving home my nine year old daughter was complaining about one of her friends always asking for help.  We’ll call this friend Sally.  Eleanor said that Sally would always want her to retrieve things for her or carry her things and if Eleanor didn’t do it, Sally would get mad.  I told Eleanor, “It sounds like Sally doesn’t have good boundaries.”  Eleanor looked at me funny, so I explained:

Boundaries are like a fence around a yard.  They separate what you are responsible for from what other people are responsible for.  When Sally asks you to do all these things, it’s like she’s asking you to mow her lawn.  If her leg was broken or there was some reason that she couldn’t mow her own lawn, it would be great to help her.  But generally her yard is her responsibility to take care of.  

We talked about this for a few more minutes, then life went on.  A few days later at dinner Eleanor said, “I told Sally to stop trying to make me mow her lawn.”

“Did she understand what you meant?” I asked.

“Not at first,” she explained, “but I told her about the fences and how her yard is her responsibility.  So, today Sally asked me to do something, then she said, ‘wait, I’m asking you to mow my lawn.’ and then she did it herself.”

I sat with wide eyes.  I have been in so many relationships with people who have poor boundaries (not you, of course).  To think that I could make the friendship better by simply having a conversation.  I have so many things to learn from my children.