Friday, September 27, 2013

A different year than expected

Today is Isaac's first day at a new preschool, and I am filled with a cacophony of emotions.

Sadness about leaving the old preschool which Isaac and I both loved.
Frustration at the inaction which led to our departure.
Hopefulness about this new school.
Thankfulness because Isaac knows one of the boys in this class.
Annoyance that I may not receive any tuition back from the old school.
Blessed by how God has worked out the details such that Isaac can still attend preschool even if we are not reimbursed.
Guilt about removing Isaac from a familiar place with familiar people. 
Confusion about how to deal with my schedule now that it has turned upside down. 
Residual anxiety from two weeks of agonizing about this situation.
Worry that I did not make the right choice.
Confidence that this was the only rational option.
More worry.

Briefly, the situation is this: For awhile, I've been uncomfortable with certain aspects of Isaac's former school. This discomfort was not without warrant, and last year promises were made to parents that the situation would be rectified. It was on the basis of these promises that I enrolled Isaac in the program for this year. However, the changes were not been made and it recently became apparent that plans were moving slowly, if at all.
At the beginning of this school year, I tried to shake off my unease. After all, all the other parents seemed nonchalant so perhaps I was over-dramatizing the risks. I do tend to be hyper-vigilant [Jon, laughing: you think?!], but at least I have some self-awareness about this and can generally (sometimes) take my emotions down a notch before acting. But my unease didn't dissipate over the weeks, so I finally discussed my concerns with Jon. He has the knack of seeing things clearly and bringing me back to reality. So I was surprised, and a bit dismayed, when he shared my concerns and said we should act. So I double checked my facts and talked it over with a friend who also tends to be level headed, and could offer a more objective opinion. She agreed with Jon.

Well, nuts. Obviously I now had to do something, and all roads led to monumental efforts on my part. I needed to confront the school administration (ack), as well as make a decision regarding Isaac's future. After all, other preschool slots were filling up fast.
To make a long story short, after much prayer and thought, I did both of those things. And they were very very hard. In the end I removed Isaac from his school, and it has been a heart-breaking decision. I know it's tempting to think of this year as "just preschool," but I think that's a disingenuous attitude. Yes, this is one year in the life of a small boy but I would argue it's an important year. At this age, routines and familiarity are so very important. Feeling secure in one's surroundings frees up a young mind to learn both the ABCs as well as foundational social skills. And from his perspective it must seem like I ripped that security away. It was still the right decision, but also the worst.

What gives me hope is what seems to be working out at the new school. I chose this particular school because Isaac has a friend in the class. Furthermore, I will be looking after this friend a couple of mornings a week, which will provide just enough income to cover the cost of Isaac's tuition (even if I don't get reimbursed). This arrangement is an answer to prayer for both his mom, and me.

So God has provided, which I think is the moral of this story. He provided what was needed, when it was needed. No more, no less. This theme also applies to what is happening at Isaac's former preschool. After I let them know that I was taking Isaac out, the wheels of change sped up. Maybe a coincidence, but I'd like to think we had something to do with it. Removing a child from a program makes a bigger statement than never enrolling them in the first place. We may lose all that tuition money, but I have faith it is for a good cause.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Nine schools, seven states, two countries. So far.

This week I spent most of my time working on the pile of things I have ignored for many weeks. (Some of these are literal piles located on the floor of my daughter's room. Of course, she views them as motifs.) Until recently, all our efforts were focused on Jon's applications for faculty positions. And now they're submitted, and we're feeling a little spent. Applications are not only an intellectual exercise, but for me also an emotional one. In the spring we felt pretty strongly that it was time to begin this process, but we have no indication of what the outcome will be. And even less information on when it will be. Jon is an excellent candidate, in a field riddled with excellent candidates. Candidates who did not spend some of their post-graduate lives in industry (which is not considered a plus in many disciplines - their loss). And to add to the difficulty, there weren't a ton of openings in his particular niche. I say all this, not to bemoan our present state, but to highlight the fact that securing a faculty position will be a miraculous event. That is, if/when this happens, you can know a miracle has occurred.
So in the interim, we are waiting. We're not sure how long we have to wait, or when the waiting will be over, or what exactly we're waiting for, or what we should do during the wait. I guess we are also learning contentment.

More interesting, is that the kids are back in school. Anna now takes the bus, which I was hesitant about at first. Happily, however, busing turns out to be a blessing for everyone. For me, it's easier to get everyone out the door and down the street, compared to out the door and in the car. For her, it's created a positive in-between time, with the commute helping the transition between her at-home self and her at-school self. [Does this mean she is most herself on the bus? Oh, to be a bug on the windshield.] School itself is also going fine. Math, spatial reasoning, and art continue to be her strong suits, and reading continues to improve. Like many elementary-age kids, she's in that tough spot, where her verbal comprehension far exceeds her written comprehension. I know I would rather read The Wizard of Oz than Hop on Pop, and so would she. So, we do both.

In fact, we're more intentional about incorporating homework and and formal reading into our family time this year, and it's been great on many levels. After dinner, Isaac does some preschool-level work with one parent, while Anna completes her assigned homework with the other. This includes math, reading, and some extra vocabulary stuff we've thrown in. Nothing ground-breaking, we've just made this a formal priority. One of the consequences is a commitment to avoid extracurricular activities after dinner time. This has reduced our after-school options, considerably, but it's worth it for us. I really look forward to this focused time with the kids, and I think they do, too.

As for Isaac, he does not want to go to school. No surprise there. He is too busy playing! Such a busy busy little man. But he is learning a lot, and is always in high spirits when I pick him up. Unlike Anna, for whom the preschool days all seemed a blur, he is more than happy to recount the various things he did and the various people he did them with. He seems to have a knack for names, and I suspect he will be an early reader. Not that I'm nudging him in that direction, or anything. As soon as the kids learn to read, I'm going to have to be a lot more careful about the news sites I read (since our computer is in the center of the action at our house), and the Christmas lists I leave around. And I can hardly wait to explain the billboards advertising adult stores. Ugh. Early reading is like early walking. A mixed blessing.

The one extra-curricular we are doing is soccer. Both kids are enrolled, and one of them loves it. Guess who? I think soccer is a great sport - lots of running, learning how to work with a team, and having to attend to the ball. Alas, Anna is one of the less experienced players on her team, so that's provided all the struggles you might expect. Jon's been coaching her, and there's been much improvement, but I don't think we'll do this again next year. I just don't have it in me to continue dragging her to the games. At least I bought her blue soccer shoes, so Isaac will eventually get to wear them. Swimming lessons may be the next thing we do. It's an important, potentially life-saving skill, and may be worth the trouble. But before that, there's still a couple more months of soccer to get through.