Monday, January 26, 2009

The Great School Debate

Things have been going well mood wise around the house... but just under the surface I am starting to really sweat the school issue. We just can't afford to continue to send Kid to her current school. Private school is shockingly expensive here and we needed Mr F's bonus and an anticipated yearly raise to make ends meet. Neither of those are looking very likely and things are beyond tight. There is really not much more we can do. I'm struggling to lower our food costs and Mr F is selling his car... so when I say things are tight I really, really, mean it.

Taking her out of school is an unfortunate necessity at this point. She'll finish out the year but there is just no way we can swing another year's tuition. This year's has already pushed us past the point of comfort. But pulling her out isn't easy either. Kid suffers from pretty severe social anxiety. And I'm not just saying that. I mean it's a real problem.

We held her back from Kindergarten in Michigan, which was the best possible decision we could have made for her, and that extra year did help her... some. But being the "new" kid is excrutiatingly difficult for her. She has made herself comfortable at her new school. She is doing very well socially and has become a social leader among her classmates. That is a triumphant accomplishment for a sensitive kid who compares herself to others in a very self-depreciating way... on just about every single level (except looks... she's pretty into her long golden hair!). Her current social comfort is a reflection, in no small part, on the particularly wonderful group of kids she just happened to be placed with. Kids, who due to the very small nature of the school, would be her classmates all the way through the 8th grade. She has taken great comfort in that thought.

Even still Kid is a kid who rips up her artwork if it isn't perfect enough. She comes home and announces (daily) that she is the only kid who doesn't know how to: read, spell, add, play violin, swim in the deep end, climb Mt Everest. She refuses to preform on any type of test, and is routinely under evaluated because of it. Long story short the girl has got ISSUES. She is intensely observant... and to her... everyone else's strengths exaggerate her weaknesses. She's smart (and hysterically funny)... but school isn't as easy for her as it is for others.

Right now, with LOTS of coaching from yours truly, she has got a set of teachers who (for the most part) get her. She is thriving (beyond my wildest imagination). She's still got her issues but they are not holding her back as much as they used to. She wants to go to school everyday (unheard of!) and loves all her friends. And lets face it... happiness should count for something. She is in an environment that has nurtured her quirks and allowed her to blossom in spite of them. At the same time, we can't jeopardize our financial health when there are other schooling options. And while I don't know that the other schools will fail to bring her out of her shell... I fear it... and that fear can be almost paralyzing.

It's a hard time for me since I will be the one to make and carry out this decision. The completely ridiculous school system here isn't helping matters. It would be one thing if I could know what school I was preparing her for. I have filled out the Magnet application and will be submitting it next week. It will be another couple of months before I find out her placement. In the meantime I will also apply to all the charter schools and hope (against hope) that she manages to snag a spot (available only if someone vacates a spot and then we win it by lottery). In April or May I will weigh our options (including homeschooling) and see where I think her best interest lies.

But I know she will be heartbroken to leave the small comfortable space she's made for herself among friendly faces. Especially since not even a year ago she said goodbye to her childhood friends in Michigan. That's a lot of unwanted change for a socially anxious kid... any kid for that matter.

It's tough, too, since I have completely no control. I have to just wait and see what spots we're offered and hope that what is best for her presents itself. I am thankful that this transition will happen after the summer break so that she will have already spent some time away from her classmates and the adjustment won't seem so abrupt (I hope). But seeing as there is no way we could ever afford to send Baby to preschool (or have either child take any type of extracurricular class) and afford Kid's tuition we'd have to pull her out sooner or later. So hopefully sooner, while hard right now, will be easier in the long run.

Listen, I know to most people the decision would be a no brainer. Take her out and put her in whatever free school you get into. "She'll do just fine!" But when your child has an issue and you find them a place that allows for them to develop confidence (and is markedly happier than she has ever been) it isn't so easy to pull her out. She loves her current school because she is happy socially. Taking her out is one of the hardest things I'll have to do. It's killing me. I want to do what is best for her but can't. This is one case where what is best for the family isn't best for everyone in the family... and Kid is taking a hit for the team.


Robin said...

What a hard situation! I think you are doing the right thing, but I appreciate how hard it is. Bless her little heart.

I don't understand the school systems. Are there no "districts" that determine which school you go to? Or is the school in whose district you are just undesireable? Here, you just go to the school that you are district"ed" to. There are a couple of magnet schools and I'm not sure the procedure to get in to those. We live in a good school district, so it's not necessary for us. It's so strange that it is so hard to send your kid to public school there!

Liz said...

How very heartbreaking...

Does her school offer any kind of financial aid or scholarships? I attended private school for high school and they had partial and full scholarships available.

Mrs Furious said...

It is truly whacky... most people I have met have found the system frustrating. No, you don't get to go to your local school. In the 80s they switched all the city schools to magnets to desegregate them. So you have to apply to the magnets listing your preferred top 3 but they will place you where they want based on lots of random criteria. She could get into a school on the other side of the city... or one that isn't as *good*... and may not get into the one near us at all.

There are also 3 charter schools... but they have only one grade each and they get filled for Kindergarten. So to get into 1st you need one of those students to leave and even then you are competing with 100s of applicants for the spot. (Which is a reflection on how unhappy they were with the magnet placement).

I'm going to find out before I take her out. But it is a really small school and financial aid is pretty hard to get... I think we might fall into to high a salary bracket. Most people here have much cheaper housing cost then we do... they either rent or bought a couple years ago when housing was 1/3 - 1/2 as much so we kind of have the worst case income/housing/tuition cost ratio!

Amy said...

Oh, that sucks :o(

kenady said...

that is truly heart breaking. i feel for you and this hard decision. i was with Liz about financial aid or scholarships. i cross my fingers for you and hope for the best for all members of the family.

Robin said...

That is so crappy! You should be able to go to a school near your house with all the same kids from your neighborhood. Hello, Ashville. Segregation isn't an issue anymore!

Poor Kid. And poor Mrs. F, that is so stressful.

emmyjw said...

Wow, what a crappy decision to have to make... I can tell you that when we pulled Rainee (my oldest) from private school after 4th grade she was a straight A student with lots of friends and a fav of the teachers, she also had a lot of headaches and stomach problems which doctors said were from sinus problems. When we started homeschooling the headaches and stomach aches stopped, and slowly but surely Rainee started to be less anxious, less self critical and less perfectioistic. She still is all of those things but much , much less. She has thrived and is preparing to start taking college classess at age 16. It has been a wonderful,positive experience for us. Hope this helps a little.

julie said...

Ashville's public school system sounds similar to how they do it in Boston and Seattle. Definitely stressful because everyone wants the "good" schools of course.

I feel for you. This may be even harder on you than Kid. I hope it all works out well in the end. It really stinks one can't have their best-case scenario. I am so sorry.

That is really so sad that Kid compares herself negatively against other kids. She is so wonderful.It must be so frustrating for you since you know you can't make her stop feeling that way.

I hope you get into the school you want. Then you could try to get names of kids and try to set up some kind of playdates over the summer. If they will even post who is in the classes because of privacy issues.

Mrs Furious said...

That does help.
I've been really worried about how we would handle the mandatory testing that starts in 3rd grade. As you know for this type of kid that could be the kiss of death!
In my heart I think homeschooling her is probably best.

Oy it's hard to deal with... nothing I say or do makes a difference. And really no school is prepared to meet her individual needs. Even at her current school they told me she might have red flag learning issues because she couldn't identify the sounds of certain letters. When she came home she could do it perfectly and then said "well... it was folder day." ... as in she knew it was an assessment.
She'll probably be a rock star in college though ;)

Feener said...

ugh that is hard....

have you ever thought of seeing if her school has any type of part time job you could do - then your tuition would be free ?? just a wild thought.

also, i just switched my 4 year old out of her morning program to an afternoon program and i was terrified. she had one good friend she still misses so much.

my daughter has the same issue about ripping up a craft if it is not perfect, it breaks my heart to think she even knows that feeling at such a young age.

what about seeing if you could get a special medical exemption into a school due to her epilepsy ??? again wild thoughts

Mrs Furious said...

Good thoughts.
The part time job I can't do since I still have Baby with me.
The medical exemption puts her in the "bad" school where they have all the special needs kids. I thought of that too.

Preppy Mama said...

Wow I would be heavy hearted about that decision. I am with Liz on the financial aide thing. I work in a pre-school and I know that we try so hard not to turn parents away and today so many people are finding it hard financially. My boss may not have the money financially to sponsor a child, but she will offer a tuition break if need be and she has also offered part time jobs and the parents works off the tuition or part of it. I am praying that things work out for you because I can totally understand the social anxiety.

Mrs Furious said...

Preppy Mama,
I'm hoping that when they find out that the choice is either lose a full tuition completely or give us some kind of a break... that they'll manage to give us a break. Although I'm trying to figure out what we could even afford. Not much.

gooddog said...

I am so sorry to hear all of this. I have been thinking about this a lot since we are sending our 5YO to public school next year after being at a wonderful preschool for 4 years. Same reason as you, we just can't afford 10K for Kindergarden. Plus kid #2 one day.

I'm hoping it works out for the best for kid and the Furious family. It's just so hard to know what's best. Here's to hoping they are as "resiliant" as everyone says they are!

Me, Myself and I said...

Seriously. I had a huge comment typed.. and that's all that posted.

Paraphrasing: I have always lived within 15 miles of "home." I have moved many times in my life... 11 at last and only had to change schools once. And not until my freshman year.

I do not envy you at all in trying to make this difficult school decision. Ultimately you have to do what is best for everyone. I sure hope it gets worked out ok.

I want to thank you all for the well wishes re:Hubby. He only ended up in the hospital for 4 but is out now. Taking 8 pills a day. Going to see a specialist next month. Thank you all for the kind thoughts and words.

Have a great day!!

Mrs Furious said...

Me, Myself & I,
Oh I'm glad to hear your husband is home. 8 pills?!
I'm glad he's doing okay.

Supermom said...

Mrs F this just totally SUCKS. I wonder if that is a city school thing because I haven't had anything like that for the county schools.

This topic is a big one at our house. HE wants kids to go to private like him. There is no way we can. There is ZERO money for it.

I think you'd be great at homeschooling!!! Me not so much. I don't know.
I wish you all the best in this! I want what is best for everyone to work out.

Michelle :)

Mrs Furious said...

Yeah it's a city thing. The county schools just go by location.
Dude it takes a degree just to figure it all out!

Supermom said...

Well it SUCKS I tell you!!!

I am really hoping they will work with you.

Me, Only Better said...

Wishing you clarity in making this tough decision.

Mrs Furious said...

Me, Only Better,
Oh thank you. I really appreciate that.

Kim said...

Okay, let me clear up a bit about our schools. I totally understand your frustration, but let's look at it another way. There's only one school in town (sometimes 2) that you may not get into- the other ones if you choose them as your first choice you will probably get in. The wonderful thing is that you get to choose which school best fits your daughter. Go talk to principals, watch classes, meet teachers...see which of the schools will best suit Kid and then choose it. It's not quite as bad as it seems right now. Please e-mail me (or respond here) and I'll be glad to ease you through this process, it's not as crazy as you think.

Kim said...

I should add that my son has some severe social phobias and he has attended a city elementary school (the one we chose as the best fit for him, that also happens to be in our neighborhood) with HUGE success. The teachers have been wonderful!

Mrs Furious said...

Well we didn't get into the school we wanted last year. We moved to late to get into the top schools of our choice or have a shot at charters. Now we're not entering Kindergarten we're entering 1st... I'm hoping we'll get our top choice but even then she'll have to leave her current school which has turned out to be better than we expected. I have no idea how many spots will be open in any of the schools... they aren't filling up a full grade now. And funnily enough almost everyone I know here has had something similar or oddly frustrating about the magnet experience. None of them have been at your school so I don't know if that is a reflection of your school or what.
Magnet programs are not the norm and while you might be used to that system and have gotten into your desired school... there are plenty of people who don't. And sometimes the difference between your 1st choice and 2nd choice is huge. I get how it works but I'm frustrated that it isn't easier and that we don't get to "know" what school she may get into.

Mrs Furious said...

I guess I should be clear that we couldn't even get into the school in our neighborhood last year... so it's not just the top two. And there are difference between the 5 and not all are the best fit for Kid. I think what is frustrating is that in other cities you can find out which school you like and then MOVE to that district and you are guaranteed a spot.

Julie said...

What a horrible position to be in! I hope things will turn around in your favor!

My son is in private preschool now and I don't think he is really aware of the social aspect of school and the fact that he will be changing for kindergarten. However, he has performance issues. I have applied for a magnet school for him in the fall, but it will be interesting to see how he does on the testing for that. I wish I knew how to help him at school without putting more pressure on him. I just think he cracks at school and is afraid of messing up, so just doesn't try. If he messes up, he always has to start all over. Nobody told me this was going to be so hard!! lol

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