So as not to bury the lede: Dash is going to a new school next year.
Some time after Christmas I bumped into someone who asked me how he was doing and told me about a great school her daughters go to. It’s specifically for bright kids who have reading difficulties, or similar — just like Dash. I looked it up online, and on a whim I decided to go along to an open house one morning and see what they had to say. Mostly, I thought I might get some guidance, maybe a few names of tutors in my area or ideas about what we should do next.
At the open house, they showed us a video of interviews with students — and oh, the pathos — these sweet, bright, super-articulate children told the camera about how they’d felt stupid, they’d cried over homework, they’d hated school; and now it’s all turned around. As an ad for the school, I have to admit it worked like a charm. I don’t think Dash feels stupid, or hates school; but it may be only a matter of time before that starts to happen, and I’d really rather it didn’t. He’s certainly only getting the great grades he gets thanks to his unlimited time to finish things accommodations, and his school is not able to provide any sort of remediation that’s helping his reading get better. (It’s not their fault. They don’t know what to do with him. And they have a lot of kids to help – kids with bigger problems, who shout louder (literally) and cause more trouble.)
So I applied for this other school, since its application deadline for the year was just coming up. I thought, what the heck, if he gets offered a place, then maybe it’s meant to be. The other element, of course, was the financial one, because private schools like this are not cheap. We’d need to qualify for financial aid as well.
Fourth grade is their intake year, so he had a better chance of getting a place this year than any other, with a whole class (of 10) to fill. Also, not to blow my own trumpet, but I’m pretty good at filling in forms where I get to describe my children. Then they called us up and said that they’d like to invite him in for two days of school, to shadow a student and do some testing and generally see the lie of the land, to see if he was a good fit for them, and them for him.
I hadn’t planned on telling him about it at this early stage, when it was such an uncertain thing, but obviously he couldn’t spend two days there without knowing what it was about, so I did. He really rose to the occasion. I couldn’t have been prouder of him: he took the information on board and went along with a twinge of nerves but an optimistic outlook. I brought him in and dropped him off, and by the time I picked him up at the end of the school day he had made some friends, the teachers knew him by name, and he had had a great time. I think they liked him, too. The second day, he was happy to jump out of the car and head on in.
Since then, he’s been really sanguine about the not-knowing that was driving us crazy. He’d be happy to go there, but he’d also be happy to stay where he is. For all his rigidity in some ways – food, for instance – he’s amazingly flexible when it comes to the bigger picture, and he has a great ability to go with the flow.
He was offered a place, but we still didn’t know about the financial side of things. My laid-back “what will be, will be” attitude was taking a bit of a beating. The more I thought about it, the more I felt we owed it to him to make this happen, no matter how happy he is at the local school and how easy it makes our life to have two kids leaving the house at 8:45 every morning and sauntering up the road to school.
Yesterday we got word that it’s happening. He’s going to the other school. Come September I will be complaining about traffic and early mornings and trying to bilocate (or call in favours) in order to be in two places at the same time for school pickup – but Dash will be somewhere that’s exactly right for him, with teachers who know how reading works and who see how his brain works and who show him tools to get around learning when reading is extra hard, and with friends who have similar challenges. Even if we can only swing it for one year, it’s going to be a good thing.
Dash is excited about having a locker, like in the Arthur cartoons. He’s disappointed he won’t get to play the trombone in fourth grade, which he’d just signed up for (but who knows, maybe the new school has trombones too). Mabel is annoyed that she won’t be able to wave to him in passing in the hallways any more.
I’m relieved. I think this is called doing your best for your children, and if I have to get up early and hit the beltway morning traffic to do it – sure, we’ll give it a go.