Another School Year Ends: Good, Bad and Graduations

Every school year so far has been interesting with my kids. One school year ended with Cameron in the hospital with a heart condition. Julian was diagnosed during his kindergarten year in 2011 (you can read Looking At the Bright Side for that story). Lily had difficulties learning to read but tackled it in the first grade.

The Big Moves

This year was a big one, however. Cameron graduated middle school and is now a high school freshman. This one hurts my soul a bit- I have no idea where the last almost 15 years have gone. He will be 15 in January and I didn’t think the time would fly so quickly!

In our district, your child has the option to choose middle and high schools based on programs they have- Cameron chose two high schools that had machine tool, medical tech, and auto collision programs.

The high school he got into is the one that Matthew and I met at in 1998. He chose the program with machine tool, CAD (Computer Aided Design) and another component. His elective is Spanish I because, as he put it, “It’s easy and I already know some anyway.”

Some of his friends from middle school are bilingual and he picked up some Spanish from them. He didn’t really like the other choices, so he went with something he was familiar with.

Off to high school he goes in August, and I might shed a tear. I’m still shocked I didn’t cry at his graduation.

Lily is out of elementary school. She’s the last one, so it was time to say goodbye to the school that we loved for nine years- starting with Cameron in 2010. Our kids went to a wonderful elementary school. I even loved the office staff! I did tear up during her graduation ceremony and watching her as a song leader during the class song.

The school does a “final walk” on the last day of school for the fifth graders, where they walk through the main hallway for the last time, while playing cheerful music and everyone claps and cheers. I took pics and almost cried…again.

Matthew, my mom and I missed the breakfast because we had to walk across the parking lot for Cameron’s graduation. (The elementary and middle schools that our kids attended share an entrance, but have different parking lots. Parking is awful during events.)

Wait…You’re Missing a Kid!

Nope. Julian didn’t have a huge ceremony for finishing seventh grade, but he wasn’t forgotten.

I had a last-minute check in with his counselor.

Julian was re-evaluated at the end of the year to see if he will need services for next year, and of course, he qualified. He has severe anxiety while speaking in front of others and this became a major issue this year.

I asked for modifications next year so that he will be able to do what he needs to but not affect him so badly. He will be able to complete these assignments in a different way, meaning he can go in a different room or a hallway to do presentations so that he isn’t so anxious. He will be able to effectively complete the assignment.

His counselor told me that he remains quiet and kind of “flies under the radar”. He’s always been quiet, so this is not surprising at all. We will be working on self-advocacy because that is something Julian needs to work on for the future.

I was a bit angry with Julian because we both thought that he had failed his math class and I know he can do a lot better. Turns out that he didn’t and has a B. Both of us were very happy to hear this.

Waiting for Next School Year

It appears as if we now have sixth, eighth, and ninth graders. These kids are growing faster than I can blink. I’m pretty sure Cameron will continue to need those naps after school. Lily has gone back and forth on being excited about middle school, but I think once she finds her friends from elementary school and a club or two to join, she will be okay. Julian will find eighth grade a challenge, but he needs one.

Me? It’s summer break and I intend to have all the fun I can have with these kids in the next couple of months.

What are your plans for the summer? How was the end of your kids’ school year?

A Quick Guide on Redshirting for Kindergarten

Kindergarten.

For many families, this is a day that many kids and parents have been looking forward to for a long time. There might be a few tears on both sides, but in general, it’s a big step towards growing up for a child.

Some parents, however, hesitate at this idea. Nine percent of kindergarten-age children are “academically redshirted” each year, according to Very Well Family

This is the decision to hold a child back a year, even if they are the correct age for school. The cut off is different by state, and even by county. For example, the cut off in Jefferson County, Kentucky is now August 1. It was still October 1 when Lily went to kindergarten in 2014.

Blocks

The School Debate

Cameron and Lily have January and February birthdays, so they are among the first to have birthdays in their classes. Cameron finds it hilarious that when he turns 15, he will be one of the first freshmen to do so. Lily will be 12 in the middle of her 6th-grade year. Julian, however, has a July birthday. He is usually one of, if not the youngest, in his class. He will graduate at 17, which he thinks is great. However, I almost redshirted him.

Julian has always been small for his age, even before the Vyvanse stunted his growth. That wasn’t a concern, because he can most certainly take care of himself. If not, Cameron is a good backup.

When Julian was about to start kindergarten, however, he had not yet been diagnosed and I wasn’t sure he was ready- socially. He is a very smart kid, but he was aggressive, hyper and destructive. I was afraid kindergarten would be a disaster. His second year of preschool was not going well- we got notes once a week about his behavior, and most of them were not great.

At home, he was so aggressive towards his siblings that they wouldn’t even play with him. This was a huge change from the boys getting into things together. Lily couldn’t talk well, but she knew to stay away.

I debated for months on whether to send him to kindergarten or not. I went ahead with it because I didn’t want whatever issues he had to further hold him back. I thought that he would get worse if I held him back. Plus, I didn’t think a third year of preschool would go well if that was even a possibility.

Julian was enrolled and I hoped for the best.

He hid under the cafeteria table at kindergarten orientation. I have never forgotten this. I was embarrassed, horrified and anxious at the same time. I had to peel his small hands off the table legs to get him to go with the teachers and other kids.

Kindergarten was as rough as I had anticipated, complete with meltdowns at school. He did get a full neuropsychological evaluation in November 2011 and thankfully was diagnosed with ADHD (combined) and autism (at the time, Asperger’s, now referred to as High Functioning Autism).

He was also medicated for ADHD. This helped a lot. His school helped by creating a 504 Plan, which assisted with behavioral issues. He later received an IEP in the 5th grade.

Am I glad that I sent Julian to school on time? Yes. Had we held him back, I think his issues may have gotten worse. He would have been bored, and that would have created a lot more problems for everyone.

Bus pic

Do You Need a Red Shirt?

Of course, this is an individual decision, and it’s not an easy one. Let’s look at the pros and cons of redshirting a child.

Pros:

  • Less likely to need special education services
  • Less likely to be singled out for negative behavior because they had more time to work on social skills at home/preschool
  • Better motor skills
  • Increased social confidence
  • Reading and math are usually at or above where their peers are

Cons:

  • In the adolescent years, difficulty making and maintaining friendships
  • losing a year of special education services (if needed) due to starting school late
  • May mask learning issues
  • Another year of preschool tuition

Questions to ask yourself while debating the issue:

  • What are the other factors, besides age, makes you feel that your child isn’t ready for kindergarten?
  • If your child has been to preschool, how is that going? Does the teacher feel that your child is ready? Are there concerns?
  • What does your district expect your child to know before going to kindergarten? You can look on their website for this information. Some, like JCPS (Jefferson County Public Schools), have kindergarten readiness programs during the summer to make sure kids are ready.
  • If your child does sit out a year, what will they do during that time to be ready for kindergarten next school year?
  • Does your child have any delays or other developmental issues? If so, can these be addressed once they are in school?

There is so much to consider before sending your child to school, and this may add to the anxiety. This topic is becoming more popular among parents of young children. Take time to think about it if you need to, consult with outside professionals if necessary. Most of all, do what is best for your child.

Did you redshirt your child? Did it go well, or did you regret the decision? Let me know in the comments!

Pics courtesy of unsplash

Information courtesy of Very Well Family

Looking Back at Older Topics

I’m surprised at the number of topics I have covered on this blog- I still have so much left to discuss.

Here are five interesting posts to ponder:

The Dangers of Ignoring Mental Illness

Suicide and The Media

Should You Emphasize Grades or Mental Health?

Moving Forward: The Last Fifty Years of Psychiatry

Drinking, Drugs and Your Teen

Going into the Wild: Volunteering at Your Child’s School

My kids are in elementary and middle school. Over the years, I’ve volunteered as much as my health, career, and schedule have allowed. I’ve gone on numerous field trips, helped with a bunch of class parties and probably more things that I don’t remember as I’m typing this.

Cameron started kindergarten in 2010 and it’s all kind of a blur from there. One of my favorite things was helping at Lily’s Valentine’s Day parties because her birthday is right after.

Julian at the Louisville Bats game- 5th grade

Why do I like volunteering at my kids’ schools?

  • It allows me to get in some quality time with my kids. There’s three of them, one of me, and not nearly enough time in the day. Going on a field trip with them creates fun memories that’s just with us. Cameron still laughs about the bowling field trip in which both of us ended up with migraines. We had a very quiet evening at home afterward.
  • I have fun doing it. I don’t go on all the field trips I am able to- some of them just aren’t my thing. Lily’s class went on a trip to see a play that I knew I would basically fall asleep on so I sat that one out. If I know I can go and have fun doing it, I’ll sign up. Otherwise, nope.
  • It forces me to socialize. When I was in therapy, Rachel had me work on this a bit. I wasn’t a recluse or anything, but I didn’t like being around people very much and I would spend days in my house. Going on a field trip helps break that up a bit. I actually wear something besides sweats.

Heading Into the Wild

There are many ways you can volunteer at your child’s school. I just find field trips and the occasional class party the most fun and easiest way to do so. Some parents love organizing class parties, helping readers, coordinating festivals and so on. I just don’t have the time.

Volunteering is a good way to get to know your child’s teacher a bit. I’ve been able to become a lot more friendly with my kids’ teachers this way- in fact, my boys’ 4th-grade teacher now lives a few houses away from us. We became friends after she taught Julian. She was a special ed teacher for years before going mainstream. She loved working with him and helped us a lot with getting his IEP. Allison is a blast to talk to and we were thrilled to hear she was moving in the neighborhood. Julian won’t admit it, but he thinks it’s cool.

It’s also helped me meet some of my kids’ friends that I might not get to meet otherwise. Lily and her friend Alex don’t see each other much outside school but they are always together in school- I got to meet him on a field trip in which all of us were freezing. He’s a nice kid. He even said he wished his mom could come on field trips.

I’m not a fan of people, but I have made a mom friend while going on field trips over the years. Tiffany’s sons, Jordan and Connor, have been friends with Cameron and Lily. She and I have emailed and hung out with our kids often. She even follows my somewhat unfiltered Twitter. They are moving to a different county after this school year and I will be so sad to see them go. It can be fun to make mom friends, especially if you’re on a not-so-fun field trip or other situation. You might be able to make a stinky situation better.

These ideas were partially from A Life In Balance

Lily field trip pic

Your child might look at you sideways the first few times that you show up. This is okay. They’ll get used to it.

A Word:

My mom worked a lot when I was a kid- usually in the afternoons and/or at night, so she was usually sleeping when I was at school. She didn’t get to go on a lot of my field trips or help out a lot in my classes. She did make it to the big things, so I wanted to be able to do more for my kids. (No worries, Mom. I’m not mad. You did what you needed to do- take care of us.) I have missed a lot of things but my kids get the idea that I had to work, so now that I’m working differently, I’m able to do more. I know not all parents can, and that sucks. Don’t feel bad for what you can’t do, but feel good about what you can do.

If your schedule is a bit wonky, ask your child’s teacher what you can do to help. There is most likely something you can do, even if it’s making copies, making packets, or something else like that. Teachers love volunteers. I have friends that are teachers, and I hear this a lot.

Most school activities are meant to be fun in some capacity. Have all the fun you can and treasure the memories with your child.

Do you volunteer at your child’s school? Why or why not? What kind of experiences have you had?

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Back To School

I’m THRILLED to be writing my back-to-school post. It’s been a great summer (see The Summer Vacation Recap) but it’s time for these kids to go back to school.

Lily is going into the fifth grade at the elementary school all three kids attended. When we went in for registration, we found her name on the wall and she was delighted to find she got the teacher she wanted. They hugged and I laughingly said, “I give you the last of my kids,”- she had Julian two years ago and loved him. I’m just happy that paperwork took less than a half hour because I am currently in an RA flare and my exhaustion is real.

We missed the boys’ registration due to our Daytona Beach trip. Cameron is going into 8th grade and Julian is going into 7th. Luckily, a friend of mine went with her sons and messaged me the important info. Everyone has all their clothes, supplies and other things ready. School bedtimes are in effect. I’m happy about this, but none of the kids are.

What am I worried about?

  1. Julian. He’s always at the top of this list. He had a rough adjustment to 6th grade, but I am hoping that doesn’t happen this year. We’ve talked about asking for breaks, help and other things, so I’m hoping it sticks. Plus he hates reading and that’s a whole different topic. This may require meeting with his teacher.
  2. Cameron. He’s a bit of a slacker, and obviously this won’t be a great thing in high school and beyond. We have to work more this year on not slacking so much. #NoSlackersHere
  3. Lily. I’m still worried about her development. I feel as if she is functioning a bit behind her peers and I’m not sure where this leads us.

Bullying is always a cause for concern, no matter where you are. Please see my post Bullying: A Closer Look if you need information. This is a topic that all parents need to be aware of.

We did it, fellow parents! Most of us are escaping what I call #thehostagesituation. Another school year is upon us and that means lots of comedy, stress, and fun moments. Me? I’m just happy to get back to writing in a quiet house with the cats.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash