Saturday, July 18, 2015

Continuing our re-integration into "Normal" life

Jake, engaged in his "required" summer reading while
camping with Andy.
So what happens after we buy cars, rent homes and find jobs?  Jake goes to school of course!

That was a question I got quite often..."Will you keep homeschooling Jake or will he go to school?"  While I would truly love to continue homeschooling, I think given our circumstances, it's in everyone's best interest for us to give the public school system here in Florida a shot.  That process has been a real eye-opener for me.

In talking to other cruising families that have made the transition back to land, I was under the impression that it would be a fairly easy process.  I don't know if FL is just different or what, but it has been a royal pain in our butts to get things started.

Our first step was to get Jake registered.  Sounds easy enough...fill out some forms, get some shots, well visit, etc.  (Incidentally, all those shots Jake got before we left have left him so vaccinated that 6 years later, he's still good).  There's one thing that put a kink in things.  Jake's birthday is in September.  He's that 9 year old that can either go in the fourth grade and be the oldest kid in class, or go in the fifth grade and be the youngest kid in the class.  Andy and I have spent many hours discussing this and feel that the fourth grade is where he needs to be.  He's never been in a formal school and doesn't know the ins and outs of that whole routine.  While he's ahead in many areas and would probably do well in the fifth grade, there are some key areas where I feel he would just get frustrated and needs further instruction (anyone that went to school with me will find it no surprise that writing is not my kid's favorite subject).  And while I hate to even imply that he's not been "socialized" (indeed he's one of the most social kids I know), the fact is, he has way more experience with adults than kids and I think it will take him some time to get used to the types of interactions he'll have with kids his age.

I communicate all of this to the registrar.   They didn't want to take my word for it.  They were worried he might be bored.  OK, so that' s new one...I thought sure recommending he go in the lower grade would get me out of any extensive process.  Not so....She informed me that I needed to create a "portfolio" for Jake.  She explained that I needed to provide samples of his work, a summary of his situation, details about what he knows, what he doesn't know, his learning style and numerous other items.  I stressed a bit about this, but did think it was a good idea and if they insisted on assessing him for the fifth grade, this would be a good way to do it.

Imagine my surprise when I get an email from the assistant principal asking me what day is good for Jake to come take his "tests."  Huh?  Tests?  Who said anything about tests?  It turns out they wanted to test him in reading, writing, math, science and language arts.  In one week.  Have I mentioned that Jake has NEVER sat for a standardized test before?

The next week was a huge stress fest...Long story short, after a few tests and a little boy in tears, they decided I was right and he should go into the fourth grade (For the record - Jake would want me to tell you this - he did REALLY well in reading....proud, proud mama).  I tried hard not to get Jake stressed out because of my feelings but I don't think I was very successful.  But if you get right down to it, it was a test for me...did I do him justice?  Did I do my best so that he can do his best?  Should I have been more strict?  Less "field trips,"  more "structure?"  I hate to fail on my own...but I really hate to fail my kid.  In the end, I still feel confident of our decisions and I think the result is exactly what we hoped just could have been easier to get there.

I'm only sharing this to help prepare any others for the whole re-entry process...I know he's smart, I know why they wanted to test him, I get it...I just didn't think it was a good idea.

But now he's all ready to go.  We have new school clothes, lunch box, supplies, etc.  He's excited (sort of) about making new friends and learning from someone besides his dad and me.  And I'm excited for him.  I loved elementary school.  I loved riding the bus.  I loved playing with my friends.  And I loved my teachers.  I hope it's the same for him.

Here are some pics from a camping trip Andy and Jake went on recently....

We traded our crocs for alligators.

Catching tadpoles

They brought a whole cooler of these home to release in our
pond out back.  They thought we needed bullfrogs.