School Choice: second & fourth grades!

Wow. Do we really have a kid who’s going to be in fourth grade next year? That’s one of the grades I taught…I have never pictured myself having a child the age of my former students. Crazy.

We are in the school choice window for our district, which means that if you want your kids to go to a different school from the assigned elementary school for your neighborhood, you have to decide now. Our lives are so up in the air right now that I have no idea where we will all be for the next school year.

Tyler is currently attending a Title I (at-risk, low income) school which has a Spanish Immersion Charter School program. I LOVE it. So much. The kids are diverse in every way. The families value different cultures and languages. I love hearing music and conversation in different languages at school events and in the hallways. Right now the whole day is in Spanish, with the kids changing teachers (so their own students don’t ever hear them speak English!) and teaching English for 30 minutes a day. Next year, it will increase to 60 minutes of English with the rest being Spanish. We are lucky that the program can even extend into Jr. High and High School if we’re interested. At that level, the kids take Science in Spanish instead of English, and they take a Spanish elective class for immersion kids. I have several really good mom friends now at Tyler’s school and I love the teachers, staff, and program.

Tyler, on the other hand, has complained to me about once a week that he wants to go to an “English” school. He’s not that convincing, really. He only says it before school when I think he’d just rather stay home and continue playing legos. After school, it’s all smiles and chatter about his great day. Still, I wonder if the idea of an “English” school will always interest him. At his teacher conference, his wonderful teacher told me he is soaking up the program so well. I wasn’t sure what he was really capable of producing in Spanish until she showed me a recent writing assignment he did. Oh my. His Spanish vocabulary is WAY beyond what he admits to at home! His sentences were perfectly composed with reflexive verbs and proper tenses and even correct adjective endings. Seriously? I don’t know that I could have done that in High School Spanish class. I was so thrilled and relieved to see that, and to know that his teacher feels he is thriving in the immersion program. When I told Tyler that his teacher hopes he’ll continue on in the program next year, he said, “Okay. I’ll do it,” and ran off to play. See, I told you his complaints about “Spanish school” weren’t all that serious!

So we’re all set for Tyler for next year. But Jake is totally up in the air. Luckily, we don’t have to decide for him until the last minute because of the program he is in. We decided last year to move him from our wonderful assigned school to a nearby school with a special challenge program for 3rd-6th grades. The idea of the program is that they group the kids who need extra challenges into one class for each grade, so that the whole class is aimed at a higher level. Greg was in this type of program as an elementary schooler, and I taught this type of program and LOVED the cool stuff I could do with those kids that I couldn’t do in my regular classes.

The problem is, there just aren’t enough kids who have tested into this program at his grade level. Jake’s teacher thinks that the decline in the number of kids who test into this program is related to the rising class sizes in the lower grades over the past few years. So for third grade, his class has been a regular class with just a cluster of kids from the program, like any school would have. We knew this ahead of time and moved him anyway so that it would be an easier transition than moving him after third or fourth grade. I’m glad we did…he’s had a great teacher and made the school move so easily without any complaints about missing his friends or his old school. But NOW they’re telling us there might not be enough kids to have a full class again next year for fourth grade!

I’m frustrated because I’m not sure I would have moved him if we had known this last year. But what’s done is done. I can’t complain about this year’s experience and am happy with our choice with the information we had. But I AM wondering about next year. If they don’t have a full class for the program, I’m not really interested in messing with carpools and the longer drive and all that taking him to that school entails.

So then I’m left with three options. I could homeschool him for fourth grade and see if they get enough kids to have the full class challenge program in fifth grade and send him back that year. I could send him back to his previous school, although in my mind, I would probably want him to stay there for 4th-6th rather than moving him back to the new school YET AGAIN even if they have a full class program in 5th and 6th grades. Or I could send him back to the tiny little canyon school where he started in kindergarten before I pulled him out to homeschool him. I loved that little school and he has only positive memories about it.

What I choose to do with Jake next year fully depends on the new little people who will be joining our family hopefully before the next school year starts. If they are school aged and native Spanish speakers, I can send them to Tyler’s program so I’ll be able to make Jake’s school decisions based only on what’s best for him. If they are school aged and English speakers, I will want to factor in what might be best for the new kids as well as Jake (I have already vowed not to have kids in THREE different elementary schools!) If they aren’t school aged, I will have only Jake’s school needs to think about, but I have to admit I’m intimidated about trying to homeschool a fourth grader with needy little ones underfoot!

We won’t find out until April or May about next year’s program for Jake’s school, and even then, if we don’t have our new kids yet, I don’t plan on making a decision about Jake until we know who’s in our family, or until August when I’d have to start homeschooling if that’s my choice!

Phew. I’m thankful for so many options, and intimidated by them all at the same time. Once again, I’m grateful that we have the LORD guiding us through these decisions each year. Even when we don’t feel sure about the future, He knows what the future holds!


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