Change is Good: Making the Transition to Public School

When Things Are Not Working, Change and Follow Through

Our lives have recently changed dramatically. My 12 year old has just started public school. It was a fairly quick decision on the surface, but really, it had been on our minds for many months. T has not really been thriving in our home school environment. Since the beginning of this year, he has been tearful and has not been able to complete a full day’s worth of work more for than one day at a time. On most days, he was only able to complete 1 subject. Every now and then, he would surprise me and complete several subjects; but mostly, it was tears and frustration for us both.

At first, I blamed this difficulty on his diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome . We have had to work through sensory issues, fine motor problems, emotional issues and processing issues. On the other hand, I had said many times, “If you can’t be successful here at home, you will need to go to the school down the road.” This is the strict parent speaking. I realize that this had been, up until now, an empty threat. I know that such threats are not conducive to learning. I realized that at this point, at 12 years old and in the 7th grade, some thing would have to change soon, as high school and college are growing closer.

A Sudden Transition

Our transition was rather sudden. In a perfect world, I would have gradually gotten him ready for public school in the fall. Starting in the early spring, I would have looked for a good school, gone to the orientation day in the fall, toured the school ahead of time and mentally prepared T for the atmosphere of public school. Of course, this is not what happened. One Monday in November, before Thanksgiving, I decided to put him into 7th grade at the neighborhood middle school. We all put away our studies for the day to get the paperwork from the school office, buy a uniform and supplies, and retrieve his vaccination records from his pediatrician. The next day, he started.

Throughout all the preparation, I could tell by looking into T’s eyes that he was nervous. I was a wreck and tried not to cry a mother’s tears, usually reserved for kindergartners, now flowing for my 6 foot tall adolescent. However, he was cheerful and helpful throughout the entire process. There were so many new things to adjust to, for me and for him. We both had about 10 new people in our lives. T also had the campus map to contend with as well as unfamiliar routines, crowds, bells and other sensory bombardments. But we both survived. We got through it all. The things I thought would bother T were non issues.

I Love the Smiles

T seems to be a very well-adjusted middle-schooler. His first report card is filled with A’s. Academically, I have no real worries, though, as with any child that age, I still have to remind him to turn in his homework. More importantly, the tears are gone. T has started smiling again. Most days, he gets into the van full of tales of the day – and the smiles…I love the smiles.

Our lives are now filled with taking T to and from school, helping him with his homework and washing his uniform. His weekday chores are suspended for now, as he gets used to his new life, and I am sure he’s happy about that. We plan to take things one semester at a time. The younger two are now starting to think about public school in the fall. On the other hand, now that we all have to get up early to get T to school on time, they finish their schoolwork by noon.