My oldest child is on his way to wrapping up his first year of kindergarten. When we registered him for school all of our friends with older children told us to be prepared for the heartbreak. “You baby will never be the same,” they’d say knowingly. I braced myself for tears and anxiety and all the things that come with realizing your child is making the first steps into a journey that leads to moving farther and farther away from being a baby. When Isaiah entered kindergarten on that first day, I sniffled a bit but I was mostly excited for him. He loves school. He loves to socialize and he is ferociously independent.
Toward the middle of the school year, though, we began to see Isaiah exhibit anxiety about school. He’d beg me not to go. When homework was sent home he fought us. He’d scream and get annoyed and exclaim, “I KNOW HOW TO TRACE THESE LETTERS MOM!” We decided that we wouldn’t do the homework. The kind of battles that had to be waged in order to get it done weren’t worth it. He did know how to trace the letters, and I wasn’t going to have a two hour stand off over it. Isaiah still gets off the bus and asks to be switched to a different classroom. He talks about a particular child who bullies him. He says the other little boys call him “gay” because he likes the colors purple and pink. One day he told me he hated black people. I asked him where he heard people say that and he named off several of his friends who he reported that, “they don’t like black people either.” When I explained to him he was Black, of African American heritage, he was upset and asked me if his friends would know. He cries and tells me his stomach hurts and he doesn’t want to go to school. Once I get him pass the point of anxiety and we get him to the doors of the school he seems okay. When he arrives home he’ll report he had a great time, but then still ask to change schools.
I adored school. It was my safe place. The women and men who taught me inspired me and I excelled. I had really high hopes for Isaiah’s school experiences. It hurts my heart that my five year old has already had such a negative experience. I ask my friends about their experience and they have very little input. It is hard for them to empathize because they have Caucasian child who aren’t learn to form their identity in a minority status. I am slowly beginning to realize that Siloam Springs school systems may not be able to provide the kind of diverse cultural experience my child will need. We had an amazing experience with the Northside Koala Pre-K program. Our teachers Mrs. Sherry and Mrs. Standifer went above and beyond to accommodate our families cultural differences and Isaiah flourished.
So when my friends were preparing me for what life is like with a school age child, they never mentioned this. There isn’t a handbook to help you decide what is the best option for your child’s school experience needs, is there? I want Isaiah to learn to be resilient, but I also want his first few school years to be positive years to build a successful school career on. I know teachers have rough jobs. I am not insinuating that they aren’t qualified educators, I am simply wrestling with the reality this school year was heartbreaking, but not for the reasons I thought.
Have you ever had something that wasn’t a fit for you and your child in their school experiences? How did you deal with it? What do you do when there is something that needs to be a special consideration in your child’s education? How do you make it work?