We officially kicked off summer with Annie and Jack’s last day of preschool in June and Annie’s class party at a park. We surprised them afterwards with ice cream for lunch at our favorite ice cream shop to celebrate a job well done.
The party was both fun and just as nuts as you’d expect when 40 or so preschoolers and their little siblings gather in one place (the morning and afternoon special ed and Spanish-speaking classes all celebrated together).
We’d never planned on public school for our kids but ended up there via a roundabout course for Annie. Her special ed classroom, teacher, and district this year were true gifts, rare even in the special ed world. We couldn’t have imagined a better learning environment for her. She attended class in a simple, peaceful room with a near-magical teacher, two great aides, and just 6-8 special needs students. On most days one or more therapists for speech, occupational therapy, or physical therapy also worked in the room. The teacher firmly believed in emphasizing play and outdoor time over worksheets and formal academics (as do we) and Annie grew by leaps and bounds. The school bent over backwards to accommodate our concerns and desires as parents. She only went for half days four mornings a week, the bus picked her up from our driveway, and her class spent lots of time integrated with the small classroom for native Spanish speakers next door so they had typically-developing role models. We couldn’t have imagined a better year for her than with this particular teacher in this particular program with this particular class. It also gave us a small community of parents and kids where our family was “normal.” Not only did Mrs. G shower our daughter with extravagant love but she constantly encouraged our family throughout the year. Praise God for the Mrs. G’s of this world!
Jack did preschool at home via the same battered Alphaphonics book my Mom used to teach me, huge library lists (especially the “Our Favorite Picture Books for….” monthly recommendations on Read Aloud Revival), lots of outdoor play, work at home, and the wonderful hands-on curriculum A Year of Playing Skillfully. We take a Charlotte Mason-ish approach with stacks of quality books. He loved his park district basketball class in the fall and enjoyed plenty of play with neighborhood kids and the kids at church. He especially loved any play that involved sensory work for his hands: tracing in shaving cream, water beads, making playdough, sculpting clay, painting, making arctic “snow”, etc. Jenny and Josie joined in on much of the preschool play though we don’t worry about any academics at their age.
In the fall we’ll attempt a new Special Ed kindergarten class for Annie, and, hopefully, a homeschool co-op for Jack. The first one we’d chosen disbanded for the year so we’re still figuring out our options. One of the nice things about living in this generation is that educational choices are flexible. When I was being homeschooled there was very much a “homeschoolers vs. the world” mentality, in large part because “the world” was constantly attacking homeschoolers and their right to educate their children as they saw fit. You were A Home Schooler, or A Public Schooler, or a Private Schooler and most viewed crossover between camps with disapproval. Decades later and homeschooling is relatively normal and familiar. In our family, and many I know, attitudes toward education are flexible. Homeschooling may be ideal for all kids one year. In the next year, private school or public school or a co-op may best suit the children’s and family’s needs. We are lucky to have options!