In the school system our kids are in you go to one school for grades K-5, another for grades 6-7, another for 8-9, and then the last for grades 10-12. My one school building that held grades K-12 childhood in no way prepares me to even know how to approach that much change for Grace or Graham!
When Grace started in the 6-7 school building, they told us that we may have an option to keep her there for 3 years. I remember this, but I didn’t think about it too much. I was way too worried about the transition away from the team that “got” her in K-5 building.
Then last year at her IEP they said, next year at this time you’ll have to decide if she stays with us here an extra year, it’s up to you. I heard it. I had mixed feelings about it. I was glad we didn’t have to make a decision right then.
Fast forward to this fall, the start of Grace’s 7th-grade year, and we were told again that we’ll have to make a decision about whether to keep her back in the 6-7 building next year or whether we’ll have her go to the 8-9 building with the rest of her classmates. They also said that there may not be room for her to move to the 8-9 building. One of the other families had already decided to stay. I admit part of me was like…how could there not be room for her to move schools? That would never happen in general ed! Another part of me was relieved because we maybe wouldn’t even have to make the decision.
We are approaching her next IEP meeting in early March and it appears we are going to have to choose. I won’t speak for Kevin but I’m torn. We’ve held her back one other time. Grace went to three years of preschool before she went to kindergarten. At church that meant that the kids she’d been in Sunday School with from age 3 on went to the kindergarten Sunday School class one Sunday and she got left behind. That was hard for me. It’s hard to know what she felt.
If we were to hold her back now the kids she’s been in school with since kindergarten will move to the new building and she will again be left behind. Part of me is heartbroken about this.
Granted she’s now in the big school with all the 7th graders (600+), but there are still those 100+ 7th graders that she went to elementary school with. Those are the kids we tried to pour info into. The kids who send home sweet notes and drew pictures that still decorate her room today.
Another part of me knows that there’s no one or two kids who Grace is really attached to – no real friends that would be leaving her. I think she might be more upset to be without one of the girls in her special ed class who is staying. I also know that Grace will be in school after those kids graduate. We can keep her in school until the year she turns 21 and we probably will.
There are some great pros for staying. The special ed teacher and her team have been awesome. Grace is growing in her communication skills so much in their care. The school nurse has been easy to work with. Grace is loving band, Spanish, and adapted PE. Both years the general ed teachers have seemed to enjoy her in their classrooms and have commented with humor about her frequent use of the “I’m bored” button on her communication device during their class and voiced that they recognized and appreciated that Grace is quicker than she looks.
We want to make a thoughtful decision. It feels like a big deal. Is it really a big deal? I don’t know. But as with all decisions Grace-based, we are weighing it with a goal of doing what is best for Grace.
We don’t know what we don’t know about the next building and the opportunities that would be there for Grace. So, we are going to visit. We’ll check out the physical space, talk to the teacher, and we are hoping we will either learn that we are definitely ok with her moving forward or have a sense that we need a little more time to have her ready for that transition. Of course, it could all backfire and leave us more unsure than we are now! But, at least we will have done our best to make this decision for Grace.
On top of the regular ones that every parent faces, these hidden decisions can get to feel extra heavy. And I realize that we probably can overthink them, but guiding Grace is so important, we definitely don’t want to move without thinking enough. I never want her to be stuck because of my fear. This parenting stuff is not for the faint of heart!