It is April. And that means that May is coming soon. And that means that Evan is about to finish at his Montessori kindergarten and to move to our neighborhood school next year for first grade.
Can I tell you that I have a little bit of anxiety about this?
I do not think of myself as particularly overprotective. I am not the type of parent to live in fear of my children growing older. I do not even fear myself growing older, really. But I am more than nervous about Evan’s transition next year.
I am trying hard to keep myself from communicating this to Evan. We have been talking about him moving to the neighborhood school, about how exciting it will be for him, about all the things a bigger school has that a small one does not, about the friends from the neighborhood whom he will know there, and his good friend from his current school who will be going to the public school with him next year too.
But when we are alone, my husband and I can openly acknowledge that we are not sure that public school is the right fit for us. It is the option that works…but not really one about which we feel completely right.
People try to reassure us all the time – Evan will be fine, they say. He is smart, he makes friends easily, he is a happy boy. And we know that. We know that Evan will do fine academically. We know he will be fine socially. He is a hard worker and he is quite resilient. We know he will be fine.
But we are not sure that fine is enough.
Here is one reason why…
A few weeks ago, when I wrote about Clayton’s obsession with pin pricking, I started thinking about how much his mind has been on small-motor development lately. He really, really wants to learn this. For the last month or two, he has been focusing so much effort on learning to button his shirt, to write the letters of his name, to sharpen pencils, to play dot-to-dot, to pin prick. This work is hard for him. It takes him a long time, it requires all of his concentration, and he makes a lot of mistakes.
But he has chosen this work. And because of this, he is infinitely patient with himself. He will breathe through his mistakes and will start over again from the beginning if he needs to, no matter how many times the button slips out of his fingers or the pencil point breaks.
A few months earlier, however…well, that was a different story. This is what happened when Clayton was not ready to work on these skills.
After Christmas, when we were finishing up thank-you notes, I asked Clayton to sign his name on the cards we had just made. We have always done this. Even when the boys were too small to hold a pencil, we held their hands and helped them scribble. This time, however, Clayton was watching his older brother write and wanted his letters to look just like Evan’s, but he did not know how to do it. His C just did not come out the way he was picturing it. So, he threw fit after fit, screaming and throwing himself on the ground because it made him so angry to fail. He did not tolerate his mistakes, he did not try again, he did not have the tiniest bit of patience for himself or for his learning. He certainly had the potential to do small-motor activities. His strength was there. He could have done it. But “could have” was certainly not enough.
This makes me think back to the year we just spent trying to convince Evan to try to ride his bike. We knew he could do it. He was amazing on his balance bike and he was certainly big and strong enough. But the few times we were able to coax him into trying, he would get totally frustrated within minutes and give up, often with the same fits of anger as Clayton showed at writing. When Evan was ready, on the other hand, he simply got out the bike and did it. He did not get angry when he fell, he did not give up. He just got back on and tried again.
Sometimes it does not matter that we, as parents or teachers, know that a child has the skills required for a certain task. If he has not chosen to learn it, he will not learn it.
Of course, that is not to say that we should not try to expose children to new things, to encourage them to stretch their boundaries. But we should be ready to understand that they might not be right there, right then. They might be too busy stretching in a different direction.
So no matter how much I know that Evan will be “fine” next year, I want him to be more than that. I want him to be passionate, engaged, curious, excited about learning, like he is right now.
I want him to learn from where he is.
I guess we will just have to wait and see…