2011 was a big year for us – more specifically, it was a big year for our daughters.
For the Bigster 2011 was the start of high school – a move to a very academic environment with some very formal structure. She had homework and she had assessment – she had work that was due and she was expected to do it. We were confident that she could do it but we expected that there might be a bit of a shock getting started. And we were right both times although the shock was much less than we thought.
For Otto, 2011 brought more upheaval – with a change of schools halfway through the year. The new school is smaller and infinitely more challenging and stimulating – and much more in keeping with our philosophy of education and with our values. There were some hairy moments – and lots of new experiences (like having a desk to sit at; having spelling words and textbooks; being expected to DO work; being assessed on how well you did the work) but she has really risen to the challenge. She’s made some wonderful new friends and has come out of her shell in a way that we didn’t expect so soon.
She reached a big milestone last week. While her last report from the old school put her six months ahead in maths, her new school assessed that she was 12-18 months behind the other kids. While they were working on book 3B, she was given 2A and a challenge: Catch up.
And she has. She’s now on book 4A with the other grade 4 children, and 2 weeks ago she was only 20 pages behind them. Her teacher has now decided to move her up to where the other kids are – getting her to keep working on those ‘missing’ 20 pages as homework, as required.
(Because I am far too honest, I will admit that getting that homework done has not been an unmitigated delight. There have been days when we have sat for six to eight hours, coaxing her to keep going and just do the next question, while tears were shed – and not just by her. But lately we’re also seeing her initiating her homework and taking more of the initiative about getting it done. Sometimes, at least.)
In her after-school drama class, she took on the role of the narrator for the play last term – successfully learning 40+ lines in her second language and performing them fluently for the rest of the school. Through her involvement in the choir, she has sung solos to groups of 200+ people. This week, she’s off on her first sleepover camp.
Self esteem? Sky high.
For us the move was good too. It’s not just Otto who has made new friends. We’ve settled in to a wonderful parent and school community: as this post goes live, I’m at a meeting talking about some fantastic events that are coming up at school. There’s a framework for parent involvement and a culture that supports and welcomes parent-teacher partnerships. I’ve lost the stress and parent-guilt that I felt every day – and Fraser and I have moved on from the daily bitterness and anger that we felt at the wasted opportunities and culture of mediocrity. Those experiences have become an artefact of our family’s history rather than an everyday obstacle.
Don’t get me wrong. We’re bitter and angry that we HAD those experiences, but they are in our past now.
Funnily enough though, this post was inspired by a hangover from that past. I recently noticed that someone from the old school has been stalking me online. But this time I rolled my eyes and ignored it, because it’s not my problem anymore.
OK, I had this little rant too. But that’s what I do.
There is much that I don’t love about my life. And much that I struggle with every day. Especially
making Fraser and the kids do what I want negotiating family compromises.
But both schools are a joy.