When it was time for my daughter to begin kindergarten, I looked at every school option. What did our public school have to offer? What was different about private schools? Would she fit in at a parochial school that had awesome academics but was Catholic and we were not? What about homeschooling?
Like many families, we struggled to choose a schooling option for this fall. In mid-July, we made the challenging decision to commit to our school district’s online learning option for eighth grade.
As the school year grew closer, our family worked to prepare for this new way of schooling while honoring back-to-school traditions, including shopping for school supplies. We purchased a new-to-us desk and I worked with my daughter to set up a space where she would be comfortable and (hopefully) productive during her school day.
The first day of school, a nervous energy filled our home as we took a back-to-school picture and I made her a cup of tea that she could enjoy as she logged in to her first class.
The excitement for school we had that first morning eventually faded. Though I understood and valued our district’s plan for online learning, I saw my child starting to struggle. As I watched and listened, I felt unsettled and nervous about our choice. My anxiety grew and without any conversation with my daughter, I left the room and made a phone call to explore another school option.
Always mindful of changing educational needs and opportunities, my family last year had pursued admissions for my daughter at a local private school. She had been accepted, but we had deferred her enrollment for multiple reasons. Realizing online schooling wasn’t the best fit for my child, I called the school and inquired about possible enrollment.
The admissions director listened as I expressed my concerns and asked if there was any possibility of enrollment this school year. Several phone conversations followed and I worked to explore a different option for her. Together, we found a successful plan and an opening in enrollment.
I told my daughter we needed to talk. I was honest, but positive, about my concerns. I told her that I had contacted another school and it was an option we could explore. She paused, pondered and then said, “I’d check it out.” Later that day, we went for a visit to the school and by that evening we confirmed that we were going to enroll. Less than a week later, my daughter stepped out of our car and into a new schooling adventure.
Though the change was swift and even scary, the school and our family both agreed that if a change was going to occur in our school plan, the sooner the better. And indeed, that change has been for the better.
School Plan: How to Thrive in the Current Environment or Make a Change
If you believe your child may be struggling, first, observe your child’s engagement in his or her academics.
- Consider how you can support your child in success with the current situation.
- Consider what needs to be changed. For instance, you may not need to change your school, but simply how you’re approaching the school day.
- Be honest but open to discussions with the school leadership. Remember that your child’s education is a partnership between you, your child and an educational institution.
How to Make a Change
Make a list of your options:
1) stay in current school (a simple list of pros and cons will help you be objective) and 2) explore other school options (make a list of other educational possibilities and do your initial research — on the internet, via phone or an in-person visit if feasible — with schools/programs you believe may be a good fit).
Make a decision:
Involve your child in honest, but positive, discussions.
Be patient with the process. Though our change happened quickly, in reality this would have taken more time had we not already applied and had been admitted to the school we ended up selecting for our child.
Jeannie Fleming-Gifford has a master’s degree in child development and is the executive director at Fairmount Center for the Arts. Her passions include outdoor adventures, volunteering to raise potential service dogs and writing.