As we enter another fall season and hence the beginning of school, I wanted to give you an update on Monkey Boy. This year was his big transition into middle school. As I mentioned back in the spring, I was dreading this step.
Let me backtrack a little bit and tell you what I did to try to make the transition easier. At Monkey Boy’s IEP meeting in May, I was informed that there was a “Jumpstart” program (which is actually just a fancy name for summer school), and he was invited to attend. In theory, I thought it was a great idea. Of course, I also had concerns. Would he rebel? Would it be a constant battle to get him up and out the door? Was one-on-one tutoring better (I had already worked out a tutor for the summer)? His fifth grade teacher also had reservations about how he would react.
After much discussion and debate, I decided that the benefits of becoming familiar with a new school prior to the beginning of the school year outweighed the cons. I figured he would get used to using a locker and meet some of the teachers. It was also supposedly more hands on than traditional school. Another point in my favor was that his best friend would also be going. Telling Monkey Boy that he would be going went better than anticipated, especially in the wake of a huge meltdown when he learned about tutoring. I’ve since discovered that in his mind, school work is for school and home is for fun. It’s definitely one of the biggest reasons I won’t homeschool him.
The session was only four days a week for three weeks and three hours a day, so it wasn’t like there wasn’t plenty of time for fun. Although, I still ruined his summer, don’t you know?! He did learn how to use a locker and he became familiar with the school. I think he got some academic benefit from it, although it was the polar opposite of the hands on experience I expected. He did enjoy the teachers, but neither one of them were part of the regular sixth grade team (one didn’t even teach at the school regularly anymore). I have to say I was somewhat disappointed in the experience overall, but there was still enough benefit that I’m pretty sure I would repeat it if I had it to do all over again, knowing what I do at this point.
Which leads me back to how Monkey Boy is handling middle school. He’s actually doing fairly well, for him. However, the first day was a disaster. He was so upset when I picked him up because he had gotten lost “fifty times” according to him. But by the third day, he’d gotten the hang of it. And I really think his experience in summer school made him become more comfortable more quickly than he would have been otherwise.
He’s learned the routine and the schedule. And now he knows what happens on X days versus Y days a lot better than I do. We are still getting used to homework, though thankfully it hasn’t been bad yet. Luckily, they have to record assignment in an agenda (back when Master Yi-Yi and even Little H were in sixth grade, it wasn’t checked as scrupulously), and most of the teachers are good about posting assignments. Otherwise, I’m not sure he would ever remember his homework assignments. I have him bring everything home every day. I do feel bad because his backpack is insanely heavy, even without the textbooks, but I figure it’s better than not having it. He’s also taking band and is very excited to learn how to play the saxophone. I really hope that’s something where he can excel.
From what I can tell, his test grades haven’t been great, and he tested right below the fourth grade level for reading, so I am keeping a close eye on those. I figure I will give him until the first interims come out before requesting any conferences, which will be very soon. I already sent my yearly letter, and his teachers have been very supportive. What’s hardest is that Monkey Boy expresses interest in wanting to learn and do well, but then he tells me, “If I get this one wrong, I’m just going to quit trying.” He definitely still needs to learn some self-confidence. These days, not only is he picking up on what he’s not good at, but he’s verbalizing his feelings about it very well.
Which reminds me, last week was his final week of speech at Fox Therapy. He’s been going for sixteen months, and I feel it has greatly benefitted him (although he will tell you that it’s done absolutely nothing). And it’s not that more sessions wouldn’t help, but we are at the point where his attitude is interfering. I feel that he’s made this huge leap in progress already, and there may be a few more baby steps he could take, but the cons have started to outweigh the pros. He also sees that he’s far older than most of the kids who come in and out.
So, I’d say the transition is pretty positive so far. He even went to his school first dance! I’m still concerned about academics, but I think we need to get a little further into the routine before I can really tell where his weaknesses still lie. I will come back and tell you more about that in the future.
Next time, I’ll finally do justice to the name of my blog and delve a little bit more into the ins and outs of my “melting pot family.”