The kids started school a week ago and to my eternal shock and consternation it seems to have been quite painless. Perhaps this is because each school year so far has brought some fun surprises.
Year #1- Kindergarten: My daughter started her school career not knowing anybody as we had just moved across the country, and unable to communicate with anybody as she did not speak a word of french. I know, I know. I am a Nietzschean mother. Of course, my mother did the same to me when I first started school. Not only that, but I had a shrew of a teacher who wouldn’t let you go to the bathroom if you didn’t ask in french. Combined with a case of acute shyness, I could never get myself to ask her how to say it in french and so had many accidents that year.
Year #2- My daughter and the one good friend she has managed to make in spite of her communication obstacle (which to kids is not that big of a deal as it turns out, as they are not listening to you anyway) are separated. The teacher tells me she has learning disabilities. I don’t believe her. I try to suggest it is because she is learning to read in a second language. She doesn’t belive me. Fun times all round.
Year #3- Youngest daughter is now in kindergarten. She is perfectly bilingual and, despite a few nervous moments at the beginning, is walking around the school as if she owns the place by October. My oldest daughter is now in grade two and has to go through the same thing she did in kindergarten, except that, because it is an alternative school, the kids are a much tighter clique. A few days are spent crying uncontrollably, and there are many intense homework moments but she gets through it and ends up liking the school. The decision to put them in an alternative school came from my somewhat anarchist views of schooling. If circumstances were different, I would seriously consider homeschooling my children. I thought that an alternative school with a little less structure would be the perfect place for my daughter, which it has turned out to be, except that it is not as unstructured as we thought. The main difference between the public school and her school now is one of class. The public school was in a working class area populated mostly by recent immigrants to the country. I met one lady the whole time we were there from Bangladesh. An intense friendship sprung up, based on my helping her daughter, who was in my daughter’s class, with her homework as she did not speak a word of french and only a rudimentary English. The parents in this new school are all middle class, educated and intensely opiniated about their children’s education. Like me. I always find it hard to swallow when I am confronted with the notion of class, somehow having been able to avoid it until I had children. Living in mostly working class neighborhoods though, the reality of it has struck me deeply. The gist is, while I would be the only parent at meet the teacher night in the other school, at the new school I am subjected to a three hour meeting every other month (with wine and cheese I might add) discussing the techniques of the English teacher. I find this disturbing somehow, like I jumped a fishing boat to take a ride on a yacht or something.
Year #4- Grade 1 & 3: We enter the school yard. There is a moment of feeling overwhelmed as the noise level rises and the bigger kids are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Suddenly, out of the din, a concerted , high pitched yell of my daughter’s name and three girls are hurtling toward my daughter and embracing her. She is swept up in the crowd and we don’t see her until we pick her up after school. The youngest daughter is now in the same school as her sister. There is a millisecond of tears as she sees her sister go off (they are very close) until the same thing happens to her but in a smaller version. And that’s that. Then I went to work and it was as if the summer never happened. It has been a week and a half and everybody is perfectly content. Last night was the first night of homework and my daughter actually asked my if she could do it before dinner. I am not saying it is going to last, but hey, for a start it isn’t bad, right?