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The first day of school…. A day I always looked forward to as a kid. I loved school. Especially with fresh empty notebooks and a new pack of coloured pencils. The opportunities seemed endless. The excitement palpable.

And as a parent, I thought I would love it too. I would celebrate this new start, taking their photo on the first day every year just as my mom had.

It would be momentous. It would be meaningful.

And this year, my oldest starts Grade 1 which feels like a big deal… except I’m doing everything I can to not make it a big deal. There’s no excited talk in this house. Rather, there’s a quiet mix of anxiety and worry.

Last year my son didn’t adjust so well to Kindergarten. Despite the fact that he is a polite and lovely child in the classroom with teachers who loved him, it was a different story at home. It was almost always a fight to get him to school in the morning. In the afternoons when I picked him up he would be exhausted, unable to walk the block to our parked car (when we lived in Vancouver) or the 3 blocks to our new home after we had moved. Embarrassed, I would arrive with the stroller and he would gratefully climb in, closing the roof of it over his face. He would retreat. Done for the day.

Of course I asked what was up, why he didn’t like this environment that I thought he would thrive in as the smart and sociable boy I knew him to be. He would complain of boys being mean or the room being too loud. He would tell me he missed me. That he just wanted quiet days at home.

And on and on it went. By the end of the school year he was staying home at least one extra day each week but still he struggled. And as his struggles often do, this turned into angry and explosive behaviour. Which meant we all struggled.

We were all hurting.

But school was supposed to be fun…

So ya, as we face the start of a new school year I do so with some hesitation. I’m not building it up. I’m not getting excited. I’m trying to just let it be what it will be.

And I am hoping, with every bit of my heart, that the big decision we made this summer will change things for my son.

We’ve decided to send him to a small, parent-run community school in the country, the same one I went to for Grades 1 and 2. Here there are only 14 kids in the whole school with 2 teachers in the classroom and regular community volunteers. The school week is only 3 days and he will be home for “independent study” on the other days. The classroom is quiet and structured. Adults are present to help the children through conflicts and older children support the younger children as well. It is a peaceful place and one that fosters a true love of learning while honouring creative and sensitive souls.

I believe that in this space he will feel safe. He will feel loved and respected.

And on his extra days at home he will be with me, playing quietly by my side as I work (the dream of every mama who works from home, let’s see how it really turns out…)

So maybe next year, when the start of Grade 2 is approaching, we will be celebrating. We will be excited and looking forward to the first day. I hope that becomes our new reality. I hope this special little school that touched my heart as a child, laying the foundation for so many years of academic success, works the same bit of magic on my sweet and sensitive little boy.

xo parrish