Monday, August 20, 2007

Summer's almost out

Next week you'll hear half a sigh of relief from me.

The sigh of relief half is because public school begins next week, and thus ends my ridiculous attempt to juggle working from home with caring for children (or at least for one of them; preschool starts on September 5, after Labor Day...a mixed blessing since it means one week of still juggling, but also one week of adjusting to public school before adding in two schools each day).

If you wonder why I tried to juggle working with childcare, I'll be honest: it's because I can't afford to do otherwise. It's been an enormous strain on my entire family and has strung me practically to the breaking point. Taking the summer off isn't an option for me. But my earnings don't accommodate paying for childcare.

You might reasonably ask why not forget working right now, in that case. It's because my career is important to me, not as important as my children, but nevertheless, valuable and something I've invested heavily in as a person. I ultimately hope it increases in earnings so that I can provide better for my family, take us out of this hand-to-mouth, paycheck-to-paycheck strained budget way of life. But first, I have to build up from the bottom. I know that upfront this can mean some compromise and sacrifice. My big plan was to split my schedule: mommy by day, professional by night. However, this plan relied on a 50/50 two parent family.

Unfortunately compounding this summer as difficult was my husband's work schedule, which has him working evenings and weekend, frequently.

At play here are some of the major conflicts of interest modern families have to deal with: increasing work demands, increasing cost of living that more and more requires two salaries to remain middle class (despite a strong economy), and decreasing public assistance and sense of responsibility.

This week in my about-houstontx.com column I'm exploring the effect recent legislation has for students in the 2007-8 public school year. In Texas, there are some interesting changes, including a new stipulation that sets a boundary for the earliest date school may begin and a controversial addition to the state pledge: the words "one state under God."

I'm extensively researching educational issues such as these to better understand what my child and I will encounter as she begins public school this year.

And that's the other half, the not sighing in relief half.

I am quaking in my boots as we prepare to start Patience in Big School next week. I know I won't be in Kansas (so to speak) any longer as of next Monday. My small, private school that is "touchy feely and responsive to every parent and child" experience is finished.

If I had any doubt, the vice principal of the elementary school laid it to rest after a curt conversation with me the other week. After seeking much advice, I took the unanimous suggestion to call the school and alert them to my child's experience being bullied by a student entering kindergarten with her next year. The vice principal quickly told me that the classes were already assigned (even though open enrollment had only begun that day), and parents were not allowed to make requests for class assignments. She was uninterested in learning anything about the situation, and hung up quickly. This isn't the reception I expected, based on what the teachers and parents who had advised me to call had told me. But it confirmed my worst fears that my child and I are entering a big pond where we are merely one number among many, and her individual needs pale in comparison to the greater need of the whole.

As glad as I am that soon school will be back in session and our family can resume a schedule that will balance out better than the summer has, I also anticipate at least one month of intense transition.

I look forward to and dread in equal measure the start of school and the month of September. I know Patience will be equally thrilled and happily challenged by kindergarten as well as stressed by it. I know it will be the same for us, her parents. This is the first time we'll have two children in two different schools, which will also be an adjustment. We'll all have new schedules and responsibilities as well.

I think...wake me when it's October.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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22 comments:

Mary-LUE said...

I always think at the end of each school year that I am glad it is summer and there is all this work I will get done without the shuttling back and forth, etc.

By the end of summer, I am thinking how glad I am that school is almost here and how much I can get done with the kids gone all day.

I can't win for losing!

I hope the transition kinderarten goes well. Is it a full or half day situation?

I have an idea which might help you feel prepared for the bullying. When you have a chance to communicate to the teacher or at a back to school night, ask what the policy is on bullying. Without naming any names, you can mention that your child had to deal with a bully in the past and you just want to be prepared--just in case.

Most schools I know of have a pretty strong no tolerance policy on bullying, even for the younger grades. Asking won't keep the bully out of Patience's class, but you'll know what steps the school says to take if anything happens.

And, if anything does happen, that is when you can make a big stink if they don't comply with their own policy.

Kindergarten was a HUGE adjustment for my son. So many demands. They were all appropriate but it is the beginning of a new world, you are right about that. I look forward to hearing all about it.

Mary-LUE said...

Forgive the typos. I was up a lot last night.

kaliroz said...

That's really how the vp acted?

At my old school ... eons ago ... the administration would move children at a parent's whim. It was almost always because of bullying or because they wanted their kid to do this or that (some extracurriculars were tied to certain classrooms).

Good luck with all of that, Julie. Mine starts big school next year and I'm already pretty scared.

Cathy said...

I'm so dreading that same transition. We'll be making it next year as my oldest heads to kindergarten in public schools and the youngest remains in a private daycare/preK program.

I'll be reading daily to see how it goes for you...

mayberry said...

Am way behind on commenting too, but just wanted to say good luck to both you and Patience. We're about to do the same big transition here too.

Kyla said...

Oooh man. BubTar is starting Kinder too next Monday, but he is at the same private school that he attended for PreK, thankfully. He's ready to dive right back in. I don't envy you. I'm dreading our first district meeting for KayTar, in October. It seems ridiculously soon. She's just a wee tot!

I'd settle for being woken in September...or maybe even after this week is over. ;)

Lawyer Mama said...

Unfortunately, I think many of my friends have had the same sort of experience with school administrators. Maybe her teacher will be more responsive?

Good luck! I know I wish I could just skip the whole month of September too.

thailandchani said...

I simply can't believe the response of that VP. Really. It's incomprehensible.

As much as the latest media "thing" is nattering on about bullying, apparently they're not willing to take positive steps about it.

Unbelievable! You'd think nothing would surprise me anymore ~ and then something surely does!


Peace,

~Chani
http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

Christine said...

that is really too bad that the principal couldn't help more. or in the very least they should have been more kind and open about it. my girl begins another year in the same school which is great, but the following year is a new school with another principal who i have heard scary things about. mean and not parent responsive.

kindergarten is a big step--good luck to her and you.

and i hope that the little more extra time will help out the work schedule too.

Sober Briquette said...

Congratulations to you and Patience! I hope that the reality will not echo the first impression. A good experience in school can have a huge impact on life in so many ways.

slouching mom said...

Oh, Julie, you are preaching to the choir here. There are fifteen days until school starts in my town -- don't think I haven't counted them, twice.

I have had a tough time too this summer juggling taking care of the kids and writing.

And yet, as you wrote, Sept. will bring its own sorts of challenges...convincing Jack that the school bus can be FUN! Struggling to get Ben to realize that he cannot race through his homework anymore -- he's going into FOURTH grade. There will be significantly more homework, and I'm already tired of the constant nagging I know I'll have to do...

Not to mention helping Ben with his homework, because quite frankly our school district expects parents to help too much (I think).

Sigh. It's never one way or another, is it.

flutter said...

I am just kind of speechless...

jen said...

what a long, strange trip it's been, yes?

i think we'll hear more and more about the lack of capacity to juggle all of this over the long haul by "modern" families. i know we feel it. as do you. as do so very many.

Mamma said...

Can't believe the VP acted that way, especially when it concerned a Kindergartener.

Don't let that stop you from fighting for your child. When it comes to school it really is the squeaky wheel. I'd go to the Principal next.

Sorry about the shakey beginnings.

Karen said...

solidarity on Wednesday - that also marks Thinkers first day in a new district, in a much bigger school - and then two weeks following marks the start of preschool for LP, and a fall with evaluations of various sorts here in the school system, cause LP's gonna need that....I agree the sqeaky wheel trick for public school has always been my game, it does pay to persevere.

Emily said...

What Mamma said.

kim said...

I agree with others about the squeaky wheel, but that doesn't mean you have to be the bitchy wheel. Be known. If they know you schools are more likely to look out for your child.

My first impression of the 6th grade made me incredibly anxious, but it has turned out to be great.

And I bow to your superiority. I have no job, all three kids are in school and I still can't accomplish anything. You the woman!

OmegaMom said...

Ah yes, the "Oh thank heavens school is starting up!" mantra, combined with, "Ohmigawd, it's all new to her and she'll be overwhelmed!" mantra.

We've also got: new school, new city, new house, new environment, yadda yadda yadda to deal with. I have my fingers crossed that the dotter enjoys the challenge more than being freaked (like Patience).

I hope you can find a way to deal with the bullying situation. Hopefully, the bully will be in a different class.

PunditMom said...

I have been living the same summer as you. Today, I was the "bad mom," as PunditGirl spent WAY too much time in front of the TV as I was trying to catch up on so much writing. I thought I could handle it, manage it, juggle it, but I am worn out. Sept. 5 cannot come soon enough.

Suzanne said...

Today marked back to school for my two...and yes, I am unequivocally grateful the summer is over.

Re: the squeaky wheel - I recommend becoming the helpful wheel. I had some of the same issues and concerns when, in the same year, my son started at a "rough" middle school and my daughter started kindergarden.

I don't know about your schools, but my district keeps track of hours spent by parent volunteers, and get extra funding or some other benefits as a result, and so...I volunteered that year...LOTS. I went once a week to my daughter's class and read to her class. The teacher loved me because it gave her a break and the principal and vice-principal were quite impressed to find out why they were seeing me so much in the hallways. I also helped out in my son's math class once a week. His teacher was a first year teacher and had ZERO classroom control skills, so mostly what I did was help keep the class quiet and on task while he taught. The VP of my son's school noticed I was there a lot and caught me in the hallway one day and asked if I'd consider getting certified to be a sub. He said, we might as well pay you for your time if you're going to be here so much and be so helpful. We need people like you in our school!

So, for the last two years, I have subbed at both schools. It works out great for me because I am now REALLY involved with each school and their respective administrations see me as someone who doesn't just bitch about the problems they see, but jumps in to help. This goes a LONG way toward me being able to ask my kids get a specific teacher, etc, which, ironically, I haven't had the need to do. I did, however, specifically request my daughter and the little girl next door NOT be put in the same class this year since they spend every OTHER waking minute together. The admins didn't even blink at my request - they just said, sure, no problem!

Subbing is easy for me to integrate into my work-at-home schedule and since I wanted to be a teacher "when I grew up", I get to satisfy that teacher that is still in me wanting out. I am not a babysitter sub - I actually teach and I LOVE IT! But, I do enjoy the fact that any given morning, if I get called to sub, I can say no if I need to, and conversely, I can accept jobs several weeks into the future and plan my work here around that.

So, maybe subbing isn't something you'd be interested in doing, but let me assure you - each of us can manage an hour or two volunteering, and since we're all invested in the fates of our public schools (whether we have kids in them, or not) it's a good investment of our time and energy.

For me, part of the "point" of working from home is to be able to set my own schedule and control how and where I say "yes" or "no" to things that are important to me.

This year, my son starts high school, and yes, dear ol' mom will be seen in the halls, much to his chagrin. LOL

JaniceNW said...

I thought I'd drop by. I'm in college fulltime beginning 9/24, my 16yo begins his junior year Sept 4, my 18yo is working a full timelabor job as high school just wasn't his thang.

Best wishes on all schooling beginning from home schooling to publib schools to private schools. Best wishes to all.

mpearl said...

I posted on this same subject last week as my daughter started kindergarten, too. I also started back to work part time last week. I have 3 kids in two different schools. I can relate. It can be scary all this change.
I can tell you from experience, be as involved as you can in elementary school without being annoying, of course. When the school faculty knows who you are your child is more likely to stand out in the crowd(for positive reasons). Especially get to know the teacher.She is the one that will be with your child the most. You know how it is, just because you child is in school half the day doesn't mean you have more time for yourself. In fact, probably less.
My daughter is having a great time at school and I am sure yours will, too. Anything has to be easier then when my son started kindergarten in sept. 2001 and I was 8in half months preggers!
Good Luck:)