Back to “Real” School
Transitioning from Schooling at Home to Bricks and Mortar
Last year, our family moved from virtual schooling at home back to real school (bricks and mortar public schooling). I thought I’d prepped my kids for whatever might come their way.
We talked to teachers, to counselors, met a few friends ahead of time, checked out locker combos, and studied the school map (they were both at the “switching classrooms” stage).
We discussed the noise levels, slang, rudeness, and an interrupted learning environment (“okay, class – time to line up for…”). We discussed homework and free time and all the changes we thought mattered. They were excited about the change.
On the first day of school, all the prep and anticipation was welling up in my 7th grader. When it came time for the 1st day of school photo before hopping in the car, I teased with my newly minted freshman daughter, “C’mon! Give us a real smile!” With that, thinking I could see through her brave façade, my 7th grader lost it. “I’m trying!” melted into hands over face and heavy sobs.
Be “that mom” or hope that she’d fly
She was nervous. Whacked-out-nervous. Still so much unknown. All 17 minutes of the Kleenex-laden drive were filled with unsuccessful attempts to calm and console. As we pulled up to the school, I had to choose – stay with this kid and be “that mom” who hovered to be sure she was fine or let her go and hope that she’d fly.
I did both. I looked up and among the few hundred strangers there was the one friend she had previously met. I called her over, cars waiting behind us in the drop-off line, looked her friend in the eye (with certainly more ferocity than she was ready for) and said, “she needs a hug and friend. Thank God you’re here.”
My husband drove on with my over-the-moon freshman daughter, dropping her at the high school next door. I walked away, through the parking lot, trying hard not to look conspicuous as I looked back to see that she had dried up her sobs and was filing in with the herd.
Halfway through the parking lot, I found an old friend (wondering why I was looking lost and determined at the same time as I charged across towards the high school.) She gave me a much-needed hug without judging my tears. Minutes later, my hub arrived and we headed home to try to work while hoping for the best.
At pick-up, my 7th grader hopped in the car and with the click of her seatbelt, the tears were flowing fast. We didn’t get any logic from her for about half an hour. It wasn’t about mean kids. It wasn’t about mean teachers. It wasn’t about not fitting in. No one made fun of her or stole her lunch.
She was overwhelmed. She did not expect the first day of school to be filled with zero learning and minimal fun. Instead, she had 8 different sets of rules, expectations, and consequences thrown at her AND she thought she needed to remember and comply with ALL of them by the 2nd day.
Dang. Mama forgot to prep her for the simplest thing. The first day, heck- the first couple weeks of school are all about routines and procedures. Oops.
Intentionally Ground Yourself
There was one other bit that I hadn’t thought about in this transition. Shortly after we arrive home, she fell to tears again and we all ended up rallying around her on her bedroom rug. “Mama, I feel like I’ll never see nature again. Some of my classrooms don’t even have windows!”
Truth. This was her view while she schooled from home:
She was right. This part would surely not be the same.
I promised her, though, that if she was intentional about going outside, about really feeling the wind in her hair, sun on her skin and soaking it up, she’d make it work.
Accept the Invitation
When all the tears were dry (mine included), we went to the kitchen. We looked up to find this adolescent deer approaching closer to the house than we’ve ever seen. “Look!” my daughter whisper-shouted, “Mom, he’s listening to me!”
He was turning his big ears and staring right at her even as she whispered as if to remind her that there is time to enjoy nature and freedom and exploration. She just has to accept the invitation.
When the deer left us, I sent her with our dog, Sully, to run around the pond and feel the earth under her bare feet. After she returned, she poured out all the things that she learned about each class and each teacher with astounding detail and pure excitement for what was next.
On Day 2, we dropped off and picked up a totally different girl – one who described the day as “amazing!” She was intentional and accepted the invitations that came her way.
You won’t prepare for everything as a parent sending kids into new situations. You can’t. You can respond with patience, curiosity, compassion, and a healthy dose of Mother Nature’s perspective never hurts!
Julie Ford is a certified life coach, speaker, trainer, and author of Creating Time and Energy. Individuals hire her to trade their “badges of busy” for intentionally full lives. Organizations hire her to attract, train, and retain our next generation of leaders, the Millennials.
Based on the foundation that when things are running smoothly at home, amazing things can happen at work, Julie uses one-on-one and group coaching to help her clients to define what matters most in their lives and to realize what is and isn’t working. Collaboratively, they move through a customized plan to implement habits that serve rather than sabotage their intentions. Her clients find more joy and less chaos in every stage of work and home one habit at a time.
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