High School and the Freshman!

January 06, 2022

High School….how many of you remember your days in high school? Some say it gave them the best years of their lives. Some say it was the hardest years of their lives and then the dam broke when they hit college.

One thing I felt and noticed is, if you are a parent, that 8th grade graduation of your child brings an array of nostalgia along with “Oh God, next year high school.” Every time I would say that I felt the back of my neck get hot.

As I watched her walk down the aisle in her graduation, during covid-19, with tears in my eyes, as my nose was running from underneath my mask (due to happy tears). It came to me all the memories of her in pre-k, then elementary, moving her to a new school, getting her tested, then moving her to another school which helped her. Seeing those sweet green eyes of hers that melt your heart. I was beginning to feel the pressure of where she was going to land for high school. Would we make the right choice? Would she acclimate well?

You see if you read my blog, by now you would know my daughter has ADHD. She went to private school all her school life up until now. She was in this small population of a private school with only 5 children including her in 8th grade. During covid it was perfect. The perfect safe space but to my husband and I, we felt sooner or later our daughter would have to face the world. Meaning get her around other students of more diverse backgrounds, different characters, etc.; to help her learn how to deal with people. We felt she was in a bubble. We worried how she would cope. We wanted to make changes in where she would go to high school. Everyone else was heading to the same small private high school. But not her.

But where? I didn’t want to put her in the public school she was zoned to going. She came from a private school of only over 100 students and would head to a school of a population of over 3000+ students. I was looking for a private school, but in order to attend she had to pass the entry exam. And I wanted to avoid that…

Why you ask? Most parents tutor their children, get them ready for the high school entry exam, they pass, get accepted, and life is peaches and roses for them. But not every child tests well. My child doesn’t handle taking tests well.

Now I don’t want you to think I have a low opinion of my child, but I do know her strengths and weaknesses, right? I am her mother. Between her father and I, we should have it down to a science with her, right? As Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street would say, “Ding Dong, you’re wrong!”

We came up with the idea. OK! Let’s put her in a Magnet School. The official definition of a magnet school is this “a public school offering special instruction and programs not available elsewhere, designed to attract a more diverse student body from throughout a school district.” Ok! great idea. I always heard great things about them. I was told it is like a private school in a public school. And the best thing she didn’t have to take an entry exam. They would review her grades and she would be chosen by lottery.

So, we filled out the application, and we chose 4 schools. Due to privacy, I am not going to name them. We really wanted the one around the corner of our house because they have a phenomenal art program. My daughter wants to be an animator. Well as saying goes, “Murphy’s Law.” Well, we’re Murphy’s cousin.

She went to the audition for the Art program. We put together her portfolio. She went for her interview. I cried in the car nervous and worried and praying she would do well. And NO I didn’t cry in front of her. Well, they didn’t choose her. We actually never heard from them again. Not because of anything she did, it was just they had only 30 openings and over 1000 student applied for that same school. YIKES!

Ok, but she did get chosen to another magnet school but this one was an incredible school but extremely advanced. They waived the fact that she didn’t take Physical Science for 8th grade. It was not mandatory. However, they ask if she took Algebra 1. I said yes. I was wrong. She had only taken Algebra. I screwed up.

Most of our friends said, “Don’t take her out of the school before she attends, she may surprise you.” But we began to panic when we saw her school schedule. She had honors classes for EVERY subject. I made a slew of phone calls. I spoke to the principal. I spoke to the counselors. They told me not to worry. they told me to put my finger over the word Honors on the schedule. They said they used the same regular books of other high schools, but they go at a much faster pace.

My head was screaming this was going to be a disaster but what if I was wrong? What if I robbed her of an opportunity and showed her, I had no faith in her abilities? So, we had to let it ride.

Advanced was not the word for that school. Intense was more like it. The third day of school, she came home hyper ventilating saying the teachers told them they would be kicked out if they couldn’t keep up with the program.

Homework was a 3 to 4 hour a day process. Weekends were full of studying. Where was the fun? What was the intensity for? I understand the school get more funding than the norm even better if they can keep the school grade rating high and GPAs high as well. She was throwing up on the way to school on the days she had a test.

Then we get to what’s called a 504 file or an IEP. They are special allowances given in the public school system for students with special needs. Well, that to me is another incident of riding down a hill on a bike with no brakes. After all the meetings, meeting such gracious and wonderful people, very helpful, they come up with a wonderful plan. But as Murphy had it, the teachers didn’t want to follow the plan.

She was supposed to be given extended time. There was a clear definition in the written plan of the scenario of if she was to take her test in the allotted time the teacher gave and she saw she was not going to have enough time to finish, then she was to inform her teacher 5 minutes before the test ended to reschedule with a mutually convenient time to finish the test. It was like you called these teachers ugly. The reaction of resistance baffled me. It was a flat out no we will not follow this plan. My daughter was more defeated than before.

So, I pulled the plug on this high school. I told my daughter she was being taken out of that school. I literally saw the blood return to her face. She was relieved. She cried and laughed at the same time. The only blessing from that school is she made friends from the first day and she is still in touch with them. They talk every day, and this is the first real friendship she has had in a long time.

But where do we go? This brings me back to my main point. I was trying to make such a perfect scenario for her to acclimate in high school that I forgot there are no perfect scenarios. Not in this world. I had forgot to put the matter in God’s hands as well and was fighting a losing battle. So, I ran to my daughter’s old school and I went to speak to her former principal.

I cried and poured my heart out. I told her all my daughter was suffering. She reminded me that she had her high school. Her small private high school where she would be with her old school peers and new ones. It was a private school that brought in international students. She would meet new people. From different backgrounds. Most of all, she would be taught in the way she learned. She would have the extended time. She was with teachers and staff she knew and loved her.

When she and I toured the school, she looked at me and said, “I’m home.” My heart burst with happiness. I was too busy fighting to make the perfect scenario for my husband and I when I needed to realize this is what she needed.

Fast forward, we are midterms now and she is studying. Her grades have improved. She joined the Media club. She took a tour of one of the local colleges and that was in her first week of her new school.

She smiles. She laughs. She is sleeping better. And so am I.

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