Finn had his first day of "real" school on Friday. Finn is almost 5 and has been going to a wonderful small in-home preschool at his best friend's house for more than 2 years. It was basically like a play date with his favorite people, and he always had a great time.
On Friday, Finn started a new pre-k program at the local Japanese immersion elementary school. The elementary school is the closest one to our house, however, getting in requires an application and a lottery process. Neither Todd nor I have any particular ties to Japan, but we loved the idea of Finn becoming bilingual and being immersed in a different culture. The school is also fantastic compared to most of the other public schools in Portland, and it is often compared to a private school. And while we will have to pay for pre-k and a small fee for full day kindergarten, the remainder of his schooling will be free. Plus, Finn has several friends in this program, at several grade levels, and one of his best friends is in his class with him.
Finn is not so great with transitions.. terrible in fact. We have had to pull him out of swimming lessons (twice!) because he couldn't adjust to a new teacher. Little kids soccer was a no-go for the same reason. And, he just generally has trouble entering any new type of social situation, especially without mom or dad. So... we knew the first day of school likely was not going to be great. We had talked with him, prepared him, role-played, spent time on the school playground over the summer, watched Japanese videos to prepare for the new language.... you name it, I had prepared for it. But, despite all of the preparations, the first day was a bomb.
Friday was only a half day, and only 8 of the normal 25 students were present (the other 17 students had come for half days on either Wednesday or Thursday to give the kids a chance to ease into their new school). The teachers said to make the good-byes quick and not to linger. They said that crying was normal, and that they had never seen a child cry for more than 5 minutes. So, when it was time to leave Finn at the door, we literally had to peel him from our bodies and basically shove him into the classroom. He was screaming and flailing and yelling my name. Todd and I looked at each other, both heartbroken and unsure of what to do, but since the teachers had told us to make the goodbye quick, we put smiles on our faces, waved bye, and headed out. We could hear him crying as we left the building and could still hear him screaming and crying as we walked pass the classroom window. I wanted to run back in and hug him and tell him that everything was going to be OK..... but he needed to do this, right? It was time for him to learn to be more independent, wasn't it? Sure that he would settle down in a few minutes, we headed off to start our days.
Two hours later I get a call from Todd. He hadn't had a chance to check his work voice mail until 10:30, at which point he got a voice mail from the preschool teacher that she had left at 9:30, an hour after we had dropped Finn off. Apparently she did not have Todd's cell number and since my cell phone number is still my Colorado number, she couldn't call the long distance from the classroom. The message said that Finn was having trouble settling down and that she thought we should pick him up early. Yikes. However, by the time Todd got the message and called back, Finn was doing OK and she said that he should stay. My. Heart. Was. Broken.
When I went to pick him up, he was happy and chatting with the teacher and even talking with some of the other kids. I spent a few minutes talking with one of his teachers, and she said he did have a very rough transition. She said that the playground, which was familiar to him because we had spent a lot of time there this summer, was the saving grace that helped to calm him down. We decided that this week, Todd and I would bring him to school 10 minutes early and we would play with him in the classroom before the other students arrived. We are hoping that after a couple of days, these transitions will go much more smoothly, and he will once again be excited to go to school. But, for now, I am nervous and wondering if we are making the right decision. I am hurting that my little man has so much trouble with transitions and hoping it is something that we can help him move past.
So now I am off to start a new week, with hopes that Finn can be strong, relax, and let himself enjoy his new environment. And I know that I will be stressed and worried all day wondering how he is doing, hoping that he is calm and relaxed! Updates to come.....
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