Monday, September 13, 2010

Catholic school boy

Everyone's asking how Mr. T's doing. Mr. B glad-hands his way through life, happy to return to school, excited to learn, pleased to be around all of his buddies again. Mr. G started all-day Kindergarten, but he's a hyperactive little monster of a boy so the challenge to be there all day with his friends doesn't put a hitch in his step. No one asks how the younger two are doing, they're just fine, thankyouverymuch. But, our Mr. T. Different story.

Backing the truck up for the benefit of new readers, Mr. T missed the equivalent of 2 years of elementary school. He was in school all the time, but during 2nd and 3rd grades we were diagnosing a seizure disorder, finding the proper treatment and then discovering his dyslexia. Mr. T is a great reader, poor reading skills are the main red flag alerting teachers to learning disabilities. Mr. T's dyslexia is more on the output end of his brain processing, making his processing speeds slow and his ability to spell and write horrific. I believe the proper term for this is dysphasia.

Because of all these factors, Mr. T has been a half-step behind his peers. The gaps in his learning are profound, his self-confidence pretty shattered and he really detests school. I've tried to make up for this by working with him over the summer months, and he gained considerable progress in math, but he's still not "in the game." We've spent the last two years exploring options and praying and discussing what course to follow. We applied to a Montessori charter school. Denied. We tried our darndest to work with the public elementary school. Frustrating. I've spent the last year attending and researching the local parochial school. Meanwhile, Mr. T's problems festered and grew.

You know how something too good to be true probably is?

That's what I thought. I posed this question to parents sending their kids to this parochial school, hereafter referred to as PS (for "Parochial School," clever, eh?): What do you hate about PS?

Their answers sounded like this: "Sometimes the principal makes a decision, but doesn't stick to it." Really? That's your biggest gripe?

We've moved Mr. T to PS--but more than that, we moved him to PS to repeat a grade and then continue there through middle school. We wrote the tuition check (and buy-out fee for not doing any fundraising), bought appropriate clothing (uniforms!) and braced our boy for the new school year. We held our breath.

At the end of the day my son greets me with a smile on his face. He's relaxed and happy. The class sizes are small, the students well-behaved and polite. Everyone knows each other, they don't even put locks on the lockers. He plays football at recess with his new friends. He hasn't missed an assignment yet, he adores his new teachers and is excited about what he's learning. Instead of assigning problems 1-25, his teachers assign 1-25 the odd numbers. He looks pretty snazzy in his uniform and we never argue in the morning about what he's wearing when he leaves the house. He's taken the repeat year in stride, understanding that when he begins high school he'll be a year ahead of his public school peers in math and quite advanced in the other subject areas.

He doesn't get homework on weekends (the school/church policy views weekends as Quality Family Time). He brings home weekly newsletters that informs us of things like "6th grade social studies test on Unit 2 next Thursday" so I am 100% on top of what's happening at school. His new teachers and classmates have welcomed him with enthusiasm and open arms.

My kid even left his lunch box at school last week because he was in a hurry to get out to that football game at recess. My kid, who since 3rd grade, hasn't participated in that kind of recess game. Accepted. One of the guys. Because if you're a warm body, there's room for you to play the game at a small school.

Mr.T has to sit through a morning religion class every day and attend church once a week, but his exposure to the Catholic faith is a good thing, opening up healthy discussion about what our church preaches compared to this one. I bet 90% of the doctrine is the same, and we're not going to quibble over 10%. Besides, Mr. T's father comes from a long line of Catholics, so it's good for him to learn their heritage.

The third day of school Mr. T came home reporting that he'd done the wrong math assignment. "But it's okay, Mom. They're Catholic so they had to forgive me!"

Maybe PS isn't too good to be true.

We only wonder why we didn't move him over sooner--and whether we should follow suit with the rest of Team Testosterone.



  1. I'm so happy that all three of your boys are doing well this year, but especially thrilled for Mr. T. Having heard from you in the past few years about his struggles, I'm actually a bit teary from reading your post and hearing just HOW WELL he's doing.

    Sending hugs to you all.

  2. It sounds like the perfect place for him--this is wonderful to hear.

  3. Brillient just brillient. I too am dyslexic, but in my day it wasnt recognised and i struggled. So its very heart warming to hear everything that is helping Mr.T so much and all so positive :)

  4. ::Hi5's:: to ALL y'all!! !! !! I think it sounds especially nice that the other kids at PS seem so inclusive with the football & stuff...notihng compares to the feeling of being Included...super-transformative to the ol' self-esteem! Well, it was for me, anyway...
    * ; )

  5. That is great news.

    I forwarded some of the info about the seizure disorder to my cousin who's daughter is going through the seizures now. She asked if you had any suggestions on specific tests to ask for or questions she should be asking. She is going for a second opinion to another hospital just to check off all options. From what I last heard the meds had stopped the seizures.


  6. It sounds great. I am becoming more and more disgusted with the public school system in my city and I wish we had the abundant variety of Catholic schools that I was used to, growing up in Buffalo (where I went to Catholic schools for my entire education).

  7. Good for him. It's so hard to know what to do with LD's. I wish we'd tried something different with J4, but here we are, junior year of high school and just hoping to make it through....and then what? Who knows.

  8. Awww! That sounds wonderful! I've thought for quite some time that if I sent my child to any other school than public, it would be Catholic because they're just good quality. Lucky us, in Alberta, the Catholic schools are part of the public school system, so it costs nothing, but otherwise is the same as Catholic schools. And even luckier, the Catholic school is the one across the street. Needless to say, Evan is on the waiting list. (fingers crossed)

    Glad to hear Mr. T is doing so well. =)

  9. Fantastic! I'm so glad it's working out well for him. :)

  10. Yay! It really sounds like the right place for him. I love his story about forgetting his math assignment ;-).

  11. I am so happy for you and your son. I know how frustrating it can be when you feel as if you are doing everything for your kid(s) yet others are not quite reaching to your level to help. As far as moving the rest of the team, talk to your son to get his take on the option. Having his 'own' school may be part of the sucess as well as it's his place to 'shine' without his siblings around.

  12. That is so excellent that you have found such a perfect fit for your son. The self esteem he is obviously rejuvenating will carry him through whatever he does. Way to go, Mom! :-)

  13. That is awesome--I'm so glad he found his spot! I hope he and the rest of the Team have a great year!

  14. I'm happy its working out for Mr. T. I hate to see any kid struggle.

  15. I'm so glad he's adjusting well. I taught a highly dysgraphic student not long ago; a strong reader who struggled to write. We worked so hard to find accommodations that worked for him. He didn't want to learn to type; that frustrated me for many reasons.... but that's another story.

  16. That is so awesome! What a relief that must be for both you and him. Acceptance is so important.

  17. I have tears in my eyes! I am so happy for you all. School can be really tough on a kid and this sounds like a match made in heaven (no pun intended). I'm sure by year end you'll see even more progress. Woo-hoo!
    Cheers, jj

  18. That IS awesome! There is really no need to do all that HOMEWORK, there is no proof that it makes kids smarter or improves their grades... Glad to hear he's at a sensible school! As for moving the other boys... is it affordable? Would they like to be together? Would you like to have one foot in each camp so you can compare what they are learning and read out of each other's textbooks? Many things to consider!

  19. I'm so happy to hear this. I moved my daughter to Catholic school in Middle School and my only regret was that I hadn't done it sooner.

    That's where she REALLY learned how to study and there was no peer pressure. When she went back to public high school, she was way ahead in some of her subjects. They did community service on a weekly basis.

    I hope Mr T will continue to thrive in that school.

  20. It is SO WEIRD that you posted this today because last night as I was going to bed I told myself to email you today and ask how Mr. T is doing. I was thinking since I have experience with dyslexia maybe I could help out with his journey or give him pointers for what helped me. It thrills me to hear that he is doing so well. It sounds like he has found what works for him, and trust me, that is 99% of the battle. AWESOME!!!!!

    We send our kids to a Catholic PS too (I went to the same school when I was younger) and it is much the same as what you describe here. The only gripe parents have is that there can be too much homework. But if your child has gone to the school since kindergarten then they seem to be used to it and once they get to high school the classes are a breeze.
    But yes, it is a very tight knit school. All the kids are accepted. No locks on the lockers. Everyone is a friend. It is AWESOME. My boys love it. The class sizes vary according to the population boom or wane for each year. ;) I think the biggest class (the first grade) has 28 kids (but two teachers) and the rest of the classes are all around 18 kids. So good.
    The teachers are all so helpful. They put in so many extra hours and are such a huge part of raising funds for the school. And they really try to get the kids excited about learning and helping others, etc. It is almost like they are missionaries because I know the pay at PS is crap. They clearly work there because they love it.

    I am so happy for you and for Mr. T. It sounds like the perfect situation. :) YAY!!!!!

  21. What an awesome start to the year! Love that Mr. T is finding his niche.

  22. Can I send my middle schooler there? It sounds ideal. I am so happy for you!

  23. What a relief. School is supposed to be a place where a child feels safe and is inspired to learn. It looks like he's found his spot.


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