Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Some Firsts and a Slain Dragon

School started for my family this week. What that means is that Steve and Isaac went back full-time yesterday and Caleb had his first day of Junior Scholars (preschool) today. Isaac was super excited that he gets to go to school all day (six hours to be exact...thank you little Mathy) and of course the husband was ready as well. They both slipped back into their routine fairly easily.

For Caleb, the transition was not so easy and once again, I found myself scratching my head trying to figure out how best to encourage him. I never had to deal with Isaac being afraid-ever. But Caleb is his own person with strengths and weaknesses and for him, school was terrifying. It's not that school itself was horrible. It was the idea of the unknown. I knew that once he went and saw how great it was, he'd be won.

But that's what it is with him and everything...he has to be won.

If he decides against something he puts all of his gusto, force, spirit and fight into HATING it. He's very black and white and likes to live in absolutes. Oftentimes we'll hear him saying, "I'll never (emphasis on never) go to that playground because it has a black slide there" or something to that affect. But then if you get him to see that the slide is fun and his fear is trying to trick him into not having fun, that slide will become his best friend and he will ride it until we say it's time to go home.

He just has to be won.

So I knew that he'd decided against school because it was unknown and that he'd have to be won. I wasn't sure how it would happen but figured we'd just play it by ear. The first part didn't go so well. I had Elliana on my back and Curious George Joshua at my side. Meanwhile Caleb wouldn't look at anyone and merely cried.

We went out to the car and I explained two things to him that were nonnegotiable:
1. He was going to school even if he was afraid.
2. I was eventually going to go home and he couldn't come with me.

After our little chat, we went back in with tears still streaming down his face. He was determined to hate it but what he didn't know was that I was even more determined for him to see the good and the fun in learning. I knew that once he got a taste of how sweet it was going to be, he'd be sold. As we arrived, they were singing the Hello Song. I saw him perk up just a little bit. Last year, at his little neighborhood preschool class, they sang the Hello Song and he loved it. When he sat down, they sang to him.

That did it.

He started to smile. The tears stopped and a minute later he was standing in line with everyone else. I never quite know what the magic formula will be causing him to take that giant leap over his fears but, when it happens, its effects are pretty immediate.

The littles and I stayed in the foyer for awhile to make sure he was past being upset. He glanced back at me every couple of minutes to make sure I was still there. Each time, his grin grew wider and when I saw his eyes sparkling, I knew it was okay for us to go. I gently told him I was on my way home and would see him soon. He just smiled.

When he got home at lunch today I asked him about school. He's a man of few words but what I got was this, "It was great Mom! Just GREAT! And I listened. I'm NOT pretending."

I knew it. I knew he'd love it. He just had to be won.

That kid is a walking mystery sometimes. He's so brave and tough yet so afraid at the same time. Steve always says he has to learn to fight what's bad not what's good. At this age, that's really hard for him to discern. Oftentimes, we have to be that lens for him. In other words, don't fight school. Fight your fears about school. If we can steer his fight in the right direction, he's going to make it.

He will have many more battles and dragons to fight over his lifetime. But it looks like the Be Afraid of School dragon has been slain. It took some familiarity, some courage and a bunch of God's grace.

Phew....glad that one's over. It was a little too close for my comfort. But that's what parenting Caleb does for me. It gets me close to that line where I don't know what to do, or how to best handle the situation and he gets me thinking outside the box again and again and again. God uses him to make us into better parents. Both Steve and I have such an affection for him because we seriously have to fight so hard for him sometimes!! We're determined not to let him go his own way because that way leads to death!! We love him too much.

We adore him, are so proud of him and are glad that this dragon is defeated. Especially since I'm sure it won't be long before we'll be fighting another one.


  1. Nikki,

    This question comes from my own waffling on the issue, so if it sounds strange that's why, but: what went into your decision to put Caleb in preK? We have a great little classical school here in our new town where we would like Ethan to do kindy next year, but I'm waffling on the pre-school thing.

  2. Jodi,
    I saw that you've just moved! I hope that you're getting settled into your new home. It's great that you have the option of a classical school in your area. We had planned to homeschool our kids for lots of reasons but then our church started a classical christian school a few years ago and we got in on it.

    We've been really pleased with it. The reason we started Caleb in preK is partly because Isaac did preK. In fact, he started when he was three, twice a week and loved it. The preK was very affordable and really fun for him to get involved with. Plus, they learn SO much in that first year. It's basically Kindergarten in preschool (and even more). I think Caleb would be a bit lost going into Kindergarten without having the first year of preschool unless I really made a point to work with him. Which I could do, but I'm happy to have someone else do at this point. But that's only because I've seen one child already go through the process and feel that first year is just important.

    Also, I guess I'm lazy. I have so much to manage and take care between all of the kids, and our school is so excellent, that I'm really okay with someone else teaching my kids. Last year especially, when Elliana was small and I had four kids five and under, I was SO thankful I wasn't homeschooling. Some people can do it and are amazing at it. My hat is off to them. I just would've been overwhelmed.

    I think if I tried to do it I could but, I know, at least for now when I am so busy with the littles, my older kids' education would suffer as I wouldn't be able to put my whole self into it. So for us, it's the right fit. And preschool just seems to go right into the whole program. Not sure if that makes sense, but it's pretty much why we do preK.

  3. Thanks for the info, Nikki. Like you guys we always kind of thought we would homeschool, but we also said that if there was a private, Christian school that taught in an educational model that we liked and was also affordable we would prefer that. I thought checking all of those boxes would be impossible, especially given how much we move, but God is gracious and has provided us with such a school here where Ethan will be getting old enough to start kindy. It is such a blessing to me because I have always been intimidated by homeschooling and this will give me a good start with Ethan on how he learns and how to teach him, given that we will probably, eventually live in an area where we won't have private school as an option.

    Anyway, we decided to hold off on PreK, for Ethan at least, but I'm excited for him to do Kindergarten next year!