My main concern has been about bullying. I was bullied in middle school and Child 1 has a much greater risk of being a target because he is autistic, and even though it's never been an issue, and he's totally not worried about it, I'M still worried. Because that's what I do. Worry, you see.
Well, before the break, I visited a few schools; in my district and some private schools. It turns out that I have some strong opinions about private schools, which isn't necessarily relevant to this discussion. I just kept thinking, as I sat there listening to them talk about how the class trip will be to Costa Rica this year, about all the kids who barely get enough food to eat, much less a fancy trip to Costa Rica with their middle school class, and about how our society values the privileged over the poor, and I knew that I could never willingly participate in such a system with a clear conscience. Not to mention that I just can't afford $20K per year for middle school, but if it was the right choice for my kid, I would somehow figure out how to make it work. How many mortgages will they let you have, anyway?
So, I called all the middle schools in our district, and my first visit was to the one that we're zoned for; where we would be going, anyway, if I didn't have all this research and meetings and michigas to go through. I signed up for a parent tour, and made an appointment to chat with the Principal for a few minutes before it started, and OH. MY. GOD.
This dude was awesome. He had contacted the principal at our current school, he had talked to our Program Coordinator with the district, he had done some research to find out enough about Child 1 so that he would be prepared to answer my questions. He took the time to listen while I babbled about how freaked out I was. He answered all my questions. He was awesome.
I asked about bullying, of course, and his answer wasn't "this is how we deal with a bully," it was "these are the systems we have put in place in order to prevent that kind of thing from happening." They have monthly topics where they address things like Being A Nice Person. Seriously! There are only about 100 more kids at the school than our current school but they have about 3 times more support staff. They're totally prepared.
Not only that, but the 6th grade class gets its own little pocket of the school where they do all of their classes in 3 rooms. There's no roaming the hallway trying to figure out where you're going, it's just one class to the next, right next to each other. But the best part is that the more I think about it, the better off I think Child 1 will be in middle school than elementary school, because it has a predictable schedule. You know when math will be, which day of the week and which time. Right now he goes into the class and looks at the board to see what they'll be doing that day, but in middle school there's no guessing. Here is your schedule and it never changes. I think he will do really well with that kind of structure.
And as for bullying, well, there's not much the school can really do to prevent what goes on outside of their view, and I'm still worried about it, but not as much as before. I know they'll take care of my kid if he needs it, and I feel so much better now. It's awesome.
So now I have to fill out this Parent Preference Form, and mostly I'm just irritated that I have to go and find his birth certificate again. Didn't I already do that once before when I enrolled him in Kindergarten? Do they think that information has changed since then?