DD is six, and in first grade. She had a great time in kindergarten and seemed to love school. Towards the end of the schoolyear last year, she began showing separation anxiety. She did not want to leave me, and started having stomach aches and nightmares.
During the summer, the separation anxiety continued. She would not go to play at friends' houses that she used to play at easily, she did not want to stay with her father when I needed to go to a meeting or to work, she cried and clinged to me.
She hated herself for not being able to choose to be away from me. She missed playdates that she would have enjoyed, she missed parties and fun things. Its heartbreaking to watch her know that she is missing out on things she would love to do - she looks so sad.
We tried to rule out physical causes or traumatic events for the separation anxiety, stomach aches, and nightmares, but there really doesn't seem to be anything there. She went to counseling for anxiety. We only had four sessions but the therapist felt she was behaving normally for her age, plus DD didn't really want to engage with the therapist on working on alleviating anxiety, so right now its at "call me if she's not doing well."
Which brings me to the point of my post. She's been having separation anxiety at school and it seems to be getting worse, not better. On the first day, she was able to ride the bus to school with me following behind in the car, then went to her class just fine. Beginning the second week, she began crying when I dropped her off, and clinging to me, so I started walking her to her classroom and giving her a few minutes to transition. Yesterday she began crying so hard and so soon that I just took her home with me rather than have her escalate in front of her peers and the other students, which would just embarrass her. I called her teacher, whose advice was that the principal would come and physically restrain DD while I left - that didn't feel good to me - so I suggested I would volunteer for an hour in the morning and then maybe DD would feel okay about me leaving. Not great, but okay.
While volunteering in the classroom this morning, I noticed that DD doesn't really participate. The other children raise their hands and compete to answer a question or for a turn to talk; DD doesn't even try. The material being presented is stuff she already knows, and I know she hates going over stuff she already knows, but its not that far behind her that she couldn't have some fun showing off her knowledge or engaging with the teacher. I don't understand why she is not more involved. She is extremely social, loves attention, loves interaction with others, says she likes school... but during the hour I was there today, I didn't see any of that and its bothering me. I can't tell if she is bored or depressed or anxious or what. Or just having an off day. I left her crying today. I ignored the advice of the aide to just walk out when she wasn't looking and instead let her know that I was leaving and I'd see her in a few hours at the bus stop, which resulted in tears but I left even though.
The whole thing doesn't feel right. I don't believe in leaving her against her will. I believe she is telling me she is not ready for that level of independence and I want to honor that, but on the other hand, she has a very intelligent brain and our attempts at homeschooling did not go well (she is difficult to engage in any academic activities, even though she learns quickly, and she is bored and restless at home). I have to work otherwise I might try to find a homeschool coop or something that works better. I'm sad that she is not engaging with the academic material at school - I know she knows most of it, but not even with the new stuff - and I know she loves the socialization aspects, lunch with her friends and recess and P.E. and music.
I don't know what to do. I don't know if I should just leave her crying at school as the teachers want me to do, I don't know if I should try to homeschool her, I don't know how to engage her mind or encourage a love of learning, I just don't know what to do.