My son is having a really tough time with Kindergarten. We're on the edge of pulling him out of school and home/unschooling him for a year before trying again in first grade but I can't quite seem to find peace with that decision. I'm hoping I can get some other perspective from more experienced mamas.
In late October, we bought our first home an hour away from where we used to live. We had wanted to keep the kids in their snotty suburban school until winter break, but getting up at 6am and fighting traffic for an hour each way every morning was making everyone miserable and E begged and begged to find a school that was closer to our new house. Through a combination of luck and nagging we snuck into a spot at a really well-regarded environmental ed magnet school for half-day afternoon kindergarten. We toured, everyone loved it, and we signed the kid up and thought life would be grand.
The first day, E was joking with another kid and made a scissors motion with his fingers toward the other kid's hand. (note: no actual scissors involved here.) E got referred to a 'behavior specialist' and we got called in for a conference with the teacher to discuss our kid "threatening to cut off another child's finger." To be clear, this isn't behavior I'm wild about at all, but I also felt they were overreacting and was concerned that by coming down hard on E and "making an example" of him in front of the class that he'll start to see himself as "a bad kid" rather than a kid who made a bad choice, and that would create more problems. The teacher didn't listen and made a very public example of Elliot by making him sit alone in front of the class in the "naughty seat" on his second day of school.
Things went downhill from there in a kind of perfect storm. E was shunned by the rest of the class, bored by the school work (which was very academic with much more seat work and worksheet-based than his other school, which was far more play and project based) and got 'behavior points' for wiggling in his chair, which made him too scared to use the bathroom, which led to accidents and more discipline from the teacher. Each time he got in trouble made him feel worse, made him terrified of his teacher personally, and made the social issues bigger. He started acting out and hitting/pushing other kids, which escalated things even more. He was sad and withdrawn at home, scared of even trusted/favorite adults, having nightmares, refusing to eat and crying and asking to go back to his old school. Ten days in, he basically had a complete hysterical breakdown when it was time to go to school and DH and I decided we needed to call a time-out and talk to the school.
The teacher pretty much said, in as many words, that she didn't feel like any changes needed to be made and that we should keep on as we had been. She also said that any social problems E was having were his fault alone -- she was totally not listening to our concerns. The Principal was great, and offered to have some of the resource teachers shadow E in the classroom and help him adjust and fit in and felt like if E could get some more support we could get over the hump and he'd fit in better and feel less anxiety.
That was three weeks ago. We had some initial improvement, but now things back to being bad. E says that he is sad and lonely at school because none of the other kids will play with him or talk to him. He's having more problems with his teacher and is still having issues with hitting -- he says it's because he feels angry and sad and doesn't want to be in class (every time he hits, he's pulled out). I don't know what to do with that -- he has NEVER had a problem with hitting kids in other situations (preschool, daycare, daycamp, in the neighborhood) and rarely gets physical at home, although we're seeing more problems now. He says all they do is "Paperwork" and "tests", which is basically true... most of the day is worksheets and are already doing pre-testing for NCLB, which doesn't start until third grade. He's very, very unhappy.
Yesterday, he got in trouble for hitting when another kid had been teasing him with "mean words", and then started hitting him first. He was too scared of the teacher to tell her what happened, so he hit back. (Again, lousy judgment on the part of my kid, no question.) He was punished and sent out of class, the teacher ignored the other student. Elliot felt demoralized and cried for hours. Today, my husband took him to school and he went nearly catatonic in the car when it was time to go inside. He said "I'm too scared to go in there. Please don't make me go." and when his dad told him we're working on a solution, can he go to school in the meantime, he started trembling and twitching, his eyes got this scary fixed and glazed look and tears kept running down his cheeks, like he was so scared he could hardly even cry. Scariest thing DH ever experienced in his life.
So. Obviously, no school. DH called the principal and they can't offer us a transfer to another classroom within the building. We can't get E into another school mid-year, but we're able to homeschool him pretty readily (he's actually not legally required to go to Kindergarten at all) and we have several options available for next year that may be better suited to his personality and learning style. So we can pull him out. I just go rounds and rounds and rounds with myself on whether or not we SHOULD. On one hand, I don't want to show E that hitting is anything but completely not okay and I don't want him to think that school is optional and if you fuss enough your parents won't make you go. I still kind of feel like he should tough it out, but when I examine that feeling it's pretty much based on an idea that school is something you "should" make your kids do (...because why? I don't seem to know) and that I don't actually believe that things will get better if we did make him stick with it. So, basically I'd be asking him to be miserable because that's what we "should" do. Which is stupid. On the other hand, school is OBVIOUSLY enormously and deeply traumatic to my DS and I kind of feel like making him constantly face something that makes him nearly catatonic with fear is almost abusive and really, really not okay. I worry that I'm protecting him too much and that he won't learn to deal with the "real world" and then I tell myself that my five year old went catatonic in the car this morning and maybe I'm just being a clueless and cruel jerk. I really, really need outside perspective here. Help?