Yesterday afternoon was my first experience of going to a parent-teacher conference in America. It was useful to get a better have on the curriculum here and how attainment is assessed and reported as well as hearing about how well my three school age children are doing in this new education system.
I was almost embarrassed by the superlatives (positive, of course) being used to describe my kids. Their academic progress and their degree of participation is an excellent litmus test for how well they are settling into life here. In turn, them being more settled here helps me feel more settled here.
Today marks three weeks since my three biggest boys started school. They had been very anxious about starting a new school, as one might imagine. They had come from a very small tight-knit community where everyone pretty much knew of everyone else even if they did not know each other directly, so the very idea of a larger school filled with nothing but strangers filled them with trepidation.
Their Dad had organised for us to go on a tour of the school less then 24 hours after we stepped off the aeroplane so they were jet-lagged and dazed as we wandered around the corridors and met various members of staff. However, I think even this brief orientation took the edge off their worries. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly and all the kids we met were smiley and cheerful. There was a really nice atmosphere and buzz to the school generally. The other advantage of the school tour, of course, was that it meant I had a modicum of a clue myself of how things worked and where to go.
So having emigrated on the Thursday, the boys started school on the Monday. They had already missed enough formal schooling (several weeks of homeschooling had filled the gap between schools) and we also wanted to establish a solid routine for them. And, let’s face it, we needed a break from each other. So launched into their new school they were. I have a First, Second and Fifth Grader so there were a lot of school supplies to buy in advance of them starting. Thankfully Mr Pict had sorted all of that out before we arrived. That was a whole new experience for us, however, as we have never been required to provide equipment before and here we were not just buying pencils and sharpeners but also boxes of tissues, whiteboard markers and headphones.
Everyone, staff and children, have made the boys feel welcome. They had a few days of being hounded as if they were celebrities, intrigued kids asking them a whole series of questions about Scotland and their first impressions of America. No one has really made a big deal out of their accents apparently, commenting at times on vocabulary (it’s an eraser, not a rubber) and my oldest son’s teacher had him answering lots of questions just so he could listen to his accent, but it has all been in good humour and the kids have not been upset or embarrassed by it. Each of the boys has made at least one friend so they have someone to play with during recess which is great. My oldest has even joined a math club. I think the scale of the school was overwhelming at first as the elementary school they are in is the same size, in terms of population, as the entire campus for students aged 3-18 that they came from but they seem to be navigating their way around it fine now.
It is such a relief to my husband and me that the children have been so positive about school. It is one of those keystone elements in the success of our relocation so for them to be so positive and stimulated and as settled as they are already, just three weeks in, is a massive deal because it makes us feel more settled as a family.