I went to pick up Shea early at his morning pre-school today. He goes to this adorable little Montessori school Wednesday and Thursday mornings 9 - 12. This was partly a move toward my goal of having him spend more time with typically developing peers. Plus, honestly, I just needed some time in the mornings to work and get stuff done.
For the most part it has worked out pretty well.
Transitions can be hard for any kid and Shea is no different. So, I have taken to arriving a little early so that we can spend 10 minutes or so walking in the forest trails surrounding the school and just chill before I have to bundle him back home, get him changed, feed him lunch and get him ready for the special school bus to pick him up for afternoon pre-school at 12:30. Whew! No wonder he has a tough time with that transition! It is a bit of a whirlwind.
Usually by the time I arrive all the kids are running around top speed outside for "recess". Shea will spot me and, on good days, run up to me yelling, "Mommy!!!" with a big hug. Sometimes, it isn't so nice; tears, being in trouble for hitting, taking a time out, etc.
When Shea is really worked up physically or excited, his verbal capabilities just seem to shut down. What he might be able to express when calm and relaxed just can't come out when he is cranked up. So, we have had too many melt downs right at the end of recess when I am about to take him home.
Eureka: I would rather forgo a few minutes of alone time for a calm, peaceful kid at pick up time.
So, like I said, I arrived earlier than usual today and got to sit inside and watch the class in action which I had never really done before. If you do not know, Montessori basically has the belief that you should be responsible for yourself, choose what you want to do, pick up after yourself and follow the rules of the school. I thought it was a pretty good fit with the very structured Developmental Preschool model that he has in the afternoons.
Shea was sitting down and eating his snack with another little boy. There were kids sitting down with the teacher talking about what birds they have seen. There were several kids choosing to do something else, like work on a tower, hang out in the play kitchen, etc. All was calm and happy.
I guess I was struck at how engaged Shea seemed. Even though he was eating his snack, he seemed to be listening to everything that was being said by the teacher. He seemed interested and in good spirits. He smiled and was happy to see me when I arrived. He seemed to be part of the whole. When the teacher asked him to tidy up his snack spot, he went and got a little broom and dustpan and swept up the crumbs without complaint. (!)
By this time, it was time to go. I did a little zipper help with the other kids and then the teacher decided that they could all come on the trail walk with us. I could tell that Shea liked the idea but that it was a little frenetic with all the kids running and jockeying for the lead. We went with the pack and then split off on our own so that we could capture that sweet, quiet chill spot that seems to happen when it is just us together.
So, with all the ups and downs, I think the AM school is a good fit. I think I will ask for another year of Developmental Preschool for next year and push Kindergarten off. I think we will continue with the morning pre-school as long as it still feels right.
Isn't that how it goes? Instinct. It's really the only thing we have to go on sometimes.