Our (Not So) Little Scholar
Note: On Sunday, Peter, who I’ve long written about as he’s grown up, graduated from Lakeland High School. One of the graduation gifts he received was a framed copy of an article I wrote about him on his first day of school, nearly 13 years ago. It seemed appropriate to reprint the article, originally published on August 23, 2000.
As this paper goes to press, Peter will be finishing his first day of school. There is bound to be some tears, perhaps a little crying, and once he gets inside the school, Peter will wonder what that was all about.
It is a momentous occasion in his life, and one he is very excited about. He’s been asking when he can start school for about a year now. Finally, he can call himself a “School Kid,” a very big honor to him. And, although the school has a name, it is “Peter’s School” now, at least to him.
But it’s a great sign to us that he is this excited about starting school. Hopefully, that excitement will stay with him for the next 13 years, then on from there. However, we don’t want to raise a Professional Student, either. As a friend put it, we want him to keep learning forever, but make sure we stop paying tuition after a certain point.
I like the idea of the first day of school being a big deal. While in Germany years ago, I got to be involved in one of my host-brother’s first day at school. The whole family went to the school with him. He had a new backpack that carried this cone that was filled with candy (for after school). The first day was set up so that parents actually remained in the class until school let out, as it was only a half-day. After that, everyone, brothers, grandparents, relatives, all gathered at a nearby restaurant for a nice lunch and more celebration. It was big. It showed the students just how important all this was going to be.
What awaits him at school? New kids to meet. New things to learn. Another exciting discovery day after day. Conflicts with other kids that will have to be resolved. Being an only child, Peter has had it pretty easy so far. He has had a little training to that end, with the neighbor kids being over so much during the summer.
I expect that as excitable as Peter is, every day, we’ll be greeted with his arrival back home with another tale of an exciting event at school. Whether or not we understand its significance is besides the point. For Peter, they will be memories that may stay with him throughout life.
And the challenge for him to learn doesn’t stop with him. It gets carried home every day in his little backpack, straight to mom and dad. He will certainly have questions that need answers. New ideas will have to be followed up on. Eventually, homework will have to be dealt with – mom handling the math and science, dad covering English and most of the social studies. At times he’ll get frustrated with the enormity of all there is to learn and remember, which is where we stop in to calm him and to guide him through the twists and turns of learning.
How can a child excel at School? Here’s a little secret I’ve noticed over the years, including the years I was in school - parental involvement. This goes above and beyond the aforementioned help at home. Ask teachers or administrators and they’ll tell you, kids who parents are involved at the school, are usually doing better. And knowing me, we’ll be involved knee-deep in no time at all. Partly to show Peter that we feel school is that important, but also to help out people who need help – namely the students.
So, tomorrow morning, we’ll get up bright and early, though it will be more early than bright. He’ll get dressed in his new school clothes, slip that backpack over his shoulders, and head out to school. And although we won’t stay in his class the first day, we’ll be there when he gets out and head out for a celebratory lunch. Then we’ll step back and watch our little scholar learn and grow.
And we’d better not blink, cause it’s going to be fast.
Afterword: A huge thank you to one of Peter’s former teachers, Elma Chapman, who cut out and saved that article 13 years ago, a decade before she had Peter as a student in high school.
Re-reading this, I feel that all of it holds true still today. We managed to stay involved (sometimes too much) in his school and with his teachers. His teachers have always been great to work with and, I think, appreciative of our efforts to assist them from home.
For those with students starting Kindergarten in August, I can think of a lot worse advice you can get than what I wrote about 13 years ago.