Considering school switch for 2e elementary-aged kid

Looking for advice and recommendations about a potential (but hopefully not necessary) mid-year elementary school switch next year. Here are some of the details of our situation:

Our 8-year-old has been at the same small private school in the East Bay since preschool, and we've recently signed a contract to attend next year as well. However, we are not entirely convinced this will be the right choice and are preparing a Plan B in the event we need to switch him next year, either mid-year or at the end of the 2022-23 school year. It's a long story, but basically he seems to dislike school more and more each day (after initially loving it for the first few years), and the reasons he provides for why he doesn't like it seem to stem from his extreme sensitivity and some personality differences between himself and his teachers. Covid definitely has not helped, as it upended everything he knew at school and really reduced the amount of fun things they used to do. When we asked him earlier this year, he told us he didn't want to switch schools because he didn't want to leave his friends, but in the past few weeks he has expressed that he might be okay with leaving after all. He will have new teachers next school year so we decided to give it a try and see if things improve in the fall; if not, we will consider switching. 

He has been assessed as 2e, highly gifted plus ADHD, and is very sweet but introverted and quiet. Other kids definitely have to be the ones to make the effort to befriend him, so we worry that if he switches to a school where he doesn't know anyone, he might have a hard time connecting and finding friends. He's currently in a very fluid academic environment, which is great for his giftedness as they are able to teach him at whatever level he is, so if we do need to switch schools, it would need to be someplace that is similarly flexible. Ideally it would also be a very warm, nurturing environment that understands 2e learners and ADHD in particular, that spends a lot of time outdoors, and that encourages kids to support each other and to welcome the new kid. :) 

We have looked at Aurora in Oakland as it seems like it might fit the bill. Does anyone have a 2e / sensitive / highly active kid there, and if so, how has your experience been? Thoughts on whether a mid-year transfer would be acceptable (assuming they have space)? I was thinking that if we can wait, it might be good to switch him next year for 5th grade so that he has a year to get to know people before the junior high program starts. Are there other schools that might be a good fit for a kid like this? I guess another concern I have is that we'll switch him and he'll still be unhappy at school, but also won't know a soul, which will be worse. 

Sorry this post is a bit rambling, there is a lot swirling around right now and I just wonder if anyone has been in a similar situation and what your advice would be. Thank you! 

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Hi there, We've been on quite the school journey with my 11-year-old 2e daughter. I would be happy to share our experience privately. Feel free to send me a note to initiate correspondence.

I don't have a recommendation for you per se, as we have been home/unschooling for the past two years and just enrolled for the fall in an east bay private school that appears to have a real appreciation for and robust support system for neurodivergent kids (and who knows how that will go!)... And also because every child and family and situation is so unique. But I would love to be in touch directly, if you want to reach out. My current third grader is recently 9 and has a similar profile diagnostically (if not necessarily personality-wise), with some additional diagnoses/complexities. We applied to a number of schools for next year, including Aurora, which ultimately didn't offer my kid a spot, presumably because they didn't think, in this case, that they could support him. We also have considered basically every other scenario, because even though the 2E field is gaining a lot of traction, which is awesome, it's so hard to find folks who know about--or can make happen--best practices.

Whether you stay where you are or not, it does sound like the root causes of your kid's unhappiness right now (beyond the covid stuff that's impacting everyone) could use more exploration, as his sensitivities will follow him wherever he goes and maybe need to be better addressed, and I also wonder what is at the heart of what he and/or you perceive as personality differences. (Of course, personality differences exist and matter, but in this context could they really be about practices in the classroom that aren't working for your kid? I know that typically as 2E kids get older, or greater demands are made on them, their asynchronies start to show up more and become harder--this is def. true for mine.) Anyway, I'm happy to talk privately in more detail, and share resources. I always get a lot out of connecting w/other parents navigating similar terrain. 

Hi there... I wrote previously but had a couple more thoughts! It seems like your plan makes sense, if your kid has friends where he is and the school is able to teach to his strengths, since that's a couple of big wins right there. Next year, hopefully more fun pre-covid stuff will return, and teacher switch-up may be helpful, as you note.

If you suspect deeper issues are underlying his difficulties right now, and want to look outside of the small progressive schools (although in that realm I know TBS and Crestmont both seem devoted to serving their neurodivergent populations, and you mentioned Aurora, which I think can accommodate to some degree... I'm also happy to share more privately, about our own school hunt), there is also Big Minds in Pinole, which is a totally different school model but is the only place around here that caters only to 2e kids. (They are gonna be very limited in their tuition aid, though, if that's important for you.) And, if you consider going in a homeschool/off-the-grid direction, I recommend considering Outside School, which is a non-academic 3-day program totally based outdoors (Alvarado Park) and great for highly active kids who might be burned out on school-school. I'm happy to chat with you about our experience there this year.

In case you could use some parent support, if you're not familiar with Bright & Quirky, check them out-- their virtual summit is next week (April 4-8) and free. I've really appreciated the ideas I've picked up there, and my kid is also in one of their online courses and loving it (collaborative building in Minecraft). Beyond the summit, B&Q has some more intimate, good looking support options, and of course education conundrums are a big topic for many parents.

Finally, psychologist Lisa White at Summit Center (Walnut Creek) specializes in helping families think about local education options, and we were helped by her. 

Have you considered Black Pine Circle in Berkeley? It might be a good fit. While learning about schools, I heard from a couple of parents of 2e kids that BPC was a great fit. The parents I'm thinking of described their kids as highly sensitive / benefiting from some support socially / on the spectrum, while also being gifted or academically advanced. It sounds like BPC has an intensive social emotional learning program, a quirky and warm community, and differentiated academics even for kids who fall well outside the norm.

You could look at Big Minds Unschool.  There's one in Pinole and another one in Pleasonton, I think.  It's specifically for 2E kids.   Small, nurturing, flexible.  A few years ago I met with Melanie Hayes, who runs it, and she was wonderful.  I was looking at it for my kid, who is also 2e, and ended up consulting with her for myself. She offers narrative therapy for adults who were gifted kids and want to make sense of how that might have impacted their lives.  She has a deep understanding of the psychology of giftedness and has built her school around those priciples.  Was not a good fit for my kid because of his dyslexia, but it was great for me in putting at least some of my life choices into perspective.  BTW, my kid was at Aurora for three years and it was fine until it wasn't, and then we had to move him to where he could get more support.  There was another 2E kid who did well for a while then got homeschooled and another who moved to Big Minds.