Changing Schools in Elementary School
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Crazy to change schools when my 1st grader is happy?
My 1st grader is at an independent school. She LOVES school. However, we are not completely satisfied with the school and are seriously considering a switch to another independent school. Based on the data we have, we do believe school #2 is better and in a year, she will be better off. But I wonder if this is a mistake since our child loves school, would be sad to leave, and seems to be learning (it's not a totally bad scene). Plus, of course there is a lot of uncertainty - school #2 might not be better after all.
Any opinions or experiences to share? Trust our guts as parents or follow the lead of our happy kid?
Without knowing the details of why you're unsatisfied with the school, it's hard to say too much, but I would suggest that your daughter loving school is a pretty good sign. Elementary school is a time when kids develop attitudes toward school and learning that really do last into the future. No school is perfect, and whatever new school you are considering will surely have pluses and minuses, even if they are different from the ones you experience now. There are things that I wish were different about the school my children attend, but honestly I've never seriously thought about moving them, because, like your daughter, they LOVE school. And I can't imagine anything more important than that for choosing where my children spend most of their waking hours. I urge you to spend some time talking with parents whose kids don't love school before deciding that other things are more important... Love matters ------------------------------------------- I think that it is good that you are asking this question. We did this to my son when he was in 1st grade and he is now in 6th grade and I have wondered all along if it was the right decision. It depends on so many factors and each school has it's positives and negatives. I recommend that you involve your daughter in the decision, give her a chance to shadow at the new school to see if she likes it. It is a difficult decision because it's hard to go back, at least it would have been for us.
Our situation: My son and daughter are 5 years apart in school. She attended a wonderful private school K through 5th grade. My son attended pre-K and K at this same school. We loved the school, teachers, and parent community but it was very academic and competitive with hours of homework at every grade level that required parent participation, research projects during holidays, and stress during 5th grade regarding middle school applications, testing, recommendations, where the kids would get accepted, etc. My daughter applied to a K-8 school for 6th grade and we thought that maybe my son should transfer at the same time for 1st grade to avoid the stress of applying to middle school in 5 years since he could stay 1st through 8th. This school was doubling its 1st grade class so there were many openings at that time that would not be there when he got to 6th grade - the only openings by the time my son would be in 6th grade would now be due to attrition. I liked the idea of having two kids in the same school for another 3 years, especially when the schools were 20-30 minutes from home in opposite directions, although my daughter could have taken the train.
We had my son shadow at the new school and we were encouraging but didn't really get his ''buy in'' before we made the switch. After we enrolled him and he had attended the first few weeks, he said he really missed his friends and was mad at us for making him go to a new school. He said he wanted to go back to the old school. Well, not so easy. My husband and I talked to the head of the old school, who said we could enroll him (only because someone left so they had an opening). Since we had signed a contract at the new school, we would have had to pay $25K tuition at both schools for that year. We decided to have our son stay at the new school for the year and would consider going back to the old school for 2nd grade (assuming they had an opening again). However, that would ruin his chance of going back to the new school 5 years later for middle school, as they would have probably not accepted him (most private schools don't like drop-out families).
So we had him stay at the new school, and while we missed the parent community and teachers at the old school, we were generally happy with the school, they were doing great things in the classroom, and he seemed to be doing well. However, by about 2nd - 3rd grade he started saying that he ''hated school''. He seemed resigned to be at the new school and didn't mention much about going back to the old school. He is now in 6th grade and still says he hates school and is bored. I don't know if I have ever let go of the idea that we might have made a mistake, although my husband thinks that the new school was a good choice for my son (even though I was the one pushing for it) and that he getting a good education. I will never know if he might have been the child who ''loved school'' and would have been happier if he had stayed at the other school through elementary school. He is generally doing well, has friends, gets good grades, etc., but still says he hates school. A few of his friends from the old school have come for middle school (he would have been competing with them for acceptances had he stayed at the old school), and I think he feels good about them now being at ''his school''.
These decisions are difficult and it's hard to go back on once you have made a change. And you will never know what the outcome would have been either way. Really weigh your options, check out the other school, talk to other parents, get your daughter's buy in and give her some role in the decision. Her happiness in school is important. Good luck! Mom with misgivings ------------------------------------------- I think it's great that your child is happy with her current school I hope that's an indication that she's adaptable and knows how to navigate change. However, you sense that the school isn't providing enough, or what you expect. Trust your gut: Move to the other school, if it's still an option. Your daughter is young enough to be able to transition to a new situation without too much trauma. Changing schools mid-stream only becomes more difficult not less.
I'm responding because I went through a similar experience and did NOT trust my instincts. My gut said to change after first grade. Like you, my daughter was very happy socially, had made friends, and seemed to be learning. The academics were okay. It wasn't a good year in terms of the teacher and the administration. At the time, I thought it would pass, and that the following years would match our incredible Pre-K and K experience.
Wrong. The years since then have had challenges that seem to be too far afield to be accidental or incidental. Just when I think, ''We're done,'' we have a semi-positive experience. I think those inconsistent positives have not added up to a consistently good education. I know that when we do make a change, it will be much harder on our daughter socially, if not academically.
Ultimately, you'll do what you feel is best for you and your daughter. I wish you the best with your decision. It's not an easy one. Very much wish we'd moved schools after first grade. Hopefully, we'll have the opportunity for fourth grade. Woulda-coulda-shoulda. Should Have Changed