Moo is just days away from finishing his kindergarten year at our local public school. No one is more surprised by this fact than me.
Deciding where to send Moo to school was a really, really difficult decision for me and Hubs. I had dreaded it pretty much since he was officially diagnosed with a Class 5 Peanut Allergy at age 2. I wondered how this kid that had an asthma attack just driving past a peanut plant would ever function in a classroom. If our own friends and family struggled with understanding the severity of his allergy, how would complete strangers keep my baby safe? This probably sounds irrational to the average person, but this the fear of every parent whose kid has a severe food allergy. Something as innocent has a PB&J can kill my kid in a matter of minutes.
When we bought our house out in the middle of nowhere nearly 3 years ago, it was with the intention that we would homeschool Moo and Ella Bella until Moo was at least capable of managing his own allergy, age 10ish. Our new house had the perfect setup for it and it would be great with Hubs's wacky work schedule. We never did preschool once I quit working, we just integrated letters and numbers into our daily life at home. We had some success but overall he just wasn't ready for a lot of the concepts but I was confident he would catch on at age 5-6. Moo also seemed really immature on some socialization things, umm, mainly potty issues. Ugh.
There was one major hurdle to homeschooling that we never saw coming until a fateful sonogram on July 13, 2010. Enter Shock and Awe :) Even with the addition of twinfants we still planned on homeschooling but went ahead and researched all our options, including the local elementary school. We met with the principal and nurse about Moo's allergy and general education questions. We visited classrooms and talked to other parents with kid's enrolled there. The principal seemed wonderful, very attentive and knew every kid by name and what they were struggling or excelling at. The nurse is on campus 100% of the time and experienced with a full range of medical issues. The principal and nurse basically agreed to let us write the peanut allergy protocol and they were 100% onboard with every concern/solution we had. That kind of flexibility is basically unheard of with food allergies. Class sizes were pretty small and we were pretty sure we would at least try him in public school the next fall. I was still pretty sure that he would be missing 1-2 days a week because of allergy induced asthma attacks.
Over the summer, the school's budget was cut to the bone. The principal moved to another school in a neighboring town and no outgoing teachers were replaced. So class size would be going up (way up!) and we would be back to square one with the principal scenario. And while we had a specific teacher that had been recommended to us several times, we couldn't enroll him in ANY class until 2 weeks before school started. We wouldn't know what class he was actually in until 4 days before school. I went and enrolled him in the public school against everything my heart was yelling at me. Somewhere in this time frame, we decided we would homeschool. Our fears too great, the cost to our flexible lifestyle too high. We consulted friends who had homeschooled and picked curriculum. I enrolled Moo and Ella Bella in a homeschool co-op. We were good to go and were excited to learn with our son.
Until the Thursday before public school started that is. Being the glutton for guilt that I am, I told hubs I could not homeschool Moo until I knew I had all information at my disposal. It had been a particularly long day of 2 fussy, nursing babies never napping at the same time and 2 preschoolers demanding attention. I was completely overwhelmed at adding one more thing to my overflowing plate. So we dragged all 4 kids up the school's open house and sat awkwardly on the front row with 2 fussy babies while they introduced teachers and the new principal talked about how effective corporal punishment was. It wasn't looking good for Moo being a student there.
I finally made my way out in the hall and found the list with Moo's real name on it. In the class we wanted him to be in! This teacher that had been recommended from as far away as Papua New Guinea ;) The teacher who many had been recommended to us so randomly time and time again. I grabbed Moo's hand and pushing a giant double stroller we walked into this classroom. I still didn't think we could do it. Not our firstborn, not the vulnerable one. We would just not show up Monday morning, happens all the time at this school.
And then everything changed with 2 sentences.
A slight glance down at the stroller and immediate recognition.
"You must be Moo! I am so glad you are in my class. My friend told me all about you and what a cool kid you are!" And then to me, " My nephew has a peanut allergy and I carry and know how to use an epipen. I know how serious it is."
Sold. Sign this kid up for school! Instant relief. I have not worried about his safety for one minute this year when he has been in her classroom. In addition to being an awesome and incredibly patient teacher, she gave us the great gift of being able to enjoy all our kids more and worrying less. Only God could have ordained such an ideal match for his very first teacher. Moo is usually beyond excited to go to school and we are always so glad to have him home at the end of the day. It hasn't all been golden, Moo has been sent to nurse often. But thankfully, (or not?) it's usually to change his clothes and he only missed one day all year due to allergy/asthma. His parents have sometimes been less than on the ball when it comes to getting him + his lunch + other stuff to school. We got a note from the principal for excessive absences, that will probably happen every year. He has learned to read, to write, to add, to be a friend, to give grace, to be thankful, to be responsible. For the big lessons and the little lessons, it's been a great year!
We are so thankful for Moo's teacher.
So that's the story of how we got our first kid through his first year of school. I wanted to write this out because, 1. It's a milestone marker of how God provided for our family. And 2. the more my kids grow and the faster they change the more the details of their stories run together. 3. Maybe it will encourage another family that is struggling with a how to educate their kids. I don't think one way is inherently better than another but have found that we give ourselves so little grace on this and so many other parenting decisions. I also thought his teacher deserves to know the whole story :)