Different Schools for Different Sons

Q: We recently moved to a new neighborhood, and our three sons are entering new schools.

The school they previously attended was not very competitive and was not focused on high achievers. I guess you could say it was a regular, old-time, mainstream school which attracted many students who were not accepted anywhere else. It was not special ed, but it was not typical, either.

Our second and third sons do well academically, without too much effort. The second one is pretty hyper, and behavioral issues nearly prevented him from being admitted to the new school. But, baruch Hashem, he was allowed in on the condition that he receives tutoring to help him catch up to his current grade level.

The youngest is entering first grade, and doesn’t seem to have any major school-related issues.

We are mostly concerned with our oldest son, Avrumy. He is 11, and has always had challenges in learning. (His father had learning difficulties in school, as well.) We registered him in a smaller, less pressured school in our new neighborhood.

As Avrumy was previously in a class with many limited achievers, he is not realistic in understanding his learning problems. Since most of his former classmates were scholastically not much better than he was, he managed to keep up with them if he worked hard. Now, he doesn’t understand why he has been enrolled in a different school than his brothers, and is quite upset about this. I’m also afraid that his younger brothers will use this against him when they get into fights and want to tease him.

I feel that in the long run, we’re doing what is best for him — but it’s not easy now. Any ideas?

A: Choosing a school for your child is not a decision that is set in stone. Explain to Avrumy that he can change schools in the future if it seems that doing so will benefit him.

You are in a new neighborhood, and are not yet familiar with the day-to-day environment of any school. This needs to be stressed. Though others have given you information, the match between your son, his peers, his teachers and school administrators can only be assessed through personal experience. Class composition may change (as students move and change schools), and what may work one year for a child may change drastically due to external circumstances in the school. As your son performs well in his new environment, iy”H, the possibility of him getting accepted by other schools broadens.

You can explain to Avrumy that you like the idea of smaller classes, as they allow for easier concentration, with fewer classmates to provide distraction. If he asks why his younger brothers were not placed into this more desirable setting, you can say that with them, class size doesn’t seem to make a difference in their learning; they need other things to motivate them. Point out that his younger brother has his own specific educational requirements — he has to start out the year with a tutor!

You can also cite times in your life when you thought a school or camp experience would be a problem, and how you were so wrong. Maybe he’ll come to realize the wisdom of your choice.

All you can do at this point is daven that each child’s school experience works well for him.

Hatzlachah rabbah!