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Thursday, May 27, 2010


When I was a kid, or at least as I remember it, the school year just ended. There might have been a special assembly or something, but I have no recollection of the end of the year activities dragging on and on like they do now. picnics, awards ceremonies, class picnics, field day, themed days (beach day, zany day, bob cat day...), grandparents/special friends days...oh, heck, I can't even keep track of them all. Of course, back in my day, we also didn't have high stakes testing, and whatever tests we did take in elementary school certainly weren't prefaced by test preparation, other than having everyone go to the bathroom and sharpen their pencils. We even took naps in kindergarten and played with toys in first grade. We got three recesses a day: morning, lunch, and afternoon. We walked home for lunch, or at least some of us did. We rode our bikes to school and didn't lock them up on the play ground. And they were still there when we left for the day. So, maybe we didn't need the long, drawn out end of the school year she-bang that exists today.

I have a vague memory of some sort of final exam schedule in high school. I'm not sure if it applied to all four grades or just juniors and seniors. So much of high school is now a blur. I have no recollection of being able to go in late and get out early just because we might not have had an exam at that time. Maybe that happened. I'd probably have chosen to hang out at school in lieu of going home, though, or hang out in the parking lot or something like that. So, maybe we did have the opportunity to have a "final exam day" like my one son had today....go in at 10 and come home at 1:00.

What I do remember about the last day of school from both elementary and high school is the great feeling of relief when that final bell rang. That explosion of energy that came upon me as I left the building. The locker detritus that fluttered like confetti in the hallways. That feeling of expectancy...the summer was there for the grabbing.

And no one dared assign us outside reading or projects in the summer time...or if they did, I have blocked that from my memory as well.

Today was my kids' last day of school for the year. I don't really get the feeling that they are experiencing that huge sense of relief that I remember from my youth (heck, I STILL get that feeling when I walk off campus for the last time each May). Of course, Nathan finished his more difficult, university classes in May and probably only attended 70% of the classes of his one course at the high school. His relief was palpable earlier this month, after he took his last university final. Aidan has to be feeling relieved, but he still has to finish up his Algebra course that he was doing at home. He rather lost momentum when it appeared he'd have to retake the course at the high school next year to get credit, but since that was worked out, he'll have to buckle down next week to finish before he leaves for Puerto Rico next month. Tynan, who has hated every single day of school this year, did just tell me that when the final bell rang today, he felt a sense of freedom and that the bell symbolized a "new beginning." If I felt relief, and I liked school, I imagine he felt beyond relief, because he really despises it....don't get me wrong, he doesn't despise school *work*. He despises **school**. He despises the arbitrary hierarchy, both real and perceived. He despises all of the waiting, the redundancies, the noise. He really finds school stressful and a huge exercise in self-control, which explains his lack of self-control at home many times.

Although it sort of seems that this school year ended with a fizzle rather than the bang I seem to remember, in large part due to the plethora of end of the year activities, my kids, all three of them, deserve huge awards for just surviving this year. They really were troopers.

Less than a month before this school year started, I got my official cancer diagnosis. Two weeks before school started, I met with my oncologist and got my "plan of action." The day before school started--or there abouts--I did my first round of chemo. Sometime between meeting with the oncologist and the start of school, I made the decision--I'd like to say it was a "hard decision" but it really wasn't--to send Tynan to school full time. Since there is virtually no school choice in BG, I didn't have to look for schools. He went to the school down the street from us, where he'd gone for kindy and part-time grade one. He was full time homeschooled for grade 3 (skipping grade two), so he just went back where he'd been before. No brainer, really. It's a small, intimate school. Small classes. High quality teachers. Very nurturing. But he hated nearly every day of being there. Yet, he hung tough. He rocked. And he stuck it out, without once getting into trouble for attitude or behavior. In fact, he was awarded Student of the Month at least three times.

Aidan, though, wow. He really deserves kudos. Initially, the plan was that he'd take ONE class at the high school, which would make him eligible to play soccer. The day before school was to start, he still didn't have a schedule. Late that afternoon, as we met with his guidance counsellor, it became clear to me that getting him to and from school was going to be an issue, and wham-o, he was enrolled nearly full time. It was at least full day enrollment. It was a long, hard year for him. But finally, in the last nine weeks, he pulled it all together and did well. Fortunately for him, the social side of school was easy and he is quite successful there. At one point, he was trying to explain why he wanted to switch study halls: "The only people I know in that study hall are seniors, and do you know how uncomfortable it is to be the only freshman hanging out at a table with all seniors?" He totally missed that he was probably the envy of all the other freshmen in the room....Right now, he plans to go back next year. He was accepted at another school, but since my husband lost his job a few weeks ago, and has no prospects on the horizon, we can't justify taking on the expense of tuition right now. And he's on the waiting list at a charter school, but with the success of Crystal Bowersox on American Idol, an alumna of this particular school, the list is long....

Although Tynan and Aidan deserve awards for toughing it out this past year, Nathan deserves an award for being most flexible. After my diagnosis, not only did he change his schedule at the university--dropping two classes to make himself more available to help out around the house and adjusting his schedule to be able to help with transporting Aidan--he also stepped right up with helping his younger brothers with homework, getting Tynan off to school when I had to work, and driving me to many of my appointments. This past year really has been a rite of passage for him. He's also handled the stress of this past year well. OK, so he got arrested for a snowball fight, but he didn't begin drinking or drugging. Given that he all too well understands the dire potential outcome of cancer, has a good understanding of the economy and our precarious position in it given his father's three job losses, my position at the university, and what all of that means to our family and his future, he handled the stress with grace and maturity.

All in all, my boys were troopers this past school year and are fully deserving of a summer of relaxation. I'm very proud of them.

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