Monday, June 24, 2013

New School News

So in our little pocket of the world, the new academic year has begun, along with the rainy season.

As he has "graduated" from Kindergarten and turns six in a fortnight, Little A should be moving to First Grade. Only with the dearth of schools that do proper mainstreaming and integration for special needs kids, our choices were quite limited, and we decided to keep him back a year to join a new school that recently opened.

This school is run by a bunch of people with great track records. They are starting with preschool and adding one new grade every coming academic year for the next twelve years. The program looks good, and they have an in-house support system for special needs kids. The campus is located in a converted house along Metro Manila's busiest thoroughfare.

This school follows the "international" (i.e. Western Hemisphere's) academic timetable, beginning in August and breaking up for the summer at the end of May. They are starting, however, with a "summer" programme - 5 weeks from June to July. Since Little A has already had two months of summer holidays, he was the first to enroll in the summer programme, to get him used to a new school new teachers, and a new routine.

Week one is over, and there are only 7 kids in the class. Little A, as expected, is the oldest, and the biggest. I managed to convince his home ABA teacher to apply, and she is now part of the faculty, an addition that was badly needed, as it turns out every single one of the kids enrolled in this summer programme has special needs.

I've been spending mornings with the other mums, getting used to the new schedule of being up at 6am, on the road at 730, and in school before 8. We've been talking, and most of us are ambivalent at the non-integrated setup currently underway, as all of our children have come from mainstream preschools. The other mothers, however, are expat wives. None of them will be in Manila three years from now; nor will their children.

Little A, however, is in this for the long term. I am crossing my fingers that the applicants for the August term will make up the deficit of typical children, but if they don't, then need to consider if this really will be the best academic environment for Little A.

While he is still non-verbal, this program suits him well. The IEP portion of the schoolday (2 hours, with 2 hours of preschool following) should allow him to keep up with his same-age peers academically, as last I checked he was on par with them in that department. The preschool day will give him opportunity for interaction with other kids.

The first week, my son was perfectly happy. Not a peep of complaint. I was very pleased, and asked his teacher on Friday what they had covered during the week so his home ABA teacher (his former shadow teacher at the last school) could continue the work. To my dismay, she told me that they had not done anything challenging at all that week, tackling only skills Little A has already long mastered, for the purposes of fostering independence. No writing, no reading comprehension, no addition!

No wonder Little A has been so happy, he'd just been playing! I am giving them another week, and then kindly requesting that they move up to more academic work during the IEP time. There is a parents' orientation this weekend, so I look forward to hearing what the other parents will have to say. On the whole, though, I am more pleased than displeased with this school. They are new to this setup, and I'd like to give them a chance to prove that they are worth the fees we will be paying each academic year. I only hope it doesn't take them too long to do so.

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