We parents have reflexes that kick in. When we need to stop short while driving, we fling our right arm to the side to cushion our child in the passenger seat. When our pre-schooler suddenly reaches up above his head to grab for a hot pan on the stovetop, we swoop in and try to prevent calamity. And when we think about the possibility of moving our kids to a new school in the middle of the school year, a thousand alarms and sirens go off in our brains and we think this idea sounds Not Good. Really Not Good. Really, Really, Really Not Good At All.
Here we are in February, when the student and the parents have totally mastered the expectations of Mr. Meyer’s homework folder, and have developed a miraculous weekly study system so Ms. Ortiz’ Friday spelling tests are not even a hiccup in the family equilibrium. The year is rolling comfortably toward its inevitable conclusion with spring choir concerts and end-of-the-year Field Days. Move schools now?? Oh, please, NO!
That’s when we think: Nope, this is really, really not a good idea at all.
Sometimes, of course, no matter the amount of concern and trepidation, the mid-year school move is absolutely necessary. The family is moving across the country so a parent can begin a new job, right now. So there is no waffling; it’s going to happen.
But sometimes it IS an option, not a necessity. You think you’re ready to sell your house and move into a home that fits the growing family better. And the ideal new house just happens to be in another school district. That’s when the sirens and alarms go off, and the parental mind can’t imagine having their kids leave behind friends and routine, and start over as the New Kid. It sounds like some crazy kind of torture to impose on your kids. And it sounds like a plan to be avoided at all costs.
And maybe that’s true.
But maybe it’s not.
If your daughter is a junior in high school taking 3 zillion AP classes, the timing could be tricky and the consequences could be weighty. If your son pitches for the high school baseball team that REALLY DOES have a shot at the state title, waiting a few more months might make sense. If your child has special needs, and the IEP is working like a dream this year, you might have good reason to hold fast to the status quo until June.
But what if your kids aren’t in those sorts of categories? Or in other categories that suggest that the “discretionary move” should wait?
A move before the end of the school year may actually be a good match for your son or daughter. When the parental reflex kicks in, and we want to protect our kids from any unnecessary disruption, we forget that there may actually be upsides to a Spring move.
A client whose family had moved frequently because of corporate transfers explained to me that she LIKED Spring school moves, because she’d found that transitioning in the summer was MORE difficult for her family. When kids move during the school year, they move directly into a new routine, and have a structured way to begin meeting new friends. This mom found that following a midyear move, by the time the last schoolbell rang in June, her kids would already have a pack of friends to hang out with over the summer…instead of arriving at the pool in July to a bunch of strangers. She found that arriving in the summer was more difficult for them, because they had to do more digging to come up with playmates and activities. She preferred the middle-of-school-year transition, so by summer she’d already figured out which summer programs might be good matches for her kids, and her children were already feeling like seasoned veterans in their new communities.
Somewhat counter-intuitively, a particular group of kids who may benefit from a midyear switch are those who tend to be more anxious, or highly sensitive. Arriving in a new place in summer with no new routine and no buddies, can be daunting for those who really like structure and knowing what will be happening next. For more anxious youngsters, a whole summer can be a very long time to be waiting/wondering/worrying to find out what the new school will be like and what the teacher will be like and what the kids will be like.
Coordinating with the staff at the new school should prove helpful to all families. Advance discussions with the school will help you know how to prepare your child for the new setting, and will help the school plan for your son or daughter’s arrival. Your kids may be able to visit the school and go on a tour well ahead of your anticipated move. Many kids will be grateful to know where the bathrooms are, to have discovered how often they will have art class, and even to have figured out how the lunch line works.
And a benefit for parents considering a midyear move is that you may be out there ahead of the curve of summer house hunters. You may have an easier time finding your new home when there is less competition from other buyers; perhaps you can scoop up your dream house before other families have even started looking!
It is no surprise when our protective parental reflexes kick in. But, in some situations, the surprise may be that switching schools during the year may have benefits we didn’t imagine, and may be easier than expected. It’s at least worth considering…while sipping a nice, calming cup of tea.
On Facebook: Laurie Simon Goldman, Sibcy Cline Realtors