My children, enrolled in a Challenge Success school, were extremely happy, well adjusted, and thriving. I then made a huge parental mistake by moving my children out of that environment into another elementary school based on guidance from community members telling me that the school system I was entering was much better.
I couldn’t believe how much homework my then 4th grade daughter was assigned at her new school. I was in shock! Parents were coming in after school and taking pictures of the homework assignment board because it wasn’t even possible for a 9 year old to write down all of the information. Over the next two years, I watched my fun, outgoing daughter, who had lots of friends and was very creative, wither away. She became almost robotic at home, and her spark was gone. Our nights became a constant battle ground over homework and tests. My son, who was in second grade when he switched schools, did just as poorly in the new environment. He developed extreme anxiety. The teachers were so rigid and the workload was so overwhelming that the kids were always in a state of panic, afraid of answering a question incorrectly or getting a detention for incomplete work. One evening during winter break, my son had a word search assignment and, after watching him find only 5 words in 20 minutes, I snapped, picked up his paper and threw it in the trash. But when he cried, and said he was going to get in trouble, I gave it back to him to calm him down. Eventually I took my son to a psychiatrist who told me to move my son back to the Challenge Success school. I took his advice very seriously because at that point my 8 year old son was so stressed that he couldn’t swallow and he wouldn’t eat.
And I thought about the time we took our kids to Jackson Hole for a special Teton Village Kids Day, where all local children could ride lifts for free and take lessons and have fun. I thought about how much fun my kids had that day, then thought about our weekends doing hours of homework. I called my former school and worked with them to re-enroll my children over Christmas break. While I still don’t know if the timing was right for them to transition, I felt our family was at a breaking point, and I needed to follow my intuition. I was feeling so much pressure and thought my kids must be feeling it ten times worse. Now our lives have totally changed. We eat dinner as a family, my kids play outside after school, and they tell me all about their days and what they learned. They barely have homework, and when they do, it’s mostly review from class that day. What is interesting is that they are learning so much and having fun while doing it.
When we received the first newsletter from my son’s teacher, my husband and I cried. She welcomed everyone back to school and reminded parents to let their children be kids, noting that the school believes that the time off should be a break. What a difference!
I’ve learned a lot from this experience. I wasted two years of my children’s elementary experience, and I will forever feel guilty about that. I feel like I have a huge weight off my back and hope that my kids continue on this path of happiness. I know the difference that this (Challenge Success) program has made for my family. This is a cause I truly believe in and my children are proof of its success.