School finally wrapped up here last week — July 6th was the last day. Although the school year extends a few weeks beyond what we’re used to in the States, I never felt that end-of-the-year slog we always seem to get in June at home. The last few weeks of school were full of so many activities and events, and the children were still getting homework assigned right up until the last week, so the end of the year felt less like a drag.
Having now finished our first year of British schools, I am overwhelmingly proud of what my children accomplished. All four of them made good friends, threw themselves into school activities, and achieved impressive grades and phenomenal feedback from their teachers.
Bridget finished in the top three of her class, with such high marks in every subject it seems hard to imagine a way she could improve academically. She participated in the school production of MacBeth, she did equestrian lessons throughout the entire school year, she joined the Drama Club, the CSI Club, the Football (soccer) Club, and a singing club. She ran cross-country for the school in regional competition. She just knocked every single thing out of the park. And she did it in a school environment MUCH closer to what I experienced in college than in elementary, middle, or even high school at home. She had 17+ different teachers, 13+ subjects, and had to make her way around a large campus with the correct materials for each class every day. I was completely amazed by her organization and responsibility and willingness to try new things. And I am simply astounded by her academic achievements.
Gabriel has blossomed this year perhaps more than any of the other kids. More than one time in this school year he said to me that he felt like “he mattered” at his school — that his presence there made an impact. I can think of nothing that I want more for my kids than to feel like they matter. He improved vastly in his academics from the beginning of the school year to the end, and he worked hard and constantly to do so. The expectations placed on him here were much higher than those he was accustomed to, and he rose to the challenge. He discovered a love of history that I would never have expected, to the point where our dinner conversations are often initiated by Gabe telling us about a specific period or event in history while the other kids chime in and Matt and I sit there with big, stupid grins on our faces. Gabe also made the A-team in every season — all in sports he had never played before (soccer, field hockey, and cricket). He joined the school choir and sang with them in the play put on by the Year 6 kids. He loved singing and loved the play so much, again surprising me with an interest I would not have expected from him.
Owen was my toughest nut to crack, not seeming as affected by the major changes when school first started or as engaged in the new environment. He certainly dove in, joining the running club, the chess club, and making the A-team in soccer for his year, but he didn’t seem to make the connection that more effort was required, particularly in the classroom, for him to be really successful. Partway through the school year, though, he received a student report — essentially a long-form report card in which each of his teachers from all of his subjects wrote out a few sentences describing Owen’s strengths and weaknesses. Across the board teachers said that he was doing passably well, but certainly not reaching his own potential. They said that he rushed through work and didn’t fully apply himself to the best of his own ability. I made him read it. He spent the last half of the school year more engaged and trying harder to do well on his assignments than I have ever seen him. He made the A-team in hockey and cricket as well, and he brought all his grades up and his effort marks up in almost every class. He was a changed man after reading that report, and I can’t wait to see him get back to it when school starts again in the fall.
Then there was Quinn, who, in his first year in full-time school was thrust into an environment that none of us was familiar with. When he started the school year, we realized he was a bit behind his peers, who already had a full school year under their belts since British schools start at age four. He met with a remedial specialist for the first term up through Christmas to catch up in areas where he was lagging. In those three months, he not only caught up, he surpassed his peers and amazed us all. He has found that he loves math especially and is also thrilled with learning new languages — his French and Spanish classes are some of his favorites. He was a Wise Man in the Christmas Nativity play and was completely comfortable and happy on stage in front of 200 parents. He made friends as quickly and happily and easily as he always has and knew every kid in his grade and the grades above and below him in no time. Quinn, as always, loved everything he did and made us all love it too because of his enthusiasm and joy.
I know that this school year could have gone very differently; there are more strict expectations within the school here and a higher standard for behavior, effort, and academics. My kids could have balked and made the year miserable for all of us. But they didn’t; they embraced the changes, grew more mature and responsible across the board, and threw themselves into their new life with abandon. I am so grateful and so proud of them all.
The weather is finally hitting the 70s pretty consistently, after the rainiest June anyone here can remember, July has been nicely sunny, and we’re all ready for some relaxation! On to summer vacation!