Parent Stories: Questioning School Fit, and Sacrificing a Job, in the Quest for Learning

girl_writing_deskIt’s the first week of my daughter Annie’s full fall tutoring session. It took major brain power to figure her schedule out and to type it in right so I could try to tattoo the times and dates into my brain.

And when I finalized this schedule, I realized that my dream of getting a part-time job in an office this year was a fantasy. Here’s why:

  • Monday: nothing
  • Tuesday: pick Annie up early, walk her to public school for reading/math tutoring and occupational therapy, in between pick up older daughter at school
  • Wednesday: private speech therapy every other week after school
  • Thursday: drop KK off at school then waste 20 minutes, bring Annie to private reading tutoring, then back to school, then pick her up early for reading/math tutoring at public school, then waste 15 minutes after she is done before picking KK up at school
  • Friday: drop girls off at school, get coffee, then head back to school 20 minutes later to bring Annie to speech therapy at public school, then back to school she goes.

Instead of working at a paid job, I am once again the unpaid tutoring assistant.

Last year I watched teaching assistants from our private school walk kids over to tutoring, so I thought maybe they could do that for my girl, who just entered first grade after doing two years of kindergarten. But nope: Turns out I scheduled tutoring at the wrong time of day. And although I have heard rumor that the Seattle Public Schools are supposed to provide transportation to tutoring, I haven’t researched this rumor to see if it is true (because my schedule allows a lot of time for reading the Washington State Special Education laws).

So instead I scheduled in a speck of time to be sad about continuing to freelance alone, because I truly miss the office life.

But, as I wrote in my last post, parenting our child with learning difficulties through the maze of classes, tutoring and service is a priority. A very time-consuming priority.

True, I could get a full-time job and hire a nanny to bring Annie to tutoring. But I don’t want to. I know this would be the right answer for many people; it’s just not the right answer for me. No matter if I would be happier in many ways working full-time; my heart really wants to be at home part-time with my girls.

So midweek I plowed through the new tutoring schedule. We were delayed by a cold that grabbed hold of me, but by Friday we were back on track.

I dropped the girls off and bought myself a lovely short soy latte. I walked back to school, signed Annie out at the office, and slipped inside her classroom. I spied Annie walking to the Kleenex box during calendar time. She was crying and her nose was running. “What’s wrong?” I asked her teacher.

“I don’t know,” said her teacher.

I gathered the girl in my arms and she cried harder. I pulled her back from me and looked at her. She had remnants of snot on her shirt and puffy, red eyes. I sighed, stood up, and pulled her toward the door. We stopped before we leave the classroom and I asked her what is wrong. She told me she missed me that she cried every morning and she wanted to go home.

Fantastic, I thought as I walked her to tutoring. We chatted and she pushed all my mommy buttons. When I asked her why she misses me, she told me I am “so lovely.”

I bought her to the new public school speech tutor. The tutor tried to reschedule our Friday session to another day, but I couldn’t do it. I was almost in tears by then.

I sat in the hallway and pondered. I called my husband and wondered out loud. “Is her school all wrong for her? Do I need to find her a new school? She tells me she cries every day!”

“You are jumping the gun,” said Chris. “She is tired and has a cold. And the school year is new. We can’t know yet how it is going.”

I asked him if I should take her home, and he threw the question back at me because I was with her. I spend the next 30 minutes conflicted, but I brought her home. Because if I brought her back to school I would spend the whole day worrying that I should have brought her home.

Now I am thinking about all the questions week one of tutoring has brought my way. Is her school working for her? Are her two new tutors going to be good fits? Was it right to cut private speech tutoring back to every other week so Annie can take a dance class for fun? Since learning that there will be five other kids all at different levels in her public school reading/math tutoring session, will these two sessions be worth her time?

These questions — whether the school is a good fit, whether tears are normal for some kids, whether the balance between academics and extracurriculars makes sense — are enough to baffle any family. Parenting a child with learning difficulties means there’s even more at stake. A lot at stake, and no immediate answers.

What I do know for sure is the doughnut my husband brought home to me after our phone conversation tastes really, really good. And the answers to all of my questions will come to me slowly but surely as this school year unfolds.


Writer, editor, and writing coach Nancy Schatz Alton co-authored The Healthy Back Book and The Healthy Knees Book. She currently writes for websites and magazines and is working on a memoir. She lives in Ballard with her husband and two daughters. Find her blog at

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