Ah, the first day of kindergarten. Everyone is a bundle of nerves. What’s the new “big kid” school going to be like? How’s the kid’s first teacher going to be? What are the other kids going to be like? It’s exciting. It’s also a little terrifying.
More than anything, as I walked with my 5-year-old son to his first day of kindergarten at Redwood Heights Elementary School (RHS), I thought about how I wanted him to be happy. To have fun going to school.
I kind of knew he would. The kid is excited to learn and loves making friends. He’s as spirited as any crazy 5-year-old, and smart. My wife and I were very excited for him to start his academic journey and for us to join the Redwood Heights community.
I also had conflicting emotions on that first walk to school because I knew my son’s school year was going to be pretty unique. And I knew his time with in-person school at RHS was going to be limited.
My son has a medical condition that makes him unable to attend school in-person every day with his peers right now. He’s only able to attend in person a couple of days a week for a few hours.
The time he’s at school, he’s having a ball. He has friends shouting ‘bye’ to him when I pick him up early. He wants to stay at school as long as he can.
That would make the schedule a little easier on his parents. We have had to figure out what to do with him the rest of the day. The logistics, trying to figure out the care schedule for the kid and ferrying him around as my wife and I juggle our own work schedules can be a nightmare.
Something that has made life a little easier is the OUSD Home or Hospital Program. Every day he’s not in school in-person, my son still has some designated school time with a teacher.
(From OUSD’s website: Oakland Unified School District’s Home/Hospital Program is designed to help maintain a student’s continuity of education during a time of illness or other temporary disability. Both general education and special education programs are provided.)
So typically three days per week, a teacher from the Home or Hospital Program (in our case, the high-energy Mr. Z.) shows up at our house with a box full of materials and a guitar, ready to engage the 5-year-old.
Mr. Z. doesn’t stay as long as a normal school day. Most sessions are between an hour and an hour and a half, but during that time we can always hear the kid laughing, engaging and learning.
They’re reading, working on math, art and science projects. It’s actually pretty amazing how much they pack in such a short period of time.
He looks forward to his lessons, and Mr. Z. coordinates with my son’s teacher at Redwood Heights around curriculum and lesson planning so they stay in sync.
The Home or Hospital staff have also been very supportive and flexible with us, helping craft out a schedule that works as well as possible for our family.
There are many challenges and blessings that come with being the parent of a special needs kid, and having our own different start to our son’s time in school.
It’s good to know we can count on the Home or Hospital program, and Mr. Z.