Saying Goodbye to Elementary School: Lessons in Love, Learning, and Letting Go

photo-4In four short days, Boy Wonder will walk the blacktop of his elementary school for one last time. Saying goodbye to the academic home he’s come to know the last seven years, he’ll graduate 6th grade with an army of his peers as I surely dissolve into a puddle of tears.

Who is this 11-year-old boy so ready to roam new junior high pastures? It seems like only yesterday that he had trouble sitting still in Kindergarten, came dangerously close to repeating 3rd grade, and discovered the pride of personal success in 5th. When I think back on all the incredible moments that brought us to the end of his momentous elementary career, I can’t help but feel grateful for it all.

Yes, even for the school projects. From plants to presidents, dioramas to missions, and so much in between, the time we spent at the craft store was nothing compared to the time we invested in learning – together. Little did I know that some of my most cherished memories with Boy Wonder would involve a hot glue gun, modeling clay, and the insanity of the 11th hour, but they do.

I’m thankful for the homework. OK, so I haven’t always been, but now that we’re on the other side, I recognize the value in re-learning prepositional phrases, distributive property, and all the other stuff that will surely serve me well as my youngest gears up for 2nd grade next fall.  But more than the elementary do-over my son’s homework allowed me, I’m grateful for the river of 4th grade homework tears that brought him one step closer to independent learning and me one step closer to letting go.

But letting go of my son’s academic responsibilities were just the beginning. Sixth grade offered my son (a notorious homebody who never once had the desire to spend the night at a friend’s house) the opportunity to embark on a four day science camp adventure with his classmates. It was something he didn’t want to do, something he wasn’t ready for, and something 6th grade knew he needed to do. When my boy returned home a different child – ready, willing, and eager to experience new freedoms as a result of his camp experience, I knew 6th grade had been right.

There’s no question that elementary school tested the stuff we were made of, but I feel truly blessed for every defining moment the last seven years has given him. Every victory by way of award or good grade helped transform him into a young man eager to experience more. Every defeat by way of forgotten homework or note home gave him the desire to want for better.

So thank you, elementary school. Thank you for helping guide my oldest son in a way I that I didn’t always know how. Thank you for the process. Thank you for the progress. And thank you for the realization that none of this would have been possible without the dedication of teachers, fellow parents, peers, and staff who all joined forces to prepare my son for his next big step, and if elementary school is any indication, I just know it’s going to be great.

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