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Seventh-Grader Wants to Attend Larger School

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: With the exception of one year at Public School in the 5th Grade, my son has attended our church school. The student population has never exceeded 36 children. The grade division are K-2 and 3-8. He is now in the 7th grade. Periodically he will insistently ask to attend another school. (In particular at the beginning of this school year.) However, after attending six counseling sessions trying to pin-point the problem (including testing for ADD) he said that on a scale of 1-10 he rated his teacher a 10 and was looking forward to his confirmation in the 8th grade. Today he started again, insisting that he attend a larger school. He is social, active in sports, and appears to have leadership skills. What is your opinion on keeping him in the private parochial school?

A: I'm confused on several counts. You haven't indicated when and for what reasons your boy has insisted on going to public school. I don't know why the counseling sessions took place or why he was assessed for ADD; is he doing poorly academically? Is his entire school population 36 kids maximum? Despite my wanting these answers and more information before I offer my best advice, allow me to offer this considered response.

Although your son may believe his present teacher to be a good one and although he may be active socially and athletically within the confines of this very small parochial school, I'm guessing he has felt before and especially now (at this emerging adolescent age and stage) that he is missing out on the much richer and stimulating life of a public school. What would the harm be in allowing him to enter a public school and then assess which one suited him best? Unless it would pose an economic hardship for your family, I can't understand why experiencing the life he presently desires would be anything but positive for him.

He'll be able to compare both academic/social worlds and you will be granting him an opportunity to assume some appropriate responsibility for how he wants to be schooled. He can always return to his old school, can't he, if the public school doesn't prove to his liking?

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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