First Day of School: Penny Starts Eighth Grade – In Her Own Words

I always thought middle school would be the time when life for a child with Down syndrome got hard. The infant and toddler years held their share of medical challenges. The pre-school and elementary school years included moving and learning to read and making friends and generally a healthy, happy life. I thought that would all change with the social struggles of the tween years. But Penny starts 8th grade today (!!!), and although there have been plenty of bumps along the social road of middle school, it has also been a better experience than what I could have imagined for her.

I asked Penny to write about what she’s expecting as she looks forward to the school year:  

Eighth grade will be a huge part of my life because there will be different teachers and different students. I think new students will come into the building and say “wow this is bigger than I thought it would be”. Especially a girl who I know from ballet who will be entering school and will be a new Sixth Grader. If I were her I know that I would be nervous. Its her first time at a new school.

I know from the future that it would be the same but different in cool new ways. Gym for example. I might have a different teacher than  everybody else because I have special needs and they might think I need extra help than the others. I am also a little bit nervous because they usually have a red carpet on the first day of school and that for me is kind of nerve racking. When you walk into school on the first day there is a red carpet.  Teachers will be on the sidelines cheering you on.

What I am looking forward to about 8th grade is seeing friends, seeing all the same teachers and or maybe different, and seeing familiar friends and to meet new friends.

My favorite parts of the school day Are lunch seeing old and new friends

Language arts maybe the same teacher maybe not

I also enjoy math

I also enjoy chorus

The most challenging part is science.

Since the start of 7th grade, I have been expanding new friendships and having a friend group to hang out with. I had one particular friend who I had a lot of fights with. One particular fight I do not want to mention but believe me when I say this after the fight we stopped being friends. I have another friend group who is very popular they all hang out with each other and gossip about other kids not including me whom I sit with at lunch everyday if they have enough room at the table I mostly just sit there and eat lunch.

All in all the start of school will be a blast.

Well there you have it. Penny’s learning a little bit in her classes and a lot at the lunch table. 

At each stage of her life, I’ve confronted fears about what’s next, and at each stage I have been surprised and grateful to see that although there are plenty of struggles and challenges to face, she has also been surrounded by supportive and kind friends and teachers. I keep remembering what I say I believe–that love is stronger than fear. 

PS: My friend, Stephanie Meredith, a mom with a teenage son with Down Syndrome, wrote an excellent guest post for my blog earlier this summer called 10 Tips for Raising a Cool Kid with Down Syndrome (even if you’re a nerdy parent like me). Her son Andy is older and further down the road than Penny, and I found her ideas and advice deeply encouraging as we enter the teen years. Be sure to check out that post as well.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Kate

    Penny’s excitement and nerves are relatable to me! As a teacher, I also get nervous for the first day “red carpet” sort of events. We had one today, and I was very nervous. But I also share her excitement for new classes, new friendships, and all the year holds. I hope she has a wonderful year full of challenges, joys, learning and laughter!

  2. Mary Lane

    How I anticipate reading your lovely, poignant words, Amy Julia! And Penny’s, too. You have a beautiful family & are so very lucky to have each other. How you & peter have taught–and learned– from your three children. What a brilliant example of loving kindness you all show one another! A treasure, indeed!
    I will NEVER forget the leadership & kindness Peter (and you & Penny) showed my Henry (Lane McNamara) in his junior (and first, following The Island School) year @L’ville. Thanks to Peter, your family and others’, L’ville became the home that Hen was so desperately in need of, at that time… Those years are among his best memories, following disastrous ones from the breakdown of his family life, as he knew it. Fortunately, Hen was able to spread his wings. His job came from the father of a Lawrentian friend & he will live the rest of his days with Lawrentian Laura Belair (Hen barely knew her @L’ville, but was friends with her brother). Chance followed them to Univ of Capetown, SA, where they became fast friends. My family summer home in Bay Head, same town as a house of the Belairs, laid the groundwork for seeing each other often. Living in NYC, cemented the deal!
    Henry is tremendously lucky to have found Laura!! My prayers of longstanding have been truly answered, as all three of my children have known the person they have/will marry for many years. And Henry will be forever grateful that I was able to point him in the direction of The Island School & L’ville, where many of my uncles & cousins have matriculated and taught (Regan Kerney!) over the years…
    God bless your fantastic family! Henry & I will always be tremendously grateful to every one of you!!
    With love, fond memories & best wishes,
    Mary Lane

  3. Carolyn

    Thanks, Amy Julia and Penny. It sounds a lot like a big life worth living well! 💙💛

  4. Marilee Eaves

    Penny is wonderfully expressive. May she have a blessed 8th grade year! Love, Marilee E

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