In the end, the decision was easier than I thought it would be. Jason and I essentially did a "on the count of three everybody say their gut feeling okay one, two, three" conversation and both blurted out the same answer.
And it felt like the right one. Even though it wasn't the answer I originally saw myself choosing, honestly.
Not that we haven't revisited the topic over and over and over again since (because oh, Christ, we have, and I am so sick of talking about this, even though I am here on my blog continuing to talk about it gah stab this entry with a fork I am so done). But each time we've ended up back where we started, nodding in agreement.
We're going to stick with the IEP, the public Preschool Education Program.
(breathes into a paper bag)
I think I've mentioned it before, but we are fortunate to live in an AMAZING school district. And we live in a pocket of that district with especially well-regarded schools. Every time I set foot in the elementary school where Noah attends PEP I am endlessly impressed with the facility and the teachers and the quality of services we get for free there. ("Free" after high housing prices and taxes and blah dee blee.) And it is where we want Noah to attend kindergarten the year after next. (His September birthday puts him juuuust past the cut-off so we've got a nice automatic cushion of an extra year). Of the two schools he attends, this is the one that has laid out a clear plan to get him there, with whatever accommodations he still needs at the time. Keeping him in this program should hopefully result in a steady progression and a seamless transition.
The private school has been mostly pessimistic about Noah's chances of mainstreaming in kindergarten. So I guess we're choosing optimism.
I still wish Noah could attend both school again next year, but he can't. I hate having to look back on how far Noah's come since September and figure out which program deserves most of the credit, or if it really is both. And while neither school will have a morning option for him next year, the private school is run by an organization that DOES offer other services in the morning. Occupational and speech therapy, sensory integration groups, etc. He will definitely need additional services next year. (So trust me when I say: our decision really has nothing to do with finances; going a la carte with this stuff isn't really any cheaper.) His favorite occupational therapist moved from the preschool to the outpatient division: he's never stopped asking for her, so as much as I know he'll miss the school, I think he'll be really, REALLY happy with regular sessions with her.
So yes. I think this is our best shot at duplicating our current arrangement next year. It won't be the same, but hopefully: close enough.
We actually took Noah to his IEP meeting -- it's distracting to have him there, but I just like the team members to SEE HIM and interact with him while discussing all the more clinical stuff and All His Shortcomings instead of talking about him through the filter of paperwork.
He sat next to his teacher. He behaved beautifully. Though all he wanted in the world was her attention. When she gave it to him, he lit up. And I watched her face, and...it was so kind and loving. Genuinely loving. She laughed at his jokes and asked him questions and knew exactly how to bring him back to "inside voice" and was obviously so proud of the progress he's made this year. "He is soooo smart," she sighed, as she gave the rundown on his academic skills -- which for the first! time! ever! were actually in line with what we knew he could do. If he stays in PEP, she'll be his teacher again.
I watched her face and swear I could see what she wanted and hoped for him, and what she believed he was capable of. And in that moment, it was like looking into a mirror.