Caps and gowns. "Pomp and Circumstance." Diplomas and parties. It's graduation season, but why are the graduates so young? Because elementary school graduation has careened out of control and become a major event. It has gone too far.
I certainly understand that the end of elementary school is a momentous occasion for both children and parents. It marks the end of an era, and for some the move to middle school or junior high signals the true beginning of the tween years. Yes, it's a big deal, but I'm not convinced that this qualifies as a party throwing occasion. Given that I'm not one to reject the idea of a party all that quickly, that's a pretty big statement. I am, however, one who wants to keep my kid's ego, and perspective of her future academic career, in check.
I've seen printed invitations to elementary school graduation parties online as well as gift-giving suggestions and cake ideas. The Pinterest boards dedicated to such events make me shudder (and then for a split second consider the "our duck is swimming away from elementary school" approach before coming to my senses).
Here's the thing - your kid better be able to finish fifth grade. It's not an accomplishment, it's an expectation. A legal requirement, even. No one is throwing me a party for satisfying the legal requirements of getting her to school day in and day out, coming to a full and complete stop at a stop sign or paying my taxes. I don't want my kid expecting a lot of fanfare for doing what's required.
I worry that having a big party for doing something she is expected could lead to my tween feeling entitled.
Elementary school is one stop on her academic journey, not the end of it. High school is the end of a journey. Finishing college concludes yet another trip. Wrapping up law school? Well, don't even get me started on what a big deal that is.
Completing 5th grade, however, means only that you move on to 6th grade, and are no where near done. Not. Even. Close.
I worry that elementary school graduation diminishes the significance of those actual graduations. True, many elementary school students work hard. But is elementary school really that taxing? Okay, maybe, but it's nothing compared to what is on the road ahead. I'll give you that fifth grade math with fractions isn't my favorite, but, in my book, getting through it doesn't merit a printed invitation kind of event. Get through high school calculus, however, and now we're talking.
My daughter is finishing elementary school next week and headed off to the junior high in August. We will commemorate the event as a family, but with conversations and perhaps letting her choose a place to eat out for dinner, not with a full-on party.
As when other things end, we'll take both a look back and a look ahead. I'm planning to take the same approach that we did with New Year's resolutions.
Looking back, I want to talk about my tween about what she's learned.
- When in elementary school did she work the hardest?
- What is she most proud of?
- Which teacher taught her the most? Was that the "nicest" teacher? What did she learn about kindness from the nicest teacher?
Looking forward, I want her to set goals for both the summer, including having fun and being silly, and for junior high.
- What good habits does she have that she needs to continue?
- What bad habits need to change to succeed in junior high?
- What do you hope to accomplish in middle school or junior high that will make you both proud and happy?
As her parents, we will of course tell her that we are proud of what she has accomplished thus far and that we can't wait to see what she accomplishes on the next steps of her academic journey.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: My Tween, the Police Department and Me (which details one of my favorite parts of my tween's elementary school experience)
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