I can't believe we're writing another end of year letter. I checked back just now, and this is the fourth year I've written you one of these. You can read the others here and here and here. This year feels big for some reason. Bigger than usual. You've faced a lot of changes and have been challenged a lot, but you've grown a lot too.
Your Papa and I did everything we could last summer to make this transition to a new school as easy as possible for you. A couple of camps in the new place, to give you a feel for the lay of the land, and we even (through the help of some friends in high places) got you in the 5th grade class of one of your camp teachers, right along with your BFF. Not a shabby way to start things off, you know? Still, it was a hard summer for you, I think, as you anticipated the change.
On the first day of school, Papa and I both thought that you were the bravest person we'd ever known.
It's been a great year though, hasn't it, my lovely? A lot of new stuff to adjust to. Dress codes, bigger classes, longer days and heavier homework loads. Serving the younger kids lunch in the Refectory was a big adjustment too. Eating a lunch that Papa didn't make you was a big change for all of us! You ate it up though (so to speak!). I can tell you feel a quiet pride when we run into a younger student from your school who says hi to you, and we then hear that kid say to a parent, "He serves me."
From the beginning you worked hard, learning that if you knuckle down and get it done, you have more time to relax. You responded well to the fact that there were more tests than you'd been used to previously. I think you like the concrete feedback. Your grades have been so good, almost from the very beginning. And even the things you've struggled with in the past (like math), saw great successes this year. You continue to be captivated by history and reading and science. You memorized the Gettysburg Address this year (I should totally post a video of you reciting it!), and decided, after a Hands-On Science lesson that you wanted to be a scientist when you grew up, saying, "There. I've decided. That feels good." Your father is over the moon with happiness about that one, you know!
There's been some great weather this school year. Hurricane Earl, the hurricane that wasn't, closed school in the first weeks. Early dismissals came around Christmas for festive snowstorms, and over Christmas itself we had the storm of the century! What fun that was! Inches and inches of snow. A wonderland. Even this spring, we had a storm knock out power to the campus for an unexpectedly sunny day out of school. We loved watching the news for word and getting those "school's out" emails. One never grows out of that, it seems.
You haven't been sick very much this year, although you've been hammered with your first migraines. Hopefully there won't be many more. You love sports and PE and any chance to move your body, but you still love reading, and had a blast when Richard Peck visited your school. The Redwall series, by Brian Jacques has been a favorite, and out of class you also enjoyed Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer by John Grisham. In class, you read some of my favorites including Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and Tuck Everlasting.
You are a delightful companion. You always speak with such confidence and ease with adults, and I am enjoying more and more the conversations we have. You show a remarkable maturity and empathy, whether it's with a character you're reading about or a kid in your class. Sometimes I forget that you're eleven, but you still readily tuck in for a snuggle so I know you're still my sweet boy. You're enjoying the garden with Papa, and you're sparking an interest in cooking. I can't wait to see what you come up with us to eat this summer! You've developed an interest in music, ranging from the Beatles to Lady Gaga. Your iPod is a near-constant companion. Sometimes that's an issue, but often it's not. Often it's just fun for you.
You jumped in to a lot of new things this year too. The Lower School play and a basketball clinic. In Bulldog Bytes, you participated in a Lower School newscast, taking on responsibilities from director to video to anchor person. So much has happened, I know I'll leave something out! You dropped an egg (successfully) in an egg drop, raised money in a read-a-thon, survived TV turn-off week, line danced on Wild West Day, and met some famous authors. You tried out for the forensics team and made it nearly all the way. When you weren't chosen to go to the local competition, I asked: would you rather be at your old school with a guarantee of making the team or be here, at your new school with the risk of not making it. You didn't hesitate before saying, "Here." We knew, but that cemented it. It was the right choice for you.
When Papa and I made the decision to change schools, moving you into a bigger and more competitive environment, part of what we wanted was for you to be the rule, not the exception. We knew that if the kids around you were striving for good grades and success on the athletic fields or in the auditorium, well, you'd strive for it too. Your new school is not for everyone, we recognize that, but it has surely been a good fit for you. You thrive in the structure and expectation. Here, everyone dresses up for picture day, not just you.
And that seems like just the right place for you to be. It hasn't always been easy, and you've had to deal with some hard stuff (some of which you'd prefer I not talk about here). Still, we've loved every step of fifth grade, my dearest. Your teachers have been an amazing, perfect fit for you. Every time I talk to them, it's so clear that they get and appreciate you. In each of your conferences, your teacher has called you polite and a pleasure to have in class. Words every parent loves to hear! I hate for it to end. Good thing we've heard that sixth grade is even better, although I can't imagine being prouder of you. Papa and I love you very much, my little man. My favorite moo. My dearest you.