back to school– the road well traveled

Our summer’s been filled with a lot of awkward conversations about where Gabe and Mary are going to school this fall.

Last winter, Ben excitedly told us about a new charter school where some of his friends would be teaching this fall. Maybe you’ve heard about it? AISU: The American International School of Utah.

And if you know Ben, he can sell you on about anything. Ben exudes enthusiasm like the sun radiates light. He outlined every advantage: personalized learning, a shorter school day, an incredible arts program and a staff full of superstars. The staff… oh my. Just go and read those profiles. They’ve used every bit of new research to create the “perfect learning environment. After our conversation with Ben, we began hearing about AISU from several different sources, but when my friend Erica Glenn (just go read her profile. It’s OK if you feel intimidated by her jawdropping accomplishments. I do.) was hired straight out of Harvard to direct the arts department we took the plunge and signed Gabriel up for the middle school. Mary followed suit a few days later. She’s an independent soul who loves to direct her own learning.

So, all summer long, when people asked what teacher Mary’d been assigned to at our local school, or if Gabe was going to take orchestra, we had to explain over and over about AISU. It was hard to express why we’d leave our beloved neighborhood schools especially since we moved here expressly to attend these schools.

But we felt good about it. And when the rest of the neighborhood went back to school Monday, I took Gabe and Mary to the assembly at Skyline (more on that in a minute) and then to orientation at AISU. And we were even more impressed. We meet the counselors, teachers, success coaches, lots of other wonderful students and toured the beautiful facility. Everyone felt happy and confident.

And then, I woke up in the small hours Tuesday morning and KNEW it was the wrong decision.

Crawling out of bed, I made the familiar pro/con lists, weighed the options, woke up Erik to talk… but none of the lists mattered. I KNEW.

I’ve learned to trust that mommy intuition. The last time I felt it that strongly was the night after I signed Hans up for a competitive soccer team. He’d tried out for the team with all his friends, attended the meetings and I wrote the rather hefty check for team dues. And then, I woke up in the middle of the night knowing it was wrong. The next morning I drove to the coach’s house, tore up the check and sorrowfully informed Hans of my decision. For YEARS I worried I’d done the wrong thing. The soccer boys (and they were and are really lovely boys) dropped Hans from their group (not out of malice, just proximity) and he had a couple very lonely years. But when I apologized to him about it years later, he interrupted me, “Don’t apologize! That was one of the best decisions you ever made.”

So, on Tuesday morning I woke up Gabe and Mary saying, “You’re going to school.” They protested at first, but obeyed. Gabe arrived to orchestra almost an hour late but to a very sweet chorus of, “GABE!” when he walked in the door. He missed all the orientation and instructions on when to go to lunch or how to open his locker, but he also missed all the “Oh no, you’re starting junior high!” angst.

Mary had a similar reception in her fifth grade classroom with all the kids crying, “Mary! We missed you yesterday.”

A sense of peace trickled from my head to my toes.

And that afternoon, when everyone gathered at the counter sorting out all the release forms, pencils, folders, glue sticks and first night of homework a sense of peace hovered over all the chaos. A blanket of stress that I didn’t even know existed was lifted from our family. Mary hugged me around the waist, “This morning I thought you were wrong. But you weren’t. And I feel really happy.”

Still, I think AISU looks amazing. And if you’re unsatisfied with your local schools or just want to be part of something wonderful, you should go check them out.

On a lighter note, because Gabe and Mary didn’t start on Monday, we were all able to attend the HELLO Assembly at Skyline. This won’t happen every time around, but both Hans and Xander were in some of the videos, Hans was dancing on the stage and one video was all about Hans….

In an effort to encourage boys to ask girls to the Homecoming Dance on Sept. 20th, they made a video about Hans’ failed attempts to ask a girl to homecoming.

This is the moment when Sarah said, “Hans do you want to tell us about it?”

“Not really.”

“That’s OK. We caught it all on film.”

And I promise I won’t share every single thing Hans does this year, but my awesome neighbor Ezra created this video and I so admire his talents (you should check out his sports video too— it’s a work of art).

and his sixth attempt: Honey, ‘wood’ you go to homecoming with me?

She said ‘yes.’

With our darling friend Annie after the assembly (everyone got a free pack of Skittles– I think Gabe and Mary are looking forward to high school already).

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All last year, Xander walked up from the jr. high to take two classes at Skyline, so although it’s his first year of high school, he’s feeling pretty comfortable. But most of the credit goes to Hans. A lot of siblings don’t want their little brother around, but Hans has included Xander in everything: skiing with friends, hiking, swimming. Whenever people invite Hans to a party they usually extend an invitation to Xander as well. So much so, that even when Hans was in the Philippines this summer, Hans’ friends still included Xander. And for that (and a million other things) I’ll be eternally grateful to Hans. He knows Xander doesn’t diminish his own status, but rather increases it.

And Ben, darling Ben.

My beautiful boy moved down to Provo yesterday after a fantastic summer (if you want to see what it’s like to take to someone who speaks with a thousand exclamation points just ask Ben about Jerusalem). He’ll be teaching Italian 101 at BYU and taking all kinds of interesting classes. And I’m not one bit worried about missing him. Because I have a car, and I know my way to BYU.

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And as if this school year wasn’t fabulous enough, our friend Abby White (on the right) moved from Massachusetts to Jessi’s house (on the left) to spend her senior year at Skyline. It’s like gaining a sister, daughter, best friend for our entire family.

EI3C9311 copyHere’s to a happy school year for everyone.




Oh and just for fun, The Skyline Lingeries Dance Team (the senior boys squad who every so slightly mock the girls’ cheerleading and dance clubs).

Skyline Lingeries HELLO Assembly from Michelle Lehnardt on Vimeo.

August 24, 2014



  1. Jeanelle

    August 27, 2014

    The thought I kept having while reading this was “Michelle is a mother who knows,” remembering this talk:

    Thank you for the reminder that we all need to learn to recognize what the Spirit feels like to each of us individually so that we can heed its promptings when they come. I’m wishing all of those wonderful children of yours an amazing school year. xoxo

  2. Sharlee

    August 27, 2014

    Ah! I kept looking for you yesterday at the AISU Grand Opening and wondering where you were. Honestly, I’m kinda sad, but I completely trust your inspiration for your family. Love to you all!

  3. Jessie

    August 27, 2014

    I thought I was the only one who did the last minute, panic “wait, I made the wrong decision!” thing. I have done that more than once in my life–sometimes I’m just slow to listen to the Spirit and sometimes I really don’t feel it until I’m far down the road of a particular decision.

    We have a lot of good school options around us, including language immersion programs and extra enrichment. But, every time I’ve thought and prayed about it, I feel good sending my kids two blocks down the street to our neighborhood school. It is a good school and they have good classmates, and I’m glad they can just walk back and forth because I have enough on my plate already 🙂 Sometimes the best option for our kids is not the one we think it is or what seems obvious to us.

  4. Catania

    August 28, 2014

    Way to trust your intuition, and I’m so glad you blogged about it, too. We need to trust ourselves more!

    This year we took a HUGE leap…we have started homeschool. I went back and forth and back and forth again about it. We are now three weeks into it, and I love it. Although, I often find myself second guessing my decision. It’s good to remember that we need to trust the Spirit and to trust ourselves.

  5. Annie

    August 28, 2014

    Oh, I am familiar with those middle-of-the-night epiphanies. Even though they can be kind of hard and humbling sometimes, a part of me is always so grateful for the strong course corrections–so much of the decision making in parenting and family life is much more subtle that I’m thrilled to get a strong Spirit-filled nudge, even when it means doubling back on best laid plans. Good for you and thanks for sharing, Michelle. Happy school year! Let’s chat/email soon. xx

  6. Lizzie

    September 11, 2014

    you make having a house full of boys look like so much fun.

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