It’s that time again

It’s time to really start thinking about whether or not the kids are going to public school next year. At this point, I think everyone is 95% leaning towards “oh hell no”.

I gave it a shot. I really did. I’ve determined at least three things by this little experiment: first, people suck at any age; second, public school sucks in any state; and third, it would probably cost about the same to buy a pre-packaged curriculum as it would to keep spending money on school lunches, pictures, yearbooks, book fairs, after-school snacks, new pants, etc.

And the problem? Slogging through probably thousands of either vehemently Christian or else painfully outdated homeschooling packages. (I kid you not, there’s one that SWEARS that the 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica was the best set of books ever written.) I forgot how much I absolutely despise this part of it. Do I get a pre-packaged deal that will likely cost me a buttload, on top of the constant trips to the library, or do I piece it together like I did before and just hope to gods that I don’t forget anything? Or maybe I just go by the Core Knowledge lists and get all of my books separately, but then are we going to run into “disagreement issues”?

(“Disagreement issues” are cases where the information that is required to qualify as “knowledgable” in an area like history is blatantly wrong and popularly disproven, like the “biblical bang” theory or the rotundity of the earth or the real “discoverers of America”.)

I feel both vindicated and crushed that this attempt at public schooling has failed the way it has. Lili and Miles are both making straight As and Bs down the line, and there is definitely no problem in the realm of intellect or performance. The problem is that the students as well as the teachers are just so damned prejudiced, the school is so tiny and insular, and the general attitude is not one that will ever forgive a kid for being different in any way, let alone making “cardinal mistakes”.

And as a secondary question to the whole curriculum issues, do I have the strength, fortitude, and patience to get into homeschooling again, knowing that I’ll also be working a job (albeit from home) and taking care of a two-year-old? I think I will, especially after all we’ve been through this past year, but are the kids going to be down with keeping to a structure like that?

Would it help them stay on track better if they still got report cards every eight to ten weeks? Six weeks? Had weekly tests that they couldn’t weasel out of? Could actually see their grades as they go through projects and exercises? Got into other programs like 4H?

I understand and appreciate that public school was there for the kids when I couldn’t be, but there’s still the fiercely protective Momma in me that prays to the gods that they aren’t permanently scarred from this one year in the same ways that I’m still scarred from my one year of parochial school.

Lili had to read a book for school on the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, a very depressing and dour time. It’s not that I don’t think she can deal with the history, but the book is written from the point of view of a young lady who was a disappointment for not being born male (!), loses her mother during the birth of her brother (!!!) after sustaining massive damage from a kerosene explosion (!!!), and a week later the baby brother dies (!!!!!!!!), and then the dust storm happens and she’s told about kids smothered to death (!!!!!!!) and torn to ribbons on barbed wire (!!!!!!!!), and all the while her grief-stricken father won’t speak to her (!!!!!!), so when she gets lost in the storm, he goes out after her and gets lost himself (!!!!!!!!) and comes back only after she’s all freaked out about the people dieing out there (!!!!!!!!!!), and he STILL won’t talk to her, but she decides to stay and weather the storm (!!!!!!!!) even after her father leaves for greener lands (!!!!!!!)…

… and had I known about this, I probably would have bitch-slapped the teacher for not being a least a LITTLE sensitive to Lili’s particular situation. This is probably WORSE than the exercise they had to do on the Oregon Trail where Lili journaled as a young lady who inadvertently poisoned and killed four people! Hello? Are there two MFin’ brain-cells in there to rub together? What the hell are these people thinking?!? I already know that the teacher in question is not especially “available” to answer questions like the ones that Lili is liable to come up with, and there’s already the issue of the lack of respect we’re seeing towards anyone associated with the school…

And then there’s the whole Miles issue… he gets flustered or nervous and has an accident, and feels embarassed, so he hides it, and then starts stinking pretty badly, but then other kids don’t want to be around him, no matter how nice he tries to be with them, so he gets pissed off and frustrated and acts out physically… and I’d like to kick every last one of those kids in his class myself after he specifically invited them ALL to his birthday party, and only his TEACHER showed up.

Is it unreasonable to believe that a 7-year-old will be mature enough to not have accidents, or that the environment will act as a deterent? I thought it would, too. It didn’t. Maybe it was just too much to deal with after Toby, but what else was I supposed to do, really? And so the argument goes back and forth.

I’m ready to hang it up and call it an experience. Maybe the issue will be revisited later. Maybe not. Right now, the school year cannot possibly be over soon enough.

11 Replies to “It’s that time again”

  1. Sweetheart, I don’t think you are capable of handling Lili and Miles in home schooling again. Not yet.
    Not that you aren’t capable (you are), but because of the financial needs, your new job schedule, and the “drama” that abounds, it might be better to gut it out another year.
    I know you don’t want to hear that, but my intuition tells me that you simply don’t have the capacity of time/resources to make it a good experience for them. Not with everything else you have on your plate right now. In the end, they would be the ones who loose, and that’s not fair to anyone.
    You would be spreading yourself way too thin. Not good for you. And if *you* are constantly trying to do too many things at once, nothing gets done well.
    You can only do so much to help out and I think that you have reached the limit of your present capabilities. Maybe later, perhaps in another year, but not now.
    I love you all, and want what’s best for *all* of you. That includes Lili and Miles.
    School attitude notwithstanding, their very presence in the school is a testament to your dedication to your children, to the community you live in, and a lesson of tolerance and acceptance for everyone involved.
    Kicking a few asses might be the answer. At least for now.

    Love
    Poppa

  2. I sympathize with you. I think you need to do whatever is best for both you children and yourself. You are a smart lady and I know you will carefully weigh both the pros and cons of the situation. Luckily you have a few months to make the decision. I hope you’ll be able to make the decision you want. But don’t forget to consider yourself and your needs too (your children need you to be okay, too). Good Luck Dawn!

  3.        I’ve got a couple of pennies here, so I’m going to throw them in the jelly jar.

           I’m in complete agreement with your father. How do you reasonably expect to hold down a full-time job, watch Joseph and home school Lili and Miles? You’d drive yourself completely nuts and I know you wouldn’t feel that you have the time or the energy to do the job that you want to do and get everything handled the way that you want it. It’s going to be hard enough for you to do it without having an additional babysitter around, unless you’re getting another one that I don’t know about.

           The problems that Miles is having will pass. Kids are mean – I thought you knew that. It’s the result of something that your kids had and most of them did not – good parenting. Their parents didn’t teach them to be nice and understanding. That’s not something that their parents are going to worry about – they’re busy going to work, so it’s not on their list of things “to do”. Miles, on the other hand, has to learn that it’s okay to ask the teacher if he can go take care of himself – maybe arrange for some kind of non-verbal signal to let him go use the bathroom and take care of himself. Maybe have an extra set of pants and underwear there for him to change into at the school. I know it doesn’t solve the problem, but it might help. Then he won’t stink all day long.

           Now I know that unlike many of the other students’ mothers and fathers, you’re a proactive and involved parent. It might be worth your while to call the school to talk to this teacher about her choice in books. I’m well aware of the fact that you’ve said that this gal isn’t the most accessible teacher for discussion. After you’ve made your token attempt, which I’m sure you have, then you call to talk to the principal [Standard Operating Procedure – it’s been bypassed in my school district so many times!] about the teacher’s choice of reading material and how it might not be appropriate for that particular age group. [What book is she reading, by the way?] I’d be willing to bet you money that the principal wasn’t aware that particular material was being covered in class – at least in that graphic of a tone. One of the nice things about having a little bit of flexibility in your classroom is that you don’t have to have every little thing you teach approved by a committee first, but that also means that things like this get slipped in from time to time and watchful parents make sure that such things are removed from the curriculum very quickly.

           I don’t know if it’s worth your time, but I would encourage you to give public schooling another year. Sometimes, you just have a bad year – it happens. If you choose to allow Lili and Miles to attend this public school for another year, I would definitely recommend going to introduce yourself to your childrens’ teachers right at the beginning of the year and request regular reports and phone contact. If teachers do not comply, you’ve got a powerful leveraging tool with the principal. You might become that parent that teacher’s hate to see walking into the building, but as long as you treat them fairly, they’ll be okay with it. “We nip ze prrroblemz in ze bud!

  4. I hear what you’re all saying – I really do – but there are a few things to really understand that weigh heavily in this decision:

    1 – There are about 25 kids in each grade – not each “class”, not each “period”, each GRADE. And they’ve most of them have known each other since before they started school, so there’s already the insular, cliqueish bullshit we all know and hate.

    2 – Because the school is so small, the teachers are given plenty of room to teach what they want. Going to principal gets the rolled eyes and “leave me alone” attitude. I know – I’ve done it. Unless EVERY parent complains about a book or lesson or something, nothing is paid attention to.

    3 – I spoke to both of their teachers before the year started. I worked out with Miles’ teacher about the accidents thing. He has a non-verbal signal, but either he’s not using it because the other students razz him for it, or the teacher is not paying attention (she’s already demonstrated significant memory problems on occasion). I explained to Lili’s teacher the kinds of sensitivities she needed to demonstrate in order to maintain Lili’s respect. They were (apparently) patently ignored.

    4 – My job at this point is only in the afternoons into the evenings, but my off-days are during the week, not the weekend.

    5 – Joseph is getting to the point where he’s a little more independent and doesn’t need constant supervision, although I’m considering starting him on pre-school exercises this year.

    6 – I do not feel confident anymore in the school’s ability to keep up with my children’s intelligence and needs. Even with enrollment in the gifted program, Lili’s telling me that she’s bored to tears and they won’t let her start on learning something new. They’re both signed up to see the school therapist, who is not completely booked and unavailable because they made it HER job to take over the standardized testing and preparation thereof. And, as Joe points out, it’s always the second guy that gets the penalty – NOTHING has been done or said to the students that started picking on Lili and Miles in the first place, but now they’re being ostracized by the students and labeled as “trouble-makers” by the teachers for lashing out from emotional frustration.

    Yes, I know it’s a lot to take on again. I know this. That’s why it’s a conundrum. At this point, though, I’m so goddamned pissed off at the whole system that it’s really not a matter of IF we should do it but HOW we should do it. And that’s not to say either side is cast in stone, but especially after this year and getting reaquainted with the whole “social structure” thing, I think the “socialization” argument for public school is not only complete and utter bullshit but part of the programming process to make good little automatrons. I can’t stand by that.

    It’s still a hard decision to make… the kids really want to homeschool now, despite not seeing their “friends” (read: other kids) as often, but they also don’t like being made to feel this way. I don’t blame them for that at all.

    1.        I don’t know if it’s worth your while to try to send them to a different school – maybe even try to transfer them into Cheyenne proper. Pretty much everything I had suggested for you seems to have been thought of and applied already, so I’m not going to get any further into that, since you’ve probably either done it already or thought of it. Besides, it involves letting the school know just how much of a bitch you can be.

             That having been said, it sounds like home-schooling is really the way you want to go, so I’m not going to deter you from it. Rather than creating your own curriculum [and I know you and I have talked about this before], I’d certainly recommend picking one up that you know for sure is aligned with state learning standards. You can always suppliment the material with your own to flesh out your childrens’ education. It’s a lot easier than trying to track down everything and make sure you didn’t miss any loopholes for the educational system to tell you that you didn’t get the job done and your kids can’t have a high-school diploma or GED equivalent.

             Mostly, I don’t want to see you overextend yourself and I’d like to help out if I can, but it’s a difficult thing to do from a thousand miles away.

  5. I too don’t like to see them being removed from public schooling, basically because they won’t have the necessary interaction to face their peers, but come to think of it, I had an easier time because the schools I attended had really large classess.

    I remember many days I’d be home frustrated to tears with school, socially and academically. (My problem was mainly the language barrier)

    I’d imagine right now is going to be some of the toughest time for them, you can only do the best you can, and hope that they will learn from the experience, instead of learning to fear it… something like that.

    much love.

  6. 1) Better the 1911 Encyclopaedia Brittanica than the 1611 King James Bible.
    2) The social interaction facilitation capability of public school has been highly overrated. That red herring is kind of like intelligent design — an excuse people use to avoid the truth. If anything public school is breeding ground for social dysfunction.

  7. Jaundiced Logic Part 2

    Once again, I feel it is necessary to say something.
    There is something that occurred to me this morning that you might want to consider.
    You and your family have put down roots in this town. Both literally and figuratively.
    Putting Lili and Miles in home schooling is one thing – insulating them from the world is something else entirely.
    And this is what I perceive you are doing.
    You and I both had suck-ass childhoods, and the social situations we faced were horrendous, but partly because you and I are different than most.
    Lili and Miles, on the gripping hand, are closer to “normal” than we were.

    Here is what came to me this morning.

    Lili and Miles will be growning up in that community. One day, they will reach the age where they will be needing/wanting to get jobs.
    If they don’t have the minimal contacts (and I’m not even talking about social bondings – just contacts) that they will need in their future lives, they won’t have the resources necessary to make a go of it in the local area.
    They will be forced to “seek their fortunes” elsewhere. Even Cheyenne could be too far, if their social and emotional supply lines are stretched too thin.
    If they don’t have the local contacts to find jobs in the local area, their self images will suffer. Their “networking” skills will be stunted, and ultimately, they will be forced to either stay at home, or be tossed to the wolves in another city that they aren’t prepared to deal with.

    One last thing.
    Having them stay in the local school system, with you supporting their efforts against the school administration and forcing said administration (and by extension the local town) to accept Lili and Miles as they are, rather than as someone else wants them to be, is part and parcel of what you are supposed to do.
    Remember our discussions about being Indigo’s?
    Ramming the local peoples attitudes down their own throats, and forcing them to change their attitudes, is what you/we’re supposed to be doing, isn’t it?
    Lili and Miles will suffer.
    That is a given that you can’t get around.
    But trying to insulate them from reality will only hurt them more in the long run.
    And it’s the long picture I’m looking at, not just the short term.

    These things I believe.
    These things I tell you.
    Do with them as you will.

    Love
    Poppa

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