Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Kid at School?

12/15/11 As the sun was rising this morning I was driving to drop off Bit-Boy at our "neighborhood" middle school. He's always been a social kid, and I think attending 8th grade O.W.L. at church has piqued his interest in being around more age peers. So, he arranged to shadow an 8th grade neighbor/friend.

12/16/11 Bit Boy told me he'd like to look into going to school part time. Oh Lordy, here we go. I'd rather have him home for so many reasons, but this is something he really wants. And really, how do you tell your kid "NO! You can't go to school!" and still sound rational? ;-)

12/18/11 I attended a meeting with the councilor and Bit-Boy. She's very excited and says he can take as few or as many classes as he wants. Registar steps in and says "No. You need to check with the principal." So we put our conversation on hold and the councilor agrees to contact me with the principal's response.

12/22/11 We have our meeting with the principle. Bit-Boy is excited to have a chance to go to school. He is leaning "61%" towards going part-time. (Compared to 39% in favor of homeschooling full time.) Meeting prompts me to write an urgent vent to my homeschooling-mom-friends:

I need some hugs. Arg!! I'm really not liking this, and there are very few people I can complain to, since few people see why this is a problem for me.

Bit-Boy is very clear in wanting to try going to school, but wanting to go only part time. What he wants out of the experience is to see what being in school is like and to meet more kids his own age. If the only option was full time or not going, he'd choose to not go.

This morning we went to sign up Bit-boy for 8th grade (part-time attendance). This was the 2nd time this week, and the 3rd time within the last 7 days that we've been to L., our neighborhood school. We met with the principal, the councilor and the English teacher.

The councilor is great. Kind, articulate, and open to doing what is best for the student and family. The English teacher seemed receptive to the idea of taking on a student who'd had no formal schooling.

After confirming that part-time was an option, the principal, Mr. D., gave us the hard sell on full time enrollment. He spent 45 + min. lecturing us. When I said full time enrollment wasn't on the table for discussion, he pushed back. First he tried to explain that there was no way that we could meet Alex's academic needs. I explained that Bit-Boy is reading at an adult level and would be ready for college level engineering courses by the time he was 15. He expressed skepticism. I showed him Bit-Boy's most recent PASS test scores. A moment of silence.

He then moved on to explain how there was much more to school than academics and that they were all about getting kids ready for the "next step" (being ready for high school). He talked about how pushing kids too hard academically was bad. (I didn't mention the unschooling bit) I can't even remember now all the stuff he said. I don't know if he realized how big a hole he was digging when he went on about all the "social" situations that Bit-Boy would be exposed to in school. He went on to say he expected that Bit-Boy would have so much fun that he'd want to be full time, and even want to come back to do 8th grade full time there next year. (eyeroll)

Aloud, I turned to Bit-Boy and pointed out that Mr. D was giving him the hard sell on going full time, and asked Bit-Boy if he was going to be up to dealing with that for a semester. Then the principal said "Oh, no. I won't push him." (But that was what he'd been doing right in front of me for almost an hour. Can expect him to do better when I'm not around?)

All I could think is that this man believes his school is better at raising children than parents, and that the entire point of "school" is to keep kids so busy they don't have time for anything else.

Running errands afterwards, Lego Dude said "If Bit-Boy likes it there, maybe I should go too?" I could cry. This child is not ready for the social aspect of middle school. He is just coming into the quantum leap in learning that Bit-Boy experienced from 11-13 yo. I so don't want him in school. I don't want to deal with all the stuff he'd bring home, I don't want him to deal with all the stimulation just when he's starting to find himself. Also, I like my kids and don't want them gone all day. They'll be leaving soon enough (obviously).

Bit-Boy even thinking of attending middle school is changing our family culture. I am not wanting this change. Even though I knew something like it was coming, I thought it would be later. I figured around 10th grade he could start at the community college, take some AP classes at one of the high schools, try a co-enrollment situation, or take some on line courses from a university. All of which could still happen of course, I just feel like the adults at the school are going to be doing their best to brainwash him that he's been abused by homeschooling and that if he doesn't go to school full time he'll miss out on all the important things in life.

I also really hate feeling judged by someone. Especially someone who is so biased against our lifestyle. When I called him on it, pointing out that our homeschooling was a family choice and no reflection on him, L., or public schools, he responded - "Oh, I'm not biased. I'm all for choice." So now, in the space of an hour, he has established a pattern of doing/saying something while not accepting responsibility for his actions.

OK. I know, this email all about me. Yup. I'm wallowing.
But I'm still letting Bit-Boy try school, so good on me, eh?

Whew! I was so worked up. All this led to some great discussions with Firelord, with Bit-Boy, with Lego Dude, and with Hot Dog. And then more discussion with all of us together.

I wrote to another friend:
Bit-Boy is enrolled to start at the middle school starting Jan 9, part time. They have a wacky schedule, "blue" days and "yellow" days, but get this: The blue and yellow days alternate. One blue, one yellow, so you can't assume that all Mondays are the same, or even that every other Monday will be the same, since there are occasional no school days that shift the schedule. It's insane. Of course, it doesn't matter if you give your kid up to the school from 7:25-3:30 everyday, although the kids need to keep track of the days so they prepare the assignments for the correct class. (eyeroll)

One thing I realized is that I've made such an effort to be sure the kids understood that going to school was a legitimate choice for families (because at one point they'd been lording their homeschooling over some jealous schooled friends) that I hadn't spent much time explaining why I still believed that homeschooling was the best option for our family.

Another thing that came up is the whole giftedness and right brained discussion. Ugh. I really haven't had to get into the nitty gritty of IQ or academic ability before. We just did what we were interested in, at our own pace, and didn't worry about it. Now come to find out that Bit-Boy is working way ahead of level. And, in fact, Bit-Boy and I came to realize that given what the school had to offer academically, he should be in the middle of highschool, except that his pace of work would be slowed down if he went at the rate of a normal class. BTW Mr. D said he could go to the high school for this and that, and a local high school prinicpal has offered him a place anytime - but that doesn't quite meet the social needs that started all this, does it?

So what does a kid do when he wants a pack of his intellectual and emotional peers? Can't happen, at least not in semi-rual place with as low a population as this. He's going to have to settle for age mates, and folks of all ages who share his interests, without a whole lot of overlap.

What happened? I tried to be Zen about it and not be attached to any particular outcome. I talked myself into thinking that this would be a good growth experience for him. I did my utmost to keep my dismay to myself. Bit-Boy is pretty head strong, so I wasn't too worried he'd try to please me. Good thing.

He weighed his options. Comparing not only his experience shadowing his friend at the school, but also listening to what she and his other schooled friends shared about their school experiences. He compared how he spends his time to how they spend theirs: time spent sleeping, time spent on academics, time spent with friends, amount of freetime, amount of extra activities, etc.

What did he decide? You know, after 3 meetings at the school; putting me through hour and a half meeting with the blow hard principal, the tolerant English teacher and the patient councilor; the reams of paperwork, etc...? He decided he didn't even want to try it for a week or two. After all that thought... he'd rather sleep in.

I seriously thought about it, but I didn't actually put him on the 1 hour busride into school


Shawn Walter said...

It may not be for the right reasons, but you do have what you wanted all along. And there won't be such a disruption in your family. Take it and RUN!

Sue VanHattum said...

It's so hard to let go, isn't it?

It sounds like you did a great job. He got to evaluate the pros and cons of school through all those discussions, and decided against.

I bet this experience, of getting to make that huge decision, is one he'll remember and thank you for long-term.

April said...

Actually, I think letting a teen get the sleep their body needs is a good reason to skip those early classes. :-p

I can only hope that he's as satisfied with his decision later as he is now. At least he has settled in his mind that being homeschooled isn't putting him "behind".

Cindy said...

How is BitBoy nowadays? It definitely seems that the 11-13 year range is a time of self-reflection and comparison for our unschooled children. Especially near the 13-14 mark. I'm glad it worked out for you all.

I hope things are going as well as can be expected for you in the health department. Keep in touch!