Monday, July 01, 2013

homeschooling insight

I just reread the blog from Ree Drummonde, who has this insightful blog on her homeschooling venture. She has great blogs, especially those about Twenty Interesting Things About...  But the blog I was interested in was about why she homeschools, it was written a few years ago, and I wonder if the same still holds true. How on earth does she do it? She is totally fun and funny and has the energy of ten people, and the skills it takes to keep you captivated with her writing and her cooking... when in the world does she find time to teach her kids?

I homeschooled my daughter way back when she was little. I didn't start out with the idea of home school. It kind of just jumped in there. We had just moved to a tiny town that had just decided to "integrate" the school system (and no, this wasn't that long ago) but the town had several elementary schools, why, I don't know, but instead of having just one larger school for everyone,  they closed one school and bused all the Kinder and 1st grades to East Elementary, 2nd and 3rd grades to North Elementary, and 4th, 5th, and 6th grades to South Elementary. I don't know what the name of the school was that was closed. It wasn't West, I know that for sure... Why they chose to close it and have the kids from that particular part of town bused every year, I don't know, maybe the school was older??? I didn't know anyone really in the town that would tell me about the school, other than drugs being a problem... really? in elementary? woah....I thought that having three elementary schools was stupid. One central school would have been so much more convenient, especially with families that had several children.
 When the kids went into the 7th grade, they all went to one Junior High and then all went into one High School. Simple?  I only  had one daughter and my husband had heard from his coworkers that the school system was a mess since they had just started busing, and that they needed a few years to work out the problems, and that there was a good private school that did a great job with the kids, and they weren't fanatic about the religion part of their curriculum, and my husband and I discussed putting her into the program. It ended up that we agreed that we would try it out for a year, and that we could decide on  public school if it didn't work out. I enrolled my little baby girl into the school... and my husband had a fit. I had enrolled her into the wrong school. How was I to know there was another school in this little bitty community? It was another church that had just started it's school, and one of the guys that my husband worked with had his daughter enrolled there. He wanted me to change her over to the "right" school.
I was a bit embarrassed, I had to go in and tell them that I had the wrong school... which maybe they didn't know there was another school in the county, because they kind of shook their heads and told me it was ok with them. I just had to sign the release form... and they gave me my check back.

I found that the new school was nice and clean, and the preacher of the school...I mean principle was really nice. He seemed to be genuine and wanted to give the kids a safe place to learn, an alternative to the chaotic public school system, and a chance to learn about the Bible as well, but he assured me that there would be no way that the kids were going to be forced to change religions or be converted in any way. The school was Baptist, I was raised in the Disciples of Christ, and had no intention of changing churches at that point. My husband was raised Baptist and had no intentions of attending any church at that time. So we agreed about the girl attending the school.
After a couple of weeks, someone at the school had lice... that should have been an indicator right there that something was going to happen. I don't know why, but I should have been worried. I deloused (never finding even a nit) my daughter's hair and washed her sheets, and mine just in case, and vacuumed everything. The school and church cleaned all the chairs, books, desks, pews, and whatever you disinfect when there is an outbreak of this sort. The kids were granted a long weekend in order to get everything clean. I think that must have been when one of the teachers quit.
I got a call from the principle asking if I would substitute for them and if I was interested in taking a teaching job... yes and no were my replies. I didn't want to be a teacher, but I would teach on a temporary basis. I was put in charge of the 1st-6th graders and they were angels, the 7-12 grades were horrid, they were rowdy and disorganized, and their teacher was away from her desk for what seemed an inordinate amount of time. The kids took this as their cue to go wild.
One day, the older kids teacher left her room, the kids went wild, I was going to go over and shut them up and make them sit down and behave, I finished the paper I was grading  and about that time, a group of women walked in, looking very church-lady like and smug. They asked me some questions, my students sitting quietly, across the way the older kids going wild... and they were very disgusted with what they saw. No organization... and they proceeded over to the room for the older kids... I don't know what went on there, but the women left pretty quick. I only taught off and on a few weeks after that. I figured they would find someone to fill the other teacher's position, and another person was filling in when I wasn't... I didn't want to be a teacher so I didn't really ask a lot, besides, my daughter was in the kindergarten class which was miles (halls) separate from the chaos, and the 1-6 were a good group...

just short of the halfway mark into the school year, the preacher/principle called a meeting, not only of the parents of the school children, but of all the congregation. There seems to have been a faction in the church that didn't want there to be a school of any sort within the walls of their church. Several of the women in the church I recognized as being the group that had come to observe our classes. They had these sour faces and their husbands did as well. the meeting started out with the preacher telling everyone how the school was doing, and about the prospects of a new teacher being hired, then he went on to the budget and the contributions that had been made, and the general being of the school. That is when he brought up that there were members that were unhappy about the school, and there were people that were angry with him, spreading rumors about him  misappropriating funds, and a host of complaints.
Now, I have never been involved with the politics in a church before. I have never known a preacher that had been fired, I had never really known of anyone being kicked out of a church before... I guess I was naive at that point, and didn't really know of things like this. I was really young I guess, not worldly, and this was kind of scary to me. To me, when the congregation started complaining, saying a lot of things, especially about the teachers in the school, I kind of got irritated. Yes, some of the kids were rowdy, but don't lump them all together, and don't insinuate that all the teachers were bad... and I had never seen anything in the school as being inappropriate, in any form other than a lax 7-12 teacher, but... replace the teacher was my motto...

So, it got heated in that church on this particular evening. Tempers flared and a group of people walked out, including my husband. I sat there, not wanting to move. I wanted to hear what was going to be said. I wanted to hear both sides. If I walked out, I would only ever hear one or the other version of the story. It wasn't pretty. One woman spoke up and said that she and her husband had built the church and they didn't like having a school there... another said that they had found a check in the preacher's desk drawer that hadn't been cashed... it was for the school... and he hadn't cashed it... why they were angry about that, I still don't understand, he replied that he was holding it, waiting for the right time to use the funds. That, I admired, he could have spent the money on something else for the school, but he didn't... Every accusation that was put forth was answered, and all I could hear was this small group of people attacking this man and the school he was fighting for, and there were a lot of silent people.

I don't know what came over me, really, I have never stood up in a congregation and said anything.. EVER. I don't remember all that I said, but it had to do with a pride of lions tearing apart the church. I was told that I didn't know what was going on, and they were right... I didn't. After hearing these people complain for another five minutes or more, I decided I had had enough, and walked out.
Now, I'm not proud of myself for saying anything, but... I said what I thought. When I walked out, there was a large group of parents and church members standing around and they asked me what was going on... I just said that it was nasty what was going on. I didn't have a reference to give them and I didn't want to go into what was going on inside, so I didn't. I just told my husband that I wanted to go home.

Needless to say, that was the last of the school, and the church broke up and they renamed it, and I guess that little group of people that "built" the church are still to this day sitting in that building. I ended up home schooling for the rest of the year.

I liked the togetherness that we had, but I had so many people tell me that I needed to get my daughter into school for her to have social interaction. We attended a church, she was in ballet and gymnastics, and we had neighbor kids that she played with, as well as cousins that visited a lot, I thought she was pretty socially active, but I just didn't have what it took to go against the grain, come Fall, I enrolled my daughter into the public school... East Elementary.  Her teacher reminded me of my first grade teacher. Strict, and without humor, she was a taskmaster and she didn't believe me when I told her that my daughter could already read, and had since she was three. She explained to me that most kids can recognize words, but that wasn't the same as reading  The first open house, she pulled me to the side, not allowing anyone else but my daughter to hear her when she apologized for doubting that, yes, the girl could read. After that, we got along pretty well, but when I would visit the class, and the kids were ordered to put their heads on the desk... I did as well. Yes, she was that scary.
Second grade was great, or so I thought. The lady teaching was a friend of mine, Cynthia, who's daughter was in my Girl Scout troop... yes, I was suckered into having a troop of Brownies. Anyway, Cynthia was a fun and funny and very smart lady. The kids adored her, and every Friday, she would don lipstick and kiss the cheek of every kid that would come up to her. It was kind of a status symbol if you had these bright red lips on your cheek. My daughter and her daughter were good friends, and I thought the year would go great. Thanksgiving week, my daughter was terribly sick with chicken pox. Really sick. I kept her home the whole week and then even a few extra days. She had them in her ears, mouth, eyelids, and she was miserable. When she returned to school, she was given homework (second grade remember) that she would never be able to complete. This was five days she missed, not a month. She had about 20 papers to finish and a ton of coloring pages to do, and I thought the workload was stupid. I know that the kids don't do that much work on a holiday week, and even missing a couple of extra days, there should have been no reason that she was so weighed down with this type of work. She was told she had two days to finish the work and to turn it back in, along with her daily homework, she was so swamped it was pitiful. She was still not feeling well, but she did the work. She had strepthroat several times over the next few months, and ear infections, and tummy troubles, and we had a scare with her blood sugar levels, and had to go to the doctor's office for a week straight, every morning. have her blood drawn. The teacher was annoyed with me. The school itself was annoyed with me... and I was annoyed with them. How could they encourage kids to go to school when they are clearly sick? I had a talk with our family doctor, knowing that one of the kids at school was a patient, and knowing that the kid was sick all the time, and her parent took the kid to the doctor, with strep, got her a shot, and took her to school and dropped her off. I told the doctor that I knew he couldn't talk to me about the situation, but he had no problem with hearing my complaint about the going to school with a temperature of 102 degrees.
OK, so that worked, and the incidence of illness was diminished by a bit, but really, the rest of the year was hard and I felt like Cynthia and I had a strained relationship after that...

 Third grade? it was terrible. The first thing was that my daughter was assigned an old teacher that everyone said... she's horrid... and my friend, Cynthia, told me that my daughter wouldn't do well in her class... I went to the principle's office to discuss the matter, since we didn't find out until the week before school that she would get that certain teacher. So, I thought I could find this new principle, who I hadn't met yet, and discuss the options for the school year. Ha! I found a woman that I didn't recognize in the office, I told her that I needed to speak with the principle, She told me that the principle wasn't there, but asked what I needed, she told me that the schedules had already been set, but I could come back up in a week or two after school had started and if my daughter was having problems they would see what could be done. 

I went home that day and stewed about the situation. Maybe I was over reacting. I called as many people that I knew in town, and discussed the problem with each of them, and they all concurred that I should call the school back and demand to speak to the principle. I did the next day, explained firmly what I wanted done, and it was done. My daughter got a different teacher. That was the beginning. 

The first day of school, I met the new principle. I hadn't recognized her voice when I spoke to her over the phone. She was the woman from the office who told me the principle was not in. 

Second problem. I ate at the school with my daughter as often as I could. The cafeteria wasn't that bad, and I enjoyed the time together, and wanted to make sure things were going smoothly, just as I had the two years previously. I visited the classroom as well. I was welcomed to do so, to come and go as I pleased. I wasn't the official room mother, but basically, that is what I was. For the past two years, if the room needed decorated, or the teacher needed something for a party, I was the go to person. I liked that, and loved seeing the kids, some of them were in my Brownie troop, some were from the bible class I taught, and some of them were from the day care that I helped out at (my friend Reggy asked me to... what can I say).  So basically, I knew most of the kids, and they were all sweet, and my daughter was young enough to allow me to visit anytime.  This was the second problem, when I visited the classroom, I noticed that the teacher never actually taught. She would sit at her desk, sometimes with her head down, and didn't say a word. The kids sat quietly, with their work before them, and they worked. Their lessons were on the board, and at the time that was appropriate, the teacher would announce it was time for ... science.. math.. whatever... and the kids would get out their books and start on their own.

 My daughter was having problems with the work, and I found out that she was looking in the wrong books, and was doing the wrong lessons off the board, It never occurred to me that she couldn't see.  The school had tested her eyes along with the other kids and never sent a notice about her not passing the test... and she had failed miserably...I thought she just wasn't paying attention.
 The kids were quiet in the classroom, but there was a lot of movement, one girl got up a half dozen times and wrote her name on the chalkboard, erasing it each time, writing in cursive, erasing, printing, erasing... They turned themselves in if they thought they were doing something wrong. Somehow this was wrong... 

Anyway, every time I visited, it was the same thing. I really didn't like this woman, oh, she was nice, but a lousy teacher. My daughter's grades slipped. not because she was not intelligent, but they dropped.  I was kind of upset. I talked to the teacher, she explained that it was a self paced class and that all the kids were smart enough to learn without instructions. Obviously not, but she went on to tell me that I was just seeing part of the class. Granted. But my daughter was only 8 years old, she wasn't very well disciplined in the fine art of self paced courses, turning in all her work and learning everything on her own... isn't' that why they have teachers in the first place?

The third problem was the worst. 

It wasn't a problem, but it was a crisis. I went up to school to pick up my daughter every day, some days I would stand and talk to several of my friends that were teachers, or I would help decorate classrooms, or just talk to other parents. My daughter would play with her friends, mostly their parents were teachers, and they would go into a classroom or out onto the playground. Now, this school (North Elementary) had been there a while, and the year before and into the  Summer before my daughter arrived there for 2nd grade it had been partially torn down and rebuilt, adding a new cafeteria, classrooms, and gymnasium. They had also built a new playground. One of the pieces of equipment on the playground was a... well, I don't know the name for it but it looked like a type of zip line. I guess that is what it was. Well, the teachers were tired of going out and pulling it across, and I guess the aids that helped on the playground were tired of it, too, so they tied a rope to it, kind of a loop, so the kids could grab it and pull it to one end or the other. 

I don't know what exactly happened, but my daughter and her friends Ashley, and Christi  and I think another child were playing outside on the playground. I stood in the hallway talking to Cynthia and a couple of other women, I was tired, it was cold and I needed to get home and start supper... I went to the back door and called my daughter. She came running in, but wanted to stay and play, I nearly had to drag her to get her to go home. Usual for her. She loved playing with her friends. We went home, which wasn't far, and Cynthia and her daughter left at the same time.  Juana stayed to finish some work, her daughter Christi stayed out on the playground alone.  Not long after we got home, I heard the sirens blaring in the distance. Odd. I wondered about what was going on, but didn't think much about it, I fixed supper and we ate, then Cynthia called me, . Juana went out to find her daughter, Christi, to go home, and found her  hanging from the loop on the zip line on the playground. She died. No one knew quite what had happened, how on earth she had gotten her head in that loop, but she had. 

I was so shocked. My daughter was devastated. 

I rethought about sending her back to school. They had counselors for the kids at the school after the funeral that weekend, and I felt that if she needed to talk, she would, but... I withdrew her from classes after that week and started homeschooling. I realized that could have been her. If we had stayed, maybe she wouldn't have been alone and maybe she wouldn't have died, but then again, it could have been my child... 
 I realized that I was spending way too much time at the school, doing things for other people, when I could have been teaching my precious daughter at home, and so we began our journey. It wasn't long, I had talked it over with other parents that were homeschooling in the community ( I found there was a large group and we had an association), they nearly all  agreed that they were sending their kids on to Junior High, and so did I, but for the 3 1/2 years, I enjoyed all that we did together. Some days were book days, some days were art gallery days, King Ramses, Dinosaurs, or Six Flags days, and they were all filled with learning.  When people were worried that my daughter wasn't socializing enough, I reminded them that she was in ballet, gymnastics, tap, Girl Scouts, church, and had tons of friends that came over. She went to summer camp, she helped out on days that I helped out at the day care, and she was normal. I didn't teach a lot of religion, I taught citizenship, and math, language, English, Spanish, and geography. We went on trips and all was well. By the way, she got glasses. After I had pulled her from school... they school system sent me a notice that she had failed TWO eye exams and they had never told me..... she was doing even better with her reading and writing... she could see. 

 When it was time for her to take the entrance test for Junior High, actually, the day I took her to enroll  for school, she was not prepared to go do an entrance test right then, we thought it would be scheduled... she had on shorts and a short sleeved shirt because it was really hot outside, they stuck her in an unused classroom and she froze in the room... but she made really high scores and they acted like she cheated or something. She was afraid she had done poorly, she said she was shivering couldn't concentrate... when they told me the results of her testing and her scores were higher than her class level I thought... good for her, she showed them. 

So we ended our home school journey all too soon for my liking. I missed having her around, but I went back to work full time and time flew past and she graduated and everything was so different in just a few years. Our lives were kind of turned upside down, but for good I thought...

I got divorced and remarried and had a baby brother for her... and put him in public schools, since I had several hard pregnancies in just a few years, I was physically not able to think about home schooling, though my husband was all for it, if I felt up to it, and would have supported me. He passed away in the summer after our son's kindergarten year. I felt that my son needed that stability of school to deal with the issues he would face. I would surely have to go back to work, and public school seemed really the only reasonable way to go. All in all, we have had good luck with his teachers. I don't think they have been bad, some were better than others (he's just out of the fifth grade now). There are some of the staff that I don't really like, and they will give me stares...I don't like their 'security' measures, and have had run ins with them over it.....  and don't get me started on the cafeteria.... but, all in all, it has been ok. 
 Fang  was tested in kindergarten and they asked if I wanted him to be interviewed for Gifted and Talented class. No. They did anyway, he wouldn't talk to them, so in first grade they asked if I wanted him interviewed? no... they did anyway, he wouldn't talk to them... Second grade, they tested him, and he scored so high, they took him into the class, even if he wouldn't talk. One of his teachers actually told me that it was really odd, they weren't looking to fill anything but a minority for the position open and that she didn't think he would get in, and when he did, she said that his score had been so high, they had to take him. 

All of a sudden, my son started talking. He started to interact with other kids, and he started to blossom. All his teachers and classmates liked him, but all of a sudden, they liked him more. He would actually talk!
So he's not straight A student all the time, but he's always getting awards, and he was asked to be in the Duke TIP program, which is cool.. but he just sees it as more schoolwork... he's just turned 11 and is starting to worry about Junior High. We have friends and relatives that have kids who have had problems with the school system here on the Jr. Hi level. My son wants to be homeschooled....

Yikes! What do I do now?

I don't know if 
one... I am up to it physically, 
two... If I can actually teach anything to him
three... If I know enough to actually even begin to teach him math...
four... and I can keep going on and on, but, really, do we want to do this? really teach him at home?

I don't know. 
I wish it was easy. Times have changed so much and we live in a larger town now, and he is already in the GT program, If I take him out will that screw up that? He will miss his friends. we don't live close enough to have a lot of kids over, I won't go driving all over town to pick up kids, and I'm getting old and tired, do I want to expend this much energy?

 huge sigh....

1 comment:

  1. My eyes were good enough to be able to read what I had written. I am embarrassed that I can't finish a thought on paper without reading it! So, I have finished a few of the thoughts, my eyes are tired again and I will come back in a couple of days and reread and see what else needs to be fixed.


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