Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm Such A Rebel...Bucking The System

An interesting conversation with a friend yesterday spawned this post. And then another conversation with another friend today solidified that I simply had to blog about this.

I decided to keep our oldest 2 home from school on Monday. It was pouring, it was supposed to snow 6 inches, and the person who usually graciously helps me get them after school had a sick little one at home and couldn't help that day.

So, at 8:00 that morning, I made the command decision that the boys would be staying home. Yes, the school is only 2-3 blocks away at the end of our street, but the thought of loading and unloading the 1 yr old and 2 yr old in a stroller, and bringing our slow poke 4 year old along--not  to mention this ever burgeoning, heavy belly that goes everywhere I do-- on this RAINY day...on this road:

Was enough to make me cry.

Yes, that's the school alllllllll the way at the end of the the TOP of the next hill. See all those cars parked along the side. Picture all of  them plus cars lining the other side of the street as well. They park up ON the sidewalk, which leaves me no choice but to walk in traffic with all the kids. Pushing a double stroller. Enormously pregnant. In the rain. I've done it before. Many times. And lived to tell the tale.

All of these things flashed through my mind and made my decision in 2 seconds flat.

Well, I forgot to call the school.

So, I got a call later that day with a message from someone at the school. She asked me to call the school with the "reason for R's absence."

I immediately got annoyed.

I know, that's a hard thing to imagine-me annoyed.

But I thought, "I have to call YOU to give YOU a "reason" why they aren't in school??"

If I want to spend the day with my son, I have to ask permission. And the reason given must be deemed permissible by the administration.

Any time they are late or miss, I must write a note explaining why.

If they are late or miss too many times, if the administration doesn't deem it permissible, the boys can receive demerits. Which can lead to different punishments.

I have a real problem with asking anyone permission for anything having to do with my children.

Now, if you have read my blog over the years (and God help you if you have...I imagine you've had some intensive therapy as a result), you know that I struggled with even sending our oldest to school to begin with. I wanted to homeschool. I felt called and convicted to be the one to teach my kids.

I am not saying that is or should be every parent's feeling, but it was/is mine.

As a teenager I was staunchly opposed to homeschooling. I thought it was weird and destructive and dangerous. I thought it left the homeschooled kids at a huge disadvantage socially, academically, and scholastically. And I was 16 so I had obviously figured it all out. ;)

Once I made it into my twenties (when I really knew everything) I started seeing the world a little differently. I had a job that took me inside public schools in a tri-state area and I interacted every day with high school and middle school students. I saw and experienced a lot. I saw fights, disrespect, rudeness, threats, disruption, harried teachers and substitutes doing their best to hold the class together, let alone actually follow the lesson plan. I saw students built like professional athletes challenging and sassing teachers who looked like they were still in junior high. I listened to kids bad mouth their teachers, other students, and completely unplug in the classroom--and usually distract enough others to create a disturbance and derail class.

I watched as some teachers took the "let's all be friends" route and cursed, swore and told off-color jokes in the classroom. I was present one day when a twelfth grade teacher called the janitor a "Rat Bastard" in front of the whole class because he (the janitor) had taken her trash can and not returned it.

I remember planning a hiding place or route of escape whenever I would visit a high school--just in case a student or someone else came to school with a weapon the day I was there.

Some days it was like I was right back in high school, all gawky with braces, steeling myself to what the other kids would say to me about my hair or my clothes, etc. I had high school "boys" make suggestive comments, ask me for my phone number, and draw me incredibly detailed pictures.

I had a student stand up in class one day and announce he was going to bring a gun to school the next day and "shoot everyone" because his team didn't win the game we were playing. (I spoke with the administration about this comment, in light of their zero tolerance policy, and was politely brushed off.)

I spoke with many, many girls who were pregnant or already had kids...and were only in 10th grade or younger. I listened as some girls cried to me about their boyfriends using them and leaving them or their awful home lives where they received no support or encouragement.

I could go on and on (and probably already did...)

All of this started changing my views about public schooling. It had changed so dramatically in even the short time since I'd been a student.

And then, in 2005, R was born.

And my world changed over-night.

I had to leave him at 3 months so I could go back to work. I cried all night the night before and the entire day of. I don't think the daycare staff had ever seen a mom cry so hard.

I managed to work for a year, have another baby, and continue to use daycare. Every day I cried after dropping them off, wondering why I wasn't home with them.

Finally, after doing the math, Joe and I realized that I was working to pay daycare. It really wasn't worth it for us to have me work.

Glorious day! I was able to give my notice and be home with my babies.

(Yes, yes...I DO Know the HUGE and enormous blessing that is. And my heart breaks for all the moms who would love to be home with their kids but can't for whatever reason.)

Let's move forward to the fall of 2010. I was all set to homeschool R. Joe was on board (reluctantly and hesitantly) with me trying out homeschooling for kindergarten.

3 days before registration, I got cold feet. I started remembering all the fun parts of school when I was a kid and I worried that I was going to make him miss out on some of what were fun memories for me. Those early, rite of passage type things like school shopping, a new backpack and pencil box, the first day of school smell (you know, the new classroom smell.) Field trips, gold stars, etc.

And I caved.

There were also some less than supportive comments from friends and family members at the decision to homeschool, so I had that on my shoulders as well.

I caved.

I caved and I hate that I did.

So....we've survived almost 2 full years of public school and where am I today with the thought of keeping the kids in school?

Same place.

I question it. I hate it and I still feel just as compelled, if not more so, to be the one who teaches my kids.

That call from the secretary asking me to call with the "reason" for R's absence was the final straw.

I feel like so many of my rights and responsibilities are being stripped away.

My kids have 7 hours a day with people I don't know, being treated in ways I have no idea about, and being taught things, passively and actively, that I may totally disagree with. But I will never know.

Some things I do know they've been taught? How to spell the 'F' word, that 'Dick' is sometimes used as a 'bad word' and the middle finger is the "baddest word of all." They have been told about what Hell is and who goes there (all compliments of classmates). They will learn the wonders of evolution in a short time and already hold beliefs (based on school teachings) about how long ago the dinosaurs were on earth.

They bring home books about witches and Halloween that I would rather they didn't. R was discouraged at one time from trying to read books above his grade level, and (IMHO) bullied by a lunch aid at another time.

L has been ignored by a (different) lunch aid when he asked for help opening his lunch (more than once). I found this out when I kept finding unopened snacks in his lunch box. Now we put everything in zip lock baggies, but the thought that he raised his hand and was ignored enrages me. L thought it was no big deal...but I thought it was a big deal.

Are there only bad things in school? Of course not. In fact, we actually LOVE both the boys' teachers. We have been very, very blessed with who they have had for teachers.

But these things are enough to make me question even more our decision to send them to school when I could teach them outside of school.

I would immediately dress them in overalls, give them bowl hair cuts, seclude them from all outside contact, and make them marry their sisters.


I know that's the kind of scenario many people picture.

In fact, they would probably have more and better interaction with other kids their age and other ages because it would be in a different environment. Instead of an over crowded classroom filled with kids at all different levels of learning and temperaments, where teachers have to spend 7 hours a day entertaining and cajoling students to pay attention, they could do shorter time periods in a smaller, more controlled environment so they are actually focusing on the lesson rather than on Jimmy who has climbed under his desk for the 5th time. (This is not an arbitrary example. I observed in L's class twice this year and both times watched as kids were up and down, disrupting the room over and over. I was exhausted just from watching. I can't imagine being a little kindergartner, where this whole school business is all new anyway, and having to decipher what the teacher is saying while she repeatedly admonishes the active students over and over.)

I am a rule follower by nature. I find comfort in following directions. I love to read the manual to anything new. I used to take the Policies & Procedures Manual home from work to read just for fun. Seriously.

I don't buck the system in most ways.

I pay my taxes
I go the speed limit (ish)
I obey the law
I brush twice a day
I vaccinate
I sleep my babies on their backs
I have a huge crush on respect for law enforcement and military
If I get too much change back, I immediately bring it to the cashier's attention
If I forget to pay for something in my cart, I will take it back in
I vote

But this is where I feel like it's me against the mainstream.

I don't want to send my kids to someone else to be taught anymore.

I think there was/is a place for it. Certainly back when the entire family was out in the field and had very little if any education themselves, a teacher who was college educated was the best option. Even today, many parents can't afford to stay home and school their kids. Many say they have no desire to. I've heard lots of people say their kids wouldn't listen to them if they schooled them at home. (That one always makes me sad.)

Many don't feel adequate enough to teach their kids. (And after laboring over my kids' kindergarten and 1st grade homework, I understand that feeling.)

But I still feel convicted.

Anyone can have a baby. The hospital sends you home with a folder of info and wishes you well after a couple of days.'re on your own. Your kids are under the radar.

But....all of the sudden when they turn 5 or 6, it's time to register them for school. And everything changes.

Suddenly you owe the school all kinds of explanations and are required to get so many permissions from them concerning your own kids.

It has always bothered me that between the hours of 8:20 am and 3:00 pm, Monday through Friday for 9 months of the year, if I wanted to see, talk to or spend time with my school-aged kids, I have to get permission. I have to ask someone else if it's okay. And if it's not deemed appropriate or permissible, then I can face repercussions including court for not sending my kids to school.

I get it on some levels. There are those kids who wouldn't get an education if it wasn't for public schools and government mandates about education.

And the rules have to be the same across the board or there can be trouble. I really do get that.

And as long as I have them registered in public (or even private) schools, I have signed on to those conditions.

So here is where I am signing OFF from those conditions.

I don't want to feel like I'm mindlessly cow towing to these rules simply because it's expected and the "norm." For so many it's simply unheard of to think of bucking the system and taking the care and education of their own children into their control, their responsibility.

I am ultimately responsible for who these kids become. Or at least for preparing them for all of life. Not just the scholastic parts, but the spiritual, mental and emotional parts as well. I take that very seriously.

So, for me, that means something different than the standard K-12 public or private schools.

Here's where I'm becoming a rebel of sorts.

And if you don't feel these same be it. I can only act on what I feel is best for my family. And, quite honestly, not everyone SHOULD homeschool.

And I know there is an entire system available to me to aid in making sure they receive a quality education. Homeschool Co-ops, groups and even public libraries offer great programs for homeschoolers and support for parents. I'm excited. My teeth are actually chattering at the idea of finally doing what I have felt called to do for years.

We haven't solidified the way we'll go about this yet: homeschool, cyber school, etc. Joe is trepidatiously dipping his toe in the water of doing something outside the norm. (Did you catch that $5 word I just used?)

We're just started to look into our options. And it's very exciting!

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