Perhaps I should start posting on Friday and call it the Friday Rant. Who am I kidding…it would have to be the Weekly Rant because I can’t seem to commit to a particular day…
I’m still in a bit of a state.
Shortly after my last post, I felt worlds better. (Thank you to those who read and especially those of you who offered such kind, helpful words!!) The purging of my angst temporarily put me back on sturdy ground.
Then… the school folders started piling in, and sure enough, as soon as I was feeling like a calm human again, the mere sight of these upcoming end-of-year events began making me feel all hivey.
Y’all, I can not say enough wonderful things about my children’s school and specifically these human angels that teach them every day. I mean that with the utmost sincerity.
Really…it’s not the school; it’s me. Well, some of it’s school, but a lot is me or rather our family. Being ruled by a strict public school schedule is challenging, and by this time of year we are all so done with it all.
Still, I’m different.
Yet, I keep thinking that someday I’ll just morph into a person who meshes well into places and situations that the majority of folks appear to manage without a hiccup. Thus far, nothing of the sort has happened.
Let’s dive right in:
I want to homeschool the kids next year.
There. I said it.
This is hard for me to say out loud because, yes, in the past, I have judged parents who homeschool.
I’m sorry, but I have.
I have some amazing friends who homeschool, so it’s not true that I’ve judged every parent who homeschools; I’ve just interacted with too many people who homeschool who I’ve observed to be controlling and overprotective. (Another topic for another day for sure.)
However, when comes down to it, I don’t have the energy to do more than silently judge from a distance, and really I don’t care if you homeschool, send your kids to public or private school or whatever. Everyone has a unique set of circumstances.
Many of my past feelings have a lot to do with my own insecurity. (Dang, doesn’t everything these days?!) I could never see myself homeschooling because I need ample hours of time to myself for my mental heath, and I stand in a sort of awe at many of these people (usually women) who never send their kids away.
So here I am. Once I judged; now I wanna homeschool.
I remember several years ago when Piers and Wallace were in pre-K and kindergarten and things were flowing along in the loveliest of ways because I had all these hours alone that I hadn’t had in six years.
My dear friend, Zanna, who at the time had a child in third grade (as Piers is now), had something of a come-apart in my car late one night after book club. As in…I went to drop her off at her house, and she wouldn’t exit the vehicle.
So there I was, night owl that I am thankfully, intellectually knowing I needed to go home and put my ass to bed so I could be cognizant for the next morning, out-the-door jam, but I also wanted to know what had her so upset.
The short on Zanna: Third grade is the year where shit gets real in GA public schools. Only now, after living through a third grade year with Piers, can I grasp what Zanna was going through. GMAS (Georgia Milestones Assessment System) prep is no joke. Zanna’s most-challenging child (academically speaking) was right in the middle of GMAS when she broke down in my car.
When Zanna told me she wanted to homeschool, I thought SHE was the one with the problem. I immediately saw her in a different light than before and began to think she couldn’t get her kids off the boob and needed to tell her then third-grader to suck it up; this is how the world works.
I feel bad, but this is how I felt. I AM a good friend, and I truly felt for Zanna. It was obvious that she was in a bad way and that whatever she was dealing with was rough. Still…I didn’t GET it.
This is the year I began to truly grasp what Zanna was dealing with.
Now, before I had up-close-and-personal experience with the GMAS, when it came to my own children, my thoughts were — Okay, this is life, they can suck it up and deal. It’s temporary; let’s get through it. It’s good prep for further things they have to do one day. Not everything in life is fun and rosy and let’s face it; they’re not in preschool anymore.
After experiencing the GMAS, my thoughts have changed completely. The hardcore prep-work started in January, and they took the test in April.
For three months, this test consumed my over-achieving kid. It was insanity. He was a hot, anxious mess many many many days. He couldn’t sleep. He started wetting the bed again (something we dealt with when he was younger), and the wet bed was the least of my concerns. He would wake up and realize that he had wet his bed and then would stand in the bathroom and scream that he hated himself. As in “I’m a complete moron!! WHO does this at nine years old?”
It took me a week or so of this and sitting with him and rubbing his back trying to calm him down so he could sleep before he finally confessed to me that he was “terrified” of the GMAS.
Oh my freaking word.
What the hell?
I had gone the route of not mentioning the stupid test because I don’t give two flips how he “performs” on it. Piers is a solid student who does well in school. Therefore, I’m fortunate that I don’t really have to worry about it. There was no doubt in my mind that he would do fine.
Still, he was affected, and so were his classmates.
One afternoon during the hardcore test prep, Piers’ friend Mitchell, came home with us. I adore Mitchell. He’s precocious, wicked-smart, and just an all-around great kid. But on this particular day, he seemed…different.
After we took him home, I mentioned it to Piers who said, “Well I’m sure he’s worried about the GMAS. He has to get a lot of extra help.”
This surprised me. Nothing about Mitchell would have ever led me to think that he had any issues with school.
I probed further, and Piers offered more.
“Mitchell can’t read.”
“What do you mean he can’t read?”
“Well…he can read…but not like chapter books and stuff. He’s a bad reader.”
I had to take a very deep breath. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, Wallace, my second grader, struggles with reading. We’re still piecing it all together, but everything points to dyslexia so I’m ultra-sensitive about this sort of thing, and I did not like hearing Piers label his friend a bad reader. GRRR.
“Piers. Who told you he’s a “bad” reader? People have different strengths. Let’s be mindful about how we word things.” I cut my eyes at his brother who is very aware that he’s not the best reader.
“It’s a known fact in my class, Mom. So is Jack.” (another kid I adore)
Let me pause a minute and remind you (or perhaps I’ve never mentioned it) — Piers is a good reader, but his social skills leave a lot to be desired. If there were remedial empathy classes, he’d be in them for sure. We work on this A LOT, and he’s improving…but yeah. He’s relatively well-liked by his peers because he does well in school, and he’s a good athlete, AND he’s what I call conventionally masculine. Girls like him and other boys admire him in a way that seems rather foreign to me, maybe because I’m female; I don’t know. And I say all that not to be a braggy mother, so I hope it’s not coming across that way. These are NOT things we value in our home. I want them to do well, but being kind and tolerant and a good friend come WAY ahead of school performance. We have to work a lot with Piers and help him understand the difference in being popular and having true friends. And while we’re at it, Piers has “bad” handwriting. He actually has dysgraphia, but his classmates don’t know that; they just know when he’s in a group they better not choose him to do the writing if they want it to be legible.
Back to this “known fact” of Mitchell being a “bad” reader.
What the hell?
So after this conversation I began paying closer attention to Piers and other kids in his class. We were inviting classmates over for playdates right and left. (You know I’m trying to get the scoop if I’m hosting multiple playdates — anything for research.)
It was telling, and there was a lot I did not like at all.
Perhaps it’s the age, but these kids seem to live in extremes.
There are “good” readers and “bad” readers.
“Liam is funny but he’s not smart at all.” — OMG, Liam strikes me as genius-level smart.
Dylan is an athlete but he’s “terrible” at math and doesn’t know “any” of his multiplication tables. Therefore, “Dylan is athletic.” I guess if you’re not Dylan you’re not athletic. Geez.
There are certain kids who everyone seems to see as the “good” kids or rather the kids everyone wants to be like. They aren’t necessarily the smartest, but they do well enough. They’re attractive and have decent social skills. Even with Piers’ emotional intelligence not being the best, I would say he fits this mold — likely because he is a boy and the iffy social skills, fidgeting, and handwriting are blamed on that. But it’s accepted as well. I do not want this sort of culture raising my children. (I’ll get into this more in my follow-up post.) I realize I’m all over the place…
I also began seeing Piers speak dismissively of kids in his class who didn’t necessarily fit the mold. (You can imagine the number of conversations we’re having about this…)
The more I’ve observed, I see Mitchell wanting to hang out with Piers but Piers seems indifferent to Mitchell. Mitchell who IS smart and who IS athletic, but not THE smartest or the MOST athletic. (Reading is harder for him, and instead of liking football, soccer, and baseball, he’s into dirt bikes.) I’ve just observed this suburban pecking order that seems further enhanced by a freaking one-dimensional education curriculum that showcases/highlights the ‘smart’ kids while creating a separateness from the ‘less-smart’ kids. (Quotations are used to show that I don’t think this but it appears as though students are getting this message.)
Piers’ anxiety has improved now that GMAS is done, but all of it left a sour taste in my mouth. I never mentioned any of it to Piers’ teacher because I absolutely see her as doing everything in her power to not perpetuate these behaviors, and let’s face it, teachers only have so much time and patience for parents. I chime in occasionally but try to reign myself in and not be “that” parent, but when you work in a system and are expected to adhere and perform to this system’s standards, teachers feel pressure, and it’s impossible to not transfer some of it to the students.
My experience with every teacher my children have had has been overwhelmingly positive. I know there are bad eggs in every hen-house, but I mostly see a broken system with excellent teachers who could do so much more if they weren’t so damn regulated.
This got long, but Wallace is nearly opposite in terms of strengths and weaknesses.
Reading is a struggle, but he has exemplary social skills. But…he is often given a hard time by these hyper-masculine boys because he isn’t crazy competitive.
Wallace didn’t have to take GMAS in second grade, but they do have lots of tests to see where they stand, so he was still impacted by this ridiculous test-crazy/outcome-obsessed school culture. The last four weeks have been wonderful for him now that testing is over. His teacher has been reading books out loud to the class, and they’ve had plenty of unstructured, creative time that his little soul demands.
I’m kind of all over the place. I’ve been picking friends’ brains, and I hear the same thing over and over.
“What you describe is exactly what pushed us into homeschool territory.”
Gil is not exactly onboard with the whole idea, but he’s coming around. We’ve considered homeschooling the boys for middle school anyway. This is just moving the initial plan up a few years.
And I feel it’s important to mention that the tests are only one factor in this homeschool decision. I also KNOW that there are kids who aren’t as affected by standardized tests. Many students do fine and don’t seem remotely bothered by them.
I also care deeply about education as a whole, which is a big reason I’ve sent my children to public schools for the past four years. I come from a long line of educators. I want to support public schools, and more importantly I want all students to have a high-quality education. And I think many students are getting that. There are amazing districts and schools and educators all over the US.
But what I’ve witnessed this year in what’s considered one of best schools in our district, has shown me that it is not working that well for my kids, and it’s time to look at other options.
Obviously there are loads of things to consider — my job is a big one. I’ve worked more over the past year, and this wouldn’t have been possible had they NOT been in regular school. There are also a few other alternative schools in our area that might be a better fit, but out of everything I’ve looked at, homeschooling looks like the most ideal fit for our family.
I know it won’t be easy, and there will certainly be challenges, but it feels like the right move in a giant way.
There’s an entire other component to all of this that I’ll have to share in another post. My decision isn’t definite, but I’m leaning that way; and it’s a BIG lean.
I would love to hear your thoughts on homeschooling. Anyone with direct experience? I’m in the process of doing something of a trial run over the summer. We’re keeping extra activities to a minimum (unlike last summer), so it should be interesting.
This is long, so I’ll end rather abruptly. Have a wonderful weekend!