So, I promised more frequent posting, but I’m dashing this off pretty quickly, so please excuse any errors and the poor writing.
Change is pretty crazy, and many people have trouble with it. But in typical Boneblog fashion, when we make changes, we REALLY make changes.
Change Number One:
We bought a house. or, rather, we are still in the process of buying a house. We close tomorrow. It’s bigger, there’s more land, the location is prime, the school district is great. Oh, and there is plenty of room to park our big camper
And it needs work. A lot of work. In fact, we went on a walk-through last night and it only re-emphasized just how much work. It will take us months to do the work and lucky us, we get to carry two mortgages the entire time. Our target move date is June. Ish. There is so much work a typical family would not be sane to take it on.
But again, we do tend toward the outrageous. After all, you only go around once.
Change Number Two:
We’re homeschooling Ethan. Or, rather, I am. The situation at his school finally became untenable. It is not as though this is a rash decision. We have tried for five (5!) months to put the acceleration he needs into place. We were promised and promised but nothing came to fruition until November, when finally – after a sharply worded e-mail or two to the principal – he was accelerated to 2nd grade math. This should have happened in August, seeing as his classroom teacher was his accelerated math teacher last year and knew damn well he had already mastered the 1st grade curriculum. However, I had a bit of a run-in with her around, oh, October or so, where she questioned our method of parenting (an unwise decision on anybody’s part, quite frankly).
Later I found out from other staff members that it was not unlike this teacher to hold a grudge against parents who dared speak out, and that she was unlikely to let it go.
It appears she didn’t. Even after the acceleration was in place, she routinely “forgot” to send him to math class. He forgot too, and felt guilty because he believed it was his responsibility.
“You’re seven,” I assured him. “Your teacher is, I dunno, forty-seven. It is her responsibility, not yours, to ensure you get where you need to be when you need to be there.”
Greg and I were very, very patient with this until an incident just before winter break where Ethan was required to stay in from recess to complete a math exam because once again his teacher had neglected to send him to math class.
He was more than capable of doing the work but sped through it, upset about missing recess, and therefore did not score well. Ethan is very disappointed when he does not score well on anything, so it led to quite a spiral.
Still, we did not address it.
But the proverbial last straws came immediately upon returning to school after winter break.
“Ah,” I thought. “Surely now everyone is renewed and committed to a fresh start.”
First, Ethan didn’t want to go back to school. He found it excruciatingly boring to sit and wait for the other students to master a concept he had already mastered. One acceleration was in place but the teacher had flatly refused to put the other agreed-upon accelerations in place because she wanted him to “get used” to one before implementing the others so as not to overwhelm him. Really? Because him sitting there for hours twiddling his thumbs instead of having something enriching to do is a good thing, right?
Second, guess who didn’t go to math the first day back?
So I sent another e-mail to the teacher last Thursday afternoon and copied the principal. I explained that we had been very patient to this point, but our patience was waning. I explained that we expected Ethan to receive all the agreed-upon accelerations and we expected the teachers to work together to ensure he received daily instruction in math as often as possible, allowing for the odd unusual scheduling days, etc.
The response was this:
Nothing. Nothing Friday. Nothing Monday.
So, on Tuesday, I went and withdrew him from school. I asked the secretary twice to ensure that Ethan brought home his supplies that afternoon. Twice she assured me he would come home with them.
However, his teacher did brilliantly remember to keep his folder that goes back and forth between school and home. So it is not as though she was unaware of the withdrawal.
Talk about passive-aggressive.
So we began homeschool in earnest yesterday after an intense weekend of planning and a Trojan virus infection in my computer.
We absolutely loved it.
“It felt like I was only in school for 1 hour!” Ethan exclaimed. In reality, we did 5.5 hours worth of instruction. Heavy, detailed instruction. We studied dams, particularly the Hoover Dam (which we will be visiting this summer) and learned about the Johnstown Flood. We read a book about what it was like working on the Hoover Dam.
Ethan picked his first country of study (Turkey), and we intend to study Turkish history and culture and eat at a Turkish restaurant (this idea, I should point out, was lauded and copied by others in a foodie forum I visit). We are going to pick a different country every week or so.
We signed up for skating lessons and re-upped our memberships to the St. Louis Science Center and St. Louis Zoo.
Ethan did math worksheets and reading worksheets and language arts worksheets. He worked on designing covers for the binders to hold his work just in case the prosecuting attorney comes sniffing around looking to ensure we’re really doing something.
I joined up with an online homeschooling social group that has several outings per week from which to choose so he’ll have a social life.
And perhaps best of all, he still gets to attend his one-day-per-week gifted pullout program at the district.
I have always been a big supporter of our public school system, and I still do not think it is all bad. Don’t get me wrong. Last year Ethan had an amazing teacher who accelerated as much as she possibly could with the resources she had. He still has wonderful gifted teachers who helped us to realize we weren’t crazy, overbearing, or demanding in seeking a decent education for our son.
I always thought homeschooling was a little wonky, a little out there. I thought it was something the uber-religious did because they were right wing extremists who didn’t like government no matter what. But that just isn’t true anymore. There is an entire website devoted to those of us who are secular homeschoolers.
When we got to the end of our rope I found myself thinking, “Why in hell are we putting up with this when we don’t have to? Why aren’t we recognizing that we have the means and the ability to give Ethan the education he needs, to inspire him to love learning when it’s being killed where he is? And most importantly, why are we walking lockstep with others? Why aren’t we recognizing that each kid has his/her own unique educational path?”
So for now, we have joined the ranks of secular homeschoolers who are doing what they do because they just want their kids’ educational needs met. It is a luxury that we are able to make these kinds of changes and I am grateful.
How is Ethan taking this, you might wonder?
This morning he got out of bed the happiest I have seen him in months. He was actually anticipating the day and even cheerfully and voluntarily began his worksheets while he ate his breakfast.
If that ain’t validation, folks, I don’t know what is.