This seems to be on my mind a lot lately. I may have mentioned it before, either on here or my personal Facebook account. We knew all along (well since she learned to read at age 3) that Keeley would have trouble in school. She’s gifted in reading. Before she even started school, she was pulling down The Boxcar Children and Magic Treehouse series of books for herself to read. Actually reading them. Understanding them. At age 5. The co-hort she went into at mid-year now has a couple of kids that can read. Certainly not on that level.
Before school started, we had people saying, (paraphrasing) what she’s not going to school yet? Oh the age thing, yeah that gets you every time. Too bad they can’t do anything about that for smarter kids. She’s going to be so bored. You should really save for private school. You’re not sending her to public school are you? They’ll crush her spirit. You should really send her to private school. She’s going to be so bored. What are you going to do?
I wanted to investigate homeschooling. My husband put his foot down. It’s hard to blame him. I had this notion (put in my head somewhere) that Kindergarten was at the 2nd grade level from where WE went to school. So I spent all fall when I was pregnant with Casey (Sept-Nov) forcing her to sit still at a table for 2 hours and do worksheets. That was an unmitigated disaster. She didn’t want to sit still. She didn’t want to do the worksheets I wanted her to do. She didn’t want to be forced to learn things.
Now… I will say that on good days, no one threw a fit (including me- hormones raging and all)– and we learned something. I would venture to bet we learned something every day, even if it was just how to wear each other out. Even if it was how to persevere- we learned something. We learned that she worked better at her own pace. We learned that she really enjoys coloring and being artistic. We learned that on her own timetable, she can learn amazing– and I mean amazing things. We learned that our casual ‘faux’mschooling that we had done BEFORE that was really all she had needed in the first place. Throw her out some m & m’s, or make an example out of pretzels? She could count, add, subtract to her heart’s content. Pop a worksheet in front of her? Your chances were about 60/40 of it going well. We discovered that if you print out math problems with turkeys or snowflakes on the page, she’d do them and then adore the graphics. We learned that she’d learn so much from reading that it would astound you, and that given the chance she’d check out just about anything out of the library and come up with random facts weeks later. Those 3 months? They taught all of us a lot. Then we had December through August to just have down time and relax– and learn a LOT more than we did in those 3 months.
Funny how that works.
With everyone’s words still swarming in my ears, and prayers raining down for her teacher, we loaded her off to school. She didn’t want to go– it was her sister’s birthday and she wouldn’t be with her– she would miss it. She met her teacher. For a few days, she did fine. Then she got bored and started to misbehave. We chatted with her nightly (and every morning on the walk to the bus) about behavior. Over and over again. Eventually the lectures clicked and she started doing things positively to get herself noticed. She’s had good days ever since October. She learned that it gets her activities on Fridays. Candy. More candy. (Guess who got a cavity!) and of course.. more candy. We discovered the huge pitfall of school—she got zero playtime and very little sleep. When we wanted to do things on the weekend– she was completely crushed because of course– that was her ‘free’ time. She felt like a jailbird already. It’s become a nightly, and daily, and all weekend sort of battle. She wants to be free to play and learn what she wants to learn, but school keeps getting in the way. She never has time to read (she has to read Kindergarten AR books to test on at school, and they are too easy)… she doesn’t eat much breakfast, she doesn’t get enough sleep, she’s hard to get out of bed. She doesn’t finish her lunch most days (not enough time) and of course she’s now hounding on about tray lunches (which she won’t eat)– all because ‘some trays’ have a sticker that gets them guess what? Candy. She drags her feet and argues the entire time before leaving in the morning. She can’t put on her pants. She can’t stand up. She can’t put on her shoes. Can’t. Can’t. Can’t. My positive ‘I can do it myself, let me be first in line’… can’t do anything. She cries at the drop of a hat, and it’s not manipulative. She’s really struggling. Her vocabulary has slipped. She uses ‘ed’ on words she knows are incorrect. Because everyone else still does. Those advanced skills we taught her? Gone. Everyone has been a lot more ill, including high fevers that kept us at home for days on end. Yes we know it came from the school. She’s also learned to blank face lie. That’s nice, of course. Now don’t get me wrong, she’d tell a white lie now and again– but it’s become everything out of her mouth. I don’t know. I don’t know. I didn’t do it. Seriously. Why don’t you believe me? EVERYONE does this. Everyone does that. I’m NOT LYING. Seriously. I’m not. *sigh*
There are positive things, of course. She enjoys talking to the other kids. But we of course did not send her to school in order to learn from the other 5 and 6 year olds. We didn’t send her to socialize. We sent her to school to learn something educationally. So far…. she’s not learning what we want her to learn. Sure she stands in line. She is quieter. She is more patient. But maybe she’d have been those things anyway.
We’ve talked about private school, but of course their monthly fee is enough to cover a car payment. Add in the extra driving and yanking the other kids out of bed, or away from their own pursuits to shuttle her back and forth doesn’t really seem fair. Not to mention that we do have other kids, and while you ‘pay’ for free public education, it’s still a lot cheaper than private school. Not to mention that private school still sorts kids on age level. It still sorts them into classes of 20 kids. It still teaches to the lowest students and lets the gifted kids be bored. It doesn’t meet our needs, family situation or budget.
You know what does? Homeschooling. Not everyone wears matching pinafores and drive a 15 passenger van and be a shamer type of homeschooling. More like what we’ve already done, you know, before Kindergarten got in the way. One that allows you to eat a long lunch. It allows you to read appropriate reading level books. That allows you to work on the kind of math problems you want, have art more than once a week and do the same project everyone else does. No standing in line. No bus. Doing things (appropriate) on our own timetable (even weekends if we want) without feeling like we’re ‘stealing’ all her free time. One that allows you to be gifted. Work at a higher level. Without being punched by a 3rd grader repeatedly. Without having kids steal your stuff. Break your stuff. Bully you. With all the fun subjects you’d already be learning anyway, but one on one.
It’s something we’re seriously considering. I don’t need any negative feedback. I’m not asking for opinions. I’m not even asking for support. But when the system fails your child, you go out and be their advocate. When it still fails your child, you have to take action. We’re exploring our options and considering timing. That is all.