I feel pulled in so many directions, it’s really hard to see what is what. Here is the story: she was at a wonderful school last year for one year of nursery and kindergarten. We loved it, she loved it, and she couldn’t wait to get there in the morning. That school was creative and engaging, and fun (still is). But, it had some issues. One, it was 30 minutes away, and it meant that I was driving 2 hours back and forth every day for her to go there, which I happily did when things were going well. Two, there was an issue with a “troubled” child, or a “child-in-crisis”, and it directly affected our daughter. Ultimately, the school decided to remove that child, but not without first putting our daughter into harm’s way. It’s certainly complicated, but we left the school because we didn’t have faith in the administration to support the kids, and the families of the kids, that were in the direct line of “the bully”, and it no longer felt worth our commute time. That was important to us, because what if something were to happen again at the school, would our daughter have to endure months of “abuse” with the school brushing it off because our daughter has a smile on her face?
We decided to look elsewhere. Now, I should point out that I never considered public school for our daughter. That’s me, not my husband— he follows my lead when it comes to school though. She is a very bright and creative child. I want her childhood to stay innocently in her creative mind. Whatever she wants to do in her life when she grows up is up to her; at this time she loves music, art, fantasy play, reading, stories, and she has an elaborate, intricate mind that creates complex games and stories. My feeling about public school is that children should conform to this small window of what is considered “normal” developmentally for a particular age. If a child is an experiential learner who has great concentration to do in-depth studies of whatever interests her at that time, then worksheets, homework and spelling tests are going to bore her to tears. I worry with No Child Left Behind that schools concentrate too much on test scores— and that takes care of all the fun taken out of learning.
We found another independent school, much closer, perhaps more traditional than her first school, but we felt that was a small sacrifice for a shorter commute and a stronger administration.
I should also point out that we can’t necessarily afford these schools but as with everything that is important to me, I find a way to sacrifice something else. Our daughter is worth it after all.
I’m impractical— although well-meaning.
This school year, unfortunately, hasn’t had a smooth start. Because of that, I am fretting that we (or I) made a mistake sending her to this new school. I’m sure the school is great, just like many public schools are, but we’re not feeling too happy, and our daughter isn’t too happy, and so the tuition that we can’t “really” afford, doesn’t feel worth it. I could go into all the details of why we’re not happy, but I won’t. Bottom line, we’ve had 3 meetings so far with the teacher for various reasons and we’re just 2 and a bit months in. My husband and I don’t believe that any of these meetings are really about our daughter because, as her teacher says, she is fully engaged, an avid participant, and has made lots of friends. So, we’re unhappy and our daughter is dragging her feet and saying she doesn’t want to go to school. Ch-ching— there goes our money down the drain.
Now, I have to decide what to do next.
Here are the options as I see them: keep her there and hope for improvement, pull her out and enroll her in another school (mid-year— yikes!), or pull her out and try home schooling.
Here’s where I am at: I’m going to look at the public school, it has a great reputation after all. I’m obsessively thinking about how to home school. I’m even considering sending her back to her old school, although I’m not sure that’s a possibility.
I watched this TED talk video on “unschooling”, I’ve never really thought much about it before. Anyway, since I’m already thinking about home-schooling this video fed right into my path. There was a term the speaker said that I love for my blog: free-range kids. Imagine that? Fits…Right…In…With…Me.
I’m not this uber-smart lady. I’m disorganized, lack time-management skills, and tend to be lazily inclined. It would be a challenge for me to teach my daughter, but I could do it. The biggest hold back for me though, is that my daughter is a very social kid. No matter how many classes I signed her up for, or even if I found a network of like-minded home schooling families, it would never be the same as having a choice of whom to play with at recess, and my daughter always mentions that she plays with at least 7 kids at recess.
Maybe she doesn’t need that though?
Isn’t it better to have a close-knit set of friends that you can really trust? Building meaningful relationships makes for a happier, supported life. Home schooling doesn’t have to be isolating. There is a very proactive home schooling network where I live, and the social and academic activities within it are abundant. Another advantage, I would say.
I’ve been fantasizing… Just imagine being able to cater your child’s education to exactly (or as close as) what he or she and you want.
It would be a challenge for me to stay motivated, and I would have to be more disciplined. I’m willing to do the work though.
Here’s where my fantasy starts: I would get some chickens and a wood-burning stove. We would have responsibility: feeding and tending to the chickens and cleaning the coop daily, we’d save money on heating by burning our own wood and both of those things could be learning tools, in more ways than one. We could have fun with math by setting up a “store”, and learning budgets, and get some math cubes or something similar and build. I could teach her real history— or at least “the people’s history”, which I’d like to learn myself. We could learn history and social studies through literature, we could learn philosophy by asking questions, And, science? Well, it’s never been a strong subject for me, but why not learn science through food and how to grow your own? It’s just a matter of getting a book and finding a fun way of teaching it. We could cook together (math and science), we could make our own cleaning products (math and science), we could do yard work together— there are lots of learning opportunities. We could sew doll clothes and she could help me make hats. We could get up every day and go for a long walk or bike ride after breakfast, and she could do swimming lessons or dance, gymnastics, or kung-fu or karate, or circus arts. I would sign her up for a great art class, and she already does piano and Spanish classes. We could volunteer at various organizations. And, we could take off for a few days and go the museums in New York City. Heck, there are great museums here in Massachusetts.
I could handle, certainly, a public school curriculum, when she’s older she could write papers on subjects and stories. She could have her own website— it would probably be more fun than mine.
Here’s another issue I have with a big public school. We (I) are raising our daughter to make responsible choices when it comes to eating and media among other issues with kids today. She doesn’t eat fast food, or candy— but we make special treats in healthier versions. She doesn’t watch any television— but we have family movie night. I would say we are raising her with an alternative lifestyle, and we are happy with that decision. If she goes to a school where there are 550 students enrolled, then does that make her the outcast or minority?
Everything I write about here is my mission to move more to an alternative, unconventional life, isn’t this right in line with it? Maybe, I don’t fit into a conventional, public school system (I never did).
My fear though, is that if I pull my daughter out of “society”, it could negatively affect her. That doesn’t have to be the case though either. I don’t follow what the mainstream dictates, why should it be any different with my child from the food we eat? Maybe home schooling is a natural progression for someone pulling away from conventional ideas.
Our “home school” could have all her stuffed animals and toys sitting in the group while we read and learn. That’s okay with me as long as we get out and socialize. Can you imagine how happy she would be to have her favorite monkey, “Ruben”, raise it’s hand to ask about the subject we’re studying?
Here’s where I am at this time, I am going to tour the local public school, I’m waiting to hear back from her former school to see if that’s a possibility, I’ve reached out to a local home schooling network, and I’m researching and researching what the possibilities are. At this point, it doesn’t feel like this new school is the right fit for us, or worth our hard-earned and well-stretched dollars. We’re not making any rash decisions here, but the idea of free-range learning is very tempting.
What are your experiences? Have you struggled to find the right schooling for your children? What works for you?