Friday, February 26, 2010

The Reason for the Journey

What if the public school system has failed your child?

We are taught as parents, and the kids are taught from infancy, that it's important to be the best. It's imperative to be the best. I don't like perfect kids because, well, there's no such thing. But, there are a lot of kids who either think they are or are pursuing that perfection. And/or they have parents insisting they pursue that perfection. (I am a reformed parent. When Kyndal didn't get "chosen" to be in the honor society in 7th grade, I was offended and upset! She never wanted to apply for it anyway and could care less. But, I was almost embarrassed that my self-perceived perfect child wasn't chosen ... more because of the way I thought it made me look, not her. And I can remember sitting at the 6th grade orientation and being asked only one question by more than one mother, "What honors classes did Kyndal get into?" My response was, "Oh, Kyndal is really in this school thing to get a husband." How dare them, really????!!!)

I like excellent kids. I like kids who take the gifts, and weaknesses, that God gave them and strive to use them to their fullest potential, and allow themselves to fail sometimes in the process. And, all the while, being happy and fulfulled with what they are doing, instead of always feeling like they need to do more!

I don't like a school that only cares about lifting up the perfect kids.

Kids are told to be in national honor societies and all honors classes and start playing the sport they plan to play professionally by the age of four. Kids are taught that nothing is as important as those things .. not family, not friends, not spiritual upbringing, not jobs. Kids and their parents fight to get them involved in those recognizable activities at the exclusion of all things.

But what if you don't have one of those kids? What if you are blessed to have a kid who actually doesn't want to pursue those things, but would rather spend time with their family and friends? What if your kid is brilliant and talented and has a huge heart and love for people, but doesn't get straight A's? What if your kid is failing in the public school system because he doesn't fit the required mold?

Well, you homeschool him.

I never thought I would hear myself say that I am a homeschooling mom. Technically, I guess I'm not yet because we aren't planning on homeschooling Dawson until next year. He will be in the 8th grade. Let's just say I never thought I would seriously be planning it, and ordering curriculum and getting excited!

But, I am.

It all started around the 3rd grade. Actually it started in the 2nd grade. Dawson had a teacher that was fabulous! She was tough as nails and had extremely high expectations. She didn't let Dawson get away with anything! Most parents requested that their kids not get her. Dawson loved her so much that he cried on the last day of school. He still talks about her to this day.

In the 3rd grade is when education shifts from caring about the child to caring about the state testing. Dawson has slipped further and further off the radar every year since then.

He's always been the class clown. I've always been told that I should have him tested for ADHD, which I refused to do. This is a kid that can sit for hours and do anything he wants to do. I was not going to medicate him for the school's sake.

Around the 4th grade I read an article about students, mostly boys, with a kind of learning disability where they were unable to understand how Points A, B, C and D had anything to do with the final destination. It said that parents of this kind of child would have to help them break down their lessons into bite-sized pieces until they were much older. It was then that I started taking an active role in Dawson's day-to-day school activities. At the elementary level, it's not hard to do. They have one, or just a few teachers if they do rotations, and those teachers are very vested in the 60 or so kids they have in their classes. Once they hit 6th grade in our city, all 8 schools combine into one 6th Grade Center school. And in Dawson's class there are around 700 kids. Can you say, "A small fish in a big pond?" And, thus, he was lost. And, thus, the teachers lose their vested interest in the kids.

I've tried to stay active. But, when you are e-mailing 7 teachers and a counselor, some who respond and some who don't, it's difficult. Or, by the time they get back to you it's too late and the problem has already occurred. Or, there are so many kids that they frankly just don't care anymore.

And that's where we are. The teachers don't know Dawson. They don't know his strengths and weaknesses and how he learns best and why he's talkative when he's feeling insecure. And, they don't care. They just want his hour to be over so they can move on to the next hour of kids they don't care about.

I've just been so frustrated I could cry, and have at times. I see my son failing and I can't get anyone to help me! And then on top of that he's worried about getting beat up at school, just because. (And I know that once they get into high school, that happens to kids every single day. And, it gets bloody. You almost have to be a corrections officer to be a teacher at that level. And we're a nice, upper middle class, well adjusted, primarily Christian city.)

He's stressed. I'm stressed. And he's not being given the opportunity to live up to his fullest potential.

I have to help him.

This year Dawson started begging me to homeschool him. In fact, he even said that's all he wants for his 14th birthday. If you were his mom, what would you do?