Thursday, September 06, 2012

The School that Never Ends

Well, school has been going on for a month now. We started before public school did in our area simply because it was hotter than blue blazes here and we weren't doing anything anyway. I figured we might as well get some learnin' in while our bodies languished in the horrific heat that has been this Oklahoma summer.

Abby is in 10th grade this year. I like saying 10th grade better than I like saying Sophomore. I remember being a Sophomore and how grown up I felt. I refuse to think of her that way. Okay, I actually don't refuse to think that way - I think it often. Especially when I look at her and think Oh holy night, she is dadgum near an adult! and then I cry a little. Abby has struggled in school since 4th grade. Actually I can remember about halfway through her 3rd grade year her teacher asking if anything was going on at home because she had just decided to stop trying. That was where Status: Emo began. By 6th grade she was full-on committed to the emo persona and cost me a ton in black eyeliner alone. Thankfully by 7th grade the eyeliner grew passe' and while her hair still stayed over her eyes until halfway through the year, she began to speak again and somewhat interact with other humans. I doubt she will ever be an outgoing person. She is too much like her daddy. But the fact that she is very shy and quiet did her no favors whatsoever in school. She would not ask for help because then someone might look at her. Of course, I always queried, "Uh...don't you WANT them to look at you? You know, to like, HELP YOU?" and she would shrink back in abject horror like I had just asked her to pick her teeth with toenail clippings. In Abbyland, being unnoticed is totally okay. In Publicschoolville, though, not so much. Add in a teacher who declared one of her classes to be "unteachable" and told them he was giving up on them all. Abby came home that night, dropped her book in the floor and said, "If I'm unteachable, why try anymore?" Awesome.

Sam is an 8th grader this year and while Sam is far more outgoing than his sister, he isn't the most socially flamboyant either. Sam has always fared better around adults than kids. The adults at church think he is amazing and he feels the same. Put him in a room of adults and he is completely at ease. Make him  help with the Preschool VBS class, though, and he will come into your office about mid-week and beg you to release him from his bound duty to spend 2 1/2 hours a night doing the equivalent of herding orphan pigs. He is part of the Brotherhood at church (sounds sinister, but isn't) because he is so eager to be a part of what the men in the church are doing. Sam has also developed a stutter this past year and lemme tell ya, people are cruel. You'd think it would just be the kids, but folks, I have literally witnessed adults make fun of his speech. In front of his momma. So put him in a crowd of people where he knows they are going to either make fun of or get frustrated with him and what happens? His stutter gets worse. By the end of the school year last year, between the bullying and fighting, being made fun of and the kid who literally stalked my son (the school counselor's words, not mine), almost every evening's post-bus time involved tears, anger and much pleading to remove him from public school. I could see him shying away from people and his grades were suffering as well. If you're scared to talk in class and ask questions, you get left behind.

Kady, who we now affectionately call Bug (We have called her Kadybug since birth, but at church there is a Kaity, Kady and a Katie, so we shortened her to Bug) is a 5th grader this year and ..... Oh my gosh, she is me. Plain and simple, the child is exactly like I was at her age. She lives to socialize, talks to the point you think her lips will fall off and gets the giggles for no apparent reason whatsoever. When we finally made the decision to homeschool, we gave her the option of finishing elementary school in the public forum or just starting when her siblings did. She originally said she wanted to stay through 5th grade and we were totally okay with that because the elementary school she went to is phenomenal. I have no complaints and never have with the elementary in general. Then Kady started thinking that her brother and sister might go on a field trip and she would miss out and started waffling back and forth. I let her waffle awhile and she finally said homeschool. I started buying books. She changed her mind. I said sorry. She pouted. She still pouts. She'll get over it. In 3rd grade she scored advanced in math on her standardized testing, a fact I still marvel at since she still doesn't know all of her multiplication tables. She ended up in the GT (Gifted and Talented) program. She got all A's on every report card, except in math, where she consistently got B's and C's. Go figure. We just received last year's standardized test scores -- advanced in every subject. Still can't multiply worth a whit and you ought to see her sentence structure, but by cracky, a bunch of colored-in circles on a state test form declared her (trumpet fanfare) Gifted. Whatevs.

All three of my kids are gifted and talented. You ought to see Abby draw. Her graffitti is amazing. We'll be so proud of her work on train cars someday. Her talent with hair and makeup puts some professional stylists to shame. Sam has a real knack for writing. I am amazed at his stories. He reminds me of a certain blogger. Bug is phenomenal at story-writing as well. We're working on the sentence structure, but you know, she's 10, so I figure we have time. If I had wanted to push it with the school, I could've lobbied for GT for all three, but why? To give them a label? To boost their self esteem? So they could be in a club and go on field trips? Nah.

School is going wonderfully. Being the newbies we are, we have already learned a few things. For instance, I know which publishers and curriculum we will NOT be using next year. I also know that the Amish have it going ON when it comes to Grammar and Reading curriculum. I learned the first week of school that it is not necessary to do EVERY SUBJECT, EVERY DAY either. My poor kids were so exhausted that first week of school! It took the wise words of a fellow homeschooling mom to remind me that my kids are going so much further in their daily work than they would in public school that it isn't necessary to do every subject every day. For instance, we are on lesson 4 in Algebra (and they understand it) and Abby's public school class last year ended on lesson 7. I think we're progressing fine. I also got hung up on the state's mandate of 175 days of school a year and literally got out a calendar to mark off what days we planned to take off between August and May and obsessed over getting 175 days on that calendar. Then I realized, there are many Sundays the kids do school work in the afternoons to get a jump on the week. I think we'll go over our 175 days without worry. I've also learned that my Queen sized bed makes a fine desk, as well as my office floor and the couch. And that, although my mother does not agree, it's okay to do school work in pajamas every once in awhile. Making granola and homemade bread is a perfectly acceptable Home Ec lesson and hamster observation is totally trippy, especially since Bug's science this year is Zoology.

There are downsides: I am exhausted most of the time. I am working harder than I have in years. I feel slightly more overwhelmed than I did when the kids were newborns. I pull a lot of late nights going over papers and getting ahead on lesson plans. I go through a lot of printer ink, but thankfully I bought a Kodak printer last year and it doesn't cost as much as my old Lexmark did. I sometimes get jealous over the fact that Paul and kids are watching the Turtle Man and laughing hysterically while yelling YEEYEEYEEYEEYEE LIVE ACTION! and I'm at my desk compiling spelling lists (and really, I don't like Turtle Man, I just sometimes feel left out of the whole family thing) or cleaning the kitchen. Our grocery consumption has skyrocketed and I am now an avid Pinterest user (something I avoided as long as I could) because I can make Ranch dressing and homemade crescent rolls for next to nothing and Eggo waffles are no longer affordable, so I now own a waffle iron. We never eat out anymore. We only go to town once a week

But at the same time, I get to spend every day with three of the most amazing kids on the planet. They are educating me as much as I am them. Their insights and opinions on the world around them fascinate me. They make me laugh. They make me proud. All three kids have lost weight (I keep hoping it happens for me as well, but my aversion to the scales keeps me from knowing) and no one has missed a day of school due to being sick. (Yes, they've all three been sick, but school carried on and they didn't even die.) We didn't have to buy school clothes. Abby can color her hair blue and not get ISS and holes in the legs of her jeans doesn't land her there either. We don't eat out anymore. We only go to town once a week.

It's wonderful.

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...