Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why we Homeschool

Warning-super long.  I'm still totally worked up over this situation a year later.  I've included some off topic pictures to break things up a little! :)

We've joined some local homeschool groups and I was asked recently "So how did you get to homeschooling? That is a big jump from public school." and she was totally right.

Our school district has "schools of choice", meaning the spring before your kid starts kindergarten, you tour all the elementary schools, figure out what middle schools they feed (high school is location based), stress yourself out to no end, narrow your choices down to 3 (at the time we started K, it is now 5), and then cross your fingers that you get one of those choices.  In the event that you don't, you make back up plans by touring all of private schools in town and wondering where you are going to find the money for THAT in your budget.  Since our budget wasn't going to stretch to cover that, homeschooling was our back up plan.  We had friends who homeschooled and it only made sense to go that route, instead of going back to work full time to be able to pay for private school.

We got our top choice and we went all in with public school.  I immediately joined the PTA and signed up for everything.  I jumped at the chance to be kindergarten room mom, I volunteered in the classroom and spent hours sitting on the hallway floor, listening to kids read or practice sight words or sitting at the table, cutting out pieces of file folder games.  I became a copy machine expert.  I also signed up to help with the fall fundraiser, the yearbook, the student directory, and the spring fundraiser.  I even managed to get roped into chairing the games committee for the spring carnival because I hadn't learned not to ask when things were happening yet. I ended up co-chairing with another mom for a total of 7 years.  I eventually worked my way through various PTA board positions, including vice president and president, I chaired the hospitality committee for our fall fundraiser for several years, I continued being room parent for both kids and volunteering in their classrooms.  As WF got to middle school, the teachers were less interested in having help in the classroom, but I stayed active with the PTA, including being the president all last year (even after my kid left the school).

I loved our schools.  The community was a good place to be and the staff and other families were great.  There were drawbacks.  WF had the first grade teacher who, when I asked every week how he was doing, insisted that he was doing "totally fine".  Except, come the end of first quarter and parent teacher conferences, he suddenly "can't read, can't write, and doesn't pay attention". She also didn't like that we let him cut his hair in a mohawk, dye it blond, and occasionally spike it.  She told him that he "needed to talk to [his] mom about [his] irresponsible hair".  I told his hair to get a job and quit being lazy, but it didn't really listen to me.  LOL He also had the third grade teacher who was marking time until she could retire and had no control in her classroom. We soldiered on because everything else was fine. It was frustrating, but we made it through, even if I occasionally asked "why aren't we homeschooling, again?"

Pictures from the first day of school:

Last year was the straw that broke the camel's back.  MF was in 4th grade and for the first time since WF was in first grade, I didn't write a teacher request letter because I felt like any of the choice would be fine.  Over the summer, one of the teachers took a different position in the school and we ended up with the new teacher.  In talking to people at the school, they were very excited with the hire and we approached the school with a sense of hope about how good it would be.  Not only did she have a young, interesting teacher, all of her friends were in her class.  A better year would not be had by anyone.

On day 6, she came home from school and said that she lost recess because I hadn't signed her planner the night before. All of her work was done and turned in, but I had forgotten to sign it.  I couldn't believe that was the case, so I emailed the teacher and asked her to clarify her policy.  She called me later in the afternoon and explained that MF wasn't wrong, she did take away recess for kids who didn't have a parent signature in their planner! Um, WTF? I explained that I was concerned that she was holding kids responsible for things entirely outside their control.  If she wanted to punish parent for failing to sign, then we could talk.  We talked about it for several minutes, but she stood firm and eventually told me "well, that is just the way it will be this year in MY classroom".  I immediately sent an email to the principal voicing my concerns over her policy.  A few days later, he caught me in the hallway and asked me to come for a meeting with him and the teacher.  He explained to her that I had complained to him and that he agreed with me, she couldn't punish the student for not having a parent signature, but she could reward those that did.  She wasn't pleased about it and for the next several weeks, continued to punish the students who had parents that weren't causing problems.  She attempted to punish MF a few more times and each time, I emailed the principal about it and he told her to stop it.

I wasn't the only one complaining, but I was the face behind the cause, so my kid was getting the grief for it.  A few weeks into school, the teacher mentioned to me that MF was complaining of having trouble seeing the board.  I scheduled an eye appointment and found she needed glasses.  We ordered them, but were told they would take 7-10 days to come in.  In the meantime, I emailed the teacher (and the principal, because by that point, we'd had so many issues with her, I was including him on all emails as a matter of course) and asked that MF be moved to the front of the classroom for the time being, until her glasses came in and corrected the problem.  She refused.  RF got pissed and went to school (our deal is, he works, I deal with the house and the kids. He rarely goes to school and the situation had to be serious to get him there) and demanded that the desk be moved.  He even picked up the desk and started to move it himself.  The teacher called the principal on him (I'm assuming that she thought he would back her) and the principal helped RF move the desk and asked the teacher why she wouldn't make that simple accommodation to help a student be successful.  She didn't have a good answer (she was "maybe going to move the classroom around tomorrow).  This was the second time in the first month of school that my family tangled with the teacher, involving the principal and he came down firmly on our side both times.

Over the next several weeks, she continued to be a bad person and worse teacher.  She kept the entire class in from PTA's fall fundraising event because one kid couldn't get it together.  She would read parent emails to the class and ask them why they complained about how things were done, when they were supposed to be responsible for their behavior.  She regularly took away morning recess from the whole class for minor infractions by a few students.  I had multiple meetings with the principal.  Other people in the class had meetings with the principal.  I was told he couldn't fire her because there weren't enough bodies in the district to cover all the classes that needed people.  I begged to have MF moved to one of the other 4th grade classes.  I was told they were full and the teachers wouldn't take anyone new.  I found out another family was moving and asked to PLEASE have that spot.  Nothing. I don't blame the principal, I feel like his hands were kind of tied in the situation, but that didn't help MF dealing with that situation.

Here is a picture of MF, with the bike she won at the fall fundraiser.

We'd made it through bad teachers before, and in a normal situation, we could have done it again.  I would have parked my butt in that classroom every day of the world and told that teacher and that principal EXACTLY what was being done wrong and how they could fix it.  But it wasn't a normal situation, because at the same time, at the other school WF was going through hell as well.

He was failing PE because he refused to dress, yet I never got a phone call or an email or even a note home, letting me know about it, until I got the letter telling me that he was suddenly failing. I was getting calls 3 or 4 times a week from the AP, telling me that he was fighting, he was threatened with in school suspension, then it was revoked because what they said happened wasn't actually what happened (It's been a year and I'm still not clear what happened. Some kid thought he was someone else and jumped on his back, playfully, and WF pushed him, so the kid hit him, I guess, but then the other kid said he hadn't jumped on him and WF just pushed him out of the blue, then his story changed again). I got a call in the middle of the day that he had been pushed over the back of a couch and had his head smacked into a wall during social studies.  Apparently, he told a kid that there were only two people allowed to sit on the couch, so the kid shoved him, with the teacher in full view, and gave him a concussion.  The punishment? No one could sit on the couch until the teacher felt they'd all learned their lessons.  :/ Turns out, the PE thing was because someone in the locker room was causing problems, since the teacher couldn't be in there to monitor them.  Taking things, shoving people, calling names, etc.  Instead of saying anything about it, WF's solution was just to not go in there, which meant not dressing.  Kids were following him down the hall, calling him gay, saying pretty terrible things about him and his family.  The teachers, for the most part, really tried to keep an eye out, but middle school kids are sneaky jerks and they knew when the teachers were distracted or where they couldn't be and that's when they would start in on him.

MF cried every day.  WF was an explosive, angry wreck.  They were both "sick" nearly every day, with headaches, or stomaches, or other unverifiable illnesses.  I couldn't devote the time needed to fix the problems to both kids, because both were huge problems and required most of my time to fix.  The last week of 1st quarter, it was a short week and I told the principal that I was keeping MF home.  I sat down with my ancient laptop and google and started trying to figure out how to homeschool.  I found a few things and got her started on them.  I sent her back the next week, because I couldn't figure out how to do it and still manage to work my part time job.  Monday afternoon, I put in my two weeks notice and Friday, October 31 was their last day of public school.  WF stayed in "special" classes, during the last hour of the day, so he got to do art, music, and science tech until the end of the year.

Our first "field trip" was to go vote as a family.

It was a desperate reaction to a terrible situation and was only really supposed to be a "stop gap" until they could go back to school this year.  About January, I asked them if they wanted to go back and they were both pretty firm that home was where they wanted to be.  We will continue to take it year by year, but as of right now, it is working and as long as that is the case, why wouldn't we keep it up.

Last day of school

So, homeschoolers, did your kids ever go to "real" school?  What prompted you to bring them home? Or did you know before you started that homeschooling was the way to go?

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