Tuesday, March 2, 2010

School Struggles and Frustrations

Going back many years, I once home schooled my older three children. They also went to a school of sorts. It was a school for home schooled children. Oxymoron you say? Yes, well the premis was that you would take them there for the not so core classes such as Science and History, Music and Arts, two days a week and they would get their core studies at home. This worked out well for everyone involved. The kids needed some interaction with other children and adults and in this school setting, it wasn't supposed to be "as harmful" as public school. Eventually, they began offering the core classes the other two days of the week, half days, leaving Friday as a no school day - or don't go to school day.

I did this until we moved to Bedford. We had already signed the kids up for the following school year at WOLCA, but I didn't waste one minute checking into the public school once the summer was over. I went up there, children in tow, met with the principal and made my needs known. This was an option, but  I had heard good things about the school and I grew up in the school district, so I was confident that my children were prepared and would receive the best education possible. They began public school the very next fall. Michael was in 5th grade, Alyssa was in 3rd, Ben was in 2nd and Jonathan was in preschool where I started teaching the 1st grade at WOLCA. It worked out perfectly!

Fast forward two years and I am in the throws of a divorce. My world was turned upside down by my own hands and now I had to figure out how to get a full time job and be a full time parent. Jonathan was in PreK at this point. It wasn't until the next fall that he would start Kindergarten. I wasn't worried because this was public school, a great school district with high marks. Certainly they would do right by my son, since I had to work and wasn't able to home school him, too. Right? Well, maybe not.

(Now, I do not want to offend anyone here, so please just know this is coming from a mom who loves her children and doesn't like to see them or anyone else mistreated.)

Kindergarten was good and he loved going. He wasn't an excelled student but he did fine. He struggled with reading, but kids do that, right? First grade he had a wonderful teacher who would take him under her "wing" and work with him on reading, even tutoring him and a few other kids after school twice a week. Second grade, another great teacher who was more like a grandma to him, loving him and doing her best to teach him, trying to figure out his learning pattern. Third grade is probably where the disaster started. He had a young teacher who was not at all sympathetic to my situation. She lumped all students into one basket and since my son didn't fit that basket, he got yelled at and disciplined more than he got praised. Fourth grade we are back on track with a familiar teacher from Ben's time. She loved and took care of Jonathan, helping him to like school even though the "I hate school" was setting in fast - very fast.

Now we are in fifth grade. This is where they "prepare" the kids for jr. high. Or is it the year they knock down any self-esteem a child may have left? We are still trying to figure that out. Of the teachers he has this year, two of them also have 5th graders at the school and magically enough, they are in their mother's classes. (Bitter party of one!) The 5th graders go to all three teachers during the day for different subjects.

I should interject my position at the moment. Take it as an excuse if you want, this is how I see my situation. I am a single mother of four children, three teenagers and a pre-teen. I have no support. No "other parent" that works with me regarding schooling of any of the kids. My two middle teenagers are self starters, always have been. I believe this came with me spending quality time with them when they were learning the basics. I may be wrong, but that's what I believe. Michael struggled when he was first learning with me and he struggled when he first went to public school. In fact, he struggled until he got to high school and then it just seemed to click. Maybe this is the path I am on with Jonathan.

If you are a teacher or deal with children and you are reading this, please know that every word you say is either a knife to their heart or a little puff of air to their spirit. I'm not referring to teenagers, unless they just seem beaten down with life. You may have to dig REALLY deep to find something positive, but tell them for God sake! What is the saying? Words cut like a knife! They do. So, please, talk nice to people. Be a blessing to them. I believe it was Peter Rabbits mom who said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say it at all."

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