Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Homeschool nut

Here's the truth.  Your child is amazing.  Your child should get the education she deserves.  Your child should be recognized for all of her unique abilities.  Your child run with it.  I want to see your child go all the way, the way she was born to, the way her DNA tells her to, the way she must.

And so with Blue.  She's brilliant.  And I'm not hiding her light under a bushel any more.  The schools may try to sweep her under a rug.  Tell her to sit down, shut up and just be happy she's making A's.  But it's not going to cut it.  She deserves a free and appropriate education.  Just like all children.  As a society, we've codified this in to law.  And that's why I'm homeschooling her. It was either that, or sue.

After years of waiting and seeing for someone to help her, I had to do something. 

Last year, after she tested 10% higher that any other 3rd grader in the district on one standardized test or another, after I'd waited for the gifted program to kick in for most of the year, I finally found out about a special school in Spokane.  And she tested in easily.  So all was set, right?  She'd go one day a week this year and hopefully go full time next year.  It would be brilliant and finally her needs would be met.

A few weeks ago it all unraveled so quickly and horrifically, it left me gasping for clear air and made me cry like a drama queen.  The school she was in wouldn't share her.  Not only had they disbanded their gifted education, they didn't want to share 1/5 of her funding with the Spokane district.  When Huck complained to the schoolboard, something got lost in translation and what the school heard was that they needed to slap together a gifted program in three days.  And the woman to do it was a lady dear to us.  And so a procedural fiasco turned into an interpersonal one.

And anyway, what kind of adequate program could they cobble together in three days?  Even if the fabulous B was at the helm.  And did I seriously want Blue's teacher all mad at her and stressed out like this?  It's certainly fine that she makes the best use of her time and energy by teaching straight up the center of the bell curve.  It'd be crazy not to.

This and three new facts:
*Blue had been asking, "Why am I so different from everyone else?"
*The Mormon kids at school had been refusing to play with her since she wasn't Mormon.  I can only guess that this attitude comes from being told weekly that you are chosen by god.  We Unitarians don't get those weekly ego boosts.
*And we received the Major State Test results.  Passing and exceeding (A+) was a range of 60-80% score.  Blue maxed out the test with 100%'s.  There was no place for her to go.

Enter A... or re-enter A.  She'd told me about the special school the year before.  Having been entrenched in gifted education since she was born, she had a thing or two to say, a study or two to cite, and some curriculums to lend and a huge amount of information about the gifted homeschooling world.  If aliens drop down in to my yard tonight and order me to take them to my leader, we're going straight to A's house.  She found the Spokane homeschool school for us.

I had to make this major, life changing and threatening decision in not much time.  It was wretched.  I wailed and cried and revisited that contract Blue and I made the first time I looked in to her slimy, cloudy eyes.  Honestly, I haven't been a good advocate.  I've been inappropriately modest on her behalf.  I've waited and seed her blind.  And it was time I pulled on my big girl panties and got demanding or at least ensuring.

Parenting is one of those endeavors.  You want to leave it all on the track and not look back.. given the limits of sanity, time, and personal space, of course. 

I know I'm not the only one who was looking at my life wondering when I'd find a career, when I'd fire it up and get going on my own path.  I know I'm not the only one that was happy with my 8 hours a day to move it forward.  But I'm 35 now.  And one more year out of a non-existant career is not too much of a sacrifice.  I give up no money, no power, no prestige, no recognition, not even water cooler chat time.  Nothing... but a year of potential. 

And even so, no career can top parenting for meaning.  Equal?  Perhaps.  But I can't trade up, as far as importance and resonance.

And for Blue?  Maybe a chance to find some peers?  More than 10% of her life.  An important time.  For Blue it could be so much more.  "You'd officially have the most screwed up elementary education ever, if we do this."  "So what?  It's already messed up.  It definitely won't be worse."  She wanted to homeschool so bad.  And I didn't have anything better to do, that I could see. 

I was scared, am scared.  Fear blocked my path forward for days.  The sacrifice I'm making is bigger than I'm letting it sound.  It's a critical time for certain unnamed projects I've thrown myself into for years and years. I hope they survive.

So she goes to the special program now where they'll dissect sheep brains.  She's so excited.  She's my daughter and I am the girl who didn't touch a dissection in biology but let my lab partner (now a doctor) do it all.  And two days a week, Blue goes to the homeschool school for chemistry, data analysis, book club, fiddle, gymnastics, lego science and writing.  I'm doing math, spelling, vocabulary (her example for inhumane hurt very badly), sock folding, potato digging, and miscellaneous projects from the Dangerous Book for Boys (She declined on the Daring Book for Girls as, "oh that.  It's not nearly as exciting.")  Looking at the shopping list she handed me, I think she's making a time bomb.

It's true.  I have been shy to talk about it.  And this is why.  I get a bunch of stupid responses.  Number 1:  so what?  so she gets all A's and gets in to some great college and makes it rich.  To which I long to have the bitchiness to respond, "OH!  Looks who's not gifted!"  These folks don't understand.  They weren't labeled gifted or they lack imagination (such as is apparently the case with school district superintendents who disband gifted programs because they aren't improving test scores).  Perhaps they were confused when the gifted kids smoked a bowl every day before math.  They probably think that if they were just a little smarter/prettier/richer, life would be a cake walk.  This thinking should be discarded as the dross of ignorance it is. A study recently found that most parents of gifted kids are eventually forced to shell out 20k a year for a private education to meet their kid's needs.  Some one commented that the concerns of gifted parents were bourgeois and petty.  But the concerns of the parents of disabled kids is what? Low brow?  What kind of stereotypes are we running off of here?  Yes, the parking lot of the gifted program does contain a lot of Lexi and Mercedes.  But there are beaters there too.  And average sedans.  This is the assumption again: smart = rich = easy life.  This is miscalculating life: underestimating hard work, luck, confidence, and the life-ness of everybodys lives. 

Number 2:  Oh, you think she's so smart?  Well, my son, nephew, step-aunt-twice-removed, taught herself calculus AND Latin in Kindergarten.  To which I long to respond: how nice, but we're not competing, thanks.

Number 3: supportive and understand: my favorite one.  A said, "Welcome to the special hell that is gifted education."  Thanks!  As crazy as it sounds, that's exactly what I needed to hear.  And most of you reading this, will likely find yourself in this category... unless you have "gifted bitches" in your Google blog search alert.

The homeschoolers are another level of delicate social embroilments.  I'm not there because it's the right thing to do, because I love my kids more than all those other shmucks in public schools, because god told me to, or because this is my wildest fantasy come true.  And because I'm not there for those reasons, I really should keep my mouth shut about what a pain in the ass all this driving is.  I am finding some sort of kindreds here, however, thanks to a teacher who's putting together a group of kids and their parents who both homeschool and go to the special program.

So, our learning curve has been straight up.  And now Blue knows about learning curves.  And we plotted our place on it.  And we are way at the bottom of this thing with a couple more weeks of confusion and frustration in front of us.  But it's going way better than I thought.  I love teaching her math.  And vocabulary.  I love her time bomb or whatever thing she's making.  I love her creativity and her long intellectual reach.  I love her questions.  I love her.  I loved her when I sent her to preschool.  I loved her when I sent her to public schools.  I love her now too.  And that's why I'm homeschooling this year.  In a nut shell.  A very large, uncomfortable, nut shell.


  1. Go Sarajoy! Go Blue! Boredom is definitely just as destructive to a child as any learning disability, and it sounds like you're doing all you can to keep Blue challenged. Hang in there, it'll pay off!

  2. Home schooling is cool! I like the way you talk about education, it really makes me think about our public school system.



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