View Full Version : SO glad we're homeschoolers...

05-12-2010, 11:27 AM
Last night I took my 5th grade daughter to the local middle school orientation meeting for parents.

Let me back up and add just a quick background for those of you who might not know me: my DH and I are raising a blended family and 5 of our children attend public school (mostly because we didn't know about homeschooling until our youngest was about 4 and our kids' other parents do not support homeschooling). This is NOT a post bashing public schools. My kids' elementary school has been fantastic and I feel that, for the most part, whatever struggles they may have had in school have been caused by their attitude and lack of discipline, not specifically a failing by the p.s. itself. The p.s. system also afforded opportunities to my kids that they might not have had had I homeschooled them: marching band and JROTC come to mind. Those 2 activities are very much enjoyed by 3 of our children in p.s. That's not to say that they couldn't have participated as homeschoolers, but I think it's unrealistic for me to think that I would have had the time to run 6 kids to all the various activities they got to enjoy while being in p.s.

However, what a difference 3 years of official homeschooling has had on me! The last time I attended the parent orientation for middle school was at the end of my 1st year of formal homeschooling. I had homeschooled Noah in preK and my middle son in 5th grade. He couldn't wait to rejoin p.s. in 6th grade and I couldn't wait for him to go back :) Let's just say that it was a very challenging year for all involved!

Contrasting the 2 meetings (3 years apart), I find very little difference. The meeting unfolded the same way. The rules are the same. The speeches were almost verbatim. Instead of going into a decrepit school, the incoming 6th graders will have a brand new school in the Fall. That's pretty much the only difference. But what a change in my own attitude. 3 years ago I sat through that same meeting and didn't bat an eye. Everything sounded good to me and I was grateful that they were about to take that child off my hands. This wasn't the 1st time I had attended the meeting, 3 of our kids had already gone through middle school. Nothing had ever really alarmed me.

It seems odd to me that, 3 years ago, I didn't notice that after the Principal's welcome, the first presentation was from the Discipline Office. As I sat there last night, listening to the Vice Principal talking about how the school was rated the 1st in the county because they were "ruling it with an iron fist" and enumerating the various rules and punishments, I felt claustrophobic and sad for my daughter that the administration had judged that talking about discipline was so much MORE important than talking about education. No mention of what electives they would be able to choose from (well, the P.E. teacher at the very end described some of the offerings) -- wait a minute, scratch that: they CANNOT choose their electives, unless it's band. They get what they're given. One of my SD had to sit through 2 semesters of Agriculture when all she wanted to do was sing in chorus. Sorry David, if you're reading this, but Ag. just didn't interest her. There is no way this child was going to become a farmer. So I guess there was no reason to talk to us about what the kids were going to learn because, no matter whether we like it or not, they are going to be taught was the district and a computer program blindly assigns to them.

The Vice Principal and Principal seemed to rejoice in explaining to us that in the new school, the 6th graders would be kept on the ground floor, totally "segregated" (their word) from the 7th and 8th graders, so we had "nothing to fear." They explained that at no time during the school day, including lunch, their precious 6th graders would be in contact with 7th or 8th graders. To me, it felt like they were explaining to us that our kids would be put in solitary confinement, away from the general population, for their own good. I wanted to flee that auditorium so badly. My middle son is currently an 8th grader and I was very uncomfortable listening to them likening him to a threat to younger kids. They followed those pronouncements with warnings about not sharing your lockers with anyone because you didn't want to be responsible for "something" that belonged to someone else, warnings about not talking in the hallways between classes (really? What about that all important SOCIALIZATION they always accuse us of depriving our kids from?!?), warnings about bullying, encouragement about tattle-telling if they see "something" that is not safe or illegal or that they're uncomfortable with, warnings about the bell ("the bell doesn't dismiss you, I dismiss you, so at lunchtime, you are not done with lunch until I say you can leave!"). Sheesh, I thought I was sending my kid to a SCHOOL, not to survivalist camp!

The 2nd presentation was from another Vice Principal and it specifically was about the dress code. I guess that coming from a school district that is considering imposing school uniforms through 12th grade under the guise that it will improve our kids' learning ("and it won't cost parents anymore than what they spend on clothes currently", YEAH RIGHT!), I guess I should be happy that the kids are still allowed to display some individuality in middle and high school this year. But there were some truly inane rules: fine to wear sleeveless shirts but straps can't be smaller than 2 fingers' width. Fine to wear jeans with tears and holes but the highest tear/hole can't be higher than 5" above the knee. You cannot wear any Tshirts that aren't in "good taste" and could offend anyone, etc, etc.

Don't get me wrong. I'm huge on rules, discipline and appearance. But while I impose those rules on my kids (and relax them frequently as a reward), it really chaffed me to hear a school district telling me that the kids had no choice and telling me that they would be punished if they didn't comply. There was no carrot in this meeting, it was all stick.

The PTO president and SAC committee members talked about how wonderful those organizations were and how THEY were so involved into everything their kids were doing, knew all the teachers and students by first and last name, and how we, as parents, should volunteer for field trips, fill out paperwork for the administrators, help the teachers, raise money for the school, raise money for outside projects such as funding Christmas gifts for an underpriviledged child, provide snacks and gifts for teachers during "Teacher Appreciation Week", etc, etc. I turned to my daughter and whispered: "Yeah. Or I could homeschool you." She looked horrified.

Thankfully the band director and the P.E. teacher injected some levity in the meeting and managed to make their particular disciplines interesting, and the meeting concluded on that note.

My daughter? She looked soooo bored and uninterested. She gets excellent grades in elementary school and I'm sad to see her so "blah" about going to middle school. Part of it is that since she attends a magnet school right now, all her friends will be split between 4 different middle schools with very very few attending the same middle school as hers (which yes, is indeed the best middle school in our county when it comes to test scores). School to her is all about socialization, which is why she is so adamently opposed to being homeschooled. I wanted to shake her and tell her that she had the wrong idea about what is important in life. I'm so envious of those parents who tell us that their children begged to be homeschooled.

I left the meeting feeling sad for her but feeling elated for Noah. I recently committed to homeschooling him through high school if that is what he chooses. Prior to that moment, I had doubted my own abilities to homeschool past 5th grade. If anything, last night's meeting, despite all the self-declared kudos and the love lavished on the principal by all the administrators present at the meeting, cemented in me the certitude that homeschooling IS what is best for my youngest child.

He gets to learn the basics and choose his electives. He gets to wear whatever he wants when he wants to. He gets to talk between classes. Sure, it's to the cats most of the time, but hey, he doesn't need to wear a muzzle all day. He gets to SOCIALIZE as often as we want to or be by himself as often as we want to. He gets to go on field trips without me having to have a form notarized and swearing that I won't sue anyone that might hurt my child. Above all, I know he IS safe and yet it's not a huge preoccupation in our lives. I know that he's having fun. And I know that he's learning and learning the right things, in a way that allows him to understand them at his own pace.

I hope that my daughter will enjoy her middle school years. I will support the school and the teachers, as I have done in the past. But this time, it will be with a big helping of skepticism and sarcasm added.

05-12-2010, 11:56 AM
Wow...you've just made me feel even better about my decision to bring my daughter home for education next year (she's still in the public school system this year)-of course, I was pretty convinced anyway since it's working so well for my son.

Homeschooling is so liberating for them and me.

05-12-2010, 12:04 PM
Wow, Snoopy...what a thought-provoking post. You are in such a unique situation, you know?? You should write a book comparing your kids experiences - - I think it would be fascinating!! I had to laugh about the bell part...I had the misfortune of occasionally being a smart-alec to my teachers. One time, one of them said the whole "the bell does not dismiss you, I dismiss you" and I didn't bite my lip quickly enough before hearing myself say out loud..."then this school wasted a lot of money on a bell system that could have been spent on better lunches."

((sigh)) Topsy - - rocking the boat since elementary school

05-12-2010, 12:12 PM
One time, one of them said the whole "the bell does not dismiss you, I dismiss you" and I didn't bite my lip quickly enough before hearing myself say out loud..."then this school wasted a lot of money on a bell system that could have been spent on better lunches."
((sigh)) Topsy - - rocking the boat since elementary school


05-12-2010, 03:38 PM
I have a son that went to public school through high school and I didn't bat an eye with anything that ever happened. Now, when I look back, I can't fathom my younger kids enduring all of that.
Alex (my oldest) has often said how jealous he is of all the cool stuff that the younger kids get to do.

05-12-2010, 04:58 PM
I have those moments a lot. My sister has 3 kids in public school, one in each - elementary school, jr high, and high school. My sis came over yesterday to borrow Of Mice and Men. The local schools don't buy enough books - they have a set of textbooks for each classroom, and they aren't allowed to take them home because the next class needs them, too. Apparently, it's the same for the books that they're required to read for English. They just finished Romeo & Juliet. The teacher wanted the class to compare versions, so he decided that they should watch the Romeo & Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio & Claire Danes. They got to the scene where a guy walks into the room in a dress, and (rather predictably, for a room full of 14 year olds) the class burst into laughter. The teacher was unable to get the class back under control, so he assigned it as homework. My sister couldn't find a copy at the library or rental place & had to buy the stupid movie so her daughter could watch it for school. They don't have time to get to the school library & none of their teachers ever take them to it. Our schools (at least some of them) have gone to uniforms. At the middle school my niece attends, each grade has different colors they have to wear, so they have to buy new uniforms each year (which will never be worn again). The one in middle school appears to watch movies, in one class or another, every few weeks. They've cut the hours back, so the kids are in school less than when I was in school, but still require the same number of credits for graduation. One of the high schools now has a "Freshman Annex" - a separate building for the freshman, so they don't have the 'distraction' of being around the older students. The Gifted Program & CAPA program are in 1 high school, but the high school that gets the most amount of money (which also happens to be the only school in the district that offers Latin as a foreign language) is across town & has no special programs of which to speak (but it's in a better neighborhood & most of the 'wealthy' kids go there, which is why it gets more funding). Their priorities are completly screwed up. Everytime I hear about anything that's going on in our local schools, whether from students, parents of students, or teachers, I'm glad my kids are homeschooled.

05-12-2010, 06:05 PM
I agree that there are a lot of dedicated public school teachers (I was one!), principals and all. I do not agree with the people who say all children should be homeschooled. However, I taught in CA. I was in the union. I saw how funds were spent. And, as they say, as CA goes, so goes the rest of the country....

05-12-2010, 07:27 PM
That was interesting mainly because I am very curious about our neighborhood's middle school. I felt like checking it out and maybe taking Bren with me to see what her opinion is. She doesn't really want to attend public school but felt we should look at the alternative and see about it mostly because we're new here and friends are seemingly impossible to find. Now though I'm not so sure I even want to bother checking it out! LOL

05-13-2010, 11:32 AM
My daughter refused to go to the middle school orientation. She just wants no part of that school. I'm sure the orientation here would have gone the same as yours.