Some thoughts on school choice

When I was four years old I went to preschool. We called it headstart but basically it was the same thing. In fact I did two years of preschool, I think because of where my birthday fell on the kindergarten cut off, but that was over 20 years ago so my memories are fuzzy. I did not fail preschool if that’s what you are thinking. I remember it was fun for the most part. There were the normal amount of issues arising from the beginnings of realizing how awkward forced groups can be. However, I loved the big foam blocks and a few friends I accumulated. There was even a pageant and a fluffy white dress. I won something from it but I don’t think I won first place. I’m pretty sure that went to the girl with the bigger budget for a nicer dress. Anyway, it was all pretty normal except that my mom would teach me at home how to count and how to read.

I went on to Kindergarten which was an ok experience but I already knew how to read, phonetically, not with sight words. I could count well past 100 and color in the lines so there was little for me to learn there. I was well behaved unless there was a prospect of going to the dentist. I meandered through. I had a kindergarten boyfriend who’s cousin alternately said mean things about me and planned our pretend wedding. I think it was probably a normal experience. I remember the DARE speaker and school lunches.

I was in the gifted program in 1st grade which meant that I got pulled out of class periodically for gifted classes. That was probably the only thing that saved my first grade experience. The first grade teacher made no secret that she hated me for pretty much everything I did. She continually asked me questions in hopes I wouldn’t be able to spell the word or solve the math question. The only time I ever got in trouble for anything in school that I can remember aside from the time I punched a bully in the balls for telling my friend Barney had died, was when I finished a spelling test faster than she thought I should have, which is absurd because basically she meant that I was writing each answer too quickly as she said the words. She kept admonishing me to take more time to spell each word and I just kept spelling them on my paper as she would announce them. This was 20 years ago but I can still remember the moment she made me go pull a stick for spelling too fast. I was humiliated. My whole world revolved around learning and knowing things and being a good girl who did what was expected the best that I could.

In my gifted classes that behavior was praised and rewarded but back in my first grade classroom anything out of the standard of my teachers idea of normal was looked down on, verbally abused or punished in whatever creative way she could come up with without involving anyone outside the classroom, like my mother who would have blown a gasket had she known how awful that woman was. My mother did know to a degree and she did have many a confrontation with that teacher. To add in more issues I was sick. I missed 64 days of Kindergarten due to respiratory illnesses. I was in and out of the hospital most of Kindergarten. I don’t remember if it was as bad in first grade but I never got behind. I would do the work at home and work in the Abeka workbooks my mom provided. By the end of my first grade year I hated going to school. I loved to learn. Thankfully the teachers assistant and my gifted teacher had nurtured my love of learning where my first grade teacher attempted to quash it but I hated school. Two or three weeks into my second grade year my mom pulled me out along with my brother who had just started kindergarten.

We joined a co-op, used Abeka for the first few years and set out to learn all there was to learn. I was reading well above my grade level and steadily developing math sense I wish my cousins had now. I realize homeschooling isn’t for everyone. In fact I would venture to say it isn’t for the majority, but I am ever thankful my mom decided it was for us. I love to learn even now. I like to think I’m not particularly socially awkward. I’ve been successful in my chosen profession. What people fail to realize about homeschooling is that it doesn’t have to be an isolated or isolating experience. You can homeschool anywhere including on an impromptu trip to the zoo or the grand canyon. There are so many curriculum choices now and co-op options and support systems that my mom didn’t have. Something I can still appreciate about this country, when I am pretty ashamed of it otherwise, is the right to choose what sort of education our children receive. Thanks mom.

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