In the past few weeks I’ve read a lot of books about homeschooling and alternative schooling. Part of me wishes that I had the innate gifts of being a homeschooling parent, but presently I do not. However, reading these books (and the ones that are next on my list) has helped a great deal in understanding what kind of a learner I am, and what kind of obstacles Jack will encounter.
We were hesitant to enroll him because of his age, but then decided to anyway. About a month in I decided to check out a pre-K to see if we should switch him. I wasn’t impressed and didn’t think it would help. After that, I felt a lot better about deciding to send him to school. He is friends with his classmates and he likes his teacher. He never really complains about having to go either.
A few weeks ago we had parent/teacher conferences. I’m glad I had started my reading before going, or I may have freaked out a little. Basically, Jack is “behind” in some stuff, but we’ve actually seen many improvements at home. He can recognize words, almost every letter, he can count up to 40, and so on. When “tested” at school he has a tendency to forget or freeze up or just zone out. He’s not really showing them everything that he knows. Normally I would’ve been upset by this or angry with him, but now it doesn’t even bother me.
In school I was always a good student. I did my work, I participated in class, I asked for help if it was needed, and I did well on tests. Except “standardized” tests. I never did horribly, I was usually above average, but my scores on those tests didn’t match up as high as the rest of my academic markers. In high school, I got a 1090 on my SATs and felt like crap about it. I went to a very competitive college prep school so anything less than 1200 meant that you were virtually retarded. In comparison, people I knew at public schools looked at my score like some incredible feat. At the end of the day I got into the college I wanted, regardless of any score. I had the college experience I wanted, in the city I wanted, and that’s really all that matters.
I don’t know if Jack will ever be on the Honor Society, or be in AP classes or do well on government issued tests, but I really don’t care. He has more to offer society than a brain full of unimportant stuff. I have a brain full of unimportant stuff and a college degree from a private, Jesuit university and the “most successful” position I’ve ever held was acquired with help from neither of those things. And now I struggle with not even being 30 and feeling like I have no clue what to do about my “professional life.”
Basically, I like school for what it can offer: friends, fun activities, interaction with others (including adults), and structure. But I take it with a grain of salt. Chris and I are first and foremost Jack’s teachers. I want him to know that he has to respect the adults at his school, but that doesn’t mean he has to agree with them. That he has to take the tests and do the same stuff as everyone else, but that his future won’t be ruined if it takes him a few extra months to read on his own.
I felt a lot of pressure in school and it has stayed with me all of these years. I am going to try my best to not do the same with Jack. After all, the most “successful” person I know in my life is my stepdad. He may not fit traditional definitions of “success” but I find it astonishing that he can build a house with his hands but barely knows how to check email. He’s done just about every job I can think of and he’s done well at all of them. He’s a horrible speller and I’ve never seen him read anything other than a newspaper. I want Jack to do what he loves, even if it’s something “silly” by conventional standards.