Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No, I don't need to use a Lifeline, and, yes, that is my final answer.

Today was bittersweet for me. At least, at first it was. Or maybe I should say that the thought of today was bittersweet. What it turned out to be was a fairly anti-climactic day. Let me back up and explain.

Though the children and I have done remarkably well with homeschool this summer, I have still been struggling with the ultimate decision: Would I keep them home in the fall? I mean it is easy to say you're homeschooling during the summer months. They weren't missing out on the public school "experience." No other children were in school. I had no reason to feel any degree of guilt.

But, today was different. Today was the first official day of public school. Today was the day that eager parents take their children's picture to commemorate the first day of whichever grade they are entering. If I homeschool, when do I take that picture? We have been homeschooling since June. Should I have taken their photograph back then? Did I miss it?

I can honestly say that until last night I hadn't made a firm decision. Even this morning as I was taking my youngest to daycare, I almost panicked and told the other two to hurry up and get dressed because they were going to school today after all. But, ultimately, I kept my wits about me because I reminded myself that I am the parent here. I know what is best for my children. They live with me. I know them better than any other adult besides their father and all signs pointed toward homeschool being the absolute right decision.

Last night, though, I did give the school district one final chance. In a wonderful act of fate, the superintendent held a town hall meeting to discuss upcoming changes in the district. This is the district's chance, I thought. Tonight, the superintendent and the administration can convince me to put my kids on the bus tomorrow morning. Tonight, they can show me that they have a well-thought out and well-defined gifted program ready to implement starting tomorrow. Tonight, they can show me that all of my complaining, pleading, and begging have paid off. Tonight, they can show me that all those strategic planning meetings I sat through and all those goals and outcomes we came up with in those meetings were finally going to become a reality. Tonight, they can show me that finally, finally something will be done to address the needs of my students.

I went to the meeting with my husband with my fingers crossed. When it was time for the question and answer session, I summoned my courage, approached the microphone, took a deep breath, and asked the school district superintendent if he could tell me exactly what was going to be done this year at my children's elementary school to address the needs of gifted students. I explained I had spent a great deal of time at the school and I knew what they were doing was not enough.

In a nutshell, this is what I was told.

Thank you for your concern, Ma'am. We are going to be doing some grouping of children by ability level this year. The children will spend approximately 30 minutes daily in these specialized groups to allow the gifted students the opportunity to participate in some enrichment-type activities. We've also given the teachers some additional training to help them meet the needs of all the students in their classroom at the same time. We are taking a small step in the right direction, but what we are doing won't be an actual 'gifted' program.

As my best friend would say, "Put a fork in me. I'm done."

That's it? That is the best you, the school district administrators, can come up with? Seriously? You did absolutely nothing new last year to address the needs of gifted elementary students in the district and this is your solution? One "small step in the right direction?" My child is a fourth grader. This is it for her. Next year she goes to middle school. I have begged for a gifted program for the past four years and you are going to give her a maximum of 30 minutes of enrichment daily. And, you expect those poor teachers to be able to individualize their daily classroom instruction to the needs of 20+ students?

Granted, my degree isn't in education, but as a dietitian, I have had a lot of training in that area. I took college-level classes with teaching majors. I taught a college-level nutrition course to nursing students. I know how to write a lesson plan. My mother and my grandmother were both teachers. I understand what it takes to teach students, and as a homeschooling parent this past summer, I had to teach to the ability level of only two students. Some days it was almost more than I could handle. How on earth could you require that your teachers cater to the needs of a whole spectrum of ability levels? With 18 to 25 children in the average classroom, you are dealing with 18 to 25 ability levels.

Now, most of the teachers I know are card-carrying super heroes, but come on. That is absolutely ridiculous. I don't care how many workshops or breakout sessions or classes you made them sit through. It's not enough, and 30 minutes of 'enrichment' a day amounts to nothing in my book.

So, I smiled sweetly at the superintendent, thanked him, and sat down. My hopes were dashed. I uncrossed my fingers. It was the end of the second half with the ball on the one-yard line, one second left on the clock, down by a touchdown, and they fumbled the ball. Game's over.

Put a fork in me. I am done.

After we left the meeting, my husband and I talked about what we had heard at the meeting. We decided that what they are purposing is like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound. It's just a little too little a little too late - at least for our daughter. We agreed; we had our answer.

This morning my daughter was grumpy. She pouted as she watched the bus pull away. Then, her youngest brother started bugging her, and the next thing I knew, they were chasing each other through the house screaming and laughing. My middle child stumbled down the steps shortly thereafter. No complaining from him. He is a roll-with-the-punches kind of kid.

As I drove back from dropping my youngest off at daycare this morning, I was filled with a sense of peace and calm. I am the parent here. My husband and I know what is best for our children. There will be days when the kids don't want to homeschool just like there were days they didn't want to go to school. That's okay. We will make it and they will be the better for it.

I may be done, but I'm not defeated. My children are going to be the winners here. There will be no fumbling the ball at the end of the game for them.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic blog! You certainly tried a lot harder than I did to change things in your school district! Snaps to you Gayle. You may be done with traditional school, but you're just getting started on a whole new life with your family.