Life is a roller coaster, isn’t it. I like a roller coaster on occasion, but I don’t attempt those really intense ones.
Except life can feel like I imagine those twisty and curvy and loop-de-looping roller coasters feel. Last year, I shared in-depth about a decision that had been made to send two of our sons to public middle school at the beginning of this school year. We were optimistic and hopeful and willing.
Just when we exhale and think now I can take a deep breath I get a text saying, Our son has been suspended.
Yeah, I got that text. I was in a meeting of sorts and my phone rang with the school on Caller ID. It rang only once, so I figured it wasn’t a big deal. Except it was. They called the Prez though and reached him, so I didn’t hear back. Then the text from the Prez came through and I thought, “Well there’s a first time for everything.”
The writing was already on the wall before the suspension. When we were seriously considering sending our boys to the local zoned public school, I did what anyone would do right? I went to Go*ogle. I remember thinking when I found a site where people could rate schools that it couldn’t be that bad.
One reviewer said: When I moved here I thought Little House on the Prairie but what we got was Dangerous Minds without Michelle Pfeifer.
Sadly, I have to say I feel EXACTLY the same way now and I was hoping for Little House on the Prairie as well. In addition to the very low academic expectations at the school, the environment seems to be volatile and on top of that if your parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, etc. didn’t go to the school … well, you’re just a nobody.
Our boys have no friends there. From day one, our 6th grader was told, “We have been friends since 1st grade. We know each other and we don’t know you. Did your grandparents go here because ours did. He’s my 1st cousin and she’s my 2nd cousin and on and on and on.”
We went to the Open House and met the teachers and passed the already-formed groups in the halls. We went to the Fall Festival in September and NO ONE except a couple of teachers spoke to us. Have you ever been to something like that where there are hundreds of people and its crowded and you feel incredibly lonely? I knew right then how our boys feel every day at the school. They have told us it feels like this in so many words, but then we experienced it. Our 8th grader does have a few kids who seem nice enough to him, but they call him “Ninja” which he really dislikes. He is the only Asian or non-white child in his entire grade.
Have I mentioned how unfriendly the environment is? Oh and the Prez signed up to be on the PTA and you know how many times he’s been to a meeting? NONE, because they said they didn’t need anymore help. YEP. We don’t have the Serenity Fair School bloodline (yes, I made up the name but you get the idea). He kind of joked when he signed up to be a PTA member and paid the annual dues that he doubted they would accept him into their group, but he was hoping to get involved. Saddest part is he would be a great asset to them, but we aren’t in in the inner circle or the outer one for that matter.
One of the reasons our 6th grade son accepted the invitation to meet another 6th grade student the size of an adult man in the bathroom for a fight was to try and put the bullies at bay. He said the two days he was back before Thanksgiving break did prove to be less volatile for him and that the bullies were surprised he stood up to them. He was beaten up pretty good though, and seeing your child with bruises all over their back from punches and kicks from an adult-sized kid when your son is small for his age? It HURTS. Bad.
Can you imagine walking into a new school as a middle schooler and the groups have been formed since kindergarten. To say they have had an uphill battle socially is an understatement. Our 6th grader also isn’t typical neurologically. Finally, after many years of wondering, I was asked by his therapist if I had considered he might have Aspergers. I have suspected he does for years, but when I have asked doctors and others they have assured me he didn’t have the markers or enough of them. It all makes so much sense now, and honestly it is a relief to know why he has some unique struggles in certain areas that frustrate us incredibly. But even more so, they frustrate him.
Our boys have big hearts and they really tried, but in all honesty they never had a chance at the school. I feel the same way about the surrounding community. It is very closed and if you don’t have roots here, you are an outsider. Period. You imagine moving to the country and finding friendly faces and welcoming arms, but in all honesty this is the most standoffish place I’ve ever lived in the South. It is very strange, but at the school it is even more apparent.
At the end of the day, one of the major reasons we chose to try public school was for the boys to experience school in a classroom outside the walls of our home. We also hoped they might make some friends, but that isn’t going to happen. As I type, I reflect on our hopes for them this school year and they’ve all been dashed. I know middle school is hard no matter where you are, but I did have this ideal that this little school in the country with 50 students or less per grade would be a nice transition for them back into public school. Boy, was I ever wrong.
In addition to the mounting social issues, the academics at the school are very inferior. Our 6th grader is incredibly bored and no, there isn’t a gifted program. Our 8th grader has been challenged in some areas, but he could be expected to do much more. They are in science rooms where the lab tables collect dust and house outdated textbooks. They have to share textbooks, so they can’t bring them home to study.
When my husband asked at the first parent-teacher conference why they aren’t doing labs in middle school science, he was told by the coach (I mean, teacher) that “I’ve requested supplies and equipment, but apparently there is no money for it.”I daresay our 8th grader has learned absolutely NOTHING in science this year, compared to the science text we use in our homeschool, which is very in-depth and hands-on and engaging.
Oh, I could go on and on and on about how the academics pale in comparison to what they were doing, but what is the point? At the end of the day, my husband who made the ultimate decision to send them to school is very disappointed on many levels and he asked me to bring our 6th grader home in January. A big part of me doesn’t want to and I told our 6th grader I wasn’t sure I could do it as he is very resistant to my authority at times, but the thought of him getting beat up again in the school bathroom makes my stomach very upset. How can I leave him there to fight alone against the bullies?
He has had at least 10 teachers for his science and social studies class. Why you ask? Well, the permanent teacher was on medical leave when school started, so they hired a long-time sub. She was there until right before Thanksgiving. She was the ONLY bright spot in his day, and he misses her terribly. She was his homeroom teacher as well as science and social studies. She took interest in him and made some accommodations for him that made his day much more livable. But she’s gone. And since then, he has had multiple substitutes. I don’t even know what to think. Why don’t they hire a teacher??? But instead, each week it is somebody different including the mother of the kid who beat him up in the bathroom. Yep, you read that right. I can’t even comment further on that.
I know this post is super negative and I’m sorry for that. But this has just been building up and our 6th grader will be coming home for good when school finishes for the semester on December 19. He doesn’t even know we’ve made the final decision, but today I woke up and thought this is why I’m here. These kids are my mission field. He is worth it. So with my husband’s 100% support and our son also asking desperately to come back home, we will have 5 students again in our homeschool. Our 8th grade son has asked to finish the school year at this school, and we fully support him in that request. He has said he has no desire to go back there next year, and so it is very probable he will be home schooled again in the fall of 2015.
I have no idea what the future holds and I have had to majorly adjust my expectations and plans for our spring semester of school, and we are making plans for specially tailored coursework for our 6th grader, which will involved a private on-line school, but at the end of the day you just gotta do what you are feeling led to do. And trusting your gut can go a long way as well.