Back to the Puppet Mill

Thursday, July 28, 2005 | 0 Comments

Oh, dear readers, I am having such a dilemma right now. My son, JD, has expressed an interest in going back to the public school system, and I don't know if it is the right thing to do for him.

A little background info:

* He is an exceptionally smart boy. He was reading and doing basic math before kindergarten. He was beginning multiplication and division by the first grade. He was doing high school science by the fourth grade.

* We had his IQ tested in the first grade to try and convince the school to skip him a grade. He had a combined score of around 150 where as the average score for that test was between 98 and 106. Let's just say, for those who are unfamiliar with IQ test scores, that he's pretty damn smart.

* The school was unsatisfied with this result claiming that the testing must have been completed incorrectly. They had originally refused to do the testing themselves, but decided to do one after these results. Their results? THE SAME!! And yes, he was bumped up a grade.

* They refused to allow him access to another program that would have been helpful to him because they didn't want him to "move ahead too fast". This said two things to me. 1) They felt that he was advanced enough to keep moving ahead at an accelerated pace. 2) They didn't feel that we could make good decisions about our child's education.

* We were often reminded that the school knew what to do better than we, mere mortal parents.

* The school not only was unprepared to help our son, they were also unwilling. They preferred to reprimand and drug him than to provide him the education that he needed and deserved.

* We were told, personally, by the school psychologist, that "he isn't as smart as you think he is" (this was of course before the IQ test), "his problem is that he needs more of an adult influence at home", "your son is a lying. manipulating little weasel"...I don't think I need to go on.

* We were pressured by other parents as well as the faculty to switch him to a different school, "his own, where he belongs". (the background on this- in WI we have open enrollment which means that the children can be enrolled in whatever district that they want. We had enrolled JD in this school while we were still living in that district, but moved before he started kindergarten and decided that it would be easiest to just leave him in that district. Yep, that was so easy!)

We pulled him out of school after confidential information was given to his teacher by his counselor. She said that although she understood that we did not want this information leaked, she felt that it was in the best interest of JD. Like we hadn't considered what was in his best interest. It had to do with a certain drug that we were trying out, in private, without wanting the school and all their well meaningness to get their slimely paws on. Well, once it was known that he was taking the drug, they began pressuring us to put him on more of it. Basically, they were trying to slow him down so that he was easier to deal with. This pressure to give him more was exactly the reason that I had given the counselor for not letting this information out and she had insisted that our fears were unfounded. She said that the school understood that we were the parents and those decisions were up to us. Right, like the decision to keep that information confidential. So we yanked him out of school.

It had not been an easy decision, but it was definitely the right one. He had been coming home in foul moods everyday since the first grade (THAT is a story for another time!). He was miserable. It would take nearly all of summer vacation just to get him anywhere near right again. Then it would start all over. After we took him out of school, he slooooowllly but surely got back a little of his old happy-go-lucky love-of-life-and-people self. Right now I would say that he is over 90% restored, which is such a relief!

So now, as you can tell, I am very nervous about even contemplating this. Why should I subject him to those possibilities again? Why should I risk wrestling for control over the guidance and decisions concerning my son to a bunch of strangers? Why should I chance the destruction of his psyche and emotional balance?

He says that the competition that schools offer would really help motivate him- ie. grades and others getting grades. He says that he would like to make new friends- he has lots of friends, but is always looking for more. He says that he is concerned that it will be more difficult to get into college as a homeschooler- which every year is getting easier, but still can be difficult with some colleges. He says that he wants the schedule and the extra activity, and that he generally just wants to experience that whole part of life that everyone else is going through. Fair enough. Besides, he says, if it doesn't work out, we can just go back to homeschooling.

This last thing is a bit of concern for me though. Will it really be that easy? Right now he is under the radar. We got him out while he was still young, too young to be considered a threat to society if he were deemed a problem child (which he had been labelled while at that school). If we send him back to school and he is deemed a "problem" that might not be so easy to get away. They might just fight us on it. Considering the school's inability in the past to treat us with dignity and respect, I hardly doubt that a few years is going to make a difference. We still look like we are in our early twenties- and to them I guess you have to be REAL OLD to be a wise and responsible parent.

I just want to say here that AGE DOES NOT EQUAL WISDOM!

So that's the dilemma. I am setting up a meeting with the school principal to voice our concerns and get some answers before we make any decisions. I will know by his reactions whether this is a good idea or not.


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Blogger evilsciencechick said...

well, keeping him home schooled might make him miss out on all the social aspects of high school, which are probably just as important as the education - sports, music, clubs...uh...prom (though I should say I didn't go to my prom and it hasn't inflicted an long term emotional damage as far as I can tell DAMN YOU PAUL, WHY DIDN'T YOU ASK MEEEEE???? ahem...what?)

but really, if it doesn't work out, will the school put up much of a fight? if he's already been home schooled through most of his education, they probaby wouldn't be overly surprised if public school doesn't work out for him (that's a slam on ig-nernt school system, not on home schooling) and not put up too much of a fight to keep him there.

of course, that's logic talking. and we all know how logical people in authority can be....

July 28, 2005 2:05 PM

Blogger Kari said...

well, i think that careful investigation is a good idea so kudos to that. and i'm sure that there is a good school out there that will be sensitive to his needs instead of trying to bring him down....BRUCE!

uhm..don't ask

July 28, 2005 2:27 PM

Blogger DrMax said...

Your son seems ready to try, I'd let him. Syl, you and your husband sound like very caring parents, he's a lucky kid.

July 28, 2005 3:35 PM

Blogger Sylvana said...

ESC- He might miss out on some of those social events, but he has plenty others he takes part in. And you know they are very unreasonable sometimes at the school. If they feel that we are not acting in his best interest, like they don't feel that we can handle him at home, I think they would fight us.

Kari- Thanks. I keep my eyes and ears open for opportunities, but there aren't many in our price range.

DrMax- He is also somewhat hestitant, just as I am. I think he may have a skewed idea of how easy it would be to go back to homeschooling. I appreciate his willingness to give it another shot, but if he doesn't understand that there may be problems getting him back out, then he isn't making a well informed decision. And you are right, he IS a lucky kid!

July 28, 2005 4:25 PM

Blogger Shannon said...

I used to work in an after school program and there were some "problem" children that passed through. A number stand out in my mind as extremely frustrating, difficult to handle, violent to other children, disrespectful, and deceitful. One boy, Michael, had a mom that wouldn't quit on him. She tried everything she could to help him. Drugs didn't do it (I HATED SEEING THOSE KIDS ON DRUGS!!). It seemed like nothing we did worked.

This post reminded me of this experience. You know, Michael was a great kid who had problems. Highly intellegent, creative, bored by his classmates, and coniving.. I wonder who he is now, and if he knows how lucky he is to have his mom.

Homeschool is not a bad thing. Sometimes, kids don't fit into a classroom the way teachers are taught they should. Sometimes teachers are so overwhelmed with shit that they can't do what needs to be done to save kids. To me, it sounds like JD is making a very mature, well thought out argument. Maybe he's matured enough to handle the BS public school deals and gained insight into who he is and what he needs. I think it's a testiment to your parenting skills to let him "lead" a bit and let you know when he's ready.

Good luck.

July 28, 2005 8:30 PM

Blogger Sylvana said...

Shannon- I believe that most "bad kids" are kids that fall outside the norm range and no one knows what to do with them. JD is definitely one of them. He can be all those things listed by you, but it is a product of his setting and what he is forced to deal with. Once we took him out of that setting, he became a gentle, kind, caring person again. I've been in jobs where the people and the BS drove me crazy and made me into someone that I just really didn't like. It wasn't until after I got out of those jobs that I could start to be more like a real person again.
We have always given him the right to argue his case. If he feels that things should be done a certain way and he can argue a good case, we do it. I mean, why not? If it makes sense, we would be assholes to not do it. Too many parents stick to their decisions even after they are shown to be wrong because they feel that it is a sign of weakness to be wrong; but I think it takes a strong, mature person to admit that they are wrong and make the necessary changes to make things right.
Do you hear that BUSH!!!!

July 29, 2005 8:32 AM

Blogger Scott said...

Schools are very reluctant to deal with children who aren't "average". They're more concerned with socialization than advanced placement. When my sister was in high school, she tried to take an advanced math course she was qualified for. The school turned her down. Why? Because they pass out class rings in the math class, and if she's a junior in the senior math class, she might feel left out.
I'm not looking forward to dealing with schools when I'm a parent.

July 29, 2005 1:00 PM

Blogger ORF said...

My father was in primary education in the independent schools for nearly 20 years and my uncle recently retired as a superintendent in the public system. Above all else, they both complained about how out of touch parents seem to be with their own children and how much crap they had to listen to about how special everyone's Johnny was. A lot of parents view their children as extensions of themselves and get very hung up on how it might look to their OWN friends if junior were to get held back or be a "problem child," so they steamroll over the suggestions the school might make to them.

Sylvana and SSB, I have no doubt you two are doing your best to do right by JD, but it sounds like the school system has gotten their parent reactions down to a knee-jerk science. It's so sad to see this disconnect because you guys actually DO want to work with the system, but not if they're going to tell you you don't have a clue about your own kid.

I know zip about homeschooling, save the stigmas attached to it, but again, it sounds like JD has a fair amount of maturity to him. With that in mind, I think he'd be able to handle giving it a shot as long as he was made very aware of the potential issues that could arrive from it. Don't be pessimistic, but do warn him that it might not be as stimulating as he hopes. And also, can the school board really prevent you from taking your child out of the system as long as you promise to home school them? That is news to me.

July 29, 2005 2:54 PM

Blogger Sylvana said...

Scott- That sounds about right. When he was four we asked about getting him in early to kindergarten. That same psychologist did testing on him after we stubbornly refused to take his "I don't think it is a good idea" speech. JD tested out 1st grade and above (all the way to 5th grade level on some things!) but this guy comes back with he's just at his age for socialization so he would not recommend it. He was more concerned about that ONE thing- socialization rather than the fact that he would be completely out of place academically by the time he was old enough to go to Kindergarten! I asked him how we could get him more socialized. He said by getting him in situations where he could be around more kids. I said, wouldn't that happen in the school system? He didn't like that question AT ALL!

Be afraid, be very afraid!

ORF- Each child IS special. My huge problem with the school system is that they want a cookie cutter formula for dealing with kids that are ALL different. They are unique individuals with unique needs and should be treated as such.

These people don't really want to do what is best by JD, they want to do what is easiest. Even when confronted with the facts, they just wanted to keep telling us that it wasn't true and that THEY knew better because they had more experience. Well, I can tell you, as his parent, I have FAR MORE experience with him than they ever will.

July 29, 2005 3:19 PM

Blogger The Doc said...

Wow, a hot and controversial topic. Everyone comes at this kind of topic from a different angle, so I'll try mine out and see if I can come up with anything.

Both my parents are teachers in the public school system; my mom's been an elementary school and special needs teacher, and my dad's been everything from a math teacher to the school counselor to special needs coordinator to principal. I've grown up in an environment that not only encourages education, but demands it. Every night my parents would talk about the difficult situations they'd face at school: problem kids, problem parents, problem teachers, problem principals. Not all teachers and principals are trying for the easiest, socially acceptable reason, just like not all parents are concerned for their children's education. I know you know that, but it was something I had to clarify almost as much for myself as for you. (Part of me was going, hey those are my parents they're talking about!)

Also, as an accelerated student myself, there is something to be said for both socialization and academics. I was looked down upon for being "too smart" by my fellow classmates, and spent most of my elementary years with no friends. Not saying that happens all the time, but it is a definite risk, and it's hard to balance the two areas out.

That being said, I hope that things get better for your family when ealing with this. It might be hard to get through it - as the post above this one seems to indicate - but I think that it's great that you're listening to JD's desire to go back to public school. I also hope that at some point he gets a teacher who's interested in doing what's best for him, and helps make school a good place to be. They're out there, trust me.

July 29, 2005 9:41 PM

Blogger Sylvana said...

Doc- I realize that there are some teachers and even administrators that want to do well by the children. We had a fabulous Kindergarten teacher! She would take the time and get him more challenging work to complete. She wasn't afraid to let him do multiplication and division while the other kids were still learning all their numbers. I have had a few great teachers myself- as I was not homeschooled.

Your problem with feeling out of place for being up to your academic level should not be a problem. When did it become a bad thing to be smart? Maybe I am just idealistic, but I feel the very nature of the way the school system is set up allows for this awkwardness. It is not necessarily the people in education system, it is the system in general that is flawed. It might work fairly well for that group in the middle, but how many children does it become a disservice to in the process of just serving those children?

July 29, 2005 10:34 PM

Blogger Indigo Red said...

Here in California, many school districts allow home-schoolers to participate in after-school and selected classroom activities.

Perhaps this is an option for you and JD. He sounds like a really fine kid. It would be very sad for him to be ruined by public school mediocrity as so many kids have been because they happen to be at either end of the IQ spectrum.

July 30, 2005 12:59 AM

Blogger Sylvana said...

Welcome to my blog Indigo Red! That is a very good suggestion. It has the possibility of giving us the best of both worlds. We do have participation rules in Wisconsin which would allow him to take two classes a semseter as well as join clubs and such. I had considered that in the past and in fact, I still am considering it. But it is only for high school as far as I know right now.

July 30, 2005 5:05 PM

Blogger OldRoses said...

Sorry, I'm know I'm late to the party, but I just had to add my two cents. My brilliant but difficult daughter just graduated from high school. Based on my experience, it's better for JD to go from home schooling to public schooling in middle school than from home schooling to public schooling in high school. High school is a culture. The culture is learned in middle school. Without that experience, JD's transition to public schooling on a peer level would be much more difficult if not impossible. And yeah, schools suck. The first school system my daughter was in (one of the best in the state BTW) wanted to drug her. The second one (not a very good one)blamed her behavior problems on poor parenting. Since I am her sole parent (Dad has been out of the picture for most of her life), the school was indirectly accusing me of causing her problems.

July 31, 2005 1:25 AM

Blogger Sylvana said...

OldRoses- It's a lot easier to understand this issue when you have had it happen to you too. And I knew there were others that have, so I really appreciate you taking the time to tell me your story. The school that JD went to was supposed to be the best as far as funding and programs, too. They didn't want to accept any of the blame for his problems either. He was just fine before we sent him to school, and he started to come back around when we he could get away from the school for awhile, but would start having problems again once back at school. Hmmm... where do YOU think his problems are coming from? Hint, it ain't us!

This decision is especially difficult for me since I came from an area that had a pretty laid back high school. The cliques weren't that strong and they were constantly shuffling. So I don't even know if you could call them cliques. I mean, pretty much everyone was friends at some point or another. It wasn't that difficult to make friends. And new people were a hot commodity! So I may have an unrealistic view of how things would go in high school.

August 01, 2005 8:04 AM

Blogger ORF said...

Syl, just so you know, I NEVER meant to imply that JD wasn't special. I read back over my comment and it kind of sounded that way. I'm not sure I was as articulate about this as I wanted to be. My point was, you guys are trying to help him, but the school is on auto-pilot about dealing with the situation which they appear to characterize as unaware parents who don't know jack. Which is so obviously untrue in your case.

From personal experience, I was lucky because my class was chock full of smarties and so no one was considered uncool for being a nerd. That would have been hypocritical of us all. However, the class behind us was not this way, so when a kid from their class was bumped into mine and also allowed to take math at the local college because he placed out of the high school's offerings, he got chastised very badly. His own class had always stigmatized him and it had turned him into a bit of a arrogant jerk; for being an a-hole, our class didn't want to have anything to do with him. It sounds like JD is fairly well adjusted so perhaps he'd have no problem with being called out by other kids for being super smart. What grade would he be going into?

August 01, 2005 2:04 PM

Blogger Sylvana said...

ORF- I think I understood what you were going for. What I am saying is that even those kids, the ones that aren't so obviously different like JD, are still individuals and should be treated like them. This is practically impossible to do in the current school set up. We need to take a good, long, hard look at the way that we are teaching our children. We need to change our priorities as far as the outcome. Is school a place where kids will be slowly honed into future worker drones, or do we want them to be innovators and go-getters? I personally want my son to be an innovator and a go-getter. That will mean that he needs to be able to do things the way that work best for him, not the way that works best for the school. And if that means that he will have to be taught at home, then that is what we will have to do.

As far as his grade. Who knows! His original kindergarten class is going into the 7th grade. He has already completed some 7th, 8th and high school classes. He had been bumped up a grade, so his official grade would be 8th. That is one of the problems with getting him back into the regular school system. They force him to take the same level across the board instead of letting him be at whatever level in each of the classes that he is actually ready to perform at.

August 01, 2005 9:07 PM

Blogger Carrie Howell said...

I find your blog(s) very entertaining. I noticed you commented on my friend Joy's site (Southerner in Ireland).

Anyway, I teach in a publis high school and, while I was in college, nannied for some (rather sheltered) private school children. I have to say that, while my husband and I can afford to send our (potential future) children to private school or home school, public school (especially as kids get older) is the way we will go. I apprecaite that it better prepares children for "the real world" and all of its inhabitants (both those who we love and those we would rather do without). But, for every idiot teacher at his school, there are probably 2 or 3 good ones and, if you are lucky, one great one. JD may make other smart friends, and this may help him to learn more about himself and build his confidence. As an AP student (and a kid who skipped a grade), I know that those classes made me feel like being smart was an asset, not a liability that I had to hide. COlleges (in Washington, anyway) would rather see a student at a publis school than one who is home-schooled, if that is a concern. I'm sure JD can ace all the entrance exams, so perhaps that isn't an issue. Good teachers and goog schools will encourage your son to showcase his strengths and build upon his weaknesses. As a hard working 1th/12th grade English teacher, I like to believe that there is some hope for public education (otehrwise I'm wasting my time, right?).

Ultimately, you seem to be doing a great job investigating this matter, depite the ineptitude of the principal and his staff. School psychologists are notoriously awful--I know ours is.Best of luck as you continue to pursue this.

Also, good luck with the mattress hunt.

I agree that PE sucks. They were the only Bs I ever received in high school.

August 12, 2005 2:20 AM

Blogger Sylvana said...

Carrie, thank you so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment. I know that the public schools can be great. I know that there are some excellent teachers working at the public schools too. We were lucky enough to get a bunch of very good forward thinking teachers at my school in the boondocks (the one I went to). But I feel that the only reason they ended up in that low-income district was because they were forward thinkers and weren't on board for the silliness that can occur in so many other schools. Sort of like black-sheep teachers in other words. Not all of our teachers were good though. Some I think should have never been allowed to teach. In fact, I truly wondered if they hated kids.

I do agree that people need to learn how to deal with all sorts of people, but I don't necessarily agree that the public school is the best place for this for all kids. It is too concentrated and can be far too difficult for some to cope. JD is very sensitive and needs to have a less intense environment in order to deal with new or aggravating things. We are going to give it a shot though. If there is any sign of distress though that I feel will not pass with time, he's outta there!

August 15, 2005 8:37 AM