Friday, August 19, 2011

Public School.

This will not be a rant against the public school system.

I taught there for six years and have kept up on the goings on their through former colleagues and have plenty to say about the downfall of the American Public School System, but this post is not about that.

This post is personal.

This post is about Jonah, and how, just two days ago, he told us he wanted to try public school.

A thousand things went on in my head when he posed his request.  I wanted to say:

No.  Absolutely not.  We are not going back to the frustration of school.  

But I heard him out.

We talked about his reasons for wanting to go:

I want to see what it's like.

I want to be with lots of other kids all day.

I want to have recess.

I think simply "I want to see what it's like" is a good enough reason for an unschooler to be able to have a public school experience.

Of course I was devastated.  I shed my share of tears.  I experienced my share of  guilt.

But after two days or thinking on it, talking to friends, asking questions of other unschoolers, and reading this several times, I've come to the realization that this is STILL unschooling.

For Jonah, school is optional.  He doesn't have to go - he CHOOSES to go.  He can come home anytime he'd like, and we've made that absolutely clear.

Grades are unimportant to us.  This will be difficult for me - I am a grade oriented person.  I was a person who carefully calculated test scores and homework points and planned for greatness when it came to my GPA.  But for Jonah, I don't want him to feel any pressure to perform.  I believe he'll get what he needs out of school in the way that he needs to get it  He's excited to go and see how the public schools work.  Maybe he'll like it - school is a useful tool - maybe he won't, and he'll be home.  Regardless, our philosophy on life and education doesn't change.

I'm feeling the stress of registration and school supplies in ways I never thought I'd have to feel again.  He has never been to public school.  I worry about how he'll struggle with the multitude of arbitrary rules and teachers who might not understand his spirited disposition.  But this is about Jonah.  Not about me.  His grades are not a reflection on me personally (I think this is a difficult lesson).  I will not push him to do homework, but I will help him if he asks and provide a peaceful place to complete it - heck, I might even clean his room for him!

I can see the "I told you so's" from many people in my life.  The thing is - we're doing school in a totally different way than anyone I know personally has ever done it.  I've read experiences online, but never seen it in action for myself.  School as an OPTION rather than a requirement.  Grades as arbitrary scales for the teacher to use, rather than the student.

I will have a meeting with his teacher on Monday.  School begins on Wednesday.  I would so appreciate your prayers as our family takes this new step in our unschooling journey, especially for Jonah, who is taking a completely new adventure.

Please pray that we will all look at it as an adventure - that we won't slip back into a "schooly" mind-set, and that the experience will be positive, no matter what happens or what sorts of long-run decisions are made.

Thanks for reading.  :)


Kate Mauck said...

I'm praying, Missy and Michael. I know you don't do this lightly, and I know, as parents, this will be stressful, and you will be concerned, even if everything goes well, you'll still be concerned. Placing him in school means you must trust others to help your son to learn, adjust, and so many other things. Many prayers for little Jonah, Mom, Dad, and even Maeryn, who will lose her best bud during the daytime. Love you. Kate

Missy said...

Thank you so much, Kate!

Lisa Smith said...

Eric did this to us in July. I posted about it. We were lucky that there was a lot of time before school started and we just let him sit on it. Talking a little about it here and there on what he thought would happen in school. William has been in pre-k and Eric thought 2nd grade would be a lot like that. I told him it would be a lot different and we just kept an open dialog about it for 3 weeks or so and then he decided that he would rather be home. I can tell you I was very relieved when he decided that, even though we are sending William to K this year. The anxiety I have for him (and he HAS been in the school system) is huge! I will hope for the best for all of you!

Stan Cardwell said...

just reminding me of Family Ties - two left wing parents end up raising a staunch republican son. Who knows what Jonah has going on in that dreadlocked head of his!

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