Okay, so you all know that we put our ninth grade son in a private high school this year, after seven years of homeschooling. And he has been doing incredibly well for the most part. Except for the part where he’s doing really, really badly. There are a variety of factors, which I can’t really get into here. But that’s what I went to speak to the principal about.
I’ve been paying close attention to this situation from the beginning of the year, but was reluctant to jump in and take over. But finally my husband and I agreed that we needed to take steps to deal with the issue. I told the principal that I want to homeschool him for the four afternoon classes – one of which he’s doing fairly well in, one is a complete write off because there’s a new teacher who can’t control the class, and two that he’s doing poorly in. I told him that I don’t expect the school to bend to meet my son’s needs, but I’m not willing to watch him spend hours every day and put in the effort and not get the education I want him to have.
The principal countered and said that the school will do whatever they can to make it work for him. Knowing that this flexibility only exists in words and won’t extend to anything meaningful, I thanked him and told him that it won’t help. The school day is obscenely long – my son is up before 7 am and out the door by 7:30, and gets home at 8:45 pm. Then he does homework and studies for tests, prepares lunch for the next day, or just relaxes a little – until midnight. On the days he’s off, he totally crashes – he just falls asleep on the couch for hours in the middle of the day, something he’s never done before. I told the principal that the day is very long – too long. By 3 pm, when these classes begin, he’s put in a full day and done well. He just doesn’t have any energy or motivation left to keep him going in the later classes. Will the school shorten it’s school day? Clearly not.
So the principal tells me it must be some social or emotional problem, because he doesn’t raise his hand to ask questions and sits in the back of the class. I didn’t expect it to be hard to understand that a kid who doesn’t want to be there and isn’t understanding all the material doesn’t want to participate. Why look for deep psychological motivations? It’s pretty obvious what’s going on to me.
Anyway, back to the principal. He told me I could hire a tutor to work with my son in the class he’s struggling with. I told him that was unreasonable, given the long hours and the private school tuition we were already paying, that there literally was no available time for tutoring and even if there was, I wasn’t going to do it. Then he suggested that he only take the first two classes, drop the second two, and come back for the night. I pointed out that picking him up from school at 5 pm and then having to begin working with him on his most difficult subjects wasn’t realistic or fair to him.
He admitted he had a bias, that kids need the social structure of school, and asked me how I would handle the credit documentation. I didn’t bother pointing out that my son was the best behaved in every class (that’s what all the teachers say, I’m not just saying that), had no behavior issues, and got along with all the kids – the social thing is so ridiculous that I just don’t have patience for it. I’m at the point in my life that I’ll just let anyone look at my kids and they can judge for themselves how they’re faring in dealing with others. If they want to ignore the obvious, why should I bother pointing that out? And I didn’t mention that he’s in school to learn, not for vague ‘social’ stuff.
I told him how I’d deal with the credits, and then told him that my biggest concern is that my son gets the skills and education that he should, and that if I had to choose between him getting credits and getting an education (meaning staying in school, though I didn’t directly say that), I’d choose the education every time. The skills and abilities are my priority, not a piece of paper. He countered by saying that a student needs to be successful in school to be successful in life.
Now I’d been quite polite until now, and I remained polite. I’m not looking to change his philosophy about education, just get my son out of a difficult situation into something that would work better for him. But time to take off the kid gloves – I couldn’t let something like that go by. So I told him, ‘I can’t disagree with you more. There is never another time in a person’s life once they are outside of school that they need to spend hours a day in a place they don’t want to be, doing things they don’t want to do, with people they don’t want to be with – and to have absolutely no say about any of it. And not only that, if you look around at the vast majority of hugely successful people today, the majority of them weren’t superstars in school. There is absolutely no correlation between success in school and success in life.’ He reluctantly conceded the point.
So he agreed that I could take ds out for four hours, if I got him back in time for the evening class. And if I got permission from the other principal, who is responsible for a different part of the curriculum. So off I go to the other principal, who fortunately was in and had time to speak with me. This principal loves my son – he told me he’s a real asset to the school and student body, can’t say enough good about him. He was very surprised to hear how poorly he was doing in the two classes I mentioned, since he knows he’s a smart and motivated student. I explained the situation to him, and he understood my concerns, but told me he doesn’t have the authority to release my son from that part of the program. Who does? I inquire. The board. The problem is, that the only reason they allow something like this is when a student has special needs that the school can’t meet. And since ds is in honor classes, the argument that he has special needs isn’t going to go over well, because the response would be to put him in a lower class.
So he said he’ll have an answer for me in a week. Interestingly, both of the principals mentioned in passing that the tuition might be an issue – meaning that I would want to pay less if he wasn’t there for all of those classes and that had to be taken into account. I told them that the tuition has been paid for this year, and we have no desire to get a refund at all. Just a desire to get our son in a situation where he’ll be learning again. Then I was told that they’re afraid to set a precedent that other parents will want to do what I’m doing. I found that amusing, as I know full well that very few parents of high school boys want to pull them out of school and be responsible for them academically, especially as that means dealing with their child for hours more a day.
As I said before, you have to look out for your child. No matter how wonderful someone else is, your child isn’t their child. All I care about is what’s best for my son, not what’s easiest for me, or my ego. Both of these principals are wonderful people – really, good quality people. But they have to juggle other agendas besides my son’s interests when they make decisions.