I did it! I finally took the first official step towards homeschooling ds10!
This has been a long, long time coming. When I enrolled him in school a year and a half ago, I had very strong hesitations – I wasn’t sure if I was putting him a situation that would be a challenge he could grow from or putting him into something so difficult it would be damaging.
He’s a very sensitive and caring boy with deep thoughts and feelings – one day he’s going to be an amazing husband and father. He has such a good heart and combined with the development of his strengths, he’s going to be a wonderful young man. He already is a wonderful boy! But fifth grade isn’t really a kind and gentle place, and isn’t kind to kids like him. You need to be fast moving and athletic and good with a quick joke or retort – and he’s not. You have to be able to not show your hurts when people make fun of you and say how stupid you are – but he does. And that’s where the visible problem was, that he would tear up in class when he felt very frustrated, and twice he screamed when he was totally overwhelmed. The invisible problem was the pain of being in a situation in which he felt unsafe and uncared about – it’s hard when you’re constantly made fun of and put down, where you’re used as an example of someone incompetent in some area – eg, “What, you don’t know how to do that? Even so and so (ds10) can figure that out!”
I’ve tried to encourage him and spend time building our relationship and building him up. I tried to help him focus on his successes and reframe the hard situations. It’s taken a lot of energy but it was worth it because he’s important to me, and until this year it was working. This was also thanks to a very sensitive and aware teacher last year, who didn’t judge him and looked for ways to build him up. But then Yirmiyahu was born and life got busier, and I couldn’t keep doing all that I did. And the connection with his teacher is also very different, which is a major factor. So this year has been a different story.
Months ago I met with the principal with the intent to pull him out of school. But the principal was so forthcoming and desirous of helping that I agreed to leave him there and work with them to find a way for him to be successful. It’s still not easy at all. I don’t know if it’s better than it was months ago. He shows his frustration or sadness less, which is considered progress to everyone else, but to me I’m concerned that he was becoming emotionally hardened to his inner vulnerability.
Today I met with the principal again. Ds10 has been home for two weeks and I should have met with him sooner but it’s honestly been very, very busy and so I haven’t. I can’t say enough positive about this principal. The only reason I wouldn’t want to homeschool ds10 is because he’s such a wonderful principal, so caring and really tries to find solutions to help every child, and I didn’t want to tell him I was taking ds10 out. Today he also extended himself with ideas about how to build an individualized plan to help ds10 together with the help of the psychologist we’ve been consulting with privately regarding this situation (who months ago recommended homeschooling). I’m still really pleased with the school and their willingness to work with us; I have nothing bad to say and would continue to recommend it. But this time I told him, no. We’ve tried and we’ve tried and so much energy has gone into just keeping him in school and I don’t want to keep investing more energy in this effort. When he doesn’t go to school, his outbursts of frustration, his crying about seemingly nothing, his passive aggressive behavior toward his younger siblings – it all disappears. It’s obvious to his older siblings without being told when he’s not in school for a day, because he’s happy. He’s happy and helpful and relaxed and a great older brother…. really a pleasure to have around.
A couple of days after dh left to the US, ds10 came home very upset about something, something legitimately disturbing. And I finally said, why am I trying so hard to keep him from feeling like a failure when at home without even a fraction of the effort on either of our parts, he can feel good about himself? I’ve thought this a number of times, but I kept thinking we just have to get him through the year and then we’ll homeschool him next year. But now with my dh gone my time and energy are maxxed out- I’m grateful I can do all that I do and that things are going so well. But I have limits., and I finally said, that’s it. I just don’t have the extra reserves to pour into the school situation. The price is too high and the payoff is so tiny.
I spent hours a few days ago crafting the first part of our application to homeschool, listing our reasons for wanting to homeschool. A friend will be translating it for me this coming week, at which point it will be submitted. This paperwork has been a source of a lot of stress for me. In the meantime, the principal told me to be in touch with the truant officer since they have an obligation to notify the city once a child isn’t in school for three days. In this case, they chose not to notify until they had spoken with me.
So I’ll give the truant officer a call today so he has a heads up. I’ve met with him twice before – once at the beginning of the year when we were planning to homeschool ds, and once when the girls’ school was pushing us to get counseling for dd12 and we refused. (By the way, I learned last week that not long ago the administration became aware of what we were told by the school advisor during our meetings and was very disturbed. So much that a teacher on staff who is a good friend of mine was told they feel very badly for putting us through what they did and feel they owe us an apology. How all of this came into the open and what was said is an interesting story but I can’t go into details.) At our last meeting he told us that we’re very well thought of in the community so hopefully he has a decent impression of us and we won’t encounter too much difficulty with our homeschooling application.
This was just the beginning but it was an important step, and it was good for my plans to finally stop just being in my head and start taking concrete form. Upward and onward!