Sunday, September 02, 2007

Back to School

OK, it isn't really back to school because The Dark Lord hasn't been in a schoolroom since pre-school. When he finished up there, we tried getting him into a charter school kindergarten which fell apart. We decided then that we would homeschool him for kindergarten because we really didn't feel that he would thrive in a busy classroom all day long. He's always been a kid with the ability to focus deeply when he's interested and the need for lots of solitude. Being around too many people for too long and being required to switch from one task to another seemed to stress him out, so we saw no reason to push him into that kind of environment so early.

Our first year of homeschooling grew into many years. MonkeyBoy joined in as well. Over the years, both boys learned to read in completely different ways. They've explored topics in depth, tried out everything from fencing to yoga, worked at home and in lots of different groups, and have read hundreds of books. They've written stories, made movies, built bridges, dissected owl pellets, taken field trips, acted in Shakespeare plays, and had endless hours to dream and imagine and

But then one day last spring, The Dark Lord mentioned that he might like to give school a try. We set up a visit and off he went to see what high school was all about. He came home not exactly eager, but definitely willing to give it a try. This month we've turned in forms and worked on replenishing the wardrobe. We've bought binders and lunch kits and a fancy new backpack and all of this business has kept me from focusing on the real issue, which is that my child will be leaving our home and spending much of his day out there, in the land of TV and pop culture and drugs and promiscuity and fundamentalist Christians and racists and gangs and cheerleaders and all the things we've tried to keep him from. He's strong and he knows who he is and what's right and wrong and I am confident that he will make good choices, but I just can't begin to imagine what he will make of this experience.

It's a good enough school. We're outside the city's big school district and don't have to participate in the competitive struggle to get our kids into the best school. There's one high school in the district and all the kids have the same opportunities. The classes range from remedial to honors (and my homeschooling mama self is proud that the boy's writing was good enough that he was accepted into those honors classes). The school's population is diverse which, admittedly, can't be said of our city's homeschooling community which is mostly white and mostly at least middle class. The arts program surprised me in its variety--I thought they didn't have money for arts in public schools anymore.

So our whole family is just.....waiting. We all seem to understand that this is huge, for all of us. I will actually welcome the chance to pay more attention to his siblings who will continue to learn at home, but I am having a hard time getting used to the idea that he'll be missing from our home for hours and hours every week.


shula said...

Don't worry. I'm sure he knows what he's doing.

He is the Dark Lord, after all.

Wish I'd kept my baby out of the system.

beth h said...

I often wonder what the world might look like if all parents were given the ability to school their kids as you have for the first several years -- alone and in small groups, pursuing their interests and developing good basic skills along the way -- before allowing them to try out public school.

Plus, there ARE parts of the high school experience that can be fun. granted, there were parts I could have done without, but the mixture of social madness with the healing balm of music and journalism enabled me to go through the experience with a stronger sense of myself in the end.

I suspect that DL will find his way, make mistakes, and turn out fine in the end.

Heather Madrone said...

Oh my. My eldest (now 18 and at community college) sounds very much like your Dark Lord. She also considered attending high school. We took the whole family (including the toddler) to the high school orientation that spring, and my daughter decided that high school would interfere with her education.

Phew! Bullet dodged.

Anyway, I'm sure that some time in high school will be educational in its own way. Since your child is there voluntarily, he'll either find a way to make high school work on his terms or he'll decide to do something else with his time. Either way, all those years of homeschooling give him a strong base to work from.

One of the hardest parts of having my eldest move on (to community college, in her case) was that so much of our homeschool was built around her. The younger kids and I are still finding our way without her. We miss her on field trips and try to hold activities she'll enjoy so she can participate, and it just doesn't feel the same without her.

We have to remind ourselves that we can decide to do things that we'd like to do, that it's okay for us to go off and have fun without her.

Susanna said...

We went through that last year. My third son (of 5 kids) went to highschool, starting in grade 11. He had decided a year before that he wanted to go in a year so that he had time to do some academic prep stuff. He is the first of any of the kids to attend school at all. He did fine academically and socially and really in the end it wasn't that big a deal. Son #4 is registered to start HS for the second semester this year. The key is that your son wants to go and that he has choices about staying there or coming back home etc.
Good luck to you. I remember how nervous, and sad too, I was last fall.

Elizo said...

Wow. I was going to say that I can't wait to hear how it goes, but I'm guessing it will probably take a while to really figure out how it is going, and for all of you guys at home to get used to the new regime, minus one kid much of the time. I hope it goes well for all of you, and I look forward to hearing about this whole process--we'll be there one day, presumably, at least for college. Maybe DL'll come watch the swifts with us all so we can tell us about it.