Thursday, May 21, 2009

Where I've been.....

The last month or so has been a challenging one around my house and I have felt emotionally drained often enough that I've had a hard time writing anything of substance. I hope that's OK and I hope my few regular readers haven't totally lost interest.

The big drama in our family has revolved around The Dark Lord and high school. He made his own decision to stop homeschooling and enroll in a public high school as a freshman last year. He got off to a great start, made lots of friends, found an after school drawing club that he loved and things went well during his freshman year. This second year, however, has been much more challenging and he's lost a lot of his enthusiasm. What was a positive experience has turned to drudgery with no end in sight. There have been meetings with the principal which were encouraging but not truly helpful. There have been meetings with the vice-principal which were downright awful due to her annoying combination of condescension and chirpiness. I've been to conferences, talked with teachers, talked with other parents, made phone calls, read books---it's not unlike many years ago when some big shift in his development took place and I was desperate to talk to others, find answers, and help him transition.

When I talked with family members about his struggles I was told either that my expectations for him were too high or that he'd just need to tough out his high school years. Is it really too much to expect a formerly self-directed child to enjoy learning? Is there any more reason to expect him to tolerate a learning environment that fails to meet his needs? Or am I coddling him when I look for alternatives and try and help him sift through his options? This is the kind of stuff I've been struggling with lately, along with my son's obvious ambivalence about his situation. He's had a hard time weighing the options and making decisions about next year and the whole thing has been very stressful, most especially for him.

One option we'd hoped to have was enrolling him in PCC's Gateway to College program which is a dual credit program allowing kids to earn their high school diplomas taking college classes. Brilliant. The program focuses heavily on academic readiness and support so kids who haven't been terribly successful in school get what they need to do well. It's a great program and sadly, not available to us due to the school district in which we live.

As it turns out, Gateway isn't the only dual credit program out there and we began to look into the Early College Academy run through a statewide charter school. In the lower grades, it's an online curriculum not unlike Oregon Connections Academy which was a disaster for my kids. But the early college program, like Gateway, allows kids to earn simultaneous high school and college credit. With a little planning, my boy could have both his high school diploma and an associate's degree by the time he's 20. And the college tuition? Free. Early College Academy doesn't have the built in support piece in quite the same way, but they tell me that he will have a counselor who will meet with him as necessary to help him develop his organizational skills and help him plan and meet his goals. He feels like this is enough and is ready to make the switch.

Starting in September he'll be taking two classes at Portland Community College and his load will increase after that if things go well. He'll have a little breathing room and hopefully the ability to refocus on his goals. Plus, at PCC he can take classes like this, so he's pretty excited and so are his parents.

Next up: figuring out what to do with MonkeyBoy who has lost all interest in high school for next year. I'll keep you posted.....


Colleen said...

He's such a fabulous kid, I'm so glad things are decided and you all can breathe and enjoy a fresh start. Love you guys!

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I read this with great interest and concern. The Boychick is just finishing up his Freshman HS year, and like the Dark Lord, he chose to go to school against my better judgment. It has been an interesting year, and the Boychick made it through, but it has also been problematic for me and him, mostly because the Boychick is never going to be that 'normal' kid.

Keep us posted as you have the time. And I will keep you posted as well.