Making Progress

One more post about the kiddos and then I promise, it’s right back to brilliantly scathing commentary on fundamentalism.  Okay, fine, it’s back to somewhat grouchy and disapproving commentary on fundamentalism.

It seems that we are in a good place with J and his school.  Thankfully, he has a wonderful and caring teacher who wants to see J be successful as much as we do.  I was amazed by some of the things she said to me today, particularly in regard to helping kids feel like they are making progress rather than always punishing the negative.

One reason we have been able to work through these tough issues is that I feel it is my duty as a parent to keep our son from being in the middle between his teacher and us.  We’re not on opposite sides.  We all want the same things.  J and his classmates have the right to an education, and it isn’t fair for one child to lose out for the sake of the rest, nor for the rest to be disrupted for the sake of the one.  I believe it is the responsibility of both parents and teachers to form an alliance in order to ensure a positive learning environment.

I have taken this approach with homeschooling as well.  From the time we began homeschooling four years ago, I went into it with the mentality that it was important for us to work with the local district in order that our children’s needs be best met.  Although it is not required by law to use them, I created J’s and now S’s IHIP (basically a homeschool learning plan) based on the school district’s forms.  I found the forms to be helpful not only for keeping in touch but for my own record-keeping and lesson plans.

The evidence of how well that worked came when J went to school.  School personnel were impressed with how well we communicated and J’s first teacher said he was well prepared to enter the classroom, in more ways than mere academics.  We had instilled in J a love for learning which carried over into his time at public school.  We are on a similar path with S, though she learns very differently than her brother.

Unfortunately, although this has been the approach that worked best for our family, I’ve faced a good measure of criticism.  The vast majority of homeschooling parents have told me that I provided the district with too much information, that I would “ruin” it for others because the school would expect more from them, that I was making too much work for myself, that it’s us against the evil public school world.  Nothing I said in our defense made any impression.  And once J was in school, I was actively shunned by some families I had known when the kids were younger.  Never mind that S is still learning at home, I had become a traitor to the cause.

The thing is, I don’t think it has much to do with homeschooling.  There are some people who simply view life as a series of battles.  The nuclear family is seen as an army or two, three, four, or more, and the enemy is anything on which they declare war:  Public school, teaching methods, mainstream physicians, food, religion (or lack thereof).  It’s not even a matter of fighting injustice.  For example, take the hostility over public school.  It’s usually about the belief that one’s own children are being harmed or neglected in some way.  It’s rarely about the need for reform within the schools that would improve things for everyone, such as smaller classes, higher quality food, and adequate resources.

We’ve chosen to see things differently.  We believe that if we support the teachers and the other staff, they will go to bat for us.  So far, that’s been proven true time and again.  As we work together to help sort out what needs to happen with J, we’re all keeping open minds throughout the process.  My husband and I have a great support network of family and friends.  It’s our job as parents to let J’s teacher know that we want to be a team in creating the best possible school experience we can for everyone.

It may not work out perfectly every time, in every situation, for every family.  I don’t want to paint a rosy picture or imply that if you just do all the right things, magic will happen.  Sometimes, needs are not met and changes must be made.  Sometimes there are real battles to fight.  But if every detail and every aspect of life is a battle, how can one ever hope to come home from the war?

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