Or: How I Became Another Brick in the Educational Wall
I was one of those kids; you know the ones. The one that the teachers probably draw straws at the beginning of the school year, hoping to avoid. That kid that had a few outcast friends who were just as loud, obnoxious, or weird as they are. The kid who is whip-smart, but no one would know because they are only known for the trouble they cause, or for the incessant chatter from their vicinity. So in second grade, in a small school that served an entire county, I finished my second grade year under the tutelage of a Portuguese immigrant who hated me. No, really, she hated me. She would scream at me, spit flying in my face as she hurled insults. She actually physically grabbed my arms and shook me one day in anger. Why? Because I talked too much. I was a distraction. I was dubbed ADHD, and properly drugged up. But no medicines could tame my brain, and no matter what they threw at me, I was still... well, me.
I think you may be able to glimpse one of the reasons that I so firmly believe in homeschooling, and I will give you another hint... Do you see that handsome fedora wearing fellow in the banner above? Yeah, well, he is a perfect image of his mother at his age, and just the two years that he was in public school was enough for me to see that he was going to get the same reaction by teachers and other kids as I did. How could I do that to him?
Third grade saw another school in another state, as I spent a lot of my childhood unsettled, moving around from place to place. Luckily, I also gained a teacher who had the patience and compassion enough to see through the fidgety, noisy child on the outside, and see the potential that was inside of me. Four grade, no such luck. And fifth grade was moving on to another school, another state. By the time I was in fifth grade, I was living my mother's dream of getting back to the land. We lived in the middle of nowhere, literally a half an hour from grocery stores or shopping. We learned to live on less, which is a beautiful thing, but since I was going to school in a busy, upscale city a half hour away, I was sitting among the upper crust children of privilege. I would go to school, proudly wearing a souvenir shirt that my parents had gotten me, only to be ridiculed by the snooty elite because it was not the newest shirt design from the popular boutique shops in town. The teasing was relentless; if I tried to wear the same type of clothes as others, I was laughed at because it was knock-off design, if I wore the same pants more than once a week I was laughed at for that, if I (God forbid) wore obvious hand-me-downs, I was completely ostracized. It was terrible just getting up each day, and I began to have panic attacks before school, lying in bed and shaking uncontrollably. The one saving grace that I had in grades five through seven, was that I met my lifelong best friend. I became friends with the outcasts, but it was better than being alone! I had a small group of friends, all equally "dorky" to the rest of the school, but also full of kindness and compassion for those suffering the same alleged maladies.
Aside from trouble with other students, I had trouble from teachers. I had not, by this time, grown out of my loud nature, and was constantly in trouble with the teachers and the principle for my "behavior problems". Then there was the problem with me being smarter than some of my teachers. I guess this could be an overstatement, but, let's put it this way, if you are going to teach English, you better understand proper usage! I unfortunately have trouble controlling my mouth, so when my English teacher would tell the class 'this is how you would use this phrase', but get it wrong, I would correct her. Oops. Now, before I go further, I want to explain that I am simply filling you in on the history of my personal education. I'm not bashing the education system, I'm not insulting public school, I'm telling about what I experienced. I use myself as an example to compare the experience that my children might run into in school. I've spoken before on their experiences in school, as well.
Because of a miscommunication, I was expelled from school in 7th grade. My mother homeschooled me for the rest of the school year on her own, and I was enrolled in a homeschool umbrella school for eight grade. It completely changed my life. All of a sudden, I had the freedom to work at my own pace, I was no longer held back by scheduled guidelines and mass education. I finished eighth grade in a normal time frame, but I did a full year and a half of school each year after that. On top of educational freedom, I was going to a testing center twice a week to test and to be tutored, and in doing so, I met all of the other kids who were "school rejects", or whose parents chose homeschooling for other purposes. I flourished. I made many new friends, and my extroverted personality was more often to be praised than found to be offensive. I'm not certain what it was exactly that allowed me to feel so much more at ease in this smaller setting, but I never again felt that anxiety, and I began to look forward to school. I finished high school at 16 years of age.
Now, I can't say that after that I followed along as planned, going to college and being that successful homeschool story where the kid is a doctor by 20, because instead, I chose to marry the wrong guy, have two children, get a divorce, and start all over again before I went back to college. But that is another story entirely.
Looking back, my education was clouded with anxiety and self-defeat, mostly because I was always told not to be who I was. I cannot say that I was ever inspired to greatness by a teacher, although a few stand out for their patience, none really inspired me until college (thank you, Dr. Andrew Kelley!). I went into college needing extra help in Math and in Composition, as they were both skills I severely lacked from the high school program that I used. I had little confidence in myself, and I have spent years working on restoring that. Public school brought me daily strife. Homeschool gave me more confidence, but not enough academia. I'd much rather my children experience a peaceful education, and take the extra time and effort to ensure that they get the proper knowledge before graduating than to entrust them in a system that does not seem to do more than push them along without acknowledging who they are as individuals. I'm not a "crunchy, hippie type", I believe in discipline and rules, but I also know that a child who's hyperactive (*cough*fedorakid*cough*), or a child who seems to have it all together, yet secretly struggles to force their own perfection at the cost of their health and inner joy (*cough*mygirl*cough*), or a kid with their head in the clouds (*cough*goofykid*cough*) will get eaten alive by both teachers and other kids in school. At least here, they have freedom of individuality, which is something I only wish I could have had.