Monday, August 18, 2014

A New Adventure

Tomorrow is our District's official First Day of School.  All of my daughter's friends will be pouring out of cars and busses clutching their lunch boxes and backpacks stuffed with shiny new school supplies.  They'll be trundling down the freshly shampooed hallway that I trundled down at their age.  They'll be filing into classrooms, chattering with friends, while their smiling teachers shake their hands and say "Hello!" and "Good morning!" and "Welcome back!"  Teachers who, in our little town, have watched them grow since preschool.  In my daughter's case, infancy.

At my house it will be Tuesday.  The kids will get up early as usual.  Eat breakfast and get dressed as usual.  They will spend most of the morning listening to Toddler Radio and playing with Superstructs or Legos.  As usual.  Just before they go play outside we might do a little reading or math.  My little girl will probably not notice that summer vacation has passed until we see some busses go by some afternoon a week from now.

This is my 6-year-old's first year homeschooling.  It was a decision that did not come lightly or easily to our family.  First off, my daughter loves school.  She REALLY loves it.  Not in the enthusiastic way that 6-year-olds love toys, ice cream, and balloons, but in the way that she loves her grandmother, her aunt, and our pony.  She draws elaborate cards for her former teachers (all two of them), the school secretary and principal.  She wonders aloud what the school janitor is up to.  She hugs herself and smiles when we talk about anything to do with the school.  Not sending her back as felt more than just a little bit cruel.

My daughter's feelings for the school has made our decision hard and my love for it has been nearly as difficult to overcome.  On a political and philosophical level, I absolutely, 100% support the institution of public education in general and our little K-8 in particular.  I think our principal of three years is doing a good job implementing curriculum changes and updating technology use.  I think the teachers are, without exception, wonderfully caring people and skillful professionals.  Many of them are good friends and neighbors.  I feel as if I am abandoning them at a time when they need the support of every responsible and civically aware community member.  As a recent graduate of a Masters of Arts in Teaching program and a state licensed teacher our decision has definitely felt like a betrayal.

So why am I distancing our family (again) from a community of professionals that I support?  I have dozens of reasons, all of them particular to my daughter, me, and our family.  It is the Anna Karenina Principle.  "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."  

I've given a lot of thought to a scathing diatribe, expounding on everything that's wrong with our school district and everything that needs to be improved in public education.  I've run through dozens of  imaginary blog posts and Facebook updates publicly skewering those I could characterize as villains in our school district and policies that I could easily and dramatically paint as harbingers of a zombie apocalypse.

I have decided, in my old age, that I am not as radical as all that.

After all, being negative would serve no purpose except for possibly as fodder for those who would wish to dismantle our system of public education with increased privatization and a voucher system which would be as horrible and ridiculous as dismantling the Department of Transportation.

Instead I will focus my energies on providing an awesome education to my three kids, supporting our local schools and school district in every way I can, and being a resource to parents and kids in my community.

Happy First Day of School, everyone!