Thursday, September 06, 2007

An Unschooler in School - Part I

So my boy's in school. How do you like them apples?

I'm still not sure what to think of it, as it's only day 8 and all, and we're in "transition mode." For Brady that means adjusting to the incredibly annoying buzz of his alarm clock at 6am, learning how to multi-task, and asking things like, "What's an essay?" For me, so far it's meant crying in a Starbucks parking lot for 30 minutes before I could compose myself enough to go in, many sleepless nights, and wandering aimlessly through the empty house saying, "Brady? Brady?!"

You think I jest.

I've been known to be a tad heavy on the emotional side, so this change is throwing me for a bit of a loop and it's going to be a doozy of a ride.

It's funny what stress'll do to a grrrl. I didn't sleep for 3 nights straight in anticipation (aka dread) of his first day at school, and my sleepless nights continue still. My skin broke out. Last night I had to pull over while driving because I seriously thought I was going to faint. I've never fainted in all my life, so I don't know what that was all about. Luckily Rob was there, so he drove. I got a raging headache and did some deep breathing while I chewed 3 children's aspirin ('twas all I had on me) and muddled my way through my duties at Jonathan's soccer practice. (I've been appointed "Club Administrator". A new job to add to my muttly resume.)

But school is going well - surpringly well - and for that I am grateful and incredibly relieved. So relieved that I dare not gush on, lest I jinx it. That wouldn't be very good of me. "Mom, things were going along all fine, and then you had to go and SAY things were going well.....!" 'Round here, we don't like tempting the gods.

The friends have been warned not to ask too many questions, because as is my way, the tears lay in wait for the verbal cue. On the first day (the Starbucks parking lot-wallowing day) we had our homeschool group gathering, and I almost skipped it so I wouldn't have to face people and answer any questions. Sure enough, when Tina asked how it went my answer was given by way of tears and snot and a nose-dive into a tissue. After I recovered, I quickly told the next friend I was fine if I didn't talk about it, and I made it through the rest of the day acting like we hadn't just gone through a monumental transition that very morning. Denial is my friend.

Brady looked a bit like a deer caught in headlights that first day, though he says he wasn't nervous. But we knew the first day or two would be scary, since he not only has a new school to adjust to, but school itself in its entirety. So far the biggest challenge hasn't been the algebra homework, as expected, but how to know what to bring to which class and where and when and why and says who. I told him to ask lots of questions, but he won't. That's not his way. That's ok - he's gotten through just fine. A few minor scrapes, but nothing earth-shattering. H*ll, he can fail a test and I won't find it earth-shattering. Says the unschooling mom.

Last night, sleepless yet again, I rehearsed my unschooling-turned-school-mom mantra - that happiness is more important than grades, that there's a reason we opted out of the system for all these years and those reasons still stand, that even though his vocabulary list sometimes throws him for a loop he can build a computer from scratch and that's a d*mn amazing thing whether some authority figure grades him on it or not. And I'm all steeled and ready to be his advocate, if and when it's needed, after detecting the slightest disparaging tone from one teacher as she referred to "considering his prior situation..."

Not that I don't expect it. I was a teacher and I used to feed the same lines that I now read between. And I actually understand exactly where their hands are tied and know the reasoning behind certain concerns. I get it all. I've stood on all points of the circle in our journey from one realm to the other and back again. And now I'm especially grateful for my perspective as a radical unschooler, grateful to the pioneers before me who've helped me find my voice and see straight through the sh*t, and I'm poised and ready to do whatever it takes to see that Brady's experience there is what he needs it to be.

There've been many highlights, too. It's been lots of fun meeting new parents, meeting Brady's new friends, listening to him recount his day as he sits on the end of our bed, and hearing the roar of the crowd as his soccer team dominates an entire game. It's been surprisingly easy to rise early in the morning (helped, no doubt, by the minor fact that in some cases I hadn't gotten to sleep yet) when it's to help Brady and not to trudge off to some dreaded job myself. It's given Jonathan and me some amazing quality time together, something he's gotten less of being the younger child. And it's proven to me - whether I sought 'proof' or not - that after 8 years of total unschooling, my child can walk into a college-preparatory high school, at grade level, and do just fine.

And if that doesn't make the "powers that be" pause and think for a moment...


School quotes for today:

"You know, Mom, I wouldn't mind school at all; I'd like it even - if it weren't for all this homework." ~Brady

"I hate school. School takes people away." ~Jonathan



Stephanie said...

Aaah, Friend.
I'm there with you.
Right to the end - that being The Homework - which is an Abolition of Childhood, as far as I am concerned, and right there with Jonathan, who sees plainly that School Takes People Away.
I've been thinking alot about the U process lately - back to school and all, and I think of Sandra D's words about classes, and how it's just a class, and interesting since one isn't compelled to stay there. Interesting because there's freedom in it. No parent screaming "do it right or else". So in our ways, I think we make the Dreaded School a bit tempting, just because we have no attachments to it.
I can't know, of coure, mine are young still, but I can certainly see down the road.
I'll be here, too, along with your lovely friends, to listen and sigh and complain whenever you need it.
With love, Steph

K. said...

I am so feeling you on this. Long story, naturally, but I panicked once and stuck my two oldest kids (7 and 9 at the time) into public school, suddenly fearful that I was robbing them of important life experiences because of my own baggage and fears (never mind, told you it was a long story) and while the two of them were troopers who navigated this incredibly foreign world beautifully while there, I was a complete wreck about it.

Of course in my situation, everything happened for all of the wrong reasons, and luckily it only took a month for every one of us to realize that it was a bad choice for the whole family. Valuable experience learned.

Just sitting here thinking about you in that Starbucks parking lot I feel the ghost of that knot in the pit of my stomach again. But in my case, I went against everything that I knew to be right. In your case, you are following everything that you know to be right, and I completely salute you for supporting Brady as he takes on these new challenges out in that wide world.

Big transitions for all of you, you'll be in my thoughts, and I know that this will bring you what you're meant to receive from it.

OrganicSister said...

Hang in there Mama. Take heart in your boys happiness and know that what he needs, he will get with the aptitude to allow him to disregard the rest. You've empowered him to be himself and now he can conquer the world with the knowledge and encouragement you've given him. I know it's hard for you still but it seems as if you've succeeded in helping to grow an able-bodied/minded son. I only hope to succeed as you have!

Stephanie said...

Mighty sweet of you to put links to my blogs in your sidebar.

Laura said...

Aw thanks y'all.. your collective words are the soothing balm I crave. Let it be known that unschoolers rock - the proof's right here.

kelli said...

awww, Laura, hugs to you.

I can't imagine how hard this is for you. You ARE doing the right thing. :) Honoring your son for who he is and what he wants. All will be well, I can tell you know that deep down.

I'm thinking of you~