We are once again returning to homeschooling. While I am, of course, relieved at Ava's decision to homeschool, I am glad she had the opportunity to try out school. If it weren't for John encouraging me to allow her to choose for herself, I probably wouldn't have let her. Now she sees what it's like, she gained a new experience. She was courageous in doing so on her own free will. She no longer will be curious about what it's like or feel held from it.
John is more comfortable with school than I am. He had an overall positive experience, in his later school years especially. He had many friends and was fairly popular and a well-liked guy. Well, perhaps some of his teachers weren't as happy with him. He did spend his share of time in the Alternative Learning Centers where he met many friends from as well. Yes, he has a lot of entertaining stories of the trouble he and his pals got into in his teenage years. But he did enjoy school.
Meanwhile, I was the "good girl" student. Teachers loved me. I got good grades. I was quiet and did as I was told weather I liked it or not. I never expressed my dismay or anger at authorities and teachers. I was the perfect student. Looking back, I may have felt much happier, more confident, and certainly would have gained popularity if I would have kicked over a few chairs and cussed out a teacher or two. It would have done me good to skip some classes. I would probably have some pretty fun memories then. The kind I could look back and laugh about.
It makes one wonder how important the actual school part is! Afterall, all those bad grades and missed classes didn't hurt John any. He is a successful electrician and entrepreneur. He makes twice as much money as I could ever hope to achieve despite my honor roll grades, perfect attendance and four year degree. And I'm thankful that he is so smart and confident and such a hard worker. And thankful that opposites attract! (Well regarding the good girl/bad boy thing...I think I'm also smart and confident and a hard worker, haha).
After watching Ava these past few months, I see she is a "good girl." She does as she is told in school. She never talks back. She tries to please her teachers. She does as she's told even when she's angry about it, without saying a word.
From the first week of school, Ava would return very angry and frustrated. On the second day, I dropped her off as she kissed Amora and Noah goodbye and said she loved them. She smiled and waved goodbye. When I picked her up at 4, her brother was beaming in his carseat after spending the day telling me he missed her. As she climbed into the van, and he smiled a big hello, she screamed at the top of her lungs and began hitting on him until I physically stopped her.
I was crushed. Sad for Noah, whose excited smile was turned to painful tears. And sad for Ava, whose frustration and anger had been building throughout her long day. Although she no longer beat on her brother after that day, her anger and bad moods continued. We talked constantly about it with her. Each time it was the result of some specific incident that happened at school that upset her earlier in the day that she had been holding onto. The last of such was because one of the paras, who according to her "has a rough voice and is mean to all the kids," made her wear her boots home when she wanted to wear her shoes. Every time these incidences happened, I explained she should express to her teacher how she was feeling or ask the teacher or para why something is necessary. Each time she shook her head "no."
I realized what a tough thing that is for a child to do. To speak up for themselves in an environment such as a classroom. And if she did that often, she would likely be labeled as difficult or stubborn or uncooperative.
I also think of the long day these kids have with no solitude or break. I actually quit visiting her at lunch time because the lunchroom was so loud and crowded that I wasn't even able to chat with her anyways! The teacher, during this time, takes her much needed break sitting quietly eating alone in the classroom. Ava is around 20+ five year olds ALL day long. Some she likes, some she doesn't. She has to sit by kids that bother her, she's obviously not allowed to have any quiet time alone.
I realize many will read this and say "So what? That's what school is about. It's socialization. She'll get used to it." But though we have come to take this setting to be a normal part of childhood, it's really not. In real life, a child deserves some quiet time when they need it.
In real life, a child would have friends of all ages and abilities in their surrounding communities. Some to look up to and learn from, and some who look up to and learn from them. Real life doesn't box 20+ five year olds in a classroom most of the day.
In real life the adults around a child know and love them unconditionally. The adults around children in real life are those they trust and can tell everything to. In real life, the adults kids learn from do not need to test and assess and quiz a child to prove they are learning.
These past few months, my heart has broke over and over again for Ava. My stomach turned dropping off my bubbly social daughter knowing I'd be picking up an angry stressed child with a broken spirit. I stood by as she went from, "Just drop me off at art class and go mom!" to not wanting me to leave her anywhere. And as she was crabby and angry all weekend because she said she was thinking about school on Monday.
The morning Ava made her decision, we were getting ready for school. Like a typical school morning, she was angry and was fighting with Noah. She called me into her room and said she wanted to be done for good with school and just wanted to do homeschooling.
When we talked about it and I said that she could stop if it was what she really wanted, she suddenly returned to my normal little girl! Immediately after I left her room she began playing happily with Noah. Like a light switch had been flipped.
I told John it looked like a big weight had been lifted off of her little shoulders.