Sunday, April 26, 2009

Don't Stranger-Danger the Kindergarten Teacher

The Boss said that it was time to push the reset button. She said we all needed a chance to step back and regroup. Major Havoc saw it as an opportunity to try something that was new and cool and different, until it stopped being new and cool and different and he karate chopped his teacher on the neck. I kinda thought that by shipping General Mayhem off to school we were guaranteeing that our 12 year old son would see 13. In the short time span of January to April of this year we’ve gone from being a homeschooling family to a public schooling family and back to a homeschooling family again. At least with the Major and the Captain.

In our fifth year of homeschooling, the effort began to fall apart. General Mayhem was lonely and miserable. Part of this was our inability to find an active homeschooling group that was near our home, met regularly, and had children his age. Because the Captain did attend preschool four days each week from noon to three, we didn’t have the time to travel far for homeschool activities in other communities and still return home in time for her class. Part of the problem rested with the General. He attended karate class on Monday nights, Boy Scouts on Tuesday nights, and religion class on Wednesday nights, but was unwilling to speak with anyone his age, attempt to make friends, or get a phone number and invite someone over to play. He refused to go to youth group on Saturday nights. I honestly do not know why he was so standoffish. I do know that by the time the Boss returned home from Iraq in December, (and we do not know how much of an issue her departure was as he refuses to talk about it) his attention to school work was lackluster, at best. His attitude was horrible. After taking a much needed week-long trip to Florida in January, we enrolled the General at Apathy Middle School.

The best thing that can be said about his attendance at Apathy Middle School is that General Mayhem is a happier person. He is happy because he spends his day around kids his age and he gets to attend gym class. He hasn’t made any good friends. He doesn’t have the phone numbers of kids he’d like to see over summer vacation, but the fact that he hangs around kids his age all day long and gets to bean other students upside the head during dodge ball in gym class makes him happy. The General will admit that his academic work is not as challenging as our homeschooling work was. The Boss and I cringe when we see how disorganized the math instruction is and how the language arts teacher gives due dates for assignments and then doesn’t collect the work until four days after the due date. But we aren’t going to sweat it for now. It’s one half of a year in the sixth grade. How much damage can they do?

Shortly after the General started attending school, Major Havoc asked if he could go to school. He saw his brother going to school in the morning and his sister going to preschool in the afternoon and there were children playing on the playground when we dropped the Captain off at school and he decided that he wanted to be a part of the action. After some consultation with the Boss it was decided that the Major would attend Apathy Elementary School. In one short week I went from being a stay-at-home father of three, homeschooling two, to being a stay-at-home dad and car pool lane jockey.

The Major’s transition was difficult. At home his behavior deteriorated and he regressed in terms of how he communicated. His frequent nightmares returned. He was sick a lot. At school, a select few classmates taught the Major how to spit on the carpet in the classroom, to belligerently disregard instruction while pursuing other interests, and how to wander away from class activities to play on the other side of the room. This was the all important “socialization” that homeschooling critics bellow we are depriving our children of when we keep them at home. I can honestly say that the boy never spit on our carpet at home. The Major learned to play games in the lunch room, and discovered by accident that if he spilled milk on himself at lunch the school nurse would give him a change of clothes. He enjoyed the idea of new threads each day so much he started having daily “accidents” with his milk in the lunchroom. I would have let him sit in wet clothes for the rest of the day. That would have ended that game. The enablers at Apathy Elementary saw it differently.

All of the stress and all of the poor behavior and all of the games came to an end when Major Havoc’s teacher walked up to me after school one day and said, “Major Havoc Stranger-Dangered me today.”

I couldn’t help myself. I started to laugh. The Major’s karate sensei teaches escape moves so that young children can get away from “Stranger Danger.” They are taught to yell, “Stranger Danger!” when they use one of these escape moves. Sometimes they yell, “Help, you’re not my mother!” The Major used one of the moves to escape from his teacher when she gently grabbed his arm during class. Unfortunately, Major Havoc modified the maneuver he deployed, adding a karate chop across her right shoulder after he escaped from her grasp. His teacher explained that she didn’t write a disciplinary report and didn’t call me to school and didn’t send him to the office because she thought it was her fault. She should have made eye contact with him before gently guiding him over to the activity the class was engaged in. Neither the Boss nor I could understand why we were the only two who were upset by what happened. The next day we withdrew the Major from school and restarted our homeschool.

The Major is happier at home. The stress is gone. He sleeps better, doesn’t spit on our carpet or spill his milk at lunch, and doesn’t have nightmares. Dad is happy to be homeschooling again. We are planning on keeping the Major and the Captain at home together next year. The jury is still out on General Mayhem, but we know he’ll be attending Apathy Middle School through the end of the year. There’s a dodge ball tournament coming up in two weeks. There’s still a lot of noggin’s to bean.


Kathleen said...

Aww...I didn't realize you all had had such a rough year (I mean, aside from being without the Boss for so long). It's probably a good thing the kiddoes are seeing what ps is all about; that'll make them appreciate Home all the more.

CrossView said...

Karate chop??!! LOL! So the self-defense is definitely working!

We moved here when my (now) 19-yr old was in 5th grade. Since it ws a new city and state, she wanted to go to public school to meet kids. So she did. She was "done" after the first month but she stuck it out per our inital agreement. She finished 7th through 12th at home and still isn't thrilled with what she "learned" at public school....

CrossView said...

Have you seen this?

My 19-yr old wrote it when she was 15. THought it might be an ancouragement.... ;o)

Big Doofus said...

It's interesting how our individual kids can be so different. Having our oldest in high school has been a huge challenge, to say the least. We've debated the decision quite a bit--and still do.

Linda said...

Wow...I'm so sorry that you've been through this, but I'm sure the experience of the last few months will strengthen your confidence in your ability to give your kids so much more than the schools can and increase your conviction that homeschooling IS best for your children. I'm thinking that your kids might be home for good this time!! :-)