Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Adventures Continue

So Tim left for Nebraska August 27 in the morning. We drove him to the airport and said good-bye.

The official plan was for us to survive one week, get through the first day of school, and then, if some money showed up to pay for gas, we'd join him in Nebraska.

So we survived the week. That wasn't easy, since we got news that my Dad's cancer surgery wasn't so successful...and then found out a few days later that the (incompetent) PA had just read the charts wrong and the surgery was a success and the cancer was gone. (I was more than a little mad at the PA for all the stress he put us under because he can't read a chart!).

And the money showed up. We had agreed to babysit the daughter of another cast member while we were in Nebraska, if we could just get there. So she forwarded us the babysitting money. As we climbed into the car, I looked down and there was a hundred dollars sitting there! Tim had lost a hundred dollars he'd set aside for food and tithing, and he'd searched the car thoroughly, so we chalked it up to lost. And there it was, in plain sight.

So, with the money in hand, we prepared to go. We took Dan to the dentist TWICE in the same day--first time we got lost and they rescheduled. Second time we were 10 minutes late and they cancelled on me because his toothache wasn't as important as people who just walked in with toothaches. Huh? So much for medicaid!

We did my doctor's appointment with 3 small children in tow. That was difficult enough that I just didn't bother with the glucose screening and the office just had to be fine with that. No options. So of course they were.

Then we did the first day of school for any of us ever. The Aurora Public Schools has this awesome, state-wide program for homeschoolers called "Options". Any homeschooler can register for a year of school that meets ONLY with other homeschoolers and ONLY one day a week. For free. The kids go to school every friday and we got to choose their classes, so Caleb is taking robotics, piano, PE, drama, and other classes, and Anda is taking robotics, science, art, Spanish, drama, PE, etc--stuff I can't really teach at home as well as they can teach in a class. Plus they have a one day a week kindergarten for Daniel. AND they provide the rest of the at-home curriculum for you at no cost (except workbooks if you want to order them), and you still get to choose your books and curricula, and there is no teacher supervising that you have to check in with. It's a very cool program that is appropriately tailored to the peculiarities of homeschooling families and kids, and appropriately respectful to homeschooling culture (for example, the dress code is more modest, the behavior and discipline system more discussion-based and natural consequences based, and they aren't checking in with parents on what they're doing at home like most cyber "home" schooling systems do).

Still, even with the coolness of the program, and even with us having spent the last part of August fixing our sleep schedule so we could be alert and go, I was nervous. I've always done everything myself, and I was going to be trying to go to classes the first day with 3 kids all at the same time. Plus juggle Nathanael (thankfully, a homeschooling friend took Benji for the day). Not only were we starting school (and I had no idea how the kids would like it), we were leaving from the school to drive to Nebraska--a 6 hour drive with just me and the kids, and I don't drive long distances well (first my body starts to hurt, and then I get too sleepy to drive--a gut reaction to try to get rid of the fibro pain that comes from driving).

So we went to school.

And I loved it. I walked into the room and found 170 kids with their parents--and among them we were not weird. It was the strangest thing to walk into a room full of people and discover that we're part of a large and established culture. It's a culture of larger families, so nobody looked at us and said, "How do you do it?!" like they do everywhere else I go. (Homeschooling families have a stay-at-home mom and, usually, an intact traditional family, or it's not possible. That's conducive to having more children than 2. They also tend to like kids, or they wouldn't have any desire to be with them all day every day). It's also a culture of smarter moms (you have to know how to learn in order to homeschool, and you've covered K-whatever age your kids are usually more than once, so you could win "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" when most people can't; plus you don't homeschool if you don't have some confidence in your ability to do better than the public schools with education--that means you're comfortable with learning and education stuff). It's also a culture where parents are accustomed to sacrificing for their kids, where appearance doesn't matter as much, and where "the way it's done" is not nearly as important as what's right. It was a room full of free-thinking women who decided what they wanted was kids--and do everything they could possibly do to make their kids lives work. It was also a room full of kids who, for whatever reason, don't fit in the system well. Most of them were smarter than your average kid. A handful were skittish and in constant motion (not surprising). Bunches were from mixed-race families. At least one family had a deaf member and was pretty clearly into the deaf culture.

The thing that struck me most was that there were over 170 kids in the room (170 plus toddler and baby siblings) and I didn't see a single sullen, rude, selfish, defiant, aggressive, druggie, immodest, or bullying kid in the bunch. I saw a whole lot of kids who would be mistreated in public schools, both by the other students and by the adults who are trying to maintain order (and "can't you just put your bottom in your seat?!"). And I saw kids on all ability levels. But I didn't see any "bad" kids or any "trouble" kids. I saw a bunch of fun-loving, respectful kids, even when their parents were elsewhere. That struck me--you know I just wrote that post on socializing homeschoolers. What I saw was a bunch of kids who were not only properly socialized with their peers (and I watched them in their peer groups while the other mothers were in a meeting and I was with a terrified Daniel), but they were properly socialized to adults, to kids older and younger than themselves, and to everyone they came in contact with. They weren't submissive or abused. They were polite and courteous, and extremely responsive to others, both adults and children, strangers and friends. And I saw a bunch of adults who loved to be around their children but were completely comfortable letting their kids go--letting them be who they are, letting them learn what they need and want to.

What struck me was that I saw a hundred families that were functioning. And it was a pretty powerful thing.

No comments: