Sunday, September 14, 2008

another check mark ....

.... for the homeschool option.

Let me start by saying that we have circumstances w/ our child that prevent us from just saying 'ok' to any school, putting it gently and respectfully - our oldest fairs better in a smaller group setting. His IQ is in the 'well above average' range, he read on a 9th grade level (he is in 5th grade, and the is youngest in his peergroup), and is 1 grade ahead of his peers in many areas of math. However, when it comes to social maturity and social behaviors, he's a little behind the curve and performs at his grade level (socially) as long as he's in a smaller group. Because of this, we take into consideration how large the public school system classrooms have become. Most of the classrooms in our local AND private schools are 25+ students per class with one teacher, and a part time assistant. We hand picked the school he attends and it's an IB school that offers a classroom opportunity to him that many other schools in the system do not, he has a peer group of 10 on average in his classroom, the cultural mix is almost 50/50, the school scores are higher then our other school options, the school is in a community setting (literally in the center of a large neighborhood) and has the atmosphere of school when I went.... downside, it's 17 miles from our home and with the city traffic that's 30-45 min one way on any given day and 25 min at the very best.

The commute alone puts a check mark on the 'pros' of homeschooling, along with the rising gas prices! But we're not weighing our decision lightly, with the sensitive situation with our oldest in general, we are making a very thought out decision for his educational, I'm completely frustrated with what happened Friday and some force of nature held me back from turning my car around and possibly embarrassing myself and my children. If you've ever read Love and Logic Parenting then you're going to understand our decisions in homework recently. We have had major problems in the past with accountability and responsibility, even on the smallest levels, with our oldest and as a result we've had to re-train ourselves to make sure we're holding him accountable. The best concept in the LL books in my opinion is that when a child is small, the price tag for mistakes is much smaller then those of older children/teens/adults. Love allows children to grow through their mistakes, logic happens when we allow them to live with the consequences of their choices.

So... on to the choice he made. He's given a small homework assignment each day (30-45 min max) and with that, he's to write down in his agenda what assignment he did and then have us sign it to acknowledge that he did his work. The key in this is that he is supposed to remember to do this! School's been in for roughly 3 weeks now, and each day for the first two weeks I said the same thing over and over (Jonathon even got frustrated with hearing it) "each night before bed I expect your agenda to be on the counter for our review, along with any homework that needs signing". Each day for those two weeks, I caught myself using that quote as a way of reminding and rescuing him - old habits die hard. So this past week on Sunday I cut that off, as parents we agreed to stop it all together, because what was happening was we were being trained to remind him and the results are not that he becomes responsible, they're that he becomes co-dependant! Sunday we said to him "we've bought a special tray for things to be signed and it's on the bar, every night before you go to bed anything that needs signed needs to go there, otherwise it will not get signed." Sunday night went fine, he got us to sign (weekend reading assignment) because of that speech. Monday night, not so well. Tuesday morning in the car he frantically remembers that I haven't signed, and blames me. I asked him if he put it in the tray for signing? Once I asked this he became frustrated, but accountable. I did not sign the paper in the car, that wouldn't have helped him be responsible at night! I'm not being difficult, we made the decision of when papers were to be signed as a group - him included. We're holding him to that, with the exception of a true emergency - things are to be put on the bar for signing before bed. Tues night and Wed night he remembered just fine but Thurs night he slipped up again and didn't get it signed as well as didn't complete one of his writing assignments. We knew he didn't complete it, and it wasn't for a lack of time - he bolted out of the dining room insisting he was 'all done' and wanted to go play.... in checking that evening after he went to bed I discovered he didn't complete his assignments. We give him an opportunity (time) to do his work, if he chooses not to use that opportunity wisely, then he has natural consequences.

Fast forward to Friday (this could turn into the longest post I've ever written, sorry - I'm frustrated!), he gets to school w/o his signed agenda and with a half-done homework assignment. Fridays are special, because we give him and extra dollar to buy himself a sweet treat. He makes terrific food choices all week, eats things most teachers won't eat (spinach, greens, etc) at school, and as a weekly treat we let him buy cake or a cookie on Friday. He looks forward to this like I look forward to Starbucks. So he goes in the lunch line, buys his lunch and a slice of pound cake and sits to eat.... when his teacher comes over to tell him he 'cant have cake today' because of his not doing his homework. WHAT?????? We pay for lunch!!! We do not believe in using basic needs as a tool of discipline. Basic needs are a given. True, cake isn't a basic need - but the lunch process is, the choice making for lunch is his and we trust him with that responsibility. I wonder, had I packed his lunch and included a brownie or cookie, would he have been denied that? I pay, my choice - that's how I see it. Secondly, Fridays are 'fun Fridays' in the class for those kids who have accumulated enough 'points' to earn a 30 min break from the regular routine and enjoy a short educational film or activity outside the norm. What was Friday's activity?? MAKING ICECREAM SUNDAY'S!! He had enough points to earn it, and got himself an icecream Sunday. I wonder if the teacher realizes her cake removal process was redundant, as she says "you can't have cake right now, but you can have icecream later" - where's the learning opportunity??

I'm so frustrated right now. We've implemented a system of logical consequences at home, setting limits and allowing mistakes to become a learning opportunity in order to reinforce responsibility. He knows I'm frustrated with his teacher, he could tell by the 'OMG' look on my face when he told me.... further, he told me that he gave his cake to a teacher!! I hate to start cake wars, so I'm really soul searching on how to handle this with tons of tact and not come across like a 'you took my kids cake' type of parent. I do feel this one is worthy of my stepping in, and don't feel it's a helicopter rescue move (from the book)...I'm setting up an email and I'll probably re-type it 10 times over. I'm in 100% agreement that there should have been a consequence, and I'm not even going to give suggestions or opinion in what they should be, that's her job - I will address that we allow our child to chose his food as a responsibility and we aren't in agreement with using food as a discipline measure... even though cake isn't on the food pyramid - he buys it 1 time a week and that's our family agreement! He got to choose the day of the week he wanted a sweet treat, and he chose Friday! Anyone have suggestions???


Heather said...

Its so weird trying to acsertain what is the basis for people's decision making. The other day a mom in the store was screaming at her kids, "Ok. I'm leaving you. Goodbye." And they said, "See ya." It makes me punishment is ofter a means of trying to establish control when if the goal had just been to teach the child self-control all along, the need would not exist for tactics and all. Now, all that info comes from observing other families and reading my L&L books. =0) If you look at my family, we are gritting our teeth over things we did not do correctly all along (punishment/reward instead of natural consequences and unconditional love). Sigh. I hope we still have time to teach life skills!

Jennifer said...

This is crazy. Did you speak with the teacher? What a child eats at lunch is his family's business, not the school's (as long as he is eating, which he obviously was...).