Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mean Girls

My very dear friend Melinda posted this on Facebook a little while ago. She said I could share. In fact she asked me to share this with as many people as possible. Bullying has to stop. Now. This particular case makes me so especially sad. If you knew Sierra like we do, you'd know that she is a sweet, compassionate, sincere little person who was so looking forward to starting middle school this year that she actually cried when the start of school was delayed by our local emergency in August (Disaster on Our Doorstep). She doesn't deserve to be treated this way, nor does any child. She's a tall, beautiful girl, and I'm thinking the other girls are just jealous. And mean. Really mean. Is it wrong to label eleven and twelve year old girls bitches? Because they are. And they need to stop. Now.

Here's Melinda's post:

I've been silent on this for a while, but it was suggested today that my silence may not be the best thing. Sierra has had a difficult year transitioning to middle school. To compound this, she has been having to contend with bullies. My sweet little girl goes to school every day where she is called a whore, douche bag and worse. They hide her backpack, punch her in the stomach and follow her to the library to torment her at lunch. The school has given me great lip service,but nothing has changed. The problem has only gotten worse. I know what I need to do and am exploring different options at keeping Sierra in a safe environment. Twelve Bridges Middle School has failed to provide my child with a safe environment and quite frankly I don't give a shit about their budget cuts and limited resources.

I told her she needn't worry about the school's budget cuts and their limited resources. They're not protecting her child, and she needs to get her the heck out of there. Our first priority is our children. Always. Long-term bullying is death to a child's self-esteem. In fact, Sierra has already told her mother she doesn't want to leave her school. If she leaves, "they'll just pick on someone else." And they probably will. But that's not Sierra's problem. Sierra deserves to be in a safe environment. Every child does. Sierra and every child needs to feel valued for his or her individual gifts. Every child is special. Every child is precious.

The hatefulness and the meanness needs to stop. It should not be tolerated anywhere in our society, least of all in our schools where children are supposedly being taught to be good citizens. To be a productive part of our society. I think the schools are teaching the wrong lessons.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

No Going Back

It's been four days since we pulled Jack out of school. Right now we're in the decompression stage. We're realizing how much stress he's been under in his school environment. Nothing against the school. It's a very good school, and we always felt lucky to be a part of that community. We made some really good friends there and had some fun times together. But we've realized that because of his disability, a lot of Jack's energy has been spent just coping with the environment of school. For a child with ADHD and sensory issues in addition to his autism, it's really hard to hold yourself together in such a structured environment for seven hours a day. For him, it was just too much pressure.

When I was in school, even though I was a good student, it wasn't my favorite place to be. But I tolerated it for the privilege of spending all day in the company of my peers. I was always ready for vacation, but at the end of a long break I would always look forward to seeing my friends again. Jack is a very different kid. Even at the end of summer vacation, after having had nearly three months off, he never wanted to go back to school. 

"Don't you want to see your friends?" I'd ask.

"No. I can see my friends without going to school. School is like being in prison. I hate school."

I don't think we realized how really bad it was for him. Every morning getting him ready for school was so stressful for all of us. He'd tell me how much he hated going to school and how awful it was. I don't blame his teacher or the school. I'm sure there are lots of kids there who are perfectly happy. Just not mine.

Now that we've finally made the decision to keep him home, I don't know why we didn't do this a long time ago. He's so much calmer now. He's not stressed. I'm not stressed by having to fight with him about going to school. We don't have to stress about homework. Learning can be an adventure again and not a chore.

His teacher invited him to come back to school to enjoy one last recess with his friends and to say goodbye. He doesn't want to go, which makes me sad. Just the idea of going back to school--even for a visit--is anathema for him. No class reunions in Jack's future. What's done is done. There's no looking back.

We're looking forward, though, to adventures in homeschooling. There's a whole new world in front of us.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Freedom Academy

We finally did it. After talking about it for months and months--or has it been years?--we finally pulled Jack out of school this week. We're taking the plunge into homeschool. We're not mad at anybody. There was no particular incident that decided us. But after years of hearing your child say he hates school and it's torture for him, when he lies on the floor every morning and cries, "I don't want to go to school. I hate it there. Please don't make me go," it's time to pull the plug. He was in a very good school. It just wasn't the right place for him.

We were hoping he'd be able to finish the school year with his friends. He's been with mostly the same group of friends since kindergarten, some since preschool. We were hoping to see him graduate with his buddies, but it's just not to be. We all feel like we've been beating our heads against a brick wall for years now. It feels so good to finally stop!

Our hope is to establish a kind of free-range schooling style. Now that school is not a brick and mortar environment, learning is everywhere! Going to the store is a field trip! Watching a documentary about bugs is a science lesson. We had a conversation about World War II the other day in the car, and Jack expressed an interest in learning more. Now that he's not in school so much of his day, he's not so resistant to learning something in his "off" time.

The past couple of mornings Jack has been the first one up. No longer worried about having to get ready for school, he looks forward to just being at home. We'll probably put him into a more formal homeschooling program down the road, but for now we're all just decompressing. Taking some time to unwind and think about which way we want to go now that we're able to map our own educational journey.

I'm going to a support group for homeschooling moms tonight. I'm looking forward to meeting some other moms in our area, looking forward to building a new community. It's kind of a bittersweet process. We're all glad to be free, and yet we'll miss his friends from school. We still hope to see them, but it won't be the same now that they won't be together every day.

There's a sense of adventure in our house, though. Charlie was talking to Jack this morning and he said, "You know, Mom and I are a little nervous about this homeschooling thing. It's kind of scary."

"Don't worry," Jack said. "You'll figure it out. Pretty soon you'll be experts!"