I know C.J.'s teacher has a good heart and would never purposely make my child feel left out, but today she did...
Mrs. S has a habit of rearranging the classroom almost every week. She keeps trying new seating situations to try and maximize learning. In the past, the changes have been innocuous. She switches who is sitting next to who or whether the desks are in a U shape formation or all facing the front. Today, however, when my daughter and I walked in, we were both stunned.
To give you a point of reference, I will share a few things about my daughter's class. We removed her from public school where there were 20 students to 1 teacher and put her in a half-day private school with a small student to teacher ratio. There are only 8 students in her classroom and it really has worked splendidly for her academically. She is doing far more advanced work than we thought was possible! However, she still struggles socially and is not a close knit member of the group.
Her class is comprised primarily of girls. She is good friends with the one boy in the class, but the girls will only play with her if she is the only child around - this has happened a few times when we stay after school on a nice day. Mostly though, she is ignored by her classmates. However, one child has actively excluded her by making up a pretend land called "LuluLand" and giving all the girls, except my daughter, a pretend drink to go with her. She told C.J. she was not allowed to go because she likes dinosaurs more than unicorns. I wish just one of the other girls would have stood up for C.J., but they didn't, so she really was being excluded by the entire group. This continued for a while and really hurt Caitlin's feelings. I told her to ignore the girl who was bullying her and to play with her good friend. She did, and moved on, but it still hurt. I tell you all this to give you a sample of the way C.J. struggles socially so you will see why I so aghast when I walked in the classroom door this morning and saw this:
Tell me, what is the message sent to C.J. and L.C. with this classroom set up? (L.C. is not the child's actual name, btw. I will always use fake names on my website to protect identities.) I will tell you that L.C. is another struggling learner in the class and probably the furthest behind academically in the group. In this classroom arrangement, L.C. is now behind her classmates both figuratively and literally; and my daughter is pushed out of the group just like she has been socially many times in the past.
My daughter's teacher basically set up the classroom into a clique with two ostracized students! L.C. is already on the verge of tears everyday when her mom drops her off, and now she is in the back of the class all alone. And, honestly, the main reason I send C.J. to school instead of continuing the homeschooling that was working last year is because she is so social and wants to be around people. If you ask her what her favorite thing about second grade is, she'll respond with, "Recess and being with my friends." However, this classroom set up says, "Sorry, you are different, you are not part of the group."
The truth is, yeah, she is different (aren't we all?) but that's why she needs to be part of the group. School shouldn't just be about academics. It an opportunity to interact with other people, practice empathy, and learn to appreciate each others' differences. If I just wanted my child to succeed academically, she'd be better off with me teaching her one on one at home. But my social, people-loving girl wants to go to school... or at least for now she does.
I know Mrs. S. is a kind person who cares about the children's' education, but how did she think this is a good idea? Maybe she's thinking that L.C. and C.J. will be less distracted with this seating situation... I don't know. I will try to catch a quiet moment with Mrs. S, ask her if she could rearrange the classroom again, and kindly explain the message that the current set up sends. I know that she wouldn't intentionally make my child or any other child feel left out, but, unfortunately, she did.
Texas is frequently viewed as one the best states to be a homeschooler in. Texas is full of proud, independent libertarian minded individuals, so it's no surprise that it is supportive of families who take their child's education into their own hands and out of the government's.
As for our household, we have two very different children with very different strengths and needs. My youngest is thriving in the public school system and will more than likely continue to stay in it. My oldest, however, is a highly creative child with ADHD and the system was failing her. We saw her starting to lose confidence and pulled her out of public school before she lost her innate love of learning. We know that removing her from the public school and providing her with curriculum to suite her individual needs was ABSOLUTELY the right decision. However, we have lost access to one important asset in the public school as a result.
My oldest daughter is very musically gifted (especially with singing) and she will soon be approaching the age when our school system starts offering amazing programs like choir and orchestra that she would excel in and that would strengthen her natural gifts. I thought surely, as a homeschooling family in Texas, we will be allowed to participate in these programs at the public school. However, when I went to the district office this week to inquire as to how to enroll my daughter in public school extracurriculars as a homeschooler, I was informed that that is not allowed. The only way for her to take advantage of public school extracurriculars is to be enrolled in public school. I was shocked! I mean, my property taxes and state taxes pay for these programs, why can't we utilize them? Why do I have to choose between my child succeeding academically or benefiting from enrichment opportunities? The school system was failing her, not the other way around...
This brings me to the point of this post. I'd like to ask you all to please sign the Tim Tebow Bill Petition. Many states have already passed this bill allowing homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities through the University Interscholastic League (UIL) at their local public school, but Texas is not one of them. I am hopeful that this bill will finally be passed and that my daughter (and all the other homeschoolers in similar situations) would have access to the programs we pay for and our children deserve.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post and for your support!
I am the mother of two beautiful, unique girls. When I found out I was pregnant with our second child, I asked God to make the two of them different so they wouldn't compete and learn to appreciate each other's individuality. Man, did he answer my prayer. Honestly, they don't even look related!