the smile in his eyes is back after vanishing for two years
It seems that every week I discover something more about my son. Or about the world he is growing up in. Yesterday I wrote about my thoughts on the recent news. Today I am thinking about about some comments I have heard regarding him and our choices regarding his education.
1. “Alpine Valley sounds interesting but I am very for public education.” As someone who has taught in the public schools before I would have to say I agree that conceptually I am for public schools, the idea that education would be tied to your income is horrible. But as a mother I can’t agree, it has been almost a year since we pulled Alder from school and I am still quite certain that public schools failed my child. During the one and a half years that he was there he spent most of his time sitting there and doing nothing. There was little attention given to his reading, which was non-existent, but when we talked about moving him up in math, because he was already multiplying in first grade they said they couldn’t because he wasn’t reading (huh?). When I would ask his teacher how his day went her response was always that it went well, even when I knew he was in the bathroom throwing up because of stress. When I finally pushed her about what she meant she said that he didn’t get in trouble. How is total judgement of a child’s day have to do with how much he disrupted the class. Finally, my child who was never bad (in the whole time he was there he never once got an orange card) had a hard morning where he wouldn’t let go of me when it came time for me to walk out of the building. The principal’s response to this was threaten to get a guard from the middle school upstairs who could restrain him so I could leave?!?!?! The more I hear from families who have children in the public schools the more I hear stories about people who are compromising their own child’s education or well being for the good of the many. I could not do that any longer, his happiness and education are more important to me than general concept of the greater good. Or worse the parents who told me that my son added something special to the school and that it wasn’t fair to their children if he left (I held my tongue on that one).
On an aside on the ability and interest of the public schools to teach my child, their suggestion was that we pay a tutor to catch him up on reading so that he would be caught up by third grade for the state testing. Once we stopped pushing on the reading it took three weeks for him on his own to go from reading Nate the Great to Harry Potter, I’m not sure another phonics worksheet was what he needed.
“How will he even know if he is interested in something if he doesn’t have to learn everything like in regular school?” (this was a question from a kid). Since when does the curriculum in a “regular” school cover everything. This question also touches on the idea that people have that children only learn when they are forced to by adults. The fact that our society assumes that public education, or even the sort of private education I experienced as child is an all inclusive experience only need to look at the way biology is taught. Do you know what an omentum is or how the lymphatic system works? Of course not, undergraduate biology doesn’t usually cover these unless you count mentioning that we have lymph nodes in various places of the body.
(the omentum is the protective sack or “apron” that covers the organs)
“When A graduates high school he isn’t going to be like everyone else.” There is a bit of cognitive dissonance on this one (yes I do mean discomfort about contradicting ideas). Many people seem to think that choosing a different form of education is just a different path to the same goal. Yes all parents hope that their children are happy, healthy, and successful when they become adults. But the idea that choosing an alternative education for your child is a way to get to the same point on the map at age 18 misses the point. Alder may or may not go to college. I’m not interested in ‘making a successful 18 year old’, in fact I’m not making anything just facilitating his learning and growth as an individual. If I wanted to make an 18 year old who would do just the same things as everyone else I would have kept him where he was (well no I couldn’t do that).
“So the teachers sneak learning into the activities?” Um no. First off, there are no teachers leading the activities. Second, there is no coercion learning happens organically and by the kids on their own or with the help of others. Third, technically there are no teachers at the Alpine Valley there are only staff who are there to work with the kids when they want, but they are also responsible for all the other running of the school (as are the students), don’t expect to see a marketing director on campus.
While I am no expert on this form of education, I have read a lot and have the experience of watching and listening to my son when he comes home at the end of the day. What I can tell you is that I have complete trust in what is going on. For the 1 + years he was at the other school I cried almost every morning when I left him there because I could not trust them with my child. Now I walk out the door knowing that he is someplace where he feels safe and respected.
The one debate that we still have in our family is whether unschooling or Alpine Valley is the best environment for us. At the moment having Alder at home doesn’t work for many reasons. Some day we might go back to unschooling at home, but as an only child I think there are some things that Alder gets out of being at Alpine Valley that I can not offer him.