Dispatch One - Revolution
Since we decided to pull Oliver from his public charter school and explore options, I've been reading a book called Deschooling Gently by Tammy Takahashi that has been enormously helpful in these early days. I realize that for the past year and a half, Oliver's experience at school has been increasingly stressful and that he broke down completely in the last month and a half of this school year when it appeared that things were not going to be an improvement over last year. I won't go into the reasons why here, but suffice it to say that it was a sort of perfect storm with no one person or institution to blame, but rather a confluence of factors (adolescence, dyslexia, unique personality) and a direction that our school is taking that I believe to be unfortunate. I looked at Sophie a few weeks ago, looked at Oliver and looked at Henry. If I'd been naked in a tub, I would have sat up and shouted, joyfully, Eureka! This is way too hard and life is too short and Oliver is too precious to go on like this! Literally. That's literally what I thought. So I put a stop to it.
Here are a couple of quotes from the book:
Deschooling is a process of getting used to learning as a family without the external control of a school system. Some call it a decompression time, or a vacation. Generally, it involves doing less schoolwork and more life work, less judging and more exploring, less have-tos and more want-tos. Deschooling is moving toward a life where everyone is happy and learning.
So, that's what Oliver and I are doing right now -- we're de-schooling. In the mornings, we sit down and listen to the Writer's Almanac. This morning we listened to some fascinating information about the history of Voyager I that led us to search for Carl Sagan's beautiful reading titled "The Pale Blue Dot." We watched a video on that, explored another website about Saturn and talked about what it means to be alive in the universe. We wrote in a journal online and set a goal for the rest of the day. The other day, Oliver particularly liked a poem by Anne Sexton that we heard on the Writer's Almanac, so we talked about metaphor and hidden meanings. That discussion went into the online journal, too. Oliver dictates and I type (remember how much I love to type and how good I am at it?).
Deschooling is learning how to live without being in school, to fend for ourselves, and to provide our children with an appropriate educational environment.
Yes, I have plans to explore other options -- even other schools that cater to the dyslexic child. I've done and continue to do lots of research on homeschooling, though, and I'm already making connections. There's math to think of and science, of course -- there's curriculum and field trips and get-togethers. Every now and then I think I've gone completely insane, but then I pick up the book and remind myself that we're "deschooling gently," that this didn't happen in a vacuum and that Oliver is happy and silly and light for the first time in well over a year. I'll repeat that:
Oliver is happy and silly and light for the first time in well over a year.
***The dispatches from the Schools of Humming and Tradition will follow in the next few days.
"Oliver is happy and silly and light for the first time in well over a year."ReplyDelete
Nice work! Love your Eureka moment!
Oliver is indeed too precious. What about Schenk (unfortunate name) School in Buckhead as a resource? I don't know if they do consultations but they have a great reputation for helping kids with dyslexia.ReplyDelete
There is community among homeschooled kids, families get together and do field trips and shared classes at a natural history museum, say, or maybe a culinary school, or maybe at the beach. Your deschooling gently sounds absolutely wonderful and healing. When my boy was Oliver's age, he did a lot of dictating as I typed too. It was so freeing for him to be able to get his thoughts out fluently, unhampered by the mechanics. You are a power mom, that's for sure. Looking forward to the other dispatches with awe at the way you dance three different movements at the same time. And the best part? Oliver is happy and silly. Yes.ReplyDelete
If I were closer, I'd like to enroll.ReplyDelete
If you tire of typing, Dragon software is getting good reviews. It would allow Oliver to dictate when you're not available. Good luck with the home schooling, I admire you tremendously for taking this on.ReplyDelete
Deschooling was one of the best things I did when we pulled our daughter from public school. 3 years later and both kids are homeschooled. One of the best things about this time you have now is to be able to get to know your son in a totally different way-what interests him, what he wants to learn. The best part-you can keep those present in your homeschool, even with the must do subjects like math. A happy child means you are winning.ReplyDelete
I am so happy to hear of what you've done. The little I have learned of Oliver's situation through your blog makes me know with absolute certainty that you just gave him the greatest of gifts. I think that deschooling and homeschooling and pulling your child from school are all things that may make many stop in their tracks (me included). But that is because too often people do those things for the wrong reasons (which I won't get into cuz this is supposed to be a comment not a post). But you've done what you are doing for all of the right reasons. Again, I just feel so happy to know that you've parented with Oliver's best interests at heart.ReplyDelete
Brava and Bravo! I homeschooled Em for a year and wish I'd done more. She was too much of a social butterfly and wanted to go back. Clearly, school is not for everyone.ReplyDelete
"happy and silly and light" something I would wish for my children and these posts of yours make me wonder how far from that things can stray....ReplyDelete
I'm so glad for you, for Oliver. So very glad.ReplyDelete
It sounds so freeing and refreshing, to me. Of course it will be a lot of work, but fighting your way/his way through the former school's year would be a lot of work, too - and a drag. This sounds lighter, yet deeper at the same time. Who knows? And you'd never know if you didn't try...ReplyDelete
Absolutely. You made the best decision and in your informed and open and wise way, you are doing it all in the best way possible.ReplyDelete
Wow, the deschooling sounds refreshing even to me, on the other side of the planet and 30 years out of school. You are so courageous, Elizabeth, you really are. I admire your ability to see what your children need and to go get it for them, even when it is a difficult or inconvenient or even virtually impossible (Charlotte's Web) solution.ReplyDelete
I don't know if you've ever heard about A.S. Neill's school in England called Summerhill. It usually gets a lot of weird if not hostile press in the mainstream media but that is just ignorance (and jealousy). There are many links on the net. This is the wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summerhill_SchoolReplyDelete
I have never been there but I read the books and I have friends who sent there kids (now grown up) there and I have met former students, all of them impressive young people but one in particular: Summerhill has no fixed rules for attendance, usually students are asked to make up their minds before term as to whether they want to do a course or not. This one kid stayed for five years and never attended any class. He spent his time gardening, building tree houses, running wild, helping with repairs etc. He did not learn to read or write (his previous school records were extremely bad), so no classic literature canon, no maths, no geography, none of the curriculum we deem essential. He left without any qualification at age 17 and spent three years with the merchant marines. He arrived in Japan and fell in love and decided to stay. Realising how easy it is in Japan to make money teaching English, he taught himself to read and write within a couple of weeks and started to give language tuition. Evetually, the couple moved to London and he is now CEO of a large corporation. I know him personally. When we spoke about his "schooling" he said that he learned the most important lessons at Summerhill: confidence and curiousity. The rest is out there, he said.
You are doing the best thing ever for your child.
so lovely to hear of Summerhill again! i read AS Neill's book a million years ago when i was in college and never forgot it. my to-be father of my son and i vowed that our child would learn in a Summerhillian environment. we did the best we could, and found a wonderful progressive school in NYC w/in walking distance from our apt. later on, when he was having trouble in practice testing for the SATs for college, we consulted with a tutor, who told us that she suspected that he had once had significant learning disabilities, and she asked where he had gone to school. when we told her, she said, oh, ... no wonder ... they just nurtured the disabilities right out of him! and it's true, for the most part they had. it's amazing what love, caring, and personal attention can do for the educational process.Delete
Then you've done the perfect thing!!!ReplyDelete
As a teacher whose favourite students are the "difficult" ones, I am THRILLED for Oliver!! YOU are doing right by him and you will all reap the rewards, as difficult as it may seem to take this on. Good on you. This guy can now go places because of this choice. School is not right for too many children anymore, but change is NOT on the horizon, so...move ahead, give your son the gift of joy in learning.ReplyDelete
This has made me cry, in a good way. Reading about this decision of yours, I feel the way I've felt in the past, watching someone I care about free themselves from something and take a step in a better direction. Oliver is precious. Our children are so precious. I am opened up to new ways of thinking, reading this. As long as you are having time for your sanity. I hope you will defend stubbornly some space for yourself. You are precious too.ReplyDelete
The fact that Oliver is happy and silly and light for the first time in OVER A YEAR….. sounds like you found a cure that is not to be taken for granted. I worked at the Yale Center for learning and attention disorders a long time ago. It was well known then, when the first brain science was being explored by our center, that the public schools in general had very little ability to help with what is a fairly complex disorder of learning with numerous subtypes. When we met w/ parents we always encouraged them to consider the very expensive specialized private schools in the area that did a better job of meeting the needs of these kids…. most, sadly could not afford the tuition and continued w/ drawn out legal battles to try to get the badly needed services their kids required from the public schools…. a few were able to get their towns to pay the high tuitions and send them out of district, but only a very few.ReplyDelete
A book by Sally Shaywitz, albeit old, may be worth the time.
The depressive side effects of dyslexia are real and not to be ignored and usually increase with long term exposure to public education… glad you helped Oliver ( which you did!) and good luck as you try to find the "good fit" educationally. You are not alone.
Congratulations, Elizabeth. Courageous. Taking C out of high school was one of the best (and most overdue) things I did as a parent. I'm wishing you the same conclusion when you look back from some future vantage point.ReplyDelete
you're a wonderful person.ReplyDelete
Happy and silly and light ... I have glimpses of that with my 14 yr old if she's away from school for 24 hrs or more. I get it.ReplyDelete
I love this so much. I really, really do. As soon as I read far enough to understand what you had done, my bones loosened up and I was able to sit peacefully. This will be an amazing time for you and Oliver and everyone else in the household. I foresee amazing gifts coming your way. What a courageous woman you are.ReplyDelete
Briefly comparing 3 school systems:ReplyDelete
Sounds like a wonderful time of learning. We started homeschooling after I had a similar - it couldn't be any worse than this if I kept them home - moment. It was so much better than dealing with the sorry school system in my area. that alone made it worthwhile.ReplyDelete