An Old, New School

It’s a sad and devastating day when a parent learns that a dream they had for their child won’t be coming to fruition.

In January of 2017 I signed both of my children up for the lottery for our local Montessori school. I was beyond disbelief and full of excitement when I learned in April of 2017 that they BOTH made it through the lottery and would be enrolling in first and second grade at the school the following fall.

We felt that this school was closest to the core values we wanted in our children’s education. This was also the closest we could get to homeschooling, but couldn’t because we both work full-time.

I had lost faith and trust in our neighborhood school in February of 2016 when my son, then in kindergarten, was dropped off by the Durham school bus after an after-school function at a home that was not on the forms we filled out. At a home where no adult was home and the doors were locked. This happened in February, in the cold northwest. Luckily my then 6-year-old had sat on the front porch with us many times before and knew that if he just stayed put and used a blanket Ieft on the porch swing, that someone would come home.

I had to call 911 from the child care (where he was supposed to be) while my husband hauled ass home to see if he was there, by some miracle. No parent should have to do that. The dispatcher cried when I confirmed that he was home. I had her on the landline at child care and my husband on the cell phone in my other ear. He pulled up to the house, saw my son’s tiny face pop up from behind the guard rail, and said “got him.”

What happened next?

The next day when I called the school, and the school district, and Durham? I was blamed. I was told by the school district that I didn’t fill out the correct forms (I’d never taken a school bus other than a field trip with supervising adults, neither had my kids. I filled out the forms the school gave me). The principal of the school told me that our child care was outside of their boundaries (they had delivered him for the previous 3 weeks after this club with absolutely no questions raised to me. This particular time there was a substitute driver, who, when my son said he wasn’t supposed to be dropped off there, the driver replied that he had to get home himself and he drove away). And Durham never even bothered to call me back. I received no apologies and I have pulled my son from any after school activity when his family can’t pick him up.

So my trust that the government schools have my children’s safety as their first priority is a negative percentage, if there could ever be one.

Yet here I am – facing the crap that we have to go back to that old school; venting my frustrations and sharing my fears – as the dream of homeschooling my kids turns as worthless as a beanie baby collection. Cute to look at, but not a damn chance to pay out in 12 years.

You’re wondering why. I skipped a step, I apologize.

We recently met with the principal at our local Montessori and my son’s teacher. They tell me he’s a really independent and fun kid. And, gee, they love having him at school. And, his behavior has improved measurably.

But he’s not doing well academically. And they don’t think he has the “executive functioning to handle a Montessori environment”. Oh, and he rushes through the one material he thinks he needs to do and then screws off the rest of class time because he’s bored.

You see, Montessori requires a child to set daily goals for themselves and to follow through. And he doesn’t do that. They have to learn how to use a specific material during a daily lesson and then do follow-up work with that material to master it and the subject it’s trying teach. My son does the bare minimum and thrives better with external rewards. Montessori doesn’t do external rewards. The child should do the thing because the completed something. Because they set a goal and followed through. Because they put in hard work and the results show for themselves.

But Montessori also gives students longer blocks of time to do their work, with less transitions. And the freedom to move freely around the classroom, and even the school. And very small group lessons. Like, 2-6 kids at a time. And my son NEEDS those things. Those things that The-School-I-Don’t-Trust won’t do.

Does my son need someone to tell him, “O.K., time to pull this material off the shelf next.”?


They are kicking him out.

Yet, I don’t know if I should really call it “kicked out”. But I don’t have a better term for it. And at this point if I hear the term “executive function” one more time I might have to count to 100 before I can form a comprehensive sentence that doesn’t involve repeated uses of the F Word, S Word, and liberal amounts of donkeys thrown in.

And I get it. I bet a lot of you right now think I’m acting like a 12-year-old, with all the cuss words and the anger and the smart-ass attitude. I feel I’m completely spiraling right now and I know I’m in total reactive mode. In a couple of days the clarity will come. I’m not sure if it will be a “maybe it’s for the best” type of clarity or a “Drew Barrymore in Firestarter” kind of clarity. But I know that even though I feel out of control *I can* control how I react and how I handle this and break the news to my son.

And I don’t want to break his little heart.

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