Thursday, May 2, 2013

Saving a Love of Learning (Why We Home School part 4)

After watching his older siblings head off to school, my third baby Z was over the moon when it was his turn to go to Kindergarten.  He was so excited that he was ready to go an hour before I planned to wake up! Once at school, he wove through the crowds ahead of me while I struggled to lug the extra bag full of extra school supplies, Kleenex boxes, disinfectant wipes and sandwich bags. I snapped a couple pictures before leaving Z happily in his desk with the rest of his class.
I was first aware that there was a problem when Z would come home from school telling me he was in trouble and had to miss play time. My assumption was that he was facing some of the same issues his older siblings had.  I talked with him every night and every morning about being on his best behavior.  The reports just kept coming home and when I asked Z what he was doing to lose his privileges he seemed legitimately confused.  When I addressed his teacher I learned that she expected all 28 of her students to work at the same pace.  If a student finished early they were expected to wait.  Z was getting in trouble during that wait time for doing things like working ahead, rolling his pencil across the desk or whispering to a friend. 
Years of being an advocate for my eldest two children didn't prepare me for working with Z's teacher.  I respectfully told her that taking away his free time for such minor offenses and singling him out was not acceptable to me.  I asked her to keep a note book and to find alternative consequences for behavior she had an issue with.  Months of reading this notebook made me realize that my son was not the problem.  Her complaints included him taping his fingers on his leg while she read a story or drawing on his papers while she was making him wait to continue a lesson.  Through all of this Z still felt his teacher was the most amazing, special woman on the planet.  Her rejection was destroying him.
Other parents started sharing their concerns with me.  They saw my son being singled out by the teacher and disagreed with her harsh treatment of him.  The other students also noticed that Z was being treated differently by the teacher.  Z became the victim of some very extreme bullying.  Students would take his things, ruin his work and called him names.  The would push and shove him and when he pushed back his teacher made sure he went to the office.  One afternoon 6 students waited outside the school for Z when he went out for recess and they beat him to the ground.  Z was sent to the principal's office for fighting, even though he couldn't even defend himself due to how quickly it happened.  The school never told me about it, I heard about it from another parent.  The school didn't help my son, they didn't punish the children who did this but they sure had taught Z that he wasn't worth protecting.  Z didn't even tell me what was happening any more because he, at 6, thought it would only get worse.
As I mentioned in previous posts, our move to Colorado was an exciting fresh start.  In spite of the horrible experiences Z had in Kindergarten he was thrilled to start 1st grade.  I started out being brutally honest with this teacher about Z's experience the previous year.  My hope was that his new teacher would work with me to correct any bad habits, help him make friends and get on the same page as our new school district.  Instead Z was singled out again by the teacher.  I believe he was really nervous and did tune out what was happening in class.  I want to be honest and say that by this time his behavior with other children was not always appropriate.  He expected kids to get physical with him so he tried to beat them to it.  Once again he was always in trouble and he started to struggle with his friends.  I spent hours trying to find a way to help Z and attempting to work with his teacher.
Shortly after Christmas we learned that things were far worse at school for Z than we knew. He was spending between 2 and 4 hours each day crying and refusing to work. The school principal, social worker and other teachers were involved.  No one had ever called us.  We had no idea this was happening.  I pulled Z out of school pending a meeting with the principal yet even when I went to the next highest authority no one at the school would meet with us.  I begged them to work with me before they completely destroyed my son and taught him to hate learning.  We never did get that meeting.
While Z was home I worked with him on the things he needed to catch up on in math and reading.  Z told me how scared he was at school and that he didn't want to go back. Spending this extra time with Z let me see how much school had changed my boy's personality. We struggled to deal with the fact that not only was my son bullied by his peers, he was bullied by the adults that were supposed to protect him.  It was more than time to consider other options.
To Be Continued...

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