Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lessons from Public School

Many people have asked how K's transition to public school has been going.

My answer? Very well indeed.

K is fitting in nicely with her new class. She's learning to play the recorder and draw cartoon people. She's found one really good friend, done some group projects, and impressed her teacher. She makes her own lunch and lays out her clothes the night before. She sets her own alarm and gets herself up and ready in the morning. She takes pride in her work and in her class t-shirt that she made sure she had in time for this week's class picture.

There are three important lessons she's learned since starting public school that are very important and more difficult to learn any other way.

1. Not everyone looks the same. Homeschooling tends to be a bit...homogeneous. There are a few "families of color" in the groups and activities we did, but they were the exception. After her first day, K said that she didn't realize there were so many kids "with dark skin". In her school, only about 17% of the kids are white. School has been a cultural experience for her, but she hasn't made any color distinctions since that first eye-opening day. It's a good thing for her.

2. You can't make exceptions when you're dealing with large groups, even when it isn't fair. K's school is big on "AR" (Advanced Reading). It's a program where books are rated according to reading level and you can take short tests about them for credit. The AR tests are taken on the computer and it took K over a week to get her login from the district so she could go online and take the tests. This was a problem because each student has a goal to get so many points from AR tests and the students who didn't reach their goal had "silent lunch" and "silent recess" until they reached their goal (Never fear, they still met the NC requirement for daily physical activity by walking as they read). Even though K couldn't take any AR tests because she had no login, she still got silent lunch and recess. It wasn't fair, but it was easier to make every student abide by the rule regardless of circumstances. It didn't hurt her; it motivated her, so that when she did get a login, she broke a school record by meeting her goal (and then some) in 24 hours.

3. A few bad apples can ruin things for everyone. Even if just a couple of kids are misbehaving, the whole class will lose privileges. You can be doing everything right. You can be the best, the brightest, the smartest, the quietest, the most obedient, the most helpful. And you can still get stuck writing a paper about why your class lost so many points in music class because the others wouldn't stop talking. All you can do is take responsibility for your own behavior. And feel smugly superior that at least it wasn't *you* who made the whole class get in trouble :-)

All three are important life lessons.

Life isn't fair and the sooner you learn that, the easier your life will be. You have to learn to function in groups and you have to learn that you don't always have control over what happens even if it affects you.

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