Just two days until school starts. My son will be in fifth grade this year—where did the time go? I still remember him kicking inside me, his birth, his first steps, as clearly as it was yesterday. The clothes are bought, the school supplies on the school list are bought, we’re giving him pep talks about how great fifth grade will be. Now it’s just a matter of me adjusting my schedule to his school schedule—appointments in the morning, or mid-day. Free my Monday nights for swim lessons and my Saturdays for Acting classes. He’s gotten to the age where we can trust him home alone for short periods. so the fact that back-to-school night is a night my husband is working, my son will be home alone for a few hours. That’s if I feel well enough to go myself.
Getting active in my son’s school is difficult. He started in it in mid-second grade and it seems like the parents already made their cliques. The supermoms- who never miss a PTO meeting and is involved in “Market Day” and “Gift Basket” raffles. My suggestion to sell candles from a friend of my’s business seems to have gotten tossed in the trash. We spend around $800 on school activities each year. I could send my son to private school on the amount of money we put out for our son’s school. Between lunch bills (easy-pay it on line and he doesn’t have to carry money), “Market Day” once a month, in which you order overpriced food to support the school. Random, positively stupid field trips to a farm market or the area’s performing arts center, which just happens to be run by the school district. Various class activities that requires us to donate food, or supplies for. We pay nearly $6000 in property taxes, yet we’re subjected to all these little bills that really add up.
I’ve gotten on the wrong side of the school principal and school nurse, because the nurse threatened me with court because my son had missed twenty-three days of school. Yet he got all A’s the entire school year. He’s gotten all A’s since he came to this school. What does that say for the quality of the education he’s receiving? Obviously, it’s not challenging enough for him. He was picked for his school’s Gifted and Talented program but got kicked out because he didn’t do the work assigned. He told me it was boring, and showed me the assignments, and frankly, I have to agree with him.The class met once a week, for one “period”. Homework was writing one sentence on a subject, or write a paragraph on a book you’ve read. I was in the first “gifted” student class in my town, and it was a full-time class. It started with 5th graders, then in 6th grade, they added 5th graders along with us veterans. I learned more useful knowledge in that class than I did any other time in my education. My teacher was vibrant and obviously enjoyed teaching. He stretched the constraints of the school rules and took us on field trips to the beach, and to Fairmont Park in Philadelphia. But we learned at those places.
So, what options do I have? There is a great on-line program, which is an off-shoot of home schooling. But my state doesn’t pay for it, although many states do. I think it would be great for my son. It’s much more creative, less constraining, and the students work at their own pace. A friend of mine has her two kids enrolled in the program. It involves a lot of parental involvement, but I’m disabled and at home, so it would work out perfectly. Of course, my son would miss the socialization of having other classmates. But for the last two years, he was made fun of, and accused of cheating, when he got “100’s” on his tests. One of the biggest bullies in his third grade class was a girl. He has been taught that there is never a good reason to hit a girl, but I would have liked to hit her parents. Obviously, something is wrong in the household, when your nine-year-old daughter is hitting boys. The school had no answers for me, but last year, she was supposedly transferred to another school. Now it’s their problem.
Last year, he was subjected to a first-time teacher, who had a co-teacher with her. She never responded to my emails, and sent home tests that were marked incorrectly. I coaxed my son to give the tests back to her, and argue his point, but he was too afraid of retribution. When I was a kid, it was the not so bright kids that were teased. No one messed with us brains. They knew we could fight back, if not physically,, but we could out talk them, and that’s something my son has learned. He’s made friends with the class bully last year, to the point that he invited him to his birthday party, where he was well behaved and friendly and courteous. And it helped his teacher deal with the boy as well, but my son got none of the credit. But he knows, inside, that he was the catalyst in the boy’s change in behavior. And that’s enough for him.
I hope his new teacher has the same abilities that my fifth grade teacher did. Of course, the class is made up of kids with all types of abilities, and I know it’s hard to figure out how they all think. But that’s a part of teaching, isn’t it? I’m sure that my son will be on his best behavior—he behaves better at school than at home to be truthful. If his new teacher gets his positive aspects, we’ll have a good year. If not, well, he’ll be going to middle school next year and we’ll have a whole other bunch of problems to deal with. My son is growing up too fast, and soon, even though he doesn’t believe it now, he’ll be interested in girls and team sports and music and choir. I’ll be ready for it, because I’m the Mom.