The recent events of behavior issues and resulting school issues with Little B have brought to the surface some very real emotions that I had blocked out for a long time. They were connected with my elementary school experience with my first son, “Big E”. Filling you in on these events would help to make my “issues” with school in general a little more understandable. Here it goes:
I got married at 19, and within three months, I was pregnant. It wasn’t planned that way, but I was probably taking some antibiotics and being young (and still rather stupid) I was not paying much attention to such details. I wouldn’t call Big E an “accident”, but rather an unexpected blessing. I tell you this only to make you realize that I was an accidental mother at that point, thrown into something I had absolutely no experience with and very little life experience behind me to prepare me for such a gigantic undertaking. On top of that, Big E was a handful and a half. Active is an understatement. From the time that he was walking, I couldn’t leave him unattended for a moment, because he would be sitting on top of the entertainment center or pulling the television by its cord. He had so many bumps and bruises from running into furniture or pulling things down on him, I fully expected to be questioned about it from his daycare. Luckily, the daycare that he went to the longest was wonderful. They appreciated his sense of humor and fostered his energized personality. They called me a couple of times for things like: The time he put a portable potty seat on his head and it got stuck (for permission to try to physically remove it because it might be painful for him) and the time he took a red Rudolph nose made out of a little puffy ball off of a christmas ornament and shoved it up his nose, and they couldn’t get it out. They said I might have to take him to a doctor to get it out, but instead I laid him on a table, had them hold him down, and got some tweezers and got it out myself. (It wasn’t the first time I’d had to remove a foreign object from his nose!) He was something. But everyone loved him and all of my family asked to hear the latest “Little E” stories because he was just so much fun. He laughed and played until he fell out in the floor from sheer exhaustion.
The problems started when he started school. I didn’t put him in Pre-K, because I didn’t think that at 4 he was quite ready for that. I knew that he’d have a hard time sitting in a little desk all day. When he was 5, still having some reservations about his ability to sit still, I enrolled him in a private Montessori school, because the Montessori method seemed like it would be more conducive to his learning style and activity level. Three months into that, I was called in for a parent teacher conference. This was first experience with such a thing. And it was a nightmare. Instead of it being me and a teacher, as all the other parents were doing, I was called into a room with three of the teachers and the facility director. They told me that Little E refused to do the class work, and that their open learning style, where they let the child choose which learning center to go through, wasn’t working for him. Little E “chose” to go to the aquarium to see the fish, or go outside to try to find the butterflies that he found in a book instead. He wouldn’t spend any time in the math center, or voluntarily sit in the reading center. He only wanted to look at the books with pictures of bugs and animals and then spent most of his time digging in bushes and lifting up rocks outside looking for these things, while the other children were engaged in organized sports or something. He wasn’t obsessed with bugs in an autistic type way, he just really loved them. And since he was given the choice every day as to what he wanted to do, that’s what he was choosing to do. (Makes total sense to me.) They saw this as a major problem. I, on the other hand, insisted that it was quite extraordinary for a 5 year old to spend time looking for things outside that he saw in a book. They didn’t agree. They told me that he would probably learn better in a traditional learning environment. They didn’t want him. If they didn’t want him, then I didn’t want them to have anything more to do with him. I was so upset I could barely breathe as I left that school that day. How could they not love him as everyone else did. The looks on their faces were of disdain, disappointment, and even disgust. I took it very personally. I immediately enrolled him in our local public school’s kindergarten class.
I thought that this would be better.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
To be continued…