First Grade Makes Me Feel Stupid
Sometimes when I think about all the things I need to say, I don't even know where to begin. Kinda like when my kids have been "playing quietly" in their room for the last half-hour and it's been so nice and then I realize that their playtime has included soap or markers or a meat-tenderizing mallet and things are dripping from the walls or staining the furniture and the mattress is pulled off the bed and I can't see the floor because they've strung out all the toys from their closet in an attempt to make a "clubhouse." And then I stand there like a slack-jawed moron unable to say or do anything for a few moments because, well, some things are just totally freaking overwhelming. You know?
Hey, it happens. The boys' wooden bunk bed has the meat-mallet marks to prove it.
But I digress.
This is going to be a long post because I have a lot to mull over. Lately I've been overwhelmed not by messes (although as usual, I've still got more than my share), but by Colin and his never-ending struggle with school. You might remember that last year, when he was in Kindergarten, I wrote this post. And things haven't changed much from Kindergarten to first grade. Initially, I thought he was doing better ... but as the year has progressed, he's slid back into the same old patterns. I dread picking him up from school because nearly every day, there's a new and disappointing note written in his planner: "Colin had a rough day today. He was acting very silly in art." "Colin was bothering other students while they were trying to work." "Please remind Colin that he needs to follow procedures." We've had missed recesses. Chats with the teacher. He's always getting seated separately from the rest of his class or having to eat by himself at a solitary table ... most recently because he said "pile of poop" at lunch.
I don't want to be one of those parents who sends a straight-up brat to school and then tries to make excuses for his bad behavior. I'll be the first to admit it: Colin can be annoying. He can. Number one, he's a six-year-old boy, and spends a good amount of time at home perfecting the art of annoying his little brothers. Number two, he likes to make people laugh (wonder where he gets that?) and will be silly when he shouldn't, just to get a chuckle from his classmates. I am totally admitting all this.
I can't help but wonder how much of his acting out can be attributed to sheer boredom. He's reading far beyond grade level. He complains to me that his math sheets are too easy, but he says when he asks his teacher for harder work, she just gives him more of the same stuff to do. He brings home a reading book that says, "Look, look! There is mama duck. See mama duck with her babies," and then wants to Google information about the Higgs boson or watch a video about parasitic wasp larvae on YouTube. See the discrepancy? The things Colin wants to do at home - the things he willingly, voluntarily seeks to learn, the information he hungrily devours - are vastly different from the stuff he's doing ad nauseum at school.
Not too long ago we got a call from his teacher, who suggested that we have him tested for ADD. And y'all? I refuse. Because I know he is capable of paying attention and staying on track. I know he can. I see him do it all the time at home. When he's engrossed in something, he will even tune out his little brothers - which, I can attest, can be nearly impossible. And while I understand the school's need to have all their little lambs in a line, I cannot bring myself to medicate my son just so he'll act the way he's "supposed" to - especially if the reason he's acting out is because he's bored to tears.
Last year he started seeing the gifted (TAG) teacher twice a week. At first, it was with a small group of other kids - but then the TAG teacher emailed his classroom teacher with the suggestion that she see him one-on-one because he needed more advanced instruction, saying, "I imagine we will have to make concessions throughout his school career." But that was last year. This year, some district-wide changes to the TAG program were made, and now he only sees the TAG teacher once a week - for half an hour - with a group. It's frustrating. The need for "concessions" has apparently been forgotten.
We talked about accelerating him a grade last year, but decided against it because we were afraid he wasn't mature enough to fit in with kids who are a whole year older. We were basing that on his tendency to act out in class, though. Maybe we made a mistake. Because if that tendency is due to him not being adequately challenged, it might have disappeared had we sent him directly to second grade. Who knows?
I'm not saying all this to brag about how smart or advanced my kid is. Trust me: this is not an easy thing to deal with. I'm saying this because I feel clueless and dumb, and I don't know what the eff to do, and I'm hoping one of y'all can shed some light on the subject. Because I? Am floundering. Someone is dropping the ball here. Is it us? Is it his school? I don't know. I really don't. All I know is, I can't shake the sick feeling that we're not doing him justice, and that his bright little brain is dimming by the day. Like we're trying too hard to stuff him into some box that he just doesn't fit into.
I thought about homeschooling him, but haven't had the confidence to make the leap. I mean - I've read a lot about it, but that's different than actually doing it. You can read up on surgical procedures, too, but I'm pretty sure performing one is a whole different ballgame.
But then I stumbled across this article in our local paper. It's basically opening up an option that I hadn't heard much about before: an online public school. Essentially, it's like a public school/homeschool hybrid. They provide you with a curriculum, a teacher, an agenda - and it's up to you to make sure that the work is done and help with enrichment.
There are pros and cons to this. First, it involves me trying to keep Colin on track with his schoolwork for five to seven hours a day. I have trouble getting him to do his homework right now without an argument - but then again, that's the standard first-grade drivel that he hates. As far as I can tell, acceleration is a definite option in this online school setup; it seems to be easier to customize the work than regular public school.
Second, I'm going to have three more kids to deal with while I'm trying to supervise school. Three boys ages four and under. Is this even possible to do, unless you're Michelle Duggar?
And third? If we're going to do it, we have to enroll by March 1st. That's like, one week away. We have to decide all this in a week.
My head hurts.
But as much work as this new setup sounds like it will be for me, I can't help but think of the profound relief I'll feel when I don't have to worry about a new note in the planner every day. My heart won't have to break when I think of my little man being ostracized from the rest of his class because he "can't pay attention." I hate that they don't understand him, or see how he can be, or notice his potential, and that there aren't enough available resources to give him what he really needs.
So what do you think? Is this a good option, or am I just so desperate to break the cycle of bad notes that I can't see clearly?
Help us, y'all. Please.