We decided to take Lu out of school five years ago on a Friday, and we started homeschool the following Monday. It was very sudden. It was a decision that brought much happiness to our lives. We have learned so much together over these years, and being able to spend all that time with my 8-13yo has been an amazing gift.
But just as suddenly as we started to homeschool, we stopped. Just under a month ago, Lu started attending the local public middle school.
We live in a small Mayan village in Central America.
The schools are poor. Very poor.
Lu is not going for the classes, he is going to make friends.
He's the only white boy in the whole school and has suffered from bullying in the past at the hands of local boys in the street, so we were a little worried in the beginning.
We went to ask the principal if Lu could go to the school as an auditing (unregistered) student. He agreed and gave us a list of the things we'd need, like 18 (eighteen!) notebooks, covered in paper and plastic. The school year starts in January, so Lu had some catching up to do. He couldn't wrap his head around covering the notebooks, but he did it in good spirit. And, hey, wrapping skills are a good thing to have. He's a pro now! lol
We were also going to need a uniform, but they didn't have any available, so they just asked him to dress formally - dress pants, dress shirt, belt... Definitely a big change from our "uniform" (me in pj's and Lu in goat-smelling jeans and T).
The school schedule is from 1-6pm, which is typical around the country as many middle-school-age children are already working to help support their families.
Lu was nervous on the first day. We talked to some of the teachers and he was introduced to his class of 44 (forty-four!) kids. I asked him to please call me at recess time to know how it was going. The phone call went something like this:
Lu: Hi, it's recess time.
Me: Are you okay?
Lu: Yeah, I'm good. Actually, I'm very good and I already made 8 friends!
I don't know if the teachers had prepared the students for Lu's arrival, but the whole group was exceptionally welcoming and accepting. It's a small town, everybody knows everybody, so he wasn't completely the "new kid". Some of the kids in his class had bullied him in the street for years.
On the second day of school, the boy who Lu was most terrified of from street bullying, went up to him and asked if they could be friends, even though they'd had problems in the past.
We run an after-school program from our home since Lu was a baby. Forty kids come to our house twice a week for arts and recreational activities. So Lu has had this social outlet his whole life, but being the director's son isn't the same as being just another kid in school.
The school doesn't have running water. The toilets are not flushable, so the janitor flushes them with buckets in the evenings, for the next day's... load. A big bucket of water in each bathroom is for hand-washing, so it's a giant germ and parasite pool by the end of the day.
But Lu needed this. He needed to feel like just another kid in a big group. He needed more friends. And I'm definitely not saying that all kids need this, but Lu did, even if I wish he didn't.
I'm writing this post nearly a month after this HUGE change in our lives because it took me that long to pick myself up off the floor and accept that, for now, we are no longer homeschoolers. It was like losing my (favorite) job, my lifestyle, and my boy all at the same time. Of course I didn't lose my boy, but not having him around that many hours a day is a major change.
The school schedule works well with the goat schedule, so mornings look like this now - Lu doing his homework (argh! homework!!!) while the goats graze.
I don't want to dis the school, it is giving Lu what he wanted the most - a place to make lots of friends. But if I couldn't homeschool, and this was my only choice, I would be very, very active in trying to change things.
Don't even get me started.
But that's not why we're doing this.
This is temporary, for social purposes only. Although there are some added benefits like changes in hygiene habits (haha! all those girls make him very worried about being smelly), he is learning how to turn work in on time, follow instructions, respect authority, be part of a team and do your part without complaining... yes, we were having problems with some of these things at home.
He also gets to play basketball and be in the band.
Yesterday the school celebrated Mother's Day and Lu's class sang a song while he accompanied with his guitar. They got together on weekends to make the decorations. They have class presidents who organize everyone and give or take away points depending on their classmates' participation. It's all about points, and Lu takes the point system VERY seriously. lol. I think it's because the principal said that he could be an auditing student there as long as he was "very formal" in his studies.
The school is not secular, at all. Prayers happen at every event. The teachers remind the students that they'll be looking for them in church on Sundays. They allow religious organizations to come in and hand out literature. OH! And the other day, Lu came home to tell us that all the girls had been vaccinated with no warning or parental permission (for HPV I'm guessing - Lu would get up and walk out if they try to vaccinate him at school). At the end of yesterday's activity, the girls were asked to go serve food to the mothers, while the boys were instructed to take down the stage. These are just a few examples of things they do and say that make me furious. But I bite my tongue.
If Lu was any younger, we wouldn't be doing this. But I know he is strong in his beliefs and can navigate through religious, sexist or prejudice brainwashing without being swayed. We've talked about looking at it like a sociological observation, and a way to understand how a lot of the world works. He'll come home and tell us the stories of the day, and we talk about it.
I miss him. I miss homeschooling. But we needed this break. And I'm very happy that he is making friends so easily. In the meantime, I'll continue to share our experiences or anything insightful about homeschooling if it comes to me. A friend suggested that I think about this as an unschooling experience, where Lu is choosing to spend his time at the public school, learning how to be part of a group and deal with The System.
I'll go with that :)
But being slave to the school's calendar and seeing all the time-wasting that happens there are not things I'll be able to take for long. So, we'll be homeschooling soon again I'm sure.