Kelly Escapes Public School, Again

On Saturday, Peter and I received the news that Kelly did not make it into Hacienda (the science magnet), and her spot on the waiting list to get in was #278. Peter, in particular, was crushed. Last year, when the waiting list had only 130 children, she was 3 up from the bottom of the list. This year, she’s obviously also at the bottom, which is even further from the top. “Bullsh*t, it’s not a lottery; someone at district hates you,” Peter said. Sure they do: as far as I know I’m the only parent in the district who put it into public record that forcing parents to get fingerprinted with the FBI is contrary to California law, and that, at least in some classrooms, ideology trumps facts. It’s shocking that they would actually care to keep track of who I was enough to make sure I know my place and their power. But I have no regrets; and some pity for thinking parents who feel they have to commit, quietly, to being under their bureaucratic thumb.

Peter was more disappointed than me. He knows how I’ve struggled with Kelly’s very socially-oriented learning style. He mourned for the loss of Kelly having an elementary school experience like we and Neil had, with show-and-tell and singing songs, without spending thousands on a private school (a cost beyond what we’re already paying in taxes for the public schools) . But I think the middle-class-school experience is near-extinct in California, at least for Calfornians with a middle-class income that doesn’t stretch to include private school. As far as I could tell, there wasn’t show-and-tell going on in our neighborhood school either; it was more like sit still and be quiet as the teacher deals with the 5-year-old sociopaths.

Personally, it was a relief. The district may have thought Kelly will go to the neighborhood school again, so they can continue being funded for her presence, but she’ll be at my own private school with Neil again. And I’d been seriously conflicted about sending her to any of the districts’ schools. For one thing, I’d have to explain to Kelly the fact that she’d be repeating kindergarten, when she’s already mastered kindergarten skills and is well prepared for first grade. I presented the problem of Kelly’s wish for classroom life to my fellow homeschoolers, and found a 2-day-a-week academic group which we tried out and she loved. She has so many little girlfriends (all of whom I know and know their parents) that I’m sure she’s gone to just as many birthday parties as she would have if she’d been a regular school. In fact, we have a birthday party to go to this afternoon.

For me personally, there are upsides, too. I now also don’t have to get fingerprinted (as I would regrettably do, under duress, because there’s no way I wouldn’t want to be in Kelly’s classroom after having witnessed her kindergarten class at Carson.) I don’t have to waste my energy trying to help children whose parents can’t be bothered to pay attention to them, much less discipline them. I can assume Hacienda might have more families who care enough to say, show up for class on time, but I don’t think it could be as good as Neil’s intial years there. For instance, up to a third of each class has students who speak no English, and there are far fewer parent volunteers than there used to be. Obviously, we don’t have to conform to any one else’s schedule either. And if Hacienda of today turned out to be a scary nightmare, like Carson, I don’t have to deal with the downside of pulling Kelly out and having her tell me how much she misses her teacher and schoolmates–again.

So I have to work out the materials for Kelly’s first grade, and figure out how to give Neil the appropriate teaching time, too. But I think it will work out.

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