October is winding down, and we’ve finally gotten our first taste of fall here. There’ve been a number of firsts in the last few months, and perhaps as memorable as any has been our first interaction with the public school system.
The oldest is now beginning the season of college preparatory exams before entering that phase of life where she’ll have to decide what she wants to be and then pick a place to begin closing that gap between that decision and who she is today. I can remember well that season in my own life. I also now realize as a parent how ridiculous it is that at such a young age and lack of experience that she must choose a life’s work. But I digress.
After taking two exams amongst her peers in a more traditional environment, the three of us–my husband, my daughter, and I–agreed that this was, as my husband so aptly put it, “eye-opening.” My daughter was much more blunt after this last visit: “I never want to go there again,” she declared.
When she visited the high school the first time, it was to take a practice PSAT. I use the word practice because, for us, it was indeed a trial run. We sent scores to no one except ourselves. Even so, the PSAT, by design, woos a different element, so to speak. Those students know why they’re there, and, for the most part, they want to be there. The oldest came home elated about seeing a few friends, interacting with the counselors, and testing in the almost brand-new facilities. As much as I was excited and relieved that she had a positive experience there, a part of me was nervous: is she going to ask me about attending public school next year? Of course, having to rise before the sun killed any inclination in that direction, I’m sure.
The second exam, the PLAN, was given to the entire 10th grade population, from the college-bound, to the Armed Services-bound, to the Lord-only-knows-where-I’m-bound. There’s a brief article here regarding the increased accessibility of college preparatory exams in the state of Texas, and the potential benefit of such access, but I can’t help but be suspicious of the real intent. But that’s a post for another time; in the meantime, we stepped into the opportunity that availed itself to us.
My daughter talked about what I interpreted as a level of disrespect and a lack of self-respect–kids who challenged the teacher’s every instruction and level of authority, kids who sat with arms folded and texting while the exam was happening. She spoke of teachers who had little control. Though her report wasn’t all bad news, I think being amongst the entire student body changed that utopian view that she had after taking the first test.
For our parts, what immediately stood out was the level of security. Funny thing, the school sits in the middle of what was once a rice field–what are you expecting to happen? In all seriousness, I’m sure this is done with the kids’ best interest in mind, but in this era of identity theft, we both questioned why we had to surrender our driver’s licenses at the front door, even if asked nicely. Nothing of our parental experience felt warm; only the smiles that left us, carting our daughter away, gave us the least bit of comfort about this whole process. I couldn’t help but wonder, how does a parent overcome the almost punitive treatment to try and help make a difference?
Of course, I still had a bad taste in my mouth from challenging the school as to why our daughter couldn’t say that she was enrolled in a high school. She is a high school student, I argued. She’s just not in a public school. Then I was spoken to in a fairly condescending tone about how homeschooling parents are understandably assertive about certain things, but I needn’t worry…Maybe it’s just my baby-of-the-family issues surfacing, but afterward, I felt like a child who’d been told to calm down and go sit in a corner.
Sounds like a condemnation of the public school system, right? It’s not, or at least, that’s not my intent. I’m writing more because of my observation, mixed in, perhaps, with some sadness and frustration, of the realities of a college-bound homeschooler: our plan has to somehow transform and then conform into something that is recognizable by traditional schools. For the last seven years, I’ve taken great pride and joy in our ability to tailor our home to what we need to educate our children with no outside influences. Now, even if it’s only for a day here or there, we must interact with what is normal for most; we all have to adapt, and face the “real world” for more eye-opening experiences.
All things being equal, we’ll have one more “eye-opening” opportunity on next school year when our daughter takes the PSAT again–this time, to market herself (does that sound horrible?) to potential colleges and would-be financial partners. For the other college prep exams, she can attend a designated testing center where she’ll be sheltered once again from the masses. At this point, there are no television-inspired fantasies about what her life–or our lives, for that matter–would be like with her in public school; we all saw first-hand how much our lives, our training, and our resolve would have to change in order to be a part of this environment every day. What I hope at this point is that we all realize even more the gift we have in each other, and in what we’re able to do here each day. There truly is no place like home.