Yesterday I met with our Principal to discuss withdrawing Grace from school. At first I was very skeptical of this meeting, unsure of the intent behind it. In Connecticut we do not have to sign a letter of intent, an agreement between the Board of Education and homeschooling families that states what subjects will be taught and agrees to an annual portfolio review. My opinion on this differs from many families I know in that I would agree to a review-- if asked. I am so very proud of our accomplishments, that I would be willing to share them with the school. However, I do see the concern that in allowing this oversight, the door could be opened for increased regulation in terms of standardized curriculum, testing and reporting, things which many of us opted out of public school because of.
I digress.......I was leery about meeting. The Principal and I have openly differed on several policy changes: removal of the Halloween parade, removal of Patriotic Song of the Day, removing recess from the schedule if the day is damp or if there is one spot of snow on the ground. I have disagreed with extending the school day. I have disagreed with the policy of using the fence for punishment. I have disagreed with the current dismissal policy which keeps my daughter in her classroom at least ten extra minutes a day. Needless to say, I have been quite disagreeable over the years.
Since I did not have to meet with her, if the meeting was going to be confrontational I was prepared to leave. I received a bit of great advise yesterday from a friend. She said not to talk first. Let the tone be set, then act accordingly. So begrudgingly I went, out of respect for the position of Principal, and to give her the benefit of doubt.
She welcomed me, thanked me for coming and acknowledged that we have held differing opinions about many things. She told me that she could understand why Lilah came home but she was surprised that Grace was coming home. I told her honestly that it was not about my opinions on the above items. I explained that it was because of the amazing experience Lilah has had and as a result, our family is having, that Grace wants to try it. I explained there was a long thought process behind this decision involving list making, interviews and numerous conversations. Our belief is that school will be there waiting if she wants to return, but the opportunity to have homelearning is finite. We did not want her to look back someday and wish she had given it a try. I explained that my daughters most likely will have two different educational experiences. I told her not to expect Lilah back, but that Grace very well may be re-enrolled for sixth grade.
We discussed the many opportunities Lilah has had over the six months. She asked many sincere questions about what curriculum we were using and how our day is planned. At the end of our half hour long talk, she told me that since I am able to provide the learning environment I described to her to both my girls, how could Grace not come home to try it? She said if things change she welcomes her back but she also understands that the opportunities that await her are valid, exciting and educational.
I left feeling good about leaving our elementary school with a positive experience. Having the support of the Principal was validating in some ways. As we embrace every opportunity that comes our way, I will not have the nagging feeling of “I wonder what is being said about what we are doing”. Most talk stems from ignorance of what homelearning is really like. Today was a true teachable moment. I have peace of mind in knowing that should it not work for Grace, she and I can go back to our neighborhood school with no hard feelings, no animosity and know that we will have no regrets.