Why Waltz?

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waltz: n. 1.a dance in triple time performed by a couple who as a pair turn rhythmically around and around as they progress around the dance floor.

My homeschooling story began five years ago when my oldest daughter was in second grade and my son was in kindergarten. I was a stay at home mom with my youngest daughter still in diapers. We were as comfortably settled into the public school system as I could hope to expect. Up to this year our experiences were almost entirely positive. Up to this year, my daughter had been supported, praised, and encouraged to learn at her own rate. Any strange or upsetting incident was handled expertly. We had no reason to doubt our choice.

But second grade year changed everything.

A teacher can make or break a child. A good teacher is a blessing in a child’s life and approaches the job with excitement and enthusiasm. A good teacher can have bad days but is professional enough to be there for the kids and always do the best job possible while maintaining integrity. I know this because I am close friends with several excellent teachers and administrators.

A bad teacher can ruin everything by replacing a love of learning with a fear of making mistakes. She can be a tyrant to the children in her room and a concerned authority figure to the parents. A bad teacher can break a small child’s will. I know this because my daughter had a bad teacher for second grade.

A brief description of my daughter before second grade. She was identified as gifted at age three by her pediatrician who recommended enrolling her in a gifted program immediately. I resisted because her academic needs were being met at home and I am very hesitant to label children. She was again identified in kindergarten and then began the program. She loved to please teachers and parents and she loved to learn. She had no learning disabilities or behavioral problems.

By Christmas she was crying daily and occasionally vomiting before school. She was obsessive about memorizing her math facts. She developed a terror of storms and separation anxiety. Her doctor was concerned. Questions were asked about bullying, allusions made about inappropriate touching (thank God, no.) and a teacher meeting was called. Her teacher smiled sweetly and told us how bright our daughter was but she seemed high strung and cried a lot. She asked if there were problems at home. I was at a loss.

Then one day my daughter came home happy. I was thrilled! I asked her what happened. She said she was relieved because she didn’t have to learn her math facts anymore. (!?!?!?!) She said she had been working so hard at her math facts because a boy had always beaten her in a game similar to a spelling bee and she could never get first. But everything was going to be fine now because her teacher had told her that girls don’t do as well as boys in math so she didn’t have to worry about it anymore. Math just wasn’t her thing. Say what?!?!!

That was the moment I began to suspect her teacher wasn’t as supportive and nice as she pretended. Who tells a bright young girl that math isn’t for girls in this day and age? I went to the school the next morning to talk with her. My daughter was terrified. She absolutely did not want me to confront her teacher and make her mad. I went anyway. When I got there the office workers told me to go on back to the classroom. She wasn’t in the room but the kids were all sitting and working. Silently. Over twenty seven-year-olds alone and working with no other sound except the scraping of pencils. It sounds picturesque but in reality It was creepy. My daughter flicked her fingers in a small wave and smiled a little. I asked them where the teacher was but no one would answer. I asked a child I knew and he shrugged but wouldn’t stop working. I waited outside the door. When she came back she completely ignored me and walked inside and shut the door in my face. I went in and she told me that I should schedule a meeting and to close the door as I left. I left, but I was more determined than ever to get to the bottom of this.

There was a field trip the next week and I had been told no chaperones were needed. I already had a membership to the science museum so I went anyway. Watching her in action sealed the deal. She was a tyrant and a bully. I saw her stand her class to the side wall while other classes played so she wouldn’t have to gather them up for the bus in fifteen minutes. I saw her bend over nose-to-nose with a girl who was wiggling (I knew the child. She was probably what they call 2e) and threaten her so fiercely spittle was flying in her face. And she knew I was there. What did she do in the privacy of her own school room with the door closed? I finally knew why my daughter was breaking.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t pull her out immediately. I didn’t confront the teacher or report her to the principal. I didn’t want my daughter to become a target for her anger. It was already after Easter and there were only a few more weeks left in the year. Besides, what could I do? I needed to plan it out and research my options. I did let her miss days as needed though.

My husband and I thought and prayed and researched our options. Finally it was our doctor who said it best “If homeschooling is a option then please consider it. I know many homeschooling families and it works very well. If she were to get another teacher like this, the changes we see in her personality may become permanent.”

So we began our dance. One, two, three…one, two, three…. That’s how my day goes. There is a lot of stumbling and some days it is anything but graceful, but five years of dancing  and spinning has taught me a lot about homeschooling. I hope you enjoy this blog and comment and visit often.

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