Fear of School

The van pulls up in front of our house, and a mom and her son get out. They stop here every morning, to wait for the school bus. Usually this happens without incident, but this morning is different. The boy is hanging on his mom’s leg, and when she tries to walk back to the car he begins to cry. She crouches down and they talk for a little while, and she fishes out a tissue for him to wipe his tears. She gives him a hug as the bus pulls up to the corner, and for a moment it looks like he is going to get on after all, but then he pulls back and begins to cry again and the mom carries him back to the car instead. Watching this happen outside my window, I experienced my usual reaction. The little boy could have been somewhat sick, lost a member of his family recently or felt like he was missing out on something happening at home that day, but all that I could think was that he was afraid to go to school.

It’s embarrassing, but I am terrified of school. I don’t really know how else to explain it. It isn’t a passing fear, or nervousness, it’s an outright sick to my stomach fear. Sometimes I wonder if it qualifies as a phobia.

I really want an education, I do research, and debate on whether to start with my GED or go directly into Junior College classes. I think about it all the time, wondering what I want to major in. I worry that I am not intelligent enough to make it in school of any kind. I wonder if I will be overwhelmed and unable to keep up, that none to the textbooks will make sense to me. And yet, whenever I think about just passing on the whole school thing and doing something else instead, I feel really really sad. So I know that I want to forge ahead despite my fears.

And I am excited about sending my kids to school, where they will get to interact with people other than myself. Make friends, try all the messy projects without a baby sibling destroying whatever they make, learn things I never learned. But all the stuff I was told about school is still there in the back of my mind.

Parents who send their kids to school don’t really care about them. School = Jail for kids. In school, you do endless busy work, trapped in the same desk day after day, doing the same thing over and over. You don’t really learn anything. In school, the teacher is too busy with all the other kids to take care of your kid. In school there are bullies and bad influences and sexual predators. Sending your kids to school is like sending them to Hell in a hand basket. In school your real potential is squashed and ignored, you are forced to be like everyone else. When kids are in school they have hardly any time to see their parents and siblings.
School was a bad place, something to be protected from.

My Hunnie has heard me talk about my fears over and over and over. And she has tried to reassure me again and again. Unlike me, she actually went to school for a couple of early grades, and tells me that it was a pretty normal experience. She reminds me that most kids go to school, and that the teachers are trained to be compassionate and attentive. But that doesn’t stop the nightmares. The dreams where I bring my child to school and the teachers hit them and tell them that they are stupid worthless sinners.

My rational mind tells me that would never happen in a public school setting, but apparently my subconscious is messed up.

We went to the kindergarten orientation at my oldest child’s new school. It was only the second time I have ever been inside of a school building. The teachers seemed nice enough, the principal was very enthusiastic. The room was clean, and it smelled nice. The curriculum and approach to learning sounded cool, part of the reason why we chose this school. The other parents seemed completely at ease, chatting and filling out papers for their 5 year olds. I’ve hidden my fear from my kids, and Ms Action was beside herself with excitement over trying out the playground outside and checking out the kindergarten classrooms, saying again and again “This is MY school Mama? Is this MY school?” I tried to relax, but my heart was pounding, and I felt stiff and tense and awkward. Haley held my hand and asked me several times if I was OK. I probably looked white as a sheet.

The tour of the classrooms surprised me. The room was spacious and well lit, with windows extending almost all the way to the floor. There were three child sized tables with small chairs placed around them. There were maps and pictures and drawings covering the walls. The sides of the room were lined with art supplies and there was a private bathroom in the corner of the classroom. The teacher explained the average daily schedule for a child in kindergarten, which included time outside and several snacks as well as a particular art-type class every day. It sounded cool, fun even.

I’m not sure what I expected really, I’ve never been in a classroom before (other than a couple of educational summer camps in my late teens that took place in college classrooms), so pretty much my only reference is the stories in the “Little house on the Prairie” series, and the one room schoolhouses we visited during re-enactments as a kid. I distinctly remember sitting behind the little wooden desks while the costumed re-enactor described how school was taught back in the day, and feeling grateful that I was homeschooled.

Ms Action is very excited about school, but it takes effort for me to not feel like a horrible failure of a parent for sending her there. Will she hate it? Will she feel alone and afraid? Will kids pick on her, will a teacher criticize her? Will she be able to tell me if something happens to her at school that hurt her? Will she hate me somday for sending her to such a horrible place?

I realize that there will be pleasant and unpleasant things experienced in school, just as there are pleasant and unpleasant things in every environment. And I realize that every child is different. I know why we have made the decision not to homeschool at this time. But I am sure that in 3 short months I am in for quite the learning curve, as my 5 year old goes to school for the first time. One thing I keep hanging on to is that I have found that aside from my fear of school, I tend to fear the unknown in general. I think it is part of being a sensory person. If I haven’t experienced something yet, is it difficult for me to conceptualize it. As I have experienced more and more, I am afraid of less and less, and perhaps it will turn out to be the same with my fear of schools.

  • Meyli

    Poo, my comment got deleted..anywho.

    Most kids love elementary school – they get time away from siblings, have tons of stories and new things to tell their family when they get home, and, for me, I felt oh-so-very grown up for a while, since my younger sisters were too little for school!
    And since you and Haley are tuned-in to how school can be bad (bullies and such) it certainly seems like you'd take care of any problems that arise :-) Most of the time a conversation with the teacher is all that's needed.
    A lot of schools let parents shadow the class for a day, maybe you could do that? It might help you get to know the teacher and how things are run better.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08135229596877003069 Michelle Hughes

    My kids love school. I always loved school as a kid. Kindergarten seems so much better than when I was 5, too, which means I think it's about the most awesome thing ever.

    I can understand your fear based on what you've shared about your upbringing. and probably fear of the unknown is a better term than necessarily fear of school (not to discredit your fear of school…I just like how you mentioned at the end that you are usually fearful of things you ahven't experienced yet).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06233321050691782148 Michael Mock

    Take deep breaths, and keep going. That's my advice. It sounds like you've chosen a good school, and at this point you just need to go forward until it feels normal.

    Meyli suggested (in an earlier comment) that it's probably possible to sit in on a class. Honestly, all the schools I know are practically begging for volunteers — for parents who are willing to come in and help out in specific ways. (There's a background check required, at least in my area, so don't panic about strange parents roaming the hallways!) My wife spent a couple of days just waiting at a little desk in the hallway; the kids would come out with pictures that they'd drawn, and tell her stories about them, and she'd write the stories on the back of the pictures for them. I never managed a full day, but I was able to come in and have lunch with Firstborn (who just finished Kindergarten) a couple of times this past year. I also walked him in and had breakfast with him for the first couple of weeks, which I think helped him adjust to the new schedule without feeling abandoned.

    So, you know, if you get to feeling panicky, just remember that there are plenty of ways to see for yourself what's going on. (And I suspect that the more you get involved, and the more time you spend in the school yourself, the more your fears will simply… evaporate.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11888282268531278077 elbereth32

    I debated on whether or not to respond to this post. Just hear me out.

    School = Jail for kids. In school, you do endless busy work, trapped in the same desk day after day, doing the same thing over and over. You don’t really learn anything. In school, the teacher is too busy with all the other kids to take care of your kid. In school there are bullies and bad influences . Sending your kids to school is like sending them to Hell in a hand basket. In school your real potential is squashed and ignored, you are forced to be like everyone else. When kids are in school they have hardly any time to see their parents and siblings. School was a bad place, something to be protected from.

    I deleted a couple of things. But the rest of this? This was me. I went to school from K-12, public and private. I did not like school, school was something I did because I had to. Looking back, I can tell you why. I am very introverted, I have a high IQ, and I was poor. Put those together and you have a recipe for bullying that went on for years. Also, I was bored out of my mind. No one ever laid a hand on me but as I’m sure you know words can cut. My saving grace was my family. For all their issues (and who doesn’t have them?) they backed me up on everything I needed. My mom says today if she knew what homeschooling was, she would have pulled me out. I’d have loved it because I love to learn. When I got to college, I was in heaven. No one cared, they were too busy living their lives to bother with me. I have never lost my love of learning, but school left a bad taste in my mouth.

    On my husband’s side, he liked school. He enjoyed seeing his friends each day, he liked his teachers and he was a good student. He was poor also, but he was (and is) an outgoing person who will talk to anyone, so he did not have many issues with bullies. He was also not afraid to back up his words with his fists, so I’m pretty sure that helped too ;) He enjoyed sports and playing on a team. School was enough of a challenge for him and gave him what he was looking for. He saw no reason why our children should not go to school also.

    As you may imagine, when our oldest turned 4, we did not agree on what to do. Both of us had very strong feelings based on what we had gone through. We did so much research, for and against both options. In the end we worked out a deal. I would homeschool for K and see what happened. After all, he was a little young and he wasn’t quite ready for formal school anyway. At the end of that year, we extended it for one more, then one more. This is where we are today. One year at a time. This works for us at this time.

    Over the years I have noticed that while my oldest is like me (introverted), the rest of them are like their dad (extroverted). The schools in our area are by and large not ones we are happy with. There are exceptions, but at $5000 per year per child, is something our budget could not easily handle. But if we see our kids need it, we’ll figure out a way. Until then, we also do karate, boy scouts, 4H, altar servers, Edge, field trips with other homeschoolers, and various sports to give our kids the experience of team play and being in mixed groups. This year they are old enough for extension classes through our local college and so will be dissecting a shark and a frog (you have NO idea how happy I am to hand THAT class to someone else lol) My kids have many friends, homeschooled, public and private.

    I don’t want to discourage you from school, because not everyone lives where we do. There is a great school where my sister lives that her kids will probably attend. I just wanted to show a different view of homeschooling. But no one knows your children better than you, so go with your gut. In the end, parental involvement is the key anyway and after all I’ve read, I highly doubt you will send your child to school and not bother to know what is going on in her life there :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06410682651072046347 TwisterB

    The summer before I turned 4 and entered kindergarden, my dad took me on a trip to "Upper Canada Village", which is a historical re-enactment village. We went to the 1 room school house, and unfortunately, the school master lectured us on our tardiness and threatened my father with the strap. The fact that this wasn't a real threat was above my head, and I was TERRIFIED of starting school. I cried for the rest of the summer about it. BUT, according to my parents, after the first day of school I had bonded so well with my teacher that for the rest of the year I never wanted to LEAVE class (and because junior kindergarden was only every other day I would be SO sad on days I didn't get to go to school.)

    Because YOU never got a chance to get a proper education, the BEST thing you can do for your kids is to send them to be taught by well educated people. I hope to homeschool my kids, but I am both (informally) well educated and incredibly privileged. (I also don't actually have any kids so I can say I want to do a lot of things now that I might not do in the future.)

    The other best thing you can do for your kids is to get your own education, which you won't be able to do if you are homeschooling. I have a lot of really really intelligent friends who have low self esteem and think that university is this thing they will never be able to handle, so they never try. I can tell you are intelligent by the way you write and the unique and clever perspectives you have on things. My husband/boyfriend didn't even finish high school until he was 25 and now he's doing a Phd. He was called stupid and useless and worthless many times.

    University is about consistent work. Working every day, doing all of the required readings, showing up to class. Your greatest challenge will be finding the time to DO the work. It IS hard to pull straight A's in University (with 5-6 classes a semester I usually only got A's in classes I found inspiring) but you will NOT flunk/fail out if you just put in the time. University campuses also have lots of people who are there to help you. Guidance counselors, therapists ect. If you find you are having a hard time, seek out those resources.

    As with the above comments, I agree you would benefit from spending time in your daughter's class, if only to get over your own phobia.

    I know you will do great :)

  • Rosa

    I think you're 100% right that you'll feel better once you've done it more. Do they do free breakfast where Ms. Action is going to go? When ours started kindergarten he wanted free breakfast (he got over it fast, the food was not up to par with his old daycare) so every morning his dad went and hung out at breakfast with him. It's not a big commitment like volunteering, but it's being in the school & seeing how the kids all interact. And the kids LOVE it – they probably won't be so excited about a mom (at our school the ratio of volunteers is about 10:1 moms to dads) but the kindergarteners especially are always excited about parents being there.

  • public school mom

    young mom,

    I've been reading here for awhile. I have not commented in a long time because I have been taking your journey in with compassion. I've also been learning alot from you.

    I have 3 kids who are now between 10-14. I initially wanted to homeschool but suffered severe post partum depression and the recovery took years. We started out living in a city and sending our oldest to Catholic school for kindergarten. Then we moved to the suburbs and wanted to try public school.

    Overall it has been a postive, amazing experience. In a previous life I did live a very isolated existance due to my religious beliefs (Catholic). In an effort to avoid evil I avoided alot of good as well. My kids have had remarkable teachers who have given them so much. They have been nutured and challenged. My own elementary school years were not that nuturing. I had alot of mean, insensitive teachers. But teachers today are not the same as yesterday.

    One thing that I am impressed with is how they have taught my children to write. 2 of my kids want to publish books!! It is so healthy for our family to have time apart and time together. We have a great deal of time together even though they are in school.

    I went to a public high school. I was in track, cross country, bands, polish club, student government, students against drunk driving (SADD)….all kinds of things. I ran blood mobiles for the Red Cross at school. Yes there were bad things in my school..kids on drugs..mean kids but there was so much positive. I find there is much more awareness about bullying today and much more attention given to it. It has not been a problem for us.

    The best thing to do is take things one day at a time and see how they go. Your kids will have good days and bad days. Everything is a teachable moment. They have parents that love them very much. That is a strength. I wish you the best on your journey. Oh and YOU CAN DO IT!!! You are intelligent and gifted. You can learn anything you want to.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    Melissa, the answer to all your questions is "yes". And "no". Maybe and sometimes are also optional answers.

    Life is full of all kinds of things, good and bad. There are days when school will be magical fun. And there are days when she will hate it. In between will be alot of average days which aren't special for any reason.

    There are days where she will feel so much a part of what's going in the group that she won't even consider how she feels in relation to the group. That's probably most days. But some days she will feel alone and afraid. It's more the nature of life than the school's fault though. Didn't you feel alone and afraid at home sometimes?

    Will kids pick on her? Yes, inevitably, but that's because it happens to everyone. My daughter was bullied by her fellow home schooled "friends". It happens to everyone.

    Let her know ahead of time that people pick on whatever is different about you, not because there is anything wrong with you, but because they are unhappy people who want others to suffer like they do. It's not your hair, race, gender, sexual orientation or financial status that "gets" you picked on. People bully because they're unhappy and mean. It's no reflection on the person getting picked on.

    Will a teacher criticise her? Well, it may feel that way to her. But home schooled students are hardly immune from teacher criticism. How is that any different from being criticized by a public school teacher? Authority figures all have feet of clay. (Even you, but shhhhh keep it a secret as long as you can! ;-)

    Will she be able to talk to you? As open and supportive as your family is to each other, I am sure she will! I have very confidence that you will create a safe space for ALL in your family, just like you have for your hunny. =D

    The world can be a horrible place sometimes, but I am pretty sure that if she was faced with anything truly overwhelming at school, you could find a creative solution. Private school and public school transfer are options if you feel you really can't home school. But why borrow trouble? That may never happen!

    But she will hate you someday, for a little while, and then love you again. Probably a couple of times around puberty at least. It's a temporary thing. Don't hold it against her.

  • http://grace-filled.net jen

    I went to private school for K-5 and public school for 6-12 and college. Jon was homeschooled all the way through so putting Daniel in preschool was a huge thing for him. It's taken some getting used to on his part but he's liking the program and the teachers. I think Ms. Action will do well in Kindergarten (schools in your state tend to be incredibly good — my in-laws would have had Jon in public school had he been old enough while living there). If nothing else, it's something special just for her right now and I think it's a good thing.

    Daniel had problems the first couple days (all kids do on some level) and after about a week, he was the one rushing us out the door in the morning and waking up early to get ready because he couldn't wait to get there.

    As far as school for you, I think the best thing to do would be to meet with the admissions people at your local community college and go over what you did for high school and where you fit into things. They're not going to give you a hard time for being homeschooled — it's pretty mainstream now — and they can tell you what you need to do to catch up. You're not the first one in your situation and you won't be the last. My guess is that they'll give you some assessment tests and place you in classes based on those.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03519675898483081005 Mrs. Searching

    "The dreams where I bring my child to school and the teachers hit them and tell them that they are stupid worthless sinners."

    You mean like most homeschooling parents do? Yeah.

    I am very fortunate that our school district is one of the top rated. There are enough kids here that the elementary school buildings are split between K-2nd and 3rd-5th, making it even easier for the little ones. Even so, I would homeschool out of sheer guilt if it weren't that our house is so small, I'm afraid I would be unable to teach and the boys unable to learn.

    My 7-year-old gets no moral support from anyone, poor kid. He is the first child out of 30 kids in 2 generations on both sides to attend a public school. So I feel really bad that he has no one who can relate to whatever issues come up. Plus he is aware that everyone but Mom and Dad think he shouldn't go. That makes those "I'm not going!" days a lot of fun. But he does well in school. And he claims to hate it many times, but I know he would hate it more being stuck in our closet of a house all day long. He's just the type who will always find something wrong with everything, hehe. Must be the Irish…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    I so agree about focusing on Melissa's own education!

    Community college helps all kinds of people catch up on missed education for ANY reason. No one will blink twice that you were home schooled. Many Christian private school kids wind up poorly educated, and public schooled kids miss school or are too overwhelmed to learn, sometimes for years. We all have our reasons for needing help to pass our GED.

    Our community college offers free GED classes. You could even ask if you could sit in on a class before signing up. I love LOVE my community college advisor. I hope you get one just as encouraging!

  • http://bronwenreads.wordpress.com/ bronwenreads

    I always forget that you didn't go to university because you are such a good writer and you have such a good critical perspective, based on research and analysis; I'm thinking particularly of how you have written about transgender issues, abuse, and self-care. I am so excited for your daughter to have the fun of school, and for you to have the opportunity to think more about your formal schooling too. Big support. This is another important step on the self-care pathway, and it sounds like your daughter will be in a good place:-B

  • Allison

    "The dreams where I bring my child to school and the teachers hit them and tell them that they are stupid worthless sinners."

    You mean like most homeschooling parents do? Yeah."

    What an unfair generalization.

  • Rosa

    I couldn't agree more! There are also GED classes/tutors available through public libraries and various volunteer centers (I used to volunteer through Volunteers of America as a literacy tutor.)

    Judging by Melissa's knowledge base and writing skills i'd expect the whole GED study/test process to build up a tremendous amount of confidence and maybe shore up a few rough spots (I've never seen any rough spots but I'm pretty sure she's mentioned not being confident with math and some science miseducation.)

  • Anonymous

    This was me last year when my little boy was getting ready to start kindergarten. But it's been such a great experience for us. He is having a great time making friends and came home on the last day of school crying because his teacher is the best teacher ever and he won't have her for 1st grade. There were days he disliked it and days he got picked on, but that's a part of life too and it's so nice he's learning how to deal with this now instead of becoming an adult who has to learn you can't just decide to never see someone again because they were mean to you once. Definitely get involved at the school. My son's teacher was great about letting me help out sometimes and bring my 3 year old and the assemblies were always open to parents too. I got really emotional every time I was there watching these kids be a part of something. I was taught school was evil and parents don't really care about kids if they send them to school, but it's really something special.

    And for you, take a class even if it's not for your GED. Try it out. Pick something easy that you love at Community College and get used to the school environment. Music, writing, speech, cooking, PE even. It sounds silly, but learn to raise your hand and participate in a class. Make friends and get coffee after class. It gets much less scary after you've done it.

  • Anonymous

    Some schools are eager to have parents volunteer. Perhaps you could volunteer at Ms Action's school.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13930917517196516292 Jason Dick

    Does your school have a PTA? Because if so, that could be a great way to get involved in your kid's education, possibly helping the fear to erode. It may be tough to get started, but I would guess there's a fairly good chance it would be worth it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07127075857680706620 lb

    Another option that might feel comfortable for you is online schooling. I teach courses at an online high school and we get students in all kinds of unusual situations. I'm sure there are probably decent online high schools that give credits and diplomas in your jurisdiction too. I'm just thinking it might let you kind of split your phobia into parts – first deal with your fear of not succeeding in an academic course by kicking butt on Grade 11 English or something, and then later deal with your issues around the actual going to school in a building with people.

  • http://nowealthbutlife.com Rae

    Maybe school by definition *is* jail. But if so, then so is the workplace, so is being a SAHM stuck with your children, so is most anything worth doing. I think it is absolutely fabulous that you are working through your own issues so that your children do not have to suffer in the way that you are suffering now.

    I do think that you should consider a community college class in an area where you already excel. If nothing else it will be a huge confidence boost, and might even be fun. And I wasn't allowed to go to PHC summer programs, but I strongly suspect that they are more challenging than a typical community college class.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15648438406466284755 Jade Nolan

    I was homeschooled K-12 as were all my siblings. At the time we didn't know any different and would have parroted our parents that public schools were evil brainwashing institutions where cruel peer pressure and corrupting influences and religious persecution reigned supreme. However, now that all of us have gotten out in the world and attended college and forged our own lives, every single one of us deeply regret not being allowed to attend regular school. For me personally, it took a long time to realize that my "non-social"/shy behavior was almost learned and certainly fostered in the seclusion of our homeschool community and that I actually do very well interacting with anybody and everybody. This intellectual realization doesn't completely help my persistent internal trepidation of different social settings, but it does make me realize that I can function just fine. I've also loved sports since I was really little, and while there are a lot more options these days for homeschool kids to participate, there is still no substitute for an accredited sports program in a school with far more options and opportunities to develop real talent. And, as in the case with my sister, a kid with any artistic talent is almost screwed when it comes to a decent chance to develop that talent unless one lives in a big city. Not to mention just missing out on all the little things: popular bands, tv shows, and just the defining culture of my generation to which there's really no way I can go back and recapture. All those posts and pictures and stills and songs that people post on Tumblr with the caption "My childhood!!!" Nope, I can't relate, and in a sense it feels like a huge loss.

    I'm not saying homeschooling is wrong across the board, and I do understand the trepidation of sending your kid off to an environment which you essentially have zero understanding of, but most kids do just fine in school, and given Ms Action's response at the school visit, I'd take every opportunity to foster that excitement and turn it into something really positive :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11888282268531278077 elbereth32

    This is a good idea. Our local college has a continuing education dept that lists classes, as anonymous said, that are all over the place in terms of interest. I am taking a cake decorating class next month. Last year my husband and I took dance classes; those were a blast! You may even find a class that a friend would like to take with you so you don't have to go alone the first time.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05827272973962531155 ~lannalee~

    Melissa – you write extremely well, and if I were to hazard a guess based on your writing, I would've assumed you went to college already. [So no worries for yourself on that score.] I graduated last year, 25 years after I graduated from high school, and have read some of my classmate's papers, so I know what I'm talking about.

    I went back to school as a 30-something adult to finish my college education, and while it was challenging, I am so glad I did. I think you'd do very well at the junior college level, that has the added bonus of being a bit (or a lot) cheaper than a 4-year college. A lot of junior colleges have instant acceptance arrangements with 4-year institutions so that you can seamlessly go onto get your undergrad degree.

    I remember my first day back in school (after almost 20 years). I was so nervous about being the oldest person, but in reality, no one cared. There was enough diversity that I wasn't always the oldest, and as I got closer to graduation (and was no longer taking classes with freshmen/sophomores) the maturity of my fellow students made up for any age disparities.

    I loved school as a kid, and the fact that Ms. Action is already excited to go is a good sign, I think. Keep in mind, you don't have to keep her in school if it isn't working out.

    Maybe having the kids go to school is the best thing for YOU. Which should be a consideration. In any case, good luck!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    Inorite? The girl can write up a storm, and think clearly too. I think it will wind up actually being fun AND a confidence builder. Agreed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03079852628674185384 Karen

    I hate to parrot others, but I'm going to throw in my lot with those that say you should go to school yourself. Start easy, take an evening class or two. Rather than worrying about what you might not know, start with something like creative writing or poetry (you already write better than many four-year college grads, so those should be fun), or art history (where nobody in class has any more background than you do). Once you've gotten comfortable with the rhythm of formal schooling, you can worry about tidying up the gaps in your high-school education and going forward.

    The wife of a friend of mine dropped out of high school to tend to ailing grandparents, and proceeded to be a stay-at-home-mom. When Youngest Kid was safely into high school, my friend forged her signature on a Community College application, stood in line for two hours to get her enrolled, and then went home and said "you ARE taking a college class." So she did, just to prove to him that he was unreasonable… and was shocked to find herself doing well. So don't discount yourself because your background is not as mainstream as some others.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00153117604262687451 RilianSharp

    Why don't you have a diploma from homeschooling?

  • Musical Atheist

    I just want to say that I think something you can really do to help yourself as well as your little ones is to get as involved as you can, really make the effort to connect with the teachers/helpers and engage with what your children are doing there. Please don't be afraid to tell the teacher if you're concerned about something or don't understand an approach they're taking – and don't hesitate to tell them when your child is happy and they're doing something that really works!

    Re bullying: I found it hard to fit in and experienced some bullying and a lot of isolation as a child (this was related to stress in the home). At first my parents followed my request in not talking to my teacher about the bullying I was receiving. However, when they did, she handled it very well, and without naming names or shaming anyone, gave the class a lesson on bullying and what it is, and why it's hurtful. I can't remember now, but apparently I reported a decrease in bullying after this event. Remember, the teachers are they because they love working with children, and they want to help your child! Don't be afraid to let them know if there's a problem, so they can give that help. It's wonderful that Ms Action is so happy about going to school, that probably means she'll thrive.

    If there isn't currently a good anti-bullying policy, you could initiate getting together with the teachers and parents to create one. And if a child ever does bully one of your children, bringing the teacher into the solution may be important for getting help for that child as well. I discovered later that the little girl who bullied me the most was very unhappy at the time, and had experienced abuse as a young child. She was also just a little girl who felt isolated, and needed support. School is just an extension of the community after all.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00153117604262687451 RilianSharp

    Your paragraph about your fears of school is pretty much right. School is terrible. I feel sick when I think about how much of my life was stolen from me by that, and when I think about how many people are still stuck in it. I got out when I was 16, my brother got out when he was 10. There are some people who know how bad school is, but their parents won't let them quit. But I feel worse for the kids who are brainwashed and believe that it's a good thing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Meyli- I like the idea of shadowing a class, we definetely plan on being heavily involved in our children's schooling.

  • http://rollforpainting.wordpress.com/ rollforpainting

    It's worth bearing in mind that schools are as different as homeschooling parents. All horrible things you describe do happen in schools and families both. But it is not an axiom. Just like there are happy homeschooling experiences there are happy schooling ones :)
    I found that once my child started coming closer to the school age the "home vs. classroom" debate is of less relevance to me.
    Ideally, my son will go to school. I like the idea of him meeting new people and, I have to admit, I like working. I'm in a sense a quiet and solitary person and I just feel awful when I don't have some time free of my child (even though I love him and spend half the time thinking about how lovely he is :)) ).
    So is the dilemma solved for me? Em…no.
    Because I looked into schools in my city. And I don't like a lot of I fond out. For example, large class sizes (sometimes over 30 kids!!), sometimes children of 2-3 different years being taught in the same classroom, rigid curriculum, compulsory religious education…
    I'm not happy for my 4 year old to go to a school I feel uncomfortable about.
    There's a Steiner school a bit further away that might be more suitable so we shall see..
    So what I'm trying to say is that however much I am in theory pro-public schooling, I will homeschool if it will look like he's not ready for school at 4 or I don't feel the local schooling options are suitable.

    Don't feel like you have to love schools, they vary :) But the one you described sounds nice enough :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Michelle- Yes! There is so much that has been completely new for me, as my experience grows, I find my fears lessen.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Thanks Michael- Wow,the idea of dropping in for meals is really interesting. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    elbereth- Thnak you for sharing, I'm glad that homeschooling is working well for you. We will see how it goes, every child is different.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Thank you all of you! I love to write, and I know my skills have grown since blogging, but it is so nice to hear that others enjoy what I write. :) I am looking forward to school, hoping to start soon now that I am getting into a groove job-wise. And TwisterB, your story about the re-enactment made me laugh, so familiar!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Yes! They do breakfast there, I had no idea that parents might be able to participate in that, I should check it out.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Public School Mom- Thank you so much for sharing, it's the stories of others experience that help me the most. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Thank shadowspring, love your imput. And yes I have clay feet! Which is why I really really want more adults in her life than just me. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Jen- I like the idea of meeting with the community college to figure out where I'm at. I think just knowing where to start would be a relief. And yes, the schools in our city and state are supposed to be good, part of why we choce to move here.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Yes, I think it would be harder to make this descision if we lived in an area that did not invest in the schools. I hope that the stuff we've heard prooves true in out district.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Bronwenreads- Thank you! I am excited to finally have the opportunity to try school for myself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Allison- I agree, not all homeschooling parents do those things. I believe that "Mrs Searching" was speaking from her own experience.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Thank you! I love your description of your sons school, and it is a great idea to start with a class I think would be fun. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Rae- So true on the definition of "Jail". I am liking that idea of starting with a class I think I would like.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Jade- Yes! I can so relate to the chats and sharing about childhood and feeling like someone from another planet because I haven't experienced any of it. :/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Thanks Lannalee! I love hearing from people who went back to school. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Karen- I love that story, who knows, I may be pleasently surprised myself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Because my parents never gave me one. And even if they had, it wouldn't change the fact that I never did a lot of the work usually done in highschool.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Musical Atheist- Thanks for the reminder that like in all relationships, good communication is key.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Sorry to hear this was your experience, although if you went to school in the American south (it says Texas on your profile) I'm not that surprised. There are some really scary ideas on the treatment of children in some areas of southern education.

  • Rosa

    my son is in a mixed-age classroom with close to 30 kids, and it's delightful. Seriously. His teacher is really wonderful, and the mix of grades makes both differences in ability and differences in age within a grade less noticeable. But, the experiences of his friends have differed widely, depending on their specific teacher and the child.

  • Rosa

    I can't imagine it's that different than our district – grownups don't get to eat the free food but they're totally welcome to come hang out at the table (my partner spent a lot of time opening packaging & wiping up spills). That's actually true at lunch time, and at our school several moms hang out at recess, too. I usually escape before that but I've done it a few times.

    We had a roomate who was staff at a public school & paid for & ate school lunch most days. The kids ADORED him.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00153117604262687451 RilianSharp

    Even when I was in school (most of my childhood), I stil met almost all of my friends outside of school. And I made friends of all ages, including adults. So there goes the argument that you have to go to school to "meet new people".
    I only homeschooled for 2 years, but my brother did it for 7 years. And both of my parents had jobs during that time. So there goes the argument that one parent has to "stay home".
    I think a lot more people would choose homeschooling if they knew how easy it was.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13547153594715433846 Liz M

    I am working on my PhD. I have two MA degrees, and I've taught college courses for 6 years. I have more experience with institutional education than almost anyone I know in their 30s. And I can tell you, based on the way you write your blog that you are not only smart enough, but that you could excel in college. But something to keep in mind is that even in academia, natural aptitude is maybe 30% at most. Maybe even as low as 10%. Effort and persistence are 90%. We have these stories in our culture about lone geniuses for whom everything came effortlessly. But all successful people get what they have by just putting in the work. Please don't doubt yourself. You can do anything you set your mind to. Maybe start with junior college, then jump to a 4-year college (part time if needs be). You have a very unique story, and application essays will be a good place to share it and earn grants/financial aid. Don't sell yourself short- talk to people in departments at your dream universities, explain your background, and ask for their advice- or even help! Even as a reader of your blog, not knowing you in person, I believe in you.

    Hit me up if you want to talk ed. stuff at any point :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13547153594715433846 Liz M

    I had to reply to this- I live in Texas too, but I adored school. I love learning, and I felt challenged and encouraged all through my education. But it seems to vastly depend on the school and Texas needs to fix (some of) its public schools, badly. My friends with kids researched and picked neighborhoods based on schools, and their kids are thriving.

  • publicschoolteacher

    From my experience as a public school teacher, there are good and bad things about the school environment, and I think that these change between schools. I didn't appreciate the emphasis on data and standardization, because it was so easy to lose sight of the individual student in the mountains of paperwork. I felt as though I could never fully meet the needs of each student. (Teaching high school, I usually saw 100+ students a day.)

    For students, in general it seems that a stable family life with involved parent(s) usually (but not always) undergirded their success. And I could generally tell when a student had problems with a parent at home (especially the mother) because that showed up in his/her behavior in the classroom.

    In general, the best way for children to succeed in the school environment seems to be with the active support of their parents. It is often said in ED classes that teachers are in loco parentis, but no one teacher can fully replaced an involved, caring parent. It's obvious that you care deeply for your children and are teaching them much at home. School is just a part of their education. They can go on to succeed even if they have a bad year (or three) of school; it's a lot harder when the parents haven't been involved.

    (This is all from experience and I have no facts or studies to back anything up. I simply think that a loving, stable home life is the strongest factor in a child's education.)

  • Rosa

    I think I'm going to MCTC this fall (have to figure out finances & schedule) and I was looking at the course list for a 2 year degree there, making a list of things I need to ask if I can test out of. And it occurred to me this morning – judging from this blog, I think you would ACE all these classes. The program I'm looking at is Accounting and the highest math for it is college algebra. If you wanted a program that feeds into a 4 year college there would be a little more math and science, but it would come after the preliminary classes that would get you ready to do it.

    When you're ready, I have huge confidence you'll succeed in school.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00251303621825787312 Maya Resnikoff

    School is a mixed bag, and very much what you make of it. I found elementary school kind of tough, mostly for social reasons, but really enjoyed middle school, high school, and college, (and even graduate school, which is often a tougher haul). If you're responsive to your kids' needs, attentive, and willing to talk to and work with their teacher, I think it should be just fine. My cousins have been homeschooled for their earliest education, and are now both in, or about to be sent to, school- so far, it's been a very good thing for them.

  • http://www.pslibrary.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    I didn't do well in school. I'm an introvert, so spending 8+ hours a day surrounded by people was very difficult. By about midday, I'd start to get moody and withdrawn, and that made me a target for bullies. My parents knew what was going on, but since my mom is an extrovert and my dad is… well, oblivious (lol!), they decided that the best way to help me was to "break the shyness." So they just put me in more and more social situations, so that I'd be around more people for after school activities as well. When that didn't work, they tried putting me in a private school. On and on it went, but they never wanted to give homeschooling a chance because they wanted me to be "normal" and felt that if they "gave in to my shyness," that it would only get worse. It was truly awful and I developed some really bad habits and thought processes that I didn't start to break out of until I went to university – where I finally had some control over how much interaction I had with people. And rather than making me more shy, it actually had the opposite effect.

    But my husband is different. For him, school was just fine. He didn't like the classes so much, but it was where his friends were. He was never bullied and he has many fond memories of his experiences.

    It just depends on the kids. If you try something and it doesn't work, try something else until you find whatever resonates with Ms Action. And don't stop experimenting, either, because kids change as they grow. There is no "right" way to raise kids, and for many school is absolutely wonderful.

    And don't let the crying at the bus stop be your guide, either. Clinging to parents is totally normal, especially in the early years. But it doesn't necessarily mean that the child is afraid of school, it could just mean that they really love their parents. Many kids will put on a big heartbreaking show, but as soon as mom is out of sight, their tears are dried and they have a great time. So talk to the teachers, talk to Ms Action, and if she does cry when there's a separation, don't jump to conclusions!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07727291511829658991 penn

    yes, I also encourage you to go back. I'm a high school teacher now, and I used to teach college. I had such a wide-range of students, and I always appreciated the few older students I had (and there will be more "non-traditional" students if you go to a junior college). Just knowing how to organize your time and the importance of taking notes and studying will help you achieve success in your entry level classes. Success there will help you out in your higher-level classes. I have faith in you.

  • Rainne

    Will she hate it? Sometimes.
    Will she feel alone and afraid? Probably not.
    Will kids pick on her? Probably, at least a few times.
    Will a teacher criticize her? Almost certainly, especially as she gets older.
    Will she be able to tell me if something happens to her at school that hurt her? Most of the time, yes.
    Will she hate me somday for sending her to such a horrible place? Someday, she will thank you for being the best mom you can possibly be and for doing everything you can to give her the best possible chances in life.

    Trust yourself, trust your partner, and trust your kid. It’ll be okay. I promise.

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