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monday 12.18.2000
the grade game


just how do you convince a 13 year old girl that her grades NOW are important and make a difference? yes, we are in the middle of the teenage school angst. she is an incredible talented young lady, our kitten. and that is not just mama talking. she is in gate, our gifted and talented education program, and could ace everything if she would just apply herself. not that i insist on a's. i accept c's, but that is the minimum i will accept. And while she has had a generally rocky road with the schools, she has actually usually managed to pull decent grades...until recently.

when kitten and jewel were younger i had actually planned to homeschool them. my reasons were both religious and non-religious in nature. it bothered me that sex education was devoid of any mention of abstinence (at the time) because it was a "religious" concept. it upsets me that my kids are going to schools that ignore developmental needs of kids in favor of placing them with age mates. it bothers me that so many of our high schoolers walk out of school unable to read or write. schools are failing horribly and generally unwilling to even consider alternate ways of educating to fix the problem. vouchers are thoroughly being trounced every time they are suggested even though they would force the schools to actually compete (the public school system is a monopoly to those of us who can't afford private education. we broke up ma bell, tried to break up microsoft, and have broken up other corporations because of monopolies, why not the schools?). so what was left for someone who can't afford private schooling? homeschool.

however, grandma (on her dad's side) decided this was a bad mothering choice. mind you, i can see the problems in homeschooling. but not all homeschooling is bad, and most of those who teach within a support structure (which i was looking into) raise kids who can outthink kids in public schools. however, grandma never listened to me. if anything, if i supported it it had to be the worst thing to do. my opinions, my research, my knowledge, none of it mattered. as far as she was concerned i was ignorant and had absolutely no clue what i was talking about not even when i researched it for years, and i had to be set straight whenever possible. with grandma, this meant meddling. of course SHE never really saw it that way, but if you didn't see it her way you were wrong and had to be put right. so, over the year i managed to homeschool, she reported me for truancy and had truant officers at my door at least twice. fortunately there are those who defend homeschoolers, believing parents have every right to raise their kids they way they want, including in education. with the advice of one of those lawyers i was able to get the school district off my back. she finally had her chance to put my kids into her idea of the best education for them when my husband of the time and i separated and some issues on the house i was renting from them came up. basically she forced me to enter my kids into the school of her choice to be able to rent the home. it was that or land on the street. i had no choice.

that first year was not an easy adjustment. not because of the kids in the classroom or any lack of socialization on her part, but because of the education process. they shoved kitten through first and second grade in just under one year. i had requested that she be placed in first grade, but age-wise they kept insisting she needed to be in second. the one-two combination class was their version of a compromise. she has come to hate math (which i can relate to), but has otherwise generally made it through it with flying colors. she's a smart kid, or she wouldn't be in gate. and once she got over the adjustment of the first year and got caught up to where the schools felt she should be age wise, she did fine. always pulling in good marks. jewel was started in kindergarten at my insistence (after the fiasco with shoving the older girl through two grades in one year i was very demanding about the placement for number two), and the year delay has proven to be a good thing for her. She is also in gate and another gifted program, and doing extremely well.

this year is a grade nightmare. she'll get b's one quarter, then begin flunking the same classes the next. she comes home and tells us she has no homework. she shows me her date book that the school gives so she can record assignments and has no assignments written in. what can i do here? this quarter her history grade went from a c to a d and her math grade went from a b to an f. and she doesn't understand when i look at her and say, "you will study, homework or no, until your grades are up". she whines, she sulks, she tantrums. today we sent her upstairs to study and she shut her door, turned off the lights and took a nap. i am watching her toss her future down the drain and i have no idea how to get her motivated to at least get the c's. she has a lot of school ahead of her, and much of her future education depends on what she does now, but we just can't seem to get through to her that this, above almost everything else, is important. it is also the one thing that is totally in her control.

good parenting is raising your kids in such a way that you end up working yourself out of a job. but in something like this, where your control is tenuous at best, particularly if you want to inspire a love of learning, perhaps all you can do is encourage, provide opportunity and tools, but otherwise let them make their own mistakes. And just be there to help them back up and comfort them when they do. but it is so hard to just stand by, especially when you know they have so much potential. and you know that fulfilling that potential is what will make their future brighter than your present. i can say all i want for them is to be happy, but i know i want so much more than happiness for them. i want to see them fulfilling their potential, being everything they can be, and living a better life then i am. AND being happy. i don't think that's too much to ask. now if i could just convince them of the benefits of all that work now.

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