Candid Chatter

Just Say It

Constant Learning January 27, 2010

I am getting tired of myself and the way I think. Instead of keeping an open mind about a decision, I filter out what I don’t want to hear and filter in what I do want to hear.

Case in point…
Last year we were trying to decide on a school for Brianna. I was dead set on enrolling her in a Christian school. There was absolutely no way on earth anyone could convince me otherwise. I was actually disgusted in my heart at anyone who was a Christian who sent their child(ren) to a public school; especially one in our county. Not disgusted in a way that caused friction, but disgusted in a way that made me feel sorry for their kids. Maybe disgusted is too strong of a word. Probably more like pity.

So, we (I) found a Christian school for Brianna and we (I) enrolled her. Rich even tried to talk me out of it. I would have none of that. My statement was, “I will eat Ramen noodles and live in a box before I’d ever send my kid to a public school”.

Now let me tell you a thing or two about my daughter. She is shy. Painfully so at times. I can see when she is about to crawl all up inside herself and I want to drag her back out. She is darling. Very sweet and kind and considerate and helpful and thoughtful. She has a temper, but that rarely shows unless she is in the company of those she loves. She is obedient and agreeable; especially in an instructional setting. At school, she does not speak unless spoken to and she does not get in trouble. She is the model student…. a pleasure for any teacher who has had the privilege of having her in class.

Fast-forward…
Starting around October, I suppose, Brianna’s attitude started changing. It was gradual, but it was noticeable to me. Her school hours for Kindergarten (yes, she is only 5 yrs old) were 8 to 12 with a snack and recess included in that time. She wasn’t in school for very long at all. However, despite the short days at school, she would come home an absolute grouch. It got so bad that shortly before the Christmas 2 week break she was even raising her voice at my 1 year old because (Brianna’s words) “his baby talking is getting on my nerves and he is laughing at me and I don’t like it”. I started noticing that it would take her near 2 hours each day after school to normalize. She would say hurtful things to her 3 1/2 yr old brother and pick at him repeatedly and sometimes relentlessly until he was crying or I heard what was going on and could intervene. She started raising her voice to me and hardly an afternoon went by without her receiving some sort of punishment. She cried a lot and started reverting back to throwing temper tantrums. At.Five.Years.Old.

At first, I thought it might be a phase. What did I know? She is my first born so everything that’s new to her is new to me too. So, I started asking my friends with kids around her age if their kids were going through this attitude adjustment too. Only one person gave the slightest hint that her child is grouchy from time to time after school. But, her child’s circumstances are different than Brianna’s (he is in school and an aftercare program so by the time he gets home he has been away from home 9-ish hours and he’s hungry — entirely understandable).

One day, after babysitting a handful of kids, Rich and I took our kids over to a friend’s house for a fun little Christmas party. During that visit, I got to talk to a woman who probably has no idea that our conversation opened my eyes wide to the possibility that my precious Brianna was being ruined by her school. I don’t think the thought had occurred to me until then.

I started researching. I am like that. I talked to teachers in our public school system as well as our neighboring school system. I talked to parents who had removed their kids from Christian schools and put them in public schools. I made phone calls. I wrote e-mails. I visited message boards. I did it all. I had a million questions and a billion worries. What I found out stunned me. My daughter was stressed out and only 5 years old. The environment and curriculum she was subjected to at a Christian school was suffocating her sense of self and creativity.

I prayed. I asked God to stop me from making another biased decision. I wanted to be objective. I wanted Him in the lead. And, lead He did.

Wow!

Fast forward…
I quickly set about enrolling her in a local charter school. Last week, I enrolled her in the charter, withdrew her from the Christian school, and prayed hard that I had made the right decision. There were many confirmations, actually. First of all, the women who work in the front office of the charter are born-again Christians. I will not explain how I know this for fear that they could be somehow reprimanded. It is between me and them and that’s that. I am happy about it and God used them (w/out them knowing it) to confirm my decision to enroll her in the charter.

The first day of school was a long one for me. Brianna is now in school a full day. I was concerned about that. There was a little bit of anxiety in my heart over an extra 2 1/2 hours at school and eating lunch there instead of at home. Would she know what to do and where to go? Would she get tired and worn out? Would the kids accept “the new shy girl” who just walked into their lives? Would her teacher be sensitive to Brianna’s personality? I had so many fears for her.

When I pulled up to pick her up, I couldn’t even get the question out of my mouth about her day when she burst into the van and blurted out, “Mommy, thank you SO MUCH for sending me to this new school. I LOVE IT!!”

“Awesome” can’t even describe the way I felt when I heard those words. I almost cried and silently offered up praise to my God. Thank you Jesus. She had a great day!

Nothing has changed since then. She has had great day after great day. She is happy and smiling every afternoon when I pick her up. She is eager to go to school in the morning (at the other school she would sometimes beg me to keep her home). Her attitude is back to normal and she is teaching her brother some of the things she is learning. She has made a few friends and can’t wait to do her homework (she didn’t even have homework at the last school).

It’s fantastic.

I am so pleased it gives me goosebumps. The Lord worked in that from beginning to end… guiding me, putting the right people in my path, and giving me peace when I was looking for even the slightest hesitation.

However, behind that happiness for Brianna lingers an anger for that other school. I want to lash out at them. How dare they treat those kids like that and charge their parents tuition making them think that their education is somehow superior. It’s not superior. It’s inferior.

Be careful, friends. Watch how your kids behave. It will tell you volumes about what happens when you aren’t looking. Don’t let anything out of your radar. A small child’s happiness or unhappiness is easy to decipher if you are watching.

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9 Responses to “Constant Learning”

  1. Heidi: great post! We weighed the possibility of putting our youngest in a Christian school at one time but decided that she needed to be in a public school. The argument of “do you know what they teach there?” doesn’t hold too much water with me since I believe a father/mother should be involved in their child’s lives anyway. If something was being taught at school that I had problems with, it is my responsibility to counteract that. As for the Christian school, I realize they have an agenda but sometimes they do get to indoctrinating with their beliefs. sorry didn’t mean to go on. I think you made the right decision (for what it’s worth).

  2. C.O.W. @ 476 Says:

    Heidi
    This is a good post. It doesn’t only relate to children. And there isn’t always a fix that available.
    As a grown adult, I deal with what Brianna was dealing with at 5 yrs. of age.
    I absolutely hate my job. But, with today’s job market it would be foolish for me to leave.
    Plus, I get paid a shit-ton of money and can’t easily give that up without serious changes. I pray, I read up on things, I follow “Daily Strength” blogs and “how to manage the work day stuck in a job that you hate” all the time. Basically all day at work, I’m reminding myself to breath. My boss, who will claim to be the greatest boss ever, is precisely the opposite. Because he’s so concerned with being “a great guy” and “well liked” that his management and leadership skills lack and he passes off all the “bad guy” tasks to me and passes of the annoying work or employees to a co-worker of mine.
    anyways, this isn’t a ranting blog, so I will stop. But, it is miserable to spend day after day, hours on hours, in such an environment. #1 – that is NOT challenging, and #2 – that any efforts one makes to progress and be challenged are knocked down.
    So I too drive home from work in a fit of rage and tears. I’ve learned not to have phone conversations until I’ve come home and relaxed and cuddled with my lover or my dog first, without words spoken.
    So, pray for me too. Pray that the economy picks up and people who don’t have jobs find them first, then people stuck in jobs get the opportunity to move on!

  3. candidchatter Says:

    @Bill: I miss you.

    @C.O.W.: That is so heartbreaking to me. I will pray. I do understand having a lot riding on a certain income level. Rich has enabled me to stay at home with our kids for 5+ years now. If he quit his job (or lost it), we’d be in trouble. Bills don’t care if you have less $$, they still want their cut of it. I get that. However, when the economy rebounds (and hopefully that is sooner rather than later) I do hope that your happiness and career fulfillment will come before your bank account. Remember that you *do* adjust to less. It’s like waiting till you can afford to have children to have them. It doesn’t work that way. You adjust. So, if you had to take a temporary pay cut in order to be fulfilled, then do it. No job is permanent and the next one might lead you to the next one and so on. You will be rewarded if you follow the Lord’s lead (which you are). So, take heart and keep your chin up. Persevere. You know what that’s like and you’ve seen the fruits of your labor (whether from work or from pushing through a difficult time). Blessings and love!

  4. Heidi, thank you for sharing this. I appreciate your sharing how you felt towards public school moms.. since i”m one of them! But we have had GREAT things happen with our school and we have a stable active church family to help us parents pick up the Godly training at home.

    I”m SO glad Brianna is doing well.. I hpe school just keeps getting better & better for her!

  5. candidchatter Says:

    Kathryn: You appreciate how I felt towards Christian parents who send their kids to public schools? You must have some thick skin. Most of my friends, with school-aged children, send them to public schools — and I truly (secretly) pitied those kids until very recently. It’s interesting to me how I can see things absolutely as right and then just a short time later see the other side of the coin. I wish I could be that accepting of everything at the outset instead of through some sort of trial. I want an open mind and a nonjudgmental heart. Lord help me!

  6. I appreciate your SHARING it. I know moms who I believe are “educational snobs” and I often wish they would just wake up and REALIZE it. And you did!
    I hear public school stories, and I get that not all schools are right for all kids.. but as you now know, that’s true of ALL schools not just public schools! (And as I’ve said, we have had GREAT experience at our public schools.. did you see the note from Cary’s teacher on my FB page? GREAT experiences!)

  7. Jimmy formerly known as the paravane Hankins Says:

    Hya Heidi! Been awhile. First, I got sucked into FaceBook by the family. I’m starting to like it even. (grin) The rest of my time has been taken up by RL stuff. Just wanted to touch base and comment;
    “Be careful, friends. Watch how your kids behave. It will tell you volumes about what happens when you aren’t looking. Don’t let anything out of your radar. A small child’s happiness or unhappiness is easy to decipher if you are watching.”
    Now imagine that view from your Heavenly Father’s perspective. (grin)

  8. Ivan Says:

    Excellent post, Heidi. There are just good and bad schools. We had very similar experience, although bizarrely moving from one private Christian school to another – yes, our son goes to a “Christian Foundation” school! The first place was just mean-spirited. In fairness, the place he’s at now is tiny: 150 kids in the whole school (from kindergarten to 16 years old).

    An example of what heathens we are and how our son B is experiencing Christianity: soon after starting the first school (4 years old?) he came home looking especially troubled. We gave him space and time to tell us what was wrong. He said, in the assembly hall, they had a model of a naked man nailed onto a piece of wood. That was the first time he saw or heard of Jesus. Minor cultural detail we had forgotten about.

    Soon after starting the second school, and for a couple of years, he would get into blazing rows with his teachers and other kids in his class (sons and daughters of missionaries many of them) about creation and so on. I think they all know each other now. More striking, he started reading the Bible: he has a children’s Bible and a Bible-based puzzle book, and very shortly these were more or less his favourite books.

    The way these children grow is very interesting (and unpredictable).

    Ivan


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