Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Frustration.... Does school always have to be this way???

I know I've spouted off on my blog in the past about how much I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE Taylor Anne's school - it's a really great dual-language 'charter' Montessori School, and it IS great! And I do love the Montessori philosophy and model... But this year, in first grade, it's just not working out as I had hoped it would. I thought that we had ironed out the ways to help Taylor Anne focus in class by the end of last school year, and I naively thought that she would feel the responsibility of being a first-grader, and really buckle-down and get to work.

She is so excited to be in first grade - and the first week, as I expected was full of fun and we got a note home from her teacher asking us to talk to her about talking too much, and paying attention to what the teachers ask her to do. So we did, and it seemed she was doing better for a few days... I know T.A. has her own challenges - and I made sure to talk with the teacher about these issues and tell her the way we managed or worked with them last year... but it doesn't seem like it matters much. As I understand it, in first grade, the school has to adhere more closely with the public school curriculum, and there is less actual Montessori-ness to the classroom. I think this is a major problem... the children aren't able to move around the classroom much without getting in trouble this year... that's a big change from last year where the teacher had been teaching in Montessori schools for her career, and was completely devoted to the pedagogy.

T.A.'s teachers seem like really great teachers - and she likes them a lot. The problem is (I think) neither one of them are 'Montessori' teachers. The assistant teacher has gotten started on her training in Montessori, and is working with the children every once in a while to give them a lesson, but for the most part, the kids are sitting at their desks doing what seems like more traditional school work. This is the part that doesn't work for my daughter, and the part we wanted to avoid by having her attend this school. She's having trouble sitting still in her seat, talking to her table-mates, responding (when she should ignore) when her table-mates talk to her, and getting up to do things around the classroom. The School has come up with a "Behavior Point Sheet" that I detailed in the previous post "Hello Blogland!" (click to check it out). We've been using this system for several weeks now, and it's been pretty good so far... except for this past week or so... and I'm wondering what's going on. It could be a couple of things... her ADHD-ness could be getting more intense in general which would be why she could be having a hard time with the structure of the classroom (not so much freedom to move around)

It might have something to do with her being bumped up to 2nd grade curriculum (could be too much stress for her...) Oh - I don't know if I posted about this yet, but they've 'assessed' her and moved her to the second grade spelling list, reading workbooks and groups, and math workbooks. She seems to be having no trouble with any of the work - she's able to complete her homework easily, and her spelling words are still pretty simple for her, plus she's been reading like crazy (on her own, sitting on the floor in her room!)... so I don't feel like that's too much for her... but I'm still frustrated! Today she was crying over her homework because she was so worked up about how long it was going to take her - when in fact she gets it done really quickly, if she is having a 'green or yellow' day... (today was red)

You may be thinking - "why not try the local public elementary school that's 4 blocks from your house? or Didn't you go to public schools and turn out fine?" Yes, I went to public schools... and I turned out 'fine'... but I did struggle... and I was frequently frustrated... and I was on Ritalin for 1st-9th grades... I would like to avoid or help reduce some of those things for my daughter. The things that are frustrating me aren't going to be something that's fixed by moving her to the public school... I think that her issues would just be compounded, and then they'd tell me to put her on some medication so she could function "normally". (WHAT IS NORMAL???)

I've been thinking about homeschooling, and doing a little bit of research into what curricula are out there (and what's available here). And I'm trying to have conversations about it with Mike, but so far we haven't gotten anywhere with that conversation. I'm not sure it's the right thing for her, but I do wonder if homeschooling would offer less distractions, more freedom, more field trips, more science projects, and more interesting and hands-on work for her that she can work on at her own pace. I'm leaning toward homeschooling as a good option for her, and I think I could handle it, but there is the possibility of many familial obstacles to overcome. I refuse to medicate her, I have read too many horror stories about the side-effects and I don't want her to be a kid who has to pop pills every day.

So... I'm frustrated and looking for options.


Natalie said...

Hugs and courage Em, and above all: Trust Your Instincts!

oonaballoona said...

ugh, i'm sorry you and taylor anne are going through this-- as for what is normal, i think TA is normal. i grew up with friends in public school that were on ritalin, and they just wanted to be kids.

and how frustrating to be at a montessori school without montessori teachers! how does that even happen?!

anyway, i certainly don't have any advice... just wanted to give you both a hug across the blogisphere.

Egghead said...

This tugs at my heart. I wish every little child could be loved and appreciated for who their little soul really is. My sister homeschools her three children using a program I think is called Homeschool by Grace...a Christian homeschool on line program. I can put you in touch if you like with my sister.

She is having great success with her little guys.

JaclynJohnson said...

If anyone can homeschool successfully, it would be you, Em! Good luck with everything, and we are praying for you guys. Hope to see you soon!

Libby said...

Gosh, I wish I had some sage advice for you. I'm sure you will ultimately find the right solution for your Taylor Anne.

Breanna said...

I feel for you. Schools can be quite frustrating. My husband is a school psychologist in an elementary school, and has personal experience with adhd and all that it involves. I asked him and he would be glad to help you out if there is anything he can do. Just shoot me an e-mail if you want (but you don't have too :))

And thanks for the award! It means a lot to me.

Needled Mom said...

Having never been a fan of homeschooling, I must tell you that my opinions have changed drastically since my son and DIL started. I see such a difference in the children and they learn at a much faster rate which is helpful for the ADHD pupil. They generally learn so much quicker and can move on rather than wait for the entire class to "catch" it. The homeschoolers have wonderful networks and get together with a very large group in our area.

Dana said...

Sending your children to school is always difficult. I have two kiddos at our small local charter school. When my first one first started I remember feeling lots of these same things. But, I made it my business to stay informed, involved and very educated about what was going on and why. Soooo much is learned in a school setting. Not just academics but social stuff too. I know that you'll make whatever choice is best for you and your family.

Erica said...

Does your state do Cyber School? I don't know if they do or not, but here we have Cyber School. It's free adn they give you a laptop, printer and everything. They have extracurricular activities and everything. I think we will be doing that atleast for kindergarden, and beyond if that is what Braylynne wants. My brother had problems with reading, just a little behind and he got thrown into a "slow" class, and he's 24 now and still has nightmares about that class. He got pulled out the next year, but the damage was already done. My husband got lost in school because he was "bored" all the time and ended up being a trouble maker!