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Thursday, May 24, 2012

When to Take a Child Out of Public School

My second daughter, Lory, started public school in the eighth grade. Her older sister, Clory, had started public school the year before in ninth grade. Clory had enjoyed her first year in school and got her younger sister very excited to start also. We went through all the usual preparations for Lory: we bought her clothes, got her school supplies and then registered her at the junior high. Her first day of school was one of excitement and wonder for her and us. It made me happy that public school was an option for her.
As the year went on I followed her grades through the on-line system and watched her behavior. I was happy to see her grades were good. Academically she was prepared and had no difficulties. Socially I started to notice behavior that saddened and even alarmed me. Clory did just fine socially. She got along great. Lory, on the other hand, had a change of personality. Where she had always been bubbly, talkative, and even exuberant about life, after a couple of semesters she became very quiet and withdrew from the family. Instead of her happy, noisy exchanges with her siblings she would stay in her room and read book after book. If she wasn't reading she was sleeping. She could sleep for twelve to fourteen hours at a time. She began complaining of illness and often missed whole days of school. She missed so many that the school contacted us and informed us that she might be held back.

I was aware that changes of behavior such as my daughter had could be signs of depression. My attempts at talking to her about school never got anywhere. I would take her on special outings in order to spend time with her alone with hopes of her opening up, but she remained closed. Eventually I told her that she didn't have to stay in school if she didn’t want to, but that I wasn't going to make her come home either. I could see that she heard me and was considering what I said. One day she came to me and told me that she thought it was time to come home. This wasn't an easy decision for her and I could see that it saddened her a little. I felt that it was a good decision, but I wasn't totally sure what the results would be. I accompanied her as she to school as she turned in her books and cleaned out her locker. She said goodbye to several teachers who seemed genuinely sorry to see her go. And then we left.

I didn't have to wonder long if allowing her to come home was a good decision. After a few days adjustment I noticed a remarkable change in her behavior. Her youngest brother, who adores her, started going t her to help him with his school. She came out of her room to do this and I saw her laughing and enjoying his company. Her leisure reading dropped dramatically. This would normally concern me except that she was spending time more and more time with her brothers and sisters. Her bubbliness increased and with it her volume. The old Lory was back.

Lory is enrolled in electronic high school and is doing very well. I check in with her daily but find that I don’t have to give her much prompting to complete her assignments. When I ask she freely tells me about her teachers and assignments. Lory is still young. I know that her educational future is not going to be a bed of roses. But I do know that with a flexible approach to her education we will find a way for her to succeed. She may choose to try public school again, or not. Either way will be fine. It is important to know that there are alternatives to public school for those children where public education, for whatever reason, does more harm than good. It is also important to understand that those alternatives often require much more time and attention from the parents of those children. In my case, to see Lory smiling again and feel her exuberance for life again is worth it.

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