Before Covid I had times I wondered about homeschooling. I’d sit and ponder it. And I have to think many come to embrace homeschooling in a similar manner. It’s fine until it isn’t.
But my boys were happy. They enjoyed going to public school overall, and they seemed to be getting a decent enough education. I was volunteering at the school, to keep an eye on them, but to also give back to the community. I rarely missed a field trip. I helped with literacy. I participated in an advisory group that dealt with food security through the district. The schools seemed not much different than it did when my oldest son was in elementary school. But in the 2019-20 school year I started seeing cracks, particularly in my youngest son’s class. He was in second grade that year. My middle son was in 4th grade. I started noticing my 2nd grader pulling back a bit. Even in the school I noticed as winter came a different feeling. Things felt off. Unwelcoming.
Forgive me if this post is long. Windy, and winding. It’s just a long road to homeschooling, and watching a school district and our state start to fall apart, and it covers 3 school years at this point.
The start of the cracks was a blatant violation of his health directive. Alix has many food allergies and asthma. Prior to that year every teacher he had had, they had all been so accommodating to him, concerned for his health/safety. The teacher would not email me in advance for birthday parties often, so he would snack on a bag of potato chips to be safe. One instance she did tell me, so I sent in a gluten-free/allergy friendly cupcake. A pretty thing. He came home, his stomach was killing him and his skin looked awful. Yeah, he has eczema as well – and it always shows when he is dosed with allergens immediately. In talking to him I found out that the teacher had decided his normal sized cupcake was not equitable to the other children, and took it from him, throwing it away. She then forced him to take one of the provided 2 bite mini cupcakes and eat it. It contained wheat and was not made in a safe factory/bakery. He was sick for days. He was lucky it didn’t trigger anaphylaxis. It resulted in a very angry exchanges of emails with the school adminstration. The teacher never apologized for her actions, instead acting as if SHE was the victim in it all. I had lost all confidence in her. She had violated our child. Looking back, I should have pulled him that day and walked. But I wanted to believe it was a slip she’d never do again.
Not long after this, Alix had an asthma attack during recess. Due to how long the bus ride was to and from school/and how rural we are, he had carried a set of EpiPens and an inhaler since he was 3.5 years old. Not once had anything bad happened. He came into the classroom, and panicking because he couldn’t breathe, he grabbed his inhaler in his backpack and took the proper puffs, and carried on. The teacher went livid, and I was called by the district’s nurse about this “violation”. You know, a child self advocating for life saving medicine when he needed it, and doing it correctly. Insanity. This event resulted in a sit down meeting where the nurse went on a power trip, attempting to take his right to carry his medicines, even though it was doctor approved. The meeting ended with Alix keeping his rights, and my never wanting to talk to that nurse again. Especially as this had happened AFTER his teacher had exposed him to his allergens. Kirk and I knew it would come down to lawyers if this came up again. Again, looking back, we should have left that day as well.
When Covid finally won the freak out contest in the news, Washington State shut everything down. We knew it was coming, and I got prepared, figuring who knew what was coming. I bought things to help teach.
And the cracks widened rapidly. During the initial shutdown (those quaint 2 weeks to flatten the curve) the school went on vacation. There wasn’t much conversation going on. So I started trying to homeschool as best as I could. I was unsure what I was doing. From March to June, the schooling was a joke. It was Zoom class meetings and talking about feelings, with a few online apps thrown in. Many kids just didn’t show up. The board and superintendent seemed ok with it. I was told at that point, by my son’s 2nd grade teacher “I was not being equitable” to the other children in the class because I was actively homeschooling him. This teacher was the school’s union rep. I realized that day the school didn’t care if my children learned or not. Even in an apocalypse, you must find ways to educate your children. They are your future. Even if all they do is learn how to survive, they are learning. Sitting on a couch playing video games was not the option I gave them – but many school mates chose that path. I watched the Zoom meetings next to them, noting how sad it was. How little was taught to them.
What they had time to do was this awful art project.
We limped through the rest of the year, with me teaching extra math, spelling, and reading.
We went to summer, just not knowing what to expect. Well, Washington State kept schools closed come the start of 2020/21 school year. I knew I couldn’t put my children through an entire year of remote learning that was being done thru a Chromebook. So I sent in my letter of intent to homeschool. The school pretended they never received it.
The school reached out and offered me the option to homeschool under the district’s wing. Oh, it sounded good. I’d teach them, and use whatever curriculum I wanted, as long as it met state standards. And they’d do the testing. I’ve wondered though if they did receive my letter, and played dumb to get us to stay under their wing.
It was an odd, and very long year. My 5th grader that year, we changed his advisory teacher as his first wasn’t a good match (wasn’t the teachers fault, it was dumped on them). Alix had a good advisory teacher, she had taught his older brother 2 years in a row. It was a rare positive moment that year.
Once a month (sometimes it was every week or two) I’d meet online on Zoom with their advisory teachers, who would ask how we were doing, and so on. It was homeschooling weird, but I know they wanted to make sure the students were getting an education. Which was sad because what I didn’t know then, was that my children were receiving a lot more than the children who were doing remote school.
I was teaching them an intensive Waldorf inspired curriculum as well as ensuring they met state standards. They were doing 2 forms of math: Common Core and old school. I didn’t realize at first I was educating so heavily. But we often were done within 3 hours every day, and went off to do things – go to the beach, hike, work on our farm, just be lazy and read. I actually feared I was not teaching enough. But then they had diagnostic testing done and I was happy to know they were not only doing fine, they were ahead! In some areas, quite far ahead.
Whenever I saw a rare in person event I had my boys signed up immediately.
Drawing and water color on the Salish Sea, learning about seaweed? Yes. Far better than sitting on Zoom!
Then more than a year after school was closed the district announced that we’d be going back in early spring.
For 2 days a week. For 4 hours each day.
How welcoming. The school was very open that parents were not welcome. This is the sign we came back to. Each grade had its own door and sign.
The boys were lonely and I agreed they could go back. It was in stages. By April both were back. With Alix he was back in the district, in school. Then I found out that they didn’t do much “schooling” on those 2 days. It was more about social emotional learning. They were doing all their school work on the 3 days at home. So in the end, I was still teaching him. Sigh! And I saw how little work they were doing. So we went back to doing his work along with the school’s work. I refused to let my child slide so badly.
Meanwhile….my middle son was still being homeschooled by me. He was given a spot at school, but because he had been homeschooled he couldn’t slide over into their work. So he’d attend for social aspects but do his own work. That was….interesting.
School got out and we spent summer on the homestead.
We might have a normal year, I hopefully wondered. 2021/2022 might be good. The boys were asking to go back. Mostly. Though Alix wasn’t quite sure.
Normally every year, as we would go back to school, we would have an all hands meeting for Alix. To ensure everyone was on the same page. In 3rd grade it wasn’t needed till school had gone back. But this year it was on Zoom. And it was rushed. The school principal rushed us through it. I felt it was far too short. It was over in minutes. Partially it might have been because of me, for I had demanded the school district head nurse not attend the meeting, and that I was to have no contact with her at all. Nor was she to interact with my child, unless she was the only option. I didn’t trust her. The meeting felt oddly edgy and weird. Add in that the district held off till right before school started to announce teachers.
And it got bad. Really bad. As I will talk about below, I am very open about my views. I don’t hide back. I don’t use troll accounts. I am online and in person the same person. I am passionate. And I post a lot on social media. The day before school started I posted 2 things on Facebook, set to “friends” about the schools. A certain person (who I know who it was) went back to Jr. High and sent screenshots to the K-4 principal. Who does that? These were truthful things I posted – one was about my fears of Alix’s safety and the other was on that the school district was still banning all parents from entering the school buildings.
That evening as I was working with my animals on the farm, my mobile rang. It was the principal – and they were angry. Very, very angry, screaming at me, demanding I pull my posts. And oh hell no I wasn’t going to. This was factual things. The next morning I had to drop off Alix’s med bag to the nurses office. The principal saw me waiting outside, as I had to have an appointment to do this, and started it up again with me.
Tell me you’d feel safe leaving your child in this mess? I sure didn’t. But somehow I did that day. And every day for the next 6 weeks I ate my stomach. Praying my child was OK there, left in a pit of vipers.
I sat and thought deeply – for a normally professional employee, the principal had gone fully emotional. Which leads to wonder, how horrible are they treated by the superintendent? On a daily basis. The day I came to pull Alix for homeschooling the superintendent nearly ran over me, as I walked out of the office, and they were screaming for a worker. They were nearly running into the office, not paying attention.
Now then…maybe I bear some of the blame, but it isn’t my fault. For as the schools got worse, month by month, I got politically radicalized. I found a group of parents and grandparents who saw the world like me, on our end of the island. We were all so tired of watching the children not receive an actual education anymore. We watched the superintendent receive yet another raise for doing nothing, while the enrollment dropped even farther – and grade averages tanked. The superintendent and 4 of the 5 school board members became Great White Saviors, that spent all their time discussing racism, equity and every Buzzword Bingo term they could find. Yet the majority of the school district is White. And from what it appears, they are all White as well (if I am wrong, I am happy to be corrected). They hire motivational speakers to teach them about equity, to listen in – yet they don’t. I am a person of color, a blend of European, Filipino and Jewish heritage. If I wrote a letter to the board and superintendent I was thanked for my opinion. They didn’t want to hear from an actual POC in their district. Because I wasn’t sitting at their feet, telling them how wonderful they were. I wasn’t being a “good” POC. At one school board meeting the superintendent waxed on about how the area needed low-income housing so BIPOC could live here. So tone deaf. To assume that POC couldn’t live here because they were all poor. They just need a hand up from the Great White Saviors! I wrote a reply telling her that. That maybe POC don’t live here…because the village the school is in….is a White enclave of wealthy Boomers who think they are all artists. Why would I want to live around them? Why would anyone under 55 want to live there? It’s a snooze fest of pretentious hot bags and their art galleries. I graduated from the north end of the island, where the district there is a Navy town. We were truly diverse and didn’t have all these issues. Because no one went looking for issues to happen.
My children are two or more races (their father is of non-Mexican Hispanic heritage). So we are part of 3 of the above lines. But the key is….if you are not a “good” POC they want to pretend you don’t exist here. They want grateful POC who praise them, and tell them how their equity training is brave.
Then we get onto the money issue. Our tiny district spends a lot of money per child, but also for each teacher. On average the teachers make good salaries here, in this district, and have small numbers per room. When we moved to the district it was around 1400 students. In 2020-21 it was down to 1,256 students, and this included about 100 students they had managed to retain by offering the “school-homeschool” scheme.
But this is where it got depressing. The percentages of students that meet state standards. One of the current school board happily crowed that our ELA was above state average. A D grade is nothing to write home about. It’s an embarrassment! Yet, the board and superintendent seem to not care. They don’t want to talk about the money spent, and the poor learning.
If you live in Washington State, you can look up the stats quite easily. OSPI Report Card, just enter the district you are looking for in Washington State. Most states should have a similar program online.
I became involved in the school board elections this year – we have a shot at 3 of the 5 positions. That we could make a change, and bring back education.
That is me, on the far left.
I let Alix attend the first 6 weeks of school. He would tell me what they learned each day. I could see they were doing work, but at what level? In 6 weeks they had no social studies. They were doing things online, on their chromebooks, and a little paperwork. Here’s the thing: All of that could have been done remote. Huh. It’s almost like it was planned.
But what was true was the principal had said to a friend this summer that social emotional learning was their focus this year, not educational learning. So every day they had circle time. Our island has not been terribly affected by Covid in the past 20 months. Only a few people have died from it, and our case count has been very low in general (at the start we had an outbreak in a care facility for older people). Unlike in a city, the children have not been overly exposed to trauma from Covid, unless the parents leave the news on all day or talk about it nonstop, fueling fear. Yet the school has decided that the children should sit and do social emotional over actual education. Because of the trauma….sigh.
Our state has tight mandates, the governor is drunk on power. We are still forced to wear masks inside. The children are required to wear masks even when outside – and they eat outside, even on days like today, as a cyclone is parked off the coast, bringing vast rain and wind. They are told to eat quickly and badgered to chew with their masks up. It’s over the top. They are not allowed to have any time out of the masks. Not even on the fields outside.
As October started, we had a really cold week. Alix came home, he couldn’t eat lunch because he was so cold. Kirk snapped on that one, and he emailed the teacher if this was going to change. No in the foreseeable future. Kirk told me to pull him that afternoon, and the next day we did. Windows open in rooms, the children are often cold in class, and forced outside even in the rain and wind. Alix’s asthma, which had taken a break overall, was starting to show up again – and I would put it squarely on being masked for 9 hours straight.
I couldn’t take anymore of parents being pushed out. Not wanted. Then the school said they’d be accepting volunteers suddenly. But you had to show your vaccine passport. I am fully vaccinated, but I don’t support showing my papers to strangers.
And now…we are back to homeschooling. And I am enjoying it as he is. I am using a curriculum I pulled together this year. I knew we would come to this, and so in August I had picked up most everything I needed. This year I am doing a blend of paper work and an online program I bought for the year – so I have diagnostics on hand if I need it. And I realized, they need us, we don’t need them (the schools). I am good enough, smart enough, and my son is thriving at home.
But most of all? When we pulled him the district didn’t offer us to stay this time. No alternative education. The principal ignored us.
And that says a lot. And tells me he is so much safer being homeschooled.
I am not alone here. So many parents have said enough to it all. We want sanity for our children. To ensure they have a robust education. And are not indoctrinated day in and out.