October 30, 2015

Why I Pulled My Kids From Their School District

Here's the part where I explain my title. And I know that this is going to sound crazy, but I feel I made the right choice.
My kids are soooo important to me. I don't think you realize how important. I am responsible for these tiny humans, and raising them to be full grown humans who make important decisions that affect the whole world, some day (yes, I am a firm believer that it takes only one ant to save/destroy the colony).
I have always wanted to have kids, even though I never thought I could be a good Mum. Well, NEWSFLASH: no Mum is a "good" Mum. I am told every day by my kids that I'm a "mean" Mum, a "weird" Mum, and even a "bad" Mum.  We are just the best Mum we can be, for ourselves, and our kids. Whether or not they agree.
That being said, I decided last year to pull my kids out of their public school, and attempt to home school.
I know, that's insane! Why would I do that!? What about their friends? What about their schedule? What about their curriculum?

These are all questions that I chewed on for a long time before making my decision. But the fact of the matter is, the circumstances leading to my decision, left me feeling I had to do this, I had to make a stand, I had to protect my children.

Okie, here's that part where you're thinking, 'protect her children? From what?'

There is a laundry list of problems that have recently (within the past year) come to light within our local school district. Problems that have left me concerned about how much our local school board actually cares about the well being of its students. They recently came under scrutiny for their accounting flaws. What this means is that they were audited, and the discovery that they were over $8 million in  debt raised huge concern with the county's department of education. So they did some more investigating, and discovered there was a rat's nest of corruption within the school board, and the entire district's faculty. What this means is that there apparently was a ton of double-dipping, and embezzlement throughout the last decade or so, within our local school district. This means that all the years there were "no funds" for materials, field trips, etc. That's because all the fundraising money, all the book sales money, any money that any parent ever put into the schools, was being pocketed by someone, somewhere along the line.
Enraging, isn't it?

Then, within the Elementary school that both my Toads were attending, there were multiple (what I affectionately refer to as) "funny" incidents.
One instance, that still irks me to this day, is the time when Nana's Kindergarten teacher attempted to throw away her full, hot pink, Hello Kitty lunch box. Claiming that she didn't know who it belonged to (even though I have Nana's name printed on the bottom and on the side in thick black permanent marker), she threw it into the class trash can. This happened even after Nana had exclaimed that it was hers, and several classmates also pointed out that they could see her name on the lunchbox, from their seats. Natalie told me in tears, that she wasn't allowed to dig her full lunchbox out of the trash, until after school. Also, that she didn't eat lunch that day. I marched right up to that teacher, demanded an explanation, and was told my daughter was making up stories. She was 5 years old, with no history of lying. Why would she start with a story like that!?
However, when my Mama Bear self threatened to take the issue to the Principal, her teacher finally admitted that there was a "miscommunication" that morning and Natalie's lunchbox may have been "accidentally" thrown in the trash can. She refused to corroborate Nana's side of the story, only admitting that the part where Nana didn't eat lunch that day, due to her lunchbox being in the trash, was true. I still took my issue to the Principal. He told me I was making a fuss over something that was nothing.
That's right, a "teacher" spot-lights my daughter, takes from my daughter, and humiliates her in front of the entire class, for no reason what so ever. Then deprives her of an entire meal, for absolutely no reason....And the Principal of that school, who I am trusting to look out for the well being of my child, tells me it was nothing.
It's not nothing! What if she had a medical condition that worsened if she didn't eat? She doesn't, but I know there are kids out there who do. Besides, what kind of a-hole takes a 5 year old's lunch from them in the morning, and tells them they're not allowed to eat? Then makes them sit there and watch all the other kids eat lunch!? What could she have possibly done that morning, that was so horrible, to deserve that!?

It doesn't end there. There were multiple issues throughout Natalie's Kindergarten year, all starting and ending with her "teacher" picking on her. There were many days where Natalie would come running out those school doors crying, and beg me not to make her go back. Call me over protective, but I really wanted to get violent with that woman, sometimes.

And then there was the "Truancy Court Hassle."
This was the final straw for me, the one that made me realize this school is wrong for me and my kids. The incident that made me decide to pull my kids out.

In October of 2014, my son, was tardy (not absent) 5 times more than his little sister. For some reason, this alerted the attendance office of their elementary school, to inform the school board, that there may be a problem at home causing the unusual comparison in attendance between my son and daughter. A month later (that's right an entire month), I began receiving phone calls from a man who went by the name of Gary (can't remember his last name, he only told it to me the one time, and referred to himself from then on as "Gary"). He claimed he was with our local school board's attendance and truancy office, and that he had been assigned to investigate my family's case.
When I asked why do we have a case, Gary replied that the tardies that had accumulated in October of 2014, were under investigation because the attendance office at Gavin's elementary school was alerted to suspicious activity in his home life. The investigation was to get to the bottom of the situation and discover the cause of his tardiness, then take action from there.
Yes, that's right. My son's school thought we were abusing/neglecting our kids because my son was tardy, not absent, tardy, five more times than his little sister.

It doesn't end there.

I took my anger to the Principal again, and he claimed he was as baffled as I was. In a meeting that same week, we looked back on footage from hallway cameras, to discover that Gavin was indeed arriving at the exact same time as his sister. They parted ways in a hallway that forked. My daughter went toward her class, and my son....my son dawdled.
He would stop at the drinking fountain, or swing his backpack and dance around the hallway. I could see him going into the boy's bathroom for a long time, coming out and going back in. There were a couple of days where he just hung out at his locker, and kept taking everything out and putting it back in, several times.
The mystery was solved. The Principal informed me that he would call the school board and inform them that the investigation was no longer necessary. And I thought 'well, weird instance, finally over.'

Wrong. Not over.

Over the next month, I continued to receive multiple calls a day, that's right, sometimes I would receive no less than two or three phone calls a day, from Gary, the truancy guy; harassing me to take the investigation to court. Leaving multiple voice mails explaining that my cooperation is important and the "best thing for my children." Many voice mails were threatening to take action if I didn't comply.
The final straw was the phone call on Christmas Eve 2014. I was at work, it was about 4pm and I was about to end my shift, when my phone went off. At this point, I was livid. School wasn't even in session that week. Not to mention it was Christmas Eve! But this Gary guy had made it his mission to get me to agree to go to court over my son's resolved tardiness issue.
I told him that I'd had enough of his harassment, and that if he really did think there was an issue in my home, to call CPS. I then told him that I was keeping a record of his voice mails, and the number of times he called me, to use as evidence for a case of harassment. I hung up on him, still scrambling to explain himself. I didn't actually have a record of the number of times he called, or the voice mails he left. If I needed to get them, I would find a way.
It worked, he never called me again. And after a month of paranoia that CPS would show up at my door, I realized that I called his bluff. CPS was never contacted, and he was just a jerk with a mission to be a jerk.

I decided that same night, that I was fed up with that school, and that district. And I began the new year by looking into alternative options. I decided that the kids could finish out that school year. It wasn't their fault that I was pulling them, and Gavin actually really liked his class and his teacher. Natalie stayed home with me more and more, though. The school never called me about it. I had already informed them that I was pulling my kids from the district. Her teacher began to get worse with her. I had already placed two formal complaints, via email with the school board, about her. I just ended up keeping Natalie home in the end, and only dropping Gavin off. I will never understand why her Kindergarten teacher disliked Natalie so much.
Unfortunately, all the area districts told me they were either closed enrollment, or they were full up.
I was stuck with going back to our local district, or home schooling. I was terrified. I have never home schooled, or know anyone who has. I have no clue how to build a curriculum, let alone teach it. And I had no idea how to create a schedule, I can't even follow one! I was screwed! Completely regretting my decision to pull my kids, I should've just kept them in and requested a new teacher, or maybe tried one of the other elementary schools (our district has three)...
No, I made my bed, time to lay in it. So I began researching cheap to free home school options. Turns out there are tons of support groups, and resources for materials and random lessons. Which is great, but I needed someone to tell me how to put together an actual curriculum...I have no clue what I'm doing here!
There are little to no web/blog/how-to videos on making your curriculum. I panicked! If I can't learn how to put a curriculum together and what subjects and lessons to teach, how am I going to home school!?
One day, a friend told me about K12. So I investigated them a bit. I discovered that they were not an actual school, but an online committee dedicated to helping students get a more personalized education than they would receive in what the community refers to as brick and mortar schools. Students are enrolled in an online school, based locally. Their curriculum is taught in your house, and on your computer, not to mention they are FREE! I gave them a call, and began the enrollment process.

Here is what made me really glad that I pulled my kids from that district...
During the enrollment process, if your students are switching schools, you are required to submit transcripts from their old school to the admissions office of K12.
I had been attempting for several weeks to get the school board to email or snail mail, or even fax me a copy of my kids' transcripts from their old elementary school, to no avail. Finally, I decided to pack the kids up and pop in for a little chat with the Superintendent.
Upon arrival, I was directed to the "Accounting and Records Keeping Office" where I was questioned about my need for my children's transcripts. I explained about dropping out, and enrolling with K12. Their response still irks me to this day...
"Well, when you do come back, make sure you are back before Count Day, we need that money. Heheheh" was the snarky reply of a very large man from behind a monitor...with my kids standing right next to me, in the same room!
"Oh? So my kids are simply dollar symbols to you? And not children entrusted to you for their well being and education?" I replied.
"That's not what I meant, and you took it wrong. I didn't say that at all." Replied the large, suddenly red-faced man, from behind his monitor.
"How am I supposed to take that, then?" I replied, "First, I admire your confidence that I'm ever going to put my kids in your district again. That's adorable. However, your statement about how important it is that my kids be present on Count Day so you can get money for it; has only sealed my decision."
He had no words, just a dirty look. You got served, dude!
I then told him that if I didn't get my kids' transcripts immediately, I would be forced to take action for his withholding information. I have a right to seek records of their education, and I felt that those rights were being violated.
The email was in my inbox when I got back home.

Today my kids are enrolled with the Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, through K12. It's not home schooling because I received their curriculum and materials for free, from an actual public school. It's actually referred to as schooling at home. That's a post for another time, though.

Good grief! I sure can blab! Sorry to all the "tldr" readers out there (because I have so many followers). I'll try to be more brief next time.

October 28, 2015

Good grief! Where Have I Been!?

Oh my gosh! I am SO  sorry! I put my blog on hiatus like three years ago!

Well, let's see. Where do I begin?

Last post was about my digi camera breaking..So, since then...

Long story short: I got a new-ish camera from an awesome friend. Dozer got fat, I lost some weight (but not enough!). I've had a few jobs including working for a children's resale shop, a lawyer, and Subway. Our basement flooded, and we tore out the carpeting to the stairs (still working on fixing up the basement stair well...that's a story for another post). We got a new van (not the coolest, or newest, but it's way better than the green van!). We partially updated our kitchen (again, story for another post). And I have had the extreme "pleasure" of trying my luck at home schooling ( I'll talk more about that later, and probably talk about it from now on, considering that my life now revolves around schooling my kids). My kids are now 6 and 7 (going on 8), can you believe that!? Last birthday I talked about was when Nana turned 2! Good grief! Time flies!

Let's see, what else?

There's so much! I'm sure I'll think of more things to talk about, as I go.

I'm just glad to be back in the swing of things, really.

Cheers for returning to the blog I left behind! Here's to a (hopefully) more consistent posting relationship!

March 15, 2012

Broken Camera...boo!

We enjoyed celebrating Tomas' 40th Birthday at Stoney Creek this past weekend. There was grilling, there was cake, there was a playground, and disc golf. The party was short, however, in that short amount of time, our digital camera made its final tumble. Olda dropped it on the cement ground of the covered picnic area, while making a mad dash for our mischevious Dozer. Dozer who although he had his leash attached, was not attached to anyone in particular, and took full advantage. Rushing off as quickly as he could down to the river bed, where there were people fishing, he was apparently intrigued by the bobbles in the water. Olda saw that and rather than handing me (2 feet away from him) the camera, he dropped it and took off. The lens was still open and it face-planted on the ground: never to open or close again.
I spent the majority of "nap time" the other day, attempting to fix it somehow. I managed to delicately disassemble it, right up to the gears in the lens casing...that's when I made the unfortunate discovery that the gear responsible for opening and closing the lens was broken off at the base, and that is why the lens could no longer move. So there goes another $200+ digi camera. All I can say about it is welp, at least its not my fault this time!

Now I have no idea what to do about pictures! I suppose I could make a hasty purchase of (gulp) disposable cameras, to at least take pictures of something. But I won't be able to upload them until I get them developed and then scan them onto my computer. Such a process! I just wish we had a gold pooping bird, or money tree in our backyard, so that I could go out and grab a new camera to get back to my normal snap/flash-happy routine around here.

Oh well....here's a few pictures the camera did take in its final hour...(Olda took all of these btw).

Mr. Tomas....post cupcake to the face..That's chunky me in the stripes!

Mr. Dozer...plotting his escape.

This is Sarka and I...the very last photo taken by the camera, before Olda realized that Dozer bolted as soon as he turned to take this picture.

Well, at least there's been a few good pictures on there. Hopefully, we'll get a new camera before Easter. Keep your fingers crossed!