Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Breaking up is hard to do

Dude. I am having a tough couple of days.


The girls have been going to this special, but public, elementary school here in town, and we've been preparing to complete our big summer learning projects, buy the new backpacks, and wait for the school bus to stop at our house next Wednesday morning and bring them back there.

Only they're not going back there. I just made the decision to send them to our neighborhood school instead, a school that I know very little about. Because it's just not making sense to send the girls to their fantastic, nurturing, special school anymore.

The Alternative School has been around for 30 years or so, but for some reason nobody in our town knows much about it. Those who have even heard of it have a lot of wonky ideas about what it is:

"That's the one with the small classrooms, right?" (Actually, no. The classes must be the same size as all the other schools in town.)

"That's the one where you can send 'em to full-day kindergarten without paying for it, right?" (Nope - one must pay for full-day kindy at all of the schools in town, including this one.)

And this one usually preceeds an eyeroll: "That's the one where they sit around singing kumbaya in a circle all day, and do, like, hippie hemp-braiding and stuff, right?" (Not exactly - that's only Fridays.)

The school was created to be an alternative to the typical schools with their twenty-six desks lined in neat rows, where collaboration was frowned upon rather than embraced. The learning approach at the Alternative School is different, with teachers acting more like Sprit Guides seen through a campfire than like ruler-thumping school marms of yore. There is music, yes, but also reading, writing, and 'rithmetic as prescribed by The Powers That Be. The curriculum is exactly the same as it is at the other schools in town; it is the way that kids are encouraged to learn it all that is different.

When We Met...
When Jason came home from the Alternative School's informational coffee hour a few years ago, I scoffed at the idea of sending Annabelle to "that foofy school" for kindergarten. What's wrong with regular-old school down the block? But he was so damn starry-eyed after his encounter that I agreed to go check it out so that I could at least be more informed in my mocking of that weird place. Of course, you know how this all played out: I went in, all cranky and pre-hate-y, and 45 minutes later I left IN LOVE WITH THAT SCHOOL. We just had to get in. We just had to!

Lottery day came around and we were picked, and I felt like I'd won PowerBall. How lucky were we to be able to send our daughter - for free - to a private-school-esque learning environment right here in our little town? And it was fabulous. We loved being a part of the school's community and volunteering with other parents to make it all work.

Trouble In Paradise...
The following year, Annabelle entered first grade and Madeleine became an Alt Schooler, too, by starting kindergarten. And things got weird. I became increasingly aware that there were some pretty powerful forces in town who did not like the school. (To put it mildly.) Suddenly, I was no longer an elementary school parent, fretting over what to pack for lunch or trying to find that permission slip I was supposed to have sent in last week. I was now an Alt School Warrior. I had to stay informed of what was coming up on the School Committee agenda because "you gotta watch out for those guys!" and I had to go to a lot of meetings where parents and teachers clashed with administration. I watched as budget cuts forced the school to eliminate its (only) 5th grade classroom, imagining all the while The Administration sitting in some back room, twirling their evildoer mustaches and letting loose with belly laugh after cruel belly laugh. But we beat 'em on that one: rather than shutting our doors for lack of a 5th grade, we created some multi-grade classrooms. Hah! Take that, Mustachioed Admins!

But it didn't end there. There has been constant intrigue and double-speak, and I'm not talking about the story problems that I pretended were totally easy when the girls brought them home for homework. The Administration announced out of the blue one day that the Alternative School was actually not a school at all, but rather a "program." And although this was heavily protested, and all involved agreed to hold off and discuss it further, I found reference to our school as our program every week in our town newspaper. (Hey, adminstrators, George Orwell called - he wants his newspeak back!)

The End...
To make a really long story less really long, elementary school was giving us all agita. And I hated the idea that under the new multi-grade classroom model, my girls would be in the same classroom with each other, twice. They each need to be their own dog. And I really hated the idea that the school...I mean program...was under constant threat of closing. Like, daily.

So I bailed, one week before school starts. Even though just days before doing so I was making plans for our future together. And now everyone over there thinks I'm a total douche.

Yup, sounds like every other breakup I've had.


  1. Ya know what? You gave it your bestestest shot. You weighed the options. You went to the battles. It went from something that you LOVED almost effortlessly to something you had to put a lot of time and energy into and ultimately didn't agree with. Don't worry about what the "others" think of you. You are making the decision based on what is best for your family. That's all that matters. I support that!

  2. you are NOT a douche! you did what was best for your kids and your family. period. you fought the good fight, but in the end you cannot sacrifice your children and their needs for the greater good. you did the right thing.