Why Her Blue Hands Pushed Me Over The Homeschooling Fence
The van door slid open, my daughters eyes were downcast… sad.
“Hi Love. How was school?”
The silence, typically filled with stories about coveted lunchtime desserts and the silly antics of her friend Jake, was heavy. Too heavy for a kindergartener.
“Did something happen today?”
She slowly raised her eyes to meet mine in the rearview mirror.
“I pulled my pin.”
Letting out a sign of relief, I smiled.
“Oh Baby, this is your first pin pull all year. I am very proud of you! You know, we all make wrong choices sometimes, even mommy. You know how I yelled yesterday? That was a wrong choice.”
Tears began to fill her clear blue eyes which glowed against the backdrop of bright red veins. She buried her face in her hands. I knew this deep pain. This heavy hand brought down upon the world’s people pleasers. She’d let someone down, she had burden them and she feared they didn’t like her anymore.
“Mrs. M is not mad at you Baby. There are just consequences for our actions. This won’t be the last time you’ll make a wrong choice”
Giving into the pain, she released her tears.
I pulled over, stopped the car and looked into my daughter’s eyes. Then I saw her hands… they were blue.
Before I stayed home I taught kindergarten.
In my classroom, the first week of school was a battle. Defending my calm students against their overwhelmed, visually emotional parents was a hard fight.
The children were ready… the parents, often, were not.
When it came time for my daughter to begin school, I was ready but on the fence.
From Kindergarten to 8th grade I was homeschooled. Knowing the benefits of homeschooling and what type of student my daughter would be, I knew she’d excel at home. She was bright, timid, inquisitive, quite, fearful of attention, scared of failure, hard to formally test and easy to overlook.
In order for her to excel at a full-time school she’d have to feel comfortable and safe with her teachers. They would have to pursue her, be patient with her, and love on her in order to know her, heart and mind. That kind of teacher was not a guarantee. But honestly, I welcomed the break and was willing to take that chance.
So, I dropped my daughter off and I didn’t shed a tear.
No battle here!
During the first month of school, my heart became unsettled, uncomfortable leaving my daughter in the care of her teacher. At our first parent teacher conference the unsettled feeling took root. Mrs. M seemed uninterested in her. Not a word was said, negative or positive, that showed any effort to get to know my unassuming child.
But I silenced my heart, fearing I was an overly sensitive parent and former kindergarten teacher. I gave Mrs. M the excuse that the first part of Kindergarten was daunting. Students running out of the building, hiding under the table crying that they see monsters, cutting the girl’s hair next to them, drawing a smiley sun with their own fecal matter on the bathroom wall and peeing on the group-time floor mat were all personal teaching experiences of mine during the first 6-weeks of the school year.
I told myself, “Maybe class is overwhelming and things will change once everyone is settled into their new normal.” This thought, this hope helped to settle my heart for a while.
Once Mrs. M was finished with the beginning of the year testing, I started volunteering in class. I carefully observed my daughter. Even as an introvert, she attracted a lot of friends. Her ability to find magic and beauty in all that’s around her was captivating. It delighted me to watch her being enjoyed and enjoying others. But as I observed Mrs. M, the unsettled feeling returned. To her, my daughter was not a delight.
Sadly, when a teacher does not desire to be around a student it can affect that student academically. My daughter was not being challenged, not being worked with in a small group and reading books were never sent home. But again, I let the fear of being overly sensitive, overly judgmental get in the way of my instincts. I gave Mrs. M the excuse that she taught Kindergarten differently then I did.
Until I saw my daughter’s friends packing reading books into their backpacks.
“Baby, does Mrs. M send reading books home with your friends?”
“Most of them.”
“Well, why doesn’t she send one home with you?”
“She said I don’t know my letter sounds.”
Internally, I was perplexed, angry.
“But Love, you knew your letter sounds before you started school.”
Her voice was soft, embarrassed to speak.
“I just get nervous when she asks me questions.”
This confession did not come as a surprise.
It was time for me and Mrs. M to talk. I needed to look past my fears by focusing on my child. But the meeting never happened due to my daughter’s blue hands.
“Baby, why are your hands blue?”
“I painted them.”
“Okay, why did you paint them?”
Returning her gaze to the ground.
“Mommy, I just got bored!”
“Is that why you pulled your pin?”
“Do you get bored a lot”
This too did not come as a surprise.
Was full-time school the best place for my child? Is it the best use of her time and talents? Was having a break worth keeping her in this environment? Would she be better off at home? These questions relentlessly revolved through my mind.
Two weeks after the “bored blue hands” incident was the end of the semester Christmas party. I arrived early to help set up and to talk to Mrs. M about what had happened.
“My daughter told me about how she painted her hands in class and had to move her pin. She was so…”
But before I could go on and tell her of my child’s deep remorse, Mrs. M said cuttingly, coldly, proudly.
“Yep, well I bet she doesn’t do that again!”
Thinking back to those small, tear covered blue hands, my daughter’s hands, the fence I was insecurely sitting on started to teeter. It was time to make a choice. Do I leave her in school? No doubt if she stayed I would fight to move her into a different classroom. Or do I school her at home?
As I hit the ground, the side I landed on did not come as a shock. Hadn’t I always known where she would be best served? That is why I was on the fence in the first place.
So I picked myself up, packed my daughter’s things and we went home.
*This story took place in 2012. My daughter is now in 2nd grade and is still homeschooled. My son will start Kindergarten next year and in regards to him I’m not on the Homeschooling fence. He is a group-learner and will excel in a full-time school setting… I think.