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Reading an online acquaintance’s blog {click} this morning, I was filled with so many rampaging, conflicting feelings that I couldn’t leave a comment.  I had to come and blog about it myself.

She homeschools her 10 year old.  I, personally, have no problem with the homeschooling situation if it is done well and, from what I can judge, this family is doing a good job with it.  Yay for them.  Seriously, I couldn’t do it.  I don’t teach my own children very well — I get too impatient with them which is a terrible way to teach.  Odd though it may seem, it is much easier for me to take on 30 kids than 2.  My little quirk.

I also completely understand the desire to homeschool children in order to protect them from what goes on in many schools.  I have worked in schools that I would not send my children to — if it were my only choice, I’d homeschool — impatient or not.  My impatience is nothing compared to first graders getting in slapfights and calling each other f*ing b*tches.  And, when I think about sending my sweet babies off to middle school, I get the heebeejeebies big time.

I’m lucky, however, in where my children go to school.  They attend the school where I teach.  It’s a small town school with an amazingly caring staff of true professionals.  From the principal on down, we have a staff that gives its all to the kids.  We actively fight bullying and simply do not tolerate it.  We have a huge emphasis on lifeskills and appropriate behavior.  We are doing it right.  I’m proud to work there and happy to have my children there.  Yay for us.

So, all of that is background to a story I want to tell.  I have a student who is quirky to the extreme.  He’s exceptionally bright — smart to the extreme.  He effortlessly scores well on tests, writes beautifully, is an artist, a musician, and an avid reader. He’s also gifted in mathematics and science.  In another era, he’d be a Renaissance Man and admired by all.   He is out of step in modern life however.  He has long red hair that he wears down and hanging in his face.  He’s not athletic so he doesn’t have a strong, physical body.  He is sensitive, smart, creative and really nice.  He doesn’t have any close friends but does tend to be drawn to the other odd eggs at our school.  When I say he’s smart, I mean it — there is very little required to teach him.  He learns sort of haphazardly.  He’s usually drawing in class and lost in another world but then scores the top score on a test.  He is truly amazing.

That said, you might imagine a life of misery for him.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I won’t say that his life is easy and one giant walk in the park.  I’m sure he has his fair share of 5th grade angst.  I’m sure he wishes things were better.  However, he has friends.  He is not ostracized in any way at school. Most kids don’t understand him  but they don’t use that as an excuse to treat him badly.  We have this learning/social activity at our school for 5th graders.  They can create a business and sell their wares to the other students using classroom money that they earn throughout the week for good behavior.  He created an art business where he sells his art.  I’ve seen his art so I knew he is talented.  I was worried how much art he would sell and if his extreme enthusiasm would end in disappointment.   I have never seen such a dedicated businessman, though.  He created the business, tracked his expenses and sales, prepared black and white and color versions of his artwork for sale.  He really thought it through.   And guess what?  His booth was busy.  Kids bought his pictures and told him how wonderful they were.  He had a huge grin on his face the entire time.  And, at the end of the class when we talked about the experience and I asked the kids what they learned.  The first person to share said, “I learned that J is an amazing artist.”  Nods and sounds of agreement came from the whole room and J’s face lit up with pride.

Schools CAN provide safe havens for quirky kids.  And, I’m proud to be a part of one that does so.

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