Remember that amazing trip to Big Bend I told you about here: http://yourinnerlayer.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/school-at-home-what/
What I neglected to tell you is that the school turned us in as “truant parents” for knowing when our family needed a break. I have thought a lot about how I wanted to write this post because obviously this did not settle well with me. I am going to try my best to show you the positive side of this with the warning….Mom’s DO NOT try this at home! I will also say I had NO IDEA how mad I was about this until I sat in the court room today and FELT like our justice system was in complete CHAOS! It does have a happy ending because we were completely covered in PRAYER and PRAYER is much more POWERFUL than CHAOS!
I just want to give you a little background here in case you haven’t already figured out that I didn’t just drop my kid off at school and expect them to raise him. I was not only Room Mom for his class, but also for another class across the hall that was without a Room Mom. I volunteered at PTO events, helped with marketing and covered lunches for the teachers. I helped create treats for every teacher for every holiday. I also headed up and hosted their Christmas party without one cent of expense to them. I gave Samuel’s teacher a gift EVERY Friday, and even brought her many meals on her late nights. I surprised them with lunch, brought drinks for the carpool staff on hot days – and this is off the top of my head. Very few days went by that I didn’t try to show at least one person at his school how appreciated they were. But I am the face of a truant mom so you better step it up parents.
It’s also not news that Samuel had a challenging time in Kindergarten. I had very few weeks without a note sent home or a call to come and get him. He was miserable and in a 5 year old way showed them that he wanted more out this experience. I met with his teacher, met with the Dean, met with the Headmaster several times. I even took their Love and Logic classes, AND I did it all only losing the smile on my face ONE time.
I became a master at compartmentalizing my frustration and my obligations so they never overlapped. I wanted so badly to scream the question, “IF YOU AGREE AS A CHARTER SCHOOL THERE ARE DIFFERENT LEARNING STYLES, WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE THEIR ARE DIFFERENT DISCIPLINE STYLES!!!!” But I kept my mouth shut and let Samuel face this bit of adversity to the very end, and I believe he will forever be a better student for it. I will certainly be a better teacher.
Add on top of this the frustration with my health and some other challenges our family was facing, and we made the decision to retreat for a week and regroup. I did a lot of research to make sure what happened wouldn’t. I talked to his teacher and got all of his work (which, by the way, a week of work took him less than 30 minutes to complete), and made sure there would not be anything pertinent (in KINDERGARDEN) he would miss.
I spoke with the Fort Bend County Sherriff’s clerk, who assured me we would get an automatically generated letter, and when we did to simply call them and explain what I just told her and it will be excused. She also let me know the school has the digression to excuse the absence on their own, say what? So I called the school and they assured me they didn’t. I figured it didn’t matter because it was going to be excused with a simple phone call anyway. (I just have to mention here that I had 2 friends at the same school who DID NOT get turned in for missing 4 days….we missed 5 which is apparently the magic number AND Samuel has PERFECT attendance up to this point.)
I spoke with the school several times as soon as we returned. This is when I learned flaw number one of this system: It is designed for honest parents to lie, which is NOT an option when I am trying my hardest to raise up Godly children with integrity (also a principle of this very school!) I could have made this all disappear if I just wrote a letter that Samuel had a fever and was vomiting on and off that week. I, of course, then would have to swear Samuel (who couldn’t wait to tell all his friends about his trip) to secrecy. I could have just sent a quick email everyday: “Sorry, Samuel still has a slight fever and your policy is 24 hours.” At this time we were in the process of teaching Samuel the easy way isn’t always the best way and this was one of those times.
After I spoke with the Registrar about excusing the ONLY five days Samuel has missed I received a call from the Head Master who said, “I would never say school is more important than family; however, it’s very important that every child is in class every day.” Seriously? Because most days mine is forgotten in a corner desk in your office! But I simply said, “This trip was what God had for our family. If you are telling me you do not have the ability to excuse it then I believe you.” I never did get a straight answer. This is also when the Registrar announced they would be sending the paperwork to Harris County. I asked that it be sent to Fort Bend as I had a contact there and I was told she could do that, but wasn’t going to. I know why NOW!
The truancy summons came in March so the last two months of school were killer for me. Guess what? In Harris County it’s an automatic court date – not a computer generated letter you can call and have excused! I started feeling a little offended because I was told by the Harris County Clerk also that the school did have the ability to excuse the absences, and by this time, I knew they had in other cases.
Parents who are building strong family units are being punished because there are parents who are not. I have heard teachers in the past comment on how parents expect them to raise their kids. I was never one of those parents. I’ve also heard them talk about not feeling appreciated or having enough help or supplies. Samuel’s teacher mentioned a supply need one day and it was in her room that afternoon, or the next day at the latest. None of this mattered. I emailed the Dean, Headmaster and Samuel’s teacher, and asked them to write character letters for me to use in court. Nope.
This was very hard to explain to Samuel, who was already completely over school, and now referred to his little desk in the corner of the office as his “Super-Hero Cave.” He kept asking how they could send the Room Mom to court. It is a little funny now. The day I went in to tell the Headmaster I was going to home-school was liberating. I was filled with confidence that I was doing the right thing, and there wasn’t anything they could say that was going to change my mind. I had already lost complete faith in them for my child. Of course then it seemed like I had super hearing and I got word of every upset parent there. I had to try REALLY hard to not jump on that band wagon!
However, I will admit that up to the last day of school I wanted to pull him out, and Samuel is the one who kept saying he wanted to persevere and finish. We may have trained him a little too well! The last day of school was tough for me. Samuel’s last day of kindergarten was almost stolen from me because I was so excited to get the heck out of that school. I started feeling resentful just walking through the doors. I had a hard time not just saying, “Seriously…If I’m a truant parent can you please show me your ideal parent?” But I knew they would just show me a dollar sign because that my friends is what it ALL comes down to. Them not receiving money the days my child is not in a seat, even if that seat is in the hall or the office.
I had to remind myself that this day was about throwing two awesome parties for the kids in my two Room Mom classes that had nothing to do with the administration’s choices. Everyone left with a smile so I think I did it, but I will go ahead and admit that I was very tacky, and did tell the Dean I was so darn excited we would never have to go back there again. I could see the shock and disappointment in her eyes as she said, “Well we are very sad you won’t be back next year.” You have no idea the restraint I had to have at that very moment and for two and half more VERY LONG hours!
When we drove away from the school that day I had tears of joy. I pulled the car over and told Samuel we just needed to scream because WE did it! He would never be a Kindergartener again, and I wasn’t going to let his school steal that from me. I was officially his teacher, and we were going to make this journey amazing. He was so excited and shot me that ‘you’re crazy mom’ smile I had been missing. I’ll post about the last day of school tomorrow because this is already really long!
Then came today (err yesterday!)…the court date. We talked Samuel through most of it last night and assured him they would not be taking us to jail. He still didn’t understand why his school would send us to court for taking time as a family. (Did I mention he came out of his room with all his uniforms and said to give them away!) When I would explain about truant parents he would say, “But they know you’re not like that mom!” I kept assuring him we had a lot of people praying for us, and all I knew for sure was that it was all going to work out. The worst thing would be paying a fine. The best thing would be it being excused. I explained that I wanted him to go into this as a learning experience. His only job was to be there and learn by observing and listening, and this could only help him later when he becomes President. He was sure he could just tell the Judge today he wanted to be President, and he would grant him that since he is obviously too smart for school anyway. I didn’t argue.
As we sat in the courtroom packed as sardines I was glad that my son was immersed in this process. We listened to the clerk loudly give the same orders a dozen times; getting bitterer each time. When the judge finally came in and started going through his spiel we realized this ISN’T EVEN our court date! This is just were we state our plea. “Guilty” and pay a fine – but a class D misdemeanor on my record (WHAT??) “Not Guilty” and come back for a bench or jury trial out choice, or “No Contest” and have probation and community service for a time set based on your offense. I felt myself start sweating.
I got more and MORE ANGRY at his school at this point. Then I looked over at Samuel’s face taking it all in, and I knew that God would prevail. Samuel had asked me several times why I didn’t just lie and say he was sick, and each time I gave him the same answer, “Because we will stand judgment in front of Jesus one day and the penalty we have on earth will be much easier to bear than the disappointment on His face for breaking one of His commandments.” This really resonated with him and I had to stand firm on it. He said he was going to tell the judge that the only rules they need to have are the 10 Commandments, and get rid of the other ones. I told him he should tell the judge whatever he wants because he better never have to be in a courtroom again unless it’s for employment! Side note: WHY oh WHY do you have to be told not to wear a hat in the courtroom? Seriously people!!
I leaned over and asked Samuel how he thought we should plead and he said without missing a beat, “No Contest because if we plead Not Guilty we have to come back and I’m not coming back to this place.” I answered all his questions about why you call a judge “honorable” and stand when he stands. How you become the Defendant or the Plaintiff etc. About an hour and a half later we are finally called to sit in the second seating area, and prepare to see the DA. I asked Samuel if he still thought “no contest” was the right thing to do, and he said yes. I prayed as I walked up to that chair that God would show my child that He is in control on ALL circumstances, which happens to be the EXACT theme of VBS this week. This was another sign to me that God WAS in control of every step we took today. I’m pretty sure that’s the only thing that kept me from crying after this next step…
We get into the room and there are two DA’s seated beside each other at a small table listening to pleas. I walk up to the female DA (who was actually really pleasant which I can’t say I would be after listening to about 50 people before us give excuses of why they are not guilty!) with Samuel holding my hand and Noah beside me holding Isaiah. Noah and I had come up with the strategy last night that I would talk since the offense was filed against me (which by the way was interesting in itself), and he would fill in. Of course at that time we thought this was our trial, and now we were told no less than 4 times we had to just give our plea QUICKLY. So here is how it went down.
She asked me if I knew the charge. – Yes.
She asked how I plead. – No contest.
She said, “You will have to make sure there are no tardies or unexcused absences for 185 days and then report back to the court.” – I am going to homeschool him now so how will that work?
She said, “You are going to homeschool him now?” – Yes.
She said, “Just bring in a form or whatever it is saying what you’re studying and turn that in.” – Just bring the form or whatever, OKaaaay?.?.
She asked how many days he missed. – 5.
She looked up at me and said, “5?” – Yes, 5.
She asked why we were there. – Because we got a summons which I slid to hear on the table.
She asked if he completed the year in school. – Yes he completed Kindergarten with a certificate of excellence in knowledge.
She asked what we were doing when we took him out. – We were taking family time to decide if homeschool would be better an option and decided it would.
She looked at Samuel and asked if he was the student in question. – I said yes.
She looked at me with a questioned look and asked how old he was. – 5.
She said “kindergarten?” – I said, “Yes. Kindergarten” with a grin because at this point I knew where this was going.
She asked Samuel his name. – (with joy) “Samuel!”
I asked if I could show her his report card and pointed out his conduct marks of N before our trip and the ones that were ALL S after our trip. I also pointed out that he has missed a total of 7 days with the other 2 excused. When I finished Samuel started reading the papers that were upside-down to him facing her.
She said, “You can read that?” – He said “yeah??”
She said, “Were you too smart for school?” – He said, “ha ha yeah.”
She said what will you be learning at home. – He said, “Science, Latin, Math, PE…”
She said “I’m going to dismiss all of this; you go keep learning.”
He gave her a high-five and we high tailed it out of there.
Samuel said I JUST WON MY CASE!! And he did. Then we headed to enjoy what was left of the last day of VBS because God IS in control of ALL circumstances.
The immediate good that has come out of this is:
Samuel got to see how powerful prayer is.
Samuel learned a lot about the legal system.
I will be a better Homeschool parent for my children; never questioning IF school would be better for them.
Samuel will be a better student.
I don’t think Samuel will be ending up in a court room anytime soon.
God blessed us with a District Attorney that shared our thoughts of how ridiculous this was!
Even more than the instant learning is the learning that will continue to happen based on this experience. Samuel has already asked no less than three times if you can go to court for different things. He has a new interest to explore and that is (almost) always a good thing.