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Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Three Bears and CPS- A Mixed Up, (but true) Fairytale

Once upon a time, friends, there was a family. They were a nice family, neither too hot nor too cold. Quirky. Charming. Fun.

The Bear Family, aka The Wild Things.

The family consisted of a Mama Bear and her baby bears, Babygirl, and Thing1. They used to live with a Papa Bear too, but an old girlfriend, a trip to Vegas, and a midlife crisis later, Papa Bear moved away, to be heard from only sporadically.

The three remaining Bears were a bit sad, but they had lives to live, and overall, were living happily ever after in their old farmhouse in the country.

Babybear Thing1 went each day down the lane to the Big Bad Wolf School. Big Bad had reformed. He no longer eats children, instead, he set up a school to teach them The Ways of The World. Baby Bear Babygirl had already finished learning The Ways of the World, and had graduated from the Big Bad School, earning herself a place in the hallowed halls of the Forest College.

Little Bear, Little Bear, come to my school...

The Bear family had a long, complicated history with Big Bad's school. They'd escaped, for a while, into the neighboring realm of Homeschooltopia, but when Papa Bear left Mama Bear the sole provider of the porridge, they'd returned.

BB Thing1 did well for a time, learning important things like the Pythagorean Theorum, which will come in handy one day if he's ever confronted by the Pythagorean Virus. But BB Thing1 was unhappy. Mama Bear wasn't sure what the problem was, if he'd been infected with the dreaded Mathitus, or was struggling with some other malady. The Bear family sought advice from the Magical Doctors of Healing, who tsk'd and shook their heads and waved their wands, all to no avail.

The Mythical Pythagorean Scrolls reveal the Secrets of Maths, if you can translate the runes.

Mama Bear continued to parley with Big Bad's staff, She wanted BB Thing1 moved into special classes. Big Bad huffed and puffed. He wanted Thing1 in school, period. No special classes. No extra servings of porridge or injections of Math. Only if the Magic Doctors of Healing specified special classes would he (reluctantly) relent.

Mama Bear received word from the Magical Doctors that they had turned down her request for Special Classes. Not warranted, they said. Sorry, they said. Common Core is pushing too many of our Forest Children into Special Classes, and they are overcrowded. Nothing we can do.
Mama Bear was dejected, but determined to make Big Bad listen to reason.

And then came the call. Agent Goldilocks, from Forest-Child Protective Services, wanted to talk to Mama Bear about BB Thing1's education. She'd received a report, she said, about Thing1's attendance. It wasn't up to Forest Education Regulations. This was a problem.

Mama Bear nearly panicked. She was so angry she shook. FCPS didn't have a great reputation. They often took Forest Children from their homes, forcing them into Big Bad's school, removing their options and making them take the potions the Magical Doctors of Healing prescribed, whether or not those potions actually had any effect in the past. Mama Bear knew she had to act fast, to save her Baby Bear.

Never... EVER get between a mama bear and her cubs. 

She called in her Sister Bear for help. Sister Bear came to Mama Bear's house, and swept through it like a hurricane, cleaning, straightening, and ensuring everything was ready for Goldilock's visit. Sister Bear called Brother Bear, who had dealt with Goldilocks before, and in fact had adopted Forest Children who had been in Goldilock's care. The Bear family came together to face this new threat, as they always had.

When the Sister Bear had left, and Brother Bear hung up the phone, Mama Bear was left to face the upcoming visit. She had trouble sleeping, shifting between fear, anger, and frustration. She couldn't eat or concentrate on her work of filling the porridge pots. What if Goldilocks wanted to take BB Thing1 away? What if Big Bad was right? What if she was a bad Mama Bear, and BB Thing1 would be better off with another Forest Family? Or living with Papa Bear, even though he only contacted the baby bears once every few weeks or so?

She kept her baby bears close, and prayed.

Goldilock's visit was rather anticlimactic in the end. There was no blustering, no huffing or puffing. Goldilocks reviewed Mama Bear's emails to the Big Bad school. She spoke with the Magical Doctors of Healing. Mama Bear revealed her plan to return to the realm of Homeschooltopia, to heal the bumps and bruises BB Thing1 had developed from being pushed and pulled between the Big Bads and the Magical Doctors. She feared Goldilocks would disapprove of the plan, and try to stop the Bears from fleeing to Homeschooltopia.

Goldilocks called Big Bad's tactics "bullying," and assured Mama Bear that "the school isn't always right." She told the Bears that their family "seemed very strong," and that they were doing just fine. She assured Mama Bear that Forest Education Regulations did indeed allow the family to move to Homeschooltopia, and in fact she thought the plan was a good one. In addition, she recommended a Forest Services Grant Program, that could help Mama Bear with some of the problems the humble home had developed, as a natural result of being 200 years old.

Agent Goldilocks represents The Law.
Big Bad was trying to use her to force Thing1 to attend his school without conditions or concessions.
Turns out, The Law was on the side of the Bears all along.

Goldilocks declared the case "Closed," and wished Mama Bear and her Baby Bears good luck.

The Bear family happily and swiftly packed their things to depart to the realm of Homeschooltopia, writing the necessary letter to tell Big Bad where he could stuff his school and his Forest Education Regulations Attendance Policy, that very day. They knew they had a lot of hard work to do, building a new base of education for Thing1 to climb to the Hallowed Halls of College from, but since their School would be an individual bridge for BB Thing1 to climb, the task isn't insurmountable.

The morals of the story are multiple:

1) Education is a fluid concept, and it is as individual as each family. Homeschooling is the right path for some. Private or charter school, or public education, for others. All options are equally valid. It's important that each Forest Family choose the right one for them.
2) While not all schools are run by the Big Bad Wolf Corp. (LLC), those that are require Mama and Papa Bears to stand up for their children's legal and educational rights.
3) Agent Goldilocks of the Forest Child Protective Services Agency isn't a villain, after all. In fact, she proved quite helpful to the Bears.

It is the job of every Mama and Papa Bear to champion their childrens' cause.

Your turn: Tell us about a time you stood up for your child, whether it was with a school situation, or another circumstance.
The Wild Things' story goes on, but the drama in this chapter has come to a close, for now.
Until next time, we hope that you, too, will live happily ever after.

The End.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Case of Home vs School

It's not helicopter parenting. It's "raising" teens.
When I'm driving her to school and she's 20, talk to me about "helicopter" parenting.
The reason I've been quiet here has been, I've had a lot going on with the Wild Things. Babygirl is doing great in college but isn't super-motivated to get her driving license. I'm playing Mom taxi, which, I know, is "enabling" a bit, but I'm ok with that for the time being. We have some great conversations in the car. 

Beyond that, she's a high school senior going to college. She's right on that cusp of adulthood, when so many people seem to advice shoving them out of the nest... but she's still my Babygirl, and while she's quite mature in some aspects, she's not fully grown. Watch an eagle teaching its young to fly sometime. They don't just shove them out of the nest- they take them on test flights a few times, before dropping them and forcing the eaglet to use its wings. 

Thing1, as you may know, has had an oppositional relationship with the administration of our school district nearly from day one. It's a long story, one that I will likely blog about at some point, but this week it came to a head. The school has given him a choice: Return to school after 3 months out (due to anxiety issues) and fail the 9th grade, with the threat of a PINS report, (persons in need of supervision- basically parole for juveniles), or homeschooling. 

We're going with option 2, since I don't think it's going to help his anxiety or his education to be labeled and treated like a disciplinary problem at this point. So yeah. 
It's time we busted out. 

This is huge guys. There's more to it, of course, than I'm sharing. I have to balance the storytelling instinct that all writers, bloggers included, are driven by, with respect for my son's privacy. He knows that I blog about these things, and he understands that I share out of compassion for the other parents I've met through our travels, who are facing similar challenges. Many feel overwhelmed, like David facing the Goliath of public educational law. 

This David is retiring from the field. We're turning back the clock, and going back into homeschooling. It was HARD the first time around. It was challenging and overwhelming. I wasn't sure either of us would survive it. But...

For a few short years, I saw a change in my son. I got back the outgoing, motivated, happy kid he was before his entry to public school. He got into woodworking and refinished several beautiful pieces of furniture. He started playing guitar. He discovered Minecraft and built worlds out of nothing, along the way learning redstone, a complicated version of electricity that allows players to create amazing machines, lighting systems, and other mysteries within the game. His intelligence and spark came out and I saw him GLOW. I want to see him smile again. I want to hear the excitement in his voice when he discovers something in science, or solves a complicated math problem. 

I want to see him smile again. 

This isn't just homeschooling guys. This is a journey, a quest. I'm going to get my son back. 

Wish us luck.