The Reluctant Home Schooler — A Very Long Account of What I Have Been Doing for the Last 10 Weeks

My daughter is home. She attends an online public charter school (wrap your head around that one), sanctioned by the state of Oregon. How did we get here? Well, my daughter’s science teacher was covering evolution and global warming and her school required vaccinations, so I finally said: Enough is enough!

Noooooooooooooooo!!!! That is not what happened!! Vaccines work, global warming is real and you don’t have to look any farther than the current president to know that evolution is working. Oh, wait. Scratch that. Holy shit, IS EVOLUTION A PRANK?

I continue with less snark …

My daughter is learning at home because she fainted at school and then never recovered. She was exhausted; could barely get off the couch. Simple things had her huffing and puffing and she was dizzy every time she stood up. We basically thought she was dying, as all parents are wont to think when something medically unrecognizable is going on. The good news is: she is not dying. She has something called POTS – Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. This is the first time in my life I’ve actually liked an acronym.

What is POTS? Well first, here’s a link from the Mayo Clinic explaining the syndrome. What I can tell you about my daughter is that after 2+ months of treatment, her primary symptoms are continued dizziness, chronic fatigue and having little stamina. She did attempt 2 or 3 half days at her school, but that left her utterly useless. Even the commotion of the halls during a class change wiped her out.

The great news is, when you call the school office on your daughter’s eighth consecutive day of being home, the school secretary will tell you that after two more days of absence, your kid will automatically be withdrawn from school.

W … w … w … w … WHAT?!

Yup. That’s an Oregon law. I guess a lot of kids and families found school optional? So, after 10 consecutive days of absenteeism for ANY REASON (even excused medical reasons), children are automatically withdrawn from school.

Don’t worry. My state congressperson will be getting a letter in response to this shit show of a law, because chill people from the west love transplanted east coasters telling them how things should be done.

After learning about the 10-day-your-school-is-off-the-hook law, my first question to my daughter’s guidance counselor was: What do parents of children with cancer or something even more medically serious do? Her answer: online school.

Okay. Fine. It’s free and I won’t be creating any curriculi. Thank GAWD, because I don’t even know if there is a plural for curriculum. So, I go to register my kid for the Oregon Connections Academy, widely referred to as ORCA (acronym approval rating of 5 on a scale of 1 to 10).

My first red flag about the online school was the “give us your email address and we’ll send you information.” Huh? For SCHOOL? You are using the same marketing principles as Shutterfly [tm]? Uh, okay. So, I provide my email address, my physical address and my phone number so that I can receive information on getting my daughter enrolled. Next stop …

Some kid from east coast calls me because I requested information and wanted to know if I had any questions. Yeah, I do: WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF SCHOOL IS THIS? I just thought it was an Oregon ONLINE school. A school RUN BY THE STATE OF OREGON. Like Kahn Academy, but with more tattoos. I don’t know. This is what the Guidance Counselor told me that most post parents do!

Soooooooooooooo … I do a little research and learn that the online platform is owned by Pearson. If you don’t know Pearson, it is a FOR-PROFIT company, known primarily for text book publishing. So, this for-profit online school is paid for by the state of Oregon so that after 10 days, the Portland school district no longer has to pay for my kid, but the state will pay the bill to Pearson. Weird? To me, yes. But then again, I’m the kind of person who thinks a porn-star-fucking, pussy-grabbing, three time model-marrying, masturbatweeting-dickwad would not be our president. Obviously, my standards are WAY too high.

Many years ago, I worked with parents to help them find child care. I consistently counseled them with these words: if you have some serious type of mental illness — like, say you think monks are following you — acknowledge that and find a good psychiatrist who knows how to prescribe medication. I say this only because your kids will thank you, excuse you for most of your crazy and probably not hold a grudge against you when your brain is such mush that your eldest becomes your Durable Power of Attorney and half the time they’re thinking, I can’t believe I’m taking care of mom when she pretty much sucked at taking care of us because she was so obsessed with The Monks and didn’t do much M O T H E R I N G. Oh, sorry! That’s from my Mother Do You Think They’ll Like This Book? book.

This is how I actually counseled those parents: ask if the child care center is a NON-profit, because research shows that for-profit child care is typically of a lower quality. And, just to bring us back to the point of this whole point: I was not sending my kid to an online public charter school owned by a for-profit company AFTER 10 FUCKING DAYS OF ABSENCE.

So, like any decent parent, I forced her go to school for the minimum amount required to KEEP her enrolled. This was great for my daughter’s friend-seeing, but not so much for the oh-my-gawd-what-is-the-teacher-talking-about thing and — also — the whole chronic EXHAUSTION gig. So, next step …

The 504 Plan adventure. A 504 Plan is “developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.” What I was told about the 504 Plan was that a certified teacher would be hired to come to our house to tutor my daughter for 5 hours a week during the school day. What it meant in reality was that a teacher FROM MY DAUGHTER’S SCHOOL (referred to as “inside the building”) had to be hired and the three teachers who were willing to tutor my daughter all worked full-time, so the only times they could come to our house were before 8:30am or after 4:30pm.

I think I mentioned that my daughter is chronically tired. I had to wake her up at 9am yesterday. She is D O N E by 3pm. She can’t read, can’t think. Not only that, but can you imagine having a teacher in your house every day from 7:30 am to 8:30 am or from 4:30pm to 5:30pm? I’m not sure about you, but it is Crazy Time at our household during those hours. ANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNND our house has a totally open floor plan, so I’m not even sure where I’d put the person. Up in my daughter’s room with the door open? First of all: ew. And second of all: ewwwwww!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret that I have told no one during this process. When the (kind, helpful) Guidance Counsel at my daughter’s school reached out “inside the building” to find a tutor (this is before I balked at the available hours), the first person to volunteer was my daughter’s least favorite teacher. Hold on. That’s not fair. This was the teacher whom my daughter absolutely and completely loathed and complained about for months. The teacher who had taught 6th grade for decades and was infantilizing to 8th graders. The teacher who was RETIRING NEXT YEAR. The teacher who didn’t know how to spell. I’ll stop.

Before you get all Psych 101 on me, my daughter did want to go back to school, despite bad-spelling teacher. Would she have loved me home schooling her for that teacher’s classes? Definitely. But, it wasn’t the thing that was going to keep her from going to school.

Two others ultimately volunteered to tutor my daughter: the vice principal and French teacher (the decided favorite). Let me say this: these teachers are either amazingly generous or C R A Z Y or THIS HOURLY TUTORING GIG PAYS ONE GAGILLION DOLLARS PER HOUR. Why else would a full-time teacher or administrator spend ANOTHER hour per day to COME TO A STUDENT’S HOME before or after a long day of work? It’s this: ONE GAGILLION DOLLARS. (I actually have no idea what that gig pays. Maybe teachers ARE saints.)

But, here is what ultimately happened: we knew the hours for these 3 specific teachers would be useless for my daughter, so I thanked them for their generous offer of TIME (only heard back from the least-liked teacher) and went about trying to find a tutor who could come during the school day.

Fast forward a bit (this could have been weeks, days, hours; I have no idea. This has all been one enormous BLOB of time, which is probably how this blog is feeling at this point). Report cards come home and do you know what Least Favorite Teacher gives my daughter? An F!!! It’s then that I fully understand why my kid dislikes this teacher so much.

Can you imagine? A kid is behind on her work, the parent is in regular touch with the teachers, letting them know that the student is trying to keep up but is about 2 weeks behind with the work, and — then — an F. That is WICKED.

I know that an F for one quarter in eighth grade is not going to mean anything going forward. But come__on! Thank goodness that teacher would NOT be in my house.

I’ll make this long story hideously longer by telling you our efforts to find someone outside of my kid’s school were for naught. And finding someone inside the building who could come during the school day was also a failure. So, now she attends the for-profitonlinecharterpublicschool.

In conclusion, I do not recommend home schooling for anyone who whistles and swears incessantly throughout the day. Unless that’s part of your curriculi. Lum.

Bart: “I didn’t do it.” From The Simpsons,  4, Ep20; Marge teaches Bart after he’s expelled from school. Also: a family favorite.




4 thoughts on “The Reluctant Home Schooler — A Very Long Account of What I Have Been Doing for the Last 10 Weeks

  1. So I found this post through your “More in Writing Out Loud,” and I just wanted to let you know that this is absolutely hilarious. Like, not the situation. But your writing voice is just 💪👍👏.

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