Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Public School

This may be too personal.  More information than you want to know about my family. THIS however is the convo after our first day EVER of Public Jr High School....

Mom, "So.....how'd it go?"

Ben, "Well, I didn't see anyone taking drugs."

Mom, "That's good."

Elizabeth (sarcastically), "You should try drugs."

Mom gives her a look.

Ben, "Two of my classes today were on field trips, so they just sent me to a different class.  No one seemed to be paying attention."

Hosanna, "Then you should fit right in (snaps a towel at her brother)."

Victoria, "I can't believe they let you chew gum there!  Right out in the open!"

Hosanna (whose been at TCA where gum chewing gets you a detention since 1st grade), "YOU CAN CHEW GUM IN THE OPEN?  WHAT THE HECK?"

Victoria, "There was a lot of 'touching' going on in the hall."

Elizabeth, "Yup.  Public school is super fun like that!"

Mom snaps HER with a towel.

Mom, "What did you guys have for lunch?"

Ben, "A piece of triangle shaped card board with some cheese on it."

Ben, "BTW, it's too soon to tell, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to be popul...."

Mom cuts in with an exasperated look....

Ben, "Included.  I think I'm going to be included".

There ya have it.  Too bad they don't offer Sarcasm 101.  We'd ACE that.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Today we did our Orientation at DCC.  The counselor graciously took loads of time to explain everything and answer all of our questions.

Victoria had 1,000.

Ben, not even 1.

After she went over their test results (and confirmed their "genius" IQs), and printed their schedules -- an upstanding young man walked us through the unsupervised hallways of the massive campus according to Ben and Victoria's 6th and 7th grade schedules.

Most of their classes lingered around the 200/300 hallways...where kids looked mostly Ben and Victoria's age.  Art, however, forced us through hallways with older students.

Upon leaving, Victoria's analysis, "They seem to have signs up everywhere with rules against BULLYING.  They should have a few rules about having sex in the hallways."

She exaggerates, but we all got the point.

Next we head over to TCA's East Campus to return some borrowed books.  Victoria gives a sweet good-bye to her teacher and picks up her most recently graded assignments.  Upon getting in the car and flipping through her work, she says, "I'm really glad to be leaving here!  LOOK at all these corrections I'd have had to do to my paper!"

We have mixed feelings to say the least!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

THUNDERware Part II - How to Save Yourself from Drowning

Where were we?  Oh yes, I was swooning over TCA.  Then came...

August of 2011.  Billy was working at a church in Denver (a 55 minute commute) whose leaders were, shall we say, more than a little annoyed by the fact that after several months of being there, we were STILL living in the Springs.  Weighing back and forth the cost of moving to a new city or losing our job, we reluctantly did the most responsible thing - we pulled all of our kids from the Charter School we loved, and prepared to move.  Even then, we weren't "sure" about the move per say (not even an ounce of sure), but this was our way of saying to ourselves that we WOULD indeed -- even though we were dragging our feet, refusing to put a For Sale sign in our actual yard, really didn't want too, and might burst into tears at any moment over the very thought of it -- resign ourselves to move to Denver  and ACTUALLY COMMIT to SHV Church.  

2 months later, the insanity of committing to this particular ministry team became crystal clear and after the move fell through we regretted our decision to pull our kids and, well, we wanted back into The Classical Academy.  We had been attending the school for 10 years and by this time it had grown famous for the shear length of the wait list.  5,000 and counting.

Thanks to our newly acquired "priority status", our highschooler and kindergartner made it right back in.  Our middle schoolers however did not.  They are currently #4 and #12 on the TCA Full-Time Waiting List respectively.  So, what to do with them in the meantime? 

Last school year, we participated in TCA's Cottage School - which means, Ben and Victoria met with a TCA teacher for initial instruction and then homeschooled for the remainder of the week.   No, it wasn't the rich educational experience I imagined, but we learned a lot about parenting Ben and Victoria -- we were close as a family, everyone pointed in the right trajectory -- so I deemed it a SuCcEsS.

As summer came, and my music business grew more demanding, I started to sense that we probably needed to make a change -- how was I going to do MORE and keep my head from exploding?  When I looked at our 2012 - 2013 schedule, well, let's just say, it made my knees buckle.   

I didn't feel any sense of direction and my "Lord, help!  Wisdom, please!" prayers were growing more desperate - daily.  Not knowing what to do, I did what any good homeschooling mom would do -- I ordered more curriculum.    

As the 2012 school year began, and our business REALLY began to grow, I found myself crawling out of the starting gate.  NEWS FLASH:  YOU CAN'T HOMESCHOOL WHEN YOU WORK A FULL-TIME JOB.  There, I said it.  And that's because, HOMESCHOOLING IS A FULL TIME JOB.  

As business grew, and the bickering between Ben and Victoria grew -- so did my angst.  August and September unfolded, and I found I could hardly catch my breath.  I'm an introverted person.  I need moments of alone time to process my thoughts.   At this point, I'd gone 13 months without such a moment.  Literally I felt like my crazy brain was spinning out of control in my head and about to melt and run out my ears.  I was forgetting things, not sleeping and certainly didn't have even an hour to put towards ANY meaningful relationship.  

Constantly torn.  If I was dedicating my brain at the moment to Ben and Victoria -- it could just be a moment -- because the next lesson to teach would arrive any second.  If I was teaching a piano lesson, you better believe I felt guilty that I had left Victoria to figure out her math lesson all by herself.  See the NEWS FLASH above.

I organized, and reorganized.  Planned and rePlanned.  For work alone, I was teaching 35 DIFFERENT lesson plans a month, not counting private lessons, teacher training, parent times training, and  communication with parents and prospective clients.  Lest you think that's a lot, I was also teaching LATIN, LOGIC, MATH, LITERATURE, GRAMMAR, and doing HISTORY AND SCIENCE with Ben and Victoria.  It exhausted me and I couldn't catch up.

As Billy and I talked through this past month, we knew we had to make a change.  But what?   Really, we knew what...we just didn't like that option.  The neighborhood school.  

Colorado public schools rank high in the nation.  Still.  I just didn't want too.  Do.  That.  At.  All.

I launched an email campaign to beg, bribe and bully TCA to do what I wanted them to.  But, they.  Didn't.  Budge.  Insanity on their part.

Finally -- after I felt there was NO OTHER CHOICE -- AND after one SOLID week of crying my eyeballs out -- I called the school district...who promptly passed the buck and told me to call my neighborhood school's guidance counselor.  I did need some guidance, that was for darn certain!?!?!?

She answered.  I sighed.  Loudly...figuring she might as well get to know my annoyed side right off the bat.  "Hi Jessica, I am interested in the possibility of my 6th and 7th graders going to DCC.  The district told me that there were some nuances involved in the timing.  They named you as the expert (insert a slight sarcastic tone for which I could not help myself) for me to talk to."  You could almost hear the smile on her face, "Mrs. Ramsdell, the timing is up to you.  Just do what you think is in the best interest of your family -- because in actuality -- YOU are the expert on that".  I liked her right away.

Yesterday, the kids went in and TESTED for math and language arts placements...at my request.

Monday, we all meet with the counselor to get there schedules, lockers, etc.

In the middle, somewhere between 2 basketball practices, 3 basketball games, buying groceries and going to church (all with one car) -- we have to engage in "school supply shopping trip ROUND TWO for 2012" and well -- because my kids have worn khaki pants and collared shirts to school since...Kindergarten...I suppose they are going to need some new digs.  Fair enough.

Tuesday -- along with our Titans hoodies, we will pull on our "THUNDERware" and join the drop off at DCC.  

Ben and Victoria are in high spirits.  They've moved on and don't seem to require any "closure".  I, however,  thought I was gonna cry all day.  I almost did.  Then, I reminded myself that on Tuesday, I would get 2 entire hours of quiet time in the house to myself.  Delicious.  

Yes, that thought is followed by a pang of mommy guilt...and a one sided, guilt ridden negative conversation in my head.    It goes something like...there are many emotionally sturdy, quality time/acts of service loving women pulling off homeschooling large families...and seemingly doing it with joy, deep contentment and satisfaction!  (Insert feelings of envy).  They work harder than you do.  They are rich.  They don't need to send ALL THOSE KIDS to college.  They save money because they can sew their own clothes.  Why don't you sew?  You'd have more hours in your day if you'd only get up at 4am.  Why do you require sleep?  They are more organized.  More savings savy.  More.  More.  More.

Lest you feel I need therapy, my other side usually answers, "Whatever".  

Our decision to put Ben and Victoria in a public school this week was still, for us, monumental and, of course, not without consequence for our family --  and mixed with a hopeful disappointment.  Our decision was also wrought with consequence and inconvenience for some others -- classes I'd have to cancel, lessons I'd have to reschedule.  I thought long and hard, LONG AND HARD, about the people I would disappoint.  I don't like to quit.  Certainly, I don't like to burden others.  But, you don't say,"Hey! Person who is drowning! I can see the water splashing up over your head, you're choking really loud and all -- looking quiet exasperated and blue, but could you possibly wait it out 6 more weeks until Christmas break before you make any sort of change"?  No.  You toss'em a line, pull'em up, and let'em off the hook -- you  let them catch their breath!  In this case, we just had that amount of grace on ourselves.  

It's all still up in the air of course...and we'll see how it goes.  I'm not married to DCC.  Not attached - Yet.  

But, after 17 years of parenting, our decision was...necessary.  Ultimately, still in the best interest of our children.  Billy recently said, "We need to recharge inorder to make it through the second 1/2 of the parenting years!"  The second half.  Half time.  Another 17 years to go...after all Eli's just in Kindergarten!

Blessings my friends!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Titans Hoodies and THUNDERware - Part I

We love The Classical Academy.  We wear our hoodies proudly!  Titan Nation baby!

When we decided to move to Colorado in 2003, in typical Shanna/Billy form, we flew into town from our home state (Florida) and gave ourselves 1 day (1 WHOLE day) with a Relator to find a house.  (When you have as many kids as we do -- they could eat a babysitter for lunch knowing their parents are across the country.  We are merciful people.) 

The day we choose our lot, we asked the Classic Homes representative for a school recommendation.  He said, "Check into TCA.  I hear it's good."

Always a fan of education philosophy, I had, at the time, been reading everything I could get my hands on about and by Charlotte Mason.  I had also just DEVOURED For the Children's Sake AND For the Families Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.  All rich, wonderful, idealistic books.  The idea of a classical, Charlotte Mason inspired education became my major minor obsession.

At the time, our kids attended Argyle Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida.  It was a small, Abeka using, private school - filled with people I'd known my entire life.   Graciously, they offered me my first job as a music teacher.  We LOVED it there.  Crazy loved it.  My classroom was right across the hall from Elizabeth's 2nd grade classroom.  She learned to read and forge my signature there.  And if I taught with my door open, I could hear her working out math problems on the board.  Hosanna was a pilgrim in the Thanksgiving play...after she cried and said she didn't want to do it for an hour and half.  Benjamin was the CUTEST preschooler you've ever seen...with stitches in his head.  3 times.  Billy and I actually, got married in the church building there.  My dad pastored there.  I spent hours and hours and hours of my life there.

Falling in love is a trend with Billy and I -- we get attached -- to people, to places.  Once something serves us well, we (I) have a hard time EVER letting it go.  

I like the idea of being settled.  Community.  Staying.  I don't like to "divorce" people and I hate the idea of burned bridges.  Life is richer when you live in relationship -- when you love deeply -- and it takes a long time to make an "old" friend -- all these things, I value.  It's a blessing and a curse.

So, sitting in my Florida sunroom that Feburary, I got on the internet and began to research TCA.  Immediately jumping out at me was a tab entitled, "Books that Influenced Our Philosophy".  And wouldn't you know...there was a list of all the same books I had in my library.  My most cherished titles...MY obsession was THEIR obsession  .  And, I felt an immediate connection.   

The kind of connection that leads you to believe that the God of the Universe has gone before you -- and prepared a way.  Maybe, He's planned this all along.  A connection that speaks to the deep parts of you, casts out fear and proves you're not so crazy after all!  The connection only two friends make when they read the same books.  ;)

That evening, we joined the other 2,000+ people on the waiting list -- with no priority status whatsoever.  Shortly after our cross country move, miraculously, we still got in.

Yes, the charter school has it's problems as ALL institutions/families/humans do...and to say it lives up to its ideals - well that would be far from accurate.  But we found favor there and our children have flourished.  Really flourished.  

Today, we made a change.  Still wearing our Titans hoodie, but now pulling up our THUNDERware as well.  Big change.  Come back and find out what in Part II tomorrow.

Blessings my friends!