2004-08-12

Back to School, Job News

Yesterday was the start of school.

Yes, they start a bit earlier in the year out here than back East, but they end much earlier too. It takes some getting used to.
Taxes are much lower here too. But when it comes to sending kids to school, you find out some of the impact of lower taxes. The schools send a list of supplies for you to bring in for each kid. Yes, I know back East, you get a list of supplies. A list of school items each kid needs for themselves. No, out here this list is the list of supplies the parents have to provide to the teachers for the year. Things like dry-erase markers, paper towels, storage bags, etc. There is quite a list. The teachers stock this away for the year, and have to make it last, as there is no budget for supplies if they run out.

I guess there is some sense to this method. It means that the families with kids actually going to school have to bear a little more costs. And the cost for supplies is a lot less than how much more we were paying in taxes back East. The schools also provide a way you can use a company to buy the supplies for you: write them a check and you are done. But if you have a little time and are a good shopper, you can buy the stuff yourself. I'd guess about half the parents chose each way.

So it was back to school for my boys. For my little guy, it meant moving to a new school, and going to full day. But he is familiar with the school, as my middle boy went there last year, and it is just down the street from us. So my little guy has been in the building a lot of times. And the fact is that the two different schools are actually almost identical, a square around the library in the center. Just things like bathrooms and water fountains seem to be different. So my little guy moves up to full day kindergarten. Turns out we have to pay extra if we want him in more than half day. But considering he could use the extra instruction time, and it leaves more hours open for my wife to work, it makes sense to pay for it. My middle guy moves one room to the left going up to 1st grade. Here it is, one day into the school year and his lunch bag is missing already. :) Checking it out at the school this morning, I think another kid grabbed his lunchbag, and left their similar one behind.

And my big guy is off to the middle school. In his case, back to school has a much deeper meaning. He has been homeschooled since the middle of 1st grade. So for the last 5-1/2 years he was homeschooled. Well, technically last year was charter school as home. He was part of the public school system, but was got his schoolwork at home independently. Unluckily this charter system meant his schooling went from hard to too difficult. There were many days before the charter school that he was very resistant to doing his schoolwork. Which was a shame, as he could get through it in no time those rare times he really applied himself. The charter school work was really way too stressful for him and us. The subjects were just overwhelming, and we couldn't give him the attention he needed to get through it all.

When I was unemployed, I became his primary teacher. That was about the only rewarding thing about being unemployed. Even though it could be frustrating to get him through his schoolwork at times, it could be very heartwarming too. I like to be able to share knowledge. The fact that he seems to have a lot of the same special needs with learning that I did and do, I think I was able to give him a lot of value as his teacher. I know I enjoyed being able to give him lots of extra details when he asked questions. I think he thought he was avoiding doing his schoolwork, getting me off on a tangent by asking questions. And it did take us longer to finish some days. But sometimes the best knowledge is gained by expanding on topics beyond the written text. We had a number of discussions about the difference between knowledge and wisdom. The more good knowledge you have, the more likely you are to make wise choices. But you have to apply your knowledge positively for it to be wisdom. I was really proud of how well he had done with the math program we had before the charter school.

My big guy was very anxious about going back to school. We took him over to his new school about a week before it started to get his classes arranged and to get him familiar with the school. Well, he wasn't very happy. He complained that there was too many bears, the school's mascot, found all over the building. But of course, that was just him latching onto something he could reject. Eventually he started to get very anxious and wanted out of the building. We had to hold him back. It has been a long time since he had been that out of control. Eventually he settled down. But I think he really made some of the staff very concerned about him.

When we went to the social event a few evenings before school started, he was rather grumpy. But the staff there was very accommodating. Eventually he moved from rejecting-grumpy, to complying-but feeling a little down. At least this time, even with all the noise are confusion, he didn't panic and try to leave.

Then there was one more day before school started. He was to go back there with my wife to check his locker, get his pass and his safe room. This was the best thing I'd heard so far. I know from my own school years, that big, loud rooms could be overwhelming, and I would escape the schools. No one ever seemed to notice that I left. And when Lev was starting to do this in first grade, that was when we switched him to homeschooling. I took some time out one evening to talk to him about being overwhelmed. I told him that he could not leave this school - if he was overwhelmed he could go to the office or school nurse and tell them he was claustrophobic.

Well it seems the school already has something in place for this. He gets a special pass that he can show if he feels overwhelmed. It lets him go to the resource room. I think this will be the key that lets him succeed. When my wife told him it was time to leave the house to go see his safe room and get his pass, he was rather resistant. He said he wouldn't go. He said he didn't want to go to school. My wife asked me to call him and talk to him. So I called him from work, and we talked for about 20 minutes or so.

It seems he still had a lot of anxieties; a lot of fears. And I couldn't really blame him for most of them. Fears of being teased and failing are real concerns. But not ones that should stop him from going. He was also afraid that we, his parents, were going to be very upset at him if he failed. Of course we won't be happy if he failed, but we have told him as long as he shows he is trying, we will understand. I also pointed out a lot of values of doing well. And I pointed out a lot of problems with quitting school. But I also told him we weren't the kind of parents who put academic achievement above all else. I told him we didn't sit him down when he was a baby and force him to learn his letters by flash card. We always expect him to do good work, and to really try. I explained to him that he should go in hungry for knowledge with a positive attitude.

He didn't sound all that happy at the end of the conversation, but after telling him that I would rather reward him than punish him, he did seem willing to go to the school. Well, by that evening he had a better attitude. Then next morning he got up early and seemed really happy! My wife reported that he had a good day. It seems it went better than he thought it would. This morning he was a little sluggish getting started, but he still had a pretty good attitude as he headed down the block to catch his bus with a lot of other kids from the neighborhood.

I walked my little guys down to their school a few minutes later. I think most days my wife will be getting them all to school, but she had to take her massage license exam this morning. Luckily my current job is not a problem to come in a little bit late.

One other thing about supplies. When we were at my big guy's school for the social, it seems they weren't quite done with us. They had the parents standing on lines for a half hour to pay for a geography book required for the school year. This was definitely not like schools back East!

And on my job, I had some slightly relaxing news yesterday. I thought my contract would run out in the next couple of weeks. I figured I would know when my last day was when they patted my on the back on the way out the door. The last I had heard, my contract had only been extended to sometime this month. I figured it would go through the 20th. But my boss stopped by yesterday: it seems the finally told him he could tell the contractors the current deal. It turns out they will let me know by the end of September whether I will have a contract until the end of October or to the end of November. 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 more months of pay to find another job. That notches the pressure down a lot.

It still isn't great that I have to find another job again. But it certainly makes me feel that I did make the right decision with not pursuing the job an hour away for $5 less an hour. Which would have been like taking a $10 an hour cut, and not for such a great position. At this point I'd take a job that paid a bit less, if it was a position that sounded interesting, and let me learn more of the more marketable skills in the process: such as dot net, Java and XML.

Oh, in case anyone wonders, the title link points to the High School where my Wife and I went back East.

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