Monday, October 31, 2011

School Choices (Past Tense)

My friend C just wrote a introspective post on school, personality and environment. It's pretty cool and I suggest you read it. Short background: I've known C since I was five or six and I'm sure I knew her by seven. We went to the same elementary school for seven years and played soccer together (not always on the same team) for six or seven years. Trust me when I say she's cool.

I really enjoyed reading her take on high school because mine is different and I think when we can each look back and maybe now figure out what we liked, didn't like and what we each benefited from in our respective environments. A disclaimer to some of our decisions is also this: M town was building schools and rearranging a lot when we were growing up, so our class, the ones before and after, were shuffled around quite a bit.

I went to public school from kindergarten through the first two days of school in tenth grade. I have no problem with public school: M town has exceptional schools and teachers and my dad and aunt went all the way through these schools. After seven years at one elementary school, I was shuttled between five different schools between sixth and tenth grades. Ninth grade was a little tough on my psyche - not sure why. MHS (the real high school) housed tenth through twelfth grades, totaling at about 1500 kids in a school that was too small (C mentions being a number).

I attended two days of my sophomore year, came home and told my parents I wasn't going back. I don't remember all of the reasons I gave them, but I told them I wasn't happy and that I was going to get lost in the crowd. I told them that I could go to the country school (the district C's family moved to), the private Christian school (two blocks from our house), or we could home school, but that I was not going back. I didn't realize at the time what a slap in the face that might have been for my parents: my dad graduated from MHS, my mom worked in the school system AND they paid taxes! Also, important to mention, nothing happened to drive me away - I had friends and I was smart - I just felt out of place and didn't want to feel that way for the next three years.

For some reason, my parents let me leave MHS and I enrolled at the private Christian school (FHCS) up the road. They paid tuition so that I could change schools. I went into my sophomore year there not knowing anyone. I came out with friends. There were positive and negative aspects to a school so small (about ten students in a grade, forty in the high school), but for the most part, I excelled and it was a good choice for me. Do I think all fifteen-year-olds can or should make that decision? Not at all, but in this case it worked.

Why was it good for me? Teachers knew my name and they knew my parents. They had my sister in their class as well. It's difficult for anyone to be on the fringe if there are only ten kids in your class. We were close, very close. I was able to play soccer on a guys' team (only lasted one season :-) and cheer (which was so much fun) and work on yearbook and be a teacher's aide for preschoolers. I taught myself calculus (I was the class). I took three years of Spanish and excelled at English. I made friends for life and didn't even think that was possible. And this is so corny (please forgive me); I became a nicer person when I wasn't so scared of losing part of myself. It was far from perfect or idyllic (oh, senior year was ROUGH), but I felt at home and like I belonged - what I was studying for, cheering for, playing for - it was mine.

I'm the same age as miss C and this year is also when my ten year high school reunion should occur. I may have planned a little get-together in July. It may have involved many of the kids (total = eleven) from my senior class. We didn't call it anything fancy. They were excited. We spent time with each others' kids and spouses and had some dinner, hung out at the pool, sat by a bonfire (funny enough - at the house of an alumna a few years ahead of us). They are my people. Some of us are close and some had a lot more catching up to do. Everyone really just turned into better versions of themselves and it was so fantastic to see. We missed a few of our classmates and made sure to spread salacious rumors about them, but mostly it was chill and very good. That's what I wanted in tenth grade that I somehow knew I wasn't going to get at MHS. [However, I would like to interject that over the holidays, what I have come to call my "public school" friends get-together to see one another and catch up - which leads me to believe that I might have been okay if I'd stayed :-) ].

Ironically, I tried a small private university after high school that was a horrid fit. I went there for all the same reasons I went to FHCS initially and it turns out that KSU in M town was a much better fit. It still felt like home - like it was mine.

Really, what I think I can get out of this is that every schooling option isn't right for every kid. Parents do the best they can and hopefully listen and work out solutions (that are within their means and capability) that are the best for their kids. I was lucky to have options and parents that considered what I had to say. And not be melodramatic, but my life looks incredibly different than it would have otherwise. Have I mentioned that I met my C through a high school friend at FHCS? How was that going to happen some other way?

Two Important Memos

There are two very cool things I wanted to bring up with whoever reads this blog.

The first is a link to K's new project over at Orange Peel Photography. Please support her and spread the word. My admiration for anyone who keeps seeking that which brings them joy is HUGE, and there is a very special place in my heart for K & T. If you are debating clicking through (you should), K is opening her photography business to expecting moms over the next two or three months to get a handle on birth photography. This is a woman who has brought two wonderful boys into the world and in addition to being a talented photographer, has a wonderful heart for women and their experiences. Go look.

The second is another example of a woman playing to her strengths. You all know my friend AM? Or you've heard me speak of her awesomeness. A very small part of her awesomeness is her innate ability to find and develop style with fashion. This woman has dressed me (and countless others) AND explained style to us in a way we can understand (yep, even I kind of get it now). She is always eclectically and perfectly dressed in her own style and when you ask, you find that she mixed a $3 thrift store skirt with a $10 top over $200 boots (that she's had for YEARS - can you say investment?), and made her own one-of-a-kind necklace with a scarf or tights that were a gift. The woman is not impractical at all - either in her spending on clothes or the pieces of clothing she wears (she runs after her darling son and daughter most days!). Anyway, this impressive being has not yet decided to open up a personal styling business (which she could in a second - she has the skill, talent, and the uncanny ability to find things and put them together JUST RIGHT), but she has decided to make some of her finds available to the public. You can shop her at Etsy, store name HandmadePrairie. Check it out.