Saturday, February 7, 2015

When self-directed learning looks like going to school... somewhere else

Those of you who know me personally, as well as many who are connected to Sego Lily School through Facebook, this blog, and other avenues, know that my children attend Sego Lily. In fact, were it not for said children, Sego Lily School would not exist. more specifically, were it not for my high energy first kiddo, there would more than likely not be a Sego Lily School.

When Corbin was younger, he was constantly on the move. This of course was challenging at times (ok, most of the time). Mostly, I knew that sitting at a desk was not going to really be his thing. One thought led to another, which led to plans, which led to actions, and voila, a school came into being. Corbin was one of the 19 students who arrived on opening day, ready to play and learn.

Corbin, age 5, volunteering at the Humane Society of Utah


Eleven years later, he asked if we could talk, and told me he wanted to go to a local charter high school that has a film emphasis. My reactions were all over the place: I was excited that he had learned so much about how to achieve his goals that he had found this program without help from me or his father; I was petrified about him going to a school that has had a not-so-stellar reputation when i comes to drugs; I was happy that he was so clear about what he wanted to experience; and I was heart-broken.

Yes, my personal reaction was heartbreak. I couldn't imagine him being somewhere else. I wondered why he didn't want to be at this place I had made just for him. I felt like maybe I wasn't doing enough to support him. I lamented the fact that he wanted to take such a different path. I knew I was going to miss seeing him at school every day. My baby was moving away from me, in a direction that I hadn't expected.

We went through all of the steps we needed in order to get him on the charter school's waiting list, and then we waited. And waited. And called, and waited some more. By mid-January, it was clear that path was not going to happen (at least during this school year). My secret hope was that he would stay at Sego Lily, and take photography classes through the community college, or one of the continuing education programs, but he had other ideas. He has been very clear that he wants to experience what traditional schooling is like, and he decided to enroll in the local public high school. So that is what we did.

Corbin in front of Granger High School. 7am, day one.


It took a couple of days, and some hoop jumping, but by February 5th, he was officially ready to start classes. At 15 years old, Corbin rides the trains and buses all over the valley, and I rarely think twice about it. But letting him walk into a high school, with 3,500 kids? I was probably as nervous as he was. I barely slept the night before, and all day I waited for 2:20 so that I could call him and see how it went. His father sweetly recorded the conversation when he picked Corbin up, and I was able to hear the whole run down, with all of the freshness of telling the story for the first time. He was excited, anxious, worried, happy, and tired. It had mostly gone well, and he was looking forward to the next day (the school has an A day, B day schedule). There was only one major problem...

First period, day one... Sophomore Math.  Corbin has never taken a formal math class. Ever. Oh, and they were taking a quiz when the class started. Finding the angles of intersecting lines. In his own words, "I just wrote down everything from the board in my state of complete panic." I only know that they were finding the  angles of interesting lines because I have now seen the paper they used in class - he could not have told you that was what they were doing. He simply wrote it all down, knowing that I, or another staff member, or his grandmother, would help him make sense of it. He needs to make sense of it, as they have a test on Monday.

So yes, my oldest is no longer attending Sego Lily School. Am I still worried? Of course, he is in an environment in which his voice is not very important, with people who will be really wonderful, or really awful, or anywhere in between, but if they are awful the only power he has is to go tell an adult about it, and hope it gets sorted out. I worry he will fail his math class (I'm not worried about his grades, but I am worried about his self-confidence). I worry he will get lost in the sea of teenagers changing classes. I worry about school violence, I worry about drugs, I worry about bullying. I worry he will get teased for the gaps in his knowledge, and at the same time I worry he will be bored - he already asked, after day one, how someone his age could NOT know about Newton's contribution to the understanding of gravity.

The other question that I have asked myself is this Am I still heart-broken? A little. I have worked so hard over the years to make Sego Lily School available, but I don't only do it for my children. Two of my boys are still here (and the toddler has already begun to say "me school with brothers"), and so are the rest of the students. We are getting more inquiries from new families right now than we have had in years. Also, Corbin is currently planning to return to Sego Lily School for his graduating year in 2016-2017, which makes me smile. He is still on the Odyssey of the Mind Team, and will be competing with us at both state & world finals competitions. I am happy that he is happy, and I miss having him at Sego Lily School every day. More than anything, though, I am proud to have raised a child who is so confident in his choices and direction in life that he is willing to make such a drastic change in his life in order to follow his dreams. I think that, more than anything, symbolizes for me what self-directed learning truly is, and that is why I stand by this model and by his choices.

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