Last spring, I (Jen) wrote a post called "When self-directed learning means going to school... somewhere else." It was about my oldest, who had been a Sego Lily student from the age of 5, choosing to attend a pubic high school. When that ended, it was hard to write about. I ended up posting the 'results' on my personal blog, rather than the Sego Lily School blog. It was too raw for me to write about in a more public way.
However, many people have asked how it went. Below are some excerpts that outline the basic experience. I am happy to say that Corbin is back at Sego Lily School this year, and plans to write a thesis for graduation. If you want to know more, stop by and ask Corbin. Just be prepared, he may have some colorful language to use to describe his time at Granger High.
First, the good stuff: Corbin did well in his classes. He was proud that he passed all of his classes at the end of his first term, especially since he started late and had to catch up to make those grades. He even did well with math - he and I spent several evenings together while I helped him with algebra and geometry, and he managed to pick up most of it very quickly. He enjoyed his photography class, and even won an award at the district art show for one of his 3-D art class projects. He learned a lot about free speech - including the fact that you will face resistance when what you have to say goes against the grain. He also made a few friends, and got to see what education looks like for most people his age.
The negatives, however, far outweighed the positives. Corbin felt bullied every day. As a non-straight, gender fluid person, he struggled to find acceptance. He listened to others debate his gender behind his back. Even at the GSA after school club (gay straight alliance), he found no one who could see outside our society's binary structure of gay or straight, male or female. He experienced bullying from teachers as well - when he chose not to stand for the pledge, one teacher responded with his personal views about his military service, leaving Corbin feeling as though he was being pressured to take actions he strongly opposes. Corbin also shared many stories with me of being the only person in a class with any knowledge of, or interest in, the subject matter. He was experiencing the all-too-real dynamic of kids who don't care about learning. He wasn't always enthusiastic about everything he was doing, but I heard in his voice the sadness of being the only one who seemed to care.
So much of what was happening, though, was intangible. My kid - the one who has always been opinionated, but has also always been up for a good conversation - stopped talking. He took on a victim mentality, and started speaking as though he was hopeless and had no choice in his life. One night we were talking about his future, and he stated that his only goal was to make enough money to live. He no longer cared about college, or any meaningful career, and all he wanted to do was get out of the house as soon as possible. Then some things happened, and we withdrew him from school. I knew it was the right choice, even though we had told him he would have to finish the year if he wanted to try public school. We negotiated a different solution, and pulled him out the next day.
Within a day, he was talking to me about where he was going (including exact addresses), how he was feeling, and what he wanted to do. Within a week, he had opened up about some personal stresses he has been struggling with. He got to work on Odyssey props, starting communicating with his brothers, and became happy again. It was like a light came back on in him.
Here's the thing about resiliency. We tell parents who come to Sego Lily School that yes, their children will learn to read and write, and add, and everything else they need to know to be successful in the world, but more importantly they will learn lessons about who they are, how they learn, and who they want to be in their lives. I can honestly say that those lessons are things Corbin learned. Yes, he needed a reminder and a nudge to remember that he learned them, but without those lessons I fear we would be facing intensive therapy with him right now. Instead, he bounced back into being my opinionated, vocal, amazing child. Yes, he's a tired teenager, busy trying to figure out how the world works, but he is OK. He isn't broken, that's for sure.
I'm not one to say "I told you so," but I will say this. When Corbin was little, I knew that a standard educational experience was not going to work for him. I decided to take on the joys, stresses, workload, and insanity of starting a school and keeping it alive for him, and for his brothers. I say to you now, my children - this is for you. It was the right thing to do, and it continues to be the right place for me to put my time and energy. I won't question that again after this experience (well, I might, but in those moments I will remind myself of this moment). I'm sorry we had to learn a lesson in such a painful way, but it was worth it.