Monday, August 15, 2005

Back To School III – I12 Goes To Private School

This is the third post of the Back-To-School series

Part I, part II

In my first post, I mentioned how, when I12 was in first grade, the school made me take him to see a therapist.

They gave me 72 hours to find one. 48, actually, because they told me on a Thursday that they were giving me three days.

I started calling as soon as I pulled out of the school. (Yes, I am one of those annoying people that use their cell while driving – but only for work and emergency situations such as this one). My insurance company sent me a list, and I spent the next day and a half going through it, calling every number. I had to find someone that worked with kids; was close to our home; and didn’t require to see the entire family. (Mr. Goldie absolutely refuses to enter a shrink’s office, so, if a therapist demands to see the father, the deal is off).

I didn’t go into the specifics. I had to make an appointment ASAP, and I wanted someone who could give I12 a clean bill of health, the sooner the better. The actual therapy wasn’t a part of the school’s requirements, as far as I could tell.

As luck would have it, I found a very nice doctor, 15 minutes away from home, who very soon told me that I12 was just a normal kid going through a phase. She stressed that I12 was very smart, and that it was my duty as a parent to pull him out of the public school system, and get him into a private school. In particular, she recommended this school. I know, I know. Those of you that are from Cleveland, are already shaking their heads. "What were you thinking, Goldie? Isn't this, like, the most expensive school in the Greater Cleveland area?" What can I say - the doctor told me to apply, and I didn't know any better.

To my “But we don’t have the money”, the doctor said that a kid as smart as I12 should be able to get in on a scholarship.

So, I sent in an application. Two weeks after that, the doctor quit her job and moved to a different state. Too bad, I was expecting a clean bill of health from her any minute.

The more I thought about private schooling, the more I liked the idea. I12 had just graduated from his elementary school, and, to be honest, I was sick of it. He was supposed to start middle school, but I didn’t know if it would be any better. Besides, I had a friend whose daughter, a year prior to that, had been accepted into a girls’ private school, on a scholarship, because she was a gifted kid and had done well on the entrance test. Both my friend and her daughter were very happy with the new school, so I figured it might work for I12, as well.

I scheduled the ISEE for November, bought a book called “Cracking the ISEE”, and laid out a plan of work before the astonished I12. He had to read the book in two months, study the words for the verbal, and do two practice tests.

To my amazement, he did it all. I checked on him every day. And to think that now, I cannot even make him do his homework!

The private school called, and asked me to bring I12 in for a one-day visit. He spent the day in class, while the admissions officer gave me a tour. I loved what I saw, although it did occur to me that the emphasis seemed to be on the humanities rather than math, physics, and computers, which were I12’s strength. He hates humanities, by the way.

Somehow, I managed to put those thoughts on the backburner. As I learned later, I12 did the same thing when he was told that he would get home from school at 4:30 every afternoon, and have four hours of homework every day. He freaked out; then, promptly forgot about it.

Two weeks before the test, there was an open house. I brought my Mom, K9, and, of course, I12. It was right after church, so we were dressed to the nines, and fit in well with the private-school crowd. K9 had just received a Gameboy for his birthday, and refused to part with it even for the open house.

As we walked in, a boy came up to I12 and offered to be his guide on a tour around the school. K9 tagged along with his Gameboy. The boy’s name was Spencer, which kind of gives you an idea of the school’s general populace.

It is a safe bet to assume that nobody in our city is called Spencer. We’re big on Billys and Joeys, with an occasional Vince here and there, it being an old Italian neighborhood. But no Spencers.

So the three kids took off, and I showed my Mom around the school. Pretty soon, the kids got back, and Spencer asked if he could take I12 and K9 on a second tour. Amazed, I said yes. They returned some thirty minutes later, completely exhausted. I12 was in the lead. Spencer followed, deep in conversation with K9. The two sat down together and started playing the Gameboy.

Apparently, I’d sent the wrong kid to that school.

Two weeks went by, I12 took the ISEE, and did well. The passing grade was 4, and he got like a 6 or a 7. I was, however, worried, because, as my friend told me, it had to be an 8 or a 9 in order to qualify for the scholarship. And there was no way we could pay the tuition in full. It would have pretty much required me to directly deposit my entire paycheck into the school’s account.
Sometime around Christmas, a package arrived in the mail from the school. It was an application for financial aid. Basically, I had to list all our income, everything we had, and every one of our expenses, including food and underwear, and provide valid proof that we were too poor to pay tuition.

That didn’t sit right with me. I’d spent seven years busting my butt to become successful in this country, and convincing people that we were poor was against my nature. Besides, I had expected the scholarship to be kind of, you know, merit-based.

Evidently, the school did not have those. Financial-based only.

Another interesting tidbit of information that I learned in school was its admission policies. They have an equal-rights policy, meaning that, every year, they accept an equal number of girls and boys. So, if there were, say, 20 girls and 40 boys who applied, and they had 40 spots to fill, then guess what. Every single girl would be admitted, unless they failed the test; but they would only take half of the boys. Of course, the opposite was also true. If more girls applied than boys, then the girls would be out of luck.

How that is equal, I will never be able to figure out as long as I live.

On top of that, I started having doubts about that whole enterprise. By that time, I12 had been in middle school for several months, and it was clear to me that his new school and the one he had attended before were like heaven and earth. I was no longer sure that I wanted to take I12 out of that school. He was doing well there, and liked by teachers, in spite of his quirky nature.

So, while I was filling out my financial applications and trying not to barf in the process, the school called me back, because they wanted I12 to come in for a second visit. So, I brought him in for another day. When I came to pick him up, the secretary of admissions explained to me why they didn’t think I12 would be a good fit for their school.

“You see, when in class, he’s in his own world. He does not interact. And, he’s been here twice, but he hasn’t made any friends.”

I meekly replied,

“I thought he was getting along with that boy he met at the open house.”

At that moment, the door opened and I12 walked in.

“How was class, I12?” the admissions secretary asked.

I12 muttered, looking at the floor:

“It was okay.”

I jumped to the rescue.

“Was Spencer there?”

I12 gave me a blank stare.

“Who’s Spencer?”

The admissions secretary gave me a look that said: “See, told ya!”

That was pretty much the end of it. All of a sudden, the admissions lady started telling me how awesome my school district was.

But I knew it already. A great weight fell off my shoulders. Back when I applied, I wondered if I12 would be better off in the private school. Now, eight months and several hundred dollars later, I realized, to my relief, that he wouldn’t. We shook hands, and I told the admissions lady,

“Thanks for helping me make this decision.”

And so the story ends.

By the way, the essay that I12 had to write on his ISEE was, “If you could go anywhere in the world on a field trip, where would you go?” I12 wrote that he would go to his own house. In the car on the way home from the private school, I asked him why.

He said,

“Come on, Mom, what fun is a field trip anyway, when you have a hundred kids following you around, and teachers telling you what to do? No place in the world would be fun if you went there on a field trip. So, I figured, I’d just go home and play on my computer.”

Yeah. Definitely not private school material.

And that is exactly what I like about him.

Coming up next: what to do if your child runs into a problem with his friends? Meet the parents that say: you should call your kid’s little friend at home and give him the what for! Learn from their unconventional approach.

The Goldie has spoken at 2:12 PM

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