Sigh. This is mostly just me needing to whine a bit to a sympathetic crowd. This may all blow over in time, but for now it's making me sad.
My newly-10-year-old has decided she would like to try school. She attended a few hours over the past couple of weeks in order to take part in the standardized testing that our province asks all 4th-graders to do. For her it was optional, but she wanted the experience of taking the tests, so she went. And the tests were a cakewalk for her. But she felt different: she knows all the kids in the combined 4/5/6 class, but she's a bit of an outsider. She's joined them for occasional PE classes and field trips. Her XC ski group is made up of 8 of these kids plus her. She does music with a bunch of them. She's friends with almost all of them at a superficial level, or one-on-one. But she's not "in" with the cliques and she knows it.
So she's decided she wants to feel normal and fully accepted. She would like to try school full-time for a week. Her older siblings attend school. They all started as high schoolers, though, which in our province and at this school makes for lots more flexibility in terms of placement and part-time attendance.
The teacher of the 4/5/6 class is incredibly gifted as a teacher, and is a dear family friend whom I trust totally. I have no qualms about my kid being in this teacher's hands.
I just worry about the academic and social fit. It would be such a loss for my kid to cram her delightfully angular little self into the round hole that is schooling. She is full of quirky interests and amazing abilities. Her learning is so rich, so wide-ranging, so unusual, so inspired. Her critical thinking skills, her innocent social graces, her unjaded willingness to give people the benefit of the doubt, her interest in architectural design, religion and philosophy, classical music, gymnastics, backcountry survival skills, endurance sports, her delight at reciting pi to 31 digits, her analysis of symbolism in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, the way she is whizzing through 8th grade math and basic high school chemistry and Spanish ... Overall she's probably at a 7th grade level, higher in some areas. She's basically unschooled, but loves structure, so I've done my best to feed that need in her; she has a cool chemistry program and geography projects on the go, a schedule of travel and outdoor activities and neat opportunities to volunteer around the community. She had plans to start slowly accumulating high school credits next year, and to combine an extended high school career with extensive travel and volunteer work.
She's interested in trading all this in to go to 4th grade so that she can feel like one of the crowd....
Unfortunately we don't really have a crowd of homeschoolers here since we're in a village of 600 a long way from bigger centres: there are 6 or 8 other homeschoolers around but they're mostly younger and the couple who aren't are considering attending school next year too. She is so bright and self-aware; I don't feel right over-ruling her wishes to try school. And I understand her feeling like she doesn't really have a tribe. Most of the things she's interested in doing for social reasons she's too young for: she needs to be 12 to get involved at the youth centre, 13 to sing in the youth choir, 13 to attending gaming night, 12 to do dance. She has a number of 13 and 14-year-old friends who treat her like a much-loved slightly younger sister but she can't be part of some of the things that they'd be perfectly happy to include her in. All that's open to her for group activities is XC skiing (which she barely tolerates, due to the challenging behaviour of her age-mates) and a bit of music where she's far and away the most advanced player ... and gymnastics once a week far, far out of town.
I think it is probable that she will come out of a trial week exhausted and fed up with the cattiness of the girls and the disruptiveness of the boys. But I don't know that for sure: she tends to be so generous in her assessment of others and so resilient and accommodating. And so I worry.
Thanks for listening. I'm not sure when we'll get her to try school. Soon, I hope. I'd like to get a clearer picture of where we're going, one way or <gulp> the other.