I was an early reader; my mother decided the best way to keep me out of her hair was to teach me early. Once I learned to read, they gave me books and manipulatives and made me do that stuff so I wouldn't bother my Mom. She had pulp fiction reading to do, thankyouverymuch. Thankfully, little kids love that stuff. I went into kindergarten reading on a fourth grade level, doing math on a second grade level and being a hellacious little brat. My mother was fairly impatient, immature and therefore abusive at home, so socially I was way behind. One spring day I was beaten on the schoolbus so badly by fifth graders that I had three semiconcussions. I had been reading aloud from a science book and it pissed them off. They took the hardback book from me and beat me ove the head with it.
When I entered first grade, they split my day between a first grade classroom, a third grade math class, and a fifth grade reading clas, to try to "place" me. The school was only K-5 so it didn't leave much room for improvement. They asked my mother that year to stop taching me at home. That left me with a mother who had no way to interact with me at home, and nowhere to "go" at school. My parents applied and had me accepted at a Montessori school but they wouldn't apply for the scholarship, and couldn't afford it.
In third grade, I was a straight perfect academic student, but a monster behaviour problem. I was loud, funny and annoying. I got beat up a lot. That year, they placed me in SAIL (gifted talented program) and that outsourced me once a week into a station-oriented interactive learning program. That helped, because this was the year my only sibling was born.
They continued us on the GT module through middle school, where you took one period per day of the independent study stuff. In order to stay in GT, however, you had to give up music.
My parents were divorced this year, and that made it even worse at home. I was not allowed any extracuricular activities because I had to come home to watch my sister after school so my mother could work.
In high school, the district tiered classes according to the students' "track." For instance in math they offered: remedial math, algebra, college prep algebra, all classes I through IV. If you were GT you took AP math when you got to senior year. It was like that in every subject. As a result, I was in a public school of over 1500 students, but I effectively had a peer class size of 15-20 students. When I was in gym, or some other required subject with no collegiate track, I was pretty much socially tortured.
I bussed to school, and every day was torment. Every. Day. We lived in a section of town that wasn't bad, but the bus route took us through the HOOD. Guns, violence, drugs, you name it. I was "whitebread" and "crabtree" and whatever other name you want to call it. Someone hit me almost every day of my freshman and sophomore years. My mother refused to drive me to school despite it being on her way, because she'd have to go into work a little early, because school started at 7.20 and she didn't have to be to work until 8.00. Once, a foster child from a street over decided she was going to come "teach me a lesson." She stood on the street yelling until my mother made me go out. She hit me and pushed me in the ditch. My mother punished me, because I should have stood up for myself. She was "ashamed of [her] cowardly daughter." That's the support at home.
I was constantly praised by my teachers, afraid of the "other" kids who weren't in class with me, seemingly effortlessly outstripped others academically and dressed funny. I had no support at home, and no spending money. We couldn't afford anything "normal," from cable TV to going to movies to eating out. Needless to say, we had outdated, hand-me-down clothes and off-brand shoes. I was a very easy target for high schoolers looking to make themselves cool to their peers.
I responded to the exclusion by becoming very aloof and sharp-tongued. I turned to extreme Christian faith as a way to hold myself together, and that made me an even better target. I wouldn't fight back, and I had a few close friends but not a whole lot. Invariably the people who were kindest to me were exchange students, minorities, whatnot. If I participated in things like class trips, the teachers would pay for it on the sly, but that would get out. The "teacher's pet."
In the end, that saved my butt. The teachers were very clear about who and what I was. They constantly, almost every one I had, reminded me that this wasn't real (high school life), that the grades were my ticket out of everything bad in my life. It's weird, because my academic experiences in PS were very good because of the way I was shuttled. My teachers were very personally encouraging and were in large part responsible for me escaping a bad home life. The social morass of adolescent soup .... that was horrible.
I left high school and went to a private, exclusive woman's college. I was safe there, treated vastly different by my peers and my professors than I had been in high school, and I pretty much cut loose. I was no longer an academic, but it was also a positive experience. I learned a lot, I was no longer in any physical danger and I was finally, truly FREE to pursue my own destiny and write my own story. I gained a life foundation I had been missing. I observed my peers and learned about how they had been raised and educated. It helped me form my ideas of how my life would be and how I would raise my children.
I came away from public schools swearing my children would never endure them. I was graduated from high school in 1989, well before no child left behind. We had testing, but it wasn't as all-important as it is now. In my estimation the social problems have escalated in schools, and the child is expected to leave childhood behind very early. The teachers have been bound to teaching to the tests, and the children's social issues with which the teachers have had to contend, have led to hours of homework per day for very young children. For me, monitoring three hours homework per day for my child makes no sense when I could keep her home, homeschool for three hours a day and let her be free the rest of the time.
I believe in excellence in education; I no longer believe that is possible in American public schools. A child may graduate just fine-- but they're still being taught in a classroom system. I want my kids to learn experientially. I want them to have it all-- academics, music and art. I want them to use the restroom when they need to, to go outside when they need to. To be physically and emotionally safe.