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I reach my tipping point

June 3, 2009

On Thursday we met with Logan’s current and future teachers.  It was a scheduled meeting to discuss his progress in school and how to position him in the middle school, next year.  Sitting around a small, new table were myself, my wife, Logan’s current teacher, his school’s reading specialist, a special education teacher for the middle school, and the sixth grade social studies teacher.  The room was close, but new and clean.  A desk against the wall offered juice and cookies for the students who cycle in and out of the room for special tutoring.

We spent over an hour going over Logan’s situation.  His reading speed is still below grade level.  It takes him longer than his peers to write things out.  It’s no surprise, and his teachers are all clearly deeply invested in helping him learn and grow.  They understand him, respect him, and want the best for him.  He can fail a written test, yet ace an oral exam with the same questions.  We all nod, puzzled. 

His future teachers are inquisitive and thorough, explaining the daily bell schedule and how support services would be integrated – a study hall with more teachers, a special reading program, extra time for tests.  It’s a good modification of a solid academic program.  It feels like a bulky, one-size-fits-all suit has been tailored to fit better.  I realize that every possible adjustment has been made, but it’s still eight and half hours from bus stop to bus stop, then homework, which takes Logan hours.  Why not a custom made suit?

We have some time left, so I open the topic.  “I want to discuss an idea that we’ve been kicking around.  Logan may have mentioned it –“  His teacher responds, smiling “Oh, he’s mentioned it all right!”  I lay out the concept – we travel around the United States, jumping out of the educational stream, Logan engages the world directly, leveraging his strengths as an experiential learner.  I admit the deficiencies of the model – I’m not a reading specialist, we’ll have no science lab, and so on.  But I argue that these failings are offset by the enormous benefits of regaining confidence, achieving success on one’s own terms, and the fundamental notion that you can craft your own destiny, if you just have the courage to imagine it and the guts to see it through. 

Before I spoke, I had expected disapproving frowns followed by pedagogical objections that I could not address.  Instead, my summation is greeted with enthusiastic remarks, expressions of wonder and envy.  I feel the fulcrum of indecision shift silently in my breast.  “These are the experts.  They aren’t objecting.  They’re practically cheering!”  The middle school special education teacher recovers the meeting, probing into social development and how well Logan and I work together, academically.  Satisfied with our responses, they see nothing amiss, and approve the idea in concept.  Indeed, the sixth grade teacher invites Logan to give presentations in his class before he leaves and after he returns.  We all quickly get carried away again with talk of blogging and Skype videoconferencing: “This is the Hoover Dam!”  “This is Mount Rushmore!” 

Jessie and I leave the meeting a little dazed and uncertain, like leaving a casino with a windfall, when you had walked in expecting to lose.  What started out as a crazy idea … is suddenly real.

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