I have a rather mixed history with education.
I attended, as well as I can recall, some school in Bellflower CA; a military school in France; a French school in Royan whose name I forget; Ecole Zola in Rochefort; a couple of schools in the Florida peninsula, maybe something involving Mary Esther and another involving Eintsein? Some kind of Lutheran school, somewhere; Deer Park elementary in Newport News; Warwick junior high also in Newport News; Hayfield High in Alexandria; Urbandale High in Iowa; Some school in Maryland where I dropped out in a dispute over what door I should use to enter the lunchroom; and the Eberhard school, a gifted school my parents tried to deploy as a last-ditch effort to keep me in school. I'm probably forgetting some.
Then I went on to drop in and out of a community college in Maryland, in and out of San Francisco State, and in and out of San Jose State.
Now, along with my wife, I'm in charge of picking an educational path for our two kids.
We have too many choices, none of them exactly right. The boy is a certified genius. Big-time IQ. 99th percentiles. Started taking high school level programming classes at age 8 -- three years younger than any other kid in the program's history. He was installing operating systems when he was five. He blogs. He bids on eBay, picking up classic Apple gear and Google paraphanalia. He reads Gizmodo all day long. He has contributed to Wikipedia. Watch him using Photoshop and you can't see his hands move he's so fast.
He's also obsessive-compulsive and anal and eats only Nutella and has only the most marginal interest in . . . um, what are they called again? Oh, right: humans.
He goes to a very good private school with the children of academics. (We are the dumbest parents there.) The school is unable to keep him engaged on math, where he's one of those irritating people who only needs to be told once, and then never forgets it. He's bored out of his mind. Surprise!
Our daughter had a rather different life. Born in th ass-end of China, abandoned at 8 months when she developed a hemangioma that, one guesses, the parents couldn't pay to have removed. She spent three years in an orphanage because she carries a scar and was thus "special needs." In her picture we saw a bold and defiant expression. I said, "She looks like trouble. She'll fit right in."
So at age three she moves from orphanage to the US, from rooms full of nothing, to an obsessively enriched environment.
She has what seems to the rest of us borderline Asperger's cases to be a weird genius for making friends with humans. My son and I have sat at times and studied her, like anthropologists. Or maybe like members of some lost Amazon tribe trying to suss out a cell phone. Trying to figure out how she does it. You could parachute her into the emptiest part of the Mojave and ten minutes later she'd have a friend.
She's a natural jock. She has cartwheeled across Saint Mark's Square in Venice, right through the pigeon shit. She does the soccer and the basketball and the gymnastics. She's loud and dramatic and combative and has more energy than can logically be contained in such a small package. She's a tiny nuclear device.
But she also has ADD and learning disabilities, the classic letter-reversal kind, and she started off behind by three years. She also went to the private school but private schools don't do LD's, so we were given the heave-ho. This year we're home schooling her. She's making progress. She's catching up. But it's anyone's guess whether she'll be at grade level come September.
Our son would like nothing better than to blow off school and stay home, there to plot his almost inevitable rise to super-villainy. Our daughter is starved for the company of children, she needs school if only for the social aspects. But I won't have her made to feel stupid. And so, now, with the ability to pick from every school in this area, and for that matter, the entire United States and indeed the western world, we cannot manage to find one school, or two schools in reasonable proximity, private or public, that can handle the brittle genius and the resilient LD kid.
Complicating it all, of course, is me. Because I think school is roughly 90% bullshit. The way it works the bulk of the time is moving from here to there, standing or sitting, lining up, putting on dog and pony shows for the parents, peeing, handwashing, lunching, recessing, learning crap you'll never have to know, getting ready to take George W. Bush's "See, I did something about education!" tests, dodgeball, inept language teaching, backward music classes, and homework whose essential purpose is to impress parents.
I see the time spent on teaching handwriting and I think, "Have you people not heard of the keyboard?" And I sigh at the time spent moping about the always-endangered fate of the earth. And I read about high school kids doing 3 hours of homework a night and I think, "Are you fucking crazy?" Kids being pushed relentlessly to read in first grade, and I think, "What in the hell is the hurry? It's not a race." Gigantic classroom projects that chew up weeks in order to teach a paragraph of history. Songs that they waste days memorizing in order to sing on parent's days so we can ooh and ahh and write a bigger check. It all seems so beside the point. It all seems just like it did when I was in school: a massive waste of time and money. A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.
And, of course, I worry because my son is bored, just like I was. And he's becoming dismissive and condescending, just as I was. And, unlike me, he's not a flake writer who doesn't really need college, he needs and is destined for a Stanford or an MIT, so I want him not to follow my so-bored-I-gotta-get-outta-here educational track. I need to find a way to get him through the stupidity of the next seven years of school, so I can deliver him to the collegiate promised land, where he will, at last, be surrounded by his fellow geeks and be, well, not happy, maybe, but well-occupied.
At the same time I can feel the allure of the Heather clique for my daughter. She's dramatic, fashionable, status-conscious, highly social, pretty and in possession of the one thing no one else in our family can even imagine owning: cool. She's cool.
But I need her to read and write and do math and not be dependent on being cool, because that's a dead-end Paris Hilton trap. Unless, of course, she ends up in show business, in which case, okay. I want her to have options. She has the brain, she has the capacity, she has the energy, she just has a big LD log blocking her path.
Thousands and thousands of schools, and I cannot manage to find a solution. Yes, I know about IEP's. Yes, I know about pull-outs for GATE kids. It all feels like more b.s. to me. Am I wrong? If you have the magic answer, let me know.