High school isn't easy.
Lost in the glop of teen hormonal stew, my son started high school in September. In between the cute girl with pink hair, his friend with the frizzy blond skater 'do, and the who's-dating-who chatter on the bus, there is that pesky thing called schoolwork.
He's dyslexic. And has a host of other disorders that mean school is impossibly hard. I've danced this dance with him for so long, earning my PhD in mom-of-kid-with-learning-disabilities, chasing the tide of late work, lost papers, tests taken over and over to scrape out a passing grade. I've tutored fractions, algebra, and this year, geometry. I've helped him sort out the backpack that looks like a hamster cage. And add into this mix severe school budget cuts that left him in classes of more than 40 for every subject, one class as big as 48. In a world of round pegs, he is triangular. Or maybe octagonal.
He's drowning. I've thrown ropes, lifejackets, speedboats, hell, I've probably thrown a cruise ship. There's only so much a mom can do. A mom, a dad, a retired physicist grandfather, and our language tutor who has been like part of the family since our son was in fourth grade. All that wasn't enough to fix the Fs that are now on his transcript. The special ed teacher said, "Maybe he's just not mature enough for high school." Thanks. That's your solution? Really? "Maybe he'll need an extra year." Maybe, just maybe, a special ed kid has no chance of learning in a class of 45. Maybe no kid can learn in a class of 45.
He's off-the-charts brilliant stinking smart. Trust me, Mr. Special Ed teacher, we know. We paid for the private testing the school wouldn't provide. My kid is probably smarter than most of the teachers, but not in ways that are easy to deal with, or easy to teach.
And here I am, here we all are, at the cusp of something new. Leaving public school, starting tomorrow in an astronomically expensive private school for kids with dyslexia. It's like buying a second house, with money we don't have.
My son is lonely and sad. "How was your last day?"
"It's like no one cared." I don't know what to say.
He wants to be an engineer, but he can't pass math when the class goes too fast and the teacher won't slow down. He can't pass math when it's sheer laborious work to just write down the problems in illegible scrawl. The brilliant brain of his, trapped in a dyslexic head, that can design bridges and bicycle parts, that thinks in three dimensions, can't be an engineer without one hell of a lot of math.
The endless loop in my head, the mental hamster wheel goes round and round. How will we ever pay for this? Should we have tried harder to make public school work? But how could we possibly try any harder? They're talking about more budget cuts next year! This isn't going to get better, not any time soon, not before he's 25 years old and far past high school. My son won't get a second shot at high school in some distant utopian future when my state decides that an educated population is worth paying for.
Tomorrow, he'll start his first day. I'll paint on a smile, I'll make pancakes, I'll try not to show him I feel just as adrift as he does. I'll write an enormous check. And I'll hope like hell we've done the right thing.