Corazon had a really hard time this morning. She had written her 3 apology letters to her teacher, her coaches and her teammates last night. This morning all she had to do was copy them neatly onto another sheet of paper and address them to the people involved. She just couldn't get herself to do it. I got her up at her usual time and she did her usual slow motion morning of doing cat chores and copying the letters. We usually leave at 9 to get her to school. It was 9:30 and she still wasn't done. I had decided that if she couldn't pull it together I was keeping her home today. When she realized she wasn't going to school she cried. Real tears. She was very disappointed and tried to convince me that other girls go to school late because of doctor's appointments, etc. I reminded her that she was late because she chose not to not be productive during the 3 hours she had this morning to do everything to get ready for school. She cried some more but not drama, no tantrums, just disappointment. I asked her what she was feeling and she said "sad." I said that was appropriate and reminded her that disappointment also feels like sadness.
While she was sad to not go to school, Milagro was thrilled to wake up and find that Corazon was still home. Corazon is her absolute favorite sibling these days and she kept calling out to her and asking her to play. Our rule around here is that if you miss school it is because you are too sick to go to school so school hours have to be spent in bed. I think this is partly why my children love to go to school and will do just about anything to not be kept home. Showing disrespect of teachers and the privilege of going to school has been known to earn them the label of "too sick to go to school" and they hate it. I figure when they are nasty to their teachers or disrespectful of their schoolmates then those people deserve a break from my children's attitudes. I suppose that is the teacher in me.
I was in a quandary because I should have put her to bed but I knew Milagro would be terrible disappointed. I pulled Corazon aside and told her she had two choices. She could go to bed or she could show me how good a big sister she could be and play with Milagro whatever Milagro wanted to play with. She chose to play and I must admit it was a good decision on my part. While they played I checked my email and had another detailed email from Corazon's teacher. Her teacher is wonderful. She really seems to have Corazon's number. It is a small classroom with girls in grades 3-5 and the teacher seems to work hard to make sure she is consistent. I haven't given her much history on Corazon because my experience is teachers don't believe me when they meet my charming daughter and I end up looking like a control freak. All I said to the teacher is that my "charming daughter would eat her alive if she thought the teacher wasn't in control of EVERYTHING." She is an experienced teacher and parent and she seemed to take me at my word on that and has made it clear to Corazon that she is fun, fair, and fearless and that she ALWAYS wins in whatever battle a child chooses to have with her. So far, I haven't heard much that the teacher doesn't seem to be able to handle and Corazon is thriving. Of course, I know she is getting away with a whole bunch of stuff that she wouldn't get away with at home but right now it is working for her. Anyway, the teacher informed me that the outburst in school had been a power struggle with Corazon talking back to her in a disrespectful way. I knew that from the first email but in this second email the teacher pointed out some things that were new information for her (and me.) The first was that in redirecting and reassuring Corazon her teacher had told her she was "smart, beautiful and talented." Corazon blurted out "I'm not pretty!" The teacher pushed the question and Corazon told her she was the only black girl in the class and one of the girls treats her like "dirt" and always makes faces at her. Corazon has worked hard to try and get this girl to like her but it doesn't seem to make a difference. This is the first time in school that Corazon seems to genuinely care about making friends so she has been working pretty hard on this. The other thing the teacher found out is that Corazon claims to not like going to school and doesn't want to be there. News to us!
I thought about how to broach this with Corazon so I started with the comment about being pretty. I asked her if she thought she was pretty and she said "no" (she is a gorgeous kid and I cannot tell you how many modelling offers we have turned down on her behalf.) I asked why and she said that when she looked in the mirror she could see her face "wasn't pretty." I asked her if this was because she was black. She said "no." I asked her why she told the teacher that was why and she said she felt the other girls (all white) see her differently because she is black. We had a conversation about this as I tried to tease out the self-image and its connection to race. I have a good deal of personal and professional experience dealing with all kinds of cultural and racial issues (it is my life's work some would say) so we covered a good deal of territory. She has ALWAYS been proud of her African American and Puerto Rican heritage and culture. We are a multiracial family and we speak openly of race, ethnicity and culture because trying to piece it all together for each of them is a challenge. All of the kids are multi-ethnic with the three older being half Puerto Rican and half something else and the baby is half African American. One mom is White and the other is Hispanic/Native American so we cover the waterfront on this. I was able to tease out the fact that this isn't just about race although it is her first time in a school that isn't racially diverse so she has to negotiate the culture a little differently. That and every single girl in her class has blonde hair so she definitely stands out a bit. Not kidding.
The other interesting thing I learned is a little more complex. She announced that she wants to come back to homeschooling for two reasons. Her first reason is that she misses me and being with me and her second reason was that I am a more interesting teacher. I almost fainted on a couple of levels with this one! She complained to anyone who would listen that she HATED homeschooling. I was boring. We didn't do anything interesting. All I made her do was write. She wanted peers. She wanted "a real teacher." We didn't do recess. Etc. Etc. Etc. After a bit of probing she seems to be bored with the academics, especially the lack of social studies and history which we did a great deal of. She is also daunted by the social scene. And yes, she really wants the security of being with me. By the end of our talk she agreed she wanted to keep trying going to school but she wants me to consider homeschooling her for 4th grade next year. She was very mature in expressing her opinions and I was proud of her. We could NEVER have had this conversation even 6 months ago. She is becoming a much more self-aware little girl.
On another note I did wait until this morning to look at report cards. Corazon did brilliantly. Her lowest grade for the term was a 94. She also got commended on the state 3rd grade TAKS test having scored a perfect score! Pollito is in Pre-K and except for listening got 3's & 4's on everything which is great and right on target. Tortuga had a poor report card last marking period when his grades went down in almost every subject but he brought it back up this time. His lowest grade was a B- in reading and given that this is his first time every in a regular education classroom I think he did fabulously.
I am treating them all to dinner out tonight (yes, on a school night) to celebrate their good progress reports in school.