On the news today is a story of a local middle-school girl who was beat unconscious at the school dance by two other girls. This was a dance for honor students.
Does anyone actually like middle school? I hated middle school. Sixth and seventh grades were possibly the worst years of my life. My parents had recently been divorced and my dad had custody of us. Prior to this, I hardly knew my dad, even though I’d lived with him my whole life. He worked the graveyard shift at a ship-to-shore radio station and then worked more tinkering with electronics during the day (he could fix anything) and then slept while I was home. I’d hear him up in the late evenings and occasionally, I’d even be awake late enough to hear him roaring with laughter at Johnny Carson.
Then, my mother disappeared into a new marriage and a new job and a new apartment and my dad was the main parent. His wife, Pattie, was quirky. She had lived in a small house, which she called “The Little House.” This house was a free-standing garage originally and it had been converted into the tiniest house I’d ever seen. It had a miniature kitchen (no matter, she hated to cook), an adjacent living/dining room the size of my bedroom, a small bathroom and a bedroom so small that you had to walk on the twin bed to get in the room. If you got a pitcher out of a cupboard, you’d find dead spiders in it. You never heard the scritch of mice, but you’d find their droppings.
My dad left our house to live in an apartment across town, then married Pattie and moved into The Little House. My mother’s intention to remarry caused my father to spring into action and demand custody of us. I think he intended to right all his wrongs as a father.
At any rate, the year I went to sixth grade was the year all this happened. The Little House was very close to the middle school, so we’d sometimes go there after school. I remember listening to Gordon Lightfoot at that house, which seems odd since Pattie liked classical music. She was classically trained on the flute and played a bunch of other instruments as well. She had a degree in political-science, but she worked at a regional library. She was 29 when she married my dad. She wore no makeup, had long, straight-as-sticks hair and drove a Mustang convertible.
Sixth grade, though, was a bleak time for me. I’d already grown and developed, so I had this figure that an 11-year old girl should not have. I remember the day a boy named Jeff teased me in front of my entire art class. (Mr. Wise, the teacher, had a hair growing directly out of the top of his nose. Not from inside, but on top.) I slapped Jeff’s face. He never did that again, but after that I hid by wearing my heavy winter coat all through school. Getting straight A’s was no problem for me, but I couldn’t figure out how to giggle and joke and be friends with the other girls. My life had fallen apart over the summer, while they had learned to wear eyeliner and ride in cars with boys. I was self-conscious and no fun. And worst of all was the school spelling bee. I made it to the final round held during a school assembly. I missed the word “cellophane,” which was a crushing blow, because until that moment, I had not tasted spelling defeat. When I got back to my classroom, I found a teeny-tiny folded piece of paper. I unfolded it and found “c-e-l-l-o-p-h-a-n-e” printed in small, neat letters. How embarrassing.
So I hated sixth grade. Seventh grade was no better.
So I ask, does anyone actually like middle school? I’m planning to homeschool one of my twins next year. He’s always struggled in school, academically and socially. He has not really learned to write and he still struggles with his multiplication tables. He needs more attention than he can get in public school. I think he may suffer from a processing disorder of some type or an attention-deficit issue.
My other twin, TwinBoyA, can’t decide whether to go to homeschool or our local middle school. Yesterday, they had an assembly for fifth-graders and described to them what they could expect in sixth grade. Last night, he said to me in the darkness of his bedroom, “Mom, I just can’t decide.” He held up his hands like a scale. “Homeschool? Middle school? There are good things about them both.” I told him maybe he could go for a year and then decide. He said, “A year is too long.” I said, “Well, maybe half a year?” He agreed to that.
Yesterday afternon, he said middle school sounds like fun because they have brownies. And pizza. For lunch. I said, “Well, you probably shouldn’t decide about school based on the lunch menu.” He said they also have cool classes like Spanish and computer.
Is there a way to just wake them up in three years when it’s time for high school? I’ll pay extra.