Getting there.

In the past, I noticed that classroom teachers spoke to me differently than other parents. I am not making this up. Like racism, it was something you could "feel" but couldn't "put your finger on." There was never a Mr. Maitresse to assist with A's pickups and Parent/Teacher Days at school. Maybe I missed a few P/T Days. But I'd have a plethora of friends to assist with drop-offs and pick-ups when needed. Once, I had a lady Tai Chi instructor pick up my A from after-school care, and she went in her Tai Chi gear. My oriental dance choreographer also helped out. All the friend helpers were women. Actually, it was quite a few women. All beautiful. I am convinced that A's teachers probably thought I was a lesbian. Or something.

Further, in the world of elite children's schools, I was an anomaly. I did not have huge funds for tuition (I always asked for the available scholarships), nor a flashy car, nor Prada shoes, nor a new model-boyfriend (as one single woman parent at one of our schools had acquired) so my single-dom was just that much more bizarre.

Reinforcing this feeling of different-ness, last year, at the chic Upper East Side school in Manhattan where A was enrolled, A was treated "differently" than the other kids. We were totally new to NYC, recent transplants from Miami. His New York teacher spoke to me in odd terms. "Do you know that he's spacing out?" "Those books are too advanced for your child!" "He's so quiet. You ought to be concerned; I think he's depressed!"

This teacher also used the word "crap" a lot in the classroom.

Yes, I did become concerned. He *was* quiet in the classroom. Perhaps he did feel displaced. A could sit quietly for hours in the classroom, but then he'd relay the day's events to me in meticulate, accurate, and tiny non-Cliffs Notes bits. His teachers did not see or know that. When I'd tell them, they'd look at me as though I was a crack-head.

More different-ness: A acquired a library at home encompassing everything he wanted to learn about Greek and Roman history. It started in the Fourth Grade. He taught himself some German. He'd been reading and writing French for six years. "Does your son speak English? I mean, is it his native language?" the NY teacher would ask me, and "I don't think he will be a good history learner. He got xx questions wrong on his last test."

Why, that is because he has not geared up for the American Revolution yet, madam.

I do not think his teacher behaved this way because of A's status as "the child of a single parent." Although, she did hint at times that she was concerned about the "divorce" and the "absence of a father." (have we reached the new millenium, people?) It's true, unlike most divorced families, we really have no father figure around at all. When A was two years old, A's father left the country one day and that was it. The last we heard of A's dad was via a postcard from Europe (A's dad is not European).

Paternal absence is all we had known. And suddenly, the school was making an issue of it.

So, I thought it was a good idea when the school counselor suggested starting a "Divorced Kids Club." A became a member. They had meetings - and missed the more exciting things going on at school, like recess or the book fair. Soon, A understood that being a "divorced kid" meant "loser kid." Fortunately, the school counselor stopped having "Divorced Kids Club" meetings.

And amidst his quietness, this very thoughtful child was placed in the academic "dummy group" at school. Not allowed to read Tolkien. His writing was eventually never picked up by his teacher. Not allowed to read really anything that intrigued him. The classroom teacher had no clue "where he was" in Science, as she did not teach it - another classroom teacher did. His love of the ancient classics went overlooked.

Above all, Alexander seemed to be hating life. The Crap Teacher was running her class like a boot camp; all schedules, drills, children answering her alto voce instructions like dogs to a whistle. Not something A was used to, nor would get used to easily.

That is what brought the decision to bring A home and learn. And it's been lovely.

"Is that really YOUR drawing?" A's friend will comment on the hand drawing on the wall..."yeah, it is," he'll reply, non-chalantly. His art, which was never featured at schools by his art teachers, is quietly blossoming at home. [note: I studied Art to "A" Level in England, and have decided to implement what I learned there, plus the curriculum by Betty Edwards "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain"]. His library at home includes all the literary books he was not allowed to read in school last year, and then some. We've run out of Tolkien titles to purchase in the bookstore. My open book-buying and book-reading policy has enabled him to become a better writer, as well. A works at a real science internship studying things that impact the environment every day, alongside his academic science curriculum studied at home. There are times A feels "less than" the other interns at the interhship; that is O.K. He is the only 11-year-old there!

As for last year's school teacher claiming that A was doing "average" in Math, he's proven an adept learner in the Singapore Math series, and now we supplement our Math with the Stanford University EPGY Math program. A has consistently scored high marks on his EPGY reports.

To think that last year's teacher won an actual "Teacher of the Year" award makes me want to wretch.

I am reminded of my friend Jenny L., A lovely Asian girl with whom I became friends in New York. While growing up, Jenny was told by her teachers that they suspected she was mildly retarded, or simply stupid.

If only they learned that Jenny graduated from M.I.T. She is currently working in patent law (the kind of law that science nerds practice).

So, single parenting and social stigmas, and difficult choices. As for academics and self-esteem, we're getting there.

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