The last chapter in the German School battle

I’ve debated what to do with the following experience since it took me two weeks to get up the nerve to write it, and even so I kept it simple. It has been sitting in my file box for the past month. Why haven’t I published it? I’m going to go with pride here. This was a terrible moment in my life and I have spent weeks working to  uncrinkle the mess that I’ve made of my wonderful little boy Rex (mostly a mess where English is concerned). Now that I can breath and see that yes, he really is going to be just fine, I’m willing to publicize this really terrible German school experience–my last German school experience–of which I take full and complete responsibility. 

Two weeks ago I sat down with Rex’s (6) German teachers for his annual parent/teacher conference. I thought I was prepared for their feedback. Big miscalculation on my part.

Because his teachers don’t speak very much English, and because I would rather sell my shoe collection than have personal contact with any of them on a regular basis (for fear of what they might try to tell me), I kind of rely on notes home and the placement of the moon to gauge where Rex is at, Germanically speaking.

Since he seems happy and I haven’t heard anything bad, I kind of assumed things were all hunky dory.

With the help of a translator, Rex’s two kindergarten teachers sat me down for a full scale attack. The school counselor, who works with Rex once a week after school, was also present but with very limited English she didn’t say much throughout the meeting.

“So,” his teacher said after pleasantries were exchanged, “We want to know if Rex ever speaks to you at home.”

I smiled, “You mean German?” I asked, “No, he doesn’t speak German to me at home.”

“I think you’re misunderstanding,” the translator said. “We want to know if Rex knows how to talk in English.”

And that was the start of the worst parent/teacher conference ever.

Rex is about the most unconventional kid I’ve ever met. Not mentally handicapped, not even socially diagnosable (he’s been tested and tested so please don’t email me about Asperger’s), he’s just flat out quirky. Quirky and immature, and as our last pediatric psychologist said, “There’s no diagnosis for quirky and that’s okay.”

We know Rex is smart and healthy and happy, he’s a budding inventor and an animal lover, kind to every creature that walks the Earth and oh so tender hearted. He worries about looking stupid to the other kids, never shuts up about whatever big idea he’s working on, and has an aversion to food from foreign countries (as well as much of the food found in America).

The Rex they see at school is a totally different animal and just as real as the Rex I deal with at home. I think as parents, it’s easy to jump to our kid’s defense simply because we know them better or have access to part of them that the rest of the world doesn’t see. Besides, he comes home from school every single day happy as a lark, proclaiming a love of all things German (excluding the food).

However, after listening to his teachers talk about how checked out he is, I felt total empathy for them. They are dealing with a different kid.

“Let me ask,” I said after carefully listening to their laundry list of what sounded like mentally handicapped symptoms, “How do you handle this with Rex? What do you do when he refuses to pay attention or participate?”

“Oh,” his teacher said, “We are constantly trying to talk to him in English (he ignores them) and German, always trying to get him to look at us. We help him with his worksheets and sit next to him. We do everything for him!”

And there it was. If there’s one thing in this world my kid loves, it’s personal attention. One on one time or words of praise from us hold serious buying power with him. In other words, the boy has realized that the best way to get spoiled with attention at school is to act like an idiot.

See, I knew he wasn’t stupid.

When I picked Rex up that afternoon, the wordless school counselor from our meeting stopped me on my way to the car. In her very broken English, she said, “Today…all they said of Rex was…bad. But Rexy is a good boy, we really like Rex here! I’m sorry that today was so hard.”

I thanked her and barely made it to the car before the floodgates opened and I bawled all over the steering wheel. Sometimes being a parent is hard on the heart.

Update: I have been homeschooling Rex since the beginning of April and am pleased to announce that he’s a most excellent, enthusiastic pupil who can’t get enough of all things learning. Environment really is everything. 


  1. You ARE a Wonderful mom! Please don’t ever doubt that. And I have a nephew who is totally quirky & amazing. He’s smart, beautiful & just as quirky as Rex! Both of these boys CHOSE to be with you, their parents. Don’t ever forget that.

  2. Best words spoken Annie…”parenting is hard on the heart”
    NO ONE knows your child like you do….they seem like “out of touch and out of tune” teachers.
    Home schooling may just be the ticket here for you and sweet Rex.
    And by damn……..YOU STAND UP FOR HIM, just like you always have been.

  3. Oh for heaven’s sake, you haven’t “MADE A MESS” of Rex! If we had to have it all dialed in first clatter out of the box every human on earth would grow up completely dysfunctional. I would be interested to go back to every comment I’ve ever made on your blog and see just how many times I’ve said, “Annie, my darling friend. RELAX!”

  4. He is yours and you are his for a reason. He is your child so plan on him being hard on your heart for years to come. But he is oh, so worth it. They all are.

  5. Woman, you are a champion… You are Rex’s champion. And I am so proud of you for that! In this world there are too many parents who’ve let that part of their job description just slide on by and that, my friend, is a tragedy. The fact that you know your child so well, that you are so concerned for him, that you’re cognizant of how he ticks…. This means that you are fully honoring the calling of “mother” that has been divinely given you. Don’t 2nd-guess yourself, cause you’re spot on. Continue to go to the mat for him, because we live in an impatient world where those who are charged w/ educationally opening our kids’ minds to new things have forgotten they’re dealing w/ very unique, very quirky children. One teacher in Idaho was convinced that my Daisy suffered from minor seizures while in his class cause she would space out so often. He was also convinced she needed to be tested for autism. Problem was he had his own issues and couldn’t connect w/ not just my sweet little third grader, but he socially struggled w/ clicking w/ adults! He couldn’t even make eye contact. He was extremely disorganized, and had a hard time connecting 2 thoughts of his own. Much of this people assumed was due to a stroke he’d suffered many years prior. However, just because he was operating at a different wavelength than my daughter did not mean she suffered from seizures or autism. It simply meant he was not equipped to be what she needed in a teacher. She needed order/organization, she needed engaging educational experiences, and she needed respect for her brilliant quirks rather than to be dismissed. Environment IS everything, as are the facilitators in that environment. Sounds like home isn’t only the right place, but thay YOU are the best qualified person. You’re what they call a Rex-ologist! ::hugs:: (Well, okay. You’re right, maybe I’m the one who deemed you a ‘Rex-ologist,’ but you being one & me classifying you as one – gosh doesn’t it make us both sound extra smart?! Lol. Hope this all made sense, am finding my brain’s still pretty rattled this week. Lub u!)

  6. Good for you. No one loves your kid like you do and no one understands him like you do. You lioness at the gate, you. Love your guts.

  7. When parenting, one must remember that breathing is a pattern: inhale, exhale, repeat. These steps must be performed in order. Every time.

    Our Heavenly Parents are the only perfect parenting models I can think of. The second-best, I think, are those who worry and fret and constantly try to do better. That’s not a bad parent at all.

  8. I had a teacher say, in a beat around the bush way, that something was wrong with my son. And I told her annoying is not something we medicate for. She didn’t like my answer. I’ve learned since then that his love of school is directly linked to how the teacher feels about him. I wish I could have his third grade teacher teach him every year. But I keep telling him and ME, that it doesn’t hurt him to experience people who don’t like him. Even if it makes us both cry. Good for you taking Rex out. Sometimes teachers make up their own minds about our kids and nothing we can say will change it.

  9. You are a fabulous mom. Rex sounds like a wonderful kid (and to be honest, he sounds A LOT like my almost 6 year old). Everything will be fine, but I’m sure you know that already.