Paperwork – Just Details!

School is about to start in Iowa and North Dakota; I am so thankful for two more weeks of summer vacation here in the Minneapolis area.  Most Minnesota school start after Labor Day, but Minneapolis Public School District #1 and the charter schools within its boundaries have received approval to start on August 29th.  Thank goodness for at least two more weeks!  I have so much to do as an employee of MTS/MN Virtual High School, but what is really pressing on me today is the paperwork and details of our son’s fall education and activities.

I went to Patrick Henry High School this morning to pay my $60 fee for Josiah to participate on the cross country team.  When he comes back from working at Village Creek Bible Camp in a few weeks, we will have to buy him some new running shoes.  The fees and purchases are not what bothers me, though.  It is the paperwork!  I completed three forms in preparation for this morning; they all had similar information on them with one or two details on each that differed from the others.  Without one of the forms, he could not participate, so I had to complete all three.  I love my son, I want him to run on the cross country team, but I hate filling out forms.  An act of love = filling out forms.

I came home and proceeded to tackle the next stack of forms which also relate to Josiah.  When people ask our son where he goes to school, he takes a deep breath, gauges how much to say, and then details how he is enrolled at Patrick Henry High School but does all of his schooling at home online.  Depending on how interested the person asking appears, he may continue.  He would then explain that this year, he will take Latin from one online provider (MN Virtual Academy High School), math from another (NorthernStarOnline), and the remaining classes (including a potential favorite – Forensic Science) from yet another online provider (Socrates Online).  In 2010-2011, he took classes from Minneapolis Online and Wolf Creek Online High School.  If you have questions about online in Minnesota, Josiah might just be your resource.  All of these online providers operate out of Minnesota in some form, are certified to provide education to Minnesota residents, and – thanks to online learning law in Minnesota and MPS district waiving the 50% limit for him – access public education funding so that the courses do not cost us a cent.

The paperwork – some online while other parts in actual paper form – is daunting.  And I have worked in online education for six years!!!  Fortunately, one of the pages is identical for all three providers, so I simply copied it.  All of this prepares me for a meeting tomorrow with Josiah’s guidance counselor who seriously looked like I had run her over when I stopped into her office this morning.  The school decided to pass the ninth grade class from last year onto a new counselor just as I had taught the prior counselor how this all worked.  I quickly gave the new counselor the “fast fact” speech and told her I would be back tomorrow morning with all of the paperwork.  She said that would be just fine.  I think I saw her hold her head in her hands as I left her office.

It seems that every aspect of our lives involves endless amounts of paperwork.  Most of it duplicates other paperwork.  Imagine the trees that have died in the name of paperwork…or just in the name of online learning in Minnesota!  Even the 5K run/walk that my school will host on Saturday requires paperwork.  Email me if you want the form so that you can participate as well.  The more important or detailed that the item we seek it, the more paperwork that is involved.  Participation in a 5K needs one page with my signature saying that I won’t sue the school; buying a house requires a book of signatures that somehow promise that I will pay my bills to the mortgage company.

These details walk all over us, crumble our spirits, and steal our time.  However, I doubt any of them will disappear soon.  As I closed a conversation with one of the online providers this afternoon, I made a comment that these details, though time consuming, are necessary.  He agreed; signatures on the bottom of one of the forms ensures that the school gets paid and that I do not have to foot the bill.   Most of the paperwork that we complete, whether an insurance form, a school enrollment packet, or a sign up sheet for a 5K, lead to something that alleviates our checkbook, to an exciting new adventure, or to ensuring that we have a roof over our heads.

These details are necessary, but we do not need to begrudge the fact that we have to do them.  Instead, we can look to end and realize that the means are but a stop along the way to something else.  Saving $6,000 a year to educate my son in Minnesota is worth the thirty minutes of paperwork details.  I doubt that Josiah will think of me with gratitude as he crosses the finish line of a meet or learns some interesting fact in his forensic science class; however, as his mother, I have provided the end for him in both cases by attending to the details that each required.

That is satisfaction enough…and it is my job.

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