I haven't written a Keeping it Real post in forever. Those of you who are fairly new followers, probably don't even know that I used to write these types of posts once a month. Today, I wanted to resurrect keeping it real and talk with you about a debate raging in my head, and in our nation, Education.
In case you don't know, I currently have one child in public school and one is homeschooling. Until this year, I had homeschooled both of my girls. I've been a homeschool mom for 8 years now. I never thought I would ever homeschool. I thought people who homeschool were totally nuts….which as a side note, isn't it interesting that things that you judge come into your life to teach you otherwise?
When we went to register my oldest daughter, Snowflake, for Kindergarten, that year they were testing the kids when they registered them. They told me that she was severely behind and that I'd better work with her very hard until the following school year or she was going to be really behind. I didn't know you could be behind before you even entered the school building. It left me with this great impression that based on one 5 minute session with my child she was being tracked already and she was going to be tracked in the ‘slow' group or ‘behind' group. I was not OK with that. I knew my daughter. I knew that she was very bright. Yes, at that point, she could have cared less about letters, numbers, colors, and shapes. She was 5. She could also have told them all the inner workings of a tree and pretty much identified any bird she saw. There were so many things she knew. They were the things that had interested her. At that point, letters, numbers, colors and shapes weren't those things.
The discussion with the teachers, really got me thinking about her and her education. I suddenly wasn't so sure that I wanted to let her go to a place that had already decided her fate without truly even knowing her and her abilities. I started looking into other educational options. Where I live, the educational options are public school, private school or homeschool. As I started to investigate private school options, almost all of them were religiously based and very pricey…very, very pricey. Out of our price range pricey. That left me with public school or homeschool.
Now pretty much anytime I tell someone who is not a homeschooler that I homeschool, invariably they will say to me that they could never homeschool because they don't have the patience. I know this will be shocking, but guess what? I was scared to homeschool. I totally did not think that I could. My oldest daughter has her own opinion about things and her own perceived way that things are supposed to go. When I have differening opinions and enforce them, well, it isn't always pretty. I thought there was no way that we could actually homeschool and that I could teach her anything. I thought there was no way I had the patience.
The summer before she would have started Kindergarten, we started homeschooling. I wanted to give it a try to make sure we wouldn't kill each other, but still have the back up of knowing that I could send her to school in the fall. It turns out we loved it. I spent hours and hour and more hours researching which curriculum to use and what things we would use, etc.
There are a thousand different philosophies of homeschooling, just as there are in more traditional school settings (which why do we call a school building traditional…for centuries the traditional schooling was at home…but I digress). I know myself and I could probably do what so many homeschoolers do and pull together beautiful units of learning, but I also know myself and know that it would take me three weeks to come up with 1 week of material. I knew I wanted a boxed curriculum. I also knew that my daughter needed something that was creative and hands on. I didn't want it to be religiously based. That was not why I was homeschooling.
In the end I selected Moving Beyond the Page a hands on curriculum for the gifted and creative learner. Off we went. I homeschooled her from Kindergarten through 6th grade. It was always a year by year thing for us. From about 2nd or 3rd grade on it was a struggle for she and I, yet I really believed that homeschooling was a better option for her. It was more engaging and more hands on. Things she needed but wouldn't get nearly as much in the school setting. It was a mostly private struggle because I never wanted to disparage homeschooling. I really do believe it is a great educational option AND I also believe it provided my daughter with the foundation that she needed despite the fact that it was a struggle.
This year I think we both knew that our homeschool journey had come to an end. About 2 weeks into the school year, we registered her at our local public school. She is quite happy there this year…with one huge exception. She wants to learn. She is learning, but a large majority of what they are teaching she has already learned. Their form of teaching the kids is to hand them a sheet and tell them what to highlight on the topic at hand. There is very little engagement with learning. She misses the delving deep into a topic. She misses the hands on part. She misses being around people who love learning. Yet she loves the school, the teachers and the friends she now sees daily.
We have debated and gone round and round about bringing her back home. I don't think that is really the right thing for her, yet she wants to learn, she wants to be challenged. Everything we are being told is that she will have that opportunity in High School. It is so sad to me that this is the educational experience that a majority of our kids are having. It is so dead.
Now please know that I have NOTHING against the teachers, for the most part they really don't have a say. They are told what they must teach and often how they must teach. In our district, they are mandated to have word boxes with the answers for fill in the blank tests right on the test! What the *#!%@*? The answers are right there!
In 7th grade, the language arts focus is on getting the main idea of the paragraph and vocabulary development. I literally taught my younger daughter the main idea of the paragraph last year in her 1st grade year. Now, I understand that often schools will spiral through topics and that this doesn't mean that this is the first time kids are learning about the main idea, but really…don't we think that 7th graders need more then the main idea?
I know kids from working with them as a Girl Scout leader and as a Speech-Language Pathologist as well as having my own kids. Most of the time, kids will rise up to the standard that you give them. They want to make you happy (despite attitudes that may seem otherwise). We need to not be dumbing down our education system. We need to be setting a great standard and watching our children rise up to it. I don't know about you, but I was writing full on research reports in 4th grade and term papers in 7th and 8th grade. What exactly are we doing to our next generation in terms of education? I know some will debate this and some will take offense, but I think they are so screwed!
This, of course, is based on what I'm seeing in my district. I know there are places where kids are getting a real education and I'm sorry to offend, but my oldest daughter is not getting a real education. Highlighting notes and learning main ideas is not real learning that I personally deem appropriate for a 7th grader. Where are we getting her ready for High School when I hope to god she has to take real notes in a classroom? Where are we already looking forward to High School and College in which she will need to know how to study for a test that doesn't have the answers on it or write full term papers? I know she knows how to do some of those things because I taught her back in 5th grade. What about the other kids?
Why are we are so afraid that kids will fail and they must go to the next grade and we are required to have a certain number pass so we we put the answers on the test for them? There seems to be no joy in the learning and the education. AGAIN…hear me…this is not me bashing the teacher. The teachers my daughter has are fantastic. They are so caring and I have been touched by some of the things they have done in helping my daughter transition to the school environment. Of course there are some bad teachers…you will find some bad workers in any job, but the problem is the system. The problem is what the system is requiring of the teachers, not the teachers.
And surprisingly, all of this that I have written isn't even the crux of the debate in my head. I'll get to that in part 2 next Friday.
Don't miss Part 2 of my Keeping it Real – My Great Educational Debate. Subscribe to my free email newsletter so you don't ever miss a post.
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