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Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

More Thoughts on Education. Will Someone Pay Me to Talk to Myself?

WARNING: THIS POST IS LONG AND IT RAMBLES!

Here’s the real question about whether or not Aaron should start kindergarten in our public school … if he falls down and scrapes a knee, or if he has a bully in his class, or he refuses to sing because he really despises sing-alongs (except with his mom), will his teacher hug him? Will he or she tell Aaron it’s OK not to like the same things everyone else likes?

I happen to think teachers are some of the most amazing people in the world, so I’d like to think they’ll not disappoint me. However, as Aaron so profoundly put it the other day…Mommy sometimes you’re right, but sometimes you’re really, really wrong!

I’m kidding (kind of). My neurotic, anal analysis of this whole situation is rather over the top, I realize, and you guys are just getting a tiny sample of what’s rolling around inside my mind and spewing from my pen and mouth (you’re welcome). Please send ear plugs and whiskey to my husband. Packages can be sent in care of the nut house he’s ready to check himself into after dealing with me for the last three weeks. I mean really, people all across our country, across our world, are dealing with much bigger issues than whether or not they can commit to private school tuition next year. I am totally in touch with the realization that this is a completely white-collar obsession, and quite frankly I should be glad I’m worried about tuition and I’m not spending every moment of every day trying to figure out how to put food on the table and a roof over my child’s head.

And on the topic of things to worry about in a monetary sense, I do believe that providing a stable economic environment for Aaron is more important than whether or not he attends kindergarten with his Montessori class in the fall, or he heads to public school. That’s actually one of the reasons I’m struggling through the decision making process. Could I come up with the cash? Maybe, but at the expense of what else? If my business continues to decline, what long term consequences will he endure because I committed to paying tuition instead of being a better saver? We still have another year of college expenses for my youngest step daughter and how the hell do you choose between children? You don’t, but maybe we have to, and that just adds to my agony.

These are questions I’ve never really had to ask myself before. I’ve always worried about finances, regardless of how much or how little money I’ve had, but being responsible for a child just puts a different spin on life. It rocks my world. This whole parenting thing is kind of like having a running, one-sided dialogue with grease, inside my own head.

While Heather commented that she’s excited for her children to begin public school, which in comparison to her own experiences as a child, she expects to be leaps and bounds ahead, I want to beat the same drum she’s embraced. If Aaron attends public school, I have no doubt he’ll have some advantages I didn’t in my own public school saga. Heather is at peace with her decision, and I envy her.

If we abandon the public school system, what’s left and how will we ever make it better? We can’t have a  brain drain en mass. I just want it all to be fixed before my child enters. Crazy, I know. I’ve never claimed to be sane or rationale.

Do you think I could find someone willing to pay me to just write about the various conversations I have with myself? My husband would probably pay someone to listen to me so he could take a break.

Anyone want a drink?

Several people including Gary and Pseudo mentioned that a pervasive problem within the public school environment is student culture, lack of parental involvement and appreciation for education, and issues related to discipline. I’ve heard this same thing from other bloggers and from people I know in-person who work within the system. It makes me pause even more, and I have to wonder again about methodologies and what children need versus what they’re getting. It makes my heart break for children who are lost, or who need help and yet I am selfish and don’t want these children interfering with our family’s pursuits.

At Pseudo’s suggestion, I visited Beth at What I Should Have Said. Beth is a public elementary school principal, and I spent some time browsing through her archives, reading various stories she’s posted related to the effects of questionable parenting. (I saw a lot of you over there, so how come you hadn’t told me about Beth before now…tisk, tisk). After reading Beth’s funny observations and retakes, I’m quite sure the public school environment is even more a mish mash of good and bad than I’ve articulated. It’s kind of like the intersection of life where the compulsive, overly-obsessed parents (Moi) have to greet the reality of the rest of the world. That’s real life, right!

Not everyone parents in the same way, not all children react in the same way, not all adults are invested in their child’s education. I mean really, how many parents do you know who would insist their 13-year-old son watch Ken Burn’s The Civil War for an hour and a half before dinner? Yes, I think Jan has lots of attributes to drool over in addition to the yummy recipes she posts (her Grandmother’s pumpkin pie recipe was a huge hit during my family’s celebration). Oh wait, this sense of not everyone being the same is one of the primary reasons I don’t understand the methodology we ask teachers to use in their classrooms. Jan and others seem to have found a workable solution, so perhaps I’m just too pie in the sky.

Oh for God’s sake, I really do have more questions than answers. I promise not to post about this again for at least a couple of days weeks. Next I’ll tell you how vitamin B-12 is like my new drug of choice.

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12 comments to More Thoughts on Education. Will Someone Pay Me to Talk to Myself?

  • Jan

    Yes, well, he watched more episodes of The Civil War than just that one, but recently we’ve been experiencing something of a, ahem, lull. LOL But his recent field trip to DC with the 8th grade has also been another opportunity to talk to him and teach him things the school could not or would not for whatever reason.

    Believe it or not, even our recent obsession with going through every season of Star Trek: The Next Generation has given us learning opportunities. It’s certainly given us more than one chance to whip our copy of The Physics of Star Trek of the shelf and talk about the possibilities – or lack thereof – of traveling faster than the speed of light and particle matter transferal. Watching A Knight’s Tale was fun, but gave Mom a chance to talk about why jousting was so important in medieval England (and just how incorrectly Geoffrey Chaucer was presented in that film) and heaven forbid, don’t EVER mention in our home that there is no practical, every day application for algebra because Beloved will whip out 27 different Excel spreadsheets to prove you wrong.

    I guess my point to all of this is that anything and everything can be used as an educational experience and you don’t have to be constrained or inhibited in any way be the public school system. School is just a starting point. The kids who are chewed up and spit out by the educational system are the ones whose parents think the school has the sole responsibility of teaching their children.

    Jans last blog post..Chocolate Pudding

  • I remember the relief I felt when I got to high school and AP classes and we left a lot of the sh!theads behind…they were still in school, but down the hall throwing things at each other, smoking dope in the bathroom and such, but at least my classes were concentrated on learning. I read pseudo’s comments below about behavior and getting MORE parents involved and it sure is true. People have to demand a better learning enviroment for kids. As an example, the kids next door seem like good kids, but they also seem spoiled to me. I found an ARROW, yes a real one, in our yard and asked the parents to supervise their kid and his bow and arrow. They said they couldn’t understand how an arrow got in our yard (numbskulls!) and the kid shrugged. My father would have cracked me one, made me shovel the driveway and chop the firewood AND I would never have seen my bow and arrow again. (I am not advocating harsh punishments) But why are these folks allowing the kids to misbehave and making excuses for them? I knew that my parents were strict, and you know what? I never ever misbehaved. Because I knew there would be consequences and that I should respect adults. I am not sure kids are taught to really respect rules and adult authority these days in America.

    garys last blog post..Le Spike

  • Tricia

    Jan: There’s a book about the physics of Star Trek? Can I just send Aaron to live at your house? Seriously, perhaps my anxiety comes in part because I believe whole-heartedly in what you’ve said…that school is simply a starting point and the responsibility actually sits on the shoulders of parents. I’m excited about the possibilities, but I wonder how much I’ll screw it up.

    Gary: I lived next to kids like you describe when I was growing up. The boy child used to shoot at our turkeys with a B.B. gun. One time he painted our front door green because he was mad at me, and on and on. His parents didn’t seem all that interested in supervising him either, but my dad on the other hand doled out consequences for the neighbor. Like you, I’m often AMAZED at how little supervision some people provide for their children, but even more, I’m amazed at how little our society talks about values with children…like valuing the safety and property of a neighbor so they’re not shooting arrows toward your house. It’s absurd!

  • Jan

    Tricia – NO parent is perfect. Did I ever tell you that Oldest Son dropped out of high school? There was a kid who would have benefited greatly from home schooling; he simply loathed school from Day One. Once he became eligible to take the GED exam (you can’t while you’re still of school age in many cases), he did and passed with an incredibly high score without studying for anything but math. As frustrated as I was with his grades (which were atrocious) and his dropping out, I can’t fault myself too much – after all, here is a young man who is intensely interested in history, current events, politics (he’s voted in every election of every kind since the day he turned 18), and the performing arts. He speaks and writes far more eloquently than many adults I know with a college education. He has remained gainfully employed at two jobs during a time when many people cannot find one and he is one of the most responsible and level-headed people I’ve ever met in my entire life. School didn’t give him the desire or knowledge to handle life the way he has – he did. And I just gave him all the help I could.

    You will be fine – and so will Aaron, no matter what school you decide to send him to.

    Jans last blog post..Chocolate Pudding

  • Yes, your child will still get hugs at a public school. I work as an aide in second grade and dispense hugs all the time.

    The lack of parental involvement this year has appalled me…and it affects the kids. The ones who are not doing well…seem to have the parents that just don’t care.

    You care! Your son will do well wherever he goes.

    Smalltown Moms last blog post..The Junk Pile

  • Tricia

    Jan: Oldest Son sounds like an absolute treasure, and he’s apparently taken some of his mom’s grit and determination and put it to good use. Kids really do have to follow their own path sometimes. I need to remember that as well. I dropped out of high school when I was a junior and went to work as a maid at a local ski resort. I hated school at the time and wanted to make money. After about six months I realized I wanted more than to be a chamber maid who was cleaning up condoms full of grape jelly (true story)someone left all over their condominium, and I went back to school on hands and knees and begged for them to let me make up the work. I did and I graduated with my class. My parents were devastated when I dropped out, but I wouldn’t listen to them and in the end I had one hell of a valuable lesson.

    I need to chill, I know.

    Smalltown Mom: Thanks for hugging the kids. I don’t know why that comforts me, but it does.

    I wonder if the decrease in parent involvement has something to do with the economy right now. Our local elementary principal told me she’s seen a real reduction in PTA involvement this year.

  • OK, I’ve not been commenting on these posts because I knew I’d write a novel once I got started. Public vs. private totally depends on where you live & the quality of the schools in your area. Calif. is notorious for having bad schools. However, the public schools in our area are very good and actually out perform our closest private schools. For me, that was an easy decision. However, my kids had some very specific educational needs & I had to do a lot of research to figure out how & where those more unusual needs would be met. As it turns out, I went to our school’s principal to talk to him about it and he asked me to spearhead a program filled w/lots of great stuff for not only my kids, but kids with similar needs. Our district sent me to seminars for training and blah, blah, blah. Bottom line, I got involved. More involved than I had ever thought I would. I feel good about the education they’ve gotten/are getting. No it isn’t perfect, but it’s very good. Also, good and bad teachers are found at BOTH public and private schools. Part of growing up is learning to deal with less than perfect individuals. A lot of our most important life lessons come from dealing with the less than ideal.

    Twenty Four At Hearts last blog post..Strawberry Salad Forever (Sound Like a Song?)

  • Tricia

    Twenty Four: I happen to love comments that read like a novel, so don’t hold back on my account.

    Like your description of CA schools, here in GA we have some pockets of really good schools and although our standardized test scores averaged across the state rank us at 49th in the country, scores can’t give an accurate picture of what’s going on in different areas as a whole. What a great response from your principal and kudos to you for taking the ball and running with it. That kind of initiative is applaudable and needed. The idea of diversity is also very important to us as a family, diversity as it relates to different people, cultures, experiences, how to manage in unfamiliar situations with people who have different experiences, etc., and you’re right…it’s not something you typically find in private, more homogeneous private school environment. It’s also one of the reasons we’re not pursuing homeschooling. My hang up hasn’t been public VS private for the typical reasons I hear parents discuss, it’s actually related to the “how” we teach, and not the “what” if that makes sense without a ton of background to bore you to tears. I think I’ve become so immersed in Montessori and my belief (and study results)that it’s a better teaching methodology, it’s become THE hang up for me.

  • The yin and the yang….

    For the most part, I think K to grade 4 is an easy time to go to public school. Most of the teachers are great and the kids are still sweet, for the most part.

    However, we sent our son to a wonderful preschool. It is where the University sends their students for observation/participation. My son so wanted to stay there for kndergarten like his sister did. The kindergarten teacher was amazing. But that was teh year I went back to school to get my teaching degree and we could not afford my tuition plus his. So we put him in public school. He got a first year teacher and she struggled the whole year. The class was out of control and my son hated it. He’s 16 now and still remembers wising he could have stayed one more year at his preschool.

    Sorry if that stor makes it worse for you…

    Pseudos last blog post..Spring Swaporama

  • Tricia

    Pseudo: Um, I’m not sure either :o ) but thanks for sharing, it does continue to give me food for thought.

  • Tricia, I’ve seen 3 all the way through public school and working on the 4th and it’s my experience that some teachers will disappoint you and some will make you leap for joy. I haven’t figured out yet, how to know the difference before the damage is done. I wish I could walk up and thump a couple on the end of their noses and tell them how bad they are at their job and how they have no business being in the business of shaping young minds but it’s too late. Parental involvement is a must, no matter how old the child is and even that doesn’t guarantee everything will be as it should. I’m not a helicopter parent but I’ve always made sure every single teacher knew I was paying attention to what was going on and I WOULD NOT hesitate to confront them if I felt something was amiss. I’ve done it a couple of times and even went all the way to the top. What I found is that the administration doesn’t like to make waves. Grrrrr…… But all in all, I feel my children have received the best education they could receive given the fact that there is no alternative choices such as private schools in our little corner of western Oklahoma. Good luck with your decisions and no matter what, you’ll always find some reasons to questions your decisions on down the road but you have to know you did the best you could and let it go at that.

    Midlife Slicess last blog post..Why We’re Doing It Again

  • I commend you for taking such an interest in your sons future education. I think the foundation for education…a love for learning, is laid out by us parents. We are our childrens first teachers. We know our children best and what environment they will thrive the best in.

    If you live in an area where there are options and you have the resources, then you need to ask yourself, “what kind of learner is your son?” I think if you are going to consider sending him to the public school that you should talk to teachers at the school. Talk to them about your concerns. Every public school is going to be different. Teachers and their teaching styles will vary. Find out what their typical class size is.

    Private schools aren’t necessarily better then public schools but sometimes they have smaller sized classrooms. Sometimes private schools will help you find help to pay for tuition. Visit them and ask lots of questions.

    Have you considered homeschooling? Many area’s have homeschool coops or groups that get together for support or share certain classes. If this is an option then interview some home-school families.

    The bottom line is that there is no perfect school. We are our childrens greatest teachers. Even if we send them to school, when they are home with us, we have so many opportunities to teach them…not just educational things but moral, character building, and value’s…things that will help them thrive in a learning environment…things that will affect all of their life.

    For an example, When a child is disciplined and taught to listen and respect, this lays the foundation for the child to sit at a desk and listen to the teacher so that he/she can learn. When a child is taught values at home, he/she will function much better in a learning environment because they feel good about themselves.

    Also when a love for learning is sparked by parents,before they ever enter a classroom and continues through out their years at home…whether it’s talking about sharks, the moom or another topic of interest, we teach our children that learning is fun and leads to enpowerment.

    Just remember that what ever you decide for one year can be changed the next!

    You sure have sparked quite the conversation of comments here…I LOVE it!

    Loris last blog post..Star Light, Star Bright

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