Friday, September 13, 2019

Craziness

We're still feeling incredibly dissatisfied with the children's elementary school and thus I have been looking extensively into homeschooling, which isn't something that I ever though I'd do, though I'm not sure why. I've entertained the idea several times over the past seven years (because I've always felt frustrated about the public school system) but have always come to the conclusion that I'm not patient enough or organized enough or skilled enough to be a homeschooling mom. 

But the past six weeks have shown me, perhaps, that I'm not patient enough or organized enough or skilled enough to be a public school mom, either!

I'm "pro" public schools. I love the idea of education being a right that all children have equal access to. But that, my friends, is a fantasy because while all children may have a right to education in this country, they in no way have equal access to education. 

Considering school performance (and environment) was a huge factor when we were looking for a house. The truth is that some schools are better than others (and even more truthful is that wealthier people have better access to better education). 

Our district is the largest district in Georgia (15th largest in the US) and it performs fairly well. Within the district, our school performs above average and is fairly highly rated. But I have huge problems with how it's run.
It feels like my children are teeny, weeny inmates and the teachers (and I) are all wardens, exchanging prisoners before and after school. We usher them inside where they are kept trapped—no socializing, no playing—for hours on end. Lunch is miserable. Their recess is a half hour a day (which is actually a recent increase, I was told) but comes near the end of the day. That is the only time they have to talk to other students. And then we make the pass-off again. 

Students have to wear their backpacks backwards at the end of the day so that administrators can see where to send them. Orange tags go to daycare. Yellow tags are escorted to busses. White tags are "allowed" to walk after jumping through a series of hoops (the crossing guard still follows my children in her vehicle, which creeps us all out). 

Lunch, as I said, is not fun. It involves no recess, no real break. There are monitors breathing down your neck the entire time. Yesterday Miriam got in trouble for cleaning up a spill of chocolate milk the previous group of kids had left at her table. She thought she was being kind and responsible for cleaning up someone else's spill. Instead she was reprimanded for leaving her seat and for making a mess. When she explained that she was cleaning up someone else's mess, the monitor didn't care and just told Miriam that she'd "better clean it up good." 

While Miriam was getting cleaning supplies, someone stole her spot, so she cleaned up and went to sit beside a different friend. But then a boy in her class came and told her that he had been planning on sitting there (I guess he had a friend sitting there, too) and that she had to move, so she reluctantly got up to find a new spot and then the lunch monitors took a "star" away from their class because Miriam had gotten up twice during lunch (apparently you're not allowed to get up during lunch). So now the class is out of the running for "winning" ice cream at lunch (because the school sells ice cream in the cafeteria, even though the lunch monitors also check home lunches to make sure that they're "healthy enough"). 

And that's kind of how lunch goes. 

I mean, I went to the "grandparent day" at the school and had zero fun at lunch. I was told I couldn't bring my stroller into the cafeteria (even though another mom already was in there was a stroller (but she was on the PTA...so...) and the cafeteria is perfectly wheelchair accessible) so I had to keep Alexander on my lap the entire time.

They ushered us to a particular table. And then had us move to a different table. And then had us move to yet another table because they were never satisfied with where we were sitting. 

So I had to pack up my lunch/children multiple times. 

When I was packing up to go home, I put Alexander down so that I could use two hands to close containers and things, and immediately a lunch monitor rushed over and said, "You need to get him up right now. He can't be in the aisle or running loose. Someone might trip over him or trample him or..."

Like, yeah. They might. But also, the cafeteria was nearly empty and I'm pretty sure having a two-year-old stand beside my seat for thirty seconds wasn't breaking the fire code or anything. And I couldn't leave him strapped in his stroller, either, could I?!

So that's pretty much how every interaction of mine with the school has gone. I can do nothing right. Ever. Even when I follow the step-by-step example of the parent in front of me, I end up doing things wrong (ie: I can't bring my stroller into the cafeteria but that mom can...because that makes sense). 

So, yes, lunch is highly monitored, highly strict, and involves no play whatsoever. After lunch they go immediately back to class. It's ridiculous.

And then there's the reason our school performs so well in the first place: they teach to the test.

I've been trying to tell myself that it's my imagination. Surely they teach the kids and interact with them and have fun learning together! But, no. They really are just teaching these kids how to take tests. Miriam has had probably a dozen tests so far this school year (we have been in school for six weeks). If she doesn't do well on a test, she gets to take the test again (which is nice) but I'm left wondering when they even have time for learning given all the time they devote to testing

Benjamin is seven years old. He is in grade two. 

Here is a series of notes from his teacher (on a silly little communication app I have to check daily, in addition to checking the school district parent and student portals regularly):

August 26: Regions of Georgia Study Guide: sent home today! Test will be September 3. Please ask questions each night about the different areas of Georgia. We have not covered all the regions yet. We will be done on Wednesday....so Thursday and Friday will be review days.

August 30: Reminder! Georgia Regions Test is Tuesday, September 3. I hope everyone has a great weekend. Enjoy your extra day to review for your test.

September 6: Unit 1 Math Test on Tuesday, September 10. I have sent home a Study Guide and Answer Key today. We will review again on Monday. Make sure your child shows their math work when answering the questions. Also, CogAT testing will be Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. These are tests that your child does cannot [sic] study for but please make sure that they are well rested. Have a great weekend!

September 9: Mistakes on the Study Guide—we are aware of the mistakes. I am reviewing them with the class today. The test is tomorrow.

September 9: Math Unit 1 test TOMORROW! We reviewed the study guide in class today. Please use the one sent home over the weekend for practice.

September 10: Matter "Pop" Quiz tomorrow. Your student has some items to review in their folders this evening.

So, it's testing, testing, testing, reviewing for testing, and testing some more. Study with your child. Study, study, study! Also, don't forget to complete their daily math and spelling and reading homework, and be sure to have them ready for their weekly spelling tests.

Let's add up: that's fourteen days of school between August 26 and today and my little boy had six tests and quizzes (not counting the three days of CogAT testing). Miriam's testing schedule is similar, though probably more rigorous (she has three tests today).

Again, I ask—when is the learning taking place? And where is the joy of social interaction? How are my kids supposed to make friends in an environment like this?

This just feels like a recipe for creating anxiety. I mean, it's creating anxiety for me. I can only imagine how the children feel. 

No wonder they come home from school grumpy and tired and (in Benjamin's case: bouncing off the walls with energy).

With the amount of time I spend getting the kids to do their homework and helping them study, I may as well be investing that time into homeschooling them, right? I think so.

And then there's the question of the schedule. 

My children aren't particularly early risers. Getting them up and out the door is difficult (and, actually, we don't have them ride the bus at all so that we can wake them up when the bus would otherwise already be leaving). Truthfully, Andrew does most of that because I'm still up with Alexander all night long (one of these days...we'll get him to sleep). And in addition to being up with Alexander, frankly, I'm often up with Zoë (who I'm still not convinced has ever been able to sleep through the night—she gets up and plays in her room most often, but sometimes will come in to check to see if everyone's sleeping). 

I'm trying to imagine getting her out the door by 7:30 in the morning (and then, further, trying to imagine her not being an absolute beast for the first three hours of school) and it's laughable. 

So, for all those reasons (and more) I've been looking extensively into homeschooling.

Georgia has an online academy (it's free; technically it's a charter school, I think) but it only begins in grade 5 (so Miriam could do it, but we missed the deadline for this semester so we're going to try to sign up for next semester). And as for the younger grades, I feel like I can handle teaching that curriculum. 

I mean, there's the question of whether or not I will be able to get Benjamin to do his work but, like I said, I'm already fighting with him for a good two hours every day over homework, anyway. Homeschooling him requires four (and a half, I think) hours, so that's only two hours more. He should have plenty of time to get out his wiggles (more than in a school environment) and at the end of the day I won't be using up the last shreds of my patience to get him to please just write his spelling words out one. more. time. 

*****

I don't know why I ever figured I would be able to be a traditional K–12 mom, anyway. I've always been one to rebel against the system (in my own goody-two-shoes-straight-A way). At least I've been able to do a lot of research before making this decision.

My poor mother! The panic she must have felt when I came home from middle school one day and announced that I was never going back (though I think, I guess, that I finished up the school year (reluctantly)). I don't know how she managed to find a program for me (back in the pre-internet days (okay; we had dial-up, but still—no Google)) but she did!

So I did a virtual academy for grades 7 and 8 (through dial-up internet, yes), did my core classes through the Alberta Distance Learning Center (after trying high school and super duper not loving it still) in grade 9. Then I went through grade 10 and 11 in the States mostly finding high school unbearable (and even doing a work-release in grade 11 for one of my classes), and finally leaving high school entirely and gaining my diploma through concurrent enrollment at UVU (then UVSC).

How did I ever think I could handle being a public school mother?!

I couldn't even be a public school kid.

*****

This is a fine decision, right? And not at all crazy? 

Or maybe it's still a crazy decision, but also a fine decision...

4 comments:

  1. I am just so glad that home school is an option. For various of my children at various times, school was HELL. Except in BC, where, at least for those years that we lived there, it was pretty much wonderful.

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  2. I'm so sorry for this difficult school year. It really does sound dreadful with all those tests and so little social interaction. That's what I loved about school (the social stuff.)

    My sister homeschooled Michael(the now 17 y.o.), and they loved it. There are many homeschoolers in my area and they have little associations where they join up and have field day, go to parks and museums, skating, tour the City of Graham, etc. They even sometimes band together to have some of the harder subjects taught especially at the high school level. Michael did do one day a week at a Classical Education place when he was about Benjamin's age. He got a lot of social interaction from all the homeschool stuff plus he's always loved church activities with his peers (he still does!) so he was never one of those unsocialized, homeschooled kids that some people fear. The last 2 years he's been in the dual-enrollment program where he attends the local community college for both high school and college credit. (Perhaps this is what you did as well.)

    Best wishes as you decide what to do. I hate this for your kids and for you! And, yes, it's a fine decision!

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  3. This sounds awful/crazy/unbelievable. I have a mission companion who lives near Atlanta. She grew up in Georgia and is raising her 5 kids there. I am happy to put you in contact with her if you'd like to pick her brain about the school system there.

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  4. I am fuming over here. This is like prison!!! Way to crush a kid's soul, yeesh. I am so overwhelmed reading those notices of the test reviews you need to do with Benjamin. And again I ask myself, if you, a dedicated and present parent, are struggling with this, what about children whose home situations are different? And how overwhelmed these teachers must be, being given standards that are impossible to meet with the classroom time they have so they have to outsource to the parents and just hope for the best! THOUGHTS. I HAVE THEM.

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