I started writing this blog a little over a year and a half ago when my daughter, Lilah, was in first grade. I had a sort of epiphany one afternoon as I sat across the kitchen table from her, playing the role of Homework Enforcer; I wrote about it in my first post here.
Since then, nothing has really changed at school – at least not for the better. I got nowhere at the District level with my concerns about the homework policy, and nowhere at the school level either. So, over the last year and a half, it’s been a matter of confronting homework issues on a teacher-by-teacher basis. Some teachers are receptive to my concerns, and some are not. Some teachers are so committed to policy and making sure kids and parents alike comply with policy that I have to wonder what ever happened to giving a crap about kids as individuals, as human beings. So much of school these days seems to revolve around compliance, conformity, obedience, consequences, and rewards. Oh yeah, and testing.
What has changed is that now we have Common Core – and lots and lots has been written about that. Here are two astute pieces written by a teacher/parent:
We now also have technology being crammed down our throats. Our district has decided to make our kids – fourth grade and up – totally reliant on technology. Our junior high schools don’t even have math books anymore, nor do they use pencil and paper – it’s all required to be done online.
We have classrooms with too many kids. Almost every classroom at my kids’ elementary school has at least 30 kids – 35 is not unusual. And nobody is talking about it anymore – nobody is talking about reducing class sizes. We’ve just accepted it; it’s just the way it is now. What we do hear over and over is that it’s just unrealistic and impractical to expect teachers to know where each student in the sea of his or her classroom is at academically, or what they may or may not need. We just have to accept that, too – that teachers are overburdened, and our kids are getting screwed.
Meanwhile, my daughter who was in first grade when I started this blog finished up first grade, went through second grade, and is now in third grade. She’s falling through the cracks at school, and nobody seems to care or even notice. Her dislike of school (except for the social part of it), which I believe was set in motion in first grade, has continued. She’s unmotivated, uninspired. There is no joy in learning. And again, nobody seems to care or even notice.
So we’ve made the decision to pull her out of school and homeschool her. Today is actually her last day at school, and we will begin homeschooling on Monday. I wrote about our decision to pull her and take this new path here and here.
It’s been rather anticlimactic, pulling her from school. It really kind of makes me sad. I’ve had kids attending this school for the last nine years; Lilah is my fifth child to attend this school. And while the principal made a personal phone call to me to tell me a week into the school year that Lilah’s class was being converted into a combo class, and another call a while back to discuss my homework concerns, I haven’t heard a peep from either the principal or Lilah’s teacher about her pending departure from the school. It’s not that I expected anyone to beg us to keep her there, but I guess I did expect some sort of acknowledgment. Which, I guess, was too much to expect. What do they care? Lilah is just one of several hundred. Her spot will be filled soon enough.
What is interesting to me is this movement that seems to be taking place with parents pulling their kids from public school and finding alternative ways to educate them. It used to be a pretty small fringe population that homeschooled – people with relatively radical ideas about raising kids, people who believed that their children belonged at home and that there was nobody better qualified to educated their children than them, the parents. That’s just not so anymore. While there are still plenty of those parents, more and more very mainstream families are making the decision to homeschool their kids. People who, like me, have always believed in public school as an institution. People who have believed that sending their kids outside the home to be educated by other adults was healthy. People who have believed that school would provide opportunities for their kids to forge relationships that aren’t orchestrated by the parents. People who have always believed in the community of school.
But now, more and more of those parents feel that their kids are being failed by the institution they have always believed so strongly in. People who never dreamed they would consider alternative schooling for their kids are now pulling their kids and finding alternative ways to school them.
It makes me sad. And mad.
Where is public education going?