Monday, November 7, 2011

School...this might be long...

I have been thinking of what to do about school (as in when Elanor and other future kids go) for a long time. I was an Education and a Dance major when I was at Western Oregon University. I took only one education class while I was there, as I left halfway through my sophomore year. That one class changed a lot of my ideas about public school. We learned about the history of the public school system and who we (Americans) modeled our system after. Unfortunately, the U.S. government sent officials over to Prussia (which no longer exists, but is in the Northern Germany/Poland area) in the 1800s. Prussia was a military state. Their whole school system was designed to create better citizen-soldiers. They wanted everyone essentially the same as one unified militaristic people. For some reason, these American officials thought this system was great and brought it back here. Thus, the standardized tests, etc.

I feel like kids today are over tested and over worked. My brothers had so much more homework and stress then I ever did in grade school.  I personally don't think everything should be based on tests because some people don't test well, some do better at different types of tests (I prefer written tests over multiple choice tests for example) and the list goes on. We are all different and I don't feel like the public school system does a good job at addressing children's individual needs. I also feel like kids naturally ask so many questions but it seems like that once they start school the questions stop, the love of reading, learning, etc all stops.

I love to read, but I know so many people that really don't like it, or just have not read much of anything. Reading is one of the best ways to learn, but it does not stop there. Imagination, creativity, exploration, fantasy, history, and most importantly we learn about people and how we work, why we do things through books. So many kids when they first learn to read love it. It gives them freedom to go anywhere. However, schools somehow drive that love out. It is all those tests. We had to do that really quite ridiculous thing when I was in 2nd grade where we read some silly story or boring piece of nonfiction and then answer questions about it and we were all supposed to get to a certain level. I was a good reader and did well at it, but did not enjoy it. Thankfully, my parents taught me how to read before I started school and I was also read to a lot, so I had a firm foundation in my love of reading. But what about the kids who only read what was on those tests? Of course one would not like to read if that was the case.

In this same class, the professor told us that if we wanted to be teachers it would be very difficult because teachers have to follow a curriculum and do not have much freedom outside of the curriculum. Also, since teachers are so poorly paid you do not always get the best people doing the job. There are some wonderful teachers out there (I had a few I absolutely loved), but they did it for the kids, not really the money. Teachers have to have a masters degree (even grade school teachers after 10 years of teaching), yet their starting pay is around 30,000 (literally almost poverty level). How many people are going to work for that little if they have a family? How can they pay off all of their school loans on that salary? Point is, teachers need to be paid more and given more freedom to teach and then we will get better teachers and better results.

There are some things I love about public school. I love the diversity. I love that every kid has the opportunity to get an education. I love that you have to learn to get along with people. BUT---don't you think the kids deserve better? So many of the more affluent children have been taken from the city schools and put in private, charter, or suburb schools and leave the minority groups alone in the city. Often the minority kids are more poor, both parents work (so not as much parent involvement ins schools), and honestly school is way too long of a day and too boring to really educate anyone. Why is it that the school day is so long??? Seven hours, really??? Home-schooled kids get more stuff done and are finished before lunch. In Sweden, they have the shortest school days, shortest actual school time( ages 7-16), but the smartest kids in Europe. Why can't we do that?

So, my big question is: What do I do with Elanor? I have already decided that sending her to school at 5 is just too early. I am the mom, not the public school system. My professor at Western said that we are having generations of kids raised by the public school system and not their parents. I agree, I mean if you only see your kids from 4-8pm every day or if both parents work 6-8pm (or later a I suppose since bedtimes are not what they should be anymore) how much influence do you really have on them?  I enjoyed my public school experience for the most part. I was half-day home schooled in 5th grade because my teacher was not very good and also my mom was super involved and set up an advanced group in many of my classes where we learned more and did fun projects, also we did not have school on Fridays staring in 4th grade and I was in my mom's theatre troupe. I have thought about sending my kids to school in 3rd grade, I have thought about home-schooling all the way through, I have thought about doing home-school, but with tutors too, I have thought of every option. I feel like I don't want to leave all of the kids behind who don't have anyone to help them, but is is worth it to sacrifice my kid's education and possibly more? I just wish the school day was not so long, tests and AP were not so important, and kids were allowed to pursue their own interests.

Where do your kids go to school?--or-- If your kids are not in school yet what are your plans? I need suggestions, because I really don't know what to do. Thoughts please!!


  1. Mine are in public school. My goal was to introduce them to concepts and ideas at home before they saw them in school and allowing them to pursue interests. When my middle child began piano lessons, we learned fractions (and had a lot of pizza and cake is small pieces) about 2 yrs before she saw them in school. When an assignment became an interest, we visited libraries, museums and interesting Web sites. It's a cooperative effort, and my children are learning to work with many different kinds of people, which will prepare them for life on missions, college, work.

  2. I was fortunate that my mom found a core knowledge elementary school for me to go to. If I can't find a good core knowledge or charter school when I'm ready to start Aaron, then I will put him in a private school. I do not want to put him in public schools because some of the teachers are inadequate and some of the students can be dangerous or won't contribute to a stimulating academic environment. Since Aaron's birthday is in August, I also plan on starting him a year late, so when he has just turned six. This way I can have extra time with him at home and teach him to read and do basic math before he goes into school. My parents also read to me when I was really young so I was an early reader and have always loved reading. Darrell went to public school on the reservation and he said there were fights every day and the education was shoddy. He was at the top of his class but hates to read and hates school. I want to have a good learning environment that will instill a love for learning rather than a dread of going to school. Thanks for posting about this- it's a great topic for us to think about!

  3. I started Kindergarten when I was 4 years old... I am really glad that I started that young, haha and I think that I turned out alright :)