Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Don't Blame the Teachers!

Wow. What a reaction I got to our news yesterday, all fairly positive. Truthfully, I was a bit nervous about putting it out there. We're going to homeschool. It is an issue that still has that tree-hugging, homesteading, hippie connotation to it. The outpouring of support has been amazing and so needed.

In my absent-minded professor-type way that I have, however, I didn't think about all of my friends who are school teachers who might have misinterpreted our decision. So, as the title suggests -

I don't blame the teachers!

Really. I actually like AJ's kindergarten teacher. She's very nice, and when we were having behavioral issues with him, both at home and at school, she was a big help in getting him back on track. I think she recognized his boredom and began giving him extra responsibilities. It did help.

Also, I come from an elementary teacher's assistant mom. She helped out in kindergarten and first grade for almost 20 years. She had a front row seat to how apathetic or even bad parents and never-been-inside-a-classroom politicians affect everything that goes on in a classroom, from attendance to what and how subjects are taught. So much is out of the control of the teachers.

I have been supporting my teacher friends as they have fought for the right to be able to make more than pittance for dealing with 25-30 kids, each with their own issues, their own baggage, their own learning styles, their own levels of knowledge, and trying to not only teach them academics, but etiquette, social mores, time management skills, and self-respect.

You know these people do it for the love of teaching and children because they sure as hell are not doing it for the money.

I actually read in one of the research articles that we, as a society, expect our school teachers to teach our children EVERYTHING, and for the parents to, at best, be on the support team. This may sound weird, but I'd actually like to be the one who decides what my kid learns, academics and otherwise.

Another issue that I have with schools in general is also what is being taught. For example, I DETEST whole-language learning. I know many teachers who support this type of curriculum, as it was what they were taught to teach. I can't do it. I have already purchased Saxon Phonics to teach my children phonetic reading so they will hopefully be better spellers than me. I grew up on whole-language learning, and I am a spelling mess! Also, the white-washing of textbooks and literature makes me grind my teeth. More political crap in the classroom. I want control of what and how my kids learn.

Finally, a fundamental principle to education is a requirement to do what you are told without asking questions. How else are you going to cover ALL of that material if every student questions if what they are told is true, factual, biased, etc.? Then, these students come to MY college, and when I not only discuss critical thinking, but actually expect it, they seem scared and mystified at the thought of questioning what our textbook says.

I want my kids to question everything, take nothing at face value, all the while learning how to be critical in a non-threatening, respectful way. You'll never see those lessons in an elementary classroom. There isn't time, and frankly, the potential anarchy and lack of class discipline could cause more problems than it is worth.

So, to all my teacher friends out there, I love you and think you are amazing (and a little insane) for doing what you do. I teach college, where there is a lot less hand-holding, nose-wiping, and parental ass-kissing, and I still get irritated with the job. At least I'm dealing with (supposedly) adults. And a lot less restrictions in how I do my job.

Truthfully, America needs an education over-haul, not an educational reform. I wish I was a good enough person to say I would happily lead the charge, but my first concern is MY kids, and that is going to leave little time for banner-waving and petition-writing.

Maybe, however, in our small way, by homeschooling our kids, we are sending a message to someone that we are dissatisfied with public education and feel this is the only option available to us. Quit looking to the teachers and look to the system to truly see what is broke.

Monday, March 7, 2011

What a Day!

The hubby and I have been discussing homeschooling our kids (currently two boys with a little girl due in June) for years, but it always felt like a "in a perfect world" type dream. You know, along the lines of what would you do if you won the lottery. I work full-time as a college professor. The hubby is going to school full-time to become a Physical Therapy Assistant. Two kids, one on the way. Who would have the time?

Then, my oldest, AJ, came home from school. They had made these paper Cat in the Hat hats in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday. Cool, right? Except for the fact that my 6-year-old, who has been writing his letters correctly since he was three, had three rhyming words for hat with capital letter that had been written backwards.

And the teacher didn't correct him. It's all about the effort.

I snapped. Seriously, I felt like the worst parent ever. I knew my kid was "too smart" for public education kindergarten. His preschool, an excellent place that is very student-centered, set him far and beyond many of the other students in his class. He knows his numbers into the tens of thousands. His class has been working on the numbers 1-30 since Thanksgiving. Still, I felt the "school experience" was worth being ahead of the rest of his class.

I was so wrong.

He's bored. He's had several behavioral issues, mostly because he's bored. He hates school already and tries to get out of going whenever he can. If I don't do something soon, I'm going to lose my brilliant son to the apathy of public school students.

Being an academic, I researched academic articles to get the "real" scoop on homeschooling. I had read lots of blogs, books, and magazines on homeschoolers, by homeschooling parents. I wanted to read from those who weren't promoting their own propaganda. I was shocked at what I found.

There was nothing, absolutely NOTHING of value, that was negative about homeschooling children. And the pros? I couldn't list them all in this blog. I've spent a couple of days talking to the husband and my mom, a retired elementary school assistant teacher, and the decision was officially made today.

As of August 2011, we will be a homeschooling family. Dear Lord, what have we gotten ourselves into?