I've posted this also in learning at school, but not getting much response. I would really value any comments--please...I'm feeling so, so stuck and discouraged....
I want to support our public school--not just for my own family's sake, but for the good of the community...BUT--
We were new to the school district last year ('10-11). By all accounts it is a GREAT school. Low ratings on standardized tests, etc... are excused due to the very low #'s of students taking tests. Our tiny, isolated town has 1 school, K-12 with about 280 students--so there are limited options, to say the least.
Last year, our DD was in K and it was an incredibly frustrating year. While her teacher was a lovely, kind woman, the class was conducted at the level appropriate for a typical 3 year old, except without the hands on, creative, exploratory learning environment one would hope to find in pre school. Without going into too much detail, it was rote "drilling" of colors, shapes etc... Letters were started mid way through the school year, covering 1 letter and sound per week. The only books available were toddler style board books.
After meeting numerous times with the teacher, the teacher and principal, just the principal, we decided the best course of action was to keep our daughter home 1-2 days per week to supplement school. The admin. grumbled about it a little, but we were well within our "rights" and it worked well for our daughter. She was able to progress and be appropriately challenged academically at home, and do the things she liked at school. She loved everything about school (riding the bus, seeing friends, talking with the adults, art, music, PE, library), but the academic element simply not a fit for her.
So, after getting to know the K teacher and other parents a bit last year, it seems there is 'quiet' frustration about the slow pace of K, but it seems to be accepted as just the way it is and will be. The one and only pre school option in the area is a 40+ year old private nursery school, operating 2 am's per week. It provides a play group environment. The K teacher told us her hands are tied, as there is not adequate pre K so she does the best she can to catch the K's up to speed on the very basics. The admin at school said they have no $ for school pre K etc, no money for any enrichment, etc..
First grade is a little better, but... 2nd grade teacher is widely regarded as a joke, and we have a rising 3 year old who will likely be in the same boat for her school experience. My son's experience, also 10th grade is academically marginal at best.... I guess I point this out to let you know we are looking at the big picture, not just the early grades.
I did some additional fact finding, and discovered our school is the only district in the area (and it's a pretty large range) that does not offer any kind of school supported pre K. As I had "followed the proper chain of command" the previous year w/no adequate response, this year I took my concern to the school board level, requesting the school to look at various options to improve opportunities in the early grades.
Again, I won't go into too many details, but despite support from a few other parents, objective information provided, a polite and respectful attitude on my part, the BoE pretty much rolled their eyes and dismissed my concerns. They are clearly not used to being questioned about anything. While they should be commended for their willingness to volunteer for school leadership, they also shown themselves to be pretty small minded, and lacking in any kind of professionalism. I was prepared for not having them agree with me, but disappointed at their outright dismissal.
....BUT, 1 BoE member (also a board member of the pre K), in particular, saw this concern only as being against the long established pre-K. Apparently the pre-K has sacred cow status, and anything seen as less than glowing reviews of that program is blasphemy. At the last BoE meeting (last week), my concerns, proactive suggestions, etc.. were twisted and turned, dismissed as invalid. My family was really portrayed poorly for questioning the status quo, and being some kind of nutty academically pushing extremists.
I thought I had pretty thick skin, but apparently not. I am really frustrated and hurt by some of the comments made, and the attitudes shown. We have been made to feel unwelcome. It's a tiny, tiny town, so this unwelcome attitude extends well beyond the school environment.
I am ready to just give up. It seems like the only option we have is to home school. Right now I want to isolate my family entirely, but that is likely just me feeling so raw. Advice?? Ideas??
They sound very closed-minded, and that they are not listening to you at all...as you mentioned, that they are not used to being questioned. That is arrogant on their part.
IMO you do not owe a darn thing to your public schools. Especially not the enrollment of your children, when the school's performance at educating them has not met your standards. They are your children...they do not belong to the state or to the school district. Do whatever you think is best for them, and don't bother with any guilt about ideas that you owe the school district something. You really don't.
and 3 , in our happy secular
Personally I don't see the lack of a challenging, dynamic, developmentally appropriate, individually-responsive kindergarten program as the inevitable result of no "adequate pre-K." I think it's a failure of the kindergarten program, full-stop. I live in a little town with an even smaller school (90 students K-12) and a tiny long-standing completely non-academic three-half-days-a-week "playschool" as the only pre-K option. And yet our KG program is dynamic, challenging and developmentally appropriate for the vast majority of 5-year-olds. They don't rote-drill colours and then move on to letters. They start the year with a wide variety of activities, many of which are somewhat open-ended, to promote learning in all areas. They learn some cool folk-dances, and learn to knit, and do Waldorf-style fibre crafting and art, through which they come to understand colours more deeply, while at the same time counting and patterning and grouping and adding and graphing, and some of the kids are beginning to read or write while others are exploring letters and letter-sounds. Children who have had no systematic academic instruction prior to KG entry typically thrive in this environment.
In my opinion if school is not serving the needs of children adequately, the solution is to change the way it operates, not start sooner. I think school-sponsored pre-K is a really poor idea, because I think that it pushes systematic instruction down to younger and younger age-groups, and creates the expectation that children should be institutionalized from age 3 or 4 to get the best head start possible. I think children are best, where possible, growing and learning in a family-based open-ended unstructured environment at that age. That's my bias, and you may find a lot of that mentality in the homeschool forum.
But that's just my thinking on the issue of pre-K. As to how you've been treated by the BoE and the local community, it sounds quite dismissive and disrespectful.
And on the issue of homeschooling... despite believing all those nice things about our local kindergarten program, I still chose not to send any of my kids. Two of them were emotionally unprepared for the peer-group immersion and prolonged separation from home, and all of them were academically far beyond what could be offered within kindy or 1st grade, and were having their various needs well-served at home. Homeschooling offered flexibility and comfort and challenge that was far more appropriate to their needs.
I don't believe that being angry at a school and a school board is a great reason to homeschool, but I'm certain that if you do pursue homeschooling you will discover plenty of other reasons for doing so, reasons that leave you homeschooling from a perspective of positivity. You'll soon come to appreciate the freedom, flexibility, strength of family relationships and capacity for self-determination that home-based education affords.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
The studies I've read prove that doing academic preschools is detrimental to children. They end up more anxious and less creative than children who were in play-based preschool.
I am pretty much against putting most kids into institutional settings. But that's me. There are families where it is better for the kids to go to school.
It sounds like you're in a particularly horrible district. Homeschooling is definitely a good option. Are you prepared to provide your kids with the stimulation they need? It doesn't have to be a curriculum, but they do need to live in an enriched environment. And if there are no other homeschooled kids in your town, how will you encourage your kids to have friends? If you alienate everyone in town, who will let their kids play with yours? (You may have already crossed that bridge, so pulling them out of school won't matter anyway.)
So, we've got the background story and you'll need to decide what the best choice is. If you decide to homeschool, what support do you need from everyone here?
Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.
Thanks for the responses--all good food for thought. I'm not angry, but more frustrated and disappointed. I really had high hopes for the school here. Everything sounded so good. If I am truthful, I was also looking forward to a bit more time to focus on some other goals. I have worked only part time the last 15 years, and was looking forward to more time to concentrate on growing my business (I am self employed) once our girls were in school. Re thinking these plans is not out of the question of course, just a different scenario that I had envisioned.
I have no confidence in the school leadership. PGTlatte, your comments really struck a chord with me. I wouldn't trust a single one of those folks with my kids for even an afternoon, and here I am thinking I should rely on their leadership for directing their schooling?!? Framing things that way is a real wake up call for me.
As for the school based- pre school suggested as , it was one possible solution. Our former district had a truly exceptional public pre school, and if only minds here were a bit more open, I could see a similar program being successful here. I was truly shocked at what a polarizing topic this is in the community, and particularly how one person (the particular BoE member) can so control what should have been an open discussion. Live and learn, I guess.
We have seriously considered home schooling in the past, and last year (Kindergarten) was a good trial run. Has anyone (particularly those in small towns with 1 teacher/grade) alternated between learning at home and learning at school based on the particular teacher/grade? We are happy with first grade, but are feeling the need to gear up to be ready for a second grade alternative.
Our district's policy is such that if a family chooses to home school, children are not allowed to take part in any school activities. This is too bad, as our daughter is already looking forward to music lessons, chorus,elementary band; drama club, etc... We have non-school sports in the community, but other extra curricular options are limited. Our community is rather isolated, so do not have many options. I am not concerned with opportunities to socialize our kids, but the reality is our opportunities for extra curricular activities will be reduced.
I know of 2 other home schooling families, but neither are particularly close by, and both have older children. Still, I will reach out to them for advice!
About 10+ years ago our community had a particular teacher whom many families did not like. She taught Grades 3/4, and often families would choose to homeschool for those two years. There was also a teeny-tiny alternative school in the area which saw an influx for those two years. So yes, there was lots of on and off homeschooling going on here then. And actually, it has continued a little bit that way. Amongst the school-aged population of 90 kids, there have been 5 kids who since the start of the year have gone either from school to homeschool or the opposite, for a variety of reasons.
My just-turned-9-year-old (today!) would love to go to school, but not into the Grade 2/3/4 classroom which would not suit her needs on any level. We're considering school as an option for next year, if they would be willing to grade-advance her so that she could get into the 5/6/7 class. So yes, we're actually thinking similarly to you: depending on the teacher and the classroom placement, sometimes school might make sense, but other times it definitely doesn't. Our school has been very accommodating in this respect, for which we're very grateful.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
I agree with the others who said a public preschool is not necessarily the answer to a bad kindergarten program. Plenty of good Kindergartens exist where there are no or hardly-used preschools. You could look into a coop preschool, although it would probably take longer to set up than you have. Plenty of people go back and forth between homeschooling and schooling to suit their needs, you just have to know what hoops to jump through in your state (check out the links in the sticky in this forum). Some homeschool their kids while they go to school, just using the school as free babysitting (which it often is in many areas), not expecting their kids to learn anything or even do their homework. I don't think preschool is necessary, but then I don't have a lot of love for Kindergarten being like the new first grade, either.
Jen 47 DS C 2/03 04/29/08/ DD S 10/28/09 DH Bill '97.
mighty-mama and her sister Kundalini-Mama
Thanks! Happy Birthday to your son, Miranda. I wish our school would consider multi-age/grade arrangements, but I suppose that only works when the teaching staff is talented and creative. A neighboring school district here does that with p-1; 2-5, 5-6.
Pookietooth, we were able to set up a co-op play group this January (after months of hoop-jumping). It welcomes all ages and we have tried to set up 'play centers', that target different developing skills. Since it is in a gym and we are able to set up mats for tumbling and bikes/trikes, the favorite thing for many is gross motor playFun! We've had about 15 kids or so each week, which is a great turn out considering we are not able to provide supervision without a caregiver and it is just getting up and going.
Here it's a necessity, since there are only 6-10 children per grade. Talented and creative teachers or not, that's how it has to be.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
Jpiper, I offer you lots of peace and harmony soon through my own prayer energy. I hope you find resolution very soon and I am sorry that it feels so frustrating. You sound so very caring that I feel sure you would be a grand mother of homeschooling. I only know when the universe is setting up roadblocks for the some, it is a huge door of golden light right around the corner for the divinely lucky (aware, awake). I also wonder too if you might have moved into a high property tax area and are bummed out? You should very much do research on homeschooling in your area. In the meantime, do exactly what you are doing now; it seems so right on. The trouble with your problem in my heart is that homeschooling is a gift to me. It is challenging. You must rise higher than a CEO or one getting a PhD... in love. You begin to celebrate your life, other cultures, your past cultures, the present moment of who you are and they are everyday. It reaches the height of the academic education, but piles over into wonderment in front of your eyes, and much more into the moral territory of caring and love. And in the simplest ways, comes so very raw and close like being in a tribe of monkeys, elephants, or whales... in all the little in between times. The town culture is a very lovely film on TV that seems from long ago in most places, I mean, the present "system" of it all is missing something...it seems to almost have it, but I don't hear about it like I use to dream about this very same thing for my children. What I have grasped much more for my present day, is to try and reach way, way, way back in time and connect with the type of learning experiences people had by candle light. It makes more sense to me this way. The friends are mandatory, playgroups may be 50 miles away.. but the neighbors near you may become closer than before no matter what age.
Things we do together with a 4 and 2 year old:
journal them in front of them :)
organizing and cleaning, patiently
celebrating many international ways of our own holidays, other religions, our culture
art with an array of materials but half of them are fine art materials (few colors and limited sheets of paper each go)
trips to the store (for math on math morning/Thur) where they each had corrected directions and choices, but were given money and a mental list and full responsibility
manners, real napkins, utensils, and far healthier and richer foods
real experiences featuring far more intimate field trips to seek out the "subject"
Leslie, organic semi-unschooling mama teaching my children 5 and 2.75, that love & happiness is most important. Letting their light shine, finding out they are teaching me. Love being in the moment & nature.