Wednesday, February 07, 2007

We want O-U-T!

My husband uttered words I thought I'd never hear him say, the other night. He actually suggested that we might consider private school for our son if things get much worse. Private school? Really?

We are both the product of public schools and we felt strongly that was the place for our kids. We watched as our nephew attended a private school until middle school and developed a negative attitude about it from his experiences. He was never even required to learn how to spell correctly or even run the spell checker on his computer-typed papers. And, socially-speaking, he didn't know any of the kids who lived by him in his neighborhood because they all went to public school. Not that all private schools match my nephews experience, but it just didn't sound like our cup of tea.

But, after 2 years now at our "proud to tout that we're 'Exemplary' rated every year" elementary school, we want out of the pressure cooker. The adjustment has been harder for us, as parents, than it probably has for him. Last year, I wrote of how militaristically the school was run. Because of their numbers (last year he had 11 sections of kindergarten, at 23 kids per class), things have to work that way. I get that. But, there's a coldness to it that bothers me.

This year has not been any better. Academically, the heat on the cooker has been turned up. 1st graders are required to go up 10 reading levels in the course of this year, when they just went up 4 last year. They are required to write at a level that shocks me and the other day he brought home homework that asked them to read a passage, find the present tense verbs and then write the past tense version of those verbs. This all wouldn't be that bad, but 80 percent of the verbs were irregular verbs. So, they were expected to know "go" should be "went" AND be able to write and spell that correctly.

Now, if all of that sounds par for the course to you, take a gander at the message I got back from my son's teacher today, explaining their journaling that is required that he is not completing each day:
As far as their journal, I tell them that they should be able to come in and
practice their writing using an opening sentence, time sequencing words such as
first, then, etc, have details, wow words, and a closing. At this point, they
should be able to write about 10 sentences.
That is, 10 sentences in a very short amount of time. My son has been teased by girls in the class for his messy writing and he's trying to write neatly now. But, he goes VERY slow. To expect him to get all of this done in such a short amount of time seems amazing to me.

Am I off of track here? Being too defensive of a parent? Maybe so, but I just don't understand when our schools turned from the fun place of learning that I remember from growing up to the intense and stressful place it is now. Because of all the requirements testing, most of the teachers have to teach to the test and do not have time to add creativity into their jobs. And, it shows with things like this.

When I was in kindergarten, we learned our ABCs using the Alphabet People. We sang songs, did crafts, had a long recess and P.E., AND a rest time. Last year, I was told that my son didn't have to know how to read, but fortunately he did because really they expected that right away. Now, he's supposed to be devouring chapter books along with adding and subtracting two-digit numbers.

With all the other stress that is on our kids, is this really necessary? Yes, I know that the U.S. falls behind in education, but is this the answer? To raise kids who are cracking and crying from the pressure and learning to be so tightly wound that they're are bound to have trouble as adults. There has to be some better answer to all of this.

Until then, I have to figure out how to motivate my son, a typical 8-year-old boy who would much rather play monster trucks and football than write an essay in a journal any old day. Something tells me, I have my work cut out for me.

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Anonymous Karly said...

HE IS IN FIRST GRADE? Wow. My son is also in first and is not doing any of that stuff. And he is in one of the better schools in our city. Wow. I'm shocked that they are expected to write 10 sentences and know all the verbs and jesus god, pull that kid out of school. An essay? Holy

9:39 PM, February 07, 2007  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

All right, here's an opinion from the other side of the world, from one in an Aussie culture which is more tolerant than (we perceive) the US (to be) of injustices in general, although we seem to be changing. And from a male person at that. Anyway, the point is, moving him in a way which shows him the positives of the new place rather than the negatives of the old seems best for him. I was moved in my fourth year in primary school. I never realised until years later it was because my parents perceived I was being bullied. They had found a really nice school with people we knew there who said it was great, and there were other good reasons given me. I never developed strong feelings about the move; resentment, regret; or the reverse, a poor attitude to those friends still in the first school.

For what it's worth.

10:09 PM, February 07, 2007  
Blogger Carol said...

As you know, my son is also in first grade. He has really grabbed onto reading, but we feel lucky about that...nothing we've pushed. Anyway - the focus in his classroom is on reading. He also gets introduced to lots of other fun things in the math, social sciences and science. For example, today he was measuring his desk, backpack and friend with his shoe.

What am I trying to say? I think that your school is going a bit overboard. I don't know that the expectations at a private school would necessarily be any different...they tend to follow the lead of the public schools. Check them carefully.

I feel so badly for you. One thing that maybe you could do is just have him work on what you think is appropriate and screw the rest. What's the worse that could happen?

11:05 PM, February 07, 2007  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

Klein schools are the same way. For my two olders ones that was fine, the youngest? It just wasn't the best format. He is in a small private school that is warmer and fuzzier and more individual.

Find what works for your child. You will be so glad you did!

7:34 AM, February 08, 2007  
Blogger Masked Mom said...

This is sooo frustrating to hear--I think standardized testing is at the root of all of this--and instead of worrying that we're "falling behind" as a nation or as school districts or individuals based on standardized testing (because how else is it measured), we should be questioning the validity and value of those tests.

The thing that kills me the most is that this approach to education works against the child's natural instinct toward curiosity and learning. What's the point of being able to jump through hoops (e.g. write ten sentences in a tiny window of time) if you have no passion or joy for what you're doing.

Yeah. I'm not very coherent, but no, I don't think you're being too defensive.

7:51 AM, February 08, 2007  
Blogger Nicole said...

Man, your school sounds very different from ours. My son is fortunate to have an awesome 1st grade teacher, but I think in general our school must be more laid back. And we're considered the best district around. You should read a book called "The Hurried Child." It talks a lot about how schools are run like assembly lines and the kids are viewed as conainers that need to be filled and filled as quickly as possible...usually causing stress for the students. I don't know if private school would be any different...but it's worth a look. Or maybe you could move to Colorado? ;-)

9:37 AM, February 08, 2007  
Blogger CPA Mom said...

My kids are still 4 and 2 so I don't know how it is going to be. But is one of the main reasons we are going the private school route. The public schools here are all about the SOLs now, "teaching to test" as you so eloquently put it. The private are about actual learning. The SOL craziness is one HUGE reason my sister has left teaching as well.

I had forgotten about the letter people. What great memories I have of those "people!"

10:34 AM, February 08, 2007  
Blogger sophie said...

I have watched my sister and cousin struggle with the school private school systems as well. One a name brand school and the other a parochial school. Now two women who said, "I could never home school my kids." are doing just that. I'm not suggesting that your answer will be the same, but that I know the struggle.
Best wishes as you work to figure out what is best for your son.

3:03 PM, February 09, 2007  
Blogger Kristen said...

I personally do not think you are being overprotective or overreacting. I do agree that they are expecting far too much out of kids so young nowadays. I'm not saying they should keep things how they were when we were younger, but they shouldn't expect QUITE so much. They seem to forget about the rate at which kids mature, along with thier attention spans, their brains, etc. I just don't get it.

11:11 PM, February 11, 2007  
Blogger LadyBugCrossing said...

I wrote a huge comment and it seems to have disappeared... maybe I'll just email you instead...

8:43 AM, February 13, 2007  
Blogger Vanessa said...

That sounds like a LOT of work for someone your son's age. When is he supposed to just be a kid? Maybe another school's the answer. Keep us posted.

8:07 PM, February 13, 2007  
Anonymous Vicki said...

I went through a lot of what you are saying with my 2 boys. I chose to homeschool them because we could not afford private school for 2. It was hard and wonderful. I have never regretted getting my kids out that school.

11:26 AM, February 16, 2007  

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