Monday, August 24, 2009

Public School...Worse Than I Thought Actually!!!

[In which I rant extensively about how bad public school really is!!!]

OK, first, let me start by saying that if you are homeschooling right now - take a moment to thank the Lord for blessing you! You are right where you should be. Believe me! :)

Public school has been not as bad as I expected and yet, way worse than I expected - in very bizarre ways. This is our fourth week of it, and I'm praying it settles down soon.

The kids in public school have, so far, been WAY better than I expected them to be. They've been pretty awesome actually. What I expected from the public school experience was more bullies and less friends. What I've seen so far is a bunch of mostly sweet kids and my kids are making good friends.

There has been *some* "bullying". My sweet little Monkey4, the 4yo, got a big bruise on her chest the second day of school when a boy in her class pushed her and hurt her pretty bad. Then he hit her again the next day. Then I had a talk with the teacher [who ignored Monkey4 when she tried to explain what happened and who wasn't watching closely enough to witness either assault in her preschool classroom, nor was her aide], who then explained to the offending boy that he should not do that. Apparently nobody had explained this to him before, and now he and Monkey4 are buddies and he hasn't beaten her ever again. Go figure.

But over all, the kids have been nice.

What I did not expect was to have so much trouble with the teachers.

My parents both taught public school for 30+ years [**Applause**]. I admire them both a lot, and I generally think of teachers as being people like my mom and dad - wonderful people who really care about kids.

Ummmm...not necessarily.

SOME teachers are like my mom and dad. Some are definitely not.

Take Monkey1 for instance. Brilliant child, sweet girl, very obedient to authority figures, LOVES learning with a thirst that amazes me and everyone around her. She has always excelled in her group classes and always emerged as a "teacher's pet".

She's had, BY FAR, the hardest time with the divorce and the move and with being placed in public school. I expected her to have trouble socially - being smart doesn't help in school socially speaking. And she was having a lot of trouble even trying to relate to new peers because she really, REALLY doesn't want to be here.

But I expected her to do well with her teachers. I think she did too. She went into school and worked her heart out academically - she has made 100 on every single test she's taken [dozens already in only 4 weeks!] except one - she made a 91 on that one. She's tried her hardest to do what the teachers have asked and has participated in class discussions and has really given her all.

Her teachers hate her. Well, not all her teachers. Her music teacher loves her. Her school counselor [who I've asked to talk with her to work through some of the issues from the divorce] adores her - thinks she's just amazing. But her academic teachers hate her.

I really couldn't understand it - I had gotten the feeling at the "Open House" night when I met her home room teacher that there was *serious* prejudice against home schoolers [based on the fact that she totally changed her demeanor and was rude as heck to me after she found out I had homeschooled my kids prior to their enrollment]. But still - I expected Monkey1 to win her over quickly.

Not so. I couldn't understand it until two of Monkey1's teachers jumped me in the school yard one morning [I was there to meet with Monkey2's teacher about his reading problems - more on that in a minute]. They started going on and on about how much of a problem Monkey1 was in the classroom, how horrible it was having her in their classes, etc.

I was SO confused - I finally asked "Could you give me a specific example of what the problem is?". You know what heinous crimes this child committed that had these teachers hating her guts and being mean to her? [Yes, MEAN to her] She.... got up to sharpen her pencil in the middle of class the first week of school because she did not [GASP!] know that children were not allowed to do that.

And then, there was the day that she answered the teacher's question. The teacher asked a question out loud in science class [a subject she's very passionate about and interested in] and she thought she wanted an answer from the class....she spoke up and gave the answer [the *correct* answer]. The teacher got angry with her. The other kids laughed at her and said "Way to go! Good job moron" etc. She began to cry [this was her 3rd day of public school]. At which point the teacher said [in front of the whole class] "Oh, give me a break!!! SUCK IT UP!!! Go to the bathroom and wash your face!". At which point my child fled from the room ....

I can see how this would instill a love for learning and a passion to learn more, can't you?

She has spent almost every day in "Detention Hall". The first time she was sent because the school counselor called her out of class at the end of the day and a homework assignment was given while she was gone, so she did not know about it. When she came back the next day without the assignment she didn't know about, the teacher sent her to D-hall. [and got *angry as hell* at me when I questioned her about it. Later, the guidance counselor was *furious* when she found out about it, and she actually engaged the principal at that point - and things have improved since then]. Then Monkey1 was sent to D-hall the next day because she missed 4 questions on the work she did the day before in D-hall [probably because she was crying and upset at the unfairness of it, which I would have been too]. She was then sent to D-hall for not logging on to a certain website the night before [it was part of their homework] - the thing was, the teacher TOLD them the site was buggy and they might not be able to get on. She and I tried THREE times that night to log on and the site wasn't working - the teacher didn't care [I had written a note letting the teacher know this even!], she sent her to D-hall anyway.

It has gone on and on and on - this child has been sent to D-hall almost every day and she's never actually done anything *wrong*, much less *malicious*. It is INSANE.

Then there is my poor son - Monkey2 - who is a late reader - just like my father, me, and Monkey1 before him. My father failed 3rd grade 3 times because of his late reading, and went on to achieve the equivalent of a PhD and to become a literally world famous teacher who innovated new ideas on how to help children learn [The "Classroom in the Wild"] and was featured on a Disney channel special as one of the best teachers in the United States - oh, and yeah, he's written several very well respected text books and some great fiction as well. Me? I was in the "slow" class at school and told I was stupid until I finally learned to read at the end of second grade and became a straight A student - graduating with honors from college and doing very well academically from that point on. And Monkey1? That kid couldn't read a stinking Bob book in second grade. Then, suddenly, it "clicked" for her and she went in four months from not reading at all to reading "Eragon" cover to cover in 5 days. NOW, she holds the record at her public school for having the very highest reading level in the whole school - an entire year higher than the "former" record holder!

So, Monkey2 is right on target for our family - he's bright as a flippin super nova, can figure out anything, build anything and is making straight 100s in math. But the kid can't read. So, of course, he's in the "stupid" class - they don't call it that now. Now they give you a pink dot if you are stupid. But Monkey2 [not actually BEING stupid] knows what that means - he came home crying telling me that he was dumb and that the only other kid in his class who had a pink dot was the kid from Mexico who couldn't even speak any English yet. :( :(

So, I had the "conference" with his teacher [who is a very sweet woman, don't get me wrong] and the school principal [who I also like a great deal]. They told me nothing I didn't know already - but don't seem to have any plan to help the boy. Well, actually, they DO have a plan - *I* am to work with him intensively every night after homework.

And don't get me started on the homework thing - my goodness! My poor second grader has 2-3 hours of homework every single night. And I know it is partly because of the reading delay, but even the good readers have GOT to be spending 1-2 hours on this amount of work. It is INSANE!!!

Somehow I'm supposed to work in extra reading drills after those 2-3 hours of homework - AND I'm still expected to feed and bathe the kids at some point. [They had an "assembly" today at school where the "doctor" told them that they all have to take baths every night. Really. That's what they are doing with their time....maybe that's why they have so much homework - no time for academics during the school day?]

So, Monkey2 is averaging 100 in math and something around 20 in reading, and about a 60 in spelling. [hard to spell when you can't read]. I just can't wait to see his report card, let me tell ya.

Oh, and my favorite thing of all - he keeps getting put in D-hall too almost every single day because he can't read well enough to finish his work "on time" in class [and no, the homework he is bringing home is not work he didn't finish in class, it is other work specifically for home work that all the kids get].

Again, he hasn't behaved badly EVEN ONCE since he started school [his teacher *loves* how "sweet" and "obedient" he is], yet he spends almost every day in Detention.

This helps him how?

And my First Grader, Monkey3, is having a lesser version of the same problem - she can't read yet either.

ALL the emphasis in public school is on early reading - kids who can't read early are failed. Literally. Monkey4 has a 5 average in spelling right now - you didn't misread, that's a FIVE. She made a zero on the first test and then made a 10 on the second test - after extensive drilling by me at home every night on her spelling words [hours of it!]. :( :( She just doesn't *get* it [YET]. But she, too, has a 100 average in math.

Then there's lots of other things - like my 4yo being told she was not allowed to pray at school *even silently to herself*. Like the constant pressure to send in money for fundraisers, to sell things, to give the kids money for junk food every day [sales benefit the school], etc etc etc. I could go on and on, but I better reign it in I guess - it is getting late! ;)

Soooo.. I don't know. I don't know what to do.

I've got to start back to school myself in January [I'm going for my RN/BSN at a local college, with plans to later get my CNM and become a midwife once all my kids are in school]. I really *can't* homeschool any more right now.

But this public school thing has been a fiasco. My children are either afraid to perform well or they are being told they are stupid. :( :(

I am just waiting, hoping, praying it gets better. Surely it will....

That's our big update for now. It has been a crazy, stressful, agonizing month, that's for sure.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Public School....Not So Bad, Actually!

The kids started public school this week [even riding the bus!]. It went really well - sooooo much better than I expected!

All 4 older kids are going [5th grade, 2nd grade, 1st grade, and GA Pre-K]. They all seem to be doing really well, they've all made friends already, and they all seem to be enjoying it over all.

I like their school - it is a smaller, "home town" type school [unlike the "Mega" schools we just moved away from]. It has a smaller, more cozy, friendly feeling. So far I really like the teachers and the principal. I'd say over all it has been a very positive experience [so far - only on day 4 of course LOL!].

Even the school bus has been a fun thing - they all have enjoyed riding it. I debated the school bus long and hard with myself - so much bad stuff can happen on buses. But we are almost the last stop before they get to school [we are only 1 mile from their school], and it seems to be working well.

If I ever get my computer back on line [I'm on the kids computer right now] I'll upload some of the cute shots I got of them waiting for the bus.

It has been fun being home with just the two little ones during the day. For Monkey5, who is 2.5 years old, it has been cool to watch her get to be the "Big Sister". She's loving "her" baby and taking care of her [Monkey6]. She does ask me about 57 times every day where her brother and big sisters are, where her daddy is, where her grandparents, aunts, uncle and cousin are... over and over. The transition to "Just" her and the baby and I has been a weird one for her I think. But I think she's adjusting well and I think it will all turn out fine. [Oh, and the first day the kids rode the school bus she was completely freaked out by the big yellow bus pulling up and then swallowing all her older siblings and then disappearing! Oh MAN did that throw her for a loop!].

I am doing well over all. I'm pretty overwhelmed at bedtime [OK, completely, obscenely overwhelmed at bedtime] but that is the only time I'm really struggling.

Mostly I'm struggling right now because the school enforces "nap time" for the Preschoolers at the end of the day - so my little 4 yo is taking an hour nap right before she comes home and now she doesn't want to go to bed at night. AND, because the house is pretty small, she's keeping *everyone* up with her antics. The older and younger kids are all exhausted because they aren't getting enough sleep. I'm not sure what to do about it other than take her out of school, which I'd rather not do, she's really excited about going.

I am also really struggling with my oldest child right now - she took the divorce the hardest, but was coping pretty well I thought. Then we had an unfortunate problem crop up with another adult in her life saying and doing some things that caused a huge rift between her and the rest of our family - a very, very damaging thing [and a betrayal of MY trust in that person]. My daughter doesn't even want to be *part* of our family at this point I don't think. :(

I've been struggling with her a great deal this week - it has been very bad, very exhausting, and very frustrating [since the last thing we needed right now was MORE strife and more hardship to cope with]. I'm hoping that this negative influence and the negative "Reign of Awfulness" it has inspired is going to wear off soon, I'm praying it does. I am worried about my oldest - very worried. She's gone from a bright, happy child to an extremely negative person who is isolating herself from everyone who loves her. She's an awesome kid and I don't want to see this situation destroy her. :( [She IS doing well in school though at least - and making friends. So, I'm hopeful.]

My family here has been amazingly helpful in all of this. [In fact, I took my oldest to my parents' house after the first day of school when she came home behaving horribly and I realized I was about to just completely lose it with her - it is SO awesome to have my parents close enough that I can do that!].

So, over all, things are great. I'm very concerned about my oldest child and I'm completely exhausted being a single parent of 6 at bedtime, but otherwise things have gone much, MUCH better than I expected. If I can get my oldest back on track, I think life is going to be very good. [I'm assuming the bedtime issues will settle down over time!].

Anyway, that's what's going on here!