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.


  1. AH! Kelly, I am SO, SO SORRY! I was put into a slow class as well in 1-2 grade and then in 3rd grade I got a good teacher and was suddenly the brightest student in 3rd grade who out performed everyone on tests. ugh. I am so sorry. Even if you get a good teacher often the politics of the schools are so much that children aren't really educated- just tested and tested more. If they pass the test you get a piece of paper... if not you are stupid... even though you are probably brilliant or just need a teaching style that works. I am of the opinion that (mostly) if a child fails it is because the child has failed to be TAUGHT. How is a child supposed to LEARN in detention? That makes NO sense at all. I am sorry for this situation. Keep fighting for them! You are doing such a great job- you are obviously very involved in what is going on with them.... you are a great mom. A lot of parents have no idea what is going on in the schools or don't care to know.

  2. Ah, Now you know why I was so obsessed with Talitha learning to read two years ago. (she is doing ok but they actually give kids reading assessments in kindergarten to determine where they stand for grade one and if they are in need of "remedial work" Thankfully she's ok due mostly to my work)
    When my 23 year old son was in kindergarten and reading; the grade one teacher said "what's he gonna do in grade one if he knows all this already?"
    So it really has changed in both our countries. As far as this D hall business; I've never heard of such a thing for an elementary school; sounds quite arbitrary and punitive. (there are some kids who could definitely use it but it seems like the wrong kids are being singled out for not conforming) What a surprise (sarcasm here)
    You also know how we struggled with my older girl when they just wanted to park her in special ed and not teacher her( which is why I did homeschool for several years)
    I hope it gets better and congrats on your upcoming schooling yourself!

  3. I was reading Monkey Momma's blog and have a suggestion for her to help with her kids reading/spelling. I don't have any of the accounts that I need to post comments. If you happen to post on her blog, can you tell her our K-8 used to buddy up older kids with younger and have the older student read to the younger student. Helped both parties out. And with No Child Left Behind, she *should* be able to get some tutoring assistance (at no cost mind you).

    (Someone who reads on my blog and does not have a Google account sent me this message to pass along to you, hope it helps, Melissa

  4. It's heartbreaking to read your post. All the arbitrary rules involved in institutionalized life are so difficult for those who don't know them and/or think it is reasonable to have to follow them. Is there any way you can get Monkey1 transferred to another classroom with possibly a better teacher?

    The only thing coming to mind after reading your post is - what doesn't kill you will make you stronger.

    I'm happy that you're enrolling in the nursing program, and am sure you will be a fabulous nurse and CNM. How long do you think your schooling will take?

  5. Melissa - thanks for passing on that info. :)

    Vicki - in 5th grade at this school they "switch" classes already [like middle school - don't know why they start early with it]. So there are only a handful of teachers for the 5th grade and she has to have each of them in the course of a day no matter which class she is in. So, she can't change classes. It *has* gotten better in the last week or so - now that she's setting actual academic records at the school the teachers that didn't like her are softening up a bit... hopefully it will only get better from here.

    I need to take about 7 pre-req classes for the nursing program, so it will probably be next January [2011] before I start the actual RN program - and that will take 15 months total. Then the CNM is about 15 months more after that, but I need 3 years of nursing experience before I can apply to that program - which will be a perfect time frame for me having all the kids in school at that point.

    I'm hoping it works out!

  6. I'm praying for you and your kids. It really sounds like Monkey1's teacher is out to get her--my mind goes back to the scripture about "he who offends one of these little ones it were better a millstone were hanged about his neck and he were cast into the sea" (or something like that, my memory is less than perfect). Perhaps you can help the kids deal with the unfairness of things by reminding them of the many great people in the scriptures who were treated unfairly by those around them--Joseph, Nephi, Christ himself...
    The early reading thing really gets me too. Most of my family were late readers--I couldn't read a word until the summer I turned 8. When I was 9 I was reading Dickens for fun--I remember enjoying Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. There is evidence out there that early reading instruction actually increases the probability of developing persistent reading problems.
    Sending hugs and prayers your way!

  7. Well, hopefully it will get better. My son Bradley had reading issues and he got sent to reading center. It really helped him a lot. Is your son going to any kind of pull out class? I must admit, this is why I'm making sure to keep my kids on level with math and reading, in case something happens and they have to go back to school. Although I've never actually taught a child to read yet, having not start homeschooling until 4/5 grades.

  8. I can tell you, as a former middle school (8th grade) language arts/reading teacher that the pressure to read in school - and read early - is incredible. This "drive" to meet standards such as No Child Left Behind for example is doing *just* that: leaving LOTS of kids behind in order to promote the whole. As far as the bias against homeschooling that you've mentioned. Totally there. My post-grad teacher education courses all operated with an undercurrent of disgust toward parents who choose h/s as a non-traditional eductional option (even private school was looked down upon). When we received a new student and that student was a former h/s (this happened three times that I witnessed), s/he became the topic of discussion in regards to how far behind this kid was going to be because s/he was "homeschooled" (always said with air-quotations). That said, two of my colleagues at the middle school (two men, actually, who weren't on my grade team) both had large families and both of their wives homeschooled their children.

    Your children will be successful; you've already laid such a strong foundation for them and they have a such a great example set by their mama. Your kiddies are in a different world from the one they've known. They'll have to learn new currencies/skills to navigate this new environment, but they'll get it and they'll be successful. There are some *really* awesome teachers out there. In the meantime, you keep building them up at home, filling them with confidence and love. Hang in there, Kelly, I'm thinking of you more often than you know.

  9. awww - i really loved heather's resp :)

    i'm sorry you and yours are going through all of these things kelly. it's got to be just heartbreaking as their mom to witness such treatment.

    i know that they will adapt to school, it'll take some time, but they will :)

  10. I couldn't read the whole post. Just had to stop, offer up a prayer for your sweet children and for you.

    About the homework: All parents who are involved homeschool. They can send their kids to public school, private school whatever. The homework is the thing that the kids do to actually learn and they need someone at home to help. (I volunteered at school a bit last year and found tons of kids who didn't have their homework done. Why? Because mama is working until 6, dinner bath bed. No decent time to dedicate to the 2-3 hours of homeschooling, er homework.)

    I saw loads of 'bulling' kids and awesome teachers at PS last year. The darlings hated PS. But, they might have to go back next year.

  11. Kelly, thanks for keeping me going. Every day I have a point in which I want to quit homeschooling. Your post reminded me why I do it, especially since Amelia isn't reading yet.

    I'm so sorry your kids are having a rough time and I pray it gets better for all of you.

  12. I'm so sorry, Kelly... speaking as somebody who has taught and been in many of the schools in the area (had college practicums in many of them), I can understand the bias towards homeschoolers and how the teachers have short fuses on silly things like a kid sharpening a pencil because she didn't know it was an inappropriate time. The early reading thing is crazy, too... schools push for so much early learning that it's ridiculous. And I didn't even know they had detention in the elementary public schools here... that's very strange!

    Hopefully the teachers will see your kids shining as the year progresses and it will give them a kinder view on children who have been homeschooled.

  13. Argh! I'm so sorry! Well, I know exactly what your oldest's problem is, or rather, the teachers' problem with her...she's too smart! She's proof that kids can learn at home without the "experts", proof that homeschooling works, and they resent the hell out of her and you for it. So they are being all nit-picky on ridiculous things like the pencil sharpening thing.

    I had a public school teacher tell me once that she disapproved of homeschooling because she had had homeschooled kids in her classroom that had "big gaps in their learning". I asked her to be more specific, and she told me that they had never learned how to "line up". Uh-huh. ok.

    As far as the younger ones, this is exactly what started us homeschooling Maria...she was a late reader, and in first grade she suddenly started failing...and not just reading and spelling, but like she would bring home an "f" on her science test because she couldn't read the directions on the test, that kind of thing.

    I'm sorry, I know there's no easy solution here. I know your kids are so sweet and smart. This did make me very glad that we are still able to homeschool, and believe me, I don't take that for granted.