Friday, May 15, 2009

Public Education

Here I go again. I've been proctoring for the EOGs in a fourth grade class this week. While I have diligently been performing my duties: sitting, standing, looking around, I have been thinking about whether this school is best serving my children. I really can't believe I'm going down this path again.

Allison is finishing fifth grade and loves school. This has been a trying year though. Her teacher is not very nurturing, is uncommunicative with parents and has appalling grammar. She does not assign much homework, and for that she rocks in my book. I just read a Facebook post from a friend whose fifth grader who was up late typing a paper. A paper? Allison hasn't had any sort of paper to do. She had a much larger project in fourth grade at our old school before we moved. Quite simply she is not challenged.

Ben is finishing third grade and is not a big fan of school. His teacher is very kind, friendly and knowledgeable. However, she assigns way too much homework. Math sheets, spelling homework, reading sheets and up until this week's tests, EOG practice reading sheets every night. The math sheets are repetitive, tedious and lengthy. I don't happen to find worksheets all that creative and if you want to keep a kid's interest, you've got to be creative.

So while Ben is busy gritting his teeth over these math sheets, he's not learning his multiplication tables nor practicing cursive since they have no time for this during the school day. He's so worn out (and so am I) by the time we have fought it out to get the math sheet done that there is no time left. He still needs time to be a kid, doesn't he?

Third grade is a tough year for teachers since it is the first year for standardized tests. Last year's third graders scored only 50% at or above grade level in reading. Scary, huh? So, as I have a moment or two with the fourth grade teacher this week, I ask her about next year for Ben. One word: writing. Fourth graders have the EOG writing test. No wait, that's actually 6 tests. SIX WRITING TESTS? Are you kidding me?

Ben hates to write. So I am envisioning a wretched year for him as they cram sentence fluency, grammar and writing prompts down his throat. As if he isn't already starting to hate school, this will do him in. Me too.

So I feel like we have to make a change. I guess I can go to the elementary school down the road and see how they handle fourth grade, testing and so on. Then I can check out the tuition at the Montessori school in Spruce Pine compared to the cost of homeschooling. There are online homeschooling curricula which could work well for us. I could continue to work in the studio while he does his online schoolwork. Then supplement that with some homesteading projects and field trips. It's really going to change our life.

I'm feeling terribly guilty about considering homeschooling since his schooling would be completely different from Allison's. She wants to go to middle school though, and I have high hopes that he will too. I guess if middle school turns out to be a bust, I will have had some time to adjust to alternative schooling.

We had children to try to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, NCLB and public school seem to be working against us. There's always time to be a full time potter later.


  1. I think schooling is one of the toughest decisions we make as parents. But sometimes I think some kids are scholars & some aren't. My son is mostly interested in music & art & struggled through lit & spanish & algebra. But he's an amazing piano player & drummer. He graduates from high school next week & ended up getting a scholarship for college to study music. And we also found just because we paid for school didn't make it better -- there are bad teachers everywhere! Good luck with your decision.

  2. I feel for you! It is so hard to figure out what's best for each child... My two have such different learning styles, personalities and needs. Atleast we can take comfort in knowing that we are proactive, involved, informed and ready to do whatever we need too for our children. Call me or write if you need a sounding board! I am so empathetic to what you are going through....

  3. Kari, I know how you wrestle with this. Why not try homeschooling, even for half a year? It isn't what it used to be...I bet you would find others just like you in your area...Honestly, I think overall, you would love it. In a way, I think you've known waaaayyy in the back of that magnificent brain of yours that this topic had not gone away.

    I don't see a reason for guilt. Each child would be getting what they need, as long as Allison will be challenged next year, too. Between online and hands on stuff, you'll be perfectly cool for school.