What. The. Heck. I am in disbelief that 2014 is almost gone. Did this year really just whizz by faster than last year? Seeing as this is the first year Phoebe has been in school full time, yes, it has gone by faster. Our calendar is chiseled in stone with morning drop offs, afternoon pick-ups, early releases, after school programs and teacher work days. Some days we’re left scrambling to align our schedules because college life and business life have not heard of such things as “Teacher Work Days”. In the blur of this past school year we’ve gotten the full public school experience. A few things have surprised me in a good way, some left me scratching my head, and other things have flat out disgusted me.
#1. What is up with all the days off school? Maybe it’s just me, but growing up in a private school we NEVER got as many days off from school as Phoebe has gotten this year. (And the school year is only half way over). We never got any of the traditional bank holidays or voting day off. We had Summer Break, Thanksgiving and Winter break – that’s it. Snow days? What are those? Teacher Work Days? Didn’t happen. I blame budget cuts and poor school board management. The fewer days the kids are in school the less we have to pay those teachers and power bills? Right? Sad. Yet, they wonder why kids are “left behind”. People wonder why children are lacking in fundamentals and consistently scoring lower on national tests. Here’s a thought, pay the teachers MORE and keep the kids in school LONGER.
#2. NO P.E.?! Another victim of the almighty budget cuts, there are no Physical Education Teachers in any Washoe County school on the elementary level. Let me say that again – NO P.E.! Yet, our kids are growing up in a generation struggling with childhood obesity. Get the picture? Overhauling children’s diets is only one piece of the puzzle Mrs. Obama. Food and exercise go hand in hand. I know when I was little I had a love/hate relationship with PE, but I never ever thought it would be removed from schools all together.
Find more encouragement in our enlightening coffee table book Daily Woodchips of Wisdoms by Frederick and Joy Wood.
#3. Fundraising Burnout. I think the biggest take away I’ve gotten from this year is just how desperately Phoebe’s school needs our money. Every week we’re bombarded with a flier for one fundraiser or another. They want us to sell wrapping paper, or chocolate, or dine at a specific restaurant, or buy books from a specific store on a certain day. Currently , they are selling candy grams for Christmas.
#4. Good Teachers Really Care. Phoebe is super lucky to have Mrs. Payne. From day one she’s been aware of Phoebe’s abilities and instead of letting Phoebe just fall through the cracks she’s been pushing Phoebe and challenging her as much as possible. Not only has she given Phoebe additional work books, books, and chores. She sends Phoebe to a first grade class once a week and has requested a student iPad for Phoebe.
For the record my husband grew up an average public school kid. Back in his day, not only did he ride the bus, he often walked to school – gasp! I know right? How unheard of these days. Unless you live literally across the street from the school your child is attending. Most parents would freak out at the thought of their child walking to school. I on the other hand, grew up in private Christian schools, being chauffeured to class each day by one of my parents and only having to endure a bus ride for field trips. Pretty much the polar opposite of my husband, but we both thrived in our educational environments.
Phoebe is thriving as well. She’s received a hybrid mix of homeschooling and traditional school, but Phoebe is far from a traditional student. Phoebe was reading and reciting her colors, shapes and some sight words by 15 months. She was fully potty trained by 18 months. She was reading signs, books, anything she could get her hands on and we just kept going with her. Many people feared that she’d become stunted socially. Others said that we would have a trouble maker on our hands because she’d be bored. Others doubted her actual intelligence “She’s memorized it right?” “She’s not ACTUALLY reading that right?” – She clearly enunciated and read every single word on the pages in front of her. She can read it. But trust me I had my doubts – “Are we blowing it out of proportion?”
All of my anxiety and concerns for Phoebe evaporated the second her teacher put her test scores up on the smart board (no more overhead projectors folks). It’s one thing to know your child is smart, it’s another to see it on a graph in black and white. Each child was tested and assigned a number so the results were annoynmous. The childs number was written down in the parent folder so each parent would know how their child did. Phoebe bounced over, “Mommy! Mommy! Who’s #4? Look at #4! It’s off the charts!”
Phoebe was #4.
Obviously I didn’t tell Phoebe what her number was. We’re keeping her grounded here. We didn’t need her announcing it to everyone. Lots of parents were caught off guard, others didn’t bother to show up.
I have mixed feelings about it. I know we are blessed to have a smart kid (still struggling with the “gifted” word), but some days it’s a little terrifying – “Will she be picked on? Shunned? Made fun of?” Other days it’s frustrating when she’s forgotten about, usually happens when a substitute teacher is involved and forgets to send her to her first grade class. Other days it’s awesome to watch her soar – when she blows through 13 pages of a math work book or reads books to her classmates or builds elemental structure of thymine “for fun” (Thanks again Stephanie for the app!). The whole reason we keep encouraging her is to see how far she can go. We don’t force any of this on her, she seriously enjoys it.
I’ll never forget her teacher asking us; “What the heck we did with Phoebe?”
We simply explained that we have family members that value education (teachers, homeschoolers) and they offered us endless support. In some cases dumping books in our laps or pointing us in the right direction for resources. The secret is ACTUALLY DOING IT. Sticking to it. We still stick to it even though Phoebe is in school. We’ve seen what has happened to the kids who’s parents say “That’s what school is for.” Those kids are so far behind it’s ridiculous. Kids that don’t know colors, shapes, letters or numbers. Kids coming in at a below zero reading level to kindergarten. She wanted to know specifics and we just told her, we took everything we got our hands on from WIC, pediatricians, books, studies, ect…and just ran with it. Obviously, somethings didn’t work for us, but we gave everything a fair shake and stayed consistent with what we chose to do with Phoebe.
There’s really no secret to helping your child get ahead. #1. Read to them. #2. Continue to read to them at higher levels. #3. Stay involved. Everything from homework to workbooks to class room activities to field trips – whatever, stay involved keep yourself active and present in their education and your child will flourish in their environment too.
Ensuring that your child receives a well rounded educational foundation is not the governments responsibility. It’s not even the schools responsibility either – I mean have you seen the average public school? Have you seen their budget they’re working with? Teachers and volunteers (yes, folks donating their time, not earning a dime) are stretched thin as it is. It is up to the parent of the child.
Thanks for reading,