Friday, August 24, 2012

The Problem with Public Education

As the new school year approaches, I cannot help but reflect on WHY I am not sending my kids this year.

So clearly I have a problem with public school if I am going to these great lengths to avoid it right? Well, sort of. I don't have the 'usual' problems that you hear, such as: bullying, inappropriate peer models, religious objections to curriculum, socialization problems....My problem is pretty simple really - I hate how much they sit and push papers! I know, I know, you've heard this before. But think about it. They are in school for 6 1/2 hours a day. 30-40 min for lunch, 20 min for recess (and not always), 40 minutes for special. Once in a while they have 2 specials in one day, so make it an even 60 minutes for specials. That leaves 4 1/2 hours of sitting at a desk!

I am sorry but I cannot sit at a desk for 4 1/2 hours, let alone my 5 & 7 year old children. And we wonder why things like ADHD are on the rise?! Not only are we asking these kids to sit for tremendous amounts of time, we are also asking them to do things that developmentally, their bodies are not necessarily ready for. Did you know that developmentally, a child can wait until age 5 to choose hand dominance and that's considered within the normal range? How do you expect a 5 year old (or in some cases 4 year olds) to be able to write their name, letters, numbers and soon enough words, if developmentally they should just be choosing hand dominance?!?!

Think about when you went to kindergarten. I don't know about you but I went to half day kindergarten, we had NAP TIME, snack time, play time & maybe watched a filmstrip (yes I am THAT old) on a letter a week. THAT WAS IT! I was able to read and write at that point, but not all children are ready for that at 5. We spent the entire time socializing, learning through play and experiences, singing songs.....sound familiar? So what the hell are we doing now? These poor kids come home with packets of worksheets each day, they play outside once or twice a week, and they have a kitchen set in their classroom that doesn't get touched. Unbelievable!

Now it's easy for me to say because I am not responsible for teaching 20+ 4-6 year olds right? WRONG. I have taught in the classroom before. Except I did it with 18, 4-5 year olds, half of which had special needs. It is possible to teach a large group of children in a hands-on, multisensory way. I came from a school that refused to do worksheets. Our preschool was modeled after our kindergarten, so they did not do worksheets either. Well then, how do they learn to write? oh, I  dunno - sand, fingerpaint, magnetic letters, shaving cream, pudding, chalk.........How do they learn their letters and to read?  By being offered a literature rich environment. How do they learn math? Through counting & sorting manipulatives. Learning through hands on experiences. What a novel idea. For example, when we read the '3 Little Kittens Who Lost Their Mittens' the students listened to the story at circle, they acted it out, they had a felt board to act it out, they had REBUS charts (matching a word to a picture), they had mittens at the water table & had to hang them on a clothesline (also a fine motor activity), they counted cats and mittens, sorted cats or mittens by color or put them into patterns (math activities), they had cat books in the library, housekeeping, and listening centers............shall I go on?

If I can teach 4 and 5 year olds, half of which have special needs, in a center based, hands-on, multisensory way, why can't our teachers do it with older kids that have no disabilities? I realize there are unidentified students with special needs in these classrooms. I realize that teachers have little creative license in their classrooms. Districts purchase curriculums that the teachers are forced to teach.

However, I do not give the teachers a full pass, there are ways around this, I did it. But your district, the one YOU PAY TAXES TO, needs to hear this in masses from it's taxpayers. Most teachers went into teaching because they love it. They are creative, innovative and have the ability to teach children in a variety of exciting, interesting, and more appropriate ways than these curriculums allow them to. Get involved in your child's education.Write an email, attend a board meeting, talk to your principal.....

Demand more of your schools.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Herkimer Diamond Mining

So, although homeschooling 'officially' starts in September, we decided to use this trip as a kickoff to our homeschooling experiment. We put a little more thought into it, used the experiences to ask questions, get them to ask questions, investigate, etc. And for the most part it was successful...........

The Expectation:

I had never been to Herkimer before, nor had I gone diamond mining before. Frank had talked about it. His brother goes a lot and has shown us his many treasures. I was excited and very interested to check this out. Let me set the scene: Diamond Mining!! Pictures like the one above, are posted EVERYWHERE. The campground has a jewlery case full of these diamonds, jewlery made out of the diamonds, paperweights, you name it! I had visions of digging up little nuggetts of shiny treasure. I wasn't envisioning anything HUGE but several inches maybe. So we get our gear, go in and pay and get ready to dig up awesome diamonds. Remember, the girls were hoping to get a bucket full to sell at $50 a pop in order to buy a cruise ship...

The Reality:

We show up to a shack that immediately put Deliverance banjo music into my head. There were giant rock piles, dirt piles and MUD. I took my children to the bathroom before starting and it felt like something out of Silence of the Lambs. But 'I am going to keep an open mind', I think to myself.  Up we go hauling all our tools and shovels. As we are walking up, a woman and her daughter are walking down. They inform us that the diamonds are EVERYWHERE! So I think 'OK This could still be great!' Finally, Let's Start Looking!!

And looking, and looking.......and digging, and smashing rocks with mallets, and digging some more.........OOOOOOHHHHHHHH! WE FOUND ONE!!! Ok sorry but it looked like broken glass and was the size of a polly pocket shoe (and you all know how much I love those!). After about an hour, we found 5 more polly pocket size 'diamonds.' Another hour goes by, it is hot and humid, Frank has smashed about 2700 rocks and NOTHING! The kids have resorted to playing house on some rocks that resembled a table and chairs and I just sit quietly and wait.......As we decide to leave, I am feeling somewhat guilty, like we didn't give it a fair shot............... until I hear another person say (who had a sledgehammer going against a 50 lb boulder) "I'd keep going if I thought there was a HUGE ONE INCHER in there." REALLY?! A one incher is considered HUGE? I'm done!

 I took the kids back with me to the campsite and OCD Joe decides to go back for MORE! So I send him on his merry (and deluded) way and go poolside with the kids. I guess this could be considered our first FAIL of the homeschooling experience. But oddly enough, it wasn't. I was shocked but my eldest asked to go back after an hour of swimming! OCD Joe & daughter came back with some really cool 'diamonds.' They both enjoyed the experience and me and my youngest enjoyed the pool.

Maybe this control freak is starting to learn that it doesn't all have to come from her or be planned by her to be a success?

NAH probably not!