Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why Do We Homeschool Our Children?

I used to work as a teacher in an at risk elementary school. I was there for about eight years. I worked with children as a nanny and in daycare setting before I worked as a teacher. I took the time and care to earn a master's degree while raising two children and working full time. Even though I have to pay back student loans and stay on a fairly strict budget, my husband and I have decided that I will home school our children. Many people voice concerns about this choice. I wanted to address those concerns and explain why, as a teacher, I was concerned about my children being in public school.

When my first child was attending kindergarten she was quick to learn and often given work that was too easy because her teacher had to work with a mostly one size fits all curriculum mandated by the county.  I also taught kindergarten at the same school and was able to observe her teacher attempt to find enriching activities for my daughter but this mostly consisted of reading chapter books and completing computer games. Her teacher was hand picked by me and to this day we love her and keep in touch. However, she was unable to meet my child's needs in kindergarten. What does that say about what an upper grade teacher would be able to do for my child should she continue to be a quick learner or ahead. During intervention groups, created to help those who had never been to school and were then considered behind if they could not catch up to those who had an academic prekindergarten class, my child was always in the computer lab because she tested out of the intervention groups immediately. This meant months of the same games, basically keeping my child stagnant because, at the time, there was not enough money to hire another person to teach an enrichment group for children like her. At the end of the year, due to the academic issues and some issues with other student snot being disciplined for dangerous behavior, my husband and I chose to change her to a local charter school.

When my oldest enrolled in the charter school, her sister also attended the prekindergarten program at the school. Aside from the whole class being punished when a few acted poorly, she had a decent year. She was enrolled in gifted because she was bored in class and we consented to have her tested in order to try and find her some enrichment activities. Unfortunately my four year old had a less successful year. She arrived as a four year old who was beginning to read. Her teacher refused to link what she already knew to their curriculum so my child basically started over memorizing the picture cards that went with the curriculum instead of building on her current knowledge. We saw immediate regression in her learning and her attitude. She is a spirited child and was diagnosed with sensory integration dysfunction toward the middle of that year. The teacher originally said she did nap time BUT that my child could do puzzles or read during that time because she is so hyper and busy all the time. She had not napped in over two years when she began prekindergarten. Midway through the year, after her diagnosis, we found my daughter throwing her body against the wall over and over after school. She could not make herself stop. It was so bad that she bruised her shoulder and I had to hold her in a bear hug for nearly thirty minutes before her urge to bang into things was gone. Turned out she was made to lay down for over thirty minutes by the teacher even though we had all agreed this was not acceptable for my child and we had occupational and play therapist notes backing up the no rest time no nap policy for my daughter. The principal and I had a few chats about this and basically I was given my money back for the afternoon charges and found a neighbor who could help with my daughter after the morning prekindergarten class was complete. The principal told me that she would make sure my child rested during the kindergarten day as well whether I liked it or not so we obviously would not continue at that school. All the other schools in our county did not rest or nap because it is a waste of academic time.

The next year my oldest was in second grade and my middle child was in kindergarten and we decided to try our neighborhood school. We hoped they could handle the few special needs my middle child had and also meet the needs of my oldest who was not only in gifted for extra enrichment but also very bored in general in school. The year went well for a while. Eventually there was an issue with the kindergarten teacher expecting the children to be silent while eating snack which is in very poor design when teaching these mainly at risk children who have rarely had experiences outside of the home. Toward the end of the year there was also an issue with the teacher telling my middle child to undress in front of other adults and children on water day because the teacher wanted to get to her lunch on time. So the teacher took advantage of my child's documented anxiety and sensory issues so she could have her break. During water day at my former school, I did not get a normal break, instead we had a paraprofessional come through every kindergarten teacher's room and give us a few minutes to eat and use the restroom as the day progressed. No one changed in front of others in that situation. I spoke to my principal who said that was insane and not something a principal can defend. Sadly, the principal yelled at me over the phone and said I could not attend a field trip because I complained. Obviously this ended up being a huge issue and I did contact the state. No child should have that happen ever. No principal should defend such behavior.

At the end of the school year my husband and I began looking at private school sand discussing home school options. We decided that we would move to another state, he would get a job and I would stay home with the children. At the time we expected to use public or private school for the children, but we live in an area with some questionable characters in some areas. Our area is nice and fairly crime free but the schools here are in areas that are not as safe. I urged my husband to agree to virtual public school and he agreed. Sadly the curriculum was not challenging enough and there were some other issues with shredded paperwork and also threats of attendance being deleted if we did not take standardized tests even though this state legally allows a parent to opt children out of such tests. In the end, we decided it would be easier and less of a fight to home school the children. I was already doing most of the work anyway, why not do the work but also make it tailored to what the children need.

Let me be clear, we do support public school. We just do not agree with the way things are right now. Our children are not guinea pigs to be tested or sat in a corner at a computer for hours on end. We are happy to pay taxes and attend local functions that support teachers and schools, but our children will not attend those schools until some huge positive changes are made. 

I also want to mention that if your child is in public, charter, or even private school please drop in from time to time, talk to the teacher often, volunteer or have a friend or family member volunteer. You need to be aware of how the school is run and who is with your child daily. You may think your school or teacher is the best, but, sadly there are many things a parent who rarely visits the school will ever know about how their child is treated and what he or she does all day long. Please do not blame the teacher if you see an issue unless he or she is clearly the problem. It could be that his or her hands are tied and the teacher has to do things a certain way or lose that job. Sometimes the principal is the issue, but more often it is the school board or state legislature that is enacting rules and regulations without funding them.

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