I am totally, completely, and irrevocably fed up with public school. Actually, I’m fed up with any sort of organized entity dedicated to cramming information in a kid’s brain, so that includes private school as well. I cannot think of anything I learned in elementary school that has made me a successful adult. I loved to read as a kid (still do) and everything important that I know came from reading material outside of a formal education. Every time I’ve been surprised that other adults don’t know something, I have realized that it was something on which I educated myself.
Currently, my youngest is in 8th grade. He spent kindergarten through half of 2nd grade in a private school, then the rest of 2nd and all of 3rd in a public school, then home-schooled through most of 4th grade (till my work schedule would not permit it anymore, and returned to the private school until 6th grade. We tried out public junior high, which was… meh. I didn’t really see him learning anything.
This year, we’re trying out ARVA, the Arkansas Virtual Academy version of K12, the online public charter school. At first, I thought it was going to be great. I thought it was going to be about learning. Wrong! It’s just another public school, albeit with computers, PowerPoint, and LiveScribe pens. (Note: I can’t comment about what goes on in the base program, or in other states, so please keep that in mind.)
Public school is all about keeping money from the federal government. It’s about kids passing tests, so that schools can keep their funding and so that teachers can keep their jobs. I’m not criticizing the teachers and school staff — I work as a nurse and we’re all about customer service, so the hospital can stay open and we can keep our jobs. So I get the mentality. Not everybody wants to teach their kids. Not everyone is capable of doing so. Teachers are needed.
However, what we need teachers for is so that children can learn. Frankly, the K12 program at its core is pretty good. If there weren’t so many time constraints, it would be great (for the life of me, I can’t figure out why an online school is out for summer break anyway). It’s all the rubbish added by the state and the federal government that ruin it. For example, my kid basically has to take three math classes: Pre-Algebra, Common Core Math, and this worthless drivel called “Study Island.” I’ll get back to that last thing later, as it is the bane of my existence.
Initially, the placement tests put Nick in Algebra, but halfway through the year he couldn’t get the concepts anymore. I figured it was because he hadn’t had Pre-Algebra, so we switched to that. It’s super-easy. There’s just no happy medium there, but we’re still plugging along with it because I think eventually he’ll come to a point where he’ll need to look at the book again. Instead of zipping along and doing three 60-minute lessons in a thirty-minute period, he’ll come across something that requires more time and attention. Probably. Maybe.
I don’t know if you really want me to get started on Common Core. It’s undoubtedly the biggest piece of dog poop since dog poop was invented. You can Google it and make up your own mind, but here’s an example: I have a friend whose 1st-grader is required to go up to the teacher’s desk and do a certain amount of math problems in 1 minute, or she’ll get a lower grade. Oh, and you have to do them *exactly* the way you’ve been taught. I mentioned this to my mother and she commented that I’d never have made it out of 2nd grade. It’s true. I would have been crippled from performance anxiety the very first time.
For the record, Nick is good at math. However, he doesn’t do things the exact way the book says. He does them his own way — and still gets the correct answer. I have no idea how he does it, but I am aware that mathematics is a fluid and flexible system that allows such things.
He can’t do the 8th grade Common Core work, primarily because there is no method of instruction. It doesn’t go along with the Pre-Algebra curriculum. There are no online lessons through K12, and it has no logical sequence. This brings me to Study Island.
Study Island looks like it would be a place to practice math skills… except that it also has nothing in common with the Pre-Algebra lessons or Common Core. In addition, you have three tries at each quiz, and if you don’t pass, it dumps you into “Building Blocks” which are so ineffective at giving “remedial lessons” that Nick’s teacher advised parents not to let the kids take the test more than twice. She wanted to offer some tutoring, because apparently going into “Building Blocks” is a fate worse than Harry Potter going into the labyrinth after the Goblet of Fire.
So basically, what we have here is what seems to be a good program, K12, which has been wrecked and mangled by the Arkansas “education” system into a mishmash of confusion that is difficult for parents and students alike, less about learning, and more about passing a stupid test so that schools can keep their funding. I’m disappointed and disgusted, and irritated that I’ve spent so much of this year worrying and stressing over getting assignments finished, completing activities on time, and dealing with the sneaking suspicion that I’ve made a bad decision.
What keeps coming back to me is my belief that our American way of life: school, college, work, buy loads of irrelevant crap, retire, and die is a really pathetic way to spend one’s days here on Earth. I want more than that for my children. I want more that than for me, which is why I write and publish. I bought the lies and fell into the trap; not only am I trying to get out of it, but I’d like them to avoid it entirely.
I’ve read some of Robert Kiyosaki’s books, and the one thing that sticks with me is that not everyone has the same kind of genius. I’d like to give Nick the opportunity to discover what his genius truly is — and how he’ll use it in his adult life.
Another thing is that the ARVA head of school requested that parents give the school an entire year. It’s a commitment that I’m not entirely comfortable backing out of; not because there are any penalties, but because I agreed to stay a whole year by enrolling my kid. It’s just the way I define it.
So I suppose we’ll stay with ARVA, but it’ll be on my terms. Common Core and Study Island can go take a leap, and so can that damned LiveScribe pen. It kills me that there are kids that can’t read or do basic math, and that the education system’s solution is to buy more computers. Kids don’t need computers and iPads and all that other technical bullcrap at school. You know why? Because they have it at home. My kid did not learn one single thing in school during any of his computer classes. In fact, being a digital native who has been in front of a computer since birth, I’m pretty sure he could have taught the classes.
We’ll keep doing the lessons, but I’m going to relax and let him take his time. Instead of rushing through that research paper, I’d like to take six weeks and really teach him how to research a topic and write one. That’s how I learned to do it, with multiple trips to libraries.
In the meantime, I’m going to research unschooling. I’ve looked into it off and on for years, but have never dared to do it. It’s time to stop being afraid. I dared to put myself through college. After two divorces, I dared to try marriage one more time. I dared to become an ER nurse. I dared to let my kid make his own decision about seeing his father without legal approval. I dared to write books. I dared to create my own publishing company and publish them. I have dared to run and lift weights and push my body to expand its limits.
Now I’m going to help my kid to learn, and to teach himself.