Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Grays of Parenting

I am on my 3rd or 4th rendition of this blog post. I keep reading it and think it ends up sounding condescending and that I have THE opinion. My goal is to share my opinion and have it be just that, my opinion. Up until I hit motherhood, life was pretty black and white to me. There was right and wrong and not much in between. My mother in law will tell you how annoying I was. :) And then I became pregnant with my first son and realized there is a lot of gray in life, especially parenting. There are the extreme BADS in parenting, e.g. verbal, physical or sexual abuse and neglect or on the other side not parenting, meaning not having rules and standards for your child to abide by.

Overall, though, the majority of parents see a path with many different forks we can travel that aren't bad. And we begin to realize even if we start down a path it may fork in a direction we never intended; it was out of our control. A mom can be adamant that she is going to breastfeed for the first year and have her milk dry up at 5 months. A dad could be convinced his kid is going to play hockey or the guitar and his child can have two left feet or be tone deaf. Parents have done everything right and have had a kid turn out horribly and other parents barely do it right and have their kids turn out to be wonderful.

As a parent, I do have strong opinions about certain things and feel more ambivalent in other areas. My opinions on education were in the middle. A couple of my best friends are teachers and I think they are wonderful to teach. It is amazing to me that teachers can and do put up with all of the crap that society reigns down on them. Our government is again discussing education reform, and I feel they are looking at it the wrong way. They want to put more and more on the teachers when a lot of the learning and schooling should start with the parents at home. Parents need to instill character and morality in their children. Parents need to sit down with their children after school and spend time with them both by helping them with their homework and just by giving them attention. If our government needs to do anything, I think it's to provide educational classes for parents. Teachers all ready have our children 7 hours a day and their function is to set an educational foundation for the children that is nurtured in the home and in their daily life.

Up until 6 weeks ago, I was going to send my kids to either a local charter school or to our public elementary school. My thought was as long as I live in a safe area with a school that has awesome test scores my kids are going there, period. Then I sent my son to a 3 hour, 3 day a week pre-Kindergarten class and realized it wasn't that simple. It is that simple for some but it isn't for me. I realized sending my 5 year old off for 5 days a week to have a stranger teach my child wasn't optimal. As I began to research my options and began to learn about different education philosophies, I also realized the mentality of the public school system did not align with my philosophy.

I am a product of the public school system and turned out just fine. I got good grades, I passed 7 AP courses in high school and feel I had a solid education. In saying that, the majority of my education was not done in the public school system in the state I live in and I think things have changed even since I was in school. I am not anti-public school and I do have this internal battle of am I just being unreasonable?

But as I have read about Classic education, I have fallen in love. Classical education is new to me but in society it is very old. Up until 100 years ago, kids were taught classically. This education philosophy clicked with me. And now my husband and I are discussing how do we teach our children this way? If my eldest son gets into one of the local Charter schools, they teach classically. There is another charter school that has a half home school, half in school Classical type education. My second concern though is teaching my child about God while he learns about grammar, writing, science, math, history and everything else. So then begs the question do we just homeschool or do we start a school that shares this combined belief of a school that teaches Classically and about God? Or a third option, do I send my child to a public charter school and fill in the gaps at home? This is where I am at right now, researching, reading and praying about a path. I struggle with feeling too uneducated to do anything.

I don't think I'm making something that should be easy hard. There is a reason why 5% of parents are homeschooling and why private schools exist and are being started. As I said teachers are amazing to me. The majority of teachers are incredible and they love education and children. I don't think the teachers are broken but I think (and the government thinks) our educational system is broken but I don't foresee them as fixing the real problem. There is so much emphasis put on passing the state standardized tests that we miss the point. Our administrations and government are focused on how to get the lowest ranking schools to have more of their kids pass the tests so it has become about teaching the kids specifically to pass these tests. I saw something amazing when I visited this school that is located in the best school district in San Diego county and it made me think that WE need to re-think this focus on the tests.

Cambridge teaches classically and they don't even have their kids take practice exams. When the public school district officials came to rank this school and to make sure they were teaching these children enough to where they could pass the state tests they found that these students test 2 years above where the students in this school district test. This shows me that it shouldn't be about the tests, this change should be about either reducing class sizes or having the student/teacher ratio be lower. So when kids excel there is someone to motivate them to shoot even higher. And when kids are struggling there is someone who can focus on helping them. But now when kids struggle the kids who are excelling take a back seat to those who struggle because the teacher has to get her/his kids to pass. I just hope that as we all consider the changes needed in our public schools that we fight for smaller classes and chances for those who are average and who excel to be challenged also.

I know I can teach my children about religion at home. I don't need to hide them from the world and people in it. Reality shows me that in 13 1/2 years my first kid will be out of the house and on his own. He needs to know how to function in that world and to be strong in his convictions. But as I think of education I don't think I'm ready to throw him into that world of 25+ Kindergartners in a class. And so I struggle daily with my thoughts of what do I do then? Hopefully, soon, I'll share with you what we decide and feel free to share your thoughts and opinions because maybe you think I have this all wrong. ;)

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