Electric Grandmother

Maggie Croft's Personal Journal young spirit, wire-wrapped
spark electric grandmother
arc against the night

-- Lon Prater
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on education

Since Avadore was born, Rice and I have been watching our local education system (and the national one, as well) go down the toilet.

I've been talking with lots of parents of elementary school kids and am horrified at what the children have to deal with.

My mother was (okay, she's still licensed, but she retired from the public schools) a speech pathologist and audiologist and my father was in special ed -- he was director of the gifted and talented programs and the "special needs" programs. He is also a child development specialist and an expert in educational law. Some of the things they're telling me about the current state of education is horrifying me.

We have kids (who are already in the juvenile deliquent record system) bringing tire irons to school bus stops to beat on other kids. We have kids beating the crap out of other kids and essentially getting away with it because the local district has lost a lot of its funding and can't afford more than one adult to supervise the kids at recess. We have schools closing down and children being shipped to other schools, thus bringing up the classroom size. We have children being disciplined because they have to go to the bathroom. We have children being disciplined because they can't sit still. (Six and seven-year-olds, for crying out loud. Could you sit without really fidgiting when you were that age?) We have a boy who was about seven or eight when he was sodomized in the boy's bathroom by two fifth graders, which, of course, nothing has come of. We have teachers telling students to let them know if their parents do (insert long list of things here), and if so, they need to know so the parents can be turned in for abuse. (Now, this is a weighty subject -- some things do need to be reported, but they've crossed the line in my mind.) We have kids who aren't getting music classes or art classes. We have kids being taught so they can perform on standardized tests. We have kids being taught to be afraid and that no one can help them.

But this isn't anything new or unusual. This country's schools are filled with such stories, and worse. Drugs and guns and sex and violence and cruelty. Kids being required to do things beyond their development level. And the parents have no control. Very little influence.

There's lots of options, other than public school: charter schools, private schools, homeschool. (I've seen homeschooling curricula that's better than the education I received, which amazes me.)

I know homeschooling has a lot of stigma. But it's an old educational tradition that some people still use. We have one homeschooling option here that is interesting. The curriculum is already put together and is monitered by a professional teacher. The kid essentially goes to school through a computer that is provided at no charge to the parents. The parent moniters the student's learning and accounts for "attendance". The program also has the peer social aspect taken care of. It's an amazing program and I'm intrigued with it, but there's a few things it doesn't have that I think are beneficial. For example, I think it's good for kids to have to learn to get along with other adults and work with them. I think it's good for kids to find adult mentors who inspire them. I hated school lunch, but it was good for me -- it taught me tolerance, I suppose :). It's good to learn how to deal with the bullies, to a point. It's good to find oneself in a place with a few hundred other people to learn about love and hate and sadness and joy.

When I was in the fifth grade I met a kid who is still a friend. I never would have met him without the public schools. I've talked about him here. (He's the one in the Peace Corpse in Guyana.) I hated school. I was bored. I found very few people who really, truly meant much to me. I found a lot of mean viscious kids and adults. But I learned how to study for tests (just before they were administered) on my bus ride to school, which isn't a bad skill to have. I learned to play the clarinet and played in a band and marching band, which were both opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise. I was in several plays, which was good for me. I sang in choirs. I learned I really could sing (once upon a time) because of a teacher. I would never have believed that on my own. I traveled places because of school. I learned things from people that only they could teach me. I was inspired by some teachers in ways no one else could inspire me. I was strongly encouraged in my writing.

I could have had some of these experiences if my family lived in a bigger city that provided such opportunities outside of the public schools, but they never would have happened without public schooling.


Such a disjointed, stream-of-consciousness entry. One that perhaps should take the form of a well thought out essay, but it's not.

We're concerned. We don't want to send our kids into the hell that is currently our local schools. If we can find one, a good charter school may be the answer. I want my kids to have a good education. I want them to learn and grow. I don't want them hurt beyond reason. I don't want them turned into quivering, terrified little boys who are losing their self-confidence (like has happened to some of the boys on our hill). I want them to find people who speak to them and can teach them things they couldn't get any other way. I want them to find joy, even though heartache is a part of the deal.

If Rice and I had to homeschool Avaodore and LD, I know we could do it. Together we can definitely cover everything the boys would ever need academically (from Kindergarten through 12th grade), I have no doubt. I can do English (and reading) and some foreign languages (Spanish, French, Russian absolutely), the social sciences, earth sciences, biological sciences, art and music with a decent level of proficiency. I can do math up to a certain level, and the physical sciences and chemistry. Rice can do math, the physical sciences and chemistry from the point where my knowledge stops to the next levels. In a society where so many pigeon-hole themselves, it's a strange thing to have excelled in so many areas. Most of this definitely comes from my training in anthropology -- I graduated from a program that had a strong emphasis in training the student in all four subdisciplines, and in interdisciplinary coursework. I had to know a good deal about a lot of different things.

But again, there are experiences I can't give to my child that they could have if they weren't homeschooled.

Time to start working now to either try to make things better for when they enter school, for my kids and the other children, or to start looking into other options, e.g. a good charter school.


If any of you are still with me, I appreciate any comments or experiences you have.

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