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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Yes, it really is that bad...

The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.~Mr Wiki

We all know the story of how to cook a frog. The frog is our education system & the water's been heating up so gently the majority have been lulled into a false sense that things are pretty ok & pretty much just like when we went to school.  OK, so we know that numeracy & literacy levels are down but we just need to get the kids of the computer ~ or perhaps we just need to change our expectations for a computer literate society.  Either way there's not much wrong.  Not really.  Anyone who homeschools has gotta be ever so slightly out of their teensy little Chinese mind.

So here is the thing.  I don't do the political thing.  I know there's a political agenda to all this.  I do my reading & keep in touch but you can argue politics till the cows come home & people will still sit on the same side of the fence they started on.    Nope it's much more personal for me, far more experiential, because we sent our kids to school.  Not my idea!  Even 20 years ago I had issues but Dearest wasn't in favour & so ours dutifully toddled along to the local school, which was a tiny 2 teacher affair with about a whole 30 students across 7 grades.  And because I was a good & dutiful mummy I signed up as a helper ~ not in the tuckshop.  Heaven forfend!  I don't do food.  Nope, I trained for the reading program.  Then I trained for the writing program.  I even trained for the math program.  For 10 years I worked the numeracy & literacy program at our local primary school & however bad you think things are, believe me, they are that bad.  Actually they are probably worse than you ever imagined because our government in it's infinite wisdom has turned our schools into a toothless tiger.  They are unable to discipline & so the kids have turned them into a laughing stock.  They know full well there's really nothing the schools can do to them.

Ok, I was working the remedial program so I got to see first hand just how bad this can be.  I worked with the older children because some of the boys were so out of hand others were frightened of them.  I was not.  Most of them were super clever kids bored & frustrated beyond endurance.  I worked with grades 5, 6 & 7, ages10~13.  I had kids with no phonics ~ no decoding reading skills at all, who couldn't even read at a grade 2 level.  How do you do grade 5 work when you can't read your instructions, let alone understand them?  Bad, but ok.  Most of these kids had good reason for being behind: sickness, interstate moves, travel, learning problems but then someone decided it would be a really good move to give their good readers some read aloud practise & sent them out to me for some one~on~one reading time.  BIG mistake.  Remember these kids weren't considered poor readers.  This was the cream of the crop, the bright kids who were considered to be doing well academically & they weren't beginning readers, yet child after child came unstuck on words like: abbreviation, abdication,  abduction,  aberration,  abjection,  ablation,  ablution, station, stationary, fruition ~ how do you get to grade 5 & not know *ion says shon*?  I was apalled.  And that was the easy stuff.  It was about then I twigged that if I wanted my kids to read well I was going to have to do the work myself ~ & I did.  It's why Star never went to kindy.  Why should she compete with 25~30 other littlies when I could give her all her pre~reading skills one~on~one at home?  I didn't expect her to read.  That was not my intent & purpose but hey!  Guess what?  She learnt to read in about 6 weeks of 10 minutes or less a day.

And here's the thing; poor readers are usually poor writers.  Good readers generally write well.  They have a good grasp of literary usage.  They understand how language is put together on paper because they read it.  Don't get me started on math!  Star's concret, everyday math is excellent ~ far better than mine, & I taught her.    I found what motivated her & went with it.  We had no math problems until the experts started meddling & accssed the child of cheating~ at which point said child dug in her heels & refused to co~operate any further.

How did we get into such a mess?  We gave children rights but did not require a corresponding sense of responsibility.  So here's some of what I witnessed first hand in the playground because I was there at the time: a child try to push my son's head through the iron bars of the verandah railing [required 7 staples]; my high achieving athlete bullied unmercifully by younger girls [only when I threatened to remove said child which would have resulted in a monetary loss for the school was this issue resolved]; knives in school bags; one child arrived with dad's gun minus the cartridge thingy; A child throw pine cones at a teacher's face [drew blood; we were told it would go no further as the paperwork wasn't worth it & the parents, who were not there at the time, abused the teachers for inciting their son to violence; they didn't]; a child write F---on the sole of one shoe & YOU on the other.  Every time he didn't want to do something he put his feet up on the desk & his epitaph in the teacher's face.  I have been asked to not enter a classroom because the class teacher felt they could not guarantee my safety.  I have heard children use words I don't even know the meaning of & utter threats against teachers' personal safety.

Oh well, you might be thinking, you live in a low socio~economic area.  These things happen. Nope.  I went to an exclusive private girls school, which I hated, & I would stand in assembly Monday morning while the money went down the line one way & the drugs came back up.  I listened to 12 & 13 years olds recount their sexual exploits over the weekend. [That was an education!] We had girls flipping out on acid ~ & the teachers wondered why I was always reading a book under my desk.  Far safer than the real world! But that at least was high school.

The difference is the escalation in violence, drug usage, sexual exploits at increasingly younger ages.  I remember chatting with one lad who was yawning his way through yet another lesson & always seemed to be tired about the whys only to be informed he'd been up half the night smoking pot & watching t.v. He didn't even blush at the admission.  I did that for him.   I have worked with girls not yet out of primary school who were sexually active ~ & proud of it.  I've watched kids sit through classes & not do a tap of work.  When I mentioned this to their teachers I was told there will always be those kids who will slip through the cracks.

You might think my experience was with a particularly poor school, bad teachers.  You would be wrong.  The teachers were wonderful, very dedicated.  They tried hard within the constraints of the education department.  They employed people to cater for those struggling & for their gifted students.  They subsidised excursions & camps but I started timing the amount of time wasted each day on discipline, lining up, issuing instructions, resolving problems & it was in the hours each & every day!  A class was lucky to get a full hour of instruction time on any given day.

High school is even worse because the kids are bigger & so many of them do not really want to be there.  They are over school but required to be there by law.  Locally, on any day of the week, you will find the shopping centres full of kids from every school in the shire who have simply walked out of class & are wandering round the shops till it is time to catch the bus home.

I do not wonder why people homeschool.  I do wonder how any loving parent can subject their children to the sort of *education* I have seen in our schools.  Even when Star was pressuring me, even when it would have been so much easier to give in & send her to the local high, there was never any question in my mind that however hard it got, however difficult Star decided to be, however bad I was as a teacher, Star was far, far better of at home.  I have seen our schools.  They are not a pretty sight ~ & most of it will never make the news headlines ~ but that is part of the political agenda & I did say I wasn't going there!


Bonnie said...

Wow. I so needed to read this today. I have been really debating the whole school/homeschool issue as my oldest will be 5 this year. And you just reminded me of all the other reasons I want to homeschool. Starting to wrap my head around (finally) just how important my job at home is. Better late than never.

Ganeida said...

Bonnie: apart from anything else the stats on kids who get a secular education & retain their faith into college are frightening. We lose 85/90% & they do not return to the church. I have heard the srguements about our children being salt & light. Sadly it more often seems they get corrupted rather than acting as salt. First train your warriors....

Julie said...

I homeschooled our daughters for seven years, after having originally thought I could never do it. My opinion changed in one afternoon when a friend said "Why drive a Pinto when you have a Rolls Royce in the garage?" And she told me that two hours of tutoring would accomplish more for them than 7 hours of schooling in a crowded classroom. That made sense to me and I'm so grateful we did it. If anyone reading this doesn't know what a Pinto is you can google it - it was a cheap little car in the 70s made by Ford that went by the wayside....funny looking and unsafe to drive. :)

I remember the last year of schooling Sara at home we read 54 books together, sitting on the couch and watching the snow fall. *sigh*

Ganeida said...

Julie: Yes, the close family bonds are one of the things I have loved most about homeschooling ~ that & the removal of so much of the peer pressure because the kids have a safe haven from it. It made a huge difference to Liddy & gave her confidence to be who she was meant to be ~ not who her friends determined she should be ~ which was someone she didn't like very much.

I would never say there is never a Christian child who is meant to be in public school but I think those who do well in their faith in that environment are rare ~ & the statistics agree with me.

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

I love how you said you don't do the politics thing... so often these "positions" on "issues" are so much smoke and mirrors. Really, no political fix will fix the schools. :(

Ganeida said...

HEM: I know you have some of yours in school, understand; no judgement call on that. I just never had a real high opinion of our schools to start with & having worked in them I'm just pretty disgusted. Not with the teachers. Most teachers I know are wonderful, hardworking, dedicated people, but the education of our children has become a political football full of politically correct nonsense ~ like you can't ever be *wrong* Baloney! Only an idiot would think differently ~ which pretty much covers it. *sigh*

Catherine said...

You had me start when I read your second paragraph:

" And because I was a good & dutiful mummy I signed up as a helper ...... Nope, I trained for the reading program. Then I trained for the writing program. I even trained for the math program. For 10 years I worked the numeracy & literacy program at our local primary school.."

How many years does a teacher train to cover this? Why are these fundamentals being req. of parents to teach? (sorry .. rhetorical question, hey?!)

I tried teaching in this system, and couldn't stomach it either. I WANT to teach. I LOVE teaching! But when this sort of behaviour robbed my time and patience, (and I felt like my sense of morals were being corrupted, too), I took the side door.

I'm just so grateful that I had a most wonderful, diligent teacher in grades 3 and 5 who showed me how to really lead a child to learn well. She set me up for life, and if I ever see her again, I'll be hugging her. :)

Ganeida said...

Not only did I get minimal training for this stuff but my sucess rate was higher! That's scary. However I was teaching one~on~one, which makes a huge difference! I never want to go back into a classroom to teach. Not ever. It was just so depressing in the end. It's a system that would have destroyed my beautiful Star.