Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Public Education

I'm sitting here, looking at the monitor of my pc, so bewildered that I don't even know where to start this post- but I know I need to talk about it because it is causing me a lot of stress right now.

Currently I have two children in the local public school- an institution which has won the "blue ribbon" from the Dept. of Education and has a reputation that is first rate in the County where we live. We pay exorbitant taxes, by any standard, to live where we do, mostly to support this school district. Yet, the problems that exist with "public education" in general are no different in this affluent community, than they were in the lower-income neighborhood from which we came. Children are fed a cookie-cutter curriculum, though taught by teachers with advanced degrees who are paid much better than average, and if your child doesn't happen to fit the mold they are designed for, but are not considered "special education" students, you, my friend, are out of luck. I have children who don't fit molds- though normal in appearance (LOL), they walk, talk, and read later than the expectations for the "No Child Left Behind" standards. Though they are remarkably more mature than many of their peers of the same age- which, because it can't be quantified on a standardized test, does not matter in the least to the people running "the system." My seven-year old son, Liam
, could sit in a room full of adults and carry on a very meaningful conversation with anyone, regardless of age or background, and can handle difficult situations with stride- but his reading skills are, well, remedial, when evaluated in terms of where he "should be" in public school

Liam reading a book to Ben this morning over breakfast.

. My daughter, Lily, now ten, developed in the same exact manner, in regards to academics, and is now a student who receives mostly A's on her report card and has no trouble achieving as she is "programmed". So where we are, right now, is in a very tense state trying to advocate for Liam's rights to succeed at his own pace, with the faith that he will, as his sister has demonstrated, not only "catch up" but surpass the public school's expectations of him in the very near future. As there is no scientific basis for the conclusions we, as his parents, have drawn, our pleas have basically fallen on deaf ears and he, as well as Tom and I, are being treated, in my opinion, as if there is some misconduct as far as his study habits are concerned, and our support of him in this manner. At each conference, and with the latest report card, which was horrendous, we are being put in a position where we feel like we are on trial- where we must defend the amount of time Liam spends studying his words every night, etc. etc. I long to remove him, and maybe all of my children, from this oppressive scenario and plop them down in a school that educates children in a more holistic manner, but that is neither affordable or convenient based on where we live. I envy my friends who are homeschooling- the freedom is remarkable and their children are so well-rounded in their academic experience. But, as always, we, as parents, are only striving to do what is best for our children, with no regard to the opinions of anyone else, and sometimes that decision isn't as clear cut as we'd like it to be. There are only gray areas for us, as far as the learning side of life is concerned. And right now, I just feel an ache in my heart- because my son is so special

Liam at a table in his favorite class- ART

and he isn't receiving the care that he deserves and the space in which to grow on his own time frame. What to do....


jen said...

aw, he looks like such a sweet little guy. i know how you feel.


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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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