Thursday, June 10, 2010

School's out Forever...why I removed my son from public school again.

We started this year as homeschoolers and will end it as homeschoolers, with an experiment in public school squished in between. Bottom line is the public school experiment failed for my son Ryan. Doesn't mean it fails for all kids, just mine.

I am exhausted from trying to shove the round peg that is my son into the square hole that is the public school. We gave it our best shot, we really did. Ryan devoted 7 hours to the school day and 2 hours to the required homework each night. He sat through classes he had no interest in and forced himself to fill out endless senseless worksheets day after day. Trying to lessen the load, I did the silly crosswords for him and the stupid "find a word" sheets which was nothing more than busy work. Problem is, Ryan saw through it all and hated it. Having spent time as a homeschooler, he wondered how what he was doing in school was connected to "true" learning.

In math class, Ryan was told to show his work. He wondered how to show work he could do in his head. He told his teacher he didn't know how to show work for answers that simply appeared in his head, but she deducted points from him anyway, even though his answers were correct. My husband and I emailed the teacher and explained that Ryan was a right-brained visual learner and would show what work he could, but it may be less than what the school expected. Rather than replying to our email, the next day in class, the teacher told Ryan she didn't care what his parents said, but that he had to show his work.

In language arts, Ryan was expected to read assigned books and then fill out pages upon pages of worksheets asking mundane questions about the story. What was the author thinking? Who was the antagonist? How does this story relate to your life? Ryan rushed through these many questions, not caring about the quality, just wanting to be done with them. This sort of work amounts to nothing more than early training for the work world where people rush through things, not caring about the outcome. Sensing that Ryan was losing interest in reading and writing through this forced form of instruction, we asked the school if Ryan could take language arts as an independent study course so he could read what he wanted and work on the novel he is writing. The school denied the request.

Ryan hated social studies right from the start. He had to do projects outside of class that had strict rules to follow. His report on Muhammad required that the document be made to look old, there were to be no pictures on the cover, a certain number of symbols had to be on the first page, certain topics were to be covered and each topic required five talking points etc...For Ryan it was like learning in a straight jacket. With expectations like this, we wonder why our work force can't problem solve or offer up creative solutions.

To the school's credit, Ryan did enjoy his science class. This teacher was very involved with the kids and seemed to have a better understanding about how kids learned best. Maybe because this was an advanced science class, the teacher was allowed more freedom, thus allowing more freedom for the kids.

While Ryan struggled day after day with these problems and more, I hated the fact that he was spending 9 hours on school each day, but having little to show for it. Because of discipline problems at the school, the teachers spent more time responding to the trouble makers in class than they did teaching. This in turn resulted in more class work being sent home which made for less family time. During the 6 months Ryan spent at school this year, he actually slipped backward in his desire for learning. We lost ground as I saw it, not gained.

Another drawback to public schooling is that Ryan went from being a well rounded kid with lots of outside interests like archery, guitar, and rock climbing to all of a sudden being super concerned about what he looked like. His looks became more important than simply enjoying his life. The atmosphere at school was competitive and overly caught up in external looks over internal values, leading to worries over looks and clothing.

Ryan tried to finish out the school year but when spring storms resulted in the school year being extended to the end (yes end!) of June, we decided to bail. I didn't have the heart to send my kid to a place he hated during a month that would typically be considered summer. So we are homeschoolers again. Don't know what the fall will bring...just know we aren't going back to public middle school.

I can smell the breeze off the sound once again, maybe get my life back too, now that I don't have to deal with my son's struggles with public school.



Many public school systems are under the gun to have kids perform, They have found the most efficient way is to make each student into a cookie cutter model. No room for creativeness. No room for social justice. No room for critical thinking. It is unfortunate that we have put this vendetta on our children. -- barbara

Wendy said...

Sounds like it was a tough year for you all. I hope you find some time to rest.

Darcy said...

Barbara, Unfortunately, instutional schooling requires instructing many children at once which reduces the ability to teach to each child as an individual. Much is lost through this process and many children suffer. If more parents would listen (and remove their kids from school) when their kids told them how much they hate school, maybe real educational reform would take place. If students were leaving schoolrooms in record numbers, something would have to change.

Darcy said...


Thanks for your comment. Yes, it has been a tough year but I believe that all hard lessons bring about positive growth. We will get through this stronger and better prepared for what the future holds.