Friday, September 18, 2009

Back to School blues

We are SO back to school. I’ve gone from leisurely coffee by myself in the morning to being shot out of a cannon into a civil war each day. At our house, Back to School is one of those Through the Wormhole experiences where summer sun kissed children must get beamed up Scotty and reconstituted as school children who must be assessed and tested and must fit precisely into the labeled and classified system. We are not doing so good with it this year. Some of my children may have become Aliens.

Far away in another galaxy, my children went to a progressive private school. They LOVED school and couldn’t wait to get there every morning. They bemoaned weekends and holidays. They may have been slow to get out of bed, but they were Fired Up and Ready to Go. But we live on Earth now, and my youngest is drawing hearts and flowers on the calendar where there are days off. She is counting down to the first day she does NOT have to go to school. We’ve already had the first “Mom, I’m too sick to go to school” day---its so early for the psychosomatic tummy aches and head aches that are a household specialty. And my almost teenaged son was blasting Pink Floyd’s The Wall one night:
We don't need no education
We dont need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

Now I would hate to deprive my children of the universal youth experience of Hating School. And I am completely certain that whatever job they end up getting will require them to take standardized tests monthly to determine what species they are and what their benefits and compensation package should be---in fact, I plan on putting their ISAT scores on their resumes---oh wait, the school does not just give those to you, I forgot. You have to hunt them down and capture those little meaningful numbers.

In its infinite wisdom, our school district has already started the standardized testing, a mere three weeks into the year. My kids have not even figured out the names of all their classmates and teachers yet, and this is a district that lost our preregistration forms turned in last July TWICE. Not sure I trust them with the data.

We sat over a fire last weekend looking up at the stars. I looked at my children in the glow and wondered what each of them will become. I realized that probability is high that one or more will have a career that does not exist yet. Five years ago, who could be a professional blogger? Or a social media consultant?

I am not sure that testing them like lab frogs will help anyone’s kids fill the positions we are going to invent. Most of the innovators whose biographies I have studied did not do so well in the normal schools of their time. Frank Lloyd Wright and Margaret Mead were homeschooled.

Maybe a small piece of me hopes, in this back to school season, that my kids don’t fit easily into the cookie cutters created so neatly for them. You know the Below Standards, Meets Standards, Exceeds Standards slots. Because I don’t think the MAP tests can assess the wonder of looking at the moon or the innovation of talking about the resort you would build there. They aren’t looking at my standards which measure the fascination with a song and the tenacity to keep working until you find the melody and then the harmony on the keyboard. I do know that right now, the things that light my kids up and capture their hearts, minds and souls are not the things they are finding in school. Their love of opera, fascination with films, empathy for living things, understanding cooking and sewing and their places in human culture—they have found those things on my time. I know that a parent is supposed to be a teacher, but I am sad that they don’t like the time they are spending with formal education.

I reconcile myself to the fact that this is the gig though, and start plotting our adventures for another weekend. I just hope the school system does not do too much damage to their love of learning.

1 comment:

2KoP said...

Most of our public school experiences have not been as traumatic as yours, but we come from different places on that. Each of my kids has had his or her dramas in the public school setting, but I'm sure that would have happened in private school as well — just different dramas.

I so admire your dedication to maximizing family time and to looking at learning as a universal experience to be had whenever and wherever you happen to be. Sometimes I forget that.

I do have one boy home sick already today (he puked last night a Hebrew school — now don't get me started on that). The girl's head is spinning a la The Exorcist as she jumps through the ridiculous hoops required to find out whether you have been accepted or rejected by the next level of education — an even more ridiculous and arbitrary one than K-12. My other two boys need to be cattle prodded to do anything.

I know one thing, though. Homeschooling would be the death of us all.