Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How We Got Here--The Next Year

The story begins here.

OK, so Kindergarten had changed some. No more home centers and circle time. No more "Spot can run" making you the best reader in the class. But, all said, she ended the year just fine. She was reading the coveted level 6 books, passing her weekly spelling tests, writing was coming along, and she still liked school. Oh, except math. Her teachers told me at the end of the year that she didn't like math at all. Just changed moods completely when it was time for math.

So, I set out that summer to make sure she knew math could be fun. We cooked, we played with measuring cups in the bathtub. We made things with shapes. We played games with dice. I pointed out each time that "This is math." "It is?" she would reply, surprised. Good, I thought. We have made progress. We also read and wrote and did all sorts of things. I was determined she would be ready for 1st grade!!!

Now here is an area I felt prepared for. I had taught 1st grade for 4 years and continued working with first graders even after I left the classroom. I knew she was ready. Because believe me, I've seen what "not ready" looks like!!!

I was so very wrong.

After working on homework for 45 minutes to an hour each night, she still wasn't keeping up. The teacher told me what we needed to work on, but WHEN? After an hour of homework I'm supposed to "work on" other things as well? We borrowed a desk, bought a desk lamp and set up shop. This kid did more work in one week than I did in college!

Come October, I asked the teacher if I could come observe in the classroom. I mean, what was going on here? I looked through her work folder every week seeing F after F. From the back seat a little voice would say, "Are you mad, Mommy?" I was. But not at her. I was mad at the expectations being put on these kids. I was mad that school was so hard! I was mad that my family could not relax in the evenings and do fun things.

So I showed up, with the teacher's permission, to observe a phonics lesson. They did the typical calendar stuff with no time for any comments from the children. Then the phonics lesson began. The children sat in their desks with a phonics worksheet on their desk and a pencil which they were not supposed to play with. The teacher (who I truly think used to be a good teacher back when school was fun), stood at the board and taught. They watched her write on the board and they listened.

For one hour and 15 minutes. I am not even close to kidding.

Then they were set free to do their worksheet. I watched my daughter and most of the ones she sat by writing down all the wrong answers. Two children near me asked me if I could help them.

If I had known then what I know now, I would have pulled her straight out of school and started homeschooling. Instead, we suffered through a few more months of school. Then the memo came home.

Read about the memo here.

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