Monday, August 19, 2013

Back to school

Last Friday was the first day of school. On a Friday? Yeah, I don't know, I did not choose that day, but there you go. I know from my teacher friends that the first few days are the reintegration--let us go over the rules, remember what it's like to be in the classroom, the lunchroom, on the playground again.

My kids attend public school. I will drop them off each morning and pick them up each afternoon. I send them off with the direction to have a good day, eat their lunch and to do something kind for someone. They go to school, where there are other, highly qualified adults in charge of their book learning and that works just fine for me. But that doesn't mean I don't also homeschool.

Once upon a time, kids didn't leave the house for school. They learned what they learned from their parents. Then, it became a necessity in our industrialized world to send our kids to school and sit in orderly rows and learn the things they would need to learn to join the workforce. This ideal has morphed into education as we know it today, which is a much more fluid concept. But though a large majority of parents may depend on schools and teachers for their child's education, much of what our children need to learn has to happen in the home.   

Here's the deal: I hear a lot of folks bemoaning the fact that their kids learn X in school but not Y or Z. That it's okay for them to know this but not that. The schools need to do a better job! The teachers don't teach practical applications or information that my kids will really use! If you tell kids about s-e-x or d-r-u-g-s then it's like giving them permission!

But I beg to differ. For even though my kids go to school, I'm still responsible to teach them.

I teach them our values, our morals and our beliefs--which may differ greatly from yours--but they need to know that one of our values is that they're supposed to respect your beliefs. Because I taught them that nobody's viewpoint is more important than anybody else's, because that's something I want them to know is true-fact important.

Example: During the election, when my kids heard other kids (and adults) refer to the candidate we were voting for using slurs and bad names, we talked about how both candidates deserved respect, regardless of their beliefs, because of their office. You don't have to agree with someone to respect them. That's important to us.

I teach them how the math and language rules that they are learning can be used in the course of our every day life to solve problems. We use math to cook; we use a dictionary to look up words we don't understand (usually with much fuss and consternation on their behalfs. They really do, the assure me, know the meaning of the word! Really! Really? Well, then look it up for me, so I can be clear on it. Which sometimes leads to a response of, well, why don't you look it up yourself, then? Which in turn, leads to a discussion on respect.), the internet for bigger concepts. We talk about silly things that turn into lessons, like why monkeys eat their own poop and why manure is used as fertilizer. We learn a lot of things together.

We talk about news stories, scary things, uplifting things, historic events, groundbreaking people. We try to mark our place in history. We listen to music, music that has shaped the times and been shaped by the times. We don't shy away from big, scary topics like religion and war and politics. We talk about confidence in yourself and your abilities and why it's important to have it. We talk about how true beauty comes from deep inside but sometimes it will make you feel better if you wear your favorite shirt and comb your hair.

And yes, we talk about s-e-x and d-r-u-g-s and what they are and what could happen to them if they become too familiar with them. And if I don't tell them, where will they learn this from? I saw a comment on a news show, referring to the HPV vaccine, in which a mom said that giving a child the vaccine is like giving them license to have unprotected sex. Well, if you give them the information they need along with the shot, it's not permission; it's protection. Isn't that part of parenting? We have to prepare them for the world, for what's out there and the big, scary, messy, dirty reality of some of it. Because not knowing about it doesn't protect them from it; it just makes them ignorant to the reality and unprepared when it might come time to deal with it themselves.

Then at the end of the day, I pick them up again. One of them will have forgotten either a coat (even in the winter), lunchbox or folder (fun fact: both kids forgot lunchboxes on the first day). The other will have a note from the teacher about disruptive behavior in class. There will be stories of boring subjects and four-square at recess and permission slips and the faint smell of bread crusts and stale peanut butter battling with my Febreeze vent clip. We'll go home and sort through the piles of paper and I'll help them with homework, explaining math to them in a way that runs completely counter to how the teacher told them to do it. I'll leave the room, count to 10 and then head back to the table to sort through the papers sent home for me and tomorrow we'll do it all again.


  1. Your kids are lucky to get around the clock education- teachers have plenty of work and too little time to address curriculum and manage behavior to help develop responsible citizens. It takes all hands on deck to improve education. Happy first week of school Farthings!

  2. What Lisa said. And what you said. All of it.