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Education in America

Though I started this blog to tell about all the silly things that occur in my home, I’ve noticed that this has become a platform for my opinions on different topics.  So be it.  It’s MY blog.

Last night on the evening news, there was a story about where the US ranked worldwide in education.  I was not surprised to see that we didn’t even make it to the top twenty.  I currently have three children in the public school system.  We’ve lived in several different states, so I am not biased to just my district.  I also have family that are teachers, librarians, and administrators.  Today, I even read several articles and blogs about this story.  So here’s what I see and why I wasn’t surprised.

Some eight years ago, I got a job that took me out of state.  I was living in Missouri and thus relocated my family to Texas.  Both towns were rural and close in population.  Yet, my thirteen year, who was then in Kindergarten, was already behind in the school district we moved to.  This didn’t surprise me then because the town we moved from was economically poorer than the one we moved to.  Since that time, we moved back to Missouri, to Indiana, to Oklahoma, back to Missouri, to Texas again, and now back to Missouri.  Yes, I know that’s a lot of moves.  Get over it.  My children’s scores did not suffer from this.  They continue to be straight A students.

But what I’ve seen by this is that it didn’t matter about the economics of the region I was in.  What mattered was the kinds of parents that I saw while in these school districts.  Many of them didn’t truly put forth an effort to be involved with their kids education.  To me, they seemed self-centered and lazy.  Of course too, many of them were half my age.  I’m the old mom of each of my children’s classes.

study wall

This is the study wall that I put up in our home, even before all the boxes were unpacked.  That way I could help them do their homework or tutor them when they don’t understand the teacher’s lesson.

I am involved heavily in making sure my girls perform to the highest degree.  I’m not one of those Tiger mom’s that insist on excellence constantly.  I know that sometimes my girls will screw up.  I also know when they just need some extra guidance.  For example, the thirteen year was put in Pre-Algebra at the start of the year.  After one class, she came home to tell me that it was too easy.  I promptly went to the school the next day and had her switched to Algebra.  After the first week, she was complaining it was too hard.  Come to find out, she wasn’t understanding the methods the teacher was using to teach the topics.  I spent many hours over the course of a few months each day “teaching” her what she was missing in class.  I stood at the chalk board pictured above doing example after example in order for her to “learn” the concepts.

That brings me to another gripe I have about school systems nowadays.  They seem to be teaching for the test.  I can remember learning concepts and then applying them.  I remember learning things so that it stuck in our heads longer than the completion of a test.  I really don’t know if teachers are just getting lazy or what.  That’s why I do my best to supplement my girls’ lessons whenever I can, so that they “learn” something; not just memorize something for the duration of the lesson until the test.

Another example of my using my learning aids is my fourth grader’s spelling tests.  I want me girls to do well with this because they may not always have Word or autocorrect to spell things for them.  Said fourth grader occasionally has trouble with remembering how to spell a word.  She brings home her spelling word list at the beginning of the week.  I quiz her every day from that list.  I do not go in order.  I skip around the list of twenty words so that she learns the words.  If she has trouble I make her spell it on the board with me reciting each letter so it’s correct.  Then at random times throughout the week, I’ll ask her the word.  It could be while we are walking to school, she’s doing chores, or it’s commercial time during a television program.  By test day, Friday, she knows how to spell it.  I’ll even quiz her weeks later so that I know she learned it.  I do the same thing with other subjects.

So what I believe is the real problem with education in America is the parents of students.  I’m not saying they don’t care or love their children.  I believe they aren’t setting high standards for their children to succeed.  Children need schedules, discipline, and goals.  I do not run my house like a boot camp, but they are on a schedule, they have consequences for their actions, and they have standards with which I believe they can achieve.  They are consistently encouraged and loved in our home.  And all my girls are straight A students, even the first grader who doesn’t get letter grades but sees “exceeds expectations”.

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