Just living my life, and making it work!

Archive for the ‘school Issues’ Category

Just Say No To School Choice, and DeVos

Let me start by saying I am a conservative Libertarian who is pro capitalism. Choice and a free market seem to work really well in the economic sector. So well that initially I was very pro school choice. You can read here how I was a never public school mom who now has four kids in my local public school.  Once  I really started digging into he subject I realized school choice programs are a terrible idea thatt will KILL our education system

  1. Its not a free market because public schools have so many more mandates and requirements that cost a small fortune to comply with. Take transportation for example. Neither the private school or the charter school my kids’ attended offered transportation to anything. Even at the charter school the cost of renting a bus for a field trip was passed on to parents.  Think about it, that is like saying Wendy’s has $100,000,000 more dollars of regulations they have to comply with that McDonald’s does not. McDonald’s would be able o use that extra money to make their food better or lower prices. It wouldn’t be very long before Wendy’s went out of business no matter how good their food.
  2. Education is a common public good , not a product. The better educated our population is the better off we all are. This is why everyone pays taxes for schools no mater where their kids’ go to school, or even if they have grown kids, or kids at all. We all benefit from, and are responsible for, quality education. Can you imagine what would happen if people got to choose to spend their road money only on the roads they used?  We’d end up with a few super nice awesome roads that everyone would want to use. And mostly crappy roads full of potholes. People that lived in rural areas would be screwed because they wouldn’t have the combined money to fund their roads, but would live too far to enjoy the nice awesome roads. Same with the poor neighborhoods.
  3. We will largely give up our collective representation in the public school system. School Boards are elected by, and responsible to, the people. This means you have a say in how schools are run, and what your child is learning. If you are dissatisfied you have an elected governing body to voice your grievance, and demand change. Private schools, and charter schools have governing bodies, but they are not elected by the people.
  4. It isn’t as big of o choice as you’d think. If you are dissatisfied with one public or charter school you can just pick another one right? Wrong. Many charter schools and private schools are at capacity with long waiting lists and huge lotteries every year. Finding another one that has openings will be difficult especially if you want to change mid year. Not to mention changing schools is a luxury poor families who don’t have their own transportation don’t have. Lastly, private and charter schools do not adequately serve most students with disabilities, or ESL students. I have both kids with disabilities, and immigrant ESL  children. We have been to a private school, a charter school, and now a public school. The public school is the only place that I could get the services my kids needed.
  5. Mixing public funding with private religious schools is a terrible idea. Think about it, once a private school accepts public money they will have to meet certain requirements. It is giving the government permission to tell you what you can teach, and what kids of families you have to let into your school. Don’t like common core? Don’t want to teach evolution? Once you accept public money you may have to.

I know our school system is badly broken, but school choice is a solution in sheep’s clothing. It seems like it would work when you first hear about it, but once you look a little closer you realize it will be the death of our public education system. The only people who benefit from school choice are those middle class or above families hat can self-transport, the “normal” kids without disabilities or a need for ESL services,  and he corporations making money  off charter schools. Just say no to school choice reform and call your senator and tell them to say “no” too by rejecting DeVos as Secretary of Education

 

 

 

Why I Don’t Make My Kids Read Or Do School Work Over The Summer

The first weeks of summer my Facebook news feed was full of ambitious summer home education plans. I started seeing posts on limits of screen time, mandatory reading time, and a host of educational websites for learning activities and printable worksheets on line. I am tempted to follow suit as it seems that is what “good” parents do, but then I remember “because everyone else is dong it.” is not a good parenting  strategy.  I have decided not to do any of that stuff, and here’s why.

Summer is a season of rest. 

During the school year our days are a blur. We get up early, spend 8 plus hours a day at school, do homework, run between dance and martial arts, and fall into bed half dead by 8:00. Ok so that is the goal, but often it is actually closer to 9:00. During the summer we do a few church camp things, but we have no extra curricular activities, and no set scheduled when we can help it. 

Summer is for family time:

We are so busy during the school year that we never see each other. Someone is constantly gone to something, and we just don’t have time to bond together as a whole family. My children play together like no other in the summer. When they get board they start making up their own games. Their relationship with the school system will last 20 years or so. Their relationship with each other will last a life time, and at some point I won’t be around to facilitate that. 

Summer is for Self Exploration

We provide a wide variety of materials and toys, and our kids pick out what they want to do with them. If they find something on YouTube or the Internet they want to learn more about we help cultivate their interest. This summer one of my children learned to sew and knit. Another learned about animals, and the boys learned about electric circuits. 

Summer is for FUN!

During the school year we have no time for fun activities like flying kites at the park, or going swimming, or doing Lego lab at the library. One of our favorite things to do is feed the ducks at the pond, have lunch in the park,  and go to our local children’s science  museum. 

Summer is not for “getting ahead” or “falling behind” for average students. 

 To be sure there are some kids who need the extra help. In fact I was one of them. I spent two hours a day in  tutoring during the summers in 3 rd and 4 th  grade. I couldn’t  add 2+2, but soon I was cought up to my peers. I never did school work in the summer again. I still managed to not only get into college, but I did very well.  The point being if my kids are headed for an acedimic life it will happen without me riding them to read daily or do math worksheets all summer. 

School Supply Shopping Or Sadistic Scavenger Hunt?

This will be my daughter’s first year in public school. As such it is my first experience with school supply shopping. I had listened to my friends complain about this aspect of child rearing, but never really understood what the big deal was. It seemed fairly straight forward. You get the list, you go to the store, you buy what is on the list, right? So I print the list for First Grade off my district’s website, and make what I expected to be a short trip to the WalMart.

I was completely unprepared for the sadistic scavenger hunt I would soon find myself in. First, the school supply isle was covered up with people. I didn’t expect the crowds because school was still a good three weeks away. I still managed to get everything on the list without much trouble. There seemed to be plenty of the things on my list, and I was excited about the adorable NEON pencils I’d found for her.

I was somewhat pleased with myself that I had printed the list before hand, and had completed my task quickly. UNTIL… I walked by the real school supply list. Apparently each school produces its own list each year. Neat! So I looked at the list ( after digging out my magnifier to read the poorly copied ant sized font) and nearly fainted. Not only were there three times the items on this new list, but the items were completely different! The only thing the lists had in common was scissors and pencils. Not just any scissors, but Fiscar scissors. AND not just any pencils, but yellow boring No2 pencils. Good bye totally awesome NEON pencils. Now, not only did I have to completely start over, but I had to put EVERYTHING I already got back! Ugh thank God my husband was there, and offered to return the original supplies.

Long story short we developed a system. Scott stood a little outside the chaos and read the list while I collected the items. Fully sighted school supply hunting is fun on its own, but it is super fun doing it with limited vision. I cannot stand in the back, scan the scissors, and reach over someone’s shoulders to get the brand you need. I have to fight my way to the front, grab a pair of scissors, pull it close enough to my face to read the brand. Then if it is not right I have to put it back, pull the next one down, and check that one. This went on item by item for about an hour and a half! See, super neat!

I was finally down to pencils and hand sanitizer. My heart sinks when I see a huge completely empty box where the boring yellow No2 pencils should be. Really?!?!? I can’t just hop in my car and go to a different store. Just then I hear my husband shout ” She’s got pencils!” the crowd suddenly stopped what they were doing, and descended on the poor woman like seagulls at a picnic. There laying on the floor was a box of unstocked pencils! Now I am normally a nice wait your turn kind of girl, but you better believe I pushed my way in to get the pencils I needed. I was finally DONE!!

As I sat back and surveyed the $60 worth of school supplies in my cart I was incredibly humbled and great full that we were able to buy these school supplies. My daughter’s school is 80% economically depressed, and struggle to get the school supplies they need each year. As difficult as it was for me to gather all the supplies at least I didn’t spend the time worrying how i was going to pay for it all. After realizing this I felt very silly about how frustrated I got over something as temporary and ultimately unimportant as school supply shopping.

Goodbye Private School

Last Friday was my oldest daughter’s last day of Kindergarden. It was also her last day attending a small Christian school that she has spent the last three years attending. ( she did Pre-K twice because she has a very late birthday.) We loved her school, and planned on her going there all the way through eighth grade. I thought she’d be fine without a low vision program. Sure there would be some accommodations that she’d need, but I thought her dad and i could fill in the gaps. After all, we were both blind students, and my husband has a vocational rehab degree.

When she started school at age 4 she was “dually enrolled” in both private, and public school. That meant she would attend Strickland Christian school, and would have a low vision teacher from AISD working with her. However, at five she could no longer receive services from AISD, because the dual enrollment program is only for 3 and 4 year olds.Since she seemed to be doing OK, we thought things would work out at Strickland. Kindergarden was a little rough in the beginning. There was more being taught on the chalk board, and there were lots of small print wall charts to follow. By the end of the year she was rocking it out, but we could tell it was taking her longer to understand the content that was visually presented. She would probably fall behind in first grade if things stayed the same. especially given the fast pace of a private prep school.

I remembered when she turned five an AISD employee told me there was a program that provided some special education services to private and homeschool kids call Proportionate Share. I called the woman in charge of that program, but never received the application she was supposed to mail me. I requested it three times directly from the woman in charge. She told me over the phone that AISD could provide a low vision teacher for my daughter, BUT THAT TEACHER COULDN’T MEET WITH MY DAUGHTER AT HER PRIVATE SCHOOL OR DURING SCHOOL HOURS. What good would that be?!?!?! Soooo I just decided it is more trouble than it was worth as they wouldn’t really be helping my child, and I let it go.

However, I decided to try the program again once I realized she needed a low vision teacher. I found out that the original person I spoke to was retired, and someone more competent was running the program. For half a second I felt encouraged that I might be able to keep my daughter in Strickland. Then I received a letter in the mail stating that all the funds for this program had been expended for the year, and I would be put on a waiting list for next year. What?!?! If I had moved into the district the school wouldn’t be able to say ” sorry, we’re out of money this year. Your kid is SOL” They would have to get it together, and find her a low vision teacher. I pay my school taxes just like everyone else. I am not expecting them to pay for low vision aids, glasses, or anything. I just need a low vision teacher once a month to evaluate the classroom, and make recommendations. Ugggh !!!

Like i said, I pay my taxes, so the State & Feds should be able to trickle that money down to AISD as needed. After all, they do provide the extra money for supports for public school kids. I looked online, and the government funds the Proportionate Share program through an impossible to understand equation that provides far less money than is needed. Why can’t they provide these support services to everyone if they HAVE TO for the 3 and 4 year olds? This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt for the TEA to appear to be serving all special needs children without coughing up the real dollar amount to do so. This policy has essentially taken away my choice as a parent to provide a Christian education for my children.

All of this left me with two choices. I could stay at Strickland, fight it out with the government, and hope I can get a VI teacher. All the while my child falls further and further behind. Or, I could send my kid to public school. While I am not one to back down from a fight, and you better believe there will be a letter sent to several people, I can’t let my kid fall behind. I am loath to send her to public school, but I have faith that God will work it all out.