Broken System

The school system is failing our kids in a lot of ways.  I’ve seen it firsthand in our local district.  After volunteering at the school, I can tell you that a lot of changes have helped our kids, however.  Our school fed our kids breakfast at no cost to the parents thanks to Title I programs, for instance.  Of course, that means the poverty rate in our school was extremely high which causes its own set of problems.  The good news is, programs like Title I help with a lot of them, too.  For instance, the school frequently offers adult education and homework help seminars.

You hear a lot of people complaining about common core.  I didn’t like what I was seeing in the news, but I was hoping that South Carolina’s rising statistics in education were proof that our kids were learning under a better form of it.  Then, I read through a study guide sent home for history with my son.  I found no less than 4 major spelling and grammatical errors.  How are they supposed to teach my son the three R’s properly with these sub-par materials?

Let’s look at History for a moment.  My son brought home a few of his books on his last day of school, and his social studies book was one of them.  His old history book was a combination of textbook and workbook.  I’m okay with simplifying things, but navigating this book was a little confusing to me at first.  One bonus is the ability to annotate the text as you go.  Another bonus is that it helps open up discussion as the teacher moves through the lesson more easily.  The activities in the book are done in the classroom, so a student must be present and paying attention to be able to work some of these activities, however.  Unfortunately, this textbook simplifies things a little too much.  The topic of Valley forge, for instance, gets two measly paragraphs.

The red arrows indicate directions to write and do activities in this book. Two short paragraphs cover the topic of Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. Textbooks are copyrighted, so the image has been blurred to protect the interest of the publishing company except to highlight the topic at hand.
The red arrows indicate directions to write and do activities in this book. Two short paragraphs cover the topic of Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. Textbooks are copyrighted, so the image has been blurred to protect the interest of the publishing company except to highlight the topic at hand.

Compare it to the book for public home school, and you see a world of difference.  It actually reads like a textbook.  You can’t annotate in the book, but honestly, I don’t think that’s better for learning.  Writing out notes in a notebook from the text helps imprint the information better in the student’s mind.  It also gives the student practice in writing which is one thing my son needs.

Here you see the same topic of Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War in my son's new social studies textbook. This chapter is 7 pages long and covers the subject more thoroughly. This image is also blurred in this copyrighted work to protect the interests of the publishing company. (Although, I don't think the company would mind since I'm praising the book in comparison.)
Here you see the same topic of Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War in my son’s new social studies textbook. This chapter is 7 pages long and covers the subject much more thoroughly. This image is also blurred in this copyrighted work to protect the interests of the publishing company. (Although, I don’t think the company would mind since I’m praising the book in comparison.)

I like the new history book better, obviously.  But, I like the home school teaching methods better in other subjects as well.  Not only that, I can now supplement with my own knowledge in his subjects since I’m fully aware of what he’s studying daily now.  I’m also now aware that my son’s school district is currently behind the state.  All 4th graders are supposed to be learning the same materials at the same pace.  They’re not.  Upon starting our studies with the online public school, we realized we missed the unit lessons about European exploration entirely.  He still needs to know this when he goes in for the standardized testing.  Now, you tell me.  Has my son’s school district served him?  Or is he one of many children left behind?

 

parent-compactMy son’s public school encouraged parent participation in my son’s education.  At the beginning of every year, I had to sign a compact stating I would help with homework, show up at school events, and volunteer when possible among other things.  Of course, I signed it every time, but there’s a problem.  Actually doing these things is made difficult by the school itself.  I’m not the only parent that was consistently made to feel unwelcome.  I tried joining the school’s so-called “PTO”, but that experience ended terribly, and the school never did anything about a threat to my physical safety.  I did not feel safe stepping on school grounds for anything after that.  Opinions were formed by school staff, and the simple act of walking into the front office for anything was an unpleasant experience.  It almost felt as if they believed it was a safety risk to let me in the front door to go to a teacher conference even though I never uttered a single threat.  I was the target of potential violence, and they’d know that if they ever bothered to try to understand my version of events.

So, I stopped going to school functions.  My son and I were not welcome from the time we were both kicked out of a family night by the so-called “PTO” (which they’re not actually allowed to do).  If the powers that be at Title I knew that the school itself was discouraging the parent participation that they demand, I think the school would find themselves in hot water with the state.

Feeling unwelcome at the school was one thing, but not being able to help with my son’s education is another.  His teachers would complain about his work and test scores, but what am I supposed to do about that?  Other than 20 minutes of daily reading, the only homework he came home with was spelling and the occasional math sheet.  Don’t ask me to help raise his grade in history or science if you won’t share with me what he’s working on and let me participate in his learning.  It’s almost as if what he’s learning is none of my business.  Guess what… it is.  Local school, district, and Title I says so.  If I can’t take part in his education, it’s on the teacher and the school to make sure my son learns what he needs to learn.  Well, they weren’t doing their job.

A couple of years ago, the school placed my son in remedial classes.  I’ve never been clear on why they did that.  I have no idea how they came to the conclusion that my son needed to learn slower.  They did this without communicating with me about it, nor did they have my consent.  Let’s look at math.presidential-math-2

His remedial math book is a mess.  I get why they coordinate their subjects so that they might read a book in literature that emphasizes a science lesson.  But, I think inserting drawing angles between social studies and geography in math going a little far.  The lessons jump around more than that, too.  Let’s look at Unit 5 by lesson number.

  1. Review of 6 different math concepts: number places, multiplication by 10, addition of 4 numbers, factors and prime numbers, finding mileage on a map, and word problems.
  2. Information about the presidents, true/false math statements, more review of 5 different math concepts
  3. More review, planning a trip and estimating drive times
  4. Estimating averages, more review
  5. Another review, partial product multiplication, and measurement for units of length
  6. More review and multiplication number stories
  7. Lattice multiplication, more review
  8. Reading and writing big numbers, more review
  9. Place value and powers of 10, more review
  10. Evaluating large numbers, more review
  11. Traveling to Europe, number models, review
  12. Review

Unit 5 jumps around a bit, doesn’t it?  Keep in mind, lesson 5 in partial product multiplication is many weeks away from even being touched on.  There are only 6 units in the book and it’s only October.  Three weeks ago, my son left school studying unit 3, lesson 3.  When we entered our first virtual math classroom in home school, they were working on partial product multiplication.

Needless to say, my son was completely lost.  It took me a couple of days to figure out what the problem was.  He had only dealt with remedial math and they’re still working with greater than/less than statements.  Um… Okay, so we take a step back.  Over the course of 4 1/2 hours over two days, I taught my son enough about partial product multiplication that he was starting to get problems correct on his own.  Now… Why in the world was my son in remedial math?  He’s NOT slow, and I just proved it.  I don’t understand, and I’m angry.

Now, don’t get me started on lattice multiplication.lattice-2

How am I supposed to help my son with his homework if I have no idea how to work a problem in this way?  I had to teach myself partial product multiplication in order to teach the home school curriculum, but at least I had the parent guide to assist me.  My son comes home with a problem like the one above, and I have no clue how to help him because I have no idea what they’re trying to teach him.  I have always used the classic algorithm, and I still think it’s the best way.  But, what do I know?  My son gets more problems correct using the partial product method, so I do what I must.  Not all grade 4 math books use this lattice.  Our new book doesn’t.  It doesn’t use fact triangles either.  Ugh, don’t get me started on these either…fact-triangle-2

So, in our county-wide school district, we have schools that don’t exactly follow policy, staff that would rather not have parents involved, and curriculum that is most definitely not good enough.  I have no reason to trust the school or the district, and I’m wondering what in the world took me so long to pull him out of there.  Oh, yeah… It was so I could make sure my son was properly socialized.  Well, that didn’t work out very well.  At least my son isn’t cowering under his desk with panic filling his chest anymore, and he’s actually learning something for a change.

I’m not saying everything’s going to be roses and rainbows from here.  We’re having our share of issues that every homeschooling parent experiences.  But, at least we’re on a more positive journey now.  I’ll be sharing our experiences along the way, of course.  After all, we always get excited about new adventures.


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