All posts by Julie

Summer is here and where are all the kids?

It’s summer here.  School is out.  And it’s a ghost town.

Where is everyone?  The streets and yards are quieter than they are even during the school year.   I know there are plenty of people on vacation, since I’ve been seeing their vacation photos on social media.  And my kids and I just returned from visiting family for a week.  But we’ve been home a week, and have seen kids on our street once.  Once!

After school when the weather is nice there are often kids out playing, riding bikes, and running up and down the street.  Is everyone at the pool?  Or are they all at day camps?  We can’t even find friends to make plans with.  It feels super lonely and I start to get anxious that they’re avoiding me.  I’m not one to have FOMO, but I’m finding that the lack of seeing any families home during the day is making me feel like we’re really missing something.

kids on beach, respectful parenting
On our trip to visit family, where my kids had a cousin to play with

My kids don’t want to do camps, or anything structured, really.  They want to play, and swim, and watch tv, and go creeking, and go fishing.  And I do my best to honor that.  I’m not up for working on our separation anxiety all summer.  For my kids and for me, summer gives us a much needed break from that ever present situation.

I guess I really need to step up and get into planning mode.  If I don’t line up outings with friends, my kids don’t have anyone to play with except each other.  They really need to see some other people.  But planning is easier said than done.  Most everyone has their schedules full of lessons, camps, and other structured activities, and they aren’t even available to make plans to head to the creek or the pool.

I know there are parents out there who would love their kids to have unstructured time and aren’t able due to work schedules.  And I know many camps give kids lots of time for free play and summer fun.  My husband and I work opposite hours for childcare reasons, and so I do know a lot of people home during the day with  kids, because it’s when I’m home with kids.  And all our usual people are missing.

I remember feeling the same way last summer.  It makes me feel like I really haven’t met my people yet, and that gets into a lot of complicated issues about who I am and who my kids are that are a  bit much for this post.  But I’m still lonely.

My daughter says she hates school

It happened again recently. A well-meaning family friend looked at my six-year-old daughter and asked THE QUESTION: “Do you like school?”

My daughter looked over her shoulder at me and I could see the concern in her eyes. With her look, she was asking me, Is this someone we can trust? Should I tell the truth? Or do I say what I think most adults want to hear?

I looked at my daughter and said, “You can answer her question honestly. You’re allowed to make up your own mind about school.”

Still uncertain, she looked back at the family friend, shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know. It’s okay.” This tepid response is a stark contrast to her first days of kindergarten and earlier in her first grade year when she would loudly exclaim, “I hate school! I never learn anything there! They never let you move! They never let you get messy! You can’t talk unless you raise your hand and the teacher calls on you!” Based upon her more neutral response, I can see that she is learning that adults want kids to like school.

The family friend turned her eyes from my daughter’s face to mine with a look that read, “Your kid doesn’t love school?!” I could see the anxiety in her expression. What will happen to this small child if she does not learn to love school? Is she headed into a life of delinquency? Will this girl ever find success in the workplace? Ever know the ease of financial stability? Ever recognize her academic potential? What will become of a child who does not love school? After all, the vast majority of us have been raised to believe that education is the pathway to success, the great equalizer that allows all of us a chance at the American dream.

The conversation went on with the friend prodding, “Well, do you like your teacher, at least?”

“She’s okay,” my child responded. Yet again, the family friend looked at me with eyes growing wide.

“Your teacher is just okay?” she said, the concern growing in her voice.

On that day, with that particular person, I left the friend’s concern hanging in the air between us. I let my daughter run off and find her sister to resume their play. I didn’t try to smooth over the rough edges of that conversation. I’m learning that it’s okay for my daughter’s truth to make others uncomfortable. I don’t need to silence her or justify her feelings in the hope that adults will see her or her school in a particular way. After all, it is possible that a school environment that does work for many kids does not work for my daughter. Additionally, I have realized that her dissatisfaction with school does not mean that there is something wrong or broken about her.

Strong words and the meaning behind them

When my daughter started kindergarten and began her litany about why she hated school, I listened to her reasons and didn’t pay much attention to the initial part of her statement: I hate school. In our home, we often hear strong words from our kids that are meant to communicate their big emotions about a situation. Sometimes those words have been, “I hate you, Mom!” Given that I try my best to react to those moments by listening to the feelings behind the words (though sometimes the words do sting and I fall short of my goal to let it roll off my back), I didn’t think much of my daughter’s word choice. Instead, I paid attention to the words that came next and heard her asking for a different type of educational environment than she was given.

  • “I never learn anything” became “I am not being challenged or learning about the topics that most interest me.”
  • “They never let you move” became “I need more opportunities to use my body during the school day.”
  • “They never let you get messy” became “I have sensory needs that are not being met. I feel controlled when I am given creative tasks and outdoor recess time because of the focus placed on remaining clean.”
  • “You can’t talk unless the teacher calls on you” became “I have ideas about the subjects we are learning that I am not able to communicate. I want to be able to talk about the things I’m learning.”

Given that I interpreted my daughter’s rant about her educational environment in this way, I was taken aback when my mother-in-law said this past summer that she was “deeply disappointed and concerned” that my daughter hated school. Until that moment, I was living in a world in which I believed my child was bringing forward intelligent critiques of the school system and advocating for her needs. Sure, her communication was a little rough around the edges, but for being only five and six years old, I thought she was doing a stellar job.

My mother-in-law’s comment sent me back to my own childhood with well-meaning grown-ups staring down at me and asking THE QUESTION: “Do you like school?”

I can still recall the look of approval and relief on their faces whenever I would say, “Yes.” In the beginning, I did like school. At some point, that changed, but my answer always remained positive. After all, I got good grades. I behaved at school. I had friends. What did I have to complain about? And, there was always that pressure from grown-ups to affirm that the current educational structure worked for me. Responding in the negative would have conjured up a kid who refused to complete her assignments or was frequently sent to the principal’s office. That wasn’t me. (I say that with no judgment toward anyone who didn’t do their schoolwork or who frequented the principal’s office, or has a child who fits those behaviors now. I say that just to communicate the judgments and misperceptions people have about kids who don’t like school. That’s all.)

My daughter can dislike school and be a model student who is above grade level in some subject areas. Just because a child plays by the rules of the classroom environment does not mean that the environment is a positive one for that child. Additionally, we look to see if a child can perform certain classroom expectations, like sitting still with their legs “crisscross applesauce” and their hands in their lap, but we rarely ask, “Is this the best way for this particular child to learn?” Sometimes we believe that all is well with the child and the environment when the child can jump through the academic and environmental hurdles placed in front of them. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes even the children who seem to be performing well are screaming, “I hate school” on the inside. As the adults in their lives, I hope we take the time to listen beyond our own beliefs and biases about school to hear the kind of environment our children are telling us they need.

Michelle is a former college administrator turned stay-at-home mom in central Ohio. She is grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow as a person and a mom alongside her five and six-year-old daughters. Michelle attempts to knit, crochet, practice yoga, and read fiction in the midst of mothering.

Why do we shove our “shoulds” at our children?

At my daughter’s preschool this week, there was a little boy upset at drop-off, and crying because his dad was leaving.  One of the teachers was comforting him and his dad left, but on the way out he said, “shouldn’t he be over that by now?”

Yes, we’re nearing the end of the school year.   The child in question just turned four.  So should he be over it?

Separation anxiety comes and goes in these situations.  Even kids who don’t experience any separation anxiety at the beginning of school sometimes have a hard time later in the year, especially after a break.  The teachers at our school tell parents this fact often.  I’m sure this dad knows.  But the “should” still slips out.

Why are we so concerned with should?

I think it all boils down to embarrassment and fear.  We as parents get embarrassed by our children’s behavior, or overwhelmed by their behavior or emotions ourselves.    But why?  Why do we feel that we can’t support our kids big emotions?  Possibly because most of us were taught as children that our big emotions were not okay, and were meant to be shut down, sucked in, and punished out of us.

But for those of us who choose to do things differently with our own children, or send them to preschools like ours where they do things differently and actually learn about social and emotional skills, it can be a hard thing to un-learn.  So while even though we know we should be supporting our kids big emotions, it’s so easy to get caught up in the fact that they “should” be over it.

What does fear have to do with it?

We are so afraid that if we let our children have their big emotions, that they will never be able to deal with them, or control them.  When in fact, the opposite is true.  It is by dealing with their big emotions as children, with empathy and understanding, that they will learn to be emotionally intelligent adults.  This push-down of developmentally inappropriate expectations is so prevalent in our society, and people don’t even notice or think twice.  Just because kids will have to do something when they are older is not a reason to start now.  Again, the opposite is often true.  If we push skills they aren’t ready for in the place of what should actually be developing, we’re actually stunting their growth.

And then there’s shame

“Why would you do that?  You should know better!”  I hear it often, adults thinking that if they tell the child himself that he “should” know better or do better that it will somehow help it be true.  But this is no more than hoping shame will improve behavior.  And no one learns best through shame. This is the worst form of the “should,” in my opinion.

Learning from the teachers

The teachers in my daughter’s preschool handle these big emotions so well.  They give the kids space for their feelings, don’t patronize, stay calm, and help the kids work through their feelings and the situation.   I feel lucky to be learning from such talented people that truly like and respect my children.  Educating ourselves as parents about what is developmentally appropriate is a great step. I’m far from perfect, but work at it every day.

 

How I use my planner to capture life’s memories with young kids

I am a visual person and need a paper calendar and planner.  I also use a wall calendar, but really love having a portable planer as well.  I do have a phone calendar app so that my husband and I can share a portable calendar, but honestly, neither of us is very good at updating it and we both tend to update our wall calendar.  It’s a system that works for us.  This post contains affiliate links.

What I use

I love this planner by Mary Engelbreit.  The pictures online just don’t do it justice.  It’s spiral-bound, and includes both month-at -a-glance and week-at-a glance sections.

I have always loved to see my whole month laid out in front of me.  Week-at-a-glance set-ups don’t work well for me.   But I still use the weekly planner portion of this calendar for another purpose!

monthly calendar page
Monthly pages that I use as my calendar, for appointments, activities, etc.

How I use the weekly portion

When my first-born was a baby, I wrote down everything about our daily lives in a journal.  Mostly, I was so sleep-deprived that I needed to remember when he nursed, and little things like that.  But as he got older I wrote down lots of milestones and funny things he said.  He loves when we look back through his book.  After my daughter was born I just didn’t write as much.  I was better at mentally keeping track of baby stuff, and didn’t write down as much.  So when my daughter was old enough to ask, I realized I didn’t write down near as much fun stuff to tell her about her babyhood.

weekly calendar pages
Weekly calendar pages that I use to write quick notes about things my kids did and said 🙂

Since the weekly pages are set up with a few lines per day, I decided it would be the perfect format to jot down something we did each day, or something my kids did or said that we’d like to remember.  This works well, as I try to keep it handy most of the time.  Except for when it ends up hidden under a pile of mail or school papers, of course.  It’s my minimalist practice in journaling.

I know there are lots of great planners out there with stickers and quotes, but I don’t feel like they’d add anything I’m not getting here.  Plus I love the art of Mary Engelbreit.  And while I used to love journaling, it’s just not going to happen these days.  So this set up, for me, is the best of both worlds.

“You’re tattling again!” A look at tattling from a child's perspective

Thanks to Michelle for this guest post about tattling!

“You’re tattling again,” my daughter tells me the teacher responded to her one afternoon. My daughter approached her first-grade teacher to inform her that a fellow classmate was opening supply cabinets.

“So, are we allowed to go into those cabinets?” my six-year-old questioned.

“No,” her teacher replied.

This is just one of many examples involving “tattling” that my daughter has brought home from her year and a half in public elementary school. For her, tattling is a new concept since it is not a phrase we use at home. When our two daughters come to us about another child’s behavior, we listen because our child has come to us with a concern. We don’t solve the problem for her. But, we do help her find language to address her concern with the other child.

In this situation, we might have responded with, “Thank you for noticing what’s happening in the classroom. I know that you can remind your classmates of our rules. Do you want me to stand near you this time while you let him know?”

Why do kids tell?

In this instance, my daughter’s immediate follow up question reveals her primary motive in coming to the teacher. She is asking, “Is that student doing something that is allowed? Am I allowed to go into those cabinets, too?” Her motive is not to cause the other child to have consequences or be punished. Rather, she sees something happening in the classroom that does not make sense to her and she is seeking out clarification from the authority figure in the room. How do I know this? Because I asked her and my daughter has a history of responding with honesty. There have been situations where she does want another child (usually her younger sister) to face negative repercussions and she is typically upfront about that desire.

My daughter attended a preschool focused on helping children stand up for their bodies, articulate their personal boundaries, and confront unwanted behavior from others. She is no stranger to saying, “No!”, “Stop!”, and “Respect my body!” She has also been raised in an environment both at home and in her preschool setting where adults have been her resources when others don’t listen to her boundary setting. Her first week of kindergarten involved a boy in her seating group calling her names and purposefully spitting in her face. My child did exactly what she had been raised to do. She repeatedly responded, “Stop spitting in my face! Don’t call me that!” When she got home, she told me about the incident and her reaction, and I felt reassured that she was able to look a new child in the eye and establish boundaries for how that person should treat her.

Children looking for help

In other words, my child does not run to adults to solve her problems for her. But, she does need to be able to turn to the grownups in her environment when someone fails to listen to her boundary setting, when a situation is confusing, or when she is uncertain how to appropriately handle a conflict. As adults, we have access to many resources. We can seek help from family and friends. When conflicts escalate, we can call the police or other emergency personnel. We can choose to get help from a counselor, therapist, or professional mediator. If we are uncertain about a rule or law, we can search for information on our computers and phones. We can even drive ourselves to the library and find entire books filled with information and resources that can help us. Now imagine if you were five or six years old and navigating a new school classroom environment. What resources are at your disposal? Who can you turn to in times of conflict or confusion? Naturally, your teacher is the first person that comes to mind.

No tattling

After a year and a half of wading through a school culture that is drastically different than our home and preschool experiences, I can’t recall all of the times the term “tattling” has been on my daughter’s tongue as she got into the car after school. In fact, I struggled with finding just one or two examples to write about in this post. In the end, I decided that what is most important in all of the incidents that we have experienced is that my daughter is looking to her teacher for guidance and it is not being given. My child’s teachers have not been the resources she has needed when peer conflicts have arisen and classroom rules have been confusing. Instead, she has received a curt response to “stop tattling.” During our fall conference, her current teacher informed me that my daughter is “a little police officer.” After a conversation in which my husband and I tried to articulate our point of view about why we don’t use the term tattling in our household, the teacher continues to use that phrase with my daughter.

Tattling vs telling

Based upon a Google search of tattling in the classroom, our school’s approach does not seem to be isolated or unique. Teachers are charged with the responsibility of helping children distinguish between “tattling and telling.” Telling is intended to be something that violates the physical or emotional safety of another. Some teachers seem to group all of the concerns children express about their peers and possible violations of classroom rules into the category of “tattling”. I believe this distinction is nuanced and difficult for a kindergartner or first grader to understand. Additionally, grown-ups may have a difficult time understanding what constitutes a violation of a five or six-year-olds “emotional safety.” “She won’t play with me at recess unless I give her my marker,” might feel like a small incident to a parent or teacher. For a child, this might be a difficult and emotionally threatening situation that requires the help of an adult to navigate.

Using the term “tattling” communicates that a child’s concern is not worth adult attention. When my daughter has received this feedback from teachers, she has articulated that she feels corrected, scolded, and silenced. When we use this language, we are shaming our children for having a concern that feels too big to handle on their own. How can we expect them to turn to us throughout their lives as their challenges grow if we cannot take the time to listen and help them now? As a mother, I worry about the long term consequences of my child learning in an environment where her concerns are communicated to be invalid, unimportant, and extraneous to the learning environment. In fact, one website indicated that tattling takes away from “real learning,” but isn’t learning to respond to conflicts with our peers one of the hardest, ongoing lessons of our lives?

There are better approaches out there

During my research, I was happy to find this resource from Responsive Classroom that argues for a more nuanced approached to tattling. It is important to empower our children to resolve conflicts and establish boundaries with their peers. As parents and teachers, we do our children a disservice when we intervene and do this difficult work for them. When faced with a child who brings us a concern about a peer’s behavior, we can role model how to communicate with others and help our children find the words to articulate their needs.  If we fail to do this, we communicate harmful messages that can have a long term impact in silencing our children. When we dismiss their attempts at communicating a concern as mere attention seeking behavior or a general nuisance, we are creating an environment in which adults cannot be trusted to be the resources our children need.

Resources:

A balanced perspective from Responsive Classroom: https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/what-to-do-about-tattling/

Difference between tattling and telling: http://www.togetheragainstbullying.org/the-difference-between-telling-and-tattling

Managing tattling in the classroom: https://classroomcaboodle.com/teacher-resource/tattling-school/

Michelle is a former college administrator turned stay-at-home mom in central Ohio. She is grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow as a person and a mom alongside her five and six-year-old daughters. Michelle attempts to knit, crochet, practice yoga, and read fiction in the midst of mothering.

Please don’t talk about my kids in front of them Recognizing childism in our everyday lives

“We ask that you do not talk about your children in front of them without including them in the conversation. If you need to talk alone with teachers, make arrangements to talk without your child present.”

This quote is taken from the handbook of my children’s wonderful, progressive preschool.  It is a wonderful policy, and the kids truly are included in conversations if they are there.  The teachers speak to the children in real voice, not the squeaky, sing-songy voices often reserved by adults for preschoolers.  Children are respected in this place like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

Which is why what I saw at our public school the other day bothered me.  It wasn’t my son’s kindergarten teacher, but another of the 3 kindergarten teachers in his building.  Someone I know was picking up her daughter from school.  She and I were chatting as we waited for pickup and she said her daughter has been having a hard time separating lately when it’s time for school and that it’s been really hard.

When the teacher came out, she mouthed to my friend “she was okay” and gave her a thumbs up.  My friend greeted her daughter and they prepared to walk home.  But then the teacher walked over to her to talk some more.   Mother and daughter were standing side by side, and the teacher started off facing them and whispering.  So the daughter moved in closer.  And then the teacher moved to block the child’s body.  The teacher pushed the girl backward by moving her body into the girl’s space, so she could talk to her mother about her.  The little girl stuck her head in the middle of the two adults, and the teacher moved closer to the mother again to block her out.

My son’s interpretation of being blocked out of a conversation. I love the child’s head poking through 🙂

I know many people will not take offense at this story.  But it was offensive to me, and I’m sure to the child.  This poor 5-year old was being physically blocked out of a conversation by a teacher she is supposed to trust to take care of her for many hours each day.    She knows they were talking about her, or at least about something she wanted to hear.  It shows a total disregard for the child as a person.  Imagine doing that to two of your friends.  How is this situation any different?

What she could do instead

It isn’t hard to imagine the possibilities.  The teacher could email, call, or text the parent.  Unless there is a threat of imminent danger, the adult conversation can wait until a better time.

Childism is alive and well.  Many people wouldn’t give this scenario a second thought.  We need to notice the lack of respect given to children in our everyday lives and routines. It is the first step toward improving the situation.

Choosing a relaxed weekend in the middle of the holiday season

It is the second weekend in December.  Christmas is two weeks from today.  And we did absolutely nothing holiday-related this entire weekend.  It was wonderful.

Last weekend we went to see a children’s production of The Nutcracker.  It was inexpensive, and advertised to be an hour-long show, so it sounded perfect.  In actuality, it was two hours with no intermission.  It was at 11 am and we planned on lunch after.  Instead we left at one, with two bored and starving kids, who proceeded to have meltdown after meltdown all afternoon.  It was not a pleasant day.

This weekend, there are even more holiday events happening.  Theater, ballet, symphony, train expos, holiday lights events, parties, and more.  I could have packed our schedule full, like many of our friends did.  But I didn’t.

What we did with our weekend instead

Friday night we had pizza and watched a movie and the kids played.  On Saturday, the kids played and we did some cleaning and work at home before going out for an early dinner.  Sunday, the kids played in the first snow of the season, had hot cocoa, and played more.  We got a few things done around the house to feel better about the busy weeks ahead.

weekend cocoa in holiday mugs
The most holiday thing we did all weekend. Cocoa in holiday mugs 🙂

All weekend I’ve been getting texts from friends saying how they are so busy with events, and about their kids being unhappy during said events.  I’m really glad we aren’t participating.

After snow play
Our yard after the snow play. Not much snow left!

But aren’t holiday traditions important?

Don’t get me wrong.  We have plenty of holiday traditions, and we will do more this holiday season.  Family traditions are important for children.  But so is plenty of time for free play.  And plenty of unstructured time away from school and structured activities.  They aren’t miniature adults, and don’t always find events fun and relaxing the way we can.  In fact, for my kiddo with sensory “stuff,” events are often hard work.  New situations are hard for him, and new smells, loud sounds, and big events require a lot from him.  As adults, it’s easy to see it all through our adult lenses and forget that children’s needs are different.

It’s also easy to forget that December seems to have its own buzz.  A hum of energy about it, with everyone being busy and feeling like there is so much to get done and so much fun to be had.  Adults help feed the buzz, and kids get swept up in it, too.  My kids are already amped up on the very thought of Christmas and general holiday excitement.  Add to that changing schedules and different events, at home and at school, and they deserve the chance to have a mellow, relaxed weekend.  They are much happier than they were last weekend when we were so very go, go, go.

Our relaxing weekend has been so great.  I’m once again reminded that going against the flow, rather than being swept up in it, can be such a great choice to make.

 

Advocating for your child at school Please don't rely on other parents to do the hard work

Last week, I met with the principal at my son’s elementary school.  I’m actually the third parent of a child in my son’s kindergarten class to meet with him.  A fourth parent has a meeting scheduled, and those are just the parents I know about.  My son’s teacher is brand new and having quite a few issues with classroom management and developmentally inappropriate expectations.

I have emailed the teacher on numerous occasions.  My husband and I have had a conference with her.  Instead of improving, things over the past two weeks have gotten drastically worse in the classroom and my son has come home unhappier than ever before.

We go to a neighborhood school and see many of the parents every day at pickup or drop-off.   Many parents are unhappy with what their kids are reporting, or what they’ve witnessed at school, or what they’ve experienced in talking to the teacher.   The largest group is unhappy.  A smaller group has let the teacher know of particular concerns.  And an even smaller group has finally gone to the principal for help (individually, not because we planned with each other).

freeimages.com/AnaLabate
freeimages.com/AnaLabate, featured image: freeimages.com/VivianStonoga

Why is this?

I know many parents are unhappy.  But I’ve heard varied reasons from them as to why they aren’t trying to help.   One said her daughter hadn’t been affected yet by the inappropriate punishment policy, and she was too “non-confrontational” to voice her concerns in theory alone.  Another said her concerns weren’t big enough to “bother the principal”.  A third says her daughter just needs to get used to it, because that is how school is.  And a fourth said she’d email the teachers about one particular concern, but that she also didn’t want to bother the principal because her concerns weren’t big enough, and her daughter wasn’t saying anything, so she must not be bothered.

But to me, as a parent working hard to try and work with the school to improve the situation, it feels like they are just letting other parents do the hard work for them.  I understand that it can be nerve-wracking to talk to teachers and principals.  It is for me as well.  But it’s also important enough that I work through my discomfort.

My son does tell me a lot about what’s happening at school, as well as how he’s feeling about it.  I do admit that probably makes it easier to take action.  But I know that when I was a kid, I had an experience where 2 fifth grade boys followed me around the playground my entire fourth grade year.  I never told anyone.  I hated it more than anything and it affected everything.  And I don’t know why I didn’t tell.  But it also taught me that just because a child doesn’t speak up doesn’t mean that something doesn’t bother him.

Don’t rely on other parents to do the hard work

I know it’s hard.  I know you want to do anything other than make those appointments and then actually go to those appointments with the teacher and principal.  But your child needs you.  The other students need you.  And the other parents need you.  I so appreciate knowing I’m not alone in my particular case.  But I would feel so much better knowing that everyone who has concerns was speaking up, because it would be helping all our kids.  Every parent brings a unique voice, and a unique set of concerns, because all individuals view even the same issue differently.  It can only add more information, input, and ideas to the conversation about how to improve problem situations.

 


Why am I not homeschooling yet? I know, I know...I can't believe it either

We had a lovely unseasonably warm day this week and headed out to the zoo after school.  We enjoyed the mostly empty zoo at a leisurely pace.  And I thought, why am I not homeschooling?  I should pull him and homeschool.  I see more signs pointing to this fact practically every day.  Questionable things happening at school, more and deeper unhappiness at home in the evenings.  I miss my son, and we’re experiencing negative behavior due to that disconnection between us.

We spent quite a bit of time with the penguins that day.
We spent quite a bit of time with the penguins that day.

I’m still struggling with the decision

I know all the above positives and negatives.   And yet, I’m struggling to make the actual decision.  Why?  I’m still trying to figure that out.

Why am I struggling?

All of the reasons I laid out in this earlier post about why I sent him to kindergarten in the first place.  They all still hold true.  We are still figuring the whole school thing out.

My son has mixed feelings. scan0001-1_20161031103006857 I’m not letting my 6-year old make this decision alone.  But I am discussing it with him, because his input is important to me.  And he wavers, depending on the day, about whether he wants to continue or not.

 

We are having a really negative teacher experience.  You might think that would make me run even faster.  And it is definitely a push, as it is majorly contributing to the negative feelings surrounding school.   But she’s new and might improve.  And she is not the entirety of the school experience.  I hate to let her make us miss out on any positives he’s experiencing.  And I met with the principal just days ago.  He seems great, and really seems to understand the issues we’re having.  He has a plan to help.

We’ll see more if we stay longer.   My son is excited for the art show at the end of the year, where he’ll have one or more projects on display.  He’s experienced a school party, a school book fair, and a couple school fundraising events.  He hasn’t been on a field trip, or seen an assembly.  There are a lot of school things he’ll see just this year that he won’t experience if we pull him.  Overall, I think that’s not a huge deal.  But I do want him to experience some of these things to know they exist.

I worry both of us will have a hard time keeping up with friends we will no longer see every day.  My son and I both have friends that we see because he’s going to school.  We can try and keep up with them, but once schedules change and we no longer see them by default every day, that’s easier said than done.

And I’m overwhelmed…

It’s a hard decision and it feels more permanent that it really is.  I know that we can change what we’re doing and make any number of different choices, including public and private school, part-time school, or homeschool.  No choice is permanent.  But every change requires a lot of thought and effort, at least for me.

It’s hard to be different and go against the norm.  Ahh, the biggest reason.  It’s hard to know that this non-mainstream decision is the right way to go.  I don’t have any experience with homeschool outside of the past couple years researching it, and many acquaintances who are homeschooling.  It feels really overwhelming to opt out of the choice that everyone else is choosing.

The Silver Lining

All that said, I’m fairly certain we’ve already decided we’ll homeschool next year.  Full-day school (as opposed to this year’s half days) is just not something I want for my family at this time.  Knowing that, I feel more comfortable with my current indecisiveness.  If things get worse at school, we’ll pull him.  But for now, we’re floating along a little further on the cloud of indecision.

A letter to my son’s kindergarten teacher regarding rewards

Dear Kindergarten Teacher,

My son came home very upset on Wednesday and it lasted through bedtime.  He’s told me that everyone but a few kids, including him,  received 4 reward stickers.   He said he wasn’t talking when they were given out and he isn’t allowed to ask you about stickers or he’d “get in trouble.” It seems that giving many students the large reward of 4 stickers is pretty obviously a punishment for those that didn’t receive them.

My son has had a rough start to school emotionally and has regularly not wanted to come.  As I told you in my email and at our conference, it’s been only two and a half weeks since he’s actually been fairly happy to come to school.  All because of a fun science experiment and because he’s had the chance to connect more with you as a person.  After last night I feel like we are back to square one.  Wednesday night in bed he asked me to tell you he moved so that he never has to come back.

We don’t use rewards in our family because we are working really hard to help our children develop intrinsic motivation and to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.  There is a lot of research available to support our beliefs in this regard.  I know you said at curriculum night that you don’t believe 5 and 6-year olds will make the right choices without rewards,  but research doesn’t agree. I’m linking a couple articles that are well-sourced with research articles noted. http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/risks-rewards/ and http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/case-gold-stars-2/

Obviously,  I’d love to see you do away with rewards all together,  as they are truly just the other side of the coin from punishment.  Kids are smart and they know that. But I mostly want you to know that what happens at school has long-lasting impact at home.  Even if his perception isn’t 100% what happened, it is still what happened to him, and illustrates another reason why rewards are a slippery slope.  My son’s school day negatively impacted the rest of the day for him (and us as a family),  and the next morning was not much better.  For a child who,  according to you,  understands and follows the rules,  that seems like a very harsh punishment.

I know you are concerned that they learn self-control and to work independently.  But my goals are different.  I want my son to further develop his love of learning and learn to appreciate being part of a school community.  I want him to learn that school is an enjoyable place to be, because without that how can it be expected that kids will want to be engaged, active participants? I want him to know that his teacher is a person he can go to for help. I’d really love to work with you to achieve those goals.

Thanks,
A concerned parent

A few other resources if you’re interested :
http://www.livesinthebalance.org/walking-tour-educators

http://www.naeyc.org/dap/10-effective-dap-teaching-strategies