Friday, January 15, 2010

Great Expectations

I have some issues with public schools. That's no surprise.

What kind of expectations do the public schools have for our children?

Certainly not the same kind of expectations I have for my children. I can't imagine having a 1st grader who, halfway through the school year, can barely read. I can't imagine having a second grader who can't add 3 + 1.

Why are these kids this way? Is it because they're stupid? NO. Is it because of anything they can control themselves? NO. Its because the public schools are failing them, even this early on. And the public schools don't seem to care a whole lot about it.

Now, I know, one teacher in a class with 25 kids doesn't have the time in the day to do individualized lessons for each child. I realize that, and I pity the plight of the poor teachers who are working their tails off trying to do the best they can. But let's be honest, those teachers are few and far between. And the rest are...well, they're the ones who give kids the answers instead of teaching them how to solve the problems. They're the ones that pass kids when they know that child doesn't have the solid foundations needed to progress to the next grade.

Are parents to blame in all this? Partly. Just like you can't blame McDonald's for making your kids fat when its your choice to go there every day for dinner, you can't put all the blame on the school system, either. (Oh, wow, did I just say that?).

I know a certain little boy. He's halfway through second grade and people are just now noticing that he can't add single digits together.

Hmmm...if any of my kids made it to the end of Kindergarten without being able to do that, I'd be concerned.

If any of them made it halfway through FIRST grade without being able to, I'd be worried.

If any of them made it all the way through first grade and still couldn't do it, I'd be taking some major action.

But no one seems to have noticed for this poor kid til now. Til he's a year and a half behind his classmates (and we all know how that one-size-fits-all, compulsory age-segregated curriculum goes, don't dare get behind the norm!). Pretty soon they'll all start doing multiplication and he's going to be seriously up a creek then.

Why haven't his parents noticed this until now?

And why hasn't the school? Why hasn't a teacher (aren't they the "professionals", after all?) noticed this and done something about it?

Why do people not pay attention? Why do they let their kids (or their students) slide by without taking the time to truly teach them, make sure they understand and grasp the very basest of concepts?

Why are the expectations so low? I said that to my mom. To be behind in school is bad enough. To be behind in a school where second graders are still even doing single digit addition is really scary. If I picked up a second grade math book and looked through it and saw that half way through was still single digit addition, I'd put that book right back down. It's too easy! But this is apparently what the public schools expect of our kids. This is that whole one-size-fits-all approach again. Teach to the lowest common denominator. Teach to the least progressed kids. Which means, first of all, that the little boy I know is in some serious trouble and needs some serious help if he's not grasping the concepts, and, second, even the kids that are grasping them are still so far behind where they could be and rightly should be that its just downright scary.

I'm disgusted with the school system. I cannot believe that the expectations have sunk so very, very low for the children of America. We already rank 18th of the 24 top civilized countries in academics. Its no wonder. We have our 7 year olds doing work that 4 and 5 year olds are doing in other countries. Why? Because those other countries expect more.

They expect more of their schools.

They expect more of their teachers.

They expect more of their students.

They expect more of their parents.

Our country's education system has become pathetic. It is ridiculed the world over. Our expectations, as a nation, have gone down the toilet. Our children are being taught that all they have to do is squeak by on the simplest of tests. They're being taught that all they have to do is memorize a small amount of information just long enough to regurgitate it onto paper and then forget it.

They're falling through the ever-widening cracks of a poorly built foundation.

And America's parents are letting it happen.

Well, folks, not me........

I have greater expectations for my children, higher hopes, bigger plans.
Ah, the joys of homeschool.

Homeschooling gives a family the ability to, first of all, focus on the things that truly matter to them; and secondly, individualize education and curriculum choices to better work with each child's own particular learning style.

Academics is one of the easiest areas in which to prove that homeschoolers outperform and outrank their public school peers. But academics is not the reason most people homeschool. Most people homeschool because of things like religious reasons and safety concerns. The academic excellence is just an added perk! So here are some of the expectations I have for my children that I know they just wouldn't be able to meet, stuck in today's public school system.

Spiritual Expectations

The first concern of any Christian homeschooler should be to "Train up a child in the way he should go…" (Proverbs 22:6). Our first priority, given to us by God, is to teach our children about God, to love God, and to have a Biblical worldview. I can guarantee you that no one sits through 16,000 seat hours of secular and liberal public schooling and comes out with their worldview unaffected.

My children are home at me, where the Bible is read on a regular basis, and God is a part of all history and science and anything else we can put Him into! Which is, of course, pretty much everything! I want my children to grow spiritually if nothing else. I want them to know the God who created them and loves them on a personal level. I want them to "not conform, but be transformed" (Romans 12:2). I want them to see the world through God's eyes, to truly do what Jesus would do.

I want them raised up in the " nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). I do not want them raised by liberalism, socialism, or political-correctness. I am far more concerned with Biblical-correctness. I want them surrounded by this Christian culture until they are old enough and mature enough to go out into the world as witnesses. I want them to be spiritually mature, to have a firm grasp on morality, on the will of God for their lives, and to be able to stand, unwavering, against the attacks of Satan and his secular world.

Personality/Emotional Expectations

I read an interview with John Taylor Gatto the other day and one thing he said really spoke to me. I'd like to share it with you again here:

"First of all, I think parents need to show their kids a vision. You have to have a plan or a purpose for being alive and getting up in the morning. It cannot be just to have a good meal, or fun, or a good experience, or get an A on the test. Your life's part of an arc, and each piece is part of a whole. They're not just disparate elements. One of the easiest ways to teach that is through the nonstop reading of biographies. Biographies let you see how decisions at each point affect not only the future, but they affect the way, looking back, you see your past. I don't think it would take too many of those, before somebody saw their own life as a coherent story that they're writing themselves. Then they can't ever say that somebody else wrote a bad story and they got a bum deal."

A vision. A plan or purpose for being alive and getting up in the morning. This is what I want my kids to have.

What vision do kids have in public school? What purpose for getting up in the morning? Because they have to or they'll get in trouble? Because someone else says so? Because they don't dare get behind the scheduled lesson?

I want my kids to greet each day with happiness and enthusiasm! I want them to love to read, to be excited to learn, to be proud of themselves for conquering some new concept or project.
I want them to know its OK to be different, but also that in some things, its OK to be the same! I want them to know their own mind, to form opinions (based on Biblical principles), to come up with ideas and to be….unique.

I want them to excel in the things that interest them and not be held back. I want them to never feel dumb or not good enough because they struggle with certain things. I want them to never have to cave to peer pressure…in fact, I want them to never even give it a second thought. I want them also to not fall prey to peer dependence. I want them to stand on their own, to stand behind their beliefs, to be comfortable in who they are.

None of which are things that are taught, encouraged, or sometimes even allowed in public schools.

Academic Expectations

I expect my children to do their best.

That should be enough, shouldn't it?

I expect them to not take the easy way, and to not even want to. I expect them to love a challenge and to glory in the feeling of conquering that challenge. I want my children to always have something just a little harder than they're used to, something to always keep them coming back.

I expect them to work hard at the subjects that challenge them, and to work just as hard (or harder!) on the subjects that they love. I expect them always to desire to go above and beyond, to read just one more chapter, do just one more page in the math book, try just one more experiment. I want them to crave both knowledge and wisdom, not to feel like it is shoved down their throats by uncaring "professionals".

I want them to learn a lot, to excel, to go above and beyond the norm, and to love doing it.
That is what I expect of my children.

And so far, they have not disappointed me.

What I Expect of Myself

I have to admit it. I have a problem. I have fallen prey in years past to something that I constantly warn other homeschool moms about.

I cared way too much what other people thought.

The year started off with high hopes and grand plans, and, more importantly, with a good attitude and happy heart. But lots of criticism and negativity came my way regarding homeschooling.

And I let it get to me. Boy, did I ever.

I have spent weeks stressing over what other people might think of our homeschooling. What do they think of our level of socialization? What do they think about our choice of curriculum? What do they think about our academic standing? How do we appear to those non-homeschoolers out there?


Apparently, I have. But no more!

I know what is best for my children, and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about it, even if that person is family or a close friend.

I expect myself to stand up better to criticism next time it comes my way. I expect myself to hold to a higher standard and not get involved in a war of words. I expect myself to hold to the course set before me by God as a homeschooling mother, and not to let myself be swayed by negative thoughts, words, or actions from other people.

I've found myself pushing things on my kids that I really don't find important because I think other people might. I've lost the fun, free spirit of homeschooling that I loved so much.

No more!

I expect to enjoy being with my children. I expect to be a good teacher, to know what they need to learn and how to get them to learn it. I expect of myself dedication to each child and to the cause as a whole. I expect to instill a love of learning.

I expect myself to be myself, to let my children be themselves, to let our family, our homeschool, and our housecleaning be what it is, no matter what anyone else thinks!

I expect myself to measure up to my own expectations, mine and God's, and not to worry about anyone else's!

A Final Word on Expectations

I read once, in a book or magazine, I don't remember exactly, an article about the importance of a good name.

"A good name is better than fine perfume...." Ecclesiastes 7:1

We give our children names. We spend days, weeks, months even poring over baby name books to find just the right one.

What we don't realize is that we continue to name and re-name our children over and over throughout their lives. We name them "good" or "bad", we name them "smart" or "stupid", we name them "pretty", or "cute", or "ugly".

We name our children every day with our words and actions (and kids can read far more into an action or a facial expression than you'd think). Children will live up to what you think of them, and it works both ways. If you name them with negative names, if you set your expectations low, they will learn to name themselves bad names and set their own low expectations. If you name them with positive, loving names and expect great things of them, and set about providing the proper environment for them to achieve those expectations, they will mimic those ideals and live up to them.

We as parents have the supreme responsibility ever given to anyone on earth. We are responsible for our children's hearts, minds, and bodies. We are responsible for who they turn out to be. It is our job, our crucial, time-consuming, hard, difficult, uphill battle of a job to be constantly at work both for our children and with our children to help them grow into the wonderful adults God wants them to be.

What kinds of expectations are your children living up to? What kind of names are you giving them?

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