Things I’ve Learned About Public School

May 19, 2009

our school
Creative Commons License photo credit: woodleywonderworks

There have been a few things that have surprised me about public school. As you know, I enrolled my 3 older kids into the local elementary school a few weeks ago.

Not all of the things are bad.

For instance, I’m surprised at how much they like school.

Even though my oldest is having problems tolerating many of the kids in his class, he likes school overall and is liked by his teachers. He did awesome on the CRCTs (standardized tests) and has impressed his teachers and the “good” kids (read: girls).

My 8 year old son was Student of the Month last week. :-)

He was presented with a special award and commended for his exemplary conduct and effort. I was very proud for him. (He has also fallen madly in love with a hot little Mamacita in his class named Jasmin, but that’s another blog post!).

Schools are very good at positive reinforcement.

My oldest was taken by his music teacher to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the historic Fox  Theater. They have something called “Eagle Bucks”that the kids earn for good conduct and hard work and they can spend these dollars at the end of the week. My 8 year old came home with a love note from his teacher, commending him on his hard work the first week. I cried. :-)

I also really like the school administrators and staff.

I think they’re awesome people who are doing really well to do their jobs with integrity and care.

One thing I don’t like is the abundance of candy offered. It seems my 6 year old comes home with a lollipop almost every day. Um, not pleased. What happened to stickers or pencils or other non cavity inducing stuff like that?

And does this contribute to my daughter being so darn moody after school?

I’ve noticed the kids fight with each other more.

I’m sure it’s because they’re a bit overwhelmed and tired at the end of the day. My 6 year old has picked up an accent from her peers, as well as a very fierce way of talking. I don’t like it.

I had lunch with my oldest last week and was shocked at the behavior of the 5th graders. When I was in school, we had to have a bit of decorum in the lunchroom. We could talk and have fun of course, but the volume had to be kept at an acceptable level. This lunchroom was deafening and overwhelming for me – an adult.

Not to mention, some of these kids are huge. Some of them were bigger than me. In comparison my son looked so small and vulnerable. It really made me nervous.

He is the only blue eyed, blonde, caucasian child in his class and in one of only a handful in the entire school. He gets a bit of discrimination targeted at him.

I’ve made it my aim to raise children who see no color, and I think I’ve succeeded in that. My children do not classify people as “black” and “white”.  In fact they call anyone with a shade of skin different from their own “brown”. And usually people with lighter skin are called “beige” or “light” or whatever.

My youngest is the only caucasian in her class and couldn’t care less, and the aforementioned girl crush of my son? She is Latina.

Unfortunately, not everyone thinks the way I do about race.

My oldest child is referred to as a racist by one of the little punks in his class. Interestingly, several of the girl students came to his defense, and they even asked him to sit with them at lunch (the boys and girls sit separately, by choice). They knew it wasn’t true, and the accuser was basically an idiot.

I told him the boys were probably just jealous and using the racist thing to try to get to him. Thing is, it is getting to him a little bit. The other day he stomped a kid on the foot for being verbally abusive to  him. I think he had taken all he could take. The teacher wasn’t overly concerned about it, because it was out of character.

I’ve decided not to send him to middle school next year.

Everyone I speak to says that middle school is worse than high school in terms of the behavior of the kids. He’ll be back home with me. He’s such an independent learner, he requires very little from me by way of instruction anyway.

Caleb has a very difficult time with the language his peers use, the jokes they tell – in short he has been raised to think about pleasing God in his daily life. He is literally offended by much of the behavior he sees, and it wears on him. His teacher has told me that he is free to leave the classroom at any time to take a 5 minute breather, grab some quiet if he needs to.

I’m ok with the middles going back to public school next year.

Ilana will be in 1st grade and Julien in 3rd. Julien still struggles a LOT with his reading, but I think that Jasmin and the positive peer pressure of the other kids has done some good in helping him to work harder. His teachers are understandably impressed with his good conduct. :-)

School lunch isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

The meals are actually quite well balanced and the bread is whole grain, there are no desserts served and there are veggies and fruit with each meal. But the milk is low fat, which bothers me. Doesn’t everyone know that children should NOT be on a low fat diet?

I don’t pack their lunches anymore because they don’t want me to, and they were not eating half of what I packed in there. They kept begging me to let them eat lunch like the rest of their class mates, and so I relented.

But the WASTE… oh my goodness.

There are no longer real silverware and reusable plastic cups and lunch trays. Each child is served a disposable tray, a plastic wrapped disposable fork and knife combo, and EACH bit of food is in a disposable plastic dish. It’s sickening to think about how much waste ONE school creates each day from school lunches.

Another thing that surprises me?

I actually like getting up at 6:30 every day to drive the kids to school. :-)

More Posts By Carrie:


7 Responses to “Things I’ve Learned About Public School”

  1. Christina Lemmey on May 19th, 2009 12:36 pm

    Glad your overall experience is a good one with you public school. You do very quickly realize just how few parents are teaching simple, good manners and common decency at home.

  2. Alice on May 19th, 2009 12:57 pm

    Wow…that was a surprise…I didn’t know until now.

    Although it’s a parent’s responsibility to teach their kids manners and proper behaviour – our school actually has a program for it. It teaches kids how to respect others, deal with anger, etc.

    Even so, dealing with the meanies, bullies and otherwise nasties never really goes away in life. They’ll be there in college, in the workplace, etc. Adults behave pretty badly too…sometimes they just hide it better.

    You’re story about Caleb being offended makes me smile…what a good boy. My oldest is similar, but for different reasons. He hates bad language (including words like stupid, dumb, etc.) and is shocked every time he hears it.

    I am still in awe of this thing called “school lunches”. We don’t have that…I have to pack a lunch for my kids every single day (except a few “hot lunch days”). Of course that means I’m in control, but a break now and then would be cool. ;-)

    Good luck to the kids…it will be a great experience for them to do something new, no matter how long it lasts.

  3. Tiffany on May 19th, 2009 1:04 pm

    Glad everything is working out. :) I haven’t noticed the manners thing so much but the crass talk is an issue. Luckily my oldest doesn’t adopt it but my daughter starts city school next year and I know she will be the one likely to imitate that rude behavior…oyvay.

    I recently found out that a friend of mine is paying 2 grand a month to send their 10 year old son to a manners school after his regular school. I was shocked that such a place even exists…why can’t parents teach common courtesy and not acting like a wild ape? Bizarre.

    Wish we had good lunches! They get poptarts for breakfast unless you drop them off at the last possible second and then the lunch usually has two desserts.

  4. michelle on May 19th, 2009 2:01 pm

    I am glad you shared that with all of us. I’ve been wondering how that was going for your family. Although everyone’s experiences with public school differ, it would be great to read occasional updates for the sake of any mom who might be considering public school as an alternative or who might need to.

    Middle school woes seem to plague the majority of families I have talked to. I know one mom of eight who sends her children to elementary school and high school but homeschools through middle school!

    I hope things cotinue to go well, and that you will be settled in soon!

  5. Tsoniki Crazy Bull on May 26th, 2009 10:33 pm

    I’ve recently moved and will most likely send the kids to school this coming fall. I keep saying things like “I’m thinking about sending them” or “I might” – really, I will and am still adjusting to it. I thought I was going to send them to a close public school, then started hearing about this school and that school and oh yeah this other one! So now I have a bit of research to do because I am paranoid that it will be the worst thing ever.

    I know that it won’t, I went to public school and turned out just fine. ;) LOL

  6. Raine Saunders on June 16th, 2009 11:22 pm

    I am in agreement with the things you have said here about public school. I homeschooled my son for 4 years before sending him to public school full-time in the second grade. He did dual enrollment his first grade year, and it seemed to work out fine, but over the course of the year, his attitude became more and more difficult to deal with about sitting down and getting the work done.

    I soon decided that going full-time to see how things would work out was the best choice for my sanity, as I gave him plenty of chances to turn his behavior around. We are now at the end of one full year in public school (second grade) and overall, it was definitely not a good experience for him. He found the children to be hard to connect with and most of them do sports at recess, and my son does not enjoy the whole “sports” mentality, rather, he is more creative, intuitive, sensitive, and into science & math. He enjoys making up elaborate scenarios and games to play based on some of his favorite characters and scenes from selected kid’s videos and books he reads. None of the children at his school seem in tune with this idea, and they all run around playing tag and dodge ball during recess, which he loathes.

    I tried numerous times to get him interested in play dates with various children in his class after school, but he couldn’t be bothered. The one child he really connected with for over a year was a girl named Maya, and they were inseparable until the second grade when most public school kids tend to separate out into groups based on gender, or at least that occurred to a large extent at his school. It became no longer acceptable for Maya to play with Tristan because she was in a group that was all girls, and Tristan was usually the odd man out. I found that the behavior of most of the children was pretty deplorable, and one girl in his class took to bullying him a good portion of the time during the school year.

    The teacher, while nice enough, was too much of a pushover. When assigning tasks and homework, and children didn’t finish these items, she was often remiss in following up with them to complete unfinished business – which I think sends a bad message about finishing what you start. Tristan had many teary-eyed moments at school about one thing or another, and would get stressed out very easily if something went awry, such as forgetting an assignment or other item the teacher requested the children to bring into class. She was never harsh about this type of thing, but he frequently behaved as though it were the end of the world and would fall apart over it. When I’d talk to her about it, she would insist that he was just fine when I wasn’t around and that most of his behavior “displays” were for my benefit. I was also told by the school counselor that my presence before and during lunch time (I hand delivered a fresh lunch to him daily as we live only a block away, and I absolutely refused to allow him to eat the school food), was hindering him from gaining independence.

    My overall impression of public school is that the staff definitely want parents around to complete “busy” work and other items that the teachers don’t have time or resources to do (and there’s a LOT of that). But they do not want to encourage that you actually spend time with your own child when you are at the school. Most of the kids at Tristan’s school were dropped off at the gate and didn’t see their parents until after school or after work. Although there were a lot of parents there who seemed to be there regularly, it was not “socially acceptable” to be there during times other than drop off or pick up unless you were volunteering for a specific activity that you were scheduled to complete. People always say that schools are desperate for volunteers and parent involvement, but at our school it always felt as though they looked down on me for being there for my son – that I should just be there for the school as a whole or his class as a whole. I feel the public school system undervalues the closeness that is so important between child and parent. There is a pushing away of the critical relationship which helps to build the child’s self esteem, sense of security, and feelings of worth that are created during this significant time of life when children are still young, but are not going and doing things by themselves as they are in junior high and high school. My son is going to be homeschooled again this coming season (his third grade year), and will be spending time with his dear friends (two girls, the daughters of one of my best friends) who are enrolled in a state-funded program that has a community and curriculum already in place. I think if my son can overcome the lack of wanting to do the work (although he is very smart and always received high marks on his assignments), this will be a great experience for him. It is my hope that now that he is a little more grownup and matured (as compared to his previous homeschooling time), he will learn to value the importance of learning and growing on his own terms, because he’ll have more freedom, choices, and less judgment from those around him.

  7. Candi on June 30th, 2009 11:20 am

    Carrie – this was very heartwarming for me to read. We too are trying to decide whether or not to send Haylei to public school. Thankfully I have another year to decide.

Got something to say?