Guest Blogger: Even More From FedUp Mom

Today’s guest blogger is “FedUpMom”, the mother of a 10-year-old who attends a public school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. This is FedUpMom’s third post; you can read her other entries here and here.

How we left the public schools
by FedUp Mom

As her 5th grade year began, I noticed that my daughter was becoming depressed. She came home from school miserable, looking like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. She said she hated school and she was jealous of her little sister who doesn’t go to school yet. When I told her that school shouldn’t be a miserable experience for her, she looked genuinely surprised. This broke my heart.

One day she wasn’t at chess club, which I run at her school during the recess period. When I asked her about it later, she said she wasn’t able to come because the math teacher had kept her in from recess for forgetting to get our signature on a test. The first teacher conferences were coming up, so I made an appointment to talk to the math teacher. At the appointment, I told him I wanted to cut back on homework, which we were able to work out. But we ran out of time before we could get to the recess issue.

A couple of days later, I remembered the recess problem and sent the teacher an e-mail asking him to stop holding my daughter out of recess. I explained that it caused her to feel humiliated, ashamed, and resentful, and that this was why she was so quiet in class. The teacher replied that he could stop holding her back for unfinished homework (i.e., the unsigned test), but the last time he kept her out of recess it was to do extra work, and “I told the kids it wasn’t meant as a punishment!”

So I sent an e-mail to the principal saying that I wanted my daughter out of this teacher’s classroom until the issue was resolved. The principal scheduled a meeting for the next morning with me, the teacher and her.

The meeting started out with the principal trying to scold me for the tone of my e-mail (!) and went downhill from there. The teacher claimed that my daughter was “playing” me and that she was fine in his class, just “too quiet” (a known symptom of depression, especially in girls). He also said, “You cut back on her homework, and now you say I can’t hold her in from recess. When am I supposed to teach her?” (Um … class time?)

I said that I was open to taking my daughter out of the class, which everyone resisted because it was the high-status “accelerated” math and, as the teacher pointed out, “she’s getting a B!” Accelerated math, for those fortunate enough not to have heard of it, means they try to cram two years of math into one (in this case, 5th and 6th grades). This was one reason the homework load was so heavy (about 4 times more than the regular class, I found out later).

By the end of the meeting, I had the teacher’s agreement that he wouldn’t keep my daughter out of recess any more. When I told my daughter about it, I saw an immediate improvement. She was happier, more relaxed, got along better with her sister, and helped out more around the house. But the good times were not to last.

A few weeks later my daughter came home with a note in her assignment book, “Get test signed!” She pulled out the test to show me and it was covered with red ink, with “41% F” written at the top. I asked her what happened and she said, in a panic, “I don’t know! I was worried I wouldn’t have time for the extra credit question!” (All the tests in this class are timed.) It turned out that she had misunderstood the question for one section of the test (about a third of it), so of course she flunked that section, plus the way she answered the question took a lot of time, so she didn’t get to the extra section at the back. The situation was spiraling out of control. The class made her so anxious that she couldn’t focus on the test, so she flunked it, which made her more anxious, and so on. I said to her, “you know, you don’t have to be in this class. It’s stressing you out and it’s not helping you learn.” She agreed. I sent an e-mail to the principal that I wanted my daughter out of the class, and the principal had her out by the end of the week (this was after we had started applying to private schools, so the principal was miraculously helpful.)

My daughter’s home-room teacher told me that my daughter participated more in the three days since she left accelerated math than she had in the previous four months of school.

People have asked me, “if the problem was just one teacher, is it worth paying for private school?” My answer is that the problem is not just one teacher. The problem is the public school culture, which in our wealthy district is all about squeezing achievement out of kids. My daughter was severely anxious and depressed, but as far as the school was concerned, she was a model student, because her grades and test scores were high and she didn’t cause any trouble. And if there’s too much pressure and competition in elementary school, the situation will only get worse in middle school, as the principal herself told me.

We’ve gotten our daughter into a Quaker school with an excellent reputation for educating the whole child. I can’t wait till next year.

13 Comments on “Guest Blogger: Even More From FedUp Mom”

  1. HomeworkBlues says:

    I could have written this post myself except for the part of meeting with the teacher and principal. It never got that far.

    I hear you about the “gifted” classes that overload with homework and the achievement-obsessed culture in a wealthy public school district. I’d love to compare notes with you about some of the parents. The ones who think six hours of sleep in elementary is just fine because the assignments are so wonderful and my kid’s pulling all A’s. And teachers of the gifted who haven’t been properly trained with this population and truly believe they need more, more, more. As if kids who are academically advanced do not need to play. On the contrary, play is what enriches their imaginations.

    I hear you about the too quiet girl, that miserable tired look that says, I’m carrying the weight of the world on my little shoulders, the stress, being kept in from recess because a signature was missing.Try gifted and ADD. Missing recess when an assignment is not turned in on time, when the spelling words were done in the spelling notebook instead of on a separate sheet of paper (go figure).

    Congratulations on pulling your daughter out of public school. I have a child who craves acceleration but she has said repeatedly, I want harder, not more, I want harder, not more.

    In the end, I homeschooled for just one year, before high school. It was the only way I could feed my daughter’s mind and still have a healthy happy year, full of nature, books, field trips, travel and discussions.

    My husband and I wrestled with the gifted conundrum year after year. I wanted to pull her out of the gifted program because of all the work and pressure (my daughter was in full gifted classes so multipy your math experience four times) but the alternative didn’t look so good.

    Homeschooling is the best, in the end. You call the shots, you tailor a program that meets the unique needs of your child and the best part? You eliminate anything you see as pointless. That’s the best part. You can fnally thumb your nose at all that nonsense.

    May 14th, 2008 at 11:16 am
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  2. Anonymous says:

    i agree it is ridiculous to give homework at all it is too hard

    May 17th, 2008 at 10:25 pm
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  3. Charle says:

    We are in the process of finishing up our sixth year of home educating our children. Home educating is sooooo nice, if only because there isn’t any homework!

    Let me tell you a story about a homework assignment my daughter received from a 7th grade geography teacher…

    It was a crossword puzzle of the countries in Africa. That sounds OK, right? If it had actually had clues like a real crossword puzzle, it would have been fine. Instead, you were supposed to find a list of all the countries in Africa and then figure out where in this puzzle they all fit. DD tried for over 30 minutes and then came to me for help. I tried for an additional 30 minutes and didn’t get much farther. Finally I wrote a note to the teacher telling him we had spent more than enough time on the assignment and that it was not worth any more. He gleefully gave her an “F” on the assignment and wrote a note back telling me that he never gave assignments that were not worth doing.

    This was one more nail in the decision that was to come at the end of the year to extract out children forever from that environment and educate/disciple them at home.

    Charley
    HomeDiscipling Dad

    May 20th, 2008 at 10:11 pm
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  4. Just Fed-Up says:

    Why can it be so hard to communicate with teachers. My daughter, now 14, had a terrible year in 5th grade. She is also extremely quite and very much a perfectionist. The conversations I had with teachers and staff were pretty much just like fed-up mom’s. There should be federal laws to prevent schools from holding any child in from recess. Kids need this time to get away from their desks and refresh their minds.

    I have a niece that lives in an upper scale area of Kansas City. She says parents there expect and want their kids to have a lot of homework. They also have their kids enrolled in all sorts of outside activities – dance, gymnastics, soccer, t-ball, swimming, the list goes on and on. My niece made the comment that the mom’s she knows rarely yell at their kids – She’s been asking them how they do it and she said that 4 out of the 5 moms she hangs out with are on anti-depressant medication. I live in a small rural community and many of my “mom” friends are on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant meds.

    I worked in the school system for several years and when a child had “problems” either accedemically or socially, they were often referred to a mental health agency. In all too many cases, these kids returned to school on one kind of drug or another..

    I don’t know how this really relates, but somehow, I think it does. Stress, don’t worry or try to change anything, take a pill, feel better, keep going, do more, achieve, be your best, it seems to be the American way of life – I wonder how many teachers and administrators are on anti-this or that medication?

    In my opinion, God gave us stressful feelings for a reason. He is telling us that something is wrong and we need to do something about it.

    June 1st, 2008 at 9:32 pm
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  5. Sara Bennett says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard that parents are taking antidepressants at such high rates. Has anyone else?

    I’ve heard, although I’ve never been able to find written confirmation, that up to 40 percent of Ivy League students taken antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.

    June 2nd, 2008 at 11:29 am
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  6. HomeworkBlues says:

    The poster is on to something. I believe that one reason the teen suicide rate is lower is not for the usual reasons given: that kids get into treatment faster or that we’ve gotten smarter about fixing our problems but that pills are doled out in such great frequency. Why fix a problem when you can merely dull the symptoms?

    Today when a teen is in distress, particularly an affluent one with achievement pressures, chief reason being homework overload and overscheduling which leads to sleep deprivation, the very first thing a good mom does is take her to a psychiatrist with the inevitable prescription to follow.

    It’s heartbreaking. I know so many families that have every material advantage. Their kids have everything. Except time to play outside and time to sleep.

    LBJ

    June 8th, 2008 at 8:27 am
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  7. J REBOLD says:

    DOES ANYONE KNOW IF IT IS EVEN OK FOR SCHOOLS TO TAKE AWAY RECESS? AT ONE TIME I READ THAT THEY COULD NOT, BUT NOW I CAN’T FIND IT. I’M IN KANSAS.

    October 18th, 2008 at 1:06 am
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  8. Jodie Leidecker says:

    It is never ok to take away recess, in my opinion. Too much of what the brain and body needs depends on downtime to counteract stress, develop the internal locus of control, process information, and to improve attitude, focus, behavior. If children are misbehaving, that is a sign that more recess is in order, not less, according to scholarly research.

    A few states have passed laws guaranteeing recess (Connecticut, Virginia) to children, however, there is no federal law (that I am aware of) that guarantees recess. That said, the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights calls free play one of the fundamental rights of children because it is not only beneficial, but crucial to children’s mental, physical, and emotional health. Even the ERIC digest (a federal educational research clearinghouse) has dozens of research articles documenting the need for self-directed play. Check out the IPAUSA website for information about the need to play. If it is your particular school, I would ask who is taking recess away and why. Is it a policy or a punishment? Is it the classroom teacher or the principal? The school board? Find out, and take action to protect your child’s best interests.

    October 19th, 2008 at 1:22 pm
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  9. J REBOLD says:

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP I AGREE. I ALSO HAVE FOUD OUT THAT EACH SCHOOL DISTRICT SHOULD HAVE A WELLNESS POLICY. THE THE STATE HAS GUIDELINES TO FOLLOW. (Kansas).
    I HAVE TALKED WITH MY CHILD’S TEACHER AND SHE HAS DECRESSED HIS WORK. (he has an IEP)
    AND THAT HAS HELPED HIM A LOT.

    October 22nd, 2008 at 7:54 pm
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  10. Diane says:

    Check out the Children and Nature Network website for more reports on the benefits of play. http://www.childrenandnature.org Try this link for Amercan Academy of Pediatrics’ view on free play:

    http://www.childrenandnature.org/news/detail/the_american_academy_of_pediatrics_aap_says_free_and_unstructured_play_is_h/

    October 23rd, 2008 at 12:06 am
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  11. Maurice says:

    After recent British media stories on the gifted children movement being a failiure in terms of its results, I found this page while surfing on homework overload, which I was mentally abused and nearly killed by in 1982.

    I’m adhd/aspie, but schooled before they were known. Homework is slavery and a crime against humanity. I present my write on the Scottish Autism Services Network’s site, Faculties Not Gifts, in support of this assertion.

    October 5th, 2010 at 6:57 am
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  12. TeachPeace says:

    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
    The principal scheduled a meeting for the next morning with me, the teacher and her.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    To bring a child to a meeting of this magnitude is poor parenting and teaching. All it does is confuse the child and send them mixed messages.

    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    ——— The child is quiet because she knows if she shows any sort of favor to the teacher YOU (the parent) will probably chide her. The child also is probably frightened of any event happening at school that would bring you marching down to the principal’s office demanding this or that. I’ve seen these children and taught them, what is the one thing they do- the only safe thing- read books. I bet your daughter is a big reader of books specifically fantasy books.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    >>>>>>>>>>
    By the end of the meeting, I had the teacher’s agreement that he wouldn’t keep my daughter out of recess any more. When I told my daughter about it, I saw an immediate improvement. She was happier, more relaxed, got along better with her sister, and helped out more around the house.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Wow, Mommy goes down and chews out a few people and the girl has no consequences for her actions. That would cheer me up right away too. Boy- I wonder what her friends think of her, not having the same consequences as the rest of the class. As part of the job the teacher must explain to the class why she doesn’t have to miss recess anymore. Let me guess, kids don’t really like her???? Give her 5 years and she will be rebelling with you like you wouldn’t believe. Of course that won’t be your fault, it will be her elementary school teacher’s fault.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    She pulled out the test to show me and it was covered with red ink, with “41% F” written at the top. I asked her what happened and she said, in a panic, “I don’t know! I was worried I wouldn’t have time for the extra credit question!” (All the tests in this class are timed.) It turned out that she had misunderstood the question for one section of the test (about a third of it), so of course she flunked that section, plus the way she answered the question took a lot of time, so she didn’t get to the extra section at the back. The situation was spiraling out of control. The class made her so anxious that she couldn’t focus on the test, so she flunked it, which made her more anxious, and so on. I said to her, “you know, you don’t have to be in this class. It’s stressing you out and it’s not helping you learn.”

    She gets a low grade – TEACHER’S FAULT- pull her out of class- That’s sure going to help her self-esteem. A low grade is a low grade. What if she fails her driver’s test? Are you going to hire a driver for her? Your raising a person who will not be able to deal with the regular day to day issues of life. If you daughter is lucky she will marry a very rich man, then she could lock herself up in her house and never leave her safe environment,

    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    My daughter was severely anxious and depressed, but as far as the school was concerned, she was a model student, because her grades and test scores were high and she didn’t cause any trouble. And if there’s too much pressure and competition in elementary school, the situation will only get worse in middle school, as the principal herself told me.

    It's called life on earth. Life can stink, be hard, ruthless, pull you down and tear you apart, and unless you develop some skin while younger- there is little chance of happiness in the future. Just look at yourself- so self involved you can'r see what you are doing to the one you love most.

    February 22nd, 2012 at 10:19 pm
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  13. FedUpMom says:

    TeachPeace —

    ***
    The principal scheduled a meeting for the next morning with me, the teacher and her.
    ***

    The “her” in that sentence refers to the principal. The meeting consisted of myself, the teacher, and the principal. My daughter was not there.

    February 23rd, 2012 at 8:20 am
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