More from FedUp Mom: Conversations I Never Want to Have Again

This is the fifth post by FedUp Mom. You can read her other entries here, here, here and here.

Conversations I Never Want to Have Again
by FedUp Mom

I went to a parents’ party at the Quaker school my kids are now attending and found myself increasingly frustrated. We are living in such a lockstep culture that even in a left-wing school you hear the same old stuff. Here are some conversations I hope never to have again:

1.) “… University of Chicago.” I am tired of asking parents what they think of the local schools and hearing them brag about what college their child got in to. Can we find some other purpose for K through 12 besides college admission? How about, did your child learn something? What kind of person is she? And please, you’re not allowed to brag that your child got into a fancy school if she had a nervous breakdown in her first semester and had to come home. On the other hand, if your child is healthy and happy at the local community college, I will gladly hear your story.

2.) “… first he got a D, then he turned it around and got a B!” Again, did your child learn something? And don’t tell me, “yes, he learned how to get a B!” Grades are a distraction. An emphasis on grades teaches children to placate authority figures, to conceal ignorance and feign knowledge, and to do just enough to fulfill someone else’s requirements. Is this really education? (And if the answer is “yes”, I give up, I’m taking the kid home. At least I won’t have to deal with a roomful of conventional parents.)

3.) “You’re right, [fill in the blank] is a terrible idea, but they’ll need to do it next year, so we have to start with it this year!” There is a suburban legend that it is impossible for children to do anything unless they’ve already been doing it for the past several years. We’ve all heard this argument as it relates to homework. “OK, maybe homework serves no useful purpose in elementary school, but they’ll be doing it in middle school, so we need to get them started on it in kindergarten.” Not true! It really is possible for kids to do something new that they haven’t done before. This phenomenon is called … wait for it … “learning.”

4.) “It’s wrong, but it’s still better than public school!” I hear this a lot from people whose kids have never spent a day in the public schools. On the one hand, I agree with them — that’s why we left. On the other hand, I want a lot more than just an environment that’s slightly less toxic than the public schools. And there’s an implicit snobbery that makes me very uncomfortable.

My greatest hope these days is that some good might come out of the collapse of our economy. Now that an exclusive college degree is no longer a ticket to the big bucks, maybe professional-class parents can ease up on the pressure and take a look at their kids’ quality of life. We can hope …

6 Comments on “More from FedUp Mom: Conversations I Never Want to Have Again”

  1. Erik says:

    If “it’s still better than public school!” is “implicit snobbery” among this group of parents, I shudder to think what the explicit kind sounds like.

    November 21st, 2008 at 2:12 pm
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  2. HomeworkBlues says:

    FedUpMom, great post. I am SO frustrated because in the last few days you’ve posted so much I’m passionate about but I am steeling myself to get my work done and play a little less on my favorite blogs this week. I’ll be back :).

    Have you considered homeschooling? Try TAGMAX, to start with.

    November 21st, 2008 at 7:43 pm
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  3. HomeworkBlues says:

    To add: FedUpMom, loved the devil joke you posted the other day. I laughed uproariously and then shuddered. The analogy is chilling.

    Yes, the parents. My daughter has attended gifted programs almost all her life and the best part of our lone homechooling year is I got away from those comments. They were so shallow. I was yearning for deeper connections and worried that my daughter’s education had been continuously hijacked. How did learning, discovery and imagination turn into something so oppressive?

    I know so many parents who think K-12 is nothing more than one long preparation for Harvard, what Alfie Kohn calls Preparation H. And my husband went to Harvard! We’re not knocking Harvard, just this relentless incessant pushing, the competition, the nervous energy, the justification of all that sleep deprivation and loss of play. I can’t wait to see what these kids will be like at 40. Will they even have enough presence of mind to hate us or have we drummed out all sense of indignity? In public school, NCLB will rob these future leaders of the ability to innovate.

    In homeschooling, we ALWAYS talked about what the child is learning. I cannot tell you how relieving and blissful it was to get away from grades and hyper competitive baby boomer parents for a solid year.

    Once you taste the freedom of homeschooling, it is so hard to go back. But FedUpMom, if you can find a homeschool group such as exists where I live (feel free to get my email addy from Sara), you’ll be asking yourself, when can I start?

    November 21st, 2008 at 7:53 pm
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  4. FedUpMom says:

    Erik — I see your point. I guess snobbery is part of the price you pay when you send your kids to a private school.

    HomeworkBlues — I thought you were a bit scarce! I am definitely considering homeschooling. I will take a look at TAGMAX, although I have very mixed feelings about the “gifted” label. Hmm … I feel a rant coming on …

    November 24th, 2008 at 1:51 pm
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  5. maureen molina says:

    I am so happy I read that article in Parenting magazine and yours.

    I felt I was the only one who thought we would never have a life again.

    I am so willing to do the survey and pass it along. I am also not going to push homework anymore. Time with children being happy is more important than no time at all.

    Monday night was horrific – I stopped and said to myself that I have not even hugged or touched my child since 2nd and 3rd grade evening homework started. We have had no fun at all. No playing, no laughing, no one on one time. The reading logs are outrageous and we are expected to read 20 minutes a night, plus homework. We ate standing up, doing assignments – 4 math, 1 writing, 3 reading comprehension and a scholastic reading with questions to answer on the back. The assignments are due on Thursdays and are each extensive in time of over 20 minutes each. We showered close to 9pm and said two words to each other not involving homework and had to go to bed. I cried intermittently in my office Tuesday hoping no one would see me. I had a late afternoon appointment. That is where I saw the Parenting magazine and also on MSN. How can this be happening? I recall having homework but not like this. We had small assignments. My parents rarely had to help me. Sometimes I did not do homework and got great grades anyway. My son cringes when he opens his books. It saddens me to see him so unhappy. When I do go to hug him and kiss him he tells me that he is too tired to hug and kiss me back and to look at his eyes they are tired too. I have tears in my eyes right now – how sad this is. My son’s grades are D in writing, B in math, B in science, C in reading, E in homework and N in behavior. Now I know why – there is no attention given to these little souls who yearn for attention from their loved ones and friends. I received a license for foster care before my son was born – I was not supposed to have children but I was a statistic. The stories we heard from real live people regarding children with no attention from someone was frightening. What is society doing to our kids? Tonight, we will have some fun. We will hug and kiss and play. That is it – I am done. I love my special boy – I must give him my attention and make sure he doesn’t look else where that will be dangerous for him just to get some. That is a fact. Bless you – your children and family and friends – that is what it is about.

    January 13th, 2009 at 5:06 pm
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  6. TeachPeace says:

    What kind of person is she? And please, you’re not allowed to brag that your child got into a fancy school if she had a nervous breakdown in her first semester and had to come home.

    You’re just not a very nice person are you?

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I challenge you to teach for one year in low performing school. Hey you could even write a book about it.

    February 22nd, 2012 at 9:38 pm
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