Why I Want to Improve Schools

I just saw this article on NPR on how pre-school teachers are often poorly trained to teach pre-school, and it goes a long way to explaining what went wrong when we sent Buddy to pre-k. His teacher had no idea what was appropriate behavior for pre-schoolers, seemed to have a poor grasp of child development, and was expecting him to have skills above his grade level. Even ignoring the fact that he has autism, his pre-school was not a good environment for him.

I have pulled Buddy out of school and we will likely homeschool him for a few years. It may work so well I may decide to homeschool him the entirety of his school career. Or he may get to a point where he and I feel comfortable sending him to public school. I also had developmental delays that I outgrew when I was 13, and I thrived in junior high. Buddy may be the same way. And right now I’m undecided if I’m going to send Sissy to school or not.

I know some people love homeschooling and are huge enthusiasts. I may grow to love it. As it is, things are too new now and we’re still building our team and finding our momentum. Even if I do fully embrace homeschooling, though, I want to improve public schools.

Because while I am fortunate that I have a career where I can set my own hours and work evenings and weekends so I can be home during the day while my husband works and vice versa, most people aren’t. I am also fortunate that I had a lot of training in child development and a mother who was a kinder teacher, and a grandmother who taught pre-school. Teaching is in my blood and it is what I learned from observing my mother and grandmother. And not everyone has the talent or knowledge to be a teacher. One of my friends who homeschooled her children who I have been getting advice from recently sent me this video.


And I couldn’t get behind the mentality of it. There are plenty of parents who should not homeschool. A book on how to teach your child is not magically uploaded into your brain when you give birth. Some parents can do it and do it well, others can’t.

For instance, I had a client who was a high school drop out and was addicted to meth. She and her husband were unemployed and impoverished. In my four years of working with substance use, she had two CPS cases and her children had been removed from her care because of her drug use twice. Her children did have learning differences, but rather than provide services for them, the school told her they wanted her to homeschool her children.

When she told me this, I was appalled. For one thing, it is illegal for the school district to do it. By law schools are required to provide an education for everyone. But I was also appalled that the school thought it was a good idea for a someone who had not completed high school and currently did not have custody of her children to homeschool them! That this did not set off all sorts of warning bells at the school district was extremely concerning for me.

I do not believe she had the mental capacity to hold down a job for more than a few months. Her early life had been too traumatic, and while I was fond of her, she needed more help and life skills than ten hours of therapy a week for three months could provide. Thing is, if she doesn’t have the mental capacity to hold down a job, then how would she have the mental capacity and determination to educate four children? And if she had a CPS case every other year and the kids were removed for their safety, how could the school trust they the children would be safe with her twenty four seven?

In all honesty, the school was setting up all four of her children to be future drop outs. They were putting those girls on their parent’s path, to drug use, to being unemployed, to be a drain on society.

Imagine if those girls had the option of a school that met their needs, stimulated their interests and encouraged their academic growth? While it wouldn’t completely compensate for the neglect they suffered at home, it would be a start, and they would have a chance.

There are many families like this family. And at one time, that client was a child, who had been failed by her parents and the educational system. And now her children are on the same path.

In the US, we spend millions on criminal justice, on a war on drugs, on trying to fix people who are already broke. I have a hard time swallowing the argument that I shouldn’t worry about whether or not other people’s children are receiving a quality education. I do not live in a vacuum. When our schools fail a child, it sends reverberations throughout our society, and it impacts everyone. As the article pointed out, making sure every child has access to quality pre-k can go a long way to fixing this. It is a good, strong start. But we are squandering this opportunity.

Change happens slowly. I would have preferred to have been able to send Buddy to a school that was healthy for him, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. But I hope that when my children have children, homeschooling is a choice only if they are real passionate about doing it, and not the only option because the schools were so harmful.


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