While my girls danced their legs off in Princess Ballet I overheard a conversation between two of the other moms. Yes, I eavesdropped. I listened until I had to force myself to stop because I felt like I might puke. A few of the highlights:
After 2nd grade there's no more fun.
In 3rd grade they have to learn to buckle down.
The teacher will read the test question and the answer from the book and he still gets it wrong.
The teacher's only focus is passing the tests.
It turns out one of the moms also had a son in second grade who was having a hard time with word recognition and the other mom was an elementary school teacher. There wasn't any mention of there being a problem with the method being used or the teacher's focus on testing.
When they first started talking and the "no more fun" comment was made I almost said something about homeschooling. But I didn't. Why? I was tired and had spent the previous day and evening thinking and talking about homeschooling. Really all I wanted to do was watch my girls and knit a bit if I could. (I couldn't.)
The conversation has stayed with me, though, and I feel like I let that little boy down. I'm not saying I could have convinced his mom to homeschool, but I could have opened her eyes to the fact that there is another way. Who knows what that would have germinated into? What would I have told her?
I would have told her that rote memorization isn't learning.
I would have told her that all children learn in different ways and maybe this teacher wasn't using a method that her son needed..
I would have told her that standardized tests are meaningless and if you believe in testing, a teacher giving the answers to her students isn't providing accurate results.
Most of all I would have told her that learning is supposed to be fun. A seven year-old shouldn't be cramming for tests and eight year-olds shouldn't find school stressful.
My girls have learned math by eating baby hotdogs and baking a cake. They've learned writing skills by creating pictures using stencils. They've learned how to sound out words by mixing up letters and figuring out what they say.
Think about what you remember from school. Do you remember the boring classes with the uninvolved teachers and the tests you crammed for? Or do you remember the connections a teacher showed you between historical events while playing Jeopardy?