A New Chapter

Punksin started school yesterday. Public school. Third grade.

Pudding starts tomorrow. Same school. Kindergarten.

I’ve already decided that I am going to be keeping notes on the things Punksin tells me (and Pudding, possibly), and they will either become fodder for a book, or at very least, a long list of reasons that I will present to the school when I tell them I am pulling her back out.

Yes, I know. It’s day 1. But in day 1, her teacher has:

  1. informed the children that they are not allowed to go to the bathroom before 1:00
  2. muttered to a boy in the class “Grow up already”

Okay, I come from a Montessori foundation, and that was what Punksin was introduced to in pre-K. Some of the most basic tenets of the Montessori path is that children are to be taught to be self-sufficient and they are to be respected. I don’t know about you, but from where I sit, telling children that they cannot go to the bathroom before 1:00 is FUCKING INSANE.

They get there at 8:45 and are supposed to be in their classrooms by 9:00. And they are not allowed to go to the bathroom until 4 hours later?

If you have to go, you have to go! In Montessori, children are allowed to go to the bathroom or for drinks of water WITHOUT ASKING, as long as they do not do it excessively, and as long as they can do so without disrupting the class. Frankly, I don’t see what the problem is with a child quietly leaving the room to go to the bathroom, or at least NOTIFYING the teacher quietly before going.

So, I’m not really too happy about that. And frankly, although this may be her RULE, the first day that Punksin comes home and tells me she was not allowed to go to the bathroom, is the day her teacher and I will be having a little talk about what I will and will not tolerate for my child.

I popped into the classroom today, because I was there to register Pudding. The teacher said that Punksin was doing just fine, and remarked that “She’s so mannerly! She could be a role model for a lot of students!

Now, I don’t know if I wrote about this before or not, but comments like that always give me pause. I used to get them a lot about her when she was in pre-K too and I found them somewhat disturbing.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled that my child is displaying good manners. I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s the way we function in this house and I expect that to continue when they go out into the world. And from the comments I hear, it does.

But when that’s the first word of praise to come out of a teacher’s mouth, I find it rather annoying because it suggests that their primary focus is not her ability to learn, but rather her ability to follow rules and not cause trouble.

Now granted, her teacher JUST met her, so she has little idea of Punksin’s academic skill. But in pre-K, I’d be going in for mid-year  parent-teacher conferences, and the first thing I wanted to know was how she was progressing ACADEMICALLY, and the first thing THEY wanted to tell me was how well-behaved my daughter is, how she gave them no problems, she always listened and did as she was told…and it would go on and on and on, and I’d try to bring the conversation back around to school work and that would be like “Oh, yeah, she’s doing great,” and then it would be BACK to how she is SO not a problem and a JOY to teach and yadda yadda yadda.

Now, I know many teachers do have to deal with children that are disruptive. And I do know that some modicum of control has to be maintained. But there just seems to be this excessive focus on CONTROL rather than ACADEMICS. I mean, what is the purpose of forbidding kids to go to the bathroom before 1:00? What is that but a control tactic? There are 13 kids in the class. And if one child seems to be going to the bathroom very often, then you pull that child aside and figure out what the hell is going on. But if, by her own rationale, 3rd graders are big enough to “hold their business,” (a phrase that made me cringe), then they are also old enough to be entrusted with a little bit of responsibility that can then be curbed as necessary. I mean, the bathroom is RIGHT NEXT TO THEIR CLASSROOM. What the fuck is the big deal?

Mind you, this is day ONE.

If you’re new here, you may not know that up until now, I homeschooled my children. Somewhat spur of the moment but with much ensuing discussion, we all decided that the kids would try school for a year. We thought it would be good for ALL of us. Punksin would get out and make some friends. Pudding would get his little ass off the computer, and socialize more with other people, and learn to read. And Mommy might have some time to churn that book out.

It’s day one, and…I’m not saying I regret it already. I still think that there are SOME positives to be gained from it. But the negatives that are already apparent – the teacher’s disdain for the children, the fact that even with us SLACKING Punksin and I were doing more advanced work than what she is encountering in class – are making me feel that this might just be a year-long break/change before we go back to what is, for us, the norm: learning in an environment that is respectful of the child’s humanity, maturity, and intelligence.

Why is that so fucking hard? Why do so many teachers insist on treating kids as though they are just a pain in the ass? Trust me, I know teaching can be a frustrating and undervalued profession. But I think many of them create their own vicious cycle when they treat the kids like crap. Treat them well, respect them, and expect much from them and let them rise to the occasion! Because more often than not, they will.

The teacher already seems somewhat intimidated by me and Punksin. I told her that she had been homeschooled, and that if she found a gap in her learning in American History, it was because we at home had not gotten up to it yet. Our approach to history was purely chronological, and since we were still in medieval times, there was no American history to study yet. I wanted Punksin to learn it in the context of what World History and what was going on all over the world while American history was being made.

Well, all of that information was for naught, because the teacher told me they’re not really TEACHING history yet. AT ALL. Just basic shit like some of the Presidents, but nothing major.

Alrighty then!

What I’ve already decided will happen is that I will continue to teach Punksin on the side, so to speak. In English, they’re just learning about subjects and predicates, while Punksin has already learned about verb tenses including past progressive and present progressive. In math, they’re just learning about place value. She’s known that for over a YEAR already.

Since we’ve taken the time to register, and since it was what the children wanted, I will allow them to stick with it for a year, unless things get absolutely ridiculous, but I don’t want her to be dumbed down in that space of time, so I will continue to present her with more challenging work at home so that we can segue seamlessly BACK into homeschooling when the time comes.

As for Pudding, I think for him the curriculum will be more friendly. Although some of the kids in his class seem to be less emotionally mature, I think – I hope – that the curriculum will meet his current needs for English and math. I’ll be keeping an eye on that as well, but I do think that once he has a firm grasp on reading, he’ll be able to make bigger leaps at home than he would there.

As for ME…well, I’m still doing okay with my Lexapro reduction program. And although I am NOT looking forward to having to get the kids out of the house every day by 8:15, which to me is an ungodly hour, I am hoping that with some free time I can devote my energy to more serious and dedicated writing. I’ve got stuff in the works that’s been on the back burner for too long. It’s time for these dishes to be DONE.

So, as I always say…stay tuned. This whole school thing could get pretty…interesting.



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