Friday, April 09, 2010

School Versus Learning

High Tech Training
High Tech Training
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
"Mum, I need you to get me more math," Aeron informs me as she slides her backpack off and on to the kitchen table with a thud. The girls have been in the Pukekohe schools for three weeks. This afternoon's flood of noisy children into my peaceful job hunting and insurance-haranguing day is becoming quite routine.

"More math." This isn't really so much a question as a moderately dumbfounded repetition of her words.

"Yes," she informs me cheerfully as she helps herself to milk and cookies. "We're not really doing much math. Those algebra things were cool. More of those."

I confess that living in Chicken House with the girls in school has temporarily slipped me into a June Cleaver mode. I bake cookies, pies, or cake pretty much every day. Of course, part of the motivation is that the house is freezing cold, there is no central heat, and baking appears to be the only source of warmth legitimately possible during the day unless I'm ready to concede defeat and start living in a steamy bathtub eating chocolates and reading Harlequin romances. Absently, I mutter to my youngest, "Only two."

She knows this means two cookies and reluctantly puts one back, "Some science would be good, too."

"Okay, more math and some science. I can do that." At this point, Mera enters the kitchen, and she too immediately heads for the after school nod to suburban domesticity.

"Mom?" Mera asks in her I-want-to-say-something-but-I'm-afraid-you'll-get-upset voice.

Hmm. What now? My youngest wants me to do school after school. What can possibly go wrong now? "Yes, Mera."

"Mom, Mrs. Guise says I need to be accelerated in the accelerated class." Mera's voice is a combination of concern at my response and a vain attempt to suppress pride. She's been in Mrs Guise's accelerated class for one week after getting bumped out of the "normals" due to performing so far out of expectation on her qualifying math and reading tests that her school isn't really quite sure what she's capable of. "I'd like to do some more studying at home."

"Of course you do." Of course you do! Right. I muse, "I thought we were done homeschooling."

"Um… if it's okay with you, I'd like to do some history and science. The maths at school are okay, but they don't do any science really. And I think that not doing history in intermediate school is just wrong, don't you?" Mera is indignant. She is coming out of her modesty shell and pointing out the inadequacies of the curriculum set for an entire nation of people.

I scrub my face, "Well…" I know at this point I should be defending the school system, but we're having a bit of a problem. Can you really tell your kids they are wrong if they want to learn more than they are being offered? Chewing my lip I think for a moment, "Girls have I got this straight? You want me to get you more math, science and history to do after school."

Aeron explains to me, "Yeah. See, we'll just flip our day, okay? We'll play at school and then we'll do school at home. Okay?" Done with her cookies and apparently done with explaining how she's going to organize her day, Aeron disappears around the corner. Mera shrugs, smiles at me, nods her head and leaves as well, her voice trailing behind her as the kitchen door flaps back and forth, "That'll work!"

My Kiwi Kids
My Kiwi Kids
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
That'll work. I guess more importantly, Mom will work and Dad will work and when we're done working we'll come home and be teacher. Homeschool families, beware. We made a big mistake. We taught our children to enjoy learning. Now they go to school where it's very fun but completely inadequate intellectually. So my want to play "school" for six hours with all their new Kiwi friends then come home and learn something. I can't imagine how long this bizarre state of affairs will last. I also am pretty sure it would be a good idea to not tell Mrs Guise and Mrs Almond -- not to mention any of their new girl friends -- that school is about as challenging as a construction paper project.

So until and unless this love of learning wears off, I must now add to our daily to do list: more math, some science, and history. So much for the cookies... time to get to work.


inklenaomi said...

Because I don't want lightning to strike, I WON'T say MY homeschooled kids would never say that. Thank goodness you have all that time when they are at school to prepare lessons for the Conger Prep Academy Evening School for Girls-oh wait, you're working, right?

Sarah said...

I love this post!!! I am now a public school teacher, which is something I thought I would never become after reading all kinds of radical education books. But being a school teacher does pay better than being a radical educator.

As a middle school teacher I believe my job to be mostly about teaching children how to be good at school and work (sitting, remembering to write your name, remembering due dates, etc.), and to sneak in a little learning and fun. So it does not surprise me that your girls find school to be less than challenging. A lot of time is wasted in even the best classrooms.

The main argument I hear from people when I talk about home schooling is that my child may miss the social engagement, no one ever questions the learning that will take place.

I teach 6-8 grade science if you need any ideas I'm happy to share some. Just let me know.