Private or Public Schools – My story

I love my boys. They are bright, inquisitive and quite the handful. I knew they were smart, they did take after me a little bit. But, I am a HUGE supporter of education. In my opinion education is the great equalizer. It offers people so many opportunities to become great. Education doesn’t always mean reading books, education for me is learning anything. Learning can be done in a classroom or through the school of hard knocks too.

Boys are more likely to be identified as ‘troubled’ or ADHD, when they may not actually have that challenge. In a prior post, I wrote how I thought the typical education system pendulum has swung so far to favor girls, the system is leaving out boys. In our mad dash effort to equalize education across the sexes, we have left boys behind. This is one of the main reasons we chose to put my twins in private school.

ArchieClassMy boys are active, no doubt about it. They drive me nuts half the time with the level of energy I just WISH I had. They are smart and have such a unique way of looking at things. I want to treasure that uniqueness, people who come up with ground breaking ideas are rarely the crowd followers are they? Personally, as someone who has had personal experiences with understanding and learning things a bit differently from my peers, I knew they would thrive in a smaller environment. I also knew I couldn’t quit my job to stay at home and home school. Bless you parents who are able to, but I lose my patience with adults too easily to have the patience to teach my kids. It was better for all involved if I sought out the professionals.

It is a sacrifice to put the kids in a private school. Don’t think it’s all roses and butterflies my friends. There is payment for one thing. Good gracious, what I could do with that money! Retire in comfort most likely. But again, I have said and firmly believe education is best way to give my kids a leg up. Finding a school and program that inspires them to learn, apply what they learn and question what they see is invaluable. There is also a bit of a social inequality I feel. I have never seen so many medical professionals in one room outside a hospital than when attending a school function. When a kid in my sons classroom says “See mom, I wrote about our dinner at the country club.” and I think, “Well, I showered before I showed up after running 2 miles.” just shows a different social background. This is good for my kids too, gives them experience in all sorts of things and teaches them people can come from different places and still get together.

Ultimately the reason we chose the private school option was the curriculum. The public schools just couldn’t keep up. When I saw what was required for Kindergartners to begin school, I was shocked. My kids knew this stuff at 3 years old. Know your primary colors, count to 10, know the letters of the alphabet, I could go on. Makes me wonder why public schools don’t start teaching highly capable kids from kindergarten on.

Bored boys with lots of energy are not good classmates. My bored boys who are not challenged will cease to push forward, preferring instead to float along with whatever happens. Know your child and know your options. There may be scholarships available and other ways the school lets you fundraise. Don’t put your child somewhere just because you have no other option. Make sure the fit is right, give them the best start!

Schools Are Leaving Boys Behind

All 3 of my children are boys. This is my point of view as a mom of boys. Our schools are broken. In our effort to encourage girls in school, we have left behind the boys. In many education chats or articles I read it is to encourage girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). As an IT Auditor, I definitely see where women can be under represented in the Technology field. But, I never see any rah rah moment to encourage boys in Reading/Writing or language, areas of struggle for many boys.

20130911-222804.jpgBoys learn differently than girls. Many boys are very tactile. They need to touch, break and destroy things physically to learn how it works. Want to know why a man doesn’t read the manual? That is because most of them don’t learn by best reading directions. Verbal cues are only slightly better, but hands on, physical tearing apart or into something seems to be the best way for many to learn. Ever notice how boys can wrestle and beat each other up and stay or become the best of friends? Ever notice how when your son runs up to hug you, he slams his body into yours. The harder the slam, the more he missed you, at least that is what I tell myself before I brace for impact. Our early childhood education system is so geared toward girls it is frightening.  Boys need to move, to touch and their way of relating to one another isn’t ‘School Appropriate.’ I can’t tell you how many times I have had to tell my boys that their normal boy-style of play just isn’t something they can do at school.

How many early childhood education experts are men? How many preschool teachers are men? What is the ratio of men to women in an elementary environment? Men are under-represented in this type of environment. Lets face it, Men are from Mars and little boys are definitely like the moons circling that planet. They think differently, act differently and our boys need better than to be pigeonholed into a label that reads “ADHD” or “Disruptive”. They are boys. That is enough. Their boy-ness is part of them, and should be encouraged, not squashed. We should encourage ALL children. We need to encourage all children to explore what they might be most interested in. We should let them experience all of it: Writing, Reading, STEM etc. and not let them give up or only follow the easiest path.

Related Articles:

The Challenge of Boys in Our Early Childhood Programs

TED Talk: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning by Ali Carr-Chellman

Open Letter to Teacher – Archie

Last year, I wrote an open letter to my twin boys Kindergarden teachers. They were in the same room and I wanted to make sure their teacher knew they were separate and individual units, not two halves of a whole. This year (hallelujah) they have different classrooms for 1st grade. Some twins do very well in a same classroom setting, others not so much. It is a decision for each family to make for themselves. My boys tend to like the same things, so when it came to free choice time in the classroom, they were fighting over the same things. My boys are a study in extremes, they either love each other, or they hate each other: give or take the hour of the day. Even though they are in separate classrooms this year, their classes do a lot of ‘cooperative’ time together in order to group similar abilities in reading and math groups. So, these letters will go to both teachers.

Letter for Archie

ArchieArchie is a good boy. I must lead off with that, because sometimes it can be difficult to remember. When he is overly tired, or hungry especially, he can be challenging. His biggest challenge is the way he reacts to a particularly difficult task. His knee jerk reaction is a whiney “I can’t do it” or “It’s too hard”. He will tackle a sentence a few words at a time, or a project broken out into pieces, but anything that seems overwhelming brings out the instant “no”. He fears not doing something perfectly, or not doing something well.

His biggest strengths are his ability to make connections between unrelated objects. He loves to see how subjects interact, like learning about the the water cycle, measuring rainfall and adding and subtracting rain amounts. He gets it. Making those connections keep him engaged and feeling like it isn’t too big of a task because he is building off of something he already knows. He also marches to the beat of his own drum. Much like Tacky the Penguin stories, he is taking a project you have given him and created something new entirely, especially in Art. He is creative, and his art will inevitably look a little like Picasso. He likes feeling free and not so hemmed in my mundane tasks like chores at home (he still has to do them) or routine worksheets and flashcards etc.

I find the biggest way to encourage his participation is two fold. First, I try and find the right motivator. For instance, I told Archie and his brother I would write a letter to Santa, when they started reading books to me, that they could earn a 1/2 hour of Nintendo DS time for every book they read me. We do not have a DS. The understanding is that only with my letter and consent will Santa bring the DS to the house. I know they are quickly becoming too old to believe, but I will use it until they figure it out. Another motivator would be to warn them about a loss of privileges if they do not get their work done quickly. I try and press home the concept of work first, so you can enjoy your play or free time. Left to his own devices, Archie would quickly become the grasshopper in the Aesop fable.

Again, he is a good boy, and a sweet boy. He is sensitive to others feelings and will often give his brother a hug if he has hurt himself. He is also gentle and helpful to his little brother. My sweet boy likes to take the easy road, no doubt. But he will pick you flowers on the way.

Support Emotional Needs of Gifted (SENG) workshop

So many young, gifted children are left out of the achievement gap, their needs are ignored.   Common thinking like “He/She is gifted, they can figure it out.” But, that is not true. All children need focus and support geared toward their specific needs.  Special education, remedial, main stream and advanced level students all need help to achieve the highest level of success capable. Just because gifted kids are gifted, does not make them more likely to succeed. If your child is gifted, I highly recommend this webinar, hosted by Seabury School in Tacoma.

**It is held right before their open house. So be prepared to be wowed by the amazing things that happen on this campus. (As a parent, we have made some significant cuts and life choices to give my kids the opportunity to attend there.)

SENG Webinar: 

Developing Internal Motivation in Gifted Youth

Thursday, November 8th, 4:30pm

Seabury Lower School Campus – 1801 NE 53rd Street

Come and hear Mensa Gifted Youth Specialist, Lisa Van Gemert give a presentation about enhancing achievement drive and intrinsic motivation in gifted students. The presentation will take place before the Open House.

 **Kelli Hodges photography took the school photo this year, Thanks Kelli!

Writing to Your Child’s Teacher via Busy Kids = Happy Mom

Books & AppleBusy Kids = Happy Mom: Writing to Your Child’s Teacher

School is around the corner, and I can’t wait! My older two, the twins, are starting Kindergarten in the fall.   I always loved school.  I loved learning something new, and finding how the lessons build on top of another.  Yes, I was a nerd, and my CPA license after college just gave me the credentials to call myself a nerd.

But, my boys are different than I. They are so unique from one another, and as boys, their experience is sure to be different than mine.  We are so happy with the school we have chosen for them. The school celebrates the individual, boy or girl, and will definitely help Archie and Sean gain a sense of individuality in their learning, their interests.

To help them gain that sense of individuality, I love this post via Busy Kids = Happy Mom. She recommends writing (I imagine an email would be fine too – paper can be too easy to lose) a summary of your child for the teacher. The teacher doesn’t have the years of experience with the child and rather than spend the first couple of months gaining some very basic knowledge – it will really help giving your teacher a “Heads Up”, so both the student and the teacher can hit the ground running.

This is music to my nerdy, planning ahead soul and to my mothers soul who cherishes the ability to have other people see her twin boys as unique individuals.

Your child’s gifts and talents.  This allows for immediate connection.  After defining your child by his gifts (important), then list your child’s struggles, but don’t stop there.  Explain specific ways you have dealt with these struggles or quirks in the past. “My son struggles with focus, but in the past teachers have allowed him to do x, y and z to improve attention.”  You want to be a collaborator who solves problems, together.
(adapted from Kirk Martin at Celebrate Calm)
Questions to get you started for children K – 2nd grade:
1.  Your child’s past school experience.
2.  How does your child approach school or learning?  (apprehension or excitement)
3.  How would you describe your child’s learning style?  (hands-on, visual, etc)
4.  What kind of environment do you think your child learns best in?  (structure, more independent, calm)
5.  Child’s strengths and weaknesses academically and socially.
6.  Hobbies your child enjoys.
7.  Goals for your child this year at school.
8.  Your home situation (pets, divorce, death, new baby)
9.   Any additional concerns.