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 the Kindergarten Teacher

I first came up with this idea after reading a post from a blog that I follow. It was inspired, write a letter to your childs teacher. This will help, hopefully, speed up any time the teacher needs to get to know and teach your child better. And, who knows your child better than you? See the original post here. This is an open letter to the Kindergarten teacher of my olders: twins Archie and Sean. They start Kindergarten *gasp* today!!

Dear Mrs V.
I hope you are prepared for the two whirlwinds that are certainly the center of my world. Archie and Sean. I know you have several students in your care this year, all of whom are special, unique and amazing individuals. Do not be fooled however, just because my boys are twins, they are completely unique and have aspirations of being their own independent personality. I hope you can help us with that. But first, let me introduce you to the older of my two little men:

Archie is a brash boy, and when I say boy, I mean BOY. He likes to run, jump and climb on things with the best of them. But, even when he is doing so, he is listening and taking in every word. You will become a central figure for him. Please know that Archie is also a sensitive boy, who will try really hard to hear the words “Im proud of you”. Archie is a boy that takes a while to learn things, he is quiet and you are not always sure that he is paying attention, but he is. He needs repetition, but not the exact same thing over, and over and over again. The only thing he hates more than being bored, is feeling dumb. And if he has to do the same thing, the same way too many times, he gives up and shuts down. Please help us be creative and work with you where we need to in order to make sure he is challenged. He is a smart boy, but learns usually though touching and doing. Please have patience because as soon as he has put his hands on something, usually destroying it, he will usually be able to understand how something worked. Archie will hang back in most social situations until he feels comfortable. He is assessing the situations and deciding how he wants to proceed. He is my chief pusher of buttons and demolitions expert. He and his brother are the best of friends, or the worst of enemies. But, together they usually stand – on top of one another. Because they are boys, they play rough with other boys, tackle and are currently obsessed with super heros. Because who is cooler than a person who doesn’t make mistakes and can leap buildings with a single bound or throw webs/batarangs to catch all the bad guys in the world? Heck, I’m impressed with that paradigm. He is creative and always thinking of things a little differently. He might not make the same linear leaps as others do, but if you give him something relatable as an example, he can quickly process the information you give him. Archie likes to sing, or hum, while he eats. You might find him coloring the sky in his drawing purple, because the sun is about to explode. Unusual, sure, but none the less, he has a reason. Please listen to his reasons. He usually has them, and given enough time, can verbalize them. He has a reason for saying ‘No’ or ‘I wanted to’, but you have to let him put words to it.

Sean is my learn everything and then forget it boy. He needs lots of repetition to keep the ideas in his head until they become second nature. Sean can take situations as they come and changes with minimal notice. When meeting new people, he is usually the first to say ‘Hello’. He can roll with changes, but he does have bouts of shyness around pretty girls. Im hoping this clears up around the age of 35. Like his brother, he really enjoys imagining scenarios and making up stories to entertain. His drawings are pretty neat as he makes up two-headed dinosaurs, who are plant-eaters, because the other kind are too scary. He is able to play tackle with the boys, but is sensitive enough when dealing with people to have empathy for their feelings as well. Sean is creative, but is more likely to catch on to new concepts quicker and make intuitive leaps from past lessons, without having been told. But, he will need help keeping all that in his little, but oversized brain. He can also play rough with Archie and his biggest fads right now are: superheroes and dinosaurs. Anything that is big, powerful and can chomp you to bits at the drop of a hat has his vote. Sean is my chief lever puller and builder/creator of all things, train tracks, buildings etc. He might be busy doodling on a paper, or hanging off his chair, but he is paying attention. Sean is also very articulate, in that he CAN say what he needs to. But as a boy, he tends to revert to hand signals, grunts and various other noises to indicate what he wants/needs. Please have patience as we have been trying to train coherent sentences and not hand motions. But, I feel it is an uphill battle. Just remind him that you are not a mind reader and need words to understand. At this point, he will probably sigh and tell you very clearly what is going on.

A little history about the family, there is a history of a learning disability: delayed processing and I suspect possible undiagnosed ADD. But, I don’t want either boy, Archie or Sean, who have permanent ants-in-the-pants type of activity level to be labeled as ADD without significant testing. I limit their exposure to sweets and try to encourage healthy eating habits. I also try to maximize their exposure to the outdoors and exercise. They love to run and be active. And, if I don’t provide an ‘authorized’ outlet for the energy, things go badly. Above all, if they feel bored, PLEASE tell them to ask for something new to do. PLEASE keep them challenged and excited about learning. Too much undirected play/ free time usually ends up with SOMEONE getting bonked in the head, usually the other brother, for getting in the way of a major road construction or other important project. Don’t misunderstand, they are not allowed to play rough with girls, or hit, or generally terrorize other people. But, since they were little, they have had each other, and mostly ONLY each other, for company. Since they are the same size, what might seem like a quick hug or bump, might be more than that for smaller children. We have tried to teach them to gentler to others, sometimes the lessons stick, sometimes they do not.

Thank you for learning about my children and walking with us on the start of a great and wonderful journey. Hopefully, this is just one of many successful steps to keep them in love with learning about the world around them.

A Mom

Backpack event in Tacoma

Life Center Church in Tacoma is hosting a back to school fair, complete with free backpacks filled with school supplies.  Is it any wonder I love going to this church? Its outreach and caring for the community that surrounds it and communities abroad is astounding! While my littles are not allowed to help with this particular event, I will be there!  I will be helping in the community resource group. But come buy with your young one, register for the event on site, and partake of:

  • Community Services: WIC, Dental and Medical screenings, After school programs and more!
  • Free Haircuts, just in time for that first day of school photo
  • Arts and Crafts and bouncy houses, Oh MY
  • Lunch
  • Face painting

DOn’t forget to see me and say “HI”. I would love to meet you.

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.