Friday, January 24, 2014

Out With The Old, In With The New...And Why Again?

Let's talk about school, mostly because today I don't have anything nice to say about people.

I have 4 kids in public school.

I have 1 laptop.

We begin our after school time at 4, roughly. We try to have the youngest in bed by 7. 3 of 4 take showers before bed. We eat dinner as a family. 2 kids are in sports right now. Time is a premium and a minimum.

My high school kid has a school issue iPad, but still has many assignments that need to be done on the laptop.

My middle school kid will soon have an iPad, but I am confident he will continue to have many assignments that need to be done on the laptop. He is also supposed to be putting in 30 minutes or more on a math practice web site.

My two elementary kids are supposed to be spending 30 minutes on a math site and another 30 minutes on a reading web site. That's one hour each on the same one lap top our family shares. They also come home with worksheets and reading baggies. Between the two kids helping them with their worksheets, reading baggies and other projects that come home, it can take a good hour at least.

Monthly I get a note from at least one teacher "reminding" me that whichever child of mine they teach isn't spending enough time on the web site they have recommended.

Today I had a child near tears because in their class, the kids with the most time logged on these web sites get candy in class.  My kid obviously isn't in the running for candy.

I'm not sure exactly how I'm supposed to juggle life around even tighter to appease these requests for time on a lap top that was never intended to be for the kids.

Maybe the schools would like me to buy some more lap tops.  Maybe I should be using my older kids iPads for my younger kids web time, but then when my younger kids break those iPads, I have to pay for the repairs.

The school my kids attend is diverse. Understand that to mean, we have a significant amount of families living at or below poverty. I doubt they have multiple lap tops or iPads. They might not even have a single computer. They may not have Internet.

So what are the options for these kids?

Go to the public library and use the free computers and approved Internet, right?

These are often single parent families, right? These are the latch key kids. How are they getting to the library? Are the walking alone? It's a long walk in our long winters. Public transportation? How safe is that really, for a kindergartner? I'm not so certain I'd send my high school kid alone on public transportation without some serious training.

I am a stay home mom, in a three adult home. I would have time to try to train a child to use public transportation and navigate the library all alone and be wise to stranger danger.

When would an exhausted struggling single parent have the time for all this?

Maybe these families are supposed to take their kids to someplace that has free wifi, like a fast food place, but then the families need to buy fast food and there is still the issue of what are they using to use the wifi. Maybe someone has a smart phone they can use the web sites on?

Back when time began and we adults were kids, we learned all our stuff in class without all the pizazz. We used plain pencils and paper and books.

I'm not saying skip over technology or not use it or teach it. It's a part of our everyday modern life. We have to know how. But it is entirely possible to learn things without all the flash and games and fun and sparkle.

Maybe we had less ADD and ADHD and sensory disorders because we simply had less. Our classrooms didn't have a lot of flash and glitter. We had desks, plain, hard desks. We had plain pencils and textbooks. We had plain old worksheets with nothing on them but the questions and the directions. We weren't distracted by the pictures on our worksheets because there weren't any. The science and history books were a big deal because those were the ones with the photos and maps in them. There were no screens in our classrooms except the big one that pulled down above the chalk board.

I think we mistake good education for glitzy education.

Maybe the kids don't need an hour a day on special web sites and candy treats to motivate them. Maybe they need plain old math drills and time tests. Maybe they need boring spelling lists and daily practice writing the words. Maybe they need to write sentences and read some dull books. Maybe they need those hard, awkward life scaring moments of classroom read aloud, going up and down the rows, each student reading the next paragraph.

No one loved those. We all got sweaty palms waiting our turn to read or answer the next math fact. We all got beat red when we flubbed up the words or stuttered or stumbled or gave the flat out wrong math answers. We all gave the wrong answers sometimes or made reading mistakes. Then it was the next kids turn and by three kids after us, we had settled down and moved on. There were no prizes or stickers or candy hand outs. There was lunch and recess and the end of the day. Somehow in doing those things we learned that none of us were perfect.

Life keeps evolving. Education style keeps changing.

I'm not saying good or bad. I'm saying I'm thinking. I'm wondering how other families pull off all this "suggested" which really means "required" computer time. I have more than enough means and I struggle to pull it all off. How are the families of my kids classmates pulling it off?

I'm wondering when we started changing everything. I'm trying to remember when exactly I missed the memo that said the old way was broken and the new way is working so well.

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