I have three in school this year. Well, this is actually the third year with three in school, but this is the first year where it’s officially mandatory school. Wait, no that’s not entirely true. Kindergarten isn’t actually mandatory in CT. Current state law says my kids don’t legally have to go to school until they are seven. But really if I held my kids back until they were seven they likely would start out in Kindergarten and not 1st or even 2nd grade.
Kindergarten is a very important educational year though. It’s no more learning your alphabet and numbers. They are actually learning to read. That blew my mind when my oldest was going into Kindergarten that they were going to teach her to read.
But anyways, the kids first day of school is tomorrow. I have been doing all of the last minute mom stuff. Getting haircuts. Making sure all of the proper paperwork is in. Checking schedules and class placements. Making sure the summer work my kids get is done. Organizing the school supplies. Working on getting everyone back into the school routine. All that fun stuff.
Along the way to getting this stuff done there have been a few snafus. Like my son’s immunizations record showed that he seemed to be missing some shots that would prevent him from starting school. I knew we wouldn’t be able to get in before school started with the doctor to get it done and thankfully all I had to do was get a new paper because he did have those shots; it was inadvertently left off the paper. Seriously, I don’t know how people jump through hoops when they don’t do vaccinations or are on a delayed vaccination schedule. Trying to make sure you get them all in just might have sent me into a panic because in spite of every other vaccination being there and on time they were not going to let my son start Kindergarten because two vaccinations were missing.
Then there is my oldest who is going into 8th grade this year. Her schedule of classes was put together with the consideration of a test she took two years ago and teacher recommendations. However, my recommendations have not been taken into consideration. And that’s really the point of my post today.
But first I want to give a disclaimer. I have the utmost respect for teachers and for the school system. I know they try their best, but I also know that I know my children the best. So I am extremely interested in working with the school to ensure my daughter has the best education she possibly can. This is in no way me putting down anyone and I am still talking to the school to resolve my problems with my daughter’s schedule. I know this can all work out with an open mind. But I also know that parents should never just blindly follow the decisions of a group of people who don’t know my child and are just looking at test scores to determine her qualifications.
You will hear me talk about advocacy a lot on my blog. I am a strong believer in advocating for all aspects of my children’s education. And for each child that means something different. For my middle daughter I advocate constantly for help in areas that she struggles with. For my son I advocate for his gross motor struggles. For my youngest I am advocating for her to receive the help she needs with her speech. But for my oldest I advocate for a challenge for her.
It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time I was advocating for her speech. But now I must advocate for her to be challenged. She won’t challenge herself. She likes to stick within her comfort zone. So I need to make sure everyone understands this about her and pushes her and does not hold her hand. She doesn’t need hand holding. She can hold her own in a challenge. She just doesn’t like to.
And just so you know, I’m not blind to my child’s ability by some parental belief that my child is the best at everything. I know where she has her challenges. I know she struggles in areas. But for years now I have even been having teachers tell me that she won’t push herself. So I know she can hold her own and I know that this push can only be a great thing for her self esteem. If anyone ever saw her face when she finally got that A on a paper in her Advanced Language Arts class last year, then you would know that A meant more to her than the thousands of A’s she got the previous year in her Language Arts class. Because this was something she had to work hard for and it felt good.
So What’s The Problem
Last year in 7th grade my daughter had two advanced classes (Math and Language Arts). She held her own in both classes, coming out with a B average on the year. She had a few glitches in both classes which she managed to turn around. I will admit, the advanced math class I was slightly skeptical on to begin with because math is not a strong suit of hers. But she had a teacher who was able to take the time with her and she did relatively well last year. So I was a little surprised that she was being put in an academic math class this year. It’s still pre-algebra and I’m told it’s not the same curriculum as last year.
Math isn’t my biggest concern though, it’s her Language Arts. You see I’m afraid they are taking too much stock in a teacher who in the beginning of the year wanted to put her down into the academic class last year. I had talked to her about some of her grades and her not being sure what the teacher wanted from her and asked her to explain what more she’s looking for out of my daughter so we could make it happen.
Her response to that was, “Well her reading isn’t up to par with the rest of the students in this advanced class so maybe she would be more comfortable in the academic class.” My fault I think because she was thinking I was concerned with my daughter’s comfort. I explained I did not feel that was necessary and if she could just tell me more of what she’s looking for I could talk to my daughter and I think we would see a turn around. And we did. She brought her grade up and had a B for the rest of the year. It wasn’t all easy for her, but she really began to enjoy that class by the end of the year. And I think there was a huge improvement in her reading and writing. We just had a discussion about a book we both read and she had some pretty good insights into things. So I know she can do this.
We aren’t quite there yet. My daughter’s guidance counselor has told me that the math class will not be the same curriculum as last year. Her courses were chosen based on test scores and teacher recommendations. And last year when a paper came home about her classes for next year and asked for my input I gave it to them telling them that I felt she should be in advanced classes again for Language Arts and Math. And I heard nothing about it. I was never consulted about my opinion on this.
So now the schedule comes out. My daughter was a little excited that it might be an easy year for her. She wants to get High Honors or straight A’s. But now that she’s seeing who’s in these classes she’s second guessing her desire to be in those classes and she’s beginning to think she got dumb or something. See, not helping her self esteem.
Her guidance counselor wants to give it a few weeks and see if she gets bored. Then at that point we can see what we can do. I do not want her to start out behind though so if we’re going to make a move to an advanced class we should make it sooner rather than later.
Time is running out here. I hope I made a valid argument for her to remain in advanced classes. I hope they can move her on such short notice. We shall see what happens.
You Must Be In The Driver’s Seat
All of this though is to say that in many cases educators don’t know everything when it comes to your child’s education. If you remain involved and up to date on your children’s education, then you can be an excellent advocate for your child. Sometimes educators forget that the parents might know their kids. I have seen this happen a million times before with my own kids and those of friends.
Parents, remember you are your child’s first and best teacher. It doesn’t matter if you home school, public school, or private school. You are the only one who’s going to look out for the needs of your specific child. The school has hundreds of students they need to look out for. They do what they think is best, but it’s not always what’s in the best interest of your child.
So remain on top of things. Know what classes your child is taking. Know your child’s strengths and weaknesses and don’t be afraid to let people know when you think something is wrong. It is your job to give your child the best chance in life. While schools want to see your child be successful once they move on out of their school they are not their concern anymore. You are the one who will see them through elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and then going out into the world.
So I will never stop advocating for my children’s needs. Even if it means going against what the educators think is best for my child.
How will you go about advocating for your child’s education?