If Parents Taught Kindergarten

1:50 AM

Ms. S told me her life story during lunch break. While the kids blessedly ran out to lunch recess, we sat in the empty kindergarten room eating pretzels and those addicting Quaker Oats chewy granola bar yummies. I hadn't planned on playing substitute teacher that day and thus had no money for the lunch line. Fortunately she had a full box of those things.

I don't know if Ms. S was having a bad day or if substitute teaching was a perpetual bad day or if her life was a perpetuated perpetual bad day, but it was quite depressing. Apparently she subbed to make ends meet and had been doing so long enough to note that kids nowadays show absolutely no respect. They're out of control. They don't listen, don't sit still, don't do anything apart from their own volition.

Since our regular teacher was gone that day and I was a negligible authority figure to my kindergarteners, I didn't have a problem agreeing with her...sort of. My tolerance level of little kids exceeds most (which isn't always a good thing), and I never know what sort of kid-tolerance-level I'm dealing with when discussing this issue.

When ladies at the grocery store coo, "Oh, are they all yours? They're so well-behaved!" right after we were chasing around the youngest boys, I wonder what sort of child demons they've seen in their lifetime. We were no angels. To me, kids were kids.

Wait. There was that time I babysat and came home abused, terrified and heading for the aspirin. Never mind.

In any case, Ms. S didn't like the nowadays kids, couldn't stand them. And our class was actually the best in the school. While the other classes beat each other up on the playground, ran crazy in the halls and sat in principal's office, our biggest challenge was getting them to whisper in the bathroom and stop whining about being bored.

I've thought much on my experience in an institutionalized classroom, the problems with our public schools and the arguments that surround the whole issue of education. I know it's socially incorrect for a homeschooler to ever bring her ignorant views to the table, but I never did let that stop me, did I?

The problem with our schools is not with teachers, though there are bad ones out there; not with curriculum, though it is horribly one-sided and b-o-r-i-n-g; not with funding; not with the time spent in the classroom (unless it's too much time). The problem is with parents. Specifically, with discipline.

I met a ton of six-year-olds in the two years I assisted. I spent one-on-one time with about thirty-five of them. The brightest, happiest, most well-behaved students had loving, involved parents who continued education at home. The poorly behaved, the ones that lagged behind, bounced around from house to house - grandmother, dad, mom, aunt, didn't have solid families, and got most of their attention during the school hours, which isn't much. I think only two or three students lived at home for the five years before kindergarten. The rest grew up in daycare. They literally grew up in daycare.

When children spend their childhood in daycares, public schools and other group activities, things go haywire. They get almost zero personal attention. The best grow up according to the morals of the classroom, which changes from year to year; the average grow up according to the morals of their peers. Yes. Even in kindergarten.

This isn't a slam against institutionalized education or even public education: it's merely pointing out that a class of fifteen-odd undisciplined students won't learn much. When children grow up at home in a stable family environment and are taught consistent values, cherished, talked to and allowed the freedom to explore, they will excel at anything - even insitutionalized education. School becomes, like to the one very well-educated, super-smart, adorable boy in my class, a fun thing to do, like swimming and soccer. But when children grow up in schools and programs, school becomes the nanny, the mother to a bunch of children in need of personal discipline and love.

Teachers love students from stable homes. They're easier to work with because someone at home loves them, and kids respond to that. One-on-one they were taught how to tie shoes, how to say "please" and "thank you," and how to listen when the teacher talks. The biggest frustration teachers expressed to me was how they spent so much time disciplining and next to no time teaching.

Teachers want to teach. They can't if they're trying to parent fifteen students for one year. Despite being an amazing group of people, teachers can't institutionalize love or parenting. They know that. It frustrates them. And so teachers end up frazzled, which lessens their authority in kids' eyes, which increases discipline problems, which makes the teachers frazzled...and the cycle goes on.

Teachers know this. They recognize that undisciplined kids creates a chaotic learning environment deterimental to the children who actually want to learn. One told me right off that she'd quit her job and homeschool her son if she could - and this is an excellent, excellent teacher.

Ironically, the easy availability of "free" education in the form of pre-k, all-day kindergarten, after school activities and summer school fuels the gap between parents and their children. It's almost like a babysitting service - because let me tell you, in a kindergarten class, eight hours is way too long to force children to learn.

It's not that kids cannot handle time away from their parents, or that institutionalized education is evil - no. It's that without a foundation of good parenting, discipline and love, students of all ages flounder...and that clogs the educational system.

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2 impressions

  1. I totally agree with what you're saying; parenting is not meant to be replaced in any way by an education. An education is secondary to teaching your children LIFE. We choose to homeschool, but I do have several friends who do not but still manage to be hands-on parents. I'm glad there are women like you who love children working in our school today.

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  2. So very, very true. I feel so sad for the kids who don't get that attention at home, because they really will struggle for the rest of their lives. At least WE can choose to be good teachers (and parents, God willing)! :)

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