Monday, August 28, 2017

Why The Rush?

My son just turned 5. This feels like a very symbolic birthday. The end of baby, toddler and little kid. After the summer, he will join his sister in elementary school and go to Kindergarten.  For him, this will be the first time he is away from me all day. It will be a big adjustment for him to go to school all day, and although I know he's at the appropriate level and age for Kindergarten, I wonder if he is truly ready. I know he will be fine eventually, but this is not the Kindergarten we remember.

Kindergarten is like the new first grade. There is even a term "red shirting”, for when parents actively choose to hold their kids back to give them an extra leg up. When my son starts at five years and four months old there will be kids turning 7 at some point in the year. The curriculum is much harder when we were young. They are expected to learn to read, write and do addition and subtraction. I know of a current kindergartner whose mom told her she has a play kitchen in her class, but the girl didn't know because it's hidden away. Playing is no longer how they are teaching kids to learn in Kindergarten, and it's a shame.

Of course I could home school my kid, send him to an expensive private school, or try for a Waldorf-type philosophy, but then we walk away from our local public school and take a step out of our community. We can't always get (or can't always afford) exactly what we want. We can try to make changes here and there, and we have to accept what is offered and take it or leave it. All of these life lessons I share with my children, but sometimes I have a hard time accepting them myself. The public school system has it's flaws, but it also has a lot going for it. I just wish it wasn't such a hard start for the little kids or such a big group for the older ones.

Our kids in this country have so much pushing them to grow up faster and faster. Social media exposes them to things prematurely. Peer pressure and bullying run rampant, and innocence seems shorter lived these days. I am doing the best I can to keep my kids young while they are actually young.  I wish Kindergarten would bring back sandboxes, water tables, and tricycles. Let's let them have fun while they still can. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Long Way To Go

In seventh grade I started junior high school and my grades dropped. I was overwhelmed with how to keep up with so many different classes, lessons, and teachers. I was never the greatest with change but this one knocked my socks off. There seemed to be so much going on, and I just couldn't keep up. Instead of the teachers reaching in to help, seeing me flailing made it easy on them to pass the problem on to someone else. I was taken off the academic track I was on and put into remedial classes. At the time I was grateful because the work load was much easier, but I noticed, even at 12 that the system was flawed.

Growing up in New York City, diversity was the heartbeat of the city. My community had always been diverse. Culturally I was so lucky to be exposed to so many differences. I never noticed a room unless it wasn't diverse. In junior high, my classes were mixed with every race and ethnicity. It wasn't until I was moved to the "easy" classes that I noticed what was missing, or rather what was there. I was the only white kid: no Asians, no Indians, just Latinos, African-Americans and me. I felt given up on by the system and I was put into this class mid year. How long had these kids been in classes like this? If at twelve, they knew what I had known, how long did they know it. As early as seventh grade we were placed in classes that prepared us only for certain typed of jobs. There was no math taught that would help us for SATs. We were not the kids that they prepared for college. They didn't bother working on helping us back on that path either.

Years later, I did go to college, but getting there was not easy. I ended up getting into college without an SAT since I wasn't prepared for any material on the test. I got in because my parents helped me prioritize school. Not everyone had parents who could take the time to do that, and even if they could I think so many parents (as one would hope) think the system is taking care of kids. "No child left behind" leaves a lot to be desired still today. After graduating from college I moved out to LA, and was shocked at how segregated it was. Sure as a whole it is a diverse place, but unlike NY the communities are so spread out. When the education system is examined in LA, you can also see the broken track kids are set upon and how it fails them. Friends of mine who have worked in low income areas say that some schools put kids in front of a TV and give up on trying to teach. Of course there are exceptions, but this exists!

When I've watched movies like "Precious" or "Moonlight" I have sobbed. Not just because these were beautiful movies with sad stories, but because the characters were people who were failed by our system. A system that make claims and promises to take care of all of its people. There is a tremendous flaw in the hope the American dream offers. It's much easier for some to reach their potential than it is for others.When reading "The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace" I got so angry because it made me feel that African-American males are trapped. When hearing yet another story of a police brutality incident, or seeing the documentary "Thirteen",  I think of the words unfair and unjust and they even come close to describing the holes in our system.

The land of the free, and the home of the brave implies something other than it is. For hundreds of years minorities have been either enslaved or criminalized. Men and women have not been treated equally and certainly black men do not have the same opportunities as whites. After hundreds of years of oppression, there is anger, pain, frustration and a need to speak up for rights. This country has made a lot of progress over the years. The fact that we had a black President for eight years is a testament to the positive changes. We are going a bit backwards now though and it is not okay. Somehow, hatred and racism are seeping out from under the rocks that were hiding them, and it is not alright. The protection of our human rights are being threatened, and it is not acceptable.

The suffering of our country's past can never be forgotten. We have a lot of beautiful melting pot statements that our country prides itself on. We need to remember that our country is meant to be inclusive. Anything short of that is unAmerican.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Desicions, Desicions

Some days I wake up and wish I didn't have so many decisions to make. From what I wear, my kids clothes, their breakfast, lunches, which water bottles, or shoes for the day, and those are the simple decisions. I have to decide what battle to pick with which child, and what topic or song is appropriate for our car rides. I have to think about what consequences make sense for their actions, and what I can share with them and what to keep secret.

As someone who tends over think most decisions, I spend a great deal of time weighing (or obsessing) over my options, before settling on a choice. I try to make informed decisions, based on books, friends, parents or my husband's advice, or when my own instinct finally kicks in I am grateful. Our kid's are living in a time with so much more technology than any of us were raised with. Moderation is a personal gauge, and what seems moderate to other families can seem excessive to me. The current trend in parenting is to over-parent, to hover and to be extra involved. It is a delicate balance to know when to step back and when to get involved. We are often paralyzed by the decisions we have to make as parents and we end up not handling an issue as a result.

I am guilty as charged on so many of these. I get impressionable to the noise about low sugar and high test scores. I try to find this impossible thing called balance everyone keeps talking about. It is so hard to make your own decisions when there are so many options distracting you from your gut. It's not chocolate, vanilla and strawberry anymore. One must chose between cold pressed Turkish coffee chip or artisan salted toffee crunch. These choices take up valuable time in my mind. Times have changed and they continue to change quickly. I sometimes just need a breather.

While we have so many options it often makes me think about how small children don't. Sure we give them as much say within reason that we can, but their day to day decisions are made by us. Taking on theirs and mine can be challenging. Recently, my son asked me some questions about what Kindergarten will be like. A child can only go on what we say. His school, and to some degree his friends, his community is dictated by us. It must feel pretty strange to just trust that we have his back, and that if he doesn't like it, there is little we can do.  My daughter is older so she understands to some degree, how it all works. She has more options than her brother, but I still say "no" if she asks for a lollipop before eating lunch. She doesn't like that I call the shots, but that's the way it goes as a kid. We had to listen to our parents when we were little. There were a lot bigger consequences then, and a lot fewer options. We all only get one go around on the merry go round. When they get older they can have dessert first. For now, they have eat all their vegetables while I sneak a piece of chocolate. After all those daily decisions I need an excessive amount of sugar.