Posts Tagged ‘No Child Left Behind’

When we moved here nearly 16 years ago, our oldest was a bun in the oven.  We had heard that schools here were not the best, but that was not really a huge consideration for us, because, after all, we were only going to be here for 2 years max.  (snort)  (Really, you can stop laughing now.  :D)

By the time the our son was ready for kindergarten, our oldest daughter was 3, and daughter #2 was baking.  One of the things I’ll never forget was going into my son’s kindergarten class and watching plane hit the World Trade Center’s Tower #2.  We didn’t have a home computer then, and we didn’t watch tv in the morning.  So, that event was news to me.

The terrorist attack wasn’t the reason we ended up homeschooling.

Kindergarten was by-in-large relatively uneventful.  Sure, we had the normal kid stuff and the attempted labeling of our child by the school district.  After all, if they get their hands sticky at that age, they aren’t supposed to want to stop the activity to clean their hands, right?  The desire to have clean hands surely signaled something was wrong with him, of course (can you hear my sarcasm?).

First grade came, along with the playground bullying, and along with a teacher selected with help of the kindergarten teacher, as a means of attempting to match as best as possible a teacher to my child whereby personalities would mesh.  One of the defining criteria was her approach to homework; in that she didn’t believe that 1st graders should have regular homework.

Let me back up a minute.  I grew up in a public school home.  My father started out as an elementary school teacher; worked his way into Elementary School Principal, and eventually Superintendent of Schools.  When he retired a few years ago, he had spent 40 years in the same district; 36 of those (iir) as Superintendent.

As of this writing, my oldest brother is also the Superintendent of Schools in a district, and 3 of my other siblings are certified teachers.

I am no stranger to public schools, and have a lot of knowledge of child development myself. When my dad started teaching, the big debate was over whether or not to introduce pencils in kindergarten (yes, really). Fast forward 30 years, and the debate in my mind was whether or not regular homework was necessary in 1st grade. I clearly fell on the side of homework at this age being ridiculous.

I was pleased, of course, to have found a teacher who had a similar philosophy.  We had zone-exempted to this school (this means that because this school was not the school we were zoned for, we had to get special permission to have our kid(s) enrolled, and there was no bus service available to us), and one of the reasons we chose to pursue this school was because of a more relaxed approach to matching students to teachers.  Or at least that was our understanding.

As a mother who was determined to be involved, I was at school for several hours, several times a week.  I packed up my two girls, snacks and activities for them to do, and off we went.

From the beginning of school, I was watchful.  I was aware of things going on that I wasn’t keen on, but tried to suspend judgment in favor of letting the professionals do their jobs.  I noticed a huge emphasis on testing, as part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Early on, I was struck by the irony. I had spent the bulk of my youth waiting to grow up and get away from school, so I could be independent and set my own schedule. It didn’t take a rocket scientists to make me aware that here I was, as an adult, being told again by the school what I could do and when I could do it. There was no freedom in anything. There was no freedom to take vacations that actually worked with my husband’s schedule. Sleeping in wasn’t a big deal, but taking naps was pretty essential, first when having babies, and then as chronic illness hit.

Sleep wasn’t the point. Freedom was the point. Ability to have actual parental sovereignty was the point.

Any kind of schedule had to revolve around the school and what it told us we must do. Child is sick? Too bad. Unless you have a doctor’s note (and who needs one for a cold that incapacitates you? I mean, really? You don’t need antibiotics for a virus-it won’t help you anyway. What you do need, though, is rest!), you can’t miss more than 3 days of school (and a regular cold runs at least 7 days) without one, or else you get marked truant for those days. At the time, kids were allowed 10 days of missed school a year. Any more than that, and you would be subject to court, and the possibility that CYFD(Child, Youth, and Family Department) could actually come and take custody of your children. WTH???

We spent both of those years being sick, all of us. Apparently, we hadn’t been exposed to as many germs as we needed to be, and since parents had to send their kids to school sick, every one else got it, too. The threat of having my children removed from the home for missing school too many times ensured that we continued the vicious cycle of sending kids to school sick.

After a lunchroom incident at some point in the year, I was pretty well convinced it was time to start homeschooling.  By this time, we had our own personal home computer, and through my volunteer work, I was in contact with a group of mothers around the country (and even a few in other countries) who were homeschooling.  I signed up for the list several months before the new school year, so I could ask questions and learn. 

I think it helped, too, that my good friend at time (who used to live across the street from us before we moved) had been homeschooling her kids from the beginning, and they were about 5 years older than my kids.  Her youngest daughter and my oldest daughter are just a few months apart, and remain best friends, even though we now live over an hour away from each other.  She loaned me some books, and a friend of my mother’s, actually, mailed me some materials on home education.

The first two years, although my state didn’t require it, we chose to go with Clonlara, a program in Ann Arbor, Mi, that also had a physical campus. This friend had used Clonlara for years and years, and another friend of my mother’s was one of the contact teachers, and was also involved with the same volunteer organization.  We were able to choose her as our contact teacher, and I finally felt comfortable, knowing she would “get” our parenting style and our philosophys, particular as they pertained to child development.

Clonlara offered the kind of support we (well,*I*) needed at the time. They provided us with a contact teacher and a skills guide. The “Why Choose Clonlara” page does a good job of explaining how they support parents. If I recall, we started that first year enrolling one as a second grader and starting our oldest daughter in kindgarten.

As a new homeschooling family, the pressure is immense. There is pressure you have from others (including but not limited to: family, friends, people you know from school, and comments you get while doing your grocery and other shopping with children in tow) and pressure you feel as the weight of the responsibility hits you.

You worry about all kinds of things- you worry about the education they will get- will they be able to keep up?  Can they learn to read without being taught in school?  Will they have the opportunity to learn all the same stuff like they would get in school?  What about socialization (as in, how on earth will they do it if  they aren’t around kids their own ages?)? Am I qualified to teach my kids?

I won’t go into answering those questions now, because I believe they are entitled to their own posts.  Since this will be our 9th year homeschooling, you might even be able to guess the answer to the last question.  😆  Or maybe the post on that topic will surprise you!

Fears and questions aside, for us, the perks faaaaaaaaaaar outweigh any kind of reasoning to send our kids to formal school of any kind. I won’t lie and tell you it’s been a piece of cake.  I won’t tell you there aren’t times when I want to pull my hair out.  I won’t tell you there aren’t times (when, in fact, usually every year around January/February we hit this point) when I wonder why I’m doing it, and whether or not it would be better to have a house that is cleaner and less attitude from the kids (because yes, the house would be cleaner, but the kids are still going to have attitude, and probably more, with the stress of the school environment combined with extra work, etc).

The thing is, as parents, we are going to have these moments regardless.  Well, we will if we’re conscientious.  We’re going to be evaluating and re-evaluating.  At least when you are actually in charge, you have the option to change course if something isn’t working the way you had hoped.

There is nothing better than having the ability to research something and then have the ability to drive the boat; getting to where you want to go, and making course corrections and taking side trips along the way as you see fit.

Check out the Homeschooling page for the upcoming collection of posts and resources!

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There’s something I want.  I submit that I *must* have it, in order to survive.  Problem is, I don’t have the money to pay for it.  Who’s gonna pay? 

I’ve been watching with great interest the debate going on in Wisconsin over pay raises for public employees, like teachers.  At first, by all accounts, it was the teachers who flooded the state capital; now it seems all kinds of public employees are there too. 

Except, of course, for the Democrats in the state Legislature  who literally ran away to another state to hide, so they didn’t have to vote on the budget.  The government is at a standstill, and who knows how much money has been spent unsuccessfully trying to use the State Police to find and bring home the missing elected, public servants.

I don’t think those folks are living in the same world I live in. If I ran away from my paying job because I had a difficult decision or an unpleasant task to have to do, not only would I be disciplined for insubordination, I’d also be fired by this point and time.  There’s a term for that – it’s called job abandonment.

At the crux of this debate is money. Some will say it’s about all kinds of other things – denigrating public employees (particularly teachers), usurping the ability of public service unions and their members from exerting the power they feel they are “entitled” to. Statistics from the Washington Examiner says this about unions:

“Only 7.3 percent of all private sector employees are union members, while 37.6 percent of all government workers are unionized. Fifty-one percent of all union members are government workers.”
I am not in a union, nor have I ever been.  My husband is not in a union and hasn’t been in one for over 17 years.  Yes, at one time he was in a trade union, but not by choice.  He either had to be in it or he didn’t get the job.
Regardless of choice, the issue at hand here is money.  People there want more.  The state doesn’t have it. Where is the money going to come from?  Do we rob Peter to pay Paul? Do we roll the dice or throw darts? 
As an adult, I am responsible for my finances.  Me.  I don’t have a money tree in my backyard.  I have to balance my budget.  It’s as simple as that.  No one will pay bills for me if I want something I say is necessary for my survival. I have “x” amount of dollars coming in. Thankfully, this isn’t a flexible amount like it is for a state, which has to estimate income (like taxes) and hope it meets up with actual spending at the end of the year.
In my budget, something has to give when there are unexpected changes, like medical bills or plumbing issues.  So, what’s it going to be?  What is going to give?
Seems to me, in this situation, pensions and medical plan costs are being passed down to teachers, which yes, affects their take-home pay.  I have heard the argument that “teachers are taxpayers, too, and their pension/retirement plans have taken huge hits – why should they have to pay more and make less money?”
Welcome to reality, friends. Over the last few years, our retirement plan has also taken huge hits. Over the last 5 years or so, our medical plan costs and deductibles have continued to increase, while the benefits change. I read an article a while ago about the teacher’s union (New York) being up in arms because things like Viagra and plastic surgery were “benefits” that were going to be cut.  We here in this world have been dealing with all the things the teachers and other public employees are upset about. 
Viagra has never been part of our benefit plan.  Neither has birth control pills, although I heard a rumor that if it was medically necessary, it would be covered.  I tried that a few times and never got it covered, despite it actually BEING medically necessary. The upside is that birth is covered. We don’t get plastic surgery at all, unless it’s reconstructive. Our company has thousands of employers and is a Fortune 500 company.  This generally means they have some pull and can get better rates than smaller companies.
We also don’t have the ability to go on strike or otherwise fight for wages.  Yearly wages are predetermined, according to the budget.  There are annual reviews, and if you are management, you have the opportunity to meet your objectives and get a bonus. If you are hourly, you get the raise they give you, if one is given.  I’m sure there is more to it, with nuances that I, the one not being reviewed and employed, don’t have first-hand knowledge of.  I can say that my boss (for my very part-time job) went and asked for raises for us.  The answer was no, of course.  Times are tough.
I know a lot of teachers.  I’m related to a lot teachers (and administrators).  I’m friends with teachers that I had in high school, and have great regard for those  (teachers) I’m friends with and some others that made an impact on me. I grew up in a household where my dad was a teacher and then moved on to administration. I think there are some wonderful people out there who are wonderful teachers.
Let us please be clear on those points before y’all start flaming me.  🙂
The public school system is deeply flawed.  While there are a number of excellent teachers, there is also a great number who are not. In some districts, people can teach school without ever having gone to school to become teachers.  I think this is some of the problem with schools. I think another problem is that there are people who become teachers simply because of the benefits.  I mean, who wouldn’t want a job where you only have to work 9 months out of the year, and where you have great benefits, including retirement, right?  And that’s not to say that it is a gravy train, because as good teachers will tell you, there is a lot more to it than that. I will tell you that I have known (casually) people who went into teaching *only* because of the benefits and shorter work year.
I’m not putting it all on the school districts themselves, because let’s face it, the No Child Left Behind Act had goodness behind the concept but is a boat anchor in practicality. We can’t blame any one group. We can’t blame only the Democrats; we can’t blame only the Republicans (despite a lot of people wanting to point fingers at them and the Tea Party and others who are fiscally conservative and trying to balance budgets, like the Republican Governor of Wisconsin.); we can’t only blame the former or current administrations.  The point is not to place blame, but to find a realistic, sustainable fix.
I don’t have one.  🙂  Just thought I’d clear that up.  😆
So here’s the thing.  Pretty nearly every career job requires more than an 8 hour work day. More often than not, there is work that goes home and is worked on during non-clocked hours there as well. More often than not, there are difficult people and situations to deal with, too, in these other jobs.
I had a note come across my desk today that likened teachers to babysitters ( as in, this is how some people see teachers and are therefore justifying not paying them more), so let’s see what we should pay them.  The math was $3 an hour @ 6.5 hours for 30 students X 180 days a year.  That’s not including planning hours or parent-teacher conferences or any kind of extra.  Sound low?  Well, according to the math, the income “should” be $105,300. 
Now, if you were a more educated teacher, like a special education instructor with a master’s degree, you could charge more, like minimum wage, which would result (using this math) in a wage of $280,800.  This formula has been applied for stay-at-home-moms, too, so if you combine that with the teacher wage, since we homeschool, I’d be rolling in dough.  🙂 
It’s my opinion that you have to throw that kind of math out the window, because it’s not reality (and no, I’m not saying using that kind of math in this example is anything more than a show of support).  The realities of a job are the duties to be performed.  Every job has details and responsibilities.  Depending on the job, those things are going to vary.  That’s part of the job. You know that going in. If I work in a nursing home, I am not going to count (except for charting purposes) residents I care for, and how many times each is taken to the bathroom, helped, or responded to and expect that to be taken into account into my paycheck.  Why? Because that is not how the job and payment for the job work. Employment payment doesn’t generally work like that.
Here are some numbers to look at that have wage information:
High School Teacher $43,355
Elementary School Teacher $40,432
Middle School Teacher $42,311
Special Education Teacher, Preschool, Kindergarten, or Elementary School $41,016
Special Education Teacher, Secondary School $43,889
Secondary School Teacher $42,223
Special Education Teacher, Middle School $42,060
Measure  Some High School High school graduate Some college Associate’s degree Bachelor’s degree or higher Bachelor’s degree Master’s degree Professional degree Doctorate degree
Persons, age 25+ w/ earnings $20,321 $26,505 $31,056 $35,009 $49,303 $43,143 $52,390 $82,473 $69,432
Male, age 25+ w/ earnings $24,192 $32,085 $39,150 $42,382 $60,493 $52,265 $67,123 $100,000 $78,324
Female, age 25+ w/ earnings $15,073 $21,117 $25,185 $29,510 $40,483 $36,532 $45,730 $66,055 $54,666
Persons, age 25+, employed full-time $25,039 $31,539 $37,135 $40,588 $56,078 $50,944 $61,273 $100,000 $79,401
Now let’s compare. Let’s use the numbers that we used earlier. We will start with a high school teacher average: $43,355 / 180 days of work = $240.86 a day / 8hrs (standard for most companies) = $30.11 per hr.

Male, age 25+ w/ earnings with a Bachelor’s degree earns $52,265 /245 (let’s give 2 weeks vacation per year and 5 holidays) = $213.33 a day / 8hrs = $26.66 per hr.

It looks to me like the average teacher is making a higher per-hour dollar amount now using those numbers.  But WOW, take a look a the report with figures from the National Education Association report on salaries, which states in part on page 10:

Classroom Teacher Salaries:   The U.S. average public school teacher salary for 2008–09 was $54,319.”

Another article worth checking out come from Michigan, and can be found here.  This table shows:

State Average Teacher Salary
New York $71,470
California $70,458
Alaska $69,864
New Jersey $68,703
Connecticut $68,412
Massachusetts $68,000
Maryland $65,902
Michigan $65,285


While I couldn’t quickly find that chart, I did find the chart on page 110 with 2010 estimated teacher salaries for Wisconsin.  This estimates an average teacher salary of $52,644.  Using our math per hour, that gives us an houlry rate of $39.59.

When working a shorter monthly schedule, there are about 3 months of the year where, if needed, another job, albeit temporary, could be considered.  And, in fact, I know lots of teachers who do more than just teach school, and therefor are paid additional monies.

So, back to the money.  Where’s it going to come from?  “Teacher’s can’t pay their bills.”  The reality is that given the current economic climate, a good many people can’t pay their bills.  We’re all in that same boat.  That’s reality.  Except, most of the rest of us don’t have a summer where we could find extra work to help offset the bills because we’re already working a 40 hour plus work week.

We all want more money. We’re all paying more out-of-pocket for groceries and gas and health care, etc.  Some of us want to sell our houses, but can’t. There are a whole variety of reasons a person may want to sell his house, like to get out of a mortgage that couldn’t afforded without the sub-prime rates; balloon payments (and lowered value in many real estate markets); payments at regular rates that can’t be afforded; to upgrade and get more space, to change locations, or to get away from rotten neighbors. We are all affected by the lousy economy!

It there is anything that we should have learned from the recession, it is this:  You shouldn’t spend more than you make. You HAVE GOT TO plan for the unexpected, which usually means living a little lower and socking some money away for those unexpected things.  We each need to be financially responsible. Counting on someone else (who??) to save us is not going to work. The budget HAS GOT to be balanced. 

So. Who’s gonna pay? 

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