My series of quotes from The Game of School resonated with a lot of readers. A number of folks felt that the beliefs and concerns that Robert Fried articulated about public schools were applicable to their own, children's, or grandchildren's experiences. So here are two questions for you…
- If you had the opportunity to place your kid(s) in some kind of non-traditional school setting (home school, magnet school, cyber school, etc.), would you?
- And, if not, what draws you to your public school(s)?
Would and did – homeschooled my kids for two years when they were in middle school. They have since graduated but we often talked about returning to homeschooling.
We used an eclectic approach that included aspects of “unschooling.”
Highly recommend it!
If I could devote myself to it as an occupation (rather than having to focus on an additional, paying job), and if I were confident in overcoming my own tendencies toward cocooning, I would do it in a heartbeat. As it is, my children are in kindergarten in a K-8 parochial school where the classes are half as big as those in local public schools. I like where they are — but I do see evidence of “the game” being played, and I am keeping an eye on the whole situation. This is the right answer now, but it may not be the right answer for nine entire years.
We really wanted to enroll in our local elementary, to make that commitment to our city. Couldn’t do it — because of the class size issue, because of the principal’s dismissive attitude when I brought up differentiation for higher-level kids (“I know your type,” she said), and because in our area the K-2 teachers have to spend a LOT of time and energy bringing ELL students up to grade level. Kids who are further along don’t get the differentiated curriculum that would help them stretch.
@christie: Wow. “I know your type.” Simply astounding that a principal would say that. Sorry…
Due to an unbelievable bullying incident, my daughter is in cyberschool. She is challenged with the material but misses hands on opportunities. she may do her last year cyber or may go back to school. She used to love school. My son is begging for cyberschool. We like the opportunity for him to have a broader range of courses. I would be much happier if this cyberschool had virtual meetings between groups of students, but it doesn’t. I have always wanted to homeschool my kids but did not have the opportunity to be able to quit my job. We could have been much further ahead.
95% of the children in my charter school are Latino, and 75% are from low income homes. In two weeks, our 8th graders will talk a three day field trip to Los Angeles during which they will visit UCLA, USC, Pepperdine, UC Irvine, UC Long Beach, the Museum of Tolerance and The Getty Art Museum. The charter school, the families, and sponsors from the business community make the trip possible. The three days in LA will change children’s lives: it will change how they think about themselves as students and citizens, how they apply themselves in high school and the decisions they will make over the next 4 years to make it possible to go to those schools.
We often hear that we are “different” from regular public schools because we are a charter and we have the resources to make school a special place for kids. We hear that since we are so different, neither the substance nor the spirit of our work is relevant to a discussion of public schools in America. But for every horror story you can tell me about a parent’s experience in a public school, I can match it with the story of a public school that is making a profound difference in the lives of its students– and thus the community at large in which it serves.
I can also match the public school horror stories with horror stories from private schools, colleges and universities (many of which I personally experienced as a parent!) Those are also places where you find incompetence, poor teaching, disinterested administrators, bullying, drugs, violence and student indifference.
Many parents have opted out of public education and exercised their options to send their children to alternative learning environments. Sometimes they find the perfect match, and sometimes they don’t. And when they don’t, they return to public schools like mine, grateful that one of the pillars of our democracy is a free and public education.
Would and did, but I’d note that the countywide school of choice that my children attend (vs. their assigned ‘neighborhood’ school) is a public school, too. Imagine this: public school choice managed by the district – it is not a charter, but there are meaningful differences in focus amongst the various choice options in my district (science, language immersion, academic focus, etc.).
A great compliment to Robert Fried’s “the Game of School” is Frank Smith’s “The Book of Learning and Forgetting”. In it he argues that learning is fundamentally a social act. Children need adult role models and as Deborah Meier points out in “In Schools We Trust” the fundamental difference in the modern era is our system of schooling has limited appropriate adult modeling with children.
I am a school administrator so my charge is to make schools better primarily for the students who attend them. Thank you for mentioning the “The Game of School” and the quotes you shared made me read it. I loved it and it will be on our faculty read list this summer.
Understanding the power structures of schools and how they ned to be reformed is essential to creating schools that are actually focused on human growth and learning rather than the petty game of points that Fried so wonderfully dismantles.
This question is more challenging for me as my oldest child is only in kindergarten. It’s hard for me to say how I will feel as she progresses farther in school.
However, at this time I’ve chosen to enroll her in the public school where I teach. It isn’t our neighborhood school (although that one is a fine school). She is receiving phenomenal instruction in a Title I school with an exceptionally diverse population. Personally, I think she’s in a great position right now. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Our fear was that our bright, active 5-year-old would drive his teacher crazy and they’d want to medicate him.
Homeschooling was the best option for our family.
Here’s a link to my wife’s blog: http://sneakersandpjs.wordpress.com/
I was very interested in alternative education when I was in college, and volunteered in a “free school” at one point. As a teacher in this context, I realized I wasn’t cut out for this and felt out of place with the chaos I found. I soon quit. I personally did very well in a traditional Catholic school, and didn’t know how to instruct a child who couldn’t keep still.
When my daughter was born, I sent her to Montessori school, where she also seemed to thrive on the structured freedom. Later she went to public school (private school was too expensive for us after we couldn’t deduct it as childcare expenses). In grade school and middle school, the biggest issue for me was the competitiveness and the impact this seemed to have on a very bright child who was in the “B” level academic group and was sometimes painfully aware of it. In high school the problem was a system that was more monitoring that caring, but with a few very good teachers that made the difference.
The Game of School seemed geared to the student who can’t sit still. I wasn’t that student, and neither was my daughter. I think we both preferred a classroom that was calm and structured. The issues I noticed in her public school career were much more related to the fact that a good education in the system was a scarce commodity, and not available to all. Parents in the know were scrambling to ensure that their sons and daughters got into the best classes in the best schools, and that, for me, was the game of school that I didn’t want to play.
In the end, it wasn’t so much related to the teaching style but to the school leadership and the competence and caring of the teachers.
Yes. Absolutely. The only conditions:
I. The school has great, motivated, and caring teachers.
II. The learning opportunity would need to be a non-traditional learning opportunity focused on some type of project based learning with a blend of the Arts, Science, Math and Technology.
Do opportunities like this exist in public schools? Yes they do…a few public charter schools in my area provided some opportunities like this.
I mentioned to some of my colleagues…One of the only things that keeps me up at night is the thought that my children will have no choice but to be forced to have a “traditional” education…stuck in desks as the creativity is literally sucked from their minds. Charter school opportunities are not limitless…there are lotteries to gain entrance. If it isn’t your lucky day…you children are out of luck. 🙁
There are so many opportunities to learn content from home or on the internet…is it time that schools put the focus back onto creativity in classes beyond Kindergarten?
My kids, 9th grade and 4th grade, are getting a great public school education.
The question and the responses are mostly about the beliefs of the parents. How and where we place our children within the context of what is available to us, or as we define it, is a profound public political statement. Our US society now provides with the opportunity to make that kind of a personal political statement. I think the verdict is still out on whether or not having the choices that we have is a good thing.
We have homeschooled our 5th grade son for 3 years after he had a horrible experience in public school. He’s very bright, but struggles with a handwriting disorder called dysgraphia.
Our local public school would not and could not provide the accomodations and assistive technology he needed to write. He needed a laptop, a portable scanner and a printer to complete school work.
What he got was a pencil, a stack of worksheets and a label.
In our entire school district, there wasn’t one child who used a computer to complete assignments in class.
Our school district is so far behind in using technology to bypass handwriting problems that I don’t think they will ever catch up. The sad part is that school officials had no desire to learn about the technology available to help kids like our son.
Our homeschool program is completely paperless (and pencil-less) and our son is working several grade levels ahead in math and science. He’s also enrolled in several online classes.
We began homeschooling not by choice, but by necessity. But after the success our son has had at home, we won’t be going back to public school.
I think about it. I’m a teacher, my spouse it a teacher, our parents were teachers, some of my great-grandparents were teachers. My children are in public school. I believe public school is the best hope for vibrant democracy and a less stratified society. I believe we will see the best in society when our doctors and lawyers and our mechanics and plumbers have gone to the same school systems and had access to the same quality of teaching.
My son is experiencing the game. He is well built for the game, he reads well and sits well. I worry, probably more than I should, about his ability to think creatively and critically. There is more seat work than I would like and far less talk.
I do not believe in teaching my children myself, I have the skills and knowledge but I know that not all parents do and I believe offering my skills and knowledge to families where that knowledge and skill is needed takes priority over ‘feathering my own nest’. My son will survive, in fact, he will thrive, but it may not always be perfect. It hasn’t been an easy choice and it is at times difficult to be an advocate for your child when you are also an employee for the system. I am thankful I live in a large enough center that I don’t in fact teach in the school my children attend which would be truly awkward.
I have all kinds of outside of school opportunities to enhance my children’s skills and knowledge. I believe in public schools. I hope we can find a way to make them meet the needs of all students. I know it doesn’t always happen. I know my best has at times not been enough for the students I have taught. Life is full of less than perfect solutions. I am beginning to wonder if the school model needs to be broken in order to be fixed. Society has changed and the factory model of education hasn’t kept up. In many ways, public school has a function of providing childcare for parents who are working in the daytime. Until that need goes away, we will have public schools. The real question is, what should the programs look like?
Enough, I should have made this a blog post on my own site. Next time.
If we were closer to one, a Sudbury-type “free school” would be my first choice for my bright, active, 9-year-old. She had two disastrous years in an elite local private school, where she was bullied without mercy for having a single parent and being on scholarship. She is in her second year at a public school that has pretty much cemented her hatred of formal education. I would consider home-schooling if I wasn’t a single parent working two jobs and going to school.
Our home is set up for her to learn in the ways that work for her (hands-on, self-directed, active, non-competitive) and she has activities that are engaging and challenging for her outside of school.
Home school – never thought I would, but did. I teach in a small public school in a small town. My “energetic” (the word I prefer) child in an undifferentiated classroom was a nightmare. This bright boy was crying every day, hating school and beyond frustrated. My options? Have him pulled out to sped situation where he is taught by a teacher aide with students at much lower ability levels (he is academically “on grade level”), and increasingly hearing the word “medication”. I can not justify medicating an 8 year old for the sole purpose of enabling him to sit quietly in a public school building for long periods of time. I had not choice but to go this route.
Yes you do have a choice. Special ed pull-outs or medications are not your only two options. You can can compel your public school to abide by federal laws and serve your son in the “least restrictive environment” which is the classroom. Being “energetic” is not likely to qualify him as eligible for special ed anyway… especially since he is at grade level. You can demand that his learning needs be met, and as an educator, assist the school (if you have to) in developing strategies to differentiate instruction for him.
Kinda the same thing: you say “Our local public school would not and could not provide the accomodations and assistive technology he needed to write. He needed a laptop, a portable scanner and a printer to complete school work. What he got was a pencil, a stack of worksheets and a label.”
These become the horror stories which define public education. If he has been ‘diagnosed’ with dysgraphia, and it represents a learning disability, get it in an IEP and demand that he be provided the proper tools to continue with his learning. The school must comply. It is the law!
One of my true supports of the public schools is that the doors are open to all students. Schools help them all learn, teaching all of our students out there and giving all of them opportunities, not just those that can pay to do it differently or have an inside track (you go to jail for that in market trading). Does that mean the public school is perfect? Far from it. It may indicate that there are some huge problems with trying to educate everyone too – check out “The Emergency Teacher” if you get a chance (Thanks, Scott, for dropping it on my stoop or I wouldn’t have read it). All said, I really do think that with very limited funds they are doing what others only hope to achieve with a diverse population. Homeschooling is great for some – not so great for others. I wouldn’t choose to teach my own kids because they need to learn from others. They need to have their eyes opened to other opinions besides mine and that of “our family” and be challenged in their beliefs. My impact will be with them at home in many other ways, and I won’t always agree with everything they are taught or how it is taught. What a great way to experience that wonderful thing called “life” that isn’t always what we hope it will be either.
Easier said than done to force a school district to comply with the law.
My son has an official diagnosis (dysgraphia is a learning disability) and actually had an IEP at school.
The IEP looked great on paper – access to a computer was written in the plan. We even purchased our own AlphaSmart and sent it to school with him. We taught him to type at home as well.
If the IEP had been implemented and followed as written, we probably wouldn’t be homeschooling now. Unfortunately, the school district was technologically phobic. No assignments were ever put on the computer for him to complete. No worksheets were ever scanned. The AlphaSmart was buried under a bunch of books in the back of the room.
The teacher silently ignored the IEP and kept handing him a pencil. He was kept in from recess and sent to the hallway to do his work – all with a pencil. The written work he couldn’t get done at school came home as hours of homework.
My son became depressed and anxious. He felt like a failure and decided he would rather die than go to school another day.
That was enough for me. We could have stayed in public school and forced them to follow the law, but it would have required a due process hearing. We might have won. Or not. In either case, my son was on the losing end.
Our public school has always required students to use pencils – no laptops, no AlphaSmarts, no technology. They were not willing or able to change despite the law.