Reading logs killed the bibliophile

Oh, public school. Our love affair has trod upon a very rocky road, but I always come back to you. I’m starting to feel a little like a battered wife, but I come back! Because I love you! And you love me! Rather, you love my children. Sometimes. You certainly love my children when it’s time to Leave Every Child Behind and do state-mandated standardized testing, anyway.

And public school, it’s not me. It’s you. Seriously.

Oh, I was dazzled by your promise. I want to believe in the System. You know the one—the one that’s utterly, completely broken. And from where I sit, as a person of relative good fortune and privilege, I couldn’t stomach the idea of turning my back on those who are stuck without a choice just because we could, theoretically, choose something else. I want to be part of the Solution, I said.

So how’s it all working out so far?

Well, public school, you’re getting what you want out of my kids: They bring your aggregate test scores up, and you tell me that that’s a huge help. It’s nice to know you appreciate the loan, I suppose. I, however, have a few bones to pick with you.

1) Reading. One child has to complete reading logs and the other child used to take stupid little tests on everything read, and now has to do a week-long “response to literature” exercise every single week. My kids are Readers with a capital R, and there is nothing they hate more than these pointless exercises. Do you know what this does? It makes readers annoyed. The chances of it encouraging a life-long love of reading in any kid who isn’t already book-addicted are somewhere between slim and none. Lucky for us, they haven’t stopped reading, but the homework therein is often “forgotten” or sloppily done, and it is ALWAYS a source of complaining and contention. Thanks, public school.

2) Homework. Speaking of homework, care to explain to me why my fourth grader currently has one to two hours of homework each night and my sixth grader almost never has any homework at all? That seems a little odd to me. And by “a little odd” you understand that I mean “completely jacked,” right? Good.

3) Learning environment. Suppose you have a parent, public school, who has started thinking about homeschooling for various reasons. Suppose it doesn’t even have anything to do with you! Then suppose that that parent is able to distill out the amount of actual learning that happens in one of her kids’ classrooms in a given day. Suppose that by the time you subtract out the time spent dealing with the behavioral problems and the kids who are lagging behind the rest of the class, this parent is able to roughly calculate that what you teach in seven hours could easily be accomplished at home in under two hours. With a lot less noise. And no bullying, stealing, or otherwise unsavory experiences. And definitely no reading logs.

4) Parental involvement. I’m TRYING to be part of the solution, public school. The last parent-teacher association meeting I went to had—wait for it—only two other parents in attendance. Why is that, public school? I don’t have any illusions about being any better or more interested than the entire rest of the parent population… it must be something else. Perhaps that you ask for involvement but then ignore us. Hmmm. Mixed messages much, public school?

5) Teachers. Oh, public school. You know how to woo me. You boast some of the most dedicated, compassionate, and committed educators I’ve ever met. The teachers who Get It are astounding, and my hat is off to them, over and over. But there seem to be great teachers and lousy teachers and no inbetween. And those lousy teachers make it hard to care about you, I’m not going to lie. But those great teachers make it hard to leave.

I want to break up with you, public school. But I still love you, despite everything. I wish I didn’t. I wish I knew how to walk away with a clear conscience. Maybe I will, eventually. The day will come when I just snap—probably with my pen hovering over Yet Another Reading Log—and we’ll be done. Finished. Finally free.

Until then, can I borrow a pencil? I’m pretty sure I sent in a box of 50 at the beginning of the school year, and someone recently stole all of my kid’s pens. AGAIN.

80 Responses to “Reading logs killed the bibliophile”

  1. 1
    MomCat March 24, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    Well said, Mir.

    My daughter hated reading logs with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, but she loves reading.

  2. 2
    Jen March 24, 2010 at 10:08 am #

    I hear you. I have a Monkey, whom I took out to homeschool last year. It’s been good for him. I also have a relatively normal, social loving beast whom I left in public school. Until last week. When he had pneumonia and the PS vice-principal called to tell me to send him in even though he was sick and they’d send him home again. They need the daily head count to get the money from the state & fed. gov’t. It was the last straw on a big load. We’re now a happy homeschool family, and at 10:07 I can say we’ve completed all our school work for the day–math, science, reading, and history in 1.5 hours. Later we’ll go have some private sports lesson and music. And everyone will be in a good mood. I say stop worrying about the system and do what’s right for you…

  3. 3
    ramblin red March 24, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    amen.

  4. 4
    Nelson's Mama March 24, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    I want to break up too…

    My current pet peeve is, ZAP (Zeros Aren’t Permitted), at my daughter’s middle school. Any missing work means the kids have a “working lunch” to make up the assignments and then after school detention.

    Don’t misunderstand, I want my daughter to do the work expected of her, but really feel that her grades should REFLECT her performance and we should have the opportunity to address that at home.

    Because of NO CHILD, the teachers are afraid to let any work slip and ride herd on all work so that TESTING will not suffer.

    They don’t have my daughter’s best interests at heart – but the school’s – Tennessee has applied for Race to the Top funds and I believe that situations like this will only get worse.

    My two cents!

  5. 5
    Mom24@4evermom March 24, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    Wow! How is it that I live in Ohio and you live where you live and yet our kids attend the same school? Crazy!

  6. 6
    Susan Getgood March 24, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    Fourth grade sucks.

    I don’t get the response to literature thing either. What they told us (because my son has a similar frustration with the task) is that they have to learn how to organize their thoughts to share with others. In the proper form and all.

    All I know is that my kid continues to test off the charts, even on the stuff they say he has difficulty with in school, but he also has the behavior issues.

    Yeah people because he is BORED!

  7. 7
    txelz March 24, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    How terrible. I’ve heard lots of horror stories about public schools. It kind of breaks my heart since I attended so many different public schools (military brat) all the way through graduate school and really loved school and had great teachers along the way. Fortunately, our tax base is ridiculously high, so our public schools are consistently ranked among the highest in the nation-woo? I guess maybe that’s not saying much!

    Good luck deciding what is best for your family, Monkey, and Chickadee.

  8. 8
    jodifur March 24, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    I’m trying to decide between sending my maybe special needs, probably not, maybe fine, a little quirky, maybe just a behavior problem, but really he is fine, he is just a boy, he has had a million assessments, just turned 5 year old, to public kindergarten, or keeping him at his Montessori pre school one more year. He will eventually go to public school but after reading this, I think his million dollar Montessori that loves him and gets the quirks is going to win. Sorry public school.

  9. 9
    Jess March 24, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    My daughter has some learning issues, and I am so glad we homeschool. She has trouble with reading, and reading logs would just send both of us over the edge.

  10. 10
    Sara March 24, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    Just remember that your taxes will still support public schools and will continue to help those families who don’t have a choice. Your altruism surrounding public schools is so very nice but our first responsibility is to the little people in our homes, even if our ultimate responsibility is the community as a whole. Educate your little people in the way you know is right for them (for us its private, Montessori) and they will turn out to be great people who will naturally find ways to support the community (just not through the inferior public school system). And at least they are less likely to become sociopaths who commit violence in the name of reading logs? That is good for the community, right?

  11. 11
    Sharon March 24, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    Wow…it’s like you read my mind…and I am in Canada…so that’s some long distance reading. I guess public school here is no better…sad…and scary for our kids…my 8 y/o son asked me to home school him yesterday! All they accomplished in the entire day was a word search puzzle…don’t know what I am going to do.

  12. 12
    BethRD March 24, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    I loathe reading logs. Ask your kid’s teacher how much more interested he/she would be in participating in his/her favorite hobby if after each act of participation, he/she had to fill out paperwork. More or less? I thought so.

    My favorite public school moment this year was the Black History Month project my second grader was supposed to do on an African-American author or illustrator. They sent home a list of people to choose from; the list included Joseph Conrad, Walter Scott, and Thomas de Quincey. Who, the attentive parent might notice, are neither African nor American! We complained, and got sent home a second list filled mostly with radical black playwrights from the sixties. We complained again (on the grounds that studying these particular writers might require us to define words and explain topics not totally appropriate for seven-year-olds) and the project got canceled. Points to us for parental involvement, but still.

  13. 13
    Spinoff March 24, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    The youngest of my four boys will graduate from high school in eight weeks (woot!) so I have a bagillion years of public school under my belt. On the homework issue, I, too, was astounded that the younger had two hours per night and the olders? Nada. It turns out that was just the difference between kids. The younger works to obsessive perfection and the olders worked to be one iota better than the rest of the class. Same teachers, exact same assignments, difference in kids.
    But on the Greatness and Awfulness of teachers? You are oh, so right. And they all are rewarded the same, which just stinks.

  14. 14
    Amy March 24, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    Mir, I totally agree on the reading logs. Here they are called “Reading Contracts”. At the first conference of the year I warned the teacher that we may not always fill them out because I don’t hover over my child to make sure she is reading. Also because she is almost always reading so I hardly notice anymore.

    I’m not exactly sure why they bug me so much but they do. I think it has to do with the vague feeling that I’m perceived as a bad parent if my child doesn’t read for 20 minutes EVERY DAY! I personally think they are counterproductive and I admit to fudging them once in a while when my 3rd grader was stressed about having to turn it in.

  15. 15
    Rita March 24, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    Don’t get me started on reading logs. My daughter is a voracious reader. 5th grade teacher insisted that they get into the return pile at the exact right time in order to not get detention. Why? Not because of the reading but because turning in homework in a timely manner is a “life lesson”. What was detention… well reading of course. Totally useless assignment for a kid who’s issue is too much reading, rather than not enough. And the middle school developmental c$$p that she’s exposed to stinks. We’re going traveling next winter and we’re going to road-school during that semester. It remains to be seen whether she and her sister will go back to public school when we return.

    BTW, just read a very interesting book about homeschooling titled: The homeschooling option : how to decide when it’s right for your family / Lisa Rivero. Very interesting

  16. 16
    Karen P March 24, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    My daughter teaches middle school German. This is her first year teaching middle school. She has taught at the High School level and at the college level. She has been very frustrated teaching for her school district. The school doesn’t allow students to receive a zero on an assignment. Even if they didn’t do it! I think the least they can get is a 60%. So that seems that they could still pass if they didn’t even do any of the work. How does that possibly make sense?

  17. 17
    Laura March 24, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    Why is it when you are angry with the school system you create a thoughtful witty post and I just do a slow silent burn?

  18. 18
    Dani March 24, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    I am a senior in college, was always a straight-A student, wrote for my high school and college newspapers, took every English class available, and LOVE TO READ. But once upon a time, I failed 7th grade English (and my momma cried, yes). Why, you ask? I forgot to turn in my reading logs every. single. week. I might be smart, but I’m forgetful. I lost those stupid sheets of paper, or just forgot to record on them, or left them at home, etc. My teacher allowed me to write five papers on “any subject of my choosing” to boost my grade to a C at the end of the school year. When you force a kid who loves to read to “read for thirty minutes and record the title, page numbers, and one comment about what you read”, they’re not gonna like it and that’s all I’m sayin’.

  19. 19
    Cindi March 24, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    I feel your pain. I am a veteran teacher of 32 years, retired for two years, and believe me when I say the teachers are just as frustrated and helpless with so much of what you wrote. The system IS broken–or at least it’s on life support. State and national standards have ruined the classroom, killed all creativity, and flexibility in any type of teaching.

    As for the literature responses– it kind of made me laugh a little because honestly, we all assign it and I don’t really know why. Kind of like the old spelling test on Fridays thinking, I guess.

  20. 20
    Marissa March 24, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    Agree, agree, agree, agree!!!!

    I hate the pointless daily response to the required 30 minutes of reading. My 4th grade son happily reads whatever book he is currently into for at least 30 minutes every night, but having to answer one of five inane questions — the same five questions for the whole year — is ridiculous. Particularly when he is reading a long book and has already answered the all 5 questions once. What question do you have for the author? What is this selection mainly about? How is main character like you? What did you learn from this selection? What did this selection remind you of?

    And his teacher has openly stated that “Little boys are so immature and have no impulse control. Little girls are better.” And she compared him to his cousin she had two year ago in 2nd grade by saying “Oh I know Cousin, you both have the same behavior – cruddy.”

    I am a product of public school and my mom was a public school teacher and principal for over 30 years – but private high school is looking like more of an option everyday.

  21. 21
    StephLove March 24, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    I wonder what it is about reading logs? It doesn’t seem to onerous to write down what you’ve read, but my son, who’s also a Reader, almost never manages to enter his in the weekly prize lottery because he can’t remember to fill it out or when he does think of it he can’t find it, etc.

  22. 22
    TC March 24, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    When I was pulling my hair out over reading logs with Em (I think that was third grade), I mentioned to the teacher just how bad it had gotten, and how it actually made us want to read LESS so as not to have to log MORE. She said, “These logs aren’t meant for parents like you, and kids like her. They’re meant for the parents who never read to their kids, and the kids who never pick up a books, to get them to do so.” And then she said the words that were music to my ears: “I trust that she’s doing what she needs to do; I can see it in class. Make it up; fill it out for her; do whatever you want to do. Do whatever’s easiest for you.”

    And the clouds parted, and the angels sang, etc. etc. etc.

    And then the next year, there were no logs.

    Which is not to say I love public school. But that issue is now a non-issue. (N’s third-grade class doesn’t require reading logs. Happy sigh.)

  23. 23
    Andrea March 24, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    Mir,
    As a mom of two going to kindergarten this coming year, this is giving me a headache. I worry about whether my interested, inquisitive, book loving kids will still be the same in a few years of public schools. I think I will go worry for a while now.

    Good luck!

  24. 24
    Karate Mom March 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    GAH, how frustrating!
    If you’re honestly considering homeschooling, there’s another really, really good book about homeschooling called “So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling?” by Lisa Whelchel. It really covers a lot of the different ways that homeschooling can look, and it’s a quick, enjoyable read. (Wow, I totally sound like an infomercial!) Also, there’s one called “Home Sweet HomeSchooling” that’s great.
    I can TOTALLY see how having to fill out a reading log would suck the fun out of reading.

  25. 25
    carrien (she laughs at the days) March 24, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    You can teach them everything public school would, and more, in less than 2 hours a day. I do. The rest of the day is free to read, work on things they dream up to try, and, you know, live, and learn that way.

    If you want some help breaking up with public schools, pick up and read these two home school classics by John Holt. “How Children Fail and How Children Learn.

  26. 26
    meghann March 24, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    You know if you decide to take the plunge, I’m here. ;) I’m currently having “school” while I type this. My kids are learning science by watching a Planet Earth DVD. I’m not feeling really great, thus the DVD, but my kids are enthralled, and they chose to watch it. I’m sure when it’s over, I’ll be hearing all the facts of the DVD spouted at me for the next week. I know they are learning more now than they would be sitting at a desk, doing a worksheet.

  27. 27
    Andi March 24, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    This is my first year homeschooling my three kids (K, 3rd, 5th) and I was the last one on board. My straight-A daughter (then 4th grade) begged to be homeschooled and my hubby was next in line. After tons of research (I’ll second Lisa Whelchel’s book) I decided to give it a go this year. I am SO glad that I did. The kids love it, I love it… we’re done in under 3 hours… no reading logs!!
    You should do your research and then give it a try for a year.

  28. 28
    Damsel March 24, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

    I swore I’d never *really* be a homeschooling mom. I mean, if it came right down to it, I know I could do it. I’m a certified teacher. I love my son and really want what’s best for him. BUT, could I spend ALL FREAKING DAY with him!??!

    I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I can tell you that it’s a real option for us now. He’ll be going into first grade next year, and I’m not too happy with his public school situation.

    I did exactly what you did, and realized that we could cover all of his academics in (at most) a couple of hours a day. We could do it with LOTS of breaks to get up and burn energy, so that, when he sits back down to work, he could actually LEARN more effectively.

    Plus, my husband is Active Duty Army, so I know we’ll be moving a LOT. The continuity of homeschooling is almost too much to resist for me.

  29. 29
    Stace March 24, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    I could have written this blog post two years ago!! I am always amazed that I can teach my kids the same amount of stuff in 2-3 hours that they could learn if they were in school all day, and they certainly appreciate the extra time they get to do things they enjoy..instead of being stuck in a classroom where if they finished their work before everyone else they gave them MORE WORK to keep them busy. There’s some incentive. *rolls eyes*

  30. 30
    mamalang March 24, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Unfortunately, homeschooling was never an option for our family, as I work full time outside the home. But, knowing that, we did our research, and made the choices in where we live based on the schools we wanted our children to attend. 5 years on base, and when we did move, it was to the same school district, and I fight every few years to keep them choiced on base. And I love almost every teacher in these schools. And my kids flourish. But there are a few that just chap my…

    My youngest has to record the books he reads every night. But he fought becoming a reader, and he needed the accountability. I also know (from talking with his teacher) that if we are having a rough night, we cut the homework short, send in a note, and all is good.

    I do worry about my middle one though. She is already a grade ahead, and has staright A’s. She has 105% in one class. She is obviously ready for more, but isn’t ready to move up a grade emotionally and socially. Luckily, we find other ways to keep her engaged, but some day we may have problems, and I’m not sure her school will be able to help.

    In the end, we all have to do what is best for our own family. I admire those that choose to homeschool, and those that public school and augment, and those that can afford (or sacrifice to afford) private education, because we are all doing what we feel is best for our kids.

  31. 31
    Katie in MA March 24, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    I haven’t had the “pleasure” of dealing with the reading logs yet, but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around them. I could see how *maybe*, if they structured correctly, they could help a student become a better writer. But an enthusiastic reader? No way! And what ever happened to old fashioned book reports if the goal is to make sure the assignment is being done?!

  32. 32
    Heather Cook March 24, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    Oh MIR, you are right where I am! We are meeting at the emergency shelter for battered public school lovers. I am SO WITH YOU.

    I love, love, loved school…. and now my 8 year old has just experienced his first SUSPENSION. From Grade THREE. WTH?!

    For, get this, willful disobedience. Isn’t that, um, normal? Ok, maybe not. But in my house it is.

    I cannot believe that I’m considering leaving full time employment (including all the budget tightening but also extra writing time that comes with..) to homeschool because I was never that way. Even if I’ve often looked with awe-struck lovey eyeballs at Kira.

  33. 33
    Tracy March 24, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    I’m so,so glad I got to break up with public school 3 years ago when my youngest graduated. Now, it’s public college. Just wait..your life will get easier. Yeah, right!

  34. 34
    Jenn March 24, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    I am admitting my reading log sin now to all of you. . .

    We lie every day.

    There. I said it. My kids read all the time but I WILL NOT keep track of exactly what book, how many pages and how many milliseconds they did it. I refuse. It takes all the fun out of reading. sigh.

    I’m with you. SO TIRED of fighting with these people.

  35. 35
    Ironic Mom March 24, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    Well said. I teach Grade 8 and 9 English, and my teaching changed when I stopped assigning things I’d hate to do. I’m a reader and a writer, and I want my students to see themselves as readers and writers.

  36. 36
    Lori N March 24, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    I have to admit that I broke up with my public school & chose a private school education (I still have a hard time believing they are in a private school — at least until those tuition bills come.)

    But sometimes you’ve gotta just get out of a relationship that isn’t working for you (or actively harming your kids).

    May your relationship improve!

  37. 37
    Hip Mom's Guide March 24, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    Ooohhhhh. Articulate. Spot on. You had to go and get me fired up, right there beside you, didn’t you? Working on my breathing right now.

  38. 38
    Debbi March 24, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    YEAH MIR!! :-) Reading logs and reading journals SUCK! My bubby LOVES to read and would read all day if I let him (well, in between soccer lol). But mandating that he reads for 30 minutes, write down the exact time and location, write a journal entry about that fits certain criteria? Well, you just took the fun out of it you morons! So we do like Jenn does, we lie at times, we make up the time and place and work together to write something. Some nights after the clubs and soccer practice and allllll of the homework, we don’t have time! We choose to snuggle and chat about the day. Other nights he has extra time and reads a little extra. I’m sure he will turn out to be a fine adult ;-) Glad others feel the same way about forced reading.

  39. 39
    Rachel March 24, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    Amen! But, I just spent an hour helping my 4th grade son’s class with a paper mache project, and I don’t know if I could home school, either. = )

    I agree, reading logs suck, and both of my kids love to read.

  40. 40
    Em March 24, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    I like the IDEA of public school but I also like the idea of my kids getting a certain kind of education, learning environment, discipline, etc. Around here those two ideas don’t mesh. So I went with the idea I had some control over and chose a parochial school. I don’t think I personally am capable of homeschooling but I really believe in finding the right fit for your family. Get on the lifeboat already.

  41. 41
    Amy March 24, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    Oh, man you are preaching to the choir. And I’m a middle school public school teacher. I have the same love-hate relationship with The System. My daughter will be starting kindy the year after next and I am seriously looking at the lovely (expensive) private Waldorf school. I put up with enough public school crap on the teacher end; I don’t know if I want to endure it from the parent’s point of view too.

  42. 42
    Anna March 24, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Wow, I knew scores trumped learning, but when HEAD COUNTS trump health? That’s sad.

  43. 43
    Chris March 24, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    OK, y’all are scaring the poop out of me. I have a soon to be four year old and she’ll be going to public school in a year. The trending theme here is a God awful hate for these reading logs. I don’t remember having them when I was in school, but wow oh wow, these seems to have a universal hatred by all school aged parents.

  44. 44
    Sara March 24, 2010 at 4:46 pm #

    This post is why we started homeschooling this year. You are exactly right, we finish our work in under two hours. This means that after a trip to the library my Readers can read for three hours without being bothered. If you are considering it as a serious option I’d be very happy to share some of our experiences with you. Good luck!

  45. 45
    kathy March 24, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    None of my 4 kids have ever been to school, so there is my bias, but not only can you accomplish a public school education in a much shorter timeframe, but you also have the option to DISREGARD the (lousy, IMO) public school education and strive for So Much More.

    Check out unschooling and The Well Trained Mind. They are two ends of the spectrum – and we do BOTH! Go figure! That’s the beauty of homeschooling. You have complete and utter freedom. AND, I can’t tell you how much *I* have learned alongside my children.

  46. 46
    Jenn March 24, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    I remember my math teacher used to encourage us to not turn in our homework. He said zeros were easier to add up than actual grades. This was in the dark ages before everything was computerized.

    We have reading journals. Which I fill out and make my 7-year-old sign. And she complains just about signing her name, but I tell her that I don’t need the handwriting practice, she does. We’re supposed to add a comment about each book, but how do you comment on a 8 page early reading book?

  47. 47
    Jenn March 24, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    ps. The math teacher’s encouragement was reverse psychology. A desperate gambit to get everyone to turn in their homework. He was actually a pretty good math teacher, although not strong on little details like attendance.

  48. 48
    Brandy March 24, 2010 at 6:03 pm #

    I am currently homeschooling my soon to be 15 year old and eight year old. They have never been to public school. At first it was because my husband was active duty military and we loved in an area where the base did not have schools and the state we were living in? Well, the schools were awful. We finish most our work within 3 hours and the rest of the time is theirs, though I do give breaks along with our regular school system so that they can have that time with their friends. Libraries have homeschooling activities. There are various support groups and the books mentioned here are all good at helping make that decision. May I also suggest checking out HSLDA for a review of your states homeschooling laws?

  49. 49
    Brandy March 24, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

    Oops, lived in an area. (Hate typing with that stupid brace on!)

  50. 50
    Carrie March 24, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    Ah, Mir, I do love your writing and mostly agree with you, but when you rap the public school I get a twisty feeling in the pit of my stomach. Please know that your school is NOT necessarily representative of all of them. I am a public school teacher and I work my bum off trying to be sure that the complaints you mention do not happen. Please stop bashing “public school” and bash the school you are experiencing.

    On the other hand, my kids attend public school… and my third grade voracious reader has a freakin’ reading log every day. I try not to let it get to me, but I hate it, too. Yet it’s 2 minutes out of her day. Yes, she takes a stupid weekly reading comprehension/vocab test on the ONE story they read that week. That’s 20 wasted minutes. But most of her time is spent in valuable learning.

    If you truly want to home school, then go for it and do it. Personally, I think it’s a fine choice for parents to do if they are so inclined. But please know that, while I don’t pretend that my students are learning for the full 6 1/2 hours they are with me, they are learning for far more than 2 hours! Please know that they learn from the other children in the class as well as from me. Please know that our day is not filled with busy work and worksheets, but with discussions, activities, explorations, etc. And please know that there are teachers who accept children for who they are and where they are, and then dedicate their school days to helping those children be the best versions of themselves that they can be. I hope you find such teachers for your children, and I hope that you don’t bash the public school system because of the failings of your school.

  51. 51
    Trish March 24, 2010 at 8:04 pm #

    We have also given serious thought to a switch out of public school. Our kids both are excellent students and unfortunately, that is the problem. They are well above average and in this day and age of “No Child Left Behind” (such a gigantic mess), this means they’re left to sit idle. Some teachers are better than others at keeping them occupied/involved, but more often than not, it’s just more busy work or extra homework which they see as a punishment and not the treat it is presented as. I won’t even get into the fact that my third grader has 32 kids in his class…and that the district has pretty much told us parents to kiss their butts in getting any sort of relief for the overcrowding. So, totally there for you, Mir!

  52. 52
    Sally March 24, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    I understand the public school dilema but I have to chime in here that both my kids are thriving at public school. We are a Title 1 school in the 2nd largest district in the country (L.A.) facing a budget deficit of 460 million next year and 720 million the year after. Even with all that, our little local school is doing great things, largely due to some great parental involvement but more importantly, really really good teachers. Of course 7 of them got pink slipped for next year but we are still hoping we can save some of them. Some problems in public school are the same in private school–you still get the kids who don’t know how to listen, who are constantly non-compliant, and so on. So, everybody who’s freaking out and thinking public school is all at fault, step back a minute. Get involved! It’s amazing the difference parents can make.
    I know that’s not what you’re saying, Mir, and I know you are very involved and are trying valiantly at your school–and not every school or every district is the same. But I just had to stick up for public schools a little.

  53. 53
    Randi March 24, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

    I’m always so surprised at how many people support homeschooling – while I do think it is good idea in specific situations, I don’t think that it’s always the best answer. My kids are in public school and whenever I’ve had a problem, I contact the teacher, and then, if nothing happens, the principal. And then, if nothing happens, the school board. The school is paid from my taxes, and dammit, my kids are going to get a good education.

  54. 54
    Emma March 24, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    Check out http://www.k12.com/gca/

    A public school that works as a homeschooling option. Maybe the best of both worlds if you’re seriously thinking about it?

  55. 55
    Ellen March 24, 2010 at 11:28 pm #

    ANGRY TEACHER RESPONSE AHEAD…CAUTION…

    “teachers are afraid to let any work slip”

    If I choose to assign it, then that means it is relevant and important to the curriculum. How many assignments to bosses “let slip” in the real world? I don’t give a large amount of work, but the work I do give is important and should be done. If a parent feels that the assignment itself is not relevant to the curriculum (which I am sure all parents have actually read…LOL) they should so state.

    “we finish our work in under two hours”

    The things learned in school….life skills…can’t be accomplished in two hours. Several workbook sheets among a couple kids can. Apples and oranges.

    “For, get this, willful disobedience. Isn’t that, um, normal? Ok, maybe not. But in my house it is.”

    Willful disobedience is normal in children, but in order to have a society that operates efficiently, we must learn to follow rules and respect authority. In order to learn that lesson, we ENFORCE rules, and DEMAND respect, and issue CONSEQUENCES to deter the willful disobedience. So as not to have a generation of disobedient adults who disregard laws. DUH.

    “You can teach them everything public school would, and more, in less than 2 hours a day. I do. The rest of the day is free to read, work on things they dream up to try, and, you know, live, and learn that way.”

    You can’t teach themn tolerance to different ability people, different cultures, structure in a public setting,exposure to people who may be able to dream up bigger and better things than your kids.

    Can we make a law that all homeschooled children grow up to be “work from home” workers?

    Mir, the public schools educate children with special needs like your son because we HAVE to, try taking him to a private (non religious) school…see how long they cooperate. How many corporations specialize in hiring people with special needs? Only the Federal Govt.

  56. 56
    Kethrim March 25, 2010 at 12:39 am #

    I absolutely hated having to record my reading. I was the type of kid who always had a book in her hand (even when walking down the hall), so to have to stop and record it and write about it was torture.

    Thanks for this post, it’s strengthened my desire to homeschool my (future) kids.

  57. 57
    Karen March 25, 2010 at 2:25 am #

    Hmmm… I feel for you, and I will also still caution you about homeschooling even though it is strongly advocated above for the reasons we’ve already discussed.

    Thankfully, they did away with the reading logs around here.

  58. 58
    Saskia March 25, 2010 at 3:45 am #

    I live in the Netherlands, and we don’t have the same debacle surrounding public schools. Mostly because all schools are public schools (even the religious ones). And the Netherlands doesn’t allow homeschooling. You pick whichever school you want to attend (in elementary school, it’s usually the one nearest to your home, and in high school, it’s based on distance and learning level – we separate kids at 12 according to whether they’re expected to go on the university, go get vocational training, or something in between).

    Sometimes, a socialist state is useful.

  59. 59
    1000Sunny March 25, 2010 at 7:03 am #

    Go for it! Break with it! Take freedom instead, and growth. You could offer to take in one or two kids whose parents are not in a situation that makes homeschooling possible. That seems a far better solution than letting public school do whatever it likes to your children and to all the others. You are not doing anyone any good by leaving your kids at school. Public Schools will not react until they have to, and they will have to if more and more people are leaving, not if everyone sticks with it and just hopes that their attendance will do the system soe good…

  60. 60
    Brigitte March 25, 2010 at 7:27 am #

    I’m almost amused at the few token dissents that assume “homeschooling” means “locked away in your basement, never to see the sun, much less other people.”

    Our daughter is public-schooled right now (though, AMEN on your whole post, I’ll keep my mind open to other options if it ever gets bad), but I already know not all homeschooling is isolated.

    There are groups, there are outings and activities, heck, there are public parks and museums, that can teach the social aspects (diversity, working in groups, etc). Leastaways, around here there are. :-)

  61. 61
    Heather March 25, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    My son hates to read and is behind in reading. The reading logs make it worse. He reads slower then others and then the teachers gets on him about his “post its” in his reading log only containing info on the beginning of the book! That is all he had read, and if they keep up the pushing he will never enjoy reading!!

  62. 62
    stacey March 25, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    As a parent the reading log helped my reluctant readers. I love to read and read all the time, my boys, did as very young children but as they have gotten older they don’t really like to read. The reading log has forced my boys to read. I tried to make it a win win. Once I put them to bed they are allowed to stay up 20-30 minutes later as long as they are reading in bed. I don’t sit there and time them. I use my common sense and use the reading log to my advantage. Reading before bed has now become a habit for one of my sons and he does it every night, even summers, because he likes to read. Even if he doesn’t realize it. LOL

    As a teacher the reading log is for kids that don’t read at home. The kids that are readers I would hope the parents would use their common sense and fill it in to get it done, but not stress over it. You would be amazed at the amount of children that don’t even have access to books at home. Parents buy them the latest video game, but a book no way. If the reading log gets the parents to realize their kids should be reading then great. If a few kids learn that reading can actually be fun then great. I think people are making a mountain out of a mole hill when it comes to the reading log.

  63. 63
    Lori March 25, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    I agree with Carrie’s comment – no need to bash all public schools for the failing of yours – just as there is no need to bash all homeschooling – what works best depends on the individual student, parent and school.

    Three years ago I moved my ADHD son from a private school to our neighborhood Minneapolis public school – my only regret was that I didn’t do it earlier. My is in middle school (sixth grade) this year. Both the teachers and school admin have gone above and beyond to help my student succeed – to the point of teachers coming in early so my son can take his tests in quiet rooms with no distractions. My son has eating issues and the principal personally makes sure he eats his lunch daily. I get almost immediate responses to email questions/requests and have had teachers stay late to meet with me. My son’s school seems very vested in doing all they can to help him be successful.

    Having said that, I have no issues with homeschooling or private schools. We have friends/acquaintences who do one or the other. Again, I think it all comes down to the student, the parent and the school options available.

    One more book to add to your growing list – Lost at School.

  64. 64
    Cindy March 25, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    In response to Ellen, the Angry Teacher (as she identified herself). You might find this study enlightening… No, homeschooled children should not be forced into home-based work as adults. That’s just nuts.

    http://www.hslda.org/research/ray2003/HomeschoolingGrowsUp.pdf

  65. 65
    Sharon March 25, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    Sounds very similar to my rant to my husband last night!

  66. 66
    radioactive tori March 25, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    I am exactly on the same page with you. It is so frustrating to realize just how much time in school is wasted and how little actual learning time there is. I don’t want to homeschool. Some of my kids learn great from me and others don’t. We just kind of add in extra learning stuff over the summer, my kids are so geeky that they assign themselves their own projects and then do them so I figure they are getting the education they need and also learning that sometimes public school sucks but we need to follow the rules sometimes no matter how dumb they are. Good life skill I guess. I feel your frustrations for sure!

  67. 67
    Azul March 25, 2010 at 1:51 pm #

    I commend you for still trying to be part of the solution. We lasted 1 1/2 years of pre=K before we pulled up stakes and decided to homeschool.

  68. 68
    JMH March 25, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    Not all public schools are bad. Not all public schools are good. Not all homeschooling is good, not all homeschooling is bad. Same for private schools. As a teacher in a public school, I agree with alot of Carris’s comments (#50)Please be aware that if Monkey is offically diagnosed with a special need, public schools have to offer him services by law. That is not the case with private schools. Homeschooling is always an option and your choice. However, if he is on an IEP, that can follow him and help him if he chooses to go to college. Just some food for thought.

  69. 69
    JMH March 25, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    Sorry, that should say “Carrie’s” not Carris…..!!

  70. 70
    The Domestic Goddess March 25, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    THat reading log stuff sucks. I don’t make my son do it. I also don’t sign off on the required 20 mins crap. Because my kid? Owns over 200 of HIS OWN BOOKS. And every night we find him sound asleep in a pile of books. So totally not worried about it, mmkay?

  71. 71
    Mara March 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    Yeah. This is part of why I’ll be homeschooling my kids…

  72. 72
    Ellen March 25, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

    I never said, forced into work from home, but without life skills in the real world how will homeschoolers get along? I’m picturing the stapler guy from “the office.”

    It just seems very limiting to only homeschool. How about a combination approach?

  73. 73
    Emily C March 25, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

    I had to do reading logs in 6th grade.

    Lied like crazy. I read a truckload.

    I got a poor grade at the end of the year in that subject because the number of pages I read each night never improved.

    Ha!

  74. 74
    Carol March 25, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

    Life skills in the real world? Where else in the real world are you stuck at desks with 20-30 others all within one year of your age? This is my first year homeschooling my 2nd and 6th graders, and they are involved in so many extra-curricular groups that we just wouldn’t have time for with a full school day plus the huge homework load. So they get tons of socialization with a much greater diversity than in the school room. Plus, they are actually learning to get along with their sibling and even sometimes enjoy each other’s company.

    Is homeschooling right for everyone? Of course not. But is public school the best choice for each child? No way.

  75. 75
    heels March 26, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    We made the decision a while ago to send our son to the Waldorf school, and everything I’ve heard and experienced since has strengthened my resolve. We’ll have to sacrifice a lot to afford it, but I think good education is worthy of sacrifice.

  76. 76
    aimee March 26, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    I could have written your post verbatim! I’m not alone!!! Happy Dance! I found you doing a “literature search” regarding the negative impact of reading logs ;-) I look forward to reading more of your blog. Your children are lucky to have you as an advocate!

  77. 77
    mom, again March 27, 2010 at 2:40 am #

    on the other hand, my friend just broke up with homeschooling. as her sone approached middle school age, every sort of non-cooperation possibility reared it’s ugly head. Her kids began at public school in their rural/suburban NC system after Christmas. if the behaviour problems become directed at the teacher, she can deal with it as mom, but she could no longer deal with it as mom & teacher.

    Except for the early bus schedule, it’s working fine, reading logs & all. they considered continuing homeschooling for their daughter, whose main problem was her brother’s disruptions (sounds just like public school) but decided it was all or nothing.

  78. 78
    mamaspeak March 29, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    Ok, what TC & Jenn wrote. I too have a good reader (1st grade) and a 3yo who “reads” “just like sissy” for hours every night. I understand the reading logs aren’t for kids like mine, they’re for the kids who’s teeth need to be pulled in order to get them to pick up a book. Honestly, we lie on ours all the time. Sometime nights, we have activities & she doesn’t get a full 20 mins in (bc I think a full nights sleep is important too) others, she reads for 2 hours. I look at her stack of books from the week, sitting on her bed and put them on the page. So far she doesn’t have to fill out details on each book, but she could if needed.

    I consider reading logs a “little thing” not really meant for us, but in the part of the deal. I try not to sweat the “little things” you know. (We also have a really, really great public school, so not really a big deal.)

  79. 79
    Crimson Wife March 30, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    Repeat after me: “I do NOT have a noblesse oblige to sacrifice my child’s education”

    It is NOT your responsibility to try to fix the government-run schools. It IS your responsibility to give your children the best education you can. You already know what that is, so stop beating yourself up over it and just start homeschooling!

    Ellen wrote: “I never said, forced into work from home, but without life skills in the real world how will homeschoolers get along?”

    Research has show that homeschooled children demonstrate MORE pro-social behaviors and FEWER problem ones than children attending traditional schools. See: http://learninfreedom.org/socialization.html

    Incidentally, my family’s homeschool support group is WAY more diverse than the government-run school I attended growing up. I could literally count the “diversity” in my school on one hand. Not to mention that in real life, we hardly ever spend time in age-segregated groups the way traditional classrooms are set up.

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