September is…..

I can feel it in the air: it’s a little cooler in the mornings and evenings, and the bright green of the trees is starting to fade to yellow. Fall isn’t far away, and it’s back-to-school time.

Like most people, I went to school as a child, so I grew up thinking September was the time for a fresh start each year. Even after I graduated from college and began working, September was the time when everyone was back in the office after their summer vacations, ready to start work on the new sales campaigns and catalogs.

Once I had children, all of whom I homeschooled, September was still back-to-school time, even if we’d been homeschooling all summer, because the neighborhood kids went back to school and our subdivision became very quiet during the day.

Now my youngest is in his 20s, and it’s been several years since we finished homeschooling. I’d like September to become just another month. But the sign out front of the neighborhood school says “Welcome back!” and the stores are filled with displays of school supplies on sale. There’s no escaping it: even if we’re not back to school, the rest of the world is.

A Response to the Usual Back-to-School Drivel

A recent issue of the Sunday newspaper supplement USA Weekend offered the usual back-to-school article; this year, the author devised a 7-point plan for parents sending their children back to their local school.

Here are her seven points, followed by my take on them  :)

1)      “Make contact with teachers by Week 3.” Personally, I’d want to know the adult(s) my child is spending each day with before I put her on the bus. But that’s just me. As the author says, “The goal is to open up the lines of communication between the most influential adults in your child’s life.” Again, we homeschoolers prefer that the most influential adults in our children’s lives are us. We’re funny that way.

2)      “Check that your child is reading at grade level.” This would be perfectly logical if all children learned at the same rate. But they don’t. I read at three; a friend’s homeschooled daughter didn’t start reading until 11. Both of us could read massive novels at age 13. So let’s not try to force kids into a mold; they’ll read when they’re ready.

3)      “Understand the importance of downtime.” We already do, which is why we homeschool! The author quotes an article from Pediatrics magazine stating that in 2009, 30% of 8- and 9-year-olds got little or no recess in school. That’s sad, but the remaining 70% probably don’t get much more downtime because today’s kids are fully booked outside of school. Downtime is sorely needed by ALL kids.

4)      “Analyze test scores.” Because test scores tell you how smart your child is, right? No! Some very bright kids don’t test well, and some average kids can score quite well because they can read the test-writer’s intentions. Schools (and our government) place way too much importance on test scores.

5)      “Stay on track for college.” Here we go again. Not all kids should go to college. Not all kids need to go to college. And given the number of college grads now underemployed and unemployed, college is not a guarantee of a promising job future. Determine if your child is college material and go from there.

6)      “Don’t trash-talk about math.” Well, duh. You never trash-talk things you want your child to enjoy and excel in. But why math in particular? Be open to all of your child’s interests and give him plenty of opportunities to explore the world around him.

7)      “Be part of the learning community.” The author recommends going to school meetings, being a school volunteer and going to the school play. Beans! My parents never showed up at school except for occasional parent-teacher nights and my graduations, yet I still made the honor roll. Let’s be honest: being part of the “learning community” is just a way for the school to butt into and usurp your family life. Replace the phrase ‘learning community” with “family.” Be there for your child. Read to her, answer her questions, take her to museums, zoos and anywhere else that piques her curiosity. Put your energy into your child instead of the PTA. The time you put into actually being a parent is priceless.