Monday, November 18, 2013

Speaking Words of Wisdom Let Them Be

Sometimes as a mother, I feel like the worst mother ever. In a world of hyper-uber-super moms, with their iphone calendar booked with soccer games, princess parties, art classes, and mommy and me events; their facebook statuses chock full of pinterest ideas like a realistic 3-d Spiderman organic gluten free homemade cake, a early learning phonics game using play-do and guaranteeing reading proficiency by age three, and daily science project-meets-craft reminders, it is no wonder I feel like crap. I'm the mom who is lucky to remember to get out Valentine's cards. I don't have a daily schedule of fifteen minute increments and activities.

And then...I found this article about learning and said, hallelujah! It made me think in terms of this blog and all that is education as well as into my own child rearing.

Sure, my son has yet to make hand-print turkeys or baloon string art and he isn't in pee wee sports even if he is nearly age three.

I let him play. I thought perhaps I was the worst mom ever for merely giving him tons of praise, love, snuggles, and unstructured play time. I mean, according to his IEP, he needs to know and label 7 body parts not 5. According to TV, with commercials like, he should be reading by now. Oops.

But look at "uncivilized" societies. Go into the Kalihari bushmen tribes or Amazonian tribes and watch the kids. They don't have pee-wee football, early reading tablet apps, structured play groups, or a curriculum. They simply learn by playing, mimicing, doing, interacting.

My son does just that. Sure, I pay attention and interact....but I more just,,,facilitate his discoveries. Sometimes he surprises me and does things completely self-taught. He can operate apps and netflix movies on an android tablet, windows computer, Wii, and Xbox console. He can draw and place his masterpiece as a desktop image. He can take photos of monochromatic themes around the home....I found on my iphone camera, monocromatic images- a yellow wall, a blue wall, a brown tile, an orange blanket, a red shirt, the black of a room with the lights turned off, the white of a lightbulb. I didn't teach him these skills. He self taught through trial and error.

Let Them Be part II

I loved this article but still wonder...can everything be self-taught? You cannot build a home without a foundation and you must know how to build a foundation first.

I just can't quite believe a child, at, say age 5 can self-educate all the way into a productive adulthood. You need basic math skills and reading skills.

But then- wait. I taught myself to read. My mom read me books daily from birth and I first learned by memorization; "the cat in the hat" was exactly that because I memorized that exact page, but then, I could identify the words the, cat, in, hat outside of the book. I learned hat made, well, the h-a-t sound so b-a-t must be bat. In first grade, I got to sit out of the learn to read lessons and got to go to the 5th grade classroom and pick out books to read.

But still...I think there needs to be some foundation and learning of that foundation.

Maybe have the early primary grades be a mix of tons of play (something we rid of in schools with NCLB and Common Core), expressive creativity (the arts) and unstructured exploration...with a drop here and there of structured learning. As children progress in their years in school, their own self-taught learning takes priority, where the teacher merely facilitates, observes, guides when asked. 

Think about skills you know and use, and knowledge you know and use. Think, how much was 100% taught, half taught, or self taught? Sure I learned gerunds from a teacher but grammar and sentence structure understanding came more through exposure to all the reading and writing I did. I learned from drill and kill, the names and orders of service of our presidents, but I knew little to nothing about the founding fathers until I read, on my own, founding documents and biographies. 

Anyway... what I glean from this article (yet I went off on a tangent) is that a lot of learning is self taught. It works best with one's frame of reference to self teach. It's an organic evolution of learning.

Common Core advocates might read this article (yep referencing it here, again)  and say, "exactly!"  And that's how Common Core brainwashes you. The buzzwords and ideas indicate self-learning and exploration, discussion and discovery, yet they are framed around standards and assessment-bound skills. The idea of self-learning cannot exist within a defined unmovable structure. Instead, you just teach an entire class to look at 3x+ 5y= 24 and say "hey first graders, go at it!" when three children are able to self-teach and figure it out and ten are thinking about drawing a realistic replica of the 3-d perspective of the playground, ten more want to learn how to play the drum solo of that #1 song they love...

The Common Core idea of group work and figuring and constructing knowledge still ignores individual differences, abilities, desires.

It also assumes every child must learn skill A,B,C and D in that order and by age 10 or else. It ignores the possibility of learning E or ф or A,D,C. 

Our structured learning blames everything on poverty or teachers, when children in dire poverty can learn to run a laptop. Because they aren't expected to learn A,B,C and merely construct A,B,C because gasp they are curious- something our education seems to kill.

People are not standardized

I was trying to figure out, from my post Taking Back My Own, why I still felt uneasy after posting it and getting all my feelings and thoughts out. Last night, it hit me as an epiphany.

Our children are not standardized. I have said many times, you can not use quantitative methods for qualitative data. People are qualitative. Saying everyone, at, say, age 30 will have two kids, a sports car, 2,000 square foot home, and earn $ 90,000 a year as an accountant, is really the same as saying every child in 5th grade will plot a simple equation on a graph, or, in my case, every two year old will know 7 body parts.

You can standardize machinery or a process but not peope!

Sure, if a graduation senior in high school hasn't a clue how to punctuate a sentence or multiply 3 x 1/2, you havea problem. But to say that child must perform those skills proficiently at an exact age ignores child development theory. Sure we all reach a skill at around the same window of time, but that's just...that. There are anomalies who are still "normal" and the like.

And standards are arbitrary.

For child development under age 3, my child is supposed to go up stairs alternating feet or else it indicates a problem. Sure, he can gallop, skip, throw over and underhand, kick and aim a ball with his toes and side of his foot, but he doesn't alternate feet so there's a "problem".

Sure. he cannot point and name 7 body parts (sorry folks, only 5) but he knows all his colors and can actually not just count to ten but count items up to five, as in one cheerio, two cheerio... but again he is "behind".

He is still learning boy vs girl so yep,, you guessed it, he is behind. But this arbitrary "benchmark" ignores the fact that he can operate the wii remote, xbox remote, and my husband's tablet to operate netflix. He chooses the movie he wants and can fast forward to or replay a favorite scene. Instead of thinking inside the box and clicking the back button to return to the main screen, he fast forwards the movie to the end so it returns to the home screen. He can also open a drawing app on my nook, draw an image, and save it to the desktop, something I even struggle with.

But you know, because some yahoo decided some weird benchmarks, my kid is "behind".

Sure. If he can't walk, he is behind. That's a given. But since instead of pointing when someone says "show me the picture of the doggy", he pants and licks the picture and barks, that's "behind" even though not only did he point (well, with his tongue) he imitates the animal's behaviors.

When I was a young child, I had an IQ test and tested 137. The assessor said my score was surely higher but he could only give me the 137. See, I have horrid vision (my worst eye is 20/1000!) and so my hand-eye coordination was "behind". So when doing the IQ tasks, the assessor could see my mind at work, my eyes staring at things, I'd even say what I was trying to do but my hands fumbled or my lack of depth perception meant I grabbed the wrong item. So I scored lower than I could have. I SAID what needed to be performed but since it sometimes took two grabs to grab an item, that meant I was "slow". Because the test specified "grab..." not "say..."

Standardizing our children ignores what they CAN do and points out what they CANNOT do.

This is a problem with NCLB and Common Core. A child might find circumferences of items for fun at age eight, but because they cannot do base-ten subtraction with blocks, they "fail". They internalize their failure, and might end up finding no joy in circumferences because it isn't valued by the school. They may learn to hate learning and feel they are stupid. Is this what we want for our children?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

system reboot, taking back my own

I naively walked towards the abyss with the greatest of intentions, and as my feet touch the edge and the earth crumbles beneath my feet, sand pouring into the pits of hell, I realize my grave mistake and slam down the reboot button. Please oh please oh please work, I cry in despair, cursing myself for my decisions. Shoulda' known better. But  I will stop blaming myself and simply hit REBOOT and take back my child from the abyss.

My dearest son has hearing loss from ear infections (not 'permanent" but he has never had full hearing) and thus a speech delay. I recognized it at almost age two and was the pro-active rockstar of a parent, getting him help right away, in his early most formative years.

It took a half a year navigating red tape to get any help, but now he has an early intervention teacher, an awesome lady who I have nothing but kind words for, who shows up 2 - 3 times a month at our home to do developmental activities with my son. I can't say it is or isn't helping but he enjoys doing puzzles her so I am happy.

Until now.

I have to tell her soon, "it's not you, it's me and we're over" and I mean every word.

My son is lined up for an IEP through the county and school district and can attend pre-school (at age 3!) every day, half day, for FREE. How awesome is that?  But I have put thought and research into it and I am becoming "that parent", that does NOT get their child special ed services. After all my efforts and good intentions and desire to help my son, I am taking back my child before it is too late.

If he goes on an IEP and thus into that pre-school, I must fill out district enrollment forms and connect that data, and his IEP, with his health records. With P - 20 and the 400 data points of Common Core and a human capital management big Brother world occupying that abyss, which is reality, I am saying f$#^ no and removing my child.

There is no way in hell I am having his work place or college know and discriminate against him or give preferential treatment because he had an IEP. He will not be pigeon holed and sent on a specific, less-than academic pathway via social efficiency because of an IEP. Sure, you might say, you are a wacko and this could never happen. But I have done my fair share of research and all the data will exist so that all there is left to do is a click of one button and bam! Discrimination for life. I have worked with school data systems extensively, so when I say I know, I know.

I am taking back my child and will give him the special services he may need at home, away from prying eyes.

I thought at first, sure, I will just decline most info/data gathered and let my son attend pre-school. I wll demand upon entrance to kindergarten that his IEP NOT follow him. Problem solved right? wrong.

Did you know the districts have their cumulative record, the paper one (now often digitalized) and ANOTHER SECRET FILE?!?!?!?!  The speech therapist said sure, I can demand his IEP not follow him in the cum' file but the district has "other files" that follow him. She did not know the specifics but assured me they exist for each child.

I am not even putting him in pre-school or on an IEP because of the P-20 SLDS tracking system. How my son acquired speech at age 3 is no one's flipping business but mine and his.

I hate myself for even putting him on an IFSP. Stupid stupid me, the IFSP was my ticket and paper trail into the abyss. I hope a full system reboot and removal from the system will erase my trail permanently but I know there will always be a trace, somewhere. I had the best of intentions and screwed up. But can you blame me? I merely wanted to help my son, my world.

disclaimer: I still support IEPs for many kids. Just not my own.