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More reasons I regret giving up homeschooling

Harry has been at school for two and a half weeks. It’s not long I know but I am disappointed with so many things, not regarding the school itself, which is one of the best around here, but with the educational system and problems inherent with schooling generally. These include:

- the fact that in those weeks, he has done no music or art.

- Physical Education is restricted to once a week because of the focus on literacy/numeracy requirements.

- despite having a role-play area in the classroom, Harry hasn’t used it once. Nor has he had any lessons in the forest area adjoining the school despite the head saying that both these things were used regularly in lessons.

- the teacher heard him read on the first few days, presumably to assess his reading level, but he hasn’t read to a teacher or teaching assistant for two weeks.

- there seems to be so much rough play in the playground which the teachers don’t see (some of the playground is out of sight of the teachers which seems extraordinary given that they are supposed to be looking after the children, some of whom are only four years old).

- when Harry has gone to sit on the Friendship Bench when the boys’ play gets too rough, often no-one comes to offer to play with him. A bit pointless having a Friendship Bench then really.

- when Harry has been doing work at home I have heard him say to himself on a couple of occasions, ‘I’m so stupid’ when he gets something wrong. That’s what the boys say in his class about themselves and each other.

- he has been made fun of when he has done work on the interactive whiteboard.

- the parents were called in to a recent meeting to explain how the work was being stepped up after half-term to meet literacy/numeracy requirements. The showed us what they would be doing and what sort of homework Harry would be expected to complete daily. It all looked so boring, I felt my heart sink.

- although there have been one or two instances of exciting work, Harry has frequently complained the work is boring – copying writing off the board and the like. Get ready, my son, because clearly it’s only going to get worse.

- he says (but I have to take this with a pinch of salt because I didn’t see it and I find it hard to believe – although not impossible as you will see) that he has been punched by the other boys in his class in the playground ‘because he is the new boy’. More likely he is just involved in the fights going on. He seems drawn to the more exciting looking boys but then wonders why he finds it all a bit rough. How to explain to seek out the quieter children? (I know there are one or two).

- most worryingly, at home his behaviour has been violent: he has punched Matthew in the back and hit me in the stomach. When we talk to him about it he says that’s how it is at school and he needs to be able to punch and hit. The trouble is, I believe him. Obviously we tell him that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable at home but it really concerns me that, at five years old, he feels he has to be so physical in order to be able to cope with the playground. It’s marginally better than being pushed around, like he was when he first started school last year, but still. I understand that boys need to exert energy and much of that is done through play-fighting and real fighting and Lord knows I see enough of it between my two eldest boys, but this kind of violence is on a completely different level. He has now been on half-term break for a week and although he has been poorly with croup he is only now just becoming more like the boy he was before he started back at school.

All these things are in addition to the tiredness, lack of concentration, socialization problems and nightmares (not about school, but curiously he hasn’t had a single nightmare during the half-term break) I have already posted about and the underlying feeling that I have made the wrong decision.

Like most parents, I want the best for my children. I think I can overlook almost all the problems with schooling except the violence bit. I’m not seeking reasons to homeschool again, but I will take him out of school again if I need to.

12 comments… add one

  • Frally October 25, 2007, 8:54 am

    I won’t try and convince you one way or the other – even though you are well aware of my opinions ;). However, I will provide a link to a blog post by a wonderful, thoughtful unschooler – http://ourreportcard.blogspot.com/2007/10/firstly-sometimes-i-get-scared-that-i.html – this woman knows her stuff and is frequently an inspiration to me. I highly recommend reading some of the other stuff on her blog too if you get a chance.

  • cesca October 25, 2007, 8:22 am

    Cripes, this school sounds almost as bad as the last! Is there no such thing as a good school around where you are? :-(

    I read your entire list, and thinking back on the past 2 weeks or so, my 5 year old has done art several times (including a visit to the city art gallery which included an interactive workshop). No music this past 2 weeks, but last term they did a large project on music and Noah came home with a xylophone to practise on. PE, the junior school does aerobics/dance every Friday, plus they’re in the middle of a 3 week intensive swimming plan, a couple of weeks back it was tennis. The class did an intensive skipping rope thing last term, and they often play games together outside as a class if the weather is nice.

    Reading to teachers is done 2/3 times a week. The kids are encouraged to do their absolute best and they are given various awards weekly for various things (Noah has had 2 awards in the 4 months since he started school). The kids really want to do well academically as they’re encouraged so beautifully.

    No boring schoolwork, lots of fun creative stuff. The kids are encouraged to write stories twice a week. Homework at this age is just a reading book, and the occasional spelling words (i.e. less than 5 mins work a day, which I like at this age).

    Playground – well, yes, it can get rough. But it’s never been rough in a mean bullying way (so far). Noah has been hit in the head with a rock (thrown by his friend), totally accidental, but it gave all the little boys a shock and they are now told to tone down their rough play. Thankfully Noah is pretty resilient and loves the rough play. I’m not so sure….

    Anyway, I hope you don’t think I’m bragging about my son’s school, I just want you to know that you’re not alone in thinking that all is not quite right. It’s not the norm where I come from, I hope it’s not the norm where you are.

    All the best! :-)

  • ella October 25, 2007, 12:30 pm

    Lovely site, Frally. Thanks for the steer.

  • ella October 25, 2007, 12:37 pm

    Cesca – thanks for your comment, it was enlightening to see the difference between our two schools, particularly regarding the curriculum. The UK has a terrible National Curriculum, and the only way to get round that is to go private, but in many ways they are worse because of the focus on maintaining academic standards and even longer school hours. I also can’t understand why school playgrounds can’t be better supervised with more teachers in charge and zero tolerance of bad behaviour and bullying incidences. I hoped this school would be better – the head was quick to point out that Harry’s year still did role-play for instance, even though he hasn’t yet – and I think the playground is better but there is still too much fighting and I’m not sure there is much I can do about that.

  • Super-Mommy October 25, 2007, 3:23 pm

    OMG! That really doesn’t sound like a very healthy environment. I hope things start to turn around for you guys.

  • Dana October 26, 2007, 4:47 am

    Wow. I am so sorry to hear that you are having such a difficult time with the transition back to school. I guess I hope that it either sorts itself out or you find that you need to take him back out.

    But he has you on his side…that is the great equalizer.

  • Smartie October 27, 2007, 9:27 pm

    I have to say it sounds like every other school I know and Harry is probably getting a bit of a hard time because he is the new boy and because he started in the middle of term. If he and you can stand a few more weeks you’ll probably find it settles down a bit. Good luck.

  • Kristen October 29, 2007, 9:04 pm

    It’s good that the academics component is so strong, but it surprises me that there is no music and art yet. All I remember doing in those early years were music and art (and probably not enough of the rest). I used to work as a substitute teacher and I would supervise the kids during playground but I noticed none of the other teachers did. They would mill around by the doors and talk to each other and pay no mind to the kids. I think perhaps they don’t feel it’s part of their job somehow? It’s very strange…

    Hope it all gets better for you both very soon.

  • Molly B. October 30, 2007, 12:22 pm

    This will be no comfort at all, but some of the most violent people I know were home-schooled.

    You know your boys, and I’m heartened to read how much thought you’re giving to their well-being.

  • Penelope Anne October 30, 2007, 1:52 pm

    You know I weighed sending my children off to school…high school though, we have homeschooled otherwise.
    They were the ones who noticed many of the things you mentioned from viewing their peers at Scouts and other events and they made the choice to remain home educated.
    You are a good parent though and you do know what is best for your children…and whatever may come to pass in the future you will do well with.

  • Donna November 4, 2007, 6:11 pm

    It was a revelation for me to read this post, Ella, because I’ve always been under the impression that the schools in the UK were superior to the ones here (especially those of the beleagured school system in Los Angeles). But your list of concerns indicates that public education in both countries share a lot of the same challenges.

    I think the hardest thing for a parent to deal with is the “one size fits all” philosophy of our school systems. I understand that they have to run sort of like factories to get the most from their funding — but for children who have special needs (on both ends of the spectrum; gifted as well as disabled — and some kids exhibit both)… well, they don’t get what they need.

    I understand why you would want to homeschool. But with your growing brood, I can also understand why that might not work (I know people who homeschool four or five kids. I just know that’s something *I* couldn’t do successfully.)

    One thing that I have learned over the years with my daughter is that things do settle out. Every time I have been nervous or worried about an education issue, we have figured out a way to make it work within the system. Maybe we have just been lucky — or maybe it’s just part of the learning process for us both. At any rate, I’m learning to worry less and go with the flow more. And even that is a help.

    Good luck!

  • g?venlik sistemleri July 4, 2008, 8:34 am

    thanks

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