This is the end of my multiple posts about education and our family. The previous ones are:

On Tolerance, Part 1

On Tolerance, Part 2

On Education Rankings, Part 1

On Education Ranking, Part 2

On Awarding Mediocrity

On Parent-Teacher Conferences, Part 1

On Parent-Teacher Conferences, Part 2

On Parent-Teacher Conferences, Part 3

Since this is so long, I will review and cover the rest of the story differently than usual. (Thanks Reluctant Farm Chik for your help on getting my complaint to the school onto one page.)

We were in TN over the New Year. The first part of our journey was ice-covered highway in NM... in the dark. It is interesting to note that NM does not really get worse snow than other places, but they apparently don't get enough to budget snow removal equipment/supplies. Interstates close a lot here when the weather is bad; we were lucky it was not closed when we went.

Historical Facts (as seen by me and elaborated on in the above posts):

  • We live in a region of the country in which education is not a top priority.
  • At Chic’s school, she was one of few scholars.
  • Chic attended a private, parochial school.
  • Chic was ahead of her class in most, if not all subjects.
  • Many in the class ridiculed Chic because she was “smart.”
  • There was little/no teacher intervention regarding the ridicule.
  • Chic has not been raised in a pop culture environment, thus she is “different” from most of the other students in her school, despite its parochial nature.
  • Chic’s social structure for second grade has been difficult because a 4-some of friends turned into a 3-some, and Chic, being different, was the one usually left out.
  • Chic’s teacher/s did not notice that her friend structure had changed.
  • Parent-teacher conferences were not a place to get real information. Teacher/s usually took the approach of keeping parents happy without divulging any real information. Real issues were avoided.
  • When real issues were addressed with teachers, the observations of the teachers changed. (From “she’s doing fine” to “she’s immature.”)
  • Teacher/s were not demanding, teaching, or modeling life skills such as kindness and getting along.
  • Teacher/s were allowing students to dictate classroom environment.
  • Teacher/s punished tattletales inappropriately unless tattletales were pet students, in which case the behavior was encouraged.
  • Teacher/s modeled disorganization and disrespect.
  • Classroom/playground supervision was inadequate.
  • Teacher/s were biased in analysis of students and their academic abilities.
  • Teacher/s flip-flopped on significant educational plans. (“Your student should be placed in advanced classes for certain subjects” to “Your child is too immature to handle advancement.”)
  • Teacher communication was ineffective and unprofessional.
  • Prince Charming and I, as parents, are not perfect. Neither is Chic. We approached this for three semesters with an open mind realizing that not everything could go our way.

When in TN, our friends had a flying squirrel in their house. It had been there a while--behind the fireplace--but they couldn't get it. It came out while we were there. Very cute. (The foggy picture is because it was SO COLD, and this was taken when releasing it.)

Things we did about the above:

  • Discussed concerns at length with teachers. (No results.)
  • Discussed concerns with trustworthy, knowledgeable friends not involved in these issues to better ground ourselves and assure our objectivity. (A very few were unsympathetic saying that schools will always have problems–we realized that already. Most were shocked it could be so bad and made us realize we had put up with a lot more than we should have.)
  • Discussed the issues with the school Principal. (This was ongoing. Many of the incidents did not seem “big enough” to report until more and more happened. The big picture was disturbing, so the Principal knew the whole story by the end of the semester and was extremely supportive.)

Things that could not change:

  • The teacher/s could not be removed. Apparently though I have heard various complaints about Chic’s primary teacher for several years, there was no documentation. (This was the current Principal’s first year and without documentation could do nothing, though she had wished to remove a teacher before I ever talked to her.)
  • The attitudes of the teacher/s. Apparently though counseled on specific behavior problems, issues addressed to them by parents, the Principal or School Board members resulted in: flat denials, blaming others and often subtle retaliation against students of specific parents.

Our Options:

  • Send Chic to another school.
  • Homeschool Chic.

We saw neither of these as viable options since removing Chic from school would be seen by other parents as a huge blow to the school. (Small environment.) We had no quarrel with the school or the Principal, but with specific teachers. The school is small and has financial difficulties, so any blow to it, large or small, could potentially end its life.

Although it was bitter cold for our visit, there were a lot of pretty skies. I was going to save many of these for SkyWatch Friday, but I thought they would go with this post.

Our Solution:

This was not our idea. It was Reluctant Farm Chik‘s. She is my educational/parenting mentor. She is SO with it in those areas. Most people think I am with it (except that I shield my children from a lot of pop culture which many think is cruel), but those people have not met Reluctant Farm Chik.

When she first suggested it (on my voice mail), I thought she was joking. She knew our reasons for not sending Chic to another school or homeschooling her. She said her idea was different.

On December 30, 2009, the four in our family and a minivan packed pretty tightly headed on a tw0-day trip east. On New Year’s Eve we arrived in the-middle-of-nowhere-way-out-in-the-sticks Tennessee. (It was overcast and we missed the New Year’s Eve Blue Moon.)

We spent January 1 and 2 in Tennessee and three of us left on January 3. We left just-turned-8-year-old Chic there to go to school for a semester. This is what I meant when I said in an earlier post that many of you may think we are unfit parents by the time we get to the end of this story. (Who leaves their 8-year-old two days drive away for five months?)

Why we did this:

  • We did not think our options allowed for home school or a different local school. (That was not a permanent decision. We will not continue to let that stop us after this semester.) This option let us tell people that “Chic got this really great opportunity to live on a farm with a horse with great friends–something she’s always wanted to do. We couldn’t pass it up.” No damage to the school, although if we did not have thick skins, there would be a lot of damage to us from people who think we are absolute idiots.
  • We have complete faith and trust in Reluctant Farm Chik and her family. They are treating Chic like one of their own. She has a new “brother” and “sister” (both older–a dream for her). She has 8 new cousins (one who realized he could not have a crush on her because she was “his cousin.”) She has a new set of grandparents and several aunts and uncles. She is in a loving, family environment.
  • Although kids will have bad times in school and bad teachers (I had bad teachers from grades 4-8), the early years are too important in setting the stage for school satisfaction and learning. My first three years of school were perfect which is why I came out of 8th grade not completely despising education. Chic has had a horrible start which is crazy for someone who excels at school. She was starting to hate school AND hate learning. Something had to change.
  • Chic is balanced and mature enough to handle it. (Despite what her teachers said.)

I tried to take pictures of these several times on our trip to and from TN, but going down the highway at 75 mph meant that most of them were not that great. My kids (living in a desert) were amazed by these. They look just what I grew up with in MO.

How it is going:

  • Chic loves school. She is learning at her level in all subjects. She is a little intimidated that her math education here was so far behind that she’s only at the same level of her second grade class (and not doing as well as the 4th graders which is what she expects), but overall it is good.
  • Chic had instant friends.
  • Chic loves her teacher.
  • We hate Skype. (Not really, but it usually leaves us feeling unsatisfied.)
  • We miss her like crazy.  (We already have two visits under our belt.  Ahead are Spring Break and two more visits.)
  • Chic has only cried a couple of times–when we left her, and when I left from a visit. She was fine both times right away.

What the future holds:

  • We don’t know! I wish we knew! Chic will not return to her old school unless there are dramatic changes. (Probably two teachers would have to be gone for her to go back. It is a small school, so unless they are gone, she will have the same teachers next year. If they had major attitude changes, that would be OK, too, but so far they do not even acknowledge that there was a problem.)
  • We might home school.
  • We have even thought of moving. Someone asked if we were living in the right place. No, we are not. Well, I think we are in every way except social culture (which means little to me because I am too busy for much socializing, and we do have some very good friends here. I am referring to the society in general.) and education. We love it here otherwise. Also, Prince Charming’s job is here, and his job means I am a stay-at-home mom. That is why we moved here in the first place. But moving is not out-of-the-question, just not on the immediate horizon. (And giving up my skies would be a tough thing indeed!)

This was the favorite picture I took while on that trip. It includes the "Pondwatch" pond.

It boils down to we are responsible for our children. Our school is not. Our church is not. God forbid if society was! We will do what is best for them.

We are looking forward to May, but we do not regret a bit of what we did. It is changing all of us (mostly for the better) forever. All of us are growing. Experiences like this cannot be bought. And Chic is happy. (And I got the best hug she has ever given when I visited last month.)

So full of innocence and promise. We must take care of her, even if it means someone else is taking care of her right now.

This post is a continuation of my series about some things going on in our family right now. Those are posts are:

On Tolerance, Part 1

On Tolerance, Part 2

On Education Rankings, Part 1

On Education Ranking, Part 2

The pictures are a continuation of my trip to Disneyland with Chic for her 5th birthday.

For the most part I am opposed to school awards. It somewhat ties into the same reason I am opposed to allowances for very young children or for children who do chores around the house. To me, every family member has work to do in a house, and giving my children money to do their share of work teaches them that they should be paid for everything. When my children are a couple of years older, I will start with allowances in order to teach them money management, but it will not be tied to chores.

Similarly, it seems to me that school awards have often devolved into awards for things that should be expected, not for anything truly meaningful.

At the end of last school year, Chic’s school had an awards ceremony. As the art teacher, I was instructed the day of it that I needed to give awards for art class. I asked what the criteria were. “Whatever I want.” With so little time, I gave awards for “Excellence in Artistic Ability” and “Excellence in Attitude.” Not more than two people in each class got an award.

One of Chic's favorite rides was "Dumbo" because she could be in charge of what happened to it. (My stomach was better if I was pointing the camera at fixed objects.)

But many think today that everyone needs an award. Awards for showing up to school. Should everyone not be expected to show up to school? Why would there be an award for that? (This only translates to people thinking they need special treatment later in life at their jobs because they did the job for which they were hired–the one they were expected to perform.) So I cannot think of a reason why I would support the idea that “everyone wins.” If everyone wins, it takes a lot of the steam from the person(s) who really won, and in my opinion does nothing to promote initiative. If everyone must receive something, I am not entirely opposed to getting recognition for participation, but an award is extreme.

So back to last year’s awards. Before the event, I talked to Chic’s teacher about it and asked her how she meant to handle the awards. My reason for this was that as a first grader, Chic was ahead of everyone in her classroom (including the second graders) in reading, spelling and math. From my dealings with parents or art class students, I knew that if Chic got awards for all the areas in which she excelled, other parents would be angry. A large part of me does not care about that, but that anger comes out in their kids at school. So I asked. Her teacher, (from now on, Ms. J) said that she gives awards for all kinds of things, not just academic performance, which assures that everyone is included. I did not discuss this further as I thought that would satisfy the masses (even though I do not necessarily agree with it).

This ride made me so sick that when Chic wanted to do it again, we had to find some people who would go with her. Her stomach is made of sterner stuff than mine!

So awards night came. Chic got four awards: Presidential Physical Fitness, Principal’s List, Science and Art (Excellence in Attitude. I realize it seems like I was favoring her, but I am not kidding when I say she has the worst class for behavior in the whole school. She absolutely does NOT cause any trouble in art class and always has a nice attitude. I gave the award to one other girl who was rotten all year but really improved the last month.) The first 3 awards were completely objective. The first two were from the school, and the third one from the Science teacher who apparently awarded it to her top students. But Chic got no awards from her everyday teacher.  As I listened to the awards being listed and students going up, I was shocked. Yes, the teacher gave awards for spelling, math and reading, but Chic, although ahead of the grade above her in all of the subjects, got none of them. Then the teacher made up awards to cover the less studious people which included things as irrelevant as “nicest smile” (SO not kidding), and  Chic got none of those. But get this, some of the other students got multiple awards from Ms. J.  I was taken aback, but decided I was not willing to address the issue. I will discuss this teacher at length in a later post, but the short story is that it is difficult impossible to have a coherent conversation with her, and because I knew I would have to deal with her at least one more year (Chic’s 2nd grade) and possibly another 3 years (also Chicklet’s 1st and 2nd grade), I did not want to anger her.

This was on a 25+ - minute boat ride. Chic found a friend right away.

But Chic noticed. She asked why her teacher did not give her any awards. Although I knew the answer, I thought she might not, so I asked, “Were there not other children in your classroom that did not get any awards from the teacher?” “Only Hunter,” she said, “but I know the Ms. J does not like him.” To me those are profound words coming from the mouth of a 7-year-old. I personally knew Ms. J did not like Hunter because I had heard her complain bitterly about him (I personally like him. He had some issues, but was willing to try and learn, and he was kind.), but for my daughter to notice that was quite another story.

So what was I to do? My daughter wanted to know why her teacher did not see fit to give her any awards. I lied. I said she probably was so busy she just did not remember to include everyone.  I will admit it is not the first time I have lied to my daughter about what goes on in her classroom. She has never once complained about her teacher, but she has asked questions on several occasions or told me scenarios that make me realize she is quite astute at assessing situations. I want her to respect her teachers, so I lie because if I tell her the truth, there is little room for respect with this teacher.

So why are awards so important? What is gained by them? Does the person who was doing just OK in spelling but got the award have an incentive to do better in spelling? Does the person who got the “nicest smile” award have any incentive to do anything better? Does my daughter have any incentive to excel in her own classroom? Seems to me not a lot of incentive was generated on any front.

Note:  This year we have a new principal who has a different view of awards. There will be specific criteria based on having maintained a certain grade for each of the first three quarters of school. I am grateful for this change, but I do believe the other award mentality is more prevalent among most of the other teachers (excepting the science teacher) and definitely among most of the other students and parents. What a battle we seem to be fighting almost every single day.

Chic was only 5, so we did not stay for the fireworks every night. The night we stayed, the weather did not allow them to go, but they made it snow for us instead. I would love to show you the picture of Chic's face full of wonder catching the "snow," but I do not post such pictures on the internet. It was beautiful.

For Part 1, go here.

So I have a theory. New Mexico is always in the bottom 5 in education rankings, and it is not because they have poor teachers. How does a state so beautiful with amazing weather (most of the time) attract the worst of the worst? I do not think they do. Why is North Dakota always in the top ten (usually higher than that)? All the good teachers want to spend 6 months of the year bundled up requiring block heaters and remote starters for their cars? Probably not.

My theory is (maybe this is not a theory at all and I just have not read it anywhere) that teachers have little to do with the academic achievements of their students. I am not saying they have NOTHING to do with it, but to blame the teachers for educational rankings is not where the answers lie. I believe it lies with the parents and the homes. Parents in New Mexico do not have high academic expectations for their children. They not only teach their children values that have nothing to do with educational success (but have a lot to do with materialism and vanity–much time and money goes into these things), but send them to school and expect the teachers to give their children A’s and B’s for mediocre performance. I fear they might be teaching their children that educational success is not important and that “bookworms” like my daughter are social misfits. This is something I cannot prove, but the evidence would support my theory.

Private schools and homeschooling are prominent here due to the low educational rankings. I doubt that every stellar teacher is in a private school here. But I am guessing there are more stellar parents of private school students here. This is not about parents who have more money, but about the way they choose to spend it.

So why isn’t my private school like that? Another theory here. Because it does not cost enough. It is subsidized by my church and a few other churches. If I am a member of one of those churches, I have a significantly reduced tuition expense. (People who come from the community have a higher rate, and I must admit most of those kids are better to deal with than the many of the ones from the churches. Although sometimes the ones from the community are using our school as a reform school, so that is a different scenario.) Not only do most of our students get a significantly reduced rate, the majority (I would say about 3/4) get tuition assistance (roughly half of the reduced rate) from the church. So the majority of the students from my church are barely paying anything to send their children to this private school. Furthermore, of those receiving additional assistance, none of them attend church regularly.This post is not about my opinion of this policy, but more how I think it supports my theory. (And I am certainly not making statements here about church attendance and related behavior. I could do a whole post on things I have seen to make make me understand why many hate Christianity and Christians, though I am a Christian. My point here is that these “church members” are not attending church and are getting their school tuition heavily subsidized. I am not among the those with additional tuition assistance. Also, I am not completely opposed to tuition assistance, but I grew up believing that Christian education requires sacrifice, and that is how I still approach it. Our family does not have piles of money that the others do not have; we just spend our money differently. We would not be able to justify asking for tuition assistance so we could live a more extravagant lifestyle. )

So what are teachers to do when they have a classroom full of students that are for the most part completely not motivated, and neither are their parents? There is no room here to address that, but I will in an upcoming post. It just seems to me that when taking off school for a manicure does not exactly send the best message to one’s kids about academic importance. It also seems that when a child barely does the minimum to get through a class because s/he is spending his/her time socializing, watching television or whatever, and the parents get irate that an “A” or “B” was not received in every class and fight the teachers as well as tell the child how poorly s/he is being treated, that the general attitude will result in poor educational rankings. Just a theory.

Notes:

Many of your comments on these posts have been that you want to see where all of this goes before you comment. You are probably the wise ones. I appreciate all the nice comments I have received, but I fear the ones who have told me what a great parent I am will gasp from shock and think I am not a fit parent when I get to the end of this mess.

These posts take a lot of time and energy that I do not have (especially in the holiday season) to write, but they are timely for us, and I need to get through them. I will attempt the next installment which I think might have to do with school awards next Tuesday/Wednesday. (Time permitting, and often when I start writing, the topic changes, so we shall see.)

Note: The pictures in this post have nothing do do with the text. Chic turned 8 the day after Thanksgiving. These pictures are from her 5th birthday when her gift was a trip with me to Disneyland (including California Adventure). I think I can safely say it was one of the most fun times in both of our lives–just her and me. (Chicklet and Prince Charming are doing a trip for her birthday this spring.)

This is part of an ongoing series that has to do with some serious things going on in our family.

The first part is  On Tolerance, Part 1. The second part is On Tolerance, Part 2.

In 2007 New Mexico was ranked at #49 in academic achievement. When we moved here in 2002, I think it was ranked #51. (D.C. counts in these rankings, and they seem to try to keep that #51 spot.) This was really a good thing for me at the time because until we moved here, Prince Charming was adamantly in favor of public education, and I was adamantly opposed to it. When we moved here, he decided private (parochial) school or homeschool would be a good idea.

Homeschooling was never something in which I was really interested. In my little Southwest Missouri bubble before moving here, I was not impressed with most of the homeschooling parents I met. But when I moved to New Mexico, I changed my tune. I still did not really want to do it because my life is extremely active and busy, and I was pretty sure homeschooling would put a huge damper on that. However, I met several homeschoolers and their parents, and I could definitely see some benefits. The “they get no socialization” complaint is usually a bunch of garbage. There are plenty of ways for homeschoolers to socialize. What I liked about it was that the socialization can be more selective. I had homeschooled, teenage babysitters who listened to the same classical radio station I did and whose favorite books were similar to mine including many classics. It is not that this cannot happen in public school, but once kids go to school, it seems to me they become a product of their school and peers more than their parents. Homeschooling also allows great freedom in scheduling (trips and general life), and that appeals to me.

But alas, I did not choose to homeschool my children. Why? Mostly my schedule, but also because I believe strongly in my children having a Christian education (which I could provide, if needed).  But this also means I believe in the others of my faith having a Christian education, and if I chose not to support the local school with the enrollment of my children, that could be perceived as a knock against the school. So Chic started Kindergarten two years ago at the local church school and is now in second grade.

In the previous posts about tolerance I discussed the problems Chic is having because she is ahead of her class. Now let me be clear that I am not a “mama bear” type of parent. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I that is just not me. I am the type of parent that diligently tries to train my children to behave and be kind and be helpful, and if I hear a complaint about either of them, I ask them why they were not doing what they knew was right. I am also not one of those people that did not analyze everything I could imagine about being a parent before I did it. I never thought it would be “fun” or just something to enrich my life. I waited so long to have children because I knew the responsibilities would be great and my life would never be the same. So when the ridicule of Chic started coming up, I was totally unprepared for how to handle it. How can I explain to her the idiocy of fellow human beings and keep her humble and tolerant of those people? She was 7 when it became a strong problem. I have told her that sometimes people are jealous of those who appear to be more successful than themselves, but I really try to not put down the other children in the process so she will not think less of them. I do not really want to tell her that often people are afraid of those who seem superior in some way, so they try to bring others down. How can she care for her fellow human beings if I start telling her these things so young? (Sometimes I wonder if I am totally wrong in this approach.)

What I am learning, however, is that I do not think anyone is jealous of her. It never occurred to me that someone who is bright and successful in school and mostly well-behaved and extremely kind would be treated with disrespect. I noticed it early this school year on field trips. I am the only parent in Chic’s class that drives for every field trip. (Our school is small; we do not have buses.) This means my car gets crammed with 5 kids (including my two–Chicklet is not yet in school.) One of the extras pairs off with Chicklet, and the other two pair off together leaving Chic as the odd girl out. She doesn’t pout or whine or complain. Never a word, but I can tell it bothers her. She is not the type to force herself into a place, and her friends do not even pay attention to her. When there are even numbers of students, Chic has a friend, but when there are odd numbers, she is different and is the one left out.

How is she different? For one thing, she is not raised on pop culture. PLEASE understand I am not judging or condemning anyone who chooses to raise their children differently than we raise ours. We have to raise our children to the best of our ability in a way that works for our families. And I realize we are not “normal” in that aspect. We do not watch television. None. Not even the news. OK, this winter the girls and Prince Charming have watched a little football (gagging here), and sometimes when I am working in the evening, he will watch The History Channel with the girls. But that may be a twice-a-year thing. The girls do watch videos periodically, but mostly the television is not on. My girls know who Hannah Montana is, but that is from their friends, not from seeing her in our home. The same with High School Musical and whatever other similar movie was the latest one. Chic has no aspirations for being a reality TV star, but at the moment wants to be a marine biologist. (I really do not know from where that came.) So Chic might play somewhat differently than the other kids. But in my opinion she is quite imaginative in her play and would be fun. But she is different.

She is also different scholastically. She could read before she got to Kindergarten. (She picked that up on her own. Another reason I did not want to homeschool was that everything I tried to teach her seemed to fail dismally. But she later picked it up on her own.) At the beginning of second grade, her reading level tested at 6th grade level. No one else in her class is even close. Math is the same. (Not 6th grade, but way ahead of her class in ability to understand the concepts being taught.)

So I think about this and wonder why is she so far ahead? Is she really THAT smart? And why if she’s so advanced do the kids not like that?

To be continued on Friday…

For Part 1, go here.

These pictures are from three years ago when we were at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. Since we do not have piles of leaves in our immediate area, it was like an amusement park for my girls.

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A short story about the half-Hispanic/half-Iranian boys from the last post. The girls were more rude to them than the other boys in class. The boys were not actually rude to them, but just avoided them. One day for their art class, most of their class was late except for the two boys I liked so much. As people trickled in, the seats filled up, and of course the last seats available were the ones by the two. The most obnoxious girl of all came in last, and there was no place for her to sit except beside one of the twins. She made a HUGE scene. Not being a “real teacher” and having little “teeth” last year to effectively manage problem behavior, I told her to sit down or go back to her class. But those nice boys got someone to trade with them so they were next to another more unpopular student so the mean girl could sit with her friends. I do not know if she thought about that, but I hope someday the memory is at least a small wake-up call.

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Chic is the top of her class. Last year she was in 1st grade and was in a classroom with 1st and 2nd graders. She was ahead of everyone in reading, spelling and math. We knew long before Chic ever went to school she would be a star scholastically, so we have worked with her since before Kindergarten to help her understand that although she understands school subjects better than a lot of people and is ahead, she is not better than anyone. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and just  because she can do some things  better than most kids does not mean they cannot do some things better than her. She understands this. We have made every effort to assure her humility, and it seems to have been successful. But this does not mean other parents have done the same. Chic is mocked severely for being ahead of her class. This happened a little last year, but to a greater degree this year.

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Although Chic easily overheats, she does not like wearing shorts to school because they show her muscular legs. She has not a bit of fat on her body, but her legs are bigger than all of the rest of the girls, and they make fun of her because she is different than they are.  Yes, she can run faster and jump higher than any of them, and she is chosen for teams right away, but because she looks different, she is fodder for derision. (And seeing other behavior in the children, I sometimes wonder if part of it also has to do with her pale skin and red hair.)

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Forgive me for being irritated that I am doing all I can to raise well-behaved, good-mannered, kind and caring children who do their best to excel at whatever they attempt (at least the first one–the jury is way out on whether the second one will even care about excelling) when it seems like the parents of my daughters’ peers are not bothering to raise them much at all and are apparently modeling inappropriate behavior. As parents I feel like Prince Charming and I might have failed Chic because we taught her humility, not how to face the bullies. We wanted to make sure she would not be a bully. We never dreamed one so successful in everything she does would be treated with such disrespect. (We are diligently working on this now.  Should we tell her when people make fun of her legs to say, “At least I don’t have skinny bird legs like you!” No, that is not how we believe anyone should be treated. But it is difficult to teach a child  humility without putting them in a position of getting squashed in school.)

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When I was in elementary school, I remember my parents talking about a relative who married an African-American. (Let’s go back more than 30 years to near the very center of the United States.) During the discussion these words came out of my mom’s mouth: “It doesn’t bother me what they do, but it’s the kids who will suffer.” That caught my attention. I said, “Why does it hurt the kids?” Both of my parents explained that they would be neither “white” nor “black,” so neither family or race would fully accept them. I asked why. They explained how people do not accept people not like themselves. I said, “But your making the statement in the first place shows that you think they are different.” I loved my parents, and I truly think there were not much better ones put anywhere in the world, but potentially a filter in what they said in front of my brother and I would have been wise at such a time. Statements like that in front of children would likely encourage children treat the “unfortunate” children differently in most cases. It is no different today.

2006-11-22_13

My belief is that most parents — if they even think about it — want their children to be replicas of themselves; they want them to have the same opinions and beliefs. (Maybe deep down I want that, too, but if it happens, I want them to arrive there on their own, not because I told them to or showed them no other options.) Most parents in my realm (I can only speak for my small corner of the world) have not been educating their children to accept all people as I attempt to educate mine. Maybe in more cosmopolitan areas there is more tolerance for people not like oneself, but I have not seen much in the places I have lived.

But I am going to say that from my experience in Blogland, there might be tolerance for people who are different in ethnicity, but not a lot of tolerance for differences of opinion. No, not everyone is like that, but I really am amazed at the statements I see coming out of blogs with abject criticism of people with differing opinions–not just criticism of these opinions, but also of the people who have them. (And if you are reading this, you are likely not the writer of one of the blogs to which I refer.)

2006-11-22_23

I am much too cynical realistic to think the lack of tolerance in the world is ever going to dramatically change. But I can assure you, it will not even budge if people cannot handle a viewpoint that is not their own without attacking (even mentally) the person who holds it. And if people cannot refrain from attacking people not like them, no matter in what way, I do not see a better future for anyone.

This is the end of my “tolerance” post. It was originally one, but it ended up way too long, so I cut it in half. There will soon be more on things that I believe relate to this topic and society in general and how all of that relates to our family.

2006-11-22_18

Note: I have no pictures for this post, so found some old ones of South Dakota and Colorado.

Raton.Mountains

Much of what I think I will say in this post has been in my head for months, really for at least a year. It started to gel into something I wanted to write about last October and November near the elections. Chic’s school held their own elections, and it was not a pretty thing in my opinion. I mentioned this last year, but as a reminder… they voted on the actual presidential candidates. My personal opinion is they should have thought of another way to teach about the election process because all the kids did was ask their parents for whom to vote. When Chic (age 6 at the time) asked Prince Charming and I, we did not tell her. We instead told her as much as we thought she could understand about the positions of the two main candidates and let her decide. We believe it is our job to shape the values and principles of our children, but not necessarily their opinions. Yes, values and principles will affect opinions, but we do not believe in telling our children what to think about every little thing. Long story short, Chic got her voting preferences from her best friends at the time which happened to be for the losing candidate. Being a volunteer at the school, I knew she would be very much in the minority, so I told her to keep her “opinions” to herself. She did, but the other “party” was pretty belligerent about getting others to tell their preferences. Ridicule was rampant for those with whom they did not agree. Chic kept quiet, but it still bothered her that being a supporter of “her” candidate would cause so much ridicule. After the election it was even worse. Because she was quiet about what she did, it should not have been as bad, but the bullies (which was pretty much everyone who voted differently than she–from 1st grade through 8th grade) assumed that people were quiet because they were the losers, so she was harassed anyway. (Had her candidate won, I do not believe the tables would have been turned for those children are among the very. few. well-behaved ones in art classes.)

RatonPass

That attitude lasted ALL YEAR LAST YEAR.  Students continually asked me for whom I voted. I would not tell them for many reasons, not the least of which I do not think it is the responsibility of teachers to try to form political opinions in their students. So because I would not tell them, they attempted to ridicule me. Of course I did not put up with this, but it just made me wonder what in the world goes on in their homes that they have nothing better to do than disparage people they perceive to be not like themselves. And it did not end there; it continued into the first six weeks of this school year. Intolerance clearly starts at young ages.

Chic goes to a school that is affiliated with my church. About 30 minutes from my house is another similar school sponsored by another church of the same religion. Many members of my church who believe in Christian education send their children to the “other school.” When we first moved here, Chic was nine months old, and we almost immediately started getting hit by the people who sent their kids to the other school telling us why we should do the same. There were so many reasons why it was a “better” school than the one actually sponsored by my church. But I have to tell you the biggest reason. People actually said OUT LOUD to me, “The new school is sort of known as the ’white school,’ — the one sponsored by the church is the ‘Hispanic school.'” Seriously????

SDColor

Now if these people knew me at all, they would have known those were the wrong words. If I had no other reason whatsoever (which I had plenty), I would never send my kids to school where the parents of the students (which would show in the students of themselves) thought they were better and elite because they were “white.” OK, I am white. I am pale, lily white. As far as I know, I have little else besides Irish blood running through my veins. My daughters are paler than me and have strawberry blonde and red hair. But I would NEVER go to a school because there was more of “my kind” there; I would prefer to have diversity. Last year in Chic’s classroom, there were 16 students, and she was one of the two who did not have beautiful, smooth, dark skin (were not Hispanic.) Did that bother me? Not in the least. I never even thought about it,  unless I remembered those idiotic words people said to me and sat and looked at the kids. Then I smiled.

SDWaterfall

During last school year, two new students entered in the fall. They were twin boys in 8th grade. I loved them because they were so polite and well-behaved (as opposed to the other 8th graders.) But they were outcasts to their class. Why?  Because they were not fully Hispanic. The 7th and 8th graders were in one classroom.  There were 17 of them, and all but those boys were Hispanic. They were half-Hispanic and half-Iranian.  Sometimes I wonder why I can still be so shocked by people, but I can, and this was one of those extremely shocking things.

To be continued… (Friday?)

Sunset.Mountains

There are not many types of birds that frequent my back yard on a regular basis.

Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves

What I do get are mourning doves, pigeons (which I have finally given up trying to rid my yard of), hummingbirds, Bullock’s Orioles and House Finches. (This is for the present. The winter mix is a bit different.)

PigeonsThere is also an occasional roadrunner, as well as the occasional hawk which finds the bird feeders a place to find a sure lunch. (The hawk rarely succeeds, but I have seen it score a time or two.)

Roadrunner-I love Roadrunners!

Roadrunner-I love Roadrunners!

By far, the House Finches are the most plentiful birds to frequent our feeders.

Typical of the amount of House Finches swarming around the feeder

Typical of the amount of House Finches swarming around the feeder

Our pets include two cats and a dog. One cat is a bird hunter. I argue with myself over my feeding birds to “lure them in” for my cat to catch. But the fact is that the only ones she catches are House Finches. Why is this? The birds are not very smart. This does not mean that I do not try to deter her, chasing the birds away when I see she is in stalking mode, or trying to save the ones she gets (a couple a week, but the death rate is very low), but sometimes I think they have it coming. (I realize how stupid I am to make such a statement online. If you want to yell at me about animals, go somewhere else. No one loves animals more than I do.)

SirenStalking

This is my bird stalker. A finch is less than two feet from her in front of the green bush.

House Finches eat anything. This includes the hummingbird food and the oriole food. I do not really mind this, but one component of oriole food is grape jelly. Finches to not have the intelligence to eat it delicately, so they get it all over themselves. I have seen them stuck to the feeder (no pictures–when I see this, my first thought is to rescue them), and have seen them bouncing around the yard because grape jelly is all over them.  So I catch them (because they pass out when under stress–also making it easy for the cats to catch them), and give them a bath.

Finch with grape jelly stuck to various parts of its body.

Finch with grape jelly stuck to various parts of its body.

Finch "passed out" so it is no problem for me to catch.

Finch "passed out" so it is no problem for me to catch.

Bathing a finch to get the sticky jelly off of it.

Bathing a finch to get the sticky jelly off of it.

What I have learned in the process of saving all these House Finches this summer is that most of them are babies. Many cannot fly at all. There are no parent birds around. Just babies kicked out to make it on their own in a world of cats and grape jelly. Babies that would not survive if a giant human were not around to rescue them over and over. What are those parent finches thinking???

Then there are the Bullock’s Orioles. Unlike the House Finch youth who appear to get kicked out of the nest before they can even fly, the orioles feed their young when they are fully capable of feeding themselves and fly well. The orioles teach their young where to find food and how to get it.

Male Bullock's Oriole feeding offspring. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Male Bullock's Oriole feeding offspring. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Male Bullock's Oriole feeding two offspring and showing them how to use the oriole feeder.

Male Bullock's Oriole feeding two offspring and showing them how to use the oriole feeder.

Two young Bullock's Orioles at the oriole feeder where they made complete pigs of themselves.

Two young Bullock's Orioles at the oriole feeder where they made complete pigs of themselves.

So what does this have to do with human parenting?

A couple of weeks ago I was in a staff meeting at my daughter’s school.  When I learned they were extending the school day by half-an-hour, I had to speak up.

Let’s just say I have huge issues with homework. I am not opposed to children bringing home the occasional (infrequent) homework because they did not complete their work in school (largely due to misuse of time) or a project, but schools have our kids for 7 or more hours a day. Tell me why they cannot get work finished then? I do not believe in homework just for the sake of it. Last year my daughter had spelling homework. I begged the teacher to give it to the students at the beginning of the day so they could work on it during their down time at school. This never happened. Most kids have time if they use it wisely. So during this discussion I raised my hand and said I would have to strongly object to homework if the school day were half-an-hour longer.  Her teacher’s response was, “You are the only parent who does not want her children to have homework. Most parents beg for more.”

WHAT????

My incredulity was apparent. The replies were that parents do not know what to do with their children at home, so they want them to have more homework.

So it made me think of the birds.  The House Finches seem to be the type of parents as some of the parents of children in my school. They have babies, send them to school and think their job is over. (Without me, at least twenty House Finch babies would be dead this summer.)

Forgive me if I see myself more as a Bullock’s Oriole parent. I have children, I spend time with them, I teach them things like responsibility and how to act (not that they always do it perfectly). I truthfully love summer and vacations because our schedule is more relaxed and we can do more things. This is not to say that I spend every second with my children.  I NEVER play with my kids. I never have. OK, a little at the park (rare) and games and in the  yard. But not once have I sat down and played dolls or Barbie’s with them. (I would probably have to shoot myself from the boredom.) They do those things on their own. They have lots of play time. But our together time is structured. We practice school subjects. We do crafts and art . Science projects. Exercise. Cook. Read. Once in a great while watch movies. My kids do not watch television at all or have any video games. (They do watch a short educational video daily during my shower.)  During the summer about 2-3 hours per day of my time is spent directly with my kids. The rest of the day they know very well how to entertain themselves.  Why? Because I taught them to do that.

This week's art project. These are "hipps" based on a 4000-year-old Egyptian sculpture. (I use books. I do not come up with this stuff on my own!)

This week's art project. These are "hippos" based on a 4000-year-old Egyptian sculpture. (I use books. I do not come up with this stuff on my own!)

This is not me being self-righteous or condemning parents who parent differently than I do. My choice of activities is personal to our family, but children are not just creatures to be ignored in hopes someone else teaches them (or saves them from the cat). Just don’t ask the school to oversee your children (extra homework) during the after-school hours and vacations. I do not want that for my children or my family. We have plenty to do here without busywork from school.

And I realize that working parents have a different kind of time with their children than I do since I am a stay-at-home mom. But all I can say is that if I were working and had just a couple of hours daily with my children, I would not want them to be doing homework during that time.

Note: This is not an attack on anyone. I know most of my readers with school-age children are amazing parents. This is more about me, my opinions and why I have those opinions.

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