mind the gap

… can we take her preschool teachers with us? 

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For those of you paying attention, I have one child who I know without out a doubt is terrifyingly smart. That’d be The Girl. The one who enters the public school system in the fall. Today is the last day she will ever spend in the wonderful world of Montessori preschool, where both of her teachers have given her three amazing years of freedom to explore her interests and talents while making sure that she doesn’t forget to cover the rest of the learning spectrum. They have spent countless hours of their own time searching the internet for extra worksheets to bring in for her so that she would be able to continue to progress at her own rate and not be held back simply because the rest of the class wasn’t working at the same level as she. And the results? I have a 5-year-old who reads at a fourth-grade and above level, adds, subtracts, multiplies, and is beginning to work with base-1o math. She understands the concepts behind basic chemistry — I couldn’t figure out how to “dumb down” the process of salt dissolving in water, so I wrote down the chemical equation and then sort of worked backwards from there. She so got it. So completely got it.

So when I dropped her off at her class today and her teachers asked me “what are you going to do with her?”, I started to cry. Because I honestly am terrified about public school. If you’re a smart kid and there are AP classes, you might be okay. But if you’re a REALLY smart kid, even the AP classes aren’t going to be enough. Unless you have teachers who are going to go way above and beyond the mark to keep you interested, into the cracks you fall. Like me. You get bored. You drop out. Maybe you go to college early. But you certainly don’t get the education you could have/should have, not if you’re stuck in the No Child Left Behind era.

This is where I step up on my soapbox and get REALLY self-righteous, so some readers may do well to turn away. Or feel free to fire back with nasty comments.

But as a child who DID get left behind, here’s the thing: the NCLB programs have done nothing less than dumb down our entire school system. The median remains the same, and yes, the lower quartiles may have been raised, but the higher quartiles are either dropping or dropping out. The best and brightest are being completely ignored and left to fend for themselves instead of being nurtured and trained to be the next generation of scientists, doctors, leaders, and great minds that we so desperately need in this country. Why do you think our country has gone to such shit over the last few decades? When I dropped out of highschool at 17 and was accepted into a private college (with academic scholarships, but no diploma, nor a GED mind you, just an insanely high ACT score), I immediately became frustrated because the college level courses seemed to me the level of what high school should have been. And again with grad school — seemed like what college should have been. I keep asking myself “when does the challenge happen?” I’ve concluded that it doesn’t. But it should. And it shouldn’t be just for those who can manage a private school education, either. Not everyone is built for college. That’s just the plain truth of it. Just like not everyone is meant to be a parent or a lawyer or a doctor. We all have our particular path in life, and there is no shame in being a mechanic or a salesperson, or a chef or a stylist, or even a fast food worker. Not if you do that job to the best of your ability, with pride of workmanship each and every day. But don’t you dare dumb down the schools to accommodate those who shouldn’t be there just for the sake of “fairness”. I got so screwed by that thinking, and fuck you if you’re going to do that to my kids. I’m not built to be a homeschooling mom, but dammit if I won’t work three jobs to find some private school or afford the gas to drive to the nearest charter school so my kids can get a real education.

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There will be no falling into the educational abyss for my children. I’m minding the gap.

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7 comments

  1. My 4-year-old who’s not as scary smart as yours also goes to a Montessori school… but we have M schools that go to high school. Are there no Montessori schools beyond pre-k in your area? Sounds like you’re going to be doing a lot of supplemental home-schoolin’.

    1. and no sylvan or sylvan-esque centers within 200 miles. not gap-y enough? pass me the salt so that I might rub it deeply into my bleeding wounds — our marvelous public school system in The Other Dakota doesn’t even START to test for gifted-ness UNTIL THE FOURTH GRADE!!! (but of course, title one classrooms — what they used to call special ed before someone decided that moniker might hurt someone’s feelings — start taking kids at the kindergarten level.) i may have to start smoking again… or become a closet alcoholic… the gap is starting to feel like a chasm.

  2. Oh, sister, home school that girl. I know you don’t think you’re the type and I can’t tell if you have a career to deal with, but as someone who was in a similar situation to your daughter when I was her age, and who was subsequently home schooled from first to eighth grade, just do it.

    From the kid’s perspective, it is so worth it. Good luck.

    1. thanks for stopping by! and for staying long enough to read AND take the time to add your bits of wisdom on a rather dodgy topic. nice to have the “other side” (as it were) represented.

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