Saturday, November 15, 2008

Education and the family, Part 2, K-12 buildings

It is no secret that the MAIN indicator of student success is the parents' involvement in the child's education.  That is, if the parent is on top of things, if the parent is pushing for better performance, checking up on homework, showing up to school, etc. then it is far more likely that the child will succeed in school.

That's primarily why home schooled students do so well in higher education.

So why is our educational system so adamant about breaking up the family?  That is, we want to rip the toddlers away from their parents and put them in preschool.  In some local schools, the K-3 kids go to one building, the 4-6 to another, the 7-8th graders to a third, and the high schoolers to a fourth building. If families have even two children spaced a few years apart, it gets crazy for parents to attend very many functions at all of those different schools.

We tend to think that bigger is better, that bigger is more economical.  But having taught in a K-12 school where all of the buildings shared the same parking lot, and there were only 350 kids K-12, I can tell you that there was a much better family atmosphere in that environment than in the schools I attended growing up, or have taught in elsewhere.  Not only was the holiday program attended by the entire family, it was attended by the entire community.  Parents didn't have to divide up the responsibilities of so many nights out because there was only one event for all of the kids.  They went to events as families.  They got to know their kids' teachers, because the kids would probably have that teacher more than once.  Excellent teachers got the benefit of lots of affirmation, and the community worked to keep them there.  Poor teachers left after a year, because the word got around about them.  Educators had important stakes in how things were done, because their kids were also students in the school.

My gut feeling is that a K-12 school should have no more than 400 kids attending.  Everyone can actually know the names of everyone in the building if that is the limit, and we'll know who their siblings and parents are as well.

If the main indicator of student success is family involvement, then we should not make it difficult for the family to be involved in the child's education.  We should be thinking through school structure and activities with the family in mind.

I would like to propose that school districts offer both kinds of education, large buildings divided by age, and small neighborhood buildings, more like one-room school houses for K-8 or even K-12 kids.  Some folks actually think that changing schools as a child grows is a way to get them ready to transition to high school.  I don't know what's so special about high school that we need to 'transition' to it.  I also don't know what moving to a new building has to do with education.

My experience says that smaller is better, and families are happier that way.  

Education and the family

Topics in this series will include:

K-12 buildings
Busted families and education - the 'need' to warehouse kids under age 18.
Busted families and education - How much can you expect?
Stop assaulting family values!
Re-thinking society and K-12 education

The family and education, Part 1

Watched the 1968 version of "Yours, Mine and Ours" with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda this evening.  Helen North is a widow with eight children.  Frank Beardsley is a widower with ten children. Of course, they meet, marry, and begin to raise 18 children together.  This is the 'Aha' moment of the script:

Frank Beardsley (to eldest daughter, who is complaining that boyfriend Larry wants her to 'prove she loves him'):  "I've got a message for Larry.  You tell him this is what it's all about.  This is the real happening!... And if you want to know what love really is, take a look around you... And take a good look at your mother."

Helen:  "Not now!"

All 18 children are present, rushing her down the steps into the car.  She is in labor with her 9th child, which with their blended family, will make 19 children.

Frank:  "Yes, now!  It's giving life that counts, and until you're ready for it, all the rest is just a big fraud.  All the crazy haircuts in the world won't keep it turning.  Life isn't a love-in, it's the dishes and the orthodontist and the shoe repairman and the ground round instead of roast beef, and I'll tell you something else.  It's not going to bed with a man that proves you're in love with him -  it's getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts...I suppose having nineteen kids is carrying it a bit too far, but if we had it to do over, who would we skip... You?"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Coming out

It's time to take a stand.  I'd hoped to contribute to discussion on education and cause folks to think and question their long and closely held views, without exposing my specific experience.  I thought this would protect the little school I administrate and current and former students.

But the persecution of the church in America has begun following this November, 2008 election, and I am no longer willing to hide behind any electronic wall and avoid confrontation.  Be assured, the most aggressive thing I'm going to do to you is pray for you, and vote.  And ask you to think about behavior, yours and mine.  Educate me, if that's what I need.  After all, that's the business I'm in.

Today my real name goes on my blog, and you can find me.  I'll entertain any civil comments.  Name calling will not survive comment screening.