As we enter the school year, this. Only this.
What you see above is a post on my Facebook page, Growing Children.
In 12 days it has reached more than 599,000 people. My page has only about 3,500 followers, so I think this amounts to going viral. And it’s still going.
It’s going viral because people know that it’s totally unnecessary to sacrifice a healthy childhood on the altar of test-oriented schooling. And they are fed up with academics in preschool, lost recesses and testing, testing, testing. And teaching to tests. And the mindset that learning is about performing for a reward like a trained seal.
People intuit what research shows, which is that learning that lasts is rooted in curiosity. When we teach to the test we dampen both curiosity and joy in learning. It’s not only possible, but effective, to let children be their normal, healthy curious selves as a foundation for learning.
Read here about the research that shows that curiosity turbo charges learning:
Our education system is built on the disproven idea that it makes sense to treat kids like trained seals, to train kids to learn by giving them praise, grades, and in some cases even candy or money.
Whole bodies of research show how that this approach always backfires. Alfie Kohn’s book Punished by Rewards summarizes this research.
What would education look like if we stopped treating kids like trained seals? Is it possible to run an effective school without grades and tests? What would it look like if the healthy development of children was the first priority at school?
My own teaching memoir, A Gift of Wonder shows a school devoted to healthy child development. It has no grades and very few tests. While the book is set in an independent Waldorf school, it is written with public school in mind. There is no reason why the storytelling, natural curiosity and healthy sense of wonder that I show in my memoir can’t be the bedrock for learning in public schools.
Your child’s mental health is far more important than their grades. Work in your community toward schooling that supports children’s mental health. Schools should them children play often. School should let children be curious and creative.
In short, school should not ruin childhood.
Good Morning Kim:
Your meme and article are excellent.
I hope my experiences with my son in public school will serve you and other parents.
FYI: I live in a high tax area with a “top rated” public school system.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SON IN PUBLIC SCHOOL:
1. Early in Kindergarten we became concerned about the terrible math methods being shown to him. I met with his teacher promptly. She told us not to worry about Common Core.
2. His teacher assigned massive volumes of homework – all using these new poor and unproven alternate math methods and we noticed some of the math questions included peculiar twists on history and social justice.
3. Revisionist history and sound spelling and other dreadful content corrupted much of his assigned work.
4. Often, he was unable to complete all his homework before bedtime! This caused considerable anxiety and drama in our home.
5. More homework was assigned to be done on weekends!
6. Together, he and I struggled to make sense of all the homework – that mostly came from Pearson/Engage NY (another nightmare). Much of the package of daily homework came in the form of dittos that had major errors and sometimes my son and I determined that the questions had NO correct answer! The kid was losing his mind with this crap.
7. I asked his teacher “Why can’t we just have a proper textbook?” No answer.
8. Nothing about this situation compared to my own prior relatively pleasant experience in Kindergarten. I *stupidly just let this slide.
9. I am a capable math person. I took on the added Parental burden of learning the new Common Core math – such garbage! 5-groups and number bonds and filling endless STUPID LITTLE BOXES!! I taught the boy how to use these awful methods to complete his work as directed, and then also taught him how to use better traditional methods to do all these questions in his head. Twice as much work for us both! He cried nearly every single night before going to sleep. I sometimes cried too.
10. He developed emotional and behavioral problems that eventually caused us to refuse to complete any homework that exceeded one hour per weekday, and we also refused ALL weekend homework. Boys/children need time to play!
11. He survived Kindergarten and meanwhile the Wife and I joined some other angry parent’s and began a path of rallying and petitioning and other political activism to help rid America of Common Core.
12. Our efforts included:
a. Speaking at BOE meetings. We may have influenced some other Parents, but the Board’s members gave us no satisfaction.
b. Bus stop activism. We discussed with other Parents how the schools in our district had declined. Most would politely agree but would not act to cause change.
c. PTACC. This was the first group I joined. It has a membership that includes pro-Union shills and pro-LGBT activists. It is difficult to have a serious conversation in this group, but I remain an active member.
d. Green Laces (an anti-CC group). We wore green shoelaces as a show of solidarity with other Parents. We later learned this group would never agree to any type of boycott. Members often defended the P.S. system rather than the children.
e. BATS. My Wife and I were present at the inception of this group. It was apparent to us we would never belong. They are pro-Union much more than pro-children.
f. Attending anti-CC seminars – We met with other Parents; Kris L. Nielsen-the Author of Children of the Core; and received some political support from NY Assemblyman Al Graf (now retired), also my Congressman, Lee Zeldin, at some of these events. In my early days of activism these seminars taught me much.
g. LIOO. Although we live near the epicenter of the OPT-OUT movement, the tests continue, and the children continue to suffer. I no longer support OPT-OUTS. They do not help your child avoid being harmed by Common Core.
h. NYSAPE. This group is better funded than many. It also tends to maintain the P.S. system rather than to help protect children. They get more press coverage and have less of an impact than we had hoped.
i. Protests in front of NY Senator Flanagan’s office and at places he was known to be a speaker. I also met with the staff in his office a few times. He often runs unopposed and has become a fixture in this battle. He does not answer to his constituents.
j. Rallies. To bring our local News12 Long Island media to a heightened level of awareness, some rallies were planned at their office. They, like their owners from Newsday (Long Island newspaper) generally dismiss or downplay the anti-CC battle to this day.
k. Writing letters. I have written to seek guidance from Glenn Beck/Blaze TV and Jay Sekulow/ACLJ. Neither have replied.
l. Distributing flyers. Most folks crumple these without a glance.
m. Signing petitions. I have signed so many – I have lost count. FYI: Change is something you must make happen with applied force. Change.org is NOT such a force.
n. Recruiting for the now defunct NY party called STOP COMMON CORE (later renamed the Progress party – although there’s been no progress at all since then). This party became a disappointment as soon as it began to show any promise.
o. We also participated in 1st grade opting out (AKA refusing) the tests. This changed nothing.
In fact, all these efforts failed miserably.
13. When he entered 1st grade things became MUCH worse. His young teacher was unable or unwilling to provide him with the tender patience anyone would expect from any public school teachers. When I discussed my concerns with her, she seemed to be under extraordinary pressure to “teach to the tests.” These were the same tests we were refusing!
14. His 1st grade class of over 20 students was divided into pods. Each pod contained 4 – 6 students and was led by the most capable child in the subgroup. My Son was the pod leader. He taught the math to the others. The other children in his pod teased him relentlessly (because they are children) and this caused him anxiety.
15. We began to receive frequent reports of behavioral problems from him in school, mostly associated with his emotional and restless and sometimes dramatic nature.
16. He was NOT thriving. Crying all the time.
17. His 1st grade teacher created a star-point system designed to keep him from squirming. The penalty for anything less than perfection was a loss of recess privileges. My son broke down completely.
18. The 1st grade teacher also implemented something called “whole body listening.” This is a form of behavior modification designed to stop kids from squirming. It’s an absolute nightmare-fyi. This exacerbated the problem(s) and caused him to have even more frequent emotional meltdowns.
19. She then recommended that he be placed in a “special” class that served to reinforce remedial students and the restless ones. We later learned she had placed EVERY male student that she had – into this new class. Being gifted, he found this class infuriating and stupid. I don’t blame him.
20. The impact of this “special” class, in addition to all his other frustration, caused him to become suicidal. He would call himself stupid. He would hit or punch or pinch himself – often.
21. We arranged a 504 and therapy.
22. *At the end of 1st grade we removed him permanently from the public school system.
23. He’s had MRI brain scans and multiple EEG’s-results thankfully – mostly normal.
24. He’s had about 4 plus years of therapy (3 different therapists) and last year was told this therapy is no longer needed. As his parents, we agree with the Therapist. I am very glad to be done with that part of his recovery.
25. Currently enrolled at Smithtown Christian School (SCS), he is an exemplary student now with high honors in all subjects and he’s always in the spelling bee. SCS, not inexpensive, runs K-12 and uses textbooks based on proven methods like Saxon math and *we can see the superior curriculum daily.
26. Please note that to this day, 5 years later than the end of my Son’s exposure to public schooling, he remains likely to turn himself upside down in any chair. He is now 12 years old. His Mother and I recognize that he is nevertheless always listening and is a very good and kind young man.
27. Both his wonderful 6th grade teachers realized that even when he’s upside down, that he is both listening and learning! His fellow students (that he’s mostly known for 5 years now) do not even mention this – and keep on learning without bringing undue attention to his quirks. We all laughed about this together at our latest parent/teacher meetings.
28. As a reward/honor he is sometimes permitted to teach math to his classmates and has been advanced one grade in math.
29. His (non-Federally funded) private school teachers recently honored him with an opportunity for an advanced STEM class that required 1 week without us nearby – and met with actual Astronauts – and planned a mission to Mars! We enrolled him and dropped him off at St. John’s University (Queens), July 21, 2019. He had a wonderful experience and returned to us with great enthusiasm and also a few new interests.
30. He is NEVER going back to public school!
My heart goes out to your family. Knowing that a nation of children is bring emotionally tortured like this is so deeply disturbing. Smart move to put your child in an independent school. I’m so glad he is now thriving.
I can’t post this due to your anti- LGBT stance. I’m in favour of equal rights for all.
Kim: I am not anti LGBT. I am anti sexualizing children. BIG difference.
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