Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Miss Smartypants


The Post About How I Send My Kid to School to Socialize, Not to Learn

In a feeble adaptation of an idea from The Secrets of Happy Families, I’ve started asking 6yo Esmé three questions every day when I pick her up from school.  “What is one good thing that happened to you today?”  “One bad thing?”  “One thing you learned?”

And usually the answer to the last question is, “Nothing.”

So when I drove her to school the other morning, I told her, “Make sure you learn at least one thing today!”

“But what if Mrs. [names of her three teachers] don’t say anything I don’t already know?”

“Then pick up a book, about Spain, about dinosaurs, whatever, and learn something from the book,” I say.

She starts rattling off dinosaur names from the back seat.

I pull into the school parking lot and interrupt her.  “There are an infinite number of books,” I tell her.  “And new ones are being published daily.  You’ll never be able to keep up with all the new books.”

She retorts, “Just because the books are new doesn’t mean the information in them will be new.”

True enough. 

As she gets out of the car, she talks about how her 3rd grade teacher is covering types of triangles, which she already knows thanks to Beast Academy.  She is giving me a lesson in obtuse and acute and scalene and isosceles as I walk her to the school door, to the amusement of the parents behind us.

I kiss her goodbye and sigh once again.  Miss Smartypants.

Today again, she tells me, “I already knew everything my teachers said.”  And judging by the papers that come home, I realize it could very well be true.  Outside of the “save the earth” hocus-pocus science infused in her math and reading and music and art, there’s not a lot of new material for her there.

When she does rattle off something she learned, it is along the lines of “I learned not to blow my nose during PE, or [so-and-so] will tell the PE teacher I was playing around and I’ll have to sit on the bench for the next game.”

From the stories she tells, tattletaling is the biggest social injustice in our schools today.  Seriously.  I digress.

But not really.  Because I send her to school to socialize, not to learn.

I can’t blame the school about her “lack of learning” entirely.  There are a number of factors – let me get that list thing I love so much going:

  1. They can’t just accelerate her more.  She is already doing 3rd grade math and reading and language arts.  I’m not sure I want my 6yo moved into a class of 9-10yos right now.  We’re dealing with enough teenage attitude issues already as it is.
  2. She is the dilly-dalliest child on the face of the planet.  It’s not like she quickly finishes her graded busywork so they can ply her with enrichment activities.
  3. She is easily distracted in a classroom setting.  Social butterfly that she is, she learns best in a one-on-one environment where she doesn’t have the urge to keep track of what every other student in the class is doing.

All things considered, it is clear that the best academic choice for her is homeschooling.  I’m not expecting the school to perform miracles.

So why is she still in public school?

Good question.  And one I ask myself just about every day.  I am fairly certain this is temporary, though I have not a clue how we will rearrange our lives to allow for an alternative.  But for now, she’s there to socialize.

Yes, I know homeschoolers can be well socialized and may be highly offended by the socialization discussion – after all, socialization needs are best met with the parent present.  I get it.  But here are our circumstances:

  • She is an only child.
  • She is a social butterfly and is energized by being around others.
  • We live at least 25 miles from just about any type of organized activity that could be classified as social.
  • I am an introvert, and all I want to do after a day of working around other people is curl up at home.
  • She WANTS to go to school, specifically because of her friends.

Right here and now, school is an easy way to meet her socialization needs.

And the fact of the matter is, she has learned a lot while socializing at school:

  • She knows that there are people who are richer and people who are poorer, what it means to envy and what it means to be generous.
  • She’s used the interpersonal skills she picked up from Junie B. and her holocaust studies to make friends out of enemies.  And she knows they may still choose not to be friends.
  • She has learned how to flip her hair at the bigger girls who giggle when she walks by.  And she endures the idiots who make sure all the third graders know it is *wrong* to play with little kids like her.
  • She knows a variety of games she’d never have learned from me, like metal freeze tag.
  • She knows how to stand in line and wait her turn.  (Had to put that in somewhere…)
  • She fine-tunes her world domination strategies, expanding her influence every day.
  • She knows better than to debate evolution with an atheist using the Bible as the baseline.  You’ve got to establish common ground and meet them where they’re at, with topics like entropy and convergent evolution.
  • She doesn’t take her belief in God for granted.  She tests and questions and comes back to Him time and again.

Is she young for some of these lessons?  Sure.  But without the academic pressure at school, these social lessons get her full attention, and she is mastering them with flying colors.

So, where will she be next year?  Next week?  I don’t know.  But she’ll be learning a lot, wherever that may be.  She can’t help herself.