Rashmi Pappu » Photographer


Can we have this conversation without getting defensive about our children, our school, our school system, our teachers? I don’t like getting political on this blog because I don’t want to offend anyone. But, 99% of you reading this, have children. And many of you have children, who are either in elementary school or starting elementary school soon. And perhaps, many of you, worry about what your child is getting (or not getting) out of school. Perhaps the school is not a good fit, the teacher is not a good fit, the curriculum is not a good fit? Perhaps there is not enough focus on Art or Science or Music? Perhaps the class size is too large? Perhaps your child is bored or not challenged enough? Perhaps recess is being cut out? What about PE?

I want to say, that teachers (most of them!) are amazing human beings. To require that level of patience, understanding, skill is quite extraordinary. Are there bad teachers? Yes. Are there excellent teachers? YES! What do you do when your child gets that impatient, low-energy, uncreative teacher, who shouldn’t be a teacher? Do you advocate for all children, or just your child?

How many of us truly know what is going on in school? What our children are learning? Do we need to know? Did our parents ever know? How much should we participate in our children’s education? Do we want to be called ‘those parents‘, you know, the helicopters?

This past week, my mind has been swirling with information, misinformation, facts and opinions. As I watch my first grader, get on the school bus at 7:00am and return at 3:00pm to me, I have to wonder : What is she doing during the best part of her day? Am I sending her to school because that is what I am supposed to do, that is all I have ever known to do? Is this the best thing for her? For me?

I am confused, worried, anxious. Like any parent, I want the best for my child. For her to know and learn all that she is interested in, and expose her to many more things that our world has to offer : history, geography, weather, astronomy, art, art history, great literature and so much more. I am worried about how much of this she won’t receive in school, because, well, there is a little thing called ‘testing’. How do I supplement her education? Do I supplement her education? I mean, I figured it out, and I went to school systems in India where learning was anything but fun. So perhaps it is fine?

So, I am asking you, pretty pretty please, can you give me YOUR honest views on education? I hesitate to post this, I am afraid nobody will want to share. But I am doing it anyway.

And I want to thank my friends, who have listened to me, agonize over school decisions for the past week, regardless of whether you agreed with me or not. I appreciate all your opinions.

And since I can’t post without a photograph, here I am, at age 4, in Pre-K.

What would I tell that little girl, if I could talk to her now? I would tell her to keep drawing, keep pursuing art, and writing. That those are the things she would end up loving the best.

xoxo, Rashmi

  • Elizabeth - Tough question, Rashmi, which is such a personal decision for each family. I always assumed Charlotte would go to K when she turned 5 but I’ve completely changed my mind for many of the reasons you asked at the beginning of your post. I don’t know what the future holds for our family, but we’re homeschooling for K next year and I’m super excited. I feel like it gives me the opportunity to learn and grow right along with my child and teach her anything she wants to learn.ReplyCancel

  • Jan Potter - From a grandmother’s perspective…
    Jessie is adamant that she will homeschool and I am comfortable with that. My feeling on the subject is that it would be the only choice if personal safety was an issue, but I also have strong feelings that learning to live with “different”or difficult people is one of the most essential life skills you can have. It’s like the current discussion about having our environment be “too clean” and now people think that we are getting diseases easier than ever because we haven’t lived with enough dirt.

    God forbid that I start a firestorm on the subject of socialization (that’s not the point here). I know that homeschooled kids do all sorts of things with other children – but I honestly believe that those children are exactly the same kind of families that you are. It’s like training them early to be elitist somehow. Somewhere in their future a child will have to deal with someone who is different or hateful or mean – even someone in authority over them who is any of the above. Going to public school and dealing with tacky adults gave me some real life skills I doubt I would have gotten otherwise. Do I wish that I could have skipped some of that? Absolutely. Did it make me stronger, better, more tolerant of those who are different? Absolutely.ReplyCancel

  • Megan - I find it amusing that the first few people to comment are all doing so in regard to homeschooling! After agonizing about school for the past 3 years, we have decided to keep Jackson at home next year for Kindergarten. As with Jessica & Elizabeth’s girls, we don’t technically have to send Jack next year since his Birthday is so close to the cut off date. However, we are sure that we want him in school at age 5 and right now providing school at home seems to be the right choice for us.

    I struggle with the state of public schools. I do not agree with standardized testing and I think that teachers for the most part have lost the ability to teach to the children in their classes based on what they know those kids need. My perception is that public school is primarily about making sure kids pass a yearly exam so that the school gets the funding it needs. I don’t think that means there are bad teachers, necessarily, just teachers who aren’t given the ability to do their job. Private school is an entirely different beast. In an area like metro DC, private schooling is just so expensive that it isn’t an option for most people. And even if it is an option, I’m pretty sure diversity does become an issue.

    My primary reason for homeschooling is that I think I can give my child the best education for him. I can allow him to explore his interests, teach him in depth about things he wants to learn, encourage him in areas where he is weak and fit his education to his needs and our family. We are a very social family and I have no concerns about my kids not being able to function in a real world environment. Plus, there are lots of activities that we will have time for as homeschoolers that we would never have time for if he were in school until 3pm 5 days a week!

    Great topic Rashmi! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t agonize over school options.ReplyCancel

  • Dena - This is a really tough question, and I agree with others who have said it is such an individual choice, depending on the kid and the family. I think there are positives and negatives to all situations – public school, private school, homeschooling. We have been lucky to have great teachers so far in public school, and I think so much comes down to that. Homeschooling would be terrible for my kid because she’s quirky, and being out in the world without me really does help her to learn how to deal with people. If she were home with me, even with my facilitating her getting together with other kids, I don’t think she would have the same confidence I’ve seen her gain these past two years. I also don’t think private school is necessarily any better than public school. Parents of older kids have suggested to me that if we were to go the private school route, it makes sense to wait and do it in the upper grades, when negative peer influences are such a problem. In the lower grades, the actual education they get at public vs. private (at least from what I’ve been told) is not that different. I also think that parents are ultimately the biggest influence on kids, and that if there are deficiencies in the classroom, there’s so much that you can do to make up for that. That said, if a classroom teacher is not doing all they should, I think it’s important as a parent to advocate for your child and try to make a change, either in that classroom or in getting your child moved.ReplyCancel

  • malina - well, I could write a whole book about it and you know my opinion about homeschooling – just go with your gut feeling. There is no right or wrong, only what’s right for you and your children. There will always be a debate about socializing, and private vs. public but only you can know what is going to work for YOU. The only thing I would like to share is my point of view based on my own experience, i.e. what worked for my family. For me homeschooling was not an option unless it was somebody else’s home :) – just my personality, lack of time management and organizational skills, topped with adhd. I wish I could do this but it’s just not me – I see a lot of pros especially at the early education level – more time for fun, play, extracurricular , riding bikes, climbing trees,just being a kid and learning in a most natural way. I chose a second best for my kids -a dreaded private, a Montessori school- and loved that. I loved the philosophy behind it in the first place and it worked perfectly for us. And I don’t agree with the thought that you should save money to send them to a private school later – late elementary or middle school because – for me it’s NOT about academic performance. You need to instill a life-long love affair with learning and it’s best done as early as possible.In there they learned in a non-competitive environment, at their own pace with guidance of a patient and loving teacher. That’s a win for everyone involved. I couldn’t do it any better. Yes it was a private school but I don’t necessarily agree that either system has better/worse teachers. A teacher, too, has to be a good match- if it’s not , ask for a different one. And I don’t mean the match for you, although a good rapport would be nice, but for your child’s learning style and personality. You want your child to be happy with the choices you make for her/them – maybe ask what they think? If they are happy now and love to learn, just for themselves, not teachers, parents, tests scores they will be happy later pursuing whatever interests them at the moment . They will be happy to learn -no matter class size or curriculum. So if you want to do this – now is the best time to try, I think – but you already mad that decision, no?ReplyCancel

  • admin - So great reading your viewpoints. Thanks for taking the time to share them with me. Some days I am SO sure about what I want to do, and then some days, I doubt myself and my motivation. Both Jan and my friend Sonali said the same thing today that really stuck with me : Children need to learn how to walk through life, facing situations, and dealing with them, without parental authority. As scary as that sounds to a parent, it is so true. I have experienced that with my daughter, she has grown and made independent decisions (both good and bad), through the experiences she has had when I was not there… that builds character. I think she will miss out on that, if she was under my wing all the time (homeschool). So much to think about…ReplyCancel

  • Galya - Rashmi, this is such an important and difficult question. We have looked at many schools in the last couple years, and for our kids, with their gifts, challenges and needs we settled on an AMI-certified Montessori.

    My 6yo is doing really well. Very individualized style of learning, with focus on what is really important: writing, math, geography, reading, art etc.; as well as emphasis on personal responsibility, independence, helping your fellow students and learning basic life skills. Less focus on tests and homework – and more focus on multisensory learning experiences that enrich on more than one level.

    But we do “enrich” my kids learning outside of school as well. I can’t imagine it otherwise, no matter the school. As parents we set a huge stage for how kids will perceive learning. Museums, math games, science, concerts, zoo, poetry, journal writing together.. – we are always doing something with the kids. But most of it is fun.

    If you have any questions or want more details on our Montessori experience so far, email me. I think that the early education creates a foundation for the entire life of learning, and I could not see my 6 yo in a regular “averaged out” school, nor could I provide the social structure he really needs if I had decided to homeschool. My 2yo is going to Montessori next year too. It does cost financially and forces one to think twice about spending on anything else that also might be important.ReplyCancel

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