I Didn't Always Have Regrets
Do you have regrets? Thoughts about decisions you made in the past that may not have panned out the way they should have?
As an adult, I've generally tried to live my life without regret...I take the approach that every experience in one's past contributes to the Present Person that they are. I don't fret about the fact that my husband was married before, and unlike a lot of second wives, never really have. I feel as if his first marriage helped to form the man that is my husband now.
And that's all fine and dandy. It seems like a good approach to life, right? We all make decisions and do things that we may wish we hadn't, but life's too short to harbor regret. Unless of course, we're talking about decisions that impact our children...for me, that's the real toughie.
When we moved to New Hampshire, the illustrious "Live Free or Die" state, we did our best to research school systems while shopping around for our new abode. We *thought* that we had found a town that had a solid school district, and that the public system would be more than adequate for our kids' needs. Mind you, this is a decision made when my daughter was not yet three years old, and our son was approaching the one year mark.
While the school system is certainly adequate, when it comes to the kids on the high end of the bell curve, there is a lot of 'leaving behind' of those kids' needs. Not out of a malicious bent on exclusion, but simple ignorance and lack of education about the needs of academically advanced students. Legislatively, there's no mandate that speaks to the needs of so-called "Gifted and Talented" students. We're actually very fortunate in that the district even has a G & T coordinator, because New Hampshire is one of the few states for which there is a dearth of state-level requirements for above average students. All the tests, all the funding, all the staffing goes to the other end of the educational spectrum.
We didn't know.
We didn't know that our kids would need to be offered a hefty amount of enrichment on top of the school curricula in order to create an educational environment that acknowledges their strengths. We didn't know that the local district can't even provide a "G & T" staff person for each of the four district schools (two elementary schools, one middle and one High School). We didn't know how hard it would be to advocate for the educational needs of our kids. We didn't know what those needs would be when they were both younger than 36 months old.
Though I try to avoid regretting decisions of the past, this is one that I'm having difficulty getting past. We didn't research enough. We moved to a town that is far more conservative, politically speaking, than we had anticipated. We moved to a town served by a school district that is currently "In Need of Improvement" in terms of reading and math achievement. And now, fully ensconced in the system, we see the signs we missed, the information we didn't ferret out when researching our move.
My kids are being held back despite their abilities. I speak a lot about my son. But my daughter, too, is not getting what she needs. She's bored stiff at school. One of her weekly assignments is to "Dig in the Dictionary": Look up a word, write it's defininition and the guide words from the top of the page and the page number, then use it in a sentence. Ostensibly, this is to improve dictionary skills. Being human, she finds easy words ("July" for example) and whips out the worksheet in no time flat. She get's a star on the worksheet. Always.
She aces her spelling tests. And sometimes the comment left by the one correcting the tests is something along the lines of, "Smartypants!" I'm not sure I like that. I wonder if that will make her feel labeled, though she's never indicated that it does. So, she's a 'smartypants' (which I can't help but feel, though I know it isn't the intention, is a moderately derisive term to use), but she's simultaneously prevented from flourishing. She's literally held back from going above and beyond. At the beginning of the school year, she complained how easy things were to the point that she was deliberately making errors in order to have something to do (correct the worksheet). But we're now stuck. We can't move. We can't afford private school. This is our only option (homeschooling is not an option for our family). Is she learning anything? Not really, but she's got the dictionary gig down cold. She knows how to look up a word, she knows how dictionaries are organized.
She's taken to practicing cursive. In second grade, they don't teach cursive, but she's determined. She writes her name in cursive and practices at home now and again. This week, she wrote her name in cursive at the top of a paper, and one of the teachers put a note next to it,
You can do cursive in 3rd grade. :)
Great. By then, she's going to be perfecting the art, not learning it. But don't you dare stretch, child! Don't reach beyond. You need to wait. We're not ready to teach you this--despite the fact that you are totally ready for new challenges. Despite the fact that enduring the school day is sometimes excruciating in its boredom. After all, there are kids in your class who still have a hard time printing their letters, let alone forming complete sentences--they need to catch up to you. You? You need to sit tight until your classmates catch up. It kind of reminds me of that old Mazda commercial, "Stay between the lines."
It's sad. To the point that yesterday, when I saw this note about cursive writing, I welled up with tears. She's thirsting for new challenges--for learning--in an educational desert. I'd been subbing yesterday, and each time I do, I see where my kids fit into the spectrum of abilities in their school. And I see more and more evidence that my kids' needs are being left by the wayside.
So yeah. I've got regrets. But at this point, the only remedy for that is to continue to advocate for my kids, and use the only system I've got to try to see to it that my kids get what they need from their public school education.
We've got our work cut out for us.