Friday, August 13, 2010

"A child educated only at school is an uneducated child"

"A child educated only at school is an uneducated child."--George Santayana

2 days ago the child that refused to promise me that he would stay a baby forever started First Grade...I blame this milestone on him. It's hard to believe that he has already reached this huge landmark in his life. I am still in a little bit of denial and would still like to believe that he is more like 6 months old instead of 6 years old. On that note, it's picture time!!

The big kid not intimidated by this foe called school

Leaving for his first day of preschool

First day of kindergarten

First day of 1st grade

This is one of my favorite traditions that we started with Riley. On his first day of preschool I was feeling sappy and wanted to capture every moment of his departure so I took the shot of him opening the door. I liked it so much that I kept doing it. I like how I can tell how much he grew over the year (by how close/far away the top of his head is from the doorknob) and it's also fun to see what he was interested in by looking at his backpack choices through the years. It's crazy to me that I have 3 of these pictures already; I can't imagine how I'll feel when I have 14 of them on his first day of 12th Grade.

This school year has been interesting. Throughout my life I never had to deal with the public school system. I was homeschooled throughout elementary school and then went to a private school 7-12 grade. Public school always seemed big and still does sometimes. When we were deciding where we were going to send Riley to school we decided that homeschooling was not an option. I felt that homeschooling would be a detriment to my relationship with Riley. I learned when I was his Sunday School teacher that he was an angel with other authority figures but when I was in charge he was a hellion. This combined with my lack of patience did not mesh well. We looked into private school but decided that between the enormous cost and the fact that both Terry and I know the ins and outs of private school (the good and the bad) it was not a good decision for us. The public school that we would have to send Riley to was in the process of being rebuilt when we were making our decisions about schooling. We decided that it was just Kindergarten and much of the success of a child's schooling lies with the parents. We also felt like he would be blessed to go to a brand new school with lots of new computers and other awesome stuff.

So, we gave public school Kindergarten a try. We loved it! Riley had an amazing teacher and he learned so much both academically and socially. It was a very good experience for all of us. Unfortunately, "it's only Kindergarten" was right. There is a whole different set of systems for elementary school after Kindergarten.

Riley's school does a lot of things well. Communication isn't one of them. About halfway through the summer I was off with Riley during a bout of strep throat. While waiting for the pharmacy to fill his prescription we ran over to the school to grab a school supply list and find out what teacher Riley would have. His Kindergarten teacher happened to be taking her turn at the front desk and we were both happy to get to talk to her for a moment. She told us that Riley was assigned to a class but that the school was considering forming a 1/2 class (a mix of 1st and 2nd grade) and that she had recommended him for this class if it were to form. I assumed that if this change were to happen then we, the parents, would be informed.

Fast forward to Open House night 2 days before school starts. When we show up all the class lists were posted and we see that Riley had, in fact, been placed in a 1/2 class. I was fairly perturbed by this. I was a bit blindsided because there had been no communication that he had been moved. I also didn't know how this class worked (did they learn 1st grade stuff or 2nd grade stuff? What happens to them next year? What grade will he be in then? Why is my baby in a class with a bunch of big, older kids?!?). We were fairly convinced that night that we were going to insist that he be moved to a regular 1st Grade class and that would be the end of that. Luckily I played phone tag with the principal for 3 or 4 days which gave us time to gain a little more perspective on the situation. In that time Riley started school in the 1/2 class and enjoyed himself. He is in class with a handful of the brightest kids in his class from last year which seems to keep him grounded and challenged.

The principal impressed me by calling me everyday (even though we kept missing each other) including at 9:30 PM on the first day (night) of school. She made me feel like my questions mattered and she didn't try to blow me off because of the busy time of year. I finally spoke with her this morning and she had a chance to explain how the primary program (K-3rd grade) works at Riley's school. Basically the kids are all leveled within their classrooms no matter what grade they are in. With this program they could essentially put all 300-ish kids in those 4 grades in one big classroom and still be able to teach them all effectively because they look at them as individuals instead of as "1st graders" etc. Now, I realize that a lot of what I heard today was sugar-coated, smooth-the-parent's-ruffled-feathers, principal talk, but I feel okay for now. I don't think it's a bad thing that the principal knows who I am and that I want to stay very involved in my child's education. In fact, I kind of think one of the most important things that parents can do is stay informed and involved in the child's education...both at school and at home.

How was your first day?


  1. So, I loved reading this blog!! I'm not even sure why I did, because I'm SO not a blogger.

    I'm so impressed with you being so proactive in Riley's education. You are completely right that it's not just the school it's the parents. If every parent acted the way you did I'm sure Kentucky wouldn't be ranked oh SO low in education! Riley is lucky to have you and Terry!

  2. Thanks for blogging on this, Cuz. Scott and I are still unsure of what we're going to do about the girls' schooling, when that time comes. Private school will be an option for us, and I'm going to be looking into a couple local Montessori schools. I'm curious, though, about what you said about private schools. What are your reservations, given your own experience?

  3. Dawn,
    I'm not ignoring you, I promise! I am gathering my thoughts on your question, but haven't had time to sit down and write it out yet. I will soon though!

  4. dear princess,

    you are so wise to get very involved. your
    son will profit from this while he is so young.

    i did see some helicopter moms hinder their
    high school kids, though, by not knowing
    when to step back.

    it's so hard to do.