Did you know...
As I talk to other parents about education, I realize how much knowledge I have acquired through the years that the typical parent would not. I also feel like I gathered a lot of this because I questioned so much. So much of school did not work for my children so I began to wonder. I wondered why we had certain rules, laws, and why we stick to age old tradition when it isn’t working.
I was once a compliant well-schooled child. My journey has set me on an unconventional path. I attended public school and continued on for a masters only to discover the system I so wholly believed in was broken beyond repair (find more in Our School Story blog.) A lot of events happened to me and my own children to open my eyes to this reality and I began to question every belief I had about the school system.
My questions were not met with open arms. And a lot of the list below I came upon by accident or was privy to it because of my principal position. It sort of feels like betrayal to share it with the world. It isn’t a secret (even though we keep it one). Anyone could have this information if they knew where to look or what questions to ask. But the problem is we don’t. We do not educate people enough to give them a choice or for them to even realize there is one.
School has made us compliant good little soldiers. School is an institution and rite of passage we all must go through. ‘I did it, so therefore my kids will do it and they must endure it.’ kind of mentality.
But there is a way to have more freedom within the school system. Here is some knowledge that can give you more choice and more feelings of freedom.
Your child is going to school for more days than required by law.
Per NDCC 15.1-06-04, a school district shall provide for a school calendar that includes: • At least nine hundred sixty-two and one-half (962.5) hours of instruction for elementary school students (K-6) and one thousand fifty (1050) hours of instruction for middle and high school students (7-12).
This is North Dakota law. So if we say kids go to school for six hours a day at a minimum, they only need to go to school for 160 days. If we say they are educated for seven hours a day, it drops to 138 days. I challenge you to see how many days your child is actually in school. I would guess it is closer to 180. (All math based on K-6 hours.) There are some stipulations I may be unaware of (what counts as the hours) but from what I know about the system is we make it more complicated than it needs to be.
The school year length has consistently become longer because state testing continues to tell us our students are behind. If we give them more academic time, this will fill in the gaps. In reality, the opposite is true. If students are allowed to play more, they perform better in a classroom.
I'm not sure what to do with this information other than know it. Know that your child is getting educated well beyond what is necessary. You can show up at school board meetings and advocate for shorter school years or school days. But share this info and look it up yourself. If you are not from ND, check your own state's website and laws.
Nothing actually happens to you if you child misses more school than the state says is allowed.
According to law, you must have your child in school from ages 7-16. It also is compulsory to attend every day. In the district I worked, we had rules to follow. If a child missed more than five days, we sent them a ‘frist notice’. Basically stating they had missed this many days and how important school is.
When a child missed ten days, we sent another letter. Basically stating the same thing but probably with the law information included.
If a child reached 15 days, now we were required to file educational neglect on a family. It did not matter the reason a child missed - sickness, vacation. We were legally required to file.
I think the rule was bent here and there as we would call and speak with families. But, I recall other schools in the district following this like it was black and white. They would say it is the law, our responsibility, we could get in trouble if we didn’t, blah blah, blah. Fear, fear, fear.
In reality, the families we did file educational neglect on nothing happened. Nothing. Let me repeat: nothing. This is not a high priority law as most people can see the problems with it. A parent still has full authority over a child’s education. If they deem it necessary or willful for their child to stay home and rest or choose to go on a grand vacation, they can.
In the five years I was a principal, I recall one family where we had a true case of educational neglect. I served thousands of families.
I also think about my own experience with this law. As a senior, I played Varsity golf. We were gone a minimum of two days a week for golf meets. We traveled all over the state to do this. I was in a few clubs in which I attended their state conventions - also totaling probably five-six days gone from school. My family also took two family vacations in which I think we were gone for ten school days. (Each of these experiences probably taught me more about life than sitting at school for those days but that is a story for another time.)
A high school staff member told me in passing I may not graduate because I had missed so much school. Mind you, I still had straight A’s with all these absences. I collected my work ahead of time and finished it upon my return. My mind was boggled at this possibility. I was set to graduate class salutatorian and they were discussing if I should graduate at all. I graduated of course but even writing this down makes me question all of our school rules/laws again. We cannot see how odd this is just that we must be compliant and follow the rules/laws. (Remember, school made us complaint and it continues to hold us to its own absurdities because we were taught to not question authority.)
You are the best authority over your child. You know them better than anyone. Trust yourself.
NEA on Twitter: "Educators love their students and know better than anyone what they need to learn and to thrive." / Twitter. 12, Nov 2022.
Hmmm. I was an educator for fifteen years. I did not know best or better than their parents what a child needed. I did not raise them. I did not tuck them in to bed to hear their questions about life. I was not present from birth. I saw them for one hour a day (as a middle school teacher) and I had 150+ kids in my charge.
Early in my career, I would have made a naïve statement like the one above. I judged parents for what I perceived as a lack of parenting. I was wrong. But I didn't know how wrong I was until now. (I will probably be wrong about a lot of other things but only discover these in hindsight too. Ah, life.)
Even elementary teachers who see their 20-30 kids every day for 6+ hours are not the expert authority. They get to have a say and opinion because they are possible mentors and guides for a child but they are not the expert. The parent is. Do not concede your power to educators. They may know their craft but they do not know your child better than you. God gave you that child; you will need to wade through the mud of life to figure out what your child needs. You. No one else.
You don’t have to send your child to school until age 7.
All that bullshit of preschool and kindergarten; it’s unnecessary. I would guess that we do not require children to attend school until the wise old age of seven is because their brains aren’t ready to read, write, and sustain academic learning until this age.
Preschool is a money making business. They feed off of your fear that your child will not be ready for school. We are good parents if we send our children to preschool at ages of three and four. Hey, it’s a strong fear.
I sent my oldest to preschool at the age of three. He still wasn't 'ready' for school. Not because his preschool didn't prepare him, but because he wasn't developmentally ready for it.
Since kindergarten, he has been told he was behind in reading. He compared himself to his classmates and received extra help to read. He now believes he cannot read; he is 12. He says it frequently. I have made it my job now to tell him otherwise, try to create a new belief in him and undo the one that school instilled in him. Had I just waited for his brain to be ready, this negative belief could have been avoided. But, I didn't know this at the time. I believed he was behind too.
Kindergarten is not required.
See all reasons and info above. But also compare your own kindergarten experience with the one your child had or is having. I personally went to kindergarten for six hours four days a week (we had Wednesdays off - I do not know why but my guess is because my teacher and I needed a break.) I also spent these days with a minimum of two hours of recess. I colored, sang songs, learned my letters and numbers. Pretty sure that was it. No attempts to get me to start reading or learn sight words. I made friends and learned to share.
My own son was handed a list of 100 sight words he would need to have memorized by the end of the year while the teacher explained the 90 minute math and reading blocks. He was allowed one recess a day and PE a couple times a week. I also had him attending the before and after school programs because my own career was more important than him at this point in my life so he was at school from 7 am to 5 pm some days. Ironically, his favorite parts were the before and after school care because they did so much play.
The teacher does not know more than you about your child.
It’s worth saying it again. I know myself and I know how inadequate I feel when it comes to my children. They are each unique and one parenting technique does not work for all of them. I have to remember my middle one is sensitive to any perceived criticism and my youngest is attuned to his brothers and my needs so will ask if we are okay many times. He is not as attuned to his own needs so I have to be better about sensing them. Only now am I really trusting that I do have the skills to give each one of my children what he needs.
We are not perfect. That is not what we are striving for. We are striving for love and understanding. I am striving to raise good humans despite the many mistakes I have made along the way. My best moments with my boys are the ones in which I am honest with myself and with them. When I apologize and talk about my mistakes with them. I want them to know I am doing my best but it is not perfect and never will be.
So cry and feel sad. But pick yourself up and know that if you do not have the answer, you can find it. You have resources and knowledge to raise these humans.
You don’t have to vaccinate your kids to attend public school.
Not a single one. You can but you don’t have to. They tell you you have to. But then they provide you with an opt out form if you won’t. Huh, who knew? I didn’t until I became an administrator and had to call families threatening to have them keep their kids at home if they did not comply…or...sign the form.
The families I was calling were families who either could not afford healthcare or afford to take time away from work to go to the doctor. It felt so gross to tell them their child may need to stay away from school. It was not the families who were choosing not to for their own personal reasons.
This is a hot topic. I am not here to recommend one way or the other. Those are your beliefs to have. I just want you to know there is a choice. That’s it.
You don’t have to have your child take the state assessment. Ever.
This data is not used by teachers. Not well at least. It is a once a year test the state requires everyone to take. Or do they? There is a super secret form you can ask to sign and your kid doesn’t have to do it. If you don’t find value in it and the school and teachers don’t find value in it, we are just wasting everyone’s time. I bet if enough families opted out, things may have to shift. It does not matter the inconvenience this causes for the school or the teacher. It is your right to not have them take it. It is also okay to make others feel uncomfortable sometimes. Change and questions arise when we are uncomfortable.
This list is certainly not everything but it is everything I can think of right now. I want to share this knowledge with others to give them freedom too. These nuggets of freedom are what set me on a path of seeking more freedom. Take this knowledge I have given you and use it. Try one out, whichever feels the easiest at this point for you. It may lead you to another. Share this with others; do not keep it a secret. Every parent deserves to have this information.
Try out your new found freedom. See how it feels. Trust yourself that you know your child and what he needs. You do.