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For those of you who “believe in public school”, why?

It’s my understanding that some public schools are good, some are bad, and virtually all are designed to a) teach kids certain academic subjects, b) teach kids to be good American citizens and c) teach kids to be good employees (or, more cynically, factory workers). Those last two aren’t goals I have for my kids, and my own experience as a student in six different public school systems was frankly miserable. So I’ve pretty much written it off as an option for my kids.

I know people who “believe in public school” as a public good, and feel that one should send one’s children to public schools as a way of supporting or enhancing the schools. I haven’t studied this from a theory perspective, and I don’t understand the argument. Why should I send my kids to public school?

I probably won’t, but I’m interested in the arguments for it, because I really don’t know them.


“Mama, I am smarter than you”

“Oh yeah? What makes you think that.”

“I am an artist.”

“Oh. Well, I am an artist too.”


carefully wipes babies face, and tenderly gives her the Thing she has been fussing for while I try to figure out what it is, with no luck.

“I am smarter. I am an artist.”

(this is the e-mail I just sent to my mother. I think I may, after five years, have found a way to talk to her about kids and gifts that will not cause a big fight between us and will not result in my sneakily throwing out a metric ton of broken made-in-china crap three weeks after Christmas. I hope. I pray.)

Hey Mom, 

If you happen to talk to Santa, please let him know that Rio is wearing a size 5-6 (err on the side of the 6 if he has to choose), and that Serena is wearing either 2T or 3T clothes. They are skinny chicks, but they have loooong limbs. They share a dislike of jeans or any stiff fabric, and a love of butterflies. 

Some things the girls are really into these days are: 
– trips to the library
– having lunch with someone special
– being invited to sleepovers
– the Boston Children’s Museum
– arts and crafts (especially watercolor painting)
– being outdoors in the cold and losing their mittens! 
– reading (especially books with pictures of animals, family photo albums, and fairy tales)
– playing music

Santa might want to know that we no longer have a working television (nor do we want one!). So if the girls find any DVDs under the tree, they will have to keep them at Nana’s. Our house may collapse under the weight of toys we already own, so please ask him to go easy on us with those (especially the beeping blinking ones). Simple baby dolls and doll clothes, on the other hand, seem to be in hot demand, as are sturdy dollhouse things.

The Mommy Elf

“When you’re awake, do you think it really means that you’re asleep and dreaming that you are awake and doing stuff?”

“I do not know. No one does.”

“I’m going to ask Daddy. He knows!”

Normally I don’t fret much about what the public schools are doing. It’s Not My Problem; I’m keeping my kids out of the public education system because our family values are a little (ok a lot) too far left of center for them to be well-served by a public school of any stripe, and because I believe its the best thing for them as individuals. I have a lot of resources and this is how I choose to spend them.

But this week TWO friends have been essentially forced by their children’s public school systems to pull their kids out and homeschool. These are bright, creative, good children with idiosyncratic learning styles or developmental arcs. In both cases, the schools were insisting that these kids be diagnosed with and medicated for serious psychiatric disorders and/or learning disabilities. In both cases, the school’s assembled teams to meet these children’s needs. They invited the parents’ in for meetings. They made plans to help these children succeed in a mainstream classroom. And then in both cases the schools failed, spectacularly. They did not follow through on their commitments, they criticized the parents and children, they broke laws and rules to cover their own asses and communicated horribly.

And finally said, “Look, we can’t educate your child.”

I’m not a detractor of mental health treatment in general, I just think its easy for it to slip its bounds, especially with children, as today’s NYT makes abundantly clear.

From where I’m sitting this looks like what the pundits are talking about when they say our school systems are failing. These kids were both lucky enough to have parents who are home during the day and can homeschool them. But they are going to have to do it on their own dimes and at the expense of their own careers.

What I’m really building up to here is that while I get the argument that school voucher systems are bad because they further impoverish the education system for those students left behind in public schools, I wish there was some way the state could help carry the resource burden for kids who are not being served by the public schools.

I’m starting to understand why kids are so into potty humor. It’s because kids and potty are incredibly funny.

1. I walk into Rio’s bedroom in the morning and notice that it smells like pee. She’s got a friend staying over, but it doesn’t occur to me that she would be self-concious about this, because she never has been before.

“Did you pee in bed?”

Rio glances sharply at her friend and then back at me. “No!” she says.

“Oh? Why does the room smell like pee?”

“It was the cats!”

This is entirely plausible. The cats do pee out of their boxes, and her room is messy enough to be a prime target. I believed her totally.

“Oh! Where did they pee?”

“On my bed! And in my underpants.”

2. Just now, she walked into the bathroom, looked into the toilet and said “Watch out everybody, there’s going to be a water storm now!” before sitting down to pee.

Rio climbs on my lap, and I can’t help but notice she does not smell as sweet as, well, anything sweet. Being her mom, I gently inquire about her personal hygeine.

“You smell kind of stinky. Do you need a bath?”

“NO. It’s the dirt on my feet. See, my sister walks around the house, and sometimes she farts, and then she leaves the flames of her farts on the floor. And then I step in them, and their stinkiness gets on my feet. And then it moves up my feet, all over my whole body. Except for my eyes. My eyes do not get stinky.”

“I see.”

“Or….” long pause “maybe my butt is stinking.”

While the QOTD on Tuesday was definitely, “Barack Obama WINS!”, I also do not want to forget this gem:

“Mommy, what is voting?”

{insert long description of the physical process of filling out a registration card, getting assigned a polling place, walking over there, standing inline, going into a little ballot box, and filling out a ballot card, which is then put in the little machine}

“Oh. Because I thought voting was when everyone puts on their ice skates and we all skate around on a frozen pond in a circle and talk about who we would like to vote for, and then we skate some more. I thought that was it.”

I’m applying for a home child-care license so I can run my Waldorf home preschool legally.

There are TWO state laws applying to tweezers in the child care regulations.

1. You must have tweezers in your first aid kit.

2. You may not use tweezers on a child, as doing so is considered minor surgery.

Flickr Photos

A little bird told me…

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