School Daze

It’s time.


Time for early morning alarms, tears over which dull uniform to wear and negotiations over whether breakfast will or won’t be choked down ruefully that day. Time for homework wars and no screens policies and dreaded calls from exhausted teachers over a boy who simply was not created to sit still, be quiet and fill out worksheets for 7 hours.


Yep. School is back in full force, and this mama is already ready to throw in the towel.


Here in Georgia, we start school early. We’ve crept up into the first week of August and if we ever make it to July I’m calling a special Joint Committee PTA meeting to protest. As soon as the last July 4 firework fizzles out it seems like the Back to School displays go up in stores, taunting children with visions of bedtimes two hours before the sun goes down.


I know, I know. There are lots of memes and videos and blogs with women rejoicing that school is back in. I know what that’s about for the working moms. You can finally work without having to pay those painful summer camp fees. After all, if you’re not paying at least $150 per week for your child to participate in The Most Amazing Daily Field Trips Ever, you’re practically in the slums. Plus, your commute will go back to normal because you don’t have to make the extra 30 minute loop to pick up multiple children from different camp locations. I get it. We all like our normal routines.


I’m not that mom.


I work from home. On purpose. I want to help him with his homework. I want to shuttle him to baseball practice without an apologetic look to my boss as I sneak out at 4:00 to get him to 5:30 practices. I want to greet him at the bus stop each afternoon. I want to drop everything and drive to the school at a moment’s notice when I get that inevitable call from the teacher.


Oh, but I dread it. My son is in third grade, so I’ve had 3 full years before this to realize that school is nothing like what it was 30 years ago. We’ve apparently gone completely off the deep end when it comes to education, and you wouldn’t know it unless you have school age children.


An example? The day he started kindergarten, I was informed that kindergarteners would be performing standardized tests in our district for the first time ever. The reason? Funding. My son had outstanding scores on these tests. I got a little excited but then his teacher informed me that the students who were familiar with computers performed better because most 4 and 5 year olds didn’t know how to use computers independently. Independent, you ask? Of course. These babies, barely potty trained, had to be carted off to a room without their teacher to take computer tests alone. What exactly is the point of treating our children this way? I have yet to see any good that has come out of testing kindergarteners.


I’ll give you another example. In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, my son is learning Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Huh? Well. Sounds good, I guess. Until you really think about it. Yes, let’s teach our grade schoolers about being proactive and beginning with the end in mind. It couldn’t hurt. Except some of these values written by popular authors sound good on the surface but don’t reflect the values in our home. “Think Win-Win” sounds wonderful in a school or work situation, or even politics, where both parties need to walk away with something. But when I am disciplining my son, there’s no win-win. Mama wins. At least it feels that way temporarily. I’m thinking of his life 20 years down the road, and there’s no possible way he can see what I see. I wish the schools would leave the ethics and values learning to the parents.


I know I sound critical. I don’t mean to. My son has been blessed with some of the best teachers in the business. The cream of the crop. Tenured and fresh out of university. They are patient and loving and truly care about his growth.


It doesn’t make much difference though. Because the pressure from the curricula and the testing and the administration have made life as a teacher a living nightmare.


Recently in the news there’s a local teacher who’s in hot water because of her outfits. The first time I saw her pop up online, I didn’t think much of it. “Wow, she’s pretty. Work it girl.” And I scrolled on. But now this paraprofessional has been condemned by the school board to remove her classroom photos from Instagram and make her account private. I guess being born with a nice body and choosing nice clothing interferes with your ability to assist teachers in learning. OK.


We can’t get through school without prayer. The kind of prayer where you hope the prayer can be a bubble (or as the evangelicals like to say, “a hedge of protection”) that keeps your little one safe.


The hubs and I have considered other possibilities. Homeschooling. Private school. Tutoring. I changed my career to be more present for my boys. God blessed us and we moved to a different neighborhood to give our children more options, but it’s easy to see that it’s not enough. Something has got to give, and we are relying on our faith to carry our children through.


I didn’t get any texts from the teacher today, so maybe we’ll have cookies. Bribes are my new love language.


P.S. An hour after I wrote this, I got the dreaded text. Back to the cookie jar they go. #sigh


First day of school for my oldest son

First day of school for my oldest son