Why I Don’t Want to Send Her (Back) To School

** I originally removed this post after extreme backlash from the school. I am returning the post to my blog because it’s my opinion and I have the right to express it and I will not be bullied by veiled threats.

** 9/2011 update on Advocacy and Parental Involvement in Schools

I’m dreading sending my girls back to school.

In JJ’s class, the art activities are something like this: A pre-cut scarecrow with pre-cut material and googly eyes at a “center” with a teacher’s helper to tell the kids exactly where to glue the material and eyes. All the scarecrows look exactly the same.

This is only one of the daily centers where in my opinion, there is one differentiated activity which is the guided reading group that meets with the teacher. (Differentiated meaning adjusted to what the child know and needs to know.) The rest of the centers are 1) cut and paste 2) listening to a book on tape 3) “art” activity where each child is asked to follow the teacher’s directions, not think for themselves and 4) a worksheet. This happens everyday. Since the start of school.

When I volunteer during the morning centers, I love getting to know the little cuties but I’m shocked at the dullness of this reading rotation.

My daughter doesn’t like school except for recess, could she be as bored as me?  She already knows her letters, and already could cut with scissors and use glue long before kindergarten. She’s ready to learn something new. She needs a classroom that differentiates for her needs AND that doesn’t make her do their way of art. (Aren’t we beyond this kind of instruction? – I remember this as an example of what not to do in education classes.)

I’m a teacher. I get how challenging a classroom full of kids at different levels can be . . . but it is possible.

I want JJ to love learning and thinking. I want her to be challenged to imagine and use her imagination in school.

But, except for the socialization, she might as well be home with me all day.

And, frankly I’m considering my options.

Unfortunately, I do this every year and we’ve already moved neighborhoods and schools once. Do we move again in hopes of the holy grail of good education? or is it an impossible dream?

My other daughter (AJ)went from above grade level (4s) in Kindergarten with an amazing, gifted and experienced teacher only to drop below proficient by the end of first grade (2s) because she didn’t have a strong teacher. AJ is still catching up two years later.

This month, let’s talk about education. Let’s talk about educational change (perhaps you’ve read Ralph Fletcher’s Walking Trees?) and what we want for our children’s education. What makes a good teacher anyway? What about a good curriculum and standards? What makes a good learning environment for a classroom – let’s get specific!

If you think you’d like me to consider a guest post from you, email me at Melissa@imaginationsoup.net and I’ll send you my criteria for a guest post. Otherwise, please comment as much as you can to share your opinions!

My next post, we’ll look at teachers – good ones. How do you know if the teacher is good? Be ready to weigh in!

What do you think about my situation? What would you do if you were me? Has this happened to you?


Is My Child’s Teacher a Good Teacher?

What Is a Constructivist Classroom?


  1. says

    In one word – Terrifying. My oldest child is only three and a half. That means we’re debating whether or not to send her to JK in the Fall. (I am so leery about full day JK!) Your description of your daughter’s Kindergarten class covers pretty much everything that I fear from the school system. At least you volunteer there so you KNOW what’s going on. Otherwise how would you even know? You might know that your child is dissatisfied, but not why. Disheartening and not comforting at all. I hope someone else can weigh in with some good words.

  2. says

    We live just one block from an elementary school. If we were to send our son there in the fall, he would be in a classroom with 32 kinders and 1 teacher!! If we are lucky, 2 of those other kids would already speak English. I can only imagine that my 5 year old son, who is already a great reader and loves to learn, would be sitting in the corner doing worksheets all day. It pains me to not support our neighborhood school, but I can’t chance killing my sons natural love of learning…so frustrating!!!

    • says

      Kinder should never be so big – no matter how good the teacher is, that’s too many kids. AJ had 30 in her Denver Public Schools class. We moved districts and then they made cuts and now she’s in a third grade class with 30. Her teacher is fantastic but she knows she can’t do what she wants to do for each child with that many kids. When are policy makers going to get realistic about what it takes to educate children?

  3. says

    Hang in their Melissa, there are teachers who knows what real learning looks like (in Colorado even!). Unfortunately, they aren’t all packaged into one school yet. I am working with a team in Colorado to create a new school model that breaks free of what it means to be a “school” and puts the focus back on the individual, unique learner. A truly customized learning experience for every child…not just for portions of the school day, but all the time. We are just in the early stages of this school project but should be available for your kinder before he is out of elementary. I post updates on http://ilearntechnology.com and http://dreamsofeducation.wordpress.com you can search Twitacad to find out more.

    • says

      thanks, I can’t wait to read what you’re working on! I couldn’t even sleep last night for fretting about this whole situation and the letter I drafted to JJ’s teacher.

  4. says

    This is the exact reason why I keep wavering with homeschooling.

    I’m the kind of mom that sometimes has a hard time with staying home with my kids all day. Not that I don’t love them, but it’s just hard coming from a situation where I used to work nearly 60 hours a week (and enjoyed it).

    But seriously, I remember being young and even 25 years ago I had these same struggles. My worry is that instead of having gotten better it’s getting worse, with bigger classes and lower wages. I rarely felt challenged in school, and even had a teacher ridicule me in front of a former class because I made the decision to advance to a higher grade and struggled in the beginning. I worry about these things for my own children.

    I’m really looking forward to what you have planned this month! Thank you so much for bringing this topic up!

    • says

      Me, too – I love working which stimulates me intellectually and makes me happy! Is there a way to do both and keep sane? I’m researching and pondering. We’ll have a lot to talk about I think.

  5. says

    I felt the same way when my kids were in public school. I know the teachers were well-meaning and I know how hard they work, but my kids were not thriving or being challenged. I never wanted to take them out of public school, but (long story) I ended up moving them into Mackintosh Academy in Littleton and have been so, so happy with not only what, but HOW, they have learned. Creativity, caring and differentiation are at the core of the school, and my kids have loved it. I don’t know if private school is an option for you, but if so I would highly recommend this particular school.

  6. says

    It IS difficult to provide for the needs of every child – even determining those needs is difficult. But like you, I believe it’s possible to differentiate the curriculum. I also know I’d rather my kids were taught by someone who loves to learn, to create, to share their own love of reading, writing etc with kids.

    The trick is to make that work, isn’t it? You can’t keep putting your kids into schools then swapping around again. Would homeschooling work in your situation? Would there be a private school as Kristi suggested? Someplace you can research and sit in on some classes before you commit? Can you ask around amongst other parents where you live, or find a homeschool group in your area and see if that would answer some questions you no doubt have about children’s social needs?

    • says

      I wonder about homeschooling but I’m not sure I”m up for it. I love working – which is writing and blogging. Plus, my oldest isn’t exactly cooperative. Another thing I worry about is the extreme homeschooling groups – I’m not interested that.

      Private schools are not only expensive, they’re aren’t perfect either as some have mentioned.

      And, switching around wouldn’t be great, either.

      Hmmm . . . not an easy thing is it?

  7. suzanne says

    As a first grade teacher I want to shout out to all of you wonderful ladies that it is not like this everywhere!! I teach in Maryland and at my school we differentiate for ALL learners! My centers are interesting and educational…not cut and paste!! I am saddened when I hear people think that all children are expected to be cookie cutter children.
    I have 3 children in elementary school and I know I do not always agree with what their teachers do, but I am also their teacher and it is my job to expand their world, too! I am glad that my their teachers don’t always do things the way I would do them and I am grateful that my children are learning to be flexible and adaptable to new people and situations!!
    I also do not agree that private schools are always better places. I want my children to learn that the world is full of all kinds of people and sometimes we have to be patient and understanding and tolerant of differences (so sometimes they might be bored at school.) They might also have to be around children who do not speak the same language as them (what a wonderful gift to know someone who can speak another language!!)
    I also want to point out that my salary has nothing to do with my worth…I may not make as much as someone who has the same degrees that I do, but I could not be happier being a teacher!! I also love being a mother. My children learn from me and also from their teachers. I would not want them to only have me as their teacher…I am blessed because I have the option to send them to public school (and they do not go to the BEST school in our district-according to test scores or demographics!)

  8. says

    I don’t think private schools are always better — in fact there isn’t another private elementary school in my area that would be a good fit for us — but it is worth pointing out that many private school populations can be more diverse than you would expect, and the kids still do learn about tolerance and patience and sometimes being bored in school :)

  9. says

    I’m so sorry! We are blessed to have our daughter in a progressive public school that values experiential learning, development of critical and creative thinking skills, and concern for community — but I know it’s rare, and getting even more so. It’s good that you’re considering all options — and whatever you decide, you have such wonderful reserves of knowledge and experience that you will make any choice great.

    (P.S. — I love Ralph Fletcher! I like Lucy Calkins’ Raising Lifelong Learners too, especially if you’re going to ‘supplement’ school. Looking forward to this month’s series!)

  10. says

    I feel the same way as you. I know I’m not capable to homeschool. My three goofy kids would put me over the edge if I taught them all day. I help them with reading and teach math concepts in a concrete way at home. My husband is developing their music and I help with art. We help them be creative at home. I’d be all for a half day of school, but that’s not possible. We’ve had some good teachers with strengths and weaknesses. Classes are overcrowded. That is one thing I’d like to change in our country.

    I feel bad when I know my children are doing too many worksheets, boring art projects, and dealing with other student behavior problems. I volunteer once a week in my twins’ second grade class and am the room mom for my fourth grade son’s class. I see the challenges in our public school system. So far my children are doing okay. I send them to school with a little guilt everyday too.

    I like the social interaction. My children are grouped by reading level.

    I do see a little benefit in children completing assignments even if an assignment or project is boring or too easy. As adults we do boring tasks and need to complete them.

    Our education system does need some changes! I’m sorry about your daughter’s experience in first grade. It is frustrating!

  11. says

    I have loved all these comments!! Melissa, I’m really looking forward to this month. I am really, really lucky this year: so many of our local parents have moved their kids to the private schools that my son is one of 17 kinders in his class (with an incredible teacher, lucky us), while the private schools each have 22. SHHHHH!! Don’t tell a soul, please.

  12. Sarah holdeman says

    like you, Melissa, I am so disillusioned with public school! We switched schools/ districts, too! I am still waiting for any teacher to match Ms. elaine’s enthusiasm, love, and absolute knowledge of the developmental continuum of the students she taught. I think back to watching you present teaching ideas in Douglas county and I am not surprised that you are frustrated, as well. You had a ton of passion for kids and learning. My Daughters’ teachers are so tied to their curriculum they have no idea how to relate teaching concepts to actual children. My son’s kindergarten teacher should be teaching 6th grade (she is so out in left field as far as being developmentally NON appropriate.) He had to sit out of recess because he stuck his tongue out at a girl who said she wouldn’t play with him. When I asked her why that didn’t warrant a “teachable moment” for both kids she said she had to protect children from bullies! If I could choose any school for my kids I am not sure it would be public school! I am so bummed! I am considering partial day/ home school for Anna because she needs skill remediation and the school is not offering help.

    • says

      Oh, Sarah, that stinks! You moved just for the schools, too and now look at us! Neither happy, both understanding what it can be. You should talk, you’re an amazingly gifted teacher yourself! :) I can’t believe G’s teacher – he wasn’t bullying! He was just acting out his feelings – and without touching which should at least count for something. It sounds like you handled it well, too bad she didn’t hear it.

      Can we move by each other and homeschool together?

      Miss you, friend.

  13. says

    Yeah, sometimes I have this feeling to about my kids being better off staying home with me. At the moment (and my eldest son is only just starting full-time school) I’ve decided on doing my best to enrich my children’s interests and subjects they study at school with what we do at home. And I’ll just see how it goes. My decision was made easier (so far) because my eldest son does not learn well from me as we have very similar personalities.
    I’m frustrated with lack of educational choice where I live and the dependence on getting a great teacher.

    • says

      It sounds like many of us are stuck in the same leaky boat! I feel that I wouldn’t be the right teacher for my eldest daughter either – she’s not the most compliant kid on the block and it’s challenging enough just being her mom.

      Thanks for your comment!

  14. says

    The options I see are to

    a. Make the best of the current situation. You obviously do lots of enrichment at home.
    b. Pull your child out and send her to a private school that you believe in.
    c. Homeschool.
    d. Start your own school.

    My family has done c and d.

  15. says

    Hey Melissa,

    Love your blog and I feel your pain! My son was bright, curious, eager and an advanced learner in kindergarten until he got into the hands of the wrong teacher. Ugh! He was restless and board out of his mind. When I complained to the teacher that he was under challenged, could already read and do math, she complained to me that he wasn’t paying attention and disrupting the class. I complied with her request to keep him more focused on her, we formulated a system whereby if he paid attention to her he would get a sticker, but she never complied with my request to challenge him. Now in first grade I’ve got a kid who’s learned to space out while listening to the teacher; and everyone else, including me for that matter!

    We forget that our kid’s wiring is being put into place, they’re developing their neuro-connections and ways of thinking at this age. It’s so critical to have inspiring teachers who know each kid individually and can challenge them to become real thinkers! I kept him with this teacher because we’re in year round schooling and our track only had one kindergarten teacher. I didn’t want to move tracks because my daughter has special needs and I felt she was best suited with her teachers. My hope for my son was that he would survive kindergarten, get into first grade where I knew the teacher would work with him. Survive he did, but I’m sorry to say that he’s lost his love of learning. The cookie cutter teacher cranked out another factory worker. However, on a more positive note, this year we put him DI (Destination Imagination,) Cub Scouts, and sports.

    As parents there are things that we can still do to wake up the sleeping giants in our kids. Thank God our brains remain plastic and mold-able throughout our lives and kindergarten isn’t a death sentence! I hadn’t planned on the extra time from my busy work/mom schedule to have to do for my son what I have to do for my daughter, but that’s the trade off of public school. It’s public, it’s free and the teachers teach to the middle child. They have lives, families and they’re busy. Unlike private school, we can’t go stomping into the director’s office demanding they make the teacher work harder because “damn it, I’m paying a heck of a lot of money.” The money I do have goes into the extra curricular activities that make my kids better people.

    Well, there you have my two cents on this issue. For me it always boils down to the trade off I have as an involved parent with more limited resources.

  16. says

    Well, we opted for another route. My oldest (now in third grade) attended K and 1st at a private school. We really liked it, but the distance and cost became an issue, so we looked for the next best option. We are not of public school mold around here, and I just couldn’t fathom sending my daughter to school 5 days a week, 7 hours a day, where the almighty standardized testing is king. So we gathered curriculum and started homeschooling for second grade. My younger one just turned 5 in August and started kindergarten, also homeschooled. As a summer boy, I would be apparently doing him a disservice by sending him to kindergarten, per conventional wisdom, and really, he wouldn’t enjoy all those hours away, so I homeschool him too. We work 4 days a week, between 1.5 (my son) and about 3 hours (my daughter) on a given day. The rest of the time is theirs to have fun and pursue their own interests. They take taekwondo, do church classes, my daughter is a Brownie, they play sports, they ride their bikes and scooters all afternoon while the streets are nice and quiet, they play with friends, we go to lunches and movies when all is quiet. I honestly would not change it for anything.

    I read this post in the car, driving home from a 3 week long vacation in Canada (something we couldn’t do as easily in public school) and ended up writing my own from this prompt:

  17. Susan Simmons says

    I am a teacher, too. I taught 6 years out of college, then stayed home 21 years with my 3 children. I homeschooled beginning with 1st grade after my oldest went to K. She was so quiet, she got the citizenship award! All three graduated from college, one from grad school, and all are married. I went back to the public school classroom and have been there 10 years now. Almost every day I am thankful my kids had the privilege to homeschool. It was a joy to teach them, and they taught me! As far as socialization, it is the best! You pick who to invite over.You can surround your children with all ages & good influences. All three of my children are leaders. They love learning, and so do I! Could go on and on……

  18. says

    I knew that I was missing something in my reader when I accidentally hit mark all as read! This is one that I saw and it took me a while to figure out where it went! I loved this post and I am really looking forward to your thoughts this month. I have some pretty strong opinions about the state of education these days and even though my son is one of the best schools in the state, I am still not sure if this is the right place for him academically.

    BTW, I have a JJ, too! :)

  19. says

    I know how you are all feeling about sending your kids to public schools, do not fret, your children are very much ahead of other kids because you are reading, playing, and communicating with your child, as indicated by the love expressed on this blog. Just be sure they are still getting the best from you, don’t show your concerns to your child. Pay attention to what they are learning.
    Beware of the teacher that tells you they do not need to learn math because of caculators, or to learn cursive because of computors. Too much of basic education is being forgotten about because of the gadget and games.
    I raised 3 boys and have a grandson in school, the experiences I had were 50/50, it is going better for the grand. I aslo do daycare and see some good things from the schools, also some of the not so good. Just take it day to day and don’t worry too much. If homeschooling is your thing for your kids, make sure they get plenty of social activities, and do it with much LOVE

  20. Dawn says

    I have 5 children – 10-2 – am a former public school teacher and all I can say is homeschool, homeschool, homeschool! There are sooo many options out there and homeschooling doesn’t have to look anything like school. You don’t have to sit at the kitchen table or a desk and do curriculum stuff. Learning happens all the time. You have some wonderful resources and there is so much out there! You could build upon the wonderful relationship with your daughter and she would benefit from it as would you.

  21. says

    This post sends a bit of terror through me. I am a pre-service teacher and I never want to be this type of teacher. Tomorrow, I start my internship with a wonderful woman who tells me that a lot of their curriculum is scripted. And also tells me that my creativity is encouraged! I don’t want a child to go home and be like we didn’t do anything today school is boring. I want them to go home and tell their parents the new stuff they learned. I can only hope that my fear will keep me on my toes with me constantly striving to keep my students learning and happy in their learning.

    It also frustrates me to no end that my children come home and say that. I also believe in constructivist learning. When I ask my 4th grader what he learned from science experiments at school he can’t tell me. According to him they are just cool. Many many many times, I explain to him the point of his experiment. sigh.

  22. says

    Wow, Melissa! I’m a little late in commenting here, but I’m so excited about this series! As a parent of a first grader who is struggling, this is something I’ve just started to worry about myself. I’ve taught in private, charter and public schools, and in my experience the best teaching happened in the public schools, so I’m not ready to give up on them yet. (I know this isn’t true everywhere.) I have had to work a lot harder than I expected at home supplementing my child’s education though. I’ve quickly become that “squeaky wheel,” parent, asking for what I want and advocating for my child. We’re making progress, and it’s still not exactly perfect, but I do feel fortunate that so far the teachers are willing to work with me to support my child. I know sometimes, as in your case, no matter how “squeaky” you are, it just doesn’t work. I’ve been absolutely terrified of running into a situation like yours. I’m so sorry!
    Thanks for doing this important series!

  23. says

    Melissa, I had this same problem with my kids. Everytime I went to discuss the issues with my kids teachers, they were amazed that I thought there was a problem. They could not understand why their method of having every student do exactly the same thing was not a great idea. In the end, I would look every year for a new school for my child, and end up keeping her/him where s/he was. I would find other outlets to offer my child a wider window of opportunities. I signed them up for after school art classes, summers at the science museum, and with one child who tested gifted, I was able to get her into special programs for young gifted kids offered by universities like Duke or Johns Hopkins. My favorite poster hangs over my desk : ” Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone.” Keep fighting for your kids!

  24. says

    I am soo glad that you wrote this post and KEPT it on your blog. It seems right now that everywhere I turn I am getting validation that the school system is not what I want for my daughter. I think everyone should read “Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World: Seven Building Blocks for Developing Capable Young People” by Jane Nelson. It is pretty blunt when it comes to the school system and answered all my whys to why the system is where it is today. Oh it was a wonderful book. It is so sad that we are failing our little kids, but I feel it is our responsibility as parents to educate our children and not the school systems, its our job and has been since the time of Adam and Eve. The school “system” is very young and started out as an opportunity for kids to learn more than what they could at home. Unfortunetly now home teaching is better in a lot of ways, besides social, and is impossible for a lot of working parents. But it is what is it and the system isn’t what I feel is the best way to nurture and teach children what they need to become happy, creative, and successful individuals.

    As an art teacher, my very Hugest NO NO’s is telling kids how to create their artwork. Basic art lessons like the one you mentioned can be used if your goal is to teach gluing on something, but besides that it is pointless and the child should be allowed to glue the eyeballs on the feet!! It is unfortunate that the system destroys a childs creativity, especially when successful careers and inventions come from creativity.

    • says

      I remember that huge no-no from my certification program so it shocked me! I love how the school art night let the kids use glitter – they made the kids point to where the glue should go and then the adults put on the glue and shook on the glitter. Such a learning experience –

      Love the book recommendation, thanks!

  25. says

    Thanks for re-posting this. My wife is a preschool teacher and is very much in favor of process instead of product. At times, she actually feels like she has to defend her position. Seems like some (more than we’d like) parents, want the “classic” preschool crafts and want their kids to do worksheets. Seems like a lot of parents want their kids to be ready academically for kindergarten whether or not they’re socially ready. They don’t understand that play and experimentation are really important things. Again, thanks for posting!

  26. says

    I am glad you re-posted this. You describe many of the reasons that we decided to pull our daughters out of public school and begin our homeschool journey several years ago! Best of luck as you try to sort out what the answer is to your situation.

  27. says

    I am a retired special education and kindergarten teacher. I believe children should attend public school if at all possible. If it is not satisfactory, then help make it so. Yes, the classrooms are too crowded and the teachers are underpaid. Help make changes through your school, district policies, and state legislation. Volunteer whenever you can. Some things can be taken home to help a teacher, go on field trips, help in the classroom, help a child in the hall who needs special attention. My daughter was a special ed. student. She did fine in elementary school where I taught. But middle school did not work for her as much as I thought it should. So we finally homeschooled her and it was a wonderful opportunity for Sarah and her dad to bond. I made the lesson plans and he worked at home so could help her with the lessons. Do whatever is best for your child – but demand good teachers. It is very difficult for a teacher to be fired – very difficult due to union lawyers, the amount of documentation required and the many times a teacher may fail before something truly horrible happens so that she or he can be fired. I know wonderful dedicated amazing teachers who are burned out because of state standardized tests and No Child Left Behind pressures. Vote, take action and volunteer – or homeschool.


  1. […] leaders and teachers giving us excuses why they aren’t achieving excellence? So many of you shared your stories when I posted about my struggle with JJ’s educational […]

  2. […] Parent tells school concerns. School placates, gives excuses and does not change. Parent does nothing for some time. Parent tells school new concerns. School does nothing. Parent blogs about worries and wishes. […]

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