My wife and I have raised 4 children in north Jefferson County Colorado, we also currently have two in the school system, one in high school, one in grade school.
All of our grown children have gone on to college but one (and she’s doing great too) but this is in spite of the Jeffco public school system, not because of it. We’ve fought for every educational gain made with our children, and many times we fought the system, and occasionally we fled.
There are a lot of stories I could tell but for sake of space I’ll tell you about our first incident, and skip to our most recent issue (18 years later).
Our son was a 5/6 year old bright eyed first grader. He was a typical boy who didn’t want to be tied to a chair (I could get into a whole other subject about boys here) but wanted to play outside. He’d rather find the easy way to do anything hard, just like most boys.
He found a home at our local Jeffco Elementary school. He didn’t mind going, because it was easier and more fun than when his mean parents tried to teach him stuff…like read. It took us half a school year to realize what was happening (an eternity for a 1st grader) but it was too late, the habits he developed in his first grade year haunted us all for the next decade.
We realized he was not improving one bit in his reading and could not even sound out ONE SINGLE WORD. He could not read a lick and we thought perhaps he had a problem, a learning disability.
He didn’t seem to be upset about not being able to read at all, and he didn’t understand why his parents made him do such hard stuff. So we set an appointment with the teacher.
This was our first “light bulb” experience with Jeffco. We learned an important lesson that day. Apparently the school system and its curriculum were more interested in putting forward new experimental theories than actually teaching what had worked in years past. They just wanted to make sure the children were not bored…and learning the sounds of letters apparently was deemed boring, or so the latest education textbooks were saying. I was dumbfounded.
The shock we had that day is why three of our other children attended private, or home or a charter school at least for their primary education. You may want me to blame the teacher (I don’t) or the child (nope) or just call it abnormal but we learned it was typical. Frighteningly we learned that this was a system of a bureaucracy run by people with religious devotion to the "system". These liberals typically become teachers and administrators so they can change the world (more on that later). Their passion is very rarely for the basics (the boring stuff.)
As we expressed to the teacher our worry that he wasn’t learning to read she seemed quite confused. “Oh yes he can Mr. and Mrs. Bob, he’s read ten books in front of the whole class”. Hmmm….now I was confused.
OK, I said, lets check. I pulled a book off the shelf, brought the child in, pointed to the word “AND” and asked him to tell me what the word was. He could not. Her eyes got big, and then she smiled and said “that’s wonderful! He’s memorized ten books!” I am not kidding! Then she said something else I’ll never forget….”there are many ways to learn to read Mr Bob”.
We were poor at the time and could not move, and there were NO charter schools, home schooling was not an option because we both had to work. We were stuck, and after three years in that school, even with us supplimenting him at home, he had learned that he didn’t need to work hard, to exercise the brain to learn. He learned that he could cheat to get by, the easy way is tolerated by everyone except his parents.
The other important lesson we had cemented into our hearts from this experience was; what you learn in Kindergarten and First Grade is the foundation for the next decade.
We got him into a better school FINALLY by middle school but it was way too late. He struggled terribly and never graduated high school. He finally woke up to the value of education at age 24, but what a waste, what a completely avoidable waste.
Modern Day; The kids that came after him all attended Charter Schools, private school or were home schooled and had a great foundation laid. They’ve all done well in school, and in spite of intermittent dealings with a system that is “preparing global citizens” rather than teaching them, our other children survived well because of the initial foundation we fought for in alternate forms of schools.
Jefferson County and other school districts fight and scream about every nickel that goes to charter schools, they HATE them because they make their regular union schools look mediocre…or worse. It is my belief they mostly hate them because they can’t control them and because they do a far better job with a lot less...proving the point that money is not what they need more of.
Only after decades of hard work and fighting by dedicated parents are there even charter schools. The students who have to wait for the schools because of those fights pay the price.
Just last year our 10 year old transferred from his (parent run, non union) Charter School to a standard Union run Jeffco Public School again…well OK it is not completely standard.
It is an open “Athletic” school made for children who are deep into competetive Athletics. My son is a gymnast and spends many hours almost every day in the gym. The school has shorter hours but more homework. Once again we are dealing a frustratingly mushy curriculum…that we have to add to ourselves.
But worse than that, the school our son belongs to is attached to a standard elementary school and the Principal of that school refuses to spend a nickel at our building. There are no shelves on the walls, there are no computers other than what have been donated by parents and teachers and the teachers buy their own supplies a lot of the time.
How can I not be hostile towards a system of “education” that puts children last and the needs/wants of the “system” first.