Saturday, February 20, 2010

Prickly Poppy

I haven't blogged in quite a while. I haven't posted much on Facebook.
A friend asked me yesterday if I was okay.
Thank you, JuJu for checking in. :)

Yes, I'm okay. I feel very much like this Prickly Poppy. On the surface, this flower is doing just fine. Getting her work done. Taking care of the business of each day. Just below the surface, there are spines. Spines that are painful, but not life altering.
My spines of late, seem to be centered around raising my kids.

Not spines like those of my Agave plant. Extremely painful and long lasting.
As another friend told me when I was expressing concern about my kids and decisions Lee and I have made, she said, "At least they aren't robbing banks."
She has three kids. One grown and doing great, the other two in college.
I remind myself of that when I want to strangle myself or my kids.

I'm just going through a place where I'm questioning decisions Lee and I have made with our kids.

Why didn't we set up rules regarding homework?
I guess because the kids have always been self policing. They've done it without being asked.
The challenge is, now homework is not required in many classes. It is assigned, but no one holds them to it. The problem with that----it doesn't get done and so vital learning is missed.
Scores on quizzes and tests show that.

Along that same vein. Can you really be getting the most out of homework if you are receiving texts, phone calls and listening to music? Their grades reflected, that you can indeed, do all those things AND get the work done.

Why didn't we help our kids learn to study for quizzes and tests?

I think it's because they've always scored well without us. We assumed they knew the information. Here's the rub. Teachers all throughout elementary, middle and some high school have handed out study guides. The test has been just a rewrite of the information on the study guide. What that has taught the kids, is that there's no reason to take notes or pay any attention in class, because the study guide will bring them up to speed.
I am the last person on earth to blame teachers. Don't read that into this. Goodness knows they are doing a job that I couldn't.
What we are finding, is that the upper, more difficult classes are doing three things.

1. Not requiring homework.
2. Not giving out a study guide.
3. Expecting students to take notes and be tested over those notes.

Novel idea.

We, as parents, fell down in this area. We assumed all those years of fabulous grades, that they were being taught more than just studying of the study guide. I never, in all my years of school, got a study guide. I think we assumed that note taking was being required and tests were being taken around those notes AND the study guide.

Here's the funnest new thing that's been implemented in Texas.
If you make a failing grade on anything, you get to have a do-over for a maximum grade of 70.
That's right, you can bomb a test, take it over and get a passing grade if you can..

Also, the due date on anything isn't really a due date. It's three days later. I kid you not.
If I were a teacher, I'd run screaming from the profession. As if they don't have enough to do, they get to regrade all the do-overs.

How many of us get fluid due dates and do-overs in college and in real life?
So what does this all mean?
It means that because Lee and I assumed certain things about our kids and our schools, that Tom may not get into his first choice for college. It means we didn't push hard enough. We took our kids and our schools word for it, that they were doing fine.
In looking back over this post, it really looks as though I'm blaming the schools.
I am not.
I am blaming myself for not paying close enough attention to reality of the situation.
The grades rolled in and I had faith they were a true compass of how things really are.
I blame myself for wanting to be the 'nice' parent and believing that music and texting and phone calls were a part of homework for kids today.
I blame myself for letting the "but that's not due until next Monday" be a legitimate reason not to take a look at it now.
I blame myself for letting study for a test only take place on the night before.
I blame myself for not sticking hard to a bedtime or a homework starting time.

Will Tom have a clue how to navigate what is required of him in college? I keep wishing there had been a Note Taking course and a How to Study Your Notes course in 6th grade.
There isn't space or time for those classes.
Unfortunately, it's too late for us to have a real impact on Tom. He leaves for college next Fall.
I don't think he'd listen even if we offered a study class of our own here at home.
It's not too late for Pearl and James.

Lee and I consider ourselves 'good parents'. We keep up with how the kids are doing. We know who their friends are. We held our heads high because we could see by their grade cards that they are doing fine.
Or not.


  1. My husband and I were just talking the other day about the differences between school today and when we were enrolled. And I, like you, remember having to take notes. ALL the time. It was just what we did. We didnt have study guides. Notebooks and notebooks full of notes...our own perceptions of what we felt was important enough to write down!
    Even tho things are different today, Im sure your kids are on the right track to get them to where they would like to be.

  2. CeeCee,

    While there isn't much for me to relate to in this post (no two-legged kids), I'm glad to see that you're okay! I also noted that you hadn't posted anything in a while. The one thing I'll say is the simple fact that you care so much makes you and Lee incredible parents.

  3. We're still going through tons and tons of notebooks and I wonder, 'how much can they write?' I won't wonder any more, I'll be grateful. Is there anything you can do to change the school's lax policy for Pearl and James? I'm sorry Cee. We should be able to assume that teaching is up to par. =(

  4. In fairness to the school (sort of), they do offer a Study Skills class as an elective in 6th grade. At the 'pick your classes' meeting they hold for parents, they make it crystal clear that this class is really for those kids who are suffering (grade wise). All the kids making A's and B's in elementary school should take something more fun.

    I've decided that if kids don't have a big callous or hump on their middle finger by the end of 7th grade, then they aren't doing something right at school.

    The thing is, the kids aren't doing so hot in those upper classes, because they don't know how to take notes and study them. In the basic classes, the teacher are required to one thing and one thing only---"teach to the test". Standardized testing rules the roost here in Texas. The higher your school scores, the more money they get, the better it looks on everyone's resume'. Why teachers would get into their chosen profession is beyond me. The red tape is suffocating.

  5. Being a parent is kind of like trial by fire, really and I'm just now learning that myself.. being a parent is TOUGH work! More work than I could've EVER imagined, EVER... I commend you and Lee for raising 3 of the most amazing kids. They are smart and funny and they are overall good kids. They have respect for others which is something schools don't teach... they also don't teach about money, which is seriously IMPORTANT! SERIOUSLY! Teach them that and they will be heads above the rest... who cares if they don't get their first choice college pick, at least they are choosing to go to college and get an education. That's a big deal, promise :) Lots of love to all of you!

  6. You sound like wonderful parents, CeeCee. Who's to say that he would have gotten into his first choice for college anyway. There's more to college selection that just grades.
    Times are changing, and that is a good thing. Schools are learning that they are not traching kids to go into factory jobs and work for one company there entire lives. Being flexible, innovative, creative, and risk-taking are all important traits to have out in the real world.

    Oh, and yes there are many opportunities for do-overs in the real world.
    My husband took a test to be a Census Worker this month and only scored an 85, which wasn;t high enough to pass for the job. So they offered him the opportunity to go back and study and then retake the test. He retook the test on Wednesday and he got a 96. So, he now has the job.
    Pretty good example that in life there are do-overs and opportunities to improve oneself and get a second chance.

    Don't be so hard on yourself. Yours kids WILL be successful. Have faith!


  7. Having been raised by the same "wolves" that you were raised by I say, "Don't be So Hard on yourself and Lee CeeCee. I've been watching you parent these kids for 18 + years now and I say "You're doing a Bang Up job of turning out good humans!" I cannot even imagine how HARD it must be to be a parent but I have observed that it is the MOST important, challenging job a person could undertake. Your kids are GOOD PEOPLE, tests and all else aside they are compassionate, caring, SMART, kids. They ways of the world are tough, but you'll always be there to help them to make good decisions, something we missed out on altogether. You Go Girl, you and Lee are SUPERHERO parents in my book!!! oxo, jean