I Had to Pull My Son Out of Kindergarten…and I’m Thunderstruck

Out of respect for the institution that my other children have attended over the past 3-4 years, I will not mention its name or put it on blast…but Gawd A’mighty knows I want to!

 

When we took Stone to kindergarten I was ecstatic. Finally, my son was entering the world of elementary education. He could ride the bus. He could wear the same uniform that his older siblings had donned for years and he had so admired. He was ready, and so were we. I was especially ready not to have to deal with the dash of picking Stone up from Pre-K by 2:45 pm and then sitting in carpool until 3:30 pm with a weary toddler in the back seat. Yes, sir! With Stone in KG, it was all a downhill coast from the day he hopped onto the school bus and waved goodbye.

The kids get quarterly report cards, and while I was very critical about the girls’ scores (they are in 3rd and 4th grade), I looked at Stone’s report card with a certain nonchalance. Kindergarteners in our charter are graded on the SNU scale:

S= satisfactory

N = needs improvement

U = Unknown, Underperforming, (U)dunno

None of my kids have ever gotten a ‘U’ in KG. I mean, it’s kindergarten. You play, you count, you learn your vowels and how to sound words out and sing songs, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Kindergarten for the 21st Century child has turned into some reinterpretation of the plantation experience. I imagine the trepidation that the very first slaves experienced when they finally stretched their limbs after that 3-6 month cruise and were confronted with the sight of a vast forest. The overseer hands them a toothpick and says “Use this to go fell and clear this land. Oh, and when you’re done, plant me some cotton.”

This, my friends, is what kindergarten has become; a bastardization of reality. I don’t know who the dunces are who created these expectations are, but I imagine it’s the same sort of vapid bunch who thought it was a good idea to take music and recess out of public schools. If I sound more incensed than normal, it’s because I am. Perhaps you might empathize with me if I let you into the details of our daily routine. This is what sending my 5 year old kindergartener to school looks like.

  • First, he gets up at 6:10 am (and that’s sleeping in) so that he can groggily submit to my husband dressing him as his sisters help pack his lunch.
  • Second, he wolfs down a waffle and takes a sip of his almond milk so that he can get on the bus by 7:00 am.
  • Next, he sits in assembly before transitioning on to class where he is expected to sit quietly and still until designated bathroom times or snack time. He is expected to sit still and quiet until 3:00pm when he gets out of school.
  • I meet him at the bus stop between 3:45 -3:50pm and at 4:05pm we walk into door. I offer him a snack and let him play until his father gets home around 5:30pm to help him with homework and to study for that week’s sight word test. Marshall wanted to take personal responsibility for his literary acumen and I was happy to let him manage that project. Besides, education is such a female dominated industry (and it is an industry) that it would do the boy good to get some male instruction.
  • From 5:30 until 7:30, the pair of them are working on homework. Part of this is because Stone has to complete assignments he didn’t do in class, and the other reason is because he has – and this is no joke – sixteen pages of homework a week he has to turn in. Oh, and the reading log. He’s expected to find 20 minutes to “enjoy a good book” while he’s at it.

He has repeated this absurd schedule every day since September of last year. At 5, he is already burnt out. He’s antsy and irritable and he dislikes going to school. Stone is my only son, but I have noticed a marked difference in boy energy as it relates to girl energy. Boys, for the most part, need to burn that ish off. They need some sort of outlet for all the guffawing and rough housing that is innate within them. I wouldn’t expect a 5 year old boy to sit quietly for 9 hours any more than I would expect the Man in the Moon to come down and offer me a slice of cheese.

Ahhh…but this is what his teacher wants; and if she doesn’t get it, we hear about it. Day, after day, after bleeding day.

“Stone was talking during transitions.”

“Stone was looking at his friends work instead of doing his own.”

“Stone really needs to get control of his emotions.”

Stone, Stone, Stone! Every day Stone!

The narrative my husband and I were receiving is that our son was/is an unruly illiterate who was incapable of learning. His only task as far as the teacher was concerned was to be silent if he could not refrain from disruption.

I tiya sef. I bore. But that’s not the worst of the matter. What is worse is that my son may not graduate from kindergarten.

Yes! You heard that right. You have to graduate from kindergarten now. You must pass a final, state approved EXAM. If you don’t pass, you will repeat. Who repeats kindergarten?!?! This is how we are making American kids “competitive”? By draining their life force and robbing them of any potential memory of carefree KG days? Kai! I reject it! This coupled with his teacher’s inability to grade his tests or assess him effectively finally broke the camel’s back. She would subtract 15 points from a test and give him a 65%. Multiply that by the number of exams/tests he’s taken, and now we understand why he is a ‘D’ student. Warrenthus? This is nonsense, I say! All this from a woman who demands perfect sentence structure and will deduct marks if she doesn’t get it, but has the audacity to send parents emails thanking them for their “patients”. Do I look like I completed medical school? Patients from the where? Tseewww.

That’s why I pulled Stone out of Kindergarten this week. Thursday was his last day at his charter school. He was tired, my husband was exhausted/exasperated and irritable and I was tired of everyone looking at my face as if I had some sort of solution. My only solution is to go into First Born Mode and fix it myself. I WILL TEACH my child. I graduated bleeding Summa Cum Laude. I can tell someone how to count to 100. It’s not a big deal.

I was dumbstruck when I realized what Stone’s primary goal (and I know my thoughts are disjointed. I apologize) in going to school was…or what he thinks his goal is. I kept him home today and conducted a sight word test. I asked him if he was ready to learn, and he answered with an enthusiastic “Yes, Mommy!” I handed him a pencil and a notebook and told him we were going to spell his words.

“But what about my clip, Mommy?”

“Eh? What clip? We don’t need a clip to spell.”

He shook his head emphatically and said we needed a clip to “show if he has been good or bad.” He needed a clip in case he needed to be on ‘parent contact’ before the day could start.

Aba.

But suddenly, all those afternoons when he hopped off the bus and announced where he was on his behavior chart made sense. Not once has Stone told me what he learned in class for the day. His first announcement is and has always been about his demeanor and what his teacher thought of it.

“Stone. I’m your parent,” I said simply. “If there is a problem, I will address it. It’s just me and you buddy.”

He looked at me skeptically and we sat down to work. However, he was SO obsessed with this bleeding clip that we went to Wal-Mart, picked out some poster paper and some clothes pins and created a makeshift “behavior chart”. I told him our chart was different. I am not monitoring his behavior, but his effort, rather. He helped me do some laundry and in one hour of instruction, I corrected the legibility issues his teacher had been bitching about all year.

All this suffering… for what?

So this is where we are. I have to go through some formal process to take him out of the school and I’m waiting to hear back on what that is. We will spend 3-4 hours every day focused on doing work, and no more than that. We will go on field studies to local establishments. He will be a successful student, and that’s the sum of it.

This morning, Stone climbed into our bed asked me why I was homeschooling him.

“Are you happy at school?” I asked.

He quietly shook his head ‘no’.

“Then that’s why, son. It’s that simple.”

There is enough time in life for sorrow and grief. Kindergarten is supposed to be the one time every student looks back on with fondness. We should all be pining for paper mâche dragons, and songs sung with our KG teacher and graham crackers gone soggy in milk. Kindergarten is not supposed to be child bondage.

 

NB: I have disabled comments on this post because there are really weird people out there who say cruel things about folks who decide to homeschool their kids, and I don’t feel like cussing no one out this week. My friends know where and how to reach me.

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