You call this an education?

What did you learn in school today?  Nothing.I retired from homeschooling the year my younger son finished high school.  Fifteen years was longer than I’d ever intended, but burn-out wasn’t the reason I stopped.

My daughter completed fifth grade that year.  I knew she would like school.  I knew it would improve our relationship, which was already feeling the affects of puberty.

She was opposed to it.  She is a bit shy and was worried about making friends.  I made her go, knowing that after a week or two, she would be okay.

I was wrong.  She came home smiling on Day One.

I was right, too.  Not being alone together all day, every day improved our interactions.

My husband and I knew it would be a trade off.  We’d relieve some tension, but new issues would come home from school.  I was a little nervous about the social side.  Middle school is not known for being kind and gentle on girls.

Turns out, I have a fantastic daughter, and the years of homeschooling were wonderfully healing ones for her.  She stands up for those being bullied.  She advocates for herself when needed.  She ignores as much of the drama as she can.

So, middle school hasn’t been too bad, right?

If it weren’t for the academics, I’d be thrilled with her middle school experience.  However, my daughter has barely learned anything the past three years.

Her skills in several areas had declined by the end of sixth and seventh grades.  She no longer wrote in complete sentences and didn’t bother to attempt proper spelling because she was never marked down for it.  If the teachers didn’t care, why bother?

At conferences, teachers look at me blankly when I tell them I don’t think she’s learning the material.  I think if she’d learned it, she’d pass tests.  They’re okay with passing her because she is willing to come to school early for “test corrections.”

Her history teacher assured me that she was doing great, even though he gave her failing marks, telling me what a good work ethic she has.  Then he said, “I don’t really expect them to learn history this year.  My goal is to produce good citizens.”  I was speechless.  I gave him a good kid.  I want her to be an educated citizen.

He’s not the only teacher who has said that.  An English head at a different middle school has told me many times, “Middle school isn’t about learning.  It’s about maintaining.  At that age, their bodies are changing so much, they really can’t learn.”

A three year break from learning?  As a former homeschooler, I can say without a doubt that children in that age group are quite capable of learning new material.  I’m pretty sure that schools around the world think so, too.  I know there are American schools that do, too.  Just not ours?

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

(She has had a few good teachers, ones who have tried.  They haven’t all been so lackadaisical.)

I guess it is the curse of having been a homeschooling parent that I feel educationally negligent sending her to this school.  So we do math at home, and we started reading history again in the evenings, because she rarely has homework.  We do school all summer, too.  Basically, we’re part time homeschooling, and she is hanging out with friends all day.

I’d like more from my public schools.

I’m nervous that she is academically unprepared for high school.  If we move somewhere with better schools, will she be handicapped by these middle school years here?

What have your experiences been with middle school academics?  The transition to high school?


21 thoughts on “You call this an education?

  1. I didn’t homeschool, but I can understand why you would be shocked at the difference in one-on-one education vs. middle-school education. For some kids at that age, it’s a challenge just to make it through the day without being horribly embarassed or bullied. I had one child thrive, despite the social challenges, and one need an enormous amount of attention just to make it through those years. I’m sure a one-on-one situation would take away a lot of the distractions and difficulties. However if your child is an intelligent, motivated kid (which it sounds like she is) she’ll do fine in high school – things settle down a bit.

  2. I always said that if I had a school age child now, I’d only homeschool them. As a former teacher, I know that not much gets taught because most of the day is filled with trying to police the kids and meeting insane demands of federal/state/local admin. There isn’t room for much teaching. I was a very active mom in the classroom, and in picking which teacher my son’d have. Each year I was very assertive and told them what my goals were for my son and how I wanted her/him to help meet them. As it turned out, I did a lot of enriching with him on our own time and during the summer, too. He loved learning and I didn’t want a public school education to kill that love and curiosity. Your daughter sounds like a lovely girl. All I can say is that in my opinion you need to be vigilant and stay on top of what goes on in the classroom!

    • My daughter’s school has been very unresponsive. I’ve tried; I’ve talked to every teacher; I’ve made specific requests; but, by and large, nothing changes. At this point, we’re just hoping the high school is better. (I’m sorry it’s taken me so many days to respond. I just checked my spam filter, and your comment was there.)

  3. I am in shock that any teacher anywhere would say that they don’t expect them to learn and just want them to be good citizens. I can’t say anything more because it would not be good.

  4. We’ve transitioned this year from full-fledged home school to using on-line school for parts of my middle school son’s curriculum (English & Science) and all of my high school son’s curriculum. I have found that quality of instruction varies greatly teacher-to-teacher. One gives very good feedback on written work, making valid, constructive criticism. Another seems to mark anything with a 100 if it meets the technical criteria — enough words? enough paragraphs? about the given topic? Done and done. It’s somewhat maddening.

    That said, my high school boy is managing the work load beautifully, despite pretty much zero grammar in home school middle school, and light science over the years. Also, I”m finding that there are enough assignments given, a poor grade in the beginning won’t hurt the end result, IF the student takes and learns from the grades he/she is given on those. In other words, the transition hasn’t been nearly as bad as I thought, and before we started I really worried if I had adequately prepared my son for high school. He just finished mid-term exams, and closed out the semester with 3 As and 2 Bs in his classes, so I guess we did okay.

    Best wishes for a better year next year.

  5. This is unbelievable. I do not have children, but I grew up attending public schools, and this is NOT the way we were taught. In junior high (we had only 7th and 8th grades) the work was definitely tougher than in sixth grade. I remember starting on what they then called “modern math” in seventh grade, as well as biology. We were not treated like fragile little things who would break if they were asked to do too much. We learned English grammar AND correct spelling. I was flabbergasted when I read recently that schools are not making spelling count until high school. How are kids supposed to learn what’s right? I have no idea what’s going on in schools these days, but from these stories, if I did have kids that age, I think I would seriously consider home schooling.

    • It all seems backwards now. The little kids are expected to write more, sit still longer, take more tests, but then they get to middle school, and no research papers, not much reading, barely any homework.

  6. I don’t think this is normal. I’ve home schooled and had kids in public school. The middle school here really steps things up, telling kids and parents it’s to prepare the students for the rigors of high school.
    So, she’s sliding by on charm because she can? Could she be doing better if she’s pressed, or would she need help anyway?

  7. The whole school system is frustrating – at least the K-12 part, because the teachers are programmed to death. I have a couple of friends in education, one an elementary principal, the other a middle school teacher and while they are passionate about educating kids, they are sick to death of the system in which they are forced to do it. My middle child never quite found her niche in school, it seemed she was always a couple of years behind in her learning ability. We held her back in 5th grade, we switched schools when she was in 7th grade because, like your experience, the middle school she attended was lackadaisical. The good news is that she graduated, barely – but went on to college where she is suddenly thriving! I don’t know if it is the professors, or just the fact that it took her til now to figure out how to learn 🙂 We all learn differently, and like Sharon said above, you have to stay vigilant and involved. Sounds like she has a solid foundation to build on!

    • Thank you for sharing that, Linda! It is always encouraging to hear that a student who struggled through K-12 found their stride in college. I know that not everyone develops or learns at the same pace; I wish our schools were better at working with students who are harder to teach.

  8. i had the same experience you had and the same exact words spoken. i put both of them in private school for middle school. killed me financially but they learned while still being typical middle schoolers.

  9. The Middle school years are the pits for a lot of reasons. Perhaps you can shore up her learning by working with her at home a bit. You might also consider being straight with her, let her know that there are two sets of standards here.. the school’s woefully lax set & your set, that demands academic excellence from her. Personally, I’d hold her accountable to your standards, our kids aren’t dumb, they know when they are doing their best work. Your daughter will probably be relieved & grateful that you care enough to ensure she does the very best work she’s capable of.

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