3 Card Monte

“6 times 9 is…?” I ask Caelan as she and I work on a math problem. She looks down and starts to count on her fingers. After what seems like 20 or 30 seconds, she replies,

Uhhhh, let me think here, ummmmm…15?”.

Uh, would you like to try again?” I ask, as she gives me another long pause, “Do you know what 6 times 9 is? I thought you had it all memorized, remember when we did all that work to memorize it?”.

“Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t remember, that was how many years ago Mom.” Caelan whines, as I spit my vodka and orange juice across the breakfast table in disbelief.

I have to say, this week has been a real eye opener. It’s not that I didn’t know, it’s just that I feel like such a fool. I admit, I’ve been played, 3 Card Monte style, in regards to the education my kids are receiving.

I can’t change the past

I used to do homework religiously with my kids when they were younger, like religiously, and I am the furthest thing from religion that you’ll ever meet. And, I’ve always been available to help throughout the years, but I felt that my kids should be capable of bringing out any homework around grade 3 and doing it themselves, unless they asked and required help. I’ve always asked about what they’ve learned and any homework they may have been given when they got home, and I’ve watched for emails from the teachers about work etc., so have I been a shitty mom these past few years?

I’ve been active with our school since Lola started, and have access to the girls’ teachers more often than most. Clem became more active in the PTA type things than I in recent years, but we are both very much present. We always ask if there’s anything the girls’ teachers are concerned about and we try to be on top of things.

I admit, I absolutely refuse to do my kids’ school work for them. I know of some parents who do, many are teachers or people within the profession, and I feel that that defeats the purpose entirely. What are we teaching our kids, if we do the work? Seriously people! What does that teach them?

I can tell you right now, work ethic sure gets thrown out in a hurry, that’s for sure. I haven’t even mentioned accountability…accountability…what’s that? It’s a sad world when that’s been thrown out. Granted, they’re kids, and we should let them be kids, but sometimes asking them to memorize and correct wrong answers (yes, there are wrong answers…I know, I’m an asshole, but 2 X 3 = 6 in math, not, a blue cat driving a car…you get what I’m saying), isn’t a bad thing.

Ask questions, my ass

I’m now reflecting upon the many years of parent/teacher conferences, report cards, marked assignments and all of the concerns we’d continually brought up. We were always comforted with the scripted reassurances that our kids were on track and not to worry, and that, has finally come to a head. I am not impressed by my children’s display of ‘education’. I’m not blaming anyone but myself, but I had honestly felt that it would be far better than what I experienced as a child. I need another ‘breakfast drink’.

I know that there are many facets of the school system that requires improvement, nothing is perfect, and I know that cuts in funding isn’t helping much of it, so I’m just going to share what I’ve been experiencing. Don’t get me wrong, we have some amazing educators but I think our education system needs an overhaul. I’ve heard many things from teachers over the years spanning from, as long as they show the work and they’re on the right path, it’s not wrong. All of the kids are doing the exact same thing at this age, and if the misspelled word sounds something similar to how it’s pronounced, it’s not wrong.

And, my favorite, they will eventually turn their letters or numbers around, it’s normal and not wrong until whatever age. I always asked, but if you don’t show the correct way, how will they ever learn? If the number 2 is backwards, it’s not the number 2, am I wrong? This is definitely a ‘new’ teaching technique, but is it better?

It feels like all of the things I’d sat down and taught my kids before entering the education system, went out the window. I’d read to them since birth, in the hopes that they’d love reading as much as I do, I taught them how to write their names, letters and numbers and whole host of things we as parents feel is important for our kids to know. And then, I heard the explanations above. It all started with my kids reversing their letters and numbers and that they weren’t corrected and left to their own devices, that I realized the bullshit.

School is trapped in a unchanging vortex

I will come out and openly admit, grades are not everything. I also don’t believe in homework. Schools have our kids more than we do daily, and really, how many of us bring work home each night? I get it, sometimes there may be homework, but I don’t agree with hours of it. I want my kids to love going to school because they have friends and they are excited to learn new and exciting things that incite curiosity and helps to explore who they are and what they love. It should be a time for them to ask questions, generate ideas, discuss different topics with different people and explore the vast possibilities of science, math, language and humanity.

Honestly, I just want my kids to be happy, well rounded human beings that are able to support themselves and will hopefully be able to contribute positively to society while using their own brain to think for themselves. They already know to question everything, so I got that one right. If they don’t go to college or university, it’s not the end of the world. How many educated people do we have out there, who cannot find gainful employment? Society needs changing too, don’t get me wrong. My kids have expressed an interest in the trades, and I support them in whatever they find in their journey. But, they do require some basic skills, do they not?

As an example, I love to write my kids notes, and I try to do it here and there, tucking them into their lunch kits (I used to), or on their bedside tables, or wherever I think they’ll discover it, just to say I love them, have a good day or I’d draw a funny picture to make them smile. What I love, is that they want to write back, and they’d leave (well, Caelan still does, not Lola any more ha!) little notes for me to find in random places. I admit, I can make out most of it, but you can definitely tell that my kids need some work on their spelling.

It’s more than just spelling, it’s the premise

When I encounter their misspelled words, I have to stop everything, stand perfectly still, break it into syllables and read it aloud to see if I can make it out, often more than once. Many of these words, they should be able to spell, and if misspelled, there should be, at the most, a letter out of place or maybe one missing. But for shit sake, the writing I’m seeing is deplorable. It’s sad. I’ve made attempts to help correct this, only to have it fall by the wayside at school because the teacher isn’t concerned or my kids tell me to piss off or they go on a hunger strike. I can’t win.

I know, my kids may just be shitty spellers, much like their father because Clem is sometimes no better than a caveman pissing the letters of his name in the snow. I love the man, and he knows I’m not being mean because he admits he’s a shitty speller. I giggle each time I see our grocery lists, every single one says that we need ‘cerial’. I’m a smart ass, and have asked him repeatedly and excitedly what kind, to which, he just shakes his head and sighs. Ugh, confession time, I am one of those people, that corrects the spelling on his grocery lists…yup, I know, I’m an asshole.

I know he’s sick of my shenanigans, but one day, maybe I’ll come home with a Hannibal Lecter or even a Ted Bundy type, holding a box, or maybe even 10 boxes of Cheerios, and just smile at him sweetly and say I was confused! I know, I know, I’m an asshole. So yeah, my kids are shitty at spelling, but they’re also unable to write in complete sentences. I don’t think I’m off the mark, all I’m asking to see are age appropriate levels for grades 5 and 7 and I’m not seeing it.

When home and school don’t agree

I looked like a total hard-ass at Lola’s parent/teacher conference this fall because I expect my daughter to finish and turn in her assignments on time. Clem and I would fight with her about being accountable and that not doing the work is disrespectful to her teachers. We showed up at conference time, and were floored when 3 of the 4 teachers said she had until the end of the year to complete assignments, not a big deal. I wish they hadn’t told my kid that because she uses the argument against us constantly.

They should give zeroes, I’m sorry. Turning it in completed and on time is all part of the package, is it not? There are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, it’s not unreasonable. The ‘real world’ doesn’t work that way, so why should that fly here? Once Lola heard that, well, as you can imagine, her stance is now that homework doesn’t matter, and our say holds no meaning. She is now very far behind, and why I wrote what I did last week.

Lola isn’t a stupid kid. I’m very proud of her, but I’ve been left to wonder if she feels deflated sometimes because she also doesn’t buy into bullshit and has been belittled for her thoughts. She and I have some very deep conversations at home, and although she’s turned into the usual narcissistic teenager as of late, she has some serious depth to her. I’ve always encouraged her to contemplate from all angles before drawing conclusions, and I don’t think that schools support this after hearing her experience.

Let’s keep promoting what keeps us stupid and ignorant, shall we?

Not long ago, Lola came home completely pissed off. It took hours of prodding to get her to tell me what was up, and to be honest, I was a little more than disappointed. Apparently, her entire class got on her about her thoughts on gender separated schools. She finally told me, that she said she didn’t agree with it and that the kids bullied and made fun of her for it. Out of curiosity, I asked why she didn’t agree, and I was actually quite proud of her response.

She told me that she felt that an all-boys school for example (it applies to all-girls too), may not consider the needs of people who do not identify as male (or female). I asked how so, and she said that that environment may make them feel unsafe, or uncomfortable if they didn’t identify with the ‘gender’ that they were anatomically born, and could lead to feeling unaccepted and bullied and she even mentioned suicide. To be honest, that wasn’t the first thought that came to my mind, but at her age, to realize that, is a good thing. Surprisingly, that was just a small part of her thought process, but you get the gist.

The worst of it, was because a ‘friend’ of hers proceeded to tell her that her reasoning was stupid and completely wrong, and she recruited the rest of the class to join in on her boisterous bullying. Sounds like society, doesn’t it? The teacher sat idly by, allowing the class to pile on, instead of leading an open conversation about it. I take pride in my kids thinking about other people’s feelings and I felt for Lola. Just because you disagree, isn’t a reason to bully. I love the saying about following the masses, sometimes the ‘m’ is silent. Excellent advice.

Shouldn’t public education encourage independent thought and perhaps tolerance by way of listening without judgement? I don’t agree with kids being told how to think or what they should think, they should be encouraged to think and understand. Isn’t this the exact reason we end up in hot water in society? We obviously need change, so why are we allowing and encouraging the beating down of the younger generation for having a mind of their own, especially if it mutually benefits everyone? I think it’s deplorable. How many other kids have thoughts that differ from the majority, but are basically being taught that it’s bad when really, it’s a great thing? Can you imagine where we’d be if we weren’t so pigheaded, ignorant and resistant to change?

Back to basics

Anyway, back to the other issue, I didn’t continuously reinforce the basics at home because I thought that that was already happening at school, my bad. I managed to keep up with all of the other homework, but for crying out loud, 0-12 multiplication should be regurgitated like a hungover frat boy after a weekend of partying. I won’t even get into some of the methods my kids try to teach me, talk about ridiculous! That’s IF they remember all of the steps necessary to help solve the equation. How much more difficult and confusing can you make basic math? Ugh, I need another ‘breakfast beverage’.

I am going to correct this if I can, but I am getting the same lines that the teachers have fed me over the years from my kids. I have to constantly tell them, after they’ve done all this fancy shit, while becoming completely frazzled because they can’t remember all of the bloody steps, and taking literally five minutes, that the answer is wrong. They turn to me and say, “But I’ve shown you my work, and that’s not wrong!”…are you fucking kidding me? They can’t be told that they’re incorrect? What, you should all get a participation medal in math? What the fuck is this world coming to?

I hope to hell that my kids don’t go into medicine! It gives me chills to think about it. They’d probably kill a thousand people in one week because they fucked up their calculations for figuring out medication dosages. I’m sure they’d be told, “It’s okay, as long as you tried.” Is this what it’s come to? Don’t answer that, I know the answer.

Changing it up is adaptation, not failure

I don’t think changing things up is a bad thing when you discover that one method isn’t working. I mean, most of us parents who’ve gone through potty training know that when little Billy nails down the basics of pissing on the Cheerios you’ve lovingly cast into the shitter for him to aim at, it’s an awesome thing! Nailed it! Way to go Billy and way to go parents! No more diapers!

But, when Billy’s little brother rolls around and he decides that it’s tomato/tomato and gets up on the breakfast table one sunny morning and gleefully pisses into your bowl of Cheerios, right in front of you, something’s gotta change. One technique may work for one, but maybe not the other. I would imagine that some kids are doing very well with the new ways of schooling, but I don’t think it fits my kids entirely and they seem to be confused as to what method works for them. My kids have shit the bed in some crucial areas and it needs to be rectified, and soon.

It’s astonishing though. I see how the basics have been completely forgotten at an adult level these past few weeks. Sharing, lying, and cooperation to name a few, I think you see where I’m going with this, and when I see that, I can’t help but think, none of them should’ve passed kindergarten. Should these people really be the ones dictating and running the education system, let alone anything else? Have we evolved at all? I’m beginning to think not.

It’s much more than the system called education

And this is how I’ve been played, 3 Card Monte style. I’ve been told that my kids are kicking ass in school, only to discover that they’re getting their asses kicked academically. They show you the card, they mix it all up, you think you’ve followed it, but they’ve switched it out unbeknownst to you, and surprise! You’ve been fooled. Misdirection at it’s finest. What you see, is not what you get. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. They boast about how great our education system is, and yet, here I am. Bullshit. I’d like my money back, and no, I will not say please.

I’m really not a hard-ass. I think learning should be fun and engaging, not all of it will be, but there’s no reason why we can’t make it interesting and memorable. I’m just having difficulty accepting that I’ve sent my kids to school for how many hours a day, over the course of how many years and for what? Being in classes with them, I’ve witnessed the breathing exercises, ‘guided’ art classes, and dance breaks (I feel for the introverts on this one, poor kids) and I have a kid that should be graduating in 5 years, with little to show for the time spent.

And, when the hell did we ever have art classes where all of the colors and steps for drawing, were determined for students in advance…isn’t art unique to each one of us? We’re in for a dying art world people, how shitty is that? Passion and creativity affect a lot more than just the world of the arts.

It’s not the grades that are important because my kids have high grades for some stupid reason (good behavior, I’m sure). What I think is important, is that my kids can calculate if they want to buy 3 cases of shit paper during a pandemic, and that they know how to figure out the cost of the lot and know if they have enough money. Society isn’t going to allow them to just take the shit paper if they don’t have enough money, so why are we allowing them to think that just showing up with some money is enough? If they need to write a resume, they can, at the very least, spell out that they’d like to apply for a job…mine know how to spell their names, thank fuck, but I can see this skill going down the shitter shortly too.

This is a very complex subject, and from what I’ve witnessed, it’s so much more than what I’ve just shared. I don’t think I’m the only one, but then again, I could be wrong. This 3 Card Monte is being played out in more than just the education system and I wonder when people are going to finally figure that out. For the time being, I’m just going to see what I can do to get my kids back on track, starting with the ‘unbrainwashing’ of their little minds, that because they’ve tried, they’re right. When you think of it that way, it’s scary, isn’t it? Wish me luck! I may just discover I have 2 lawyers in training, and I’m going to need a lot more cash saved for their future education, or I have two con artists who have yet to perfect their technique. Only time will tell.

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