This is an area to discuss the things I've done to support my relationships with my two children, things I've discovered about different forms of school in the United States and New Zealand, and any other random things we've done together.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I've had lots of frustrations surrounding school work and my son over the past several years. It was getting to the point that if we didn't leave the country to try a different way of schooling that I was actually debating leaving work to home school my kids. I understand the importance of socialization, but I was beyond frustrated with how heavily homework and testing were being stressed in the schools around us. And my son, especially, did not respond well to this stress.
He was lying constantly about having homework and not doing it. And the teacher's websites (which were supposed to be updated constantly) never were updated so that I could help him keep on track. To top it off, he hated school. Not in the way that he would get nervous then be fine once he got there. Actually loathed going--and had logical arguments as to why. It was increasingly difficult to find holes in his logic and I started agreeing with him. Thus, our search for something different.
Fast forward to his new school: rather than daily homework, the teacher's assign a project around one theme for the children to work on each term and they can present what they learned to the class in a format of their choosing at the end of the term. He chose to do the history of video games and decided he wants to present it by creating a You Tube video. And I've found him randomly researching and prepping in his spare time to prepare for it. No prompting. No nagging. He just chose to do it. That. Is. Huge.
Another win: he came home last week and told me he had entered a speech competition. In order to practice speaking well for his video. Because he wants to do a good job. There are no words for how happy I am that he is doing so much better and enjoying school. None. But I did shed a few happy tears over it.
Kiddos started school last week. End of July, doesn't seem like a big deal. Except that it is the middle of the school year in New Zealand and my kids just got out of school about two months ago. Yes, the whining was epic. Trust me.
However, a few days in to the new school and the kids are raving. I'm not even joking. I've NEVER heard them happy to be at school. They have always hated it. And this, right here is reason number one I wanted to leave the US. My kids hated school.
A little background here: I'm a huge nerd. I loved school growing up--and as an adult I still love learning. As a matter of fact, I'm friends with several of my teachers from growing up on Facebook still. I learned things through school that have helped me throughout life and helped me become a critical thinker. And it absolutely crushed my heart over the past several years to see my kids grow to hate school more and more. And they are 9 and 11.
Soapbox moment: schools in the US need to figure some stuff out. The system is broken. We focus way too much on test scores and training kids to be good test takers. My kids haven't been learning diddly squat about practical application of knowledge in the past 6 years of school. And we moved specifically to areas with good school rankings, good funding sources and happy parents. We put them in public schools and we put them in a charter school. And, before our move to another country, I was debating pulling them out of school entirely, quitting my job and working on educating them full time myself. Because I was that fed up with finding them a system that works.
I think we may have found it here in New Zealand. It makes me want to cry from happiness. I had no idea how much my children's reactions to education were tearing me up in Colorado. I know it's only the first few weeks, and maybe we're riding on a high from it being new, but so far the results are drastically different from any I've ever seen from them back in the US.
How is it different? Days are shorter, and if you look at their schedules, they are actually in class more and have less breaks. However, the kids keep reporting that they are playing all the time and outside almost all day. Huh? I come to find out that the two "breaks" they have during the day are tea time in the morning (for 30 minutes) and lunch (for 45). Both are outside, but kids are able to hang around their classrooms if they desire. Basically, the teachers open their rooms, say it's time to take a break, be back when the bell rings, and that's it. Kevin feels like they have so much more freedom here that it's making him more productive. And class time isn't set to lectures: they actively participate in activities and help each other learn concepts. Both of my kids come home chattering away about the activities they did all day and what they learned--and they're having so much fun, they have no idea that they are actually learning things. It's a beautiful thing to see.
Another thing that's different: New Zealand also performs standardized testing as they have (like crazy) in the US. However, rather than planning for it and freaking everyone out about it (I'm not even joking, my son had a panic attack last year. An honest to God panic attack. I was furious) and making them mandatory for all, in Auckland, kids only take the exams if you go through a process to sign them up for them. And they aren't held during normal school hours--they are on a day off. No stress, no mess. And you can bet your ass I'm not taking them in for that crap. Been there, done that, left the country.
It hurts that we really couldn't find what we needed closer to home. But I'm glad we have found it. And I'm so glad that we moved.