We are at the end of our first grade year, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. We are exhausted. The toll has been primarily on the man himself, my seven-year-old guy who has been in the classroom for every second of it. But after him, his mother and I have suffered the worst. The roller coaster ride of emotion, the sudden ups and downs, have been excruciating at times.
Mind you, we are not conspiratorial folks concerning Common Core, as reading the title of this post might signal to you. But we were not the first ones to bring up the subject. The 1st grade teacher was, in our first parent-teacher conference, when she explained that there were gaps showing up in math proficiency. Since these gaps were common across all the incoming 1st graders, kindergarten must not have prepared them for Common Core standards, she stated. I feel for our teacher in some ways because through these meetings and by observing my child, I can tell that she must have spent a lot of time trying to prepare herself and teach her class up to standard. The problem is that my son in particular suffered as a result.
Being a talkative child, my wife and I were pleasantly surprised that he did not get disciplined in kindergarten more than one time for talking out of turn. He paid attention and excelled. But his behavior in 1st grade has been marked by daydreaming and missing instructions (particularly during math time), which tells us he is bored on class. I don’t know if the new discipline system they instituted was dictated by Common Core or not, but I do know that other school systems have adopted the exact same system. I also know of children who were extremely stressed out by it, but the school administration was unbending when it came to pleas to adapt it. What I know first hand is that my son never achieved the same level of good behavior he was used to achieving, and after his teacher told us he qualified for all the excellent behavior incentives during the year, it seemed to us that the discipline system didn’t measure his actual level of positive behavior at all and was thus irrelevant. So we gave up on pressing the cause of achieving higher scores on his behavior chart.
We wanted to help improve my son’s performance in math. So we did what we have done ever since we started preparing for kindergarten- we worked with him at home. The only problem was, and this was stated by his teacher, we really couldn’t know exactly what to work with him on. Math for him would not be the same as the math we learned, and we couldn’t predict how he would be tested on it, and she could hopefully send home some examples. Some of the techniques she mentioned I have seen mentioned online by parents from many states, and they make no sense. In a Common Core informational meeting I attended, a trained mathematician stated his confusion with what the school system is asking students to do with math and told the presenter that it was the wrong way- students need fundamentals, not confusion.
We were assured that in the second semester, math would be taught in more of a group format that would help my son pay attention easier. We realized also that they stopped sending homework at all. I woke up the other day and realized that we had not worked on math on a long time. No homework=out of sight out of mind. While we had mentally resigned ourselves to the idea that this year was going to end with less achievement than we had hoped almost unconsciously we gave up on working toward achievement in math. I felt guilty, but then I realized something I have yet to confirm but feel very strongly is the case- we were meant, along with other parents, to put our children’s achievement out of sight, out of mind. To give it all over to the school and professional educators.
We had lost focus on academics for a few weeks prior to realizing all of this. Our son was so stressed about class that he began to associate stressors at home with stressors at school. He was more easily agitated. He became tearful and more emotional at home and at school. And when he was stressed at home, he could hear his teacher whispering in his ear. We had to address the teacher and school counselor about how to redirect him at school, because when he was inattentive in class, his teacher whispered in his ear and he didn’t like it. We poured all of our attention into how to reduce stress, maintain discipline at home, and make sure he could function at school. We gave up ground during this time.
And this brings me to the point I need to make. One of the most detrimental effects of Common Core is to cause parents to give up. But here is how I plan to become immune to it…
I’m putting 2 and 2 together here (not using the Common Core method)- the thing that set our education system apart from whatever they were doing in Europe at the time of our nation’s founding is that we believed in education as a way to create a moral citizenry based on the Bible. So I am becoming immune to the lethargy-inducing practices under Common Core by going back to the Bible as our textbook at home. We started with Genesis. My son memorized Genesis 1:1- In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. He learned what God created and when. And he grasped a firm scientific principle that has inoculated him against progressive, secular education: God made each creature to produce its own kind. This totally flies in the face of evolution. So that makes me very happy.
My boy ended up attaining one of his biggest goals, one that he has had since his kindergarten year, when he feel just short- he was a top accelerated reader in the 1st grade! He was second in his class but he had the highest test score percentage of any of the children who received the award. We couldn’t have been prouder! We also met with an instructional coach, who consulted with the principal to make sure we had a teacher for 2nd grade that would potentially be the best fit for our son. Don’t give up if Common Core has brought frustration to your child’s school year. You can speak up and you can be your child’s primary educator. You can bridge the gap caused by the changed the system throws at you and your child.