Monday, September 5, 2011

Not-So-Great Expectations

There's nineteen men livin' in my neighborhood
There's nineteen men livin' in my neighborhood
Eighteen of them are fools
And the one ain't no doggone good.

-- Bessie Smith, Dirty No-Gooder's Blues

I don't know what they have to say
It makes no difference anyway
Whatever it is, I'm against it!
No matter what it is or who commenced it
I'm against it!

Your proposition may be good
But let's have one thing understood
Whatever it is, I'm against it!
And even when you've changed it or condensed it
I'm against it!

I'm opposed to it ...
On general principles, I'm opposed to it!

-- Groucho Marx, Whatever It Is, I'm Against It!

So Younger Daughter's first day at Local Public Elementary is tomorrow, and I've been thinking about my expectations for the place. Various people have warned me not to get my hopes up too high. That's actually kind of funny -- if you could see inside my head, you would know that my expectations of schools are bog-level and sinking all the time.

Over the past few years, I've gotten used to the idea that I can't trust most schools to teach my kids math, and I'll have to supervise and teach them pretty closely to make sure they've really got it. (Friends Omphalos, where Older Daughter goes, is the best I've seen yet in this regard, but Older Daughter can still use some review and backfilling.)

With Younger Daughter, I'm getting used to the point that we will have to work very hard to get her reading. I can't trust the schools to do this for her, although the public school might be more help than Natural Friends, which really had no provision for any kind of special ed.

Somehow, Younger Daughter has gotten it into her head that reading is a kind of magical process where you memorize what the words look like. She said to me the other day, "I can't read this word -- I don't know it." (Me: "that's exactly why you sound it out!")

Sometimes she glances at a word and thinks she knows what it is, but she isn't paying attention to the order of the letters, so for instance she'll look at "plane" and say "apple", or look at "white" and say "with".

Can Local Public Elementary solve these problems? I don't know, but I'm not counting on it.

So what are my hopes for Local Public Elementary? I hope Younger Daughter will feel more comfortable there, and less threatened. I hope her behavior is better, and if it isn't, I hope the school won't dump the whole problem into my lap, instead of looking for solutions themselves. If nothing else, I'm guaranteed that no matter how dysfunctional the school is, at least they're not draining my bank account.


  1. I am perfectly literate, but cannot sound out words. I learnt every one singularly. Really. It's ok if she just wants to learn differently. The problem comes when one is taking a new medication or if a new word appears... but often, you'd be surprised how seldom this occurs. :)

  2. That sounds really difficult! Did it take you a long time to learn to read?

  3. PsychMom offers:

    Yesterday's Seth Godin blog had a posting about sending our kids back to the wrong school. In his post he links to a youtube video of 2011 beauty pageant contestants answering the question "Should math be taught in school?"

    You won't know whether to laugh or cry. I'm seriously wondering if it was legit and terrified that it is.

  4. I'll post a true link.

    Seth's blog: Back to the (wrong) School

    Surely the Miss USA thing is a parody! Please!

  5. PsychMom says:

    Thanks for doing that FedUpMom..and I sure hope it's a parody.

  6. FedUpMom, been reading since I was 4 and more fluent as years went on. I think I tuned out in my reading lessons when I was yelled at a lot in school. I mean, "Ph" says "f" doesn't cut it for me but I can recognize "phone" if I see it enough.

    I hope your daughter is at least respected at school despite her differences. I'm really hoping for good things for her but if not, as you said, at least they are not draining your bank account dry... well, any more than the taxes you already have to pay...

  7. Happy Elf Mom, your story is a conundrum to me.

    However, my path ahead with Younger Daughter is clear. She needs phonics, STAT! She's learned how to fake and guess, but that's not the way forward. She's 8, BTW, so we don't have a lot of time to fiddle around with this.

  8. "ph" doesn't always say "f" -- how about "upholster"?

  9. There you go, making my point for me!! You just have to memorize the word. lol

    BTW, I think my children are more or less the same way. When they would try sounding out words like "onion" it was quite apparent. There is, I think, a combination of approaches (sight-say and sound-out) that works for most children.

  10. The spelling of English is not perfectly consistent. Still, phonics rules can get you to a first approximation, and then you can use your other strategies if you've got a rule-breaker.

    The problem for YD is that she got into the habit of out-and-out guessing, hardly even looking at the letters of the word.

    "Onion" breaks a lot of rules. The "O" sounds like "uh", of all things, the "i" sounds like "y" ...

    The other day I was reading with YD and we came across the word "rough". I said "this is tricky, so I'll just tell you that in this case 'ough' sounds like 'uff'." A little later we came to "bought". I said, "in this case, 'ough' sounds like 'aw'." She gave me such a stink-eye.

  11. Ah, so there may be something good to be said for the old-fashioned spelling lists if rule-breaking words are grouped together such as "bought, fought, ought" and that sort of thing. :)