As parents of two teens, we are keenly interested in schooling and the future of the current teen population. Mostly in Costa Rica and the U.S., but around the world, as well. These teens will be our leaders, shaping our world’s future, good or bad. In charge of our golden years. Scary…
Our experience of the school system in Costa Rica, as in the states, is dismal. I would no more leave the teaching of life lessons to the school system here than I would in the U.S. Mo’s ipod was stolen at St. Cecelia and the administration shook their heads and offered "what can we do about it?" At the very least I expected an attitude of "stealing is wrong", but we didn’t get that. People on the Costa Rica Living board told me "Stealing is a way of life, get used to it." Not even a "Isn’t it a shame?"
While most Costa Ricans can read and write, their level of scholarship is low. The level in the U.S. is dropping down to match. And an overwhelming majority of the kids here drop out somewhere around age 12. This is the inevitable result of a government-run school system. Costa Rica has a better chance of correcting this problem than the U.S. simply because it is a much more family oriented society. But corruption is a problem in both places. If the money is not going to teachers and infrastructure, nothing will change. I don’t have much hope for either bureaucracy making significant change in my lifetime.
Fortunately, in Key West, we had HS2 (High School 2), a small parent
organized and run home school high school. We loved it there! HS2 was
affordable, small, good kids and had Tom Murtha, our friend for many
years and a man so passionate about math, t’would make your head spin.
Hal and I think about starting a small private school here. But we
wonder how interested we will be in that after our boys graduate.
Besides, without Tom it would hardly be any fun!!!
We have always been home-schoolers for obvious reasons. We tried private schools in Costa Rica and have gone back to home-school. Wanting the boys to have a social life, we are considering yet another private school for next February. Public school in Costa Rica for our teens is OUT.
Gangs of teens hang out around our little barrio. It is disconcerting. They don’t look dangerous, we don’t have a crime problem where we live or vandalism. But these kids look bored. If they are still in school, they are obviously not involved in sports and don’t have homework… they clearly haven’t been challenged hard enough that day to be sleepy! And they are hanging around awfully late in the night on school nights. Where are their parents? I imagine the same place U.S. parents are: intimidated and too self-centered to move beyond their own problems to listen to their kids. In the U.S. we also have computers and TV to keep us away from our children and their problems.
Lest I give the impression that this is worse here than there, last Halloween in Key West, I called the police on a gang of kids walking down our street with big sticks in their hands. Several of the kids were 8 and 9 years old. When the policeman came, he spoke to me about the vandalism problems with kid gangs. Not even teens yet!!! He was a conch, born and raised in Key West right around the corner from me and he was very upset by the magnitude of the problem. Not surprisingly, later that night, our house was egged.
Pardon me while I utter the obvious: teenage years are The Tipping Point. Education is critical. Involvement in family and community is critical. Skills are essential. The return of trade schools to the U.S. system would be a boon. Trade schools here would be a huge gift. Not every kid is destined (or even wants) to be a CEO, a doctor or a lawyer.
Sandford told me years ago that I can’t fix the world. That my job is to raise my kids the best I can, to make sure they are well-educated, thinking, loving, compassionate, responsible human beings. Tall order. She said that my way of making the world a better place is to do the things I CAN do the best I can do them. This is a simple instruction, I can understand this. I can even do this. I learned years ago when Sandford says "Jump!", I ask "How high?" So I’m following orders, doing my part, still wishing I could do more, looking for an opening. Got any ideas?
A rather amusing story about your burnt chicken recipe. Good choice of links, I have been cruising through them for the last hour.
Many of the teens in San Ramon go to school at night, something like 5 to 9pm. Some of the public schools run in three shifts do to lack of facilities or so I’m told. The primary and middle schools alternate weekly between morning and afternoon sessions.
We’re new to homeschooling, stuggling daily to figure out the process. There are days we hate it but in the end feel it’s better than having all the outside, unknown influences.
How does one get over feeling like the bad guy all the time when homeschooling? Some days I want to put her back in school and just wash my hands of things.
It’s hard. There is just no getting around it. Here are some of our tricks/tips:
A schedule is an excellent tool (Math 8-9:30, English 9:30-11, etc). Then stick to it so there are no unknowns and no surprises. Everyone knows what is expected and how long it will all take in a day. If the work does not get done, the boys have to do it later during their free time. If it doesn’t get done in that day, no computer and no TV. That works! A schedule takes a ton of anxiety out of the process. We are not schedule people so this is the hardest thing to do and stick to. But when we do, the rewards are immense in terms of family relationships.
The other thing we are not good at but that reaps rewards when we practice it, is to be prepared. If we are prepared with the lesson, instead of going “ok, let’s see what we’ll do today”, then there is no room for, shall we say, “discussion”.
Also, the boys had to agree that this is the route to take and be reminded of that. So that they remember this is their choice too. The boys resist like crazy, some days more than others, and we have to be prepared not to get sucked in, stay calm and NOT LET THEM DIVIDE AND CONQUER, a favorite tactic. Hal and I had to actually determine that no matter what, we do not get sucked in when the other is and to support each other in front of them always. Any disagreements we have about methods or whatever, we do privately. Which is ridiculously difficult in our tiny house… but this is critical.
Staying focused is a biggie – not get distracted by I have to pee, I’m thirsty, I’m hungry, my shoes hurt, my feet itch, I think I’m getting a cold, I need to blow my nose, look there’s a pretty butterfly and a zillion other things. Once they are focused and know that is expected of them, they can do it. Once they are allowed any number of distractions, the whole thing falls apart. Getting them “on task” and keeping them there is a key element.
One other thing I can think of is that there have to be rewards which I’m sure you do. You are the rewarding type!!! Tons of positive reinforcement. As good ole Dr. Phil says, it takes 1000 attaboys to equal one put down/shut up/what the hell are you doing? Not that we ever say that stuff.
Mo, the ADHD one (he’s never been diagnosed and not really adhd, but we are convinced public school would have him on Ritalin because he’s too curious and easily distracted), goes with me at night to the play to run sound, run lines, help out. And he is so excellent there: polite, quiet, reserved, funny, gets everyone’s jokes, makes some himself… he is a model individual and it’s genuine. He’s a cool kid and everybody gets him. At home he’s a smelly rude loud complicated teenager. I am so thrilled to discover that he is a normal human being after all and that this whole homeschooling thing has made a huge difference. Being raised by loving parents, even when one of them is a total self-absorbed neurotic (yeah, that Jal can be a pistol sometimes), is way better than being raised by an uncaring bureaucracy and 35 of their peers.
And the boys are well-educated to boot. We recommend the Saxon-Hake math books. THE BEST. In the end, it is all worth. Every horrible minute. See you!