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SALT LAKE CITY — With this year being an election year, there were many issues that I paid close attention to. One in particular is the issue of education.
Not only do my husband and I both have backgrounds in education — he is a high school history teacher and I have my elementary endorsement and currently teach preschool — we also have three of our five kids in the public education system. Needless to say, education has and always will be a main focus and concern in our family.
I have heard many candidates express the need for children to have the best in early childhood education, with a push and emphasis in the core content areas of literacy, math and science throughout grade school. There has been a big push for school reform, with millions upon millions of tax dollars being poured into programs to help students achieve high performance levels in these key content areas; all of which I agree with, to a point.
As a teacher, I understand the justification of such programs and ideas. However, as a mother, I find myself toeing the line a bit.
When our first child, Anderson, began school, everything came easy for him. Reading clicked, writing clicked, math was a breeze and science was just the same. In his room hang medals representing wins in spelling bees and math-a-thons. As a parent, I look forward to parent-teacher conferences because with each one, I leave with folders filled with exemplary work he has completed and progress reports with the highest of marks.
I leave feeling like I have done my job as a parent, which in the back of my mind. I know that I can't take all of the credit — he is naturally very gifted in these areas. He is now in the third grade, and all of the above still rings true.
Our second child, Aspen (just 14 months younger), is quite a different story. Upon entering first grade, it was apparent that she was behind in the areas of reading and math. Homework was a struggle. No matter what technique I tried in an effort to cater to her particular learning style, these things just didn't come as quickly or easily.
Parent-teacher conferences began to be stressful as I was continually being told that she was behind and that she needed extra help. Notes were coming home, requesting my signature for permission to put her in this special program and that remediation class in an effort to try anything and everything to have her meet the benchmarks set for her. She was being pegged as “unintelligent” because of her inadequacy in these core content areas — which couldn't be farther from the truth.
Aspen is a well-spoken, articulate and bright little girl. When presented with homework, she will always come up with a well-thought-out excuse as to why playing with her modeling clay is more important than practicing spelling or doing subtraction. When given a set of paints, she will spend hours creating the pictures she sees in her mind, and she will do this all while listening to her favorite music on her headset, belting out the tunes, and all in the correct keys.
Please don't worry and stress about whether your child is at the top of his or her class in those core content areas. Continue to work with your children in those areas but realize that they do have their own talents and desires and that they, too, are gifted.
Her creative, problem-solving mind has turned many a soup can into a judge's gavel for her re-creation of the deliberation scene from her favorite movie, “The Little Rascals.”
“Unintelligent?” I don't think so.
Aspen may not be anywhere near the top in her class when it comes to reading and math. Will I keep working with her on these things in ways that are complementary to her learning style? Of course. Will I stop at nothing so that I can get her to win that spelling title or math championship? Absolutely not.
I am OK that my daughter is not the best reader or mathematician. I am confident that given time, these things will all iron themselves out.
I look forward to my walls being adorned with paintings and my shelves with great sculptures that she has created. I know that our home will always be filled with the sounds of rock music and of Aspen's accompanying voice. Her problem-solving skills and ability to argue her way out of anything will serve her well in any debate class. And I am confident that her innovative mind will be the cause of many great creations (causing us to go through more than our share of duct tape in the process).
So, when you read and hear about issues surrounding education, I ask you to please don't get so caught up in it all. Please don't worry and stress about whether your child is at the top of his or her class in those core content areas. Continue to work with your children in those areas but realize that they do have their own talents and desires and that they, too, are gifted. Encourage them to explore those talents and be assured that things will eventually iron themselves out.
Arianne Brown is a graduate from Southern Utah University, mother to five young kids and an avid runner. Contact her at email@example.com.