01 October 2013
01 September 2013
30 June 2013
04 June 2013
Dear Harford County Public School System,
I am writing this in an attempt to open eyes to (what I fervently hope are) an archaic set of academic values, and to hopefully bring attention to the woefully under explained "Pre K" federal program. Although I am a bit emotional as I draft this, I hope that my goal of bringing the difficulties of the public school system to light may help other parents in the future.
My son's birthday is October 6th, and he will be turning five this year. In April, I inquired about the Pre K program at a local elementary school. My question was met by several heads turning toward me, either scoffing or in disdain. As a new resident to Maryland, I was unaware of the federal status of this program, rather than it's being hosted by the public school system. My ignorance aside, the response I received was short and chilly: "You know this is an income based program."
I use a period at the end of that statement because that is how it was spoken to me. No question, no offer of information. My inquisitive look at the secretary warranted only a glance at my appearance (which in some way, apparently, was indicative my financial superiority). Rather than fight what was clearly going to be a losing, uninformative battle, I reached out to a second local public school, and received more friendly, yet equally uninformative response. Having met with nothing but closing doors, my husband and I looked into the early admission requirements for kindergarten.
According to your 2011-2012 Handbook:
"For entrance to kindergarten, children admitted to the kindergarten program in the public school system shall be five years old on or before September 1st of the school year in which they apply for entrance. Exceptions to the age entrance policy are considered only in very extraordinary circumstances. The standards are rigorous to ensure that children are not frustrated by the advanced placement" (Harford County Public Schools).
Duly noted. I understand that a child frustrated by advanced placement would be a distraction, both to the educators and to the children whose parents loved them enough to birth them on or before September 1st. Your handbook continues:
"Although not encouraged, exceptions to the age of entrance policy are granted by Harford County Public Schools when it is clearly evident that the precocious four-year-old will be effectively served by a rigorous, standard-based curriculum in kindergarten...Exceptional abilities refer to your child being able to read the newspaper, magazines or books. For mathematical ability, word problems should be solved without prompting. Word problems indicate the child’s ability to construct abstract thought" (Harford County Public Schools).
I was interested to find that my son, who can write and verbally spell his name, add, subtract, and regularly uses "hypothesis" (and varying other multisyllabic words) correctly in a sentence would likely be deemed incapable of entering kindergarten 36 days after the age cutoff because he lacked the ”extraordinary circumstances" and "precociousness" sought by way of the exceptional abilities that "refer to your child being able to read the newspaper, magazines or books".
The Maryland state website for educational improvement Standard 1.0 General Reading Processes, however, lists the first task for kindergarten " PHONEMIC AWARENESS: Students will master the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words by the end of grade one" "General Reading Processes ~ Grade K ~ Reading/ELA Using the State Curriculum ~ School Improvement in Maryland.").
So the questions I pose to you, Harford County School District, are these:
As our child is currently unable to read and I am not a parent able to supply home schooling and our household income exceeds the (albeit federal) standard for Pre K, we are left with two options: paying between $500 and $750 per month for a private learning institution, or not providing our son with the academic curriculum and peer interaction crucial for his age. Does the fact that we are neither destitute nor rich mean our child does not deserve the education provided easily and unreservedly to others?
And how is it, exactly, that the intention of the curriculum for state of Maryland clearly indicates the goal of teaching five and six year old children to read, while my four year old must regale his assessor with a piece from the Associated Press to warrant his entrance to kindergarten?
30 May 2013
16 May 2013
29 January 2012
It started with planning. Planning meals, planning events, planning homework schedules. The planning became a compulsion, a temporary world where (if the spreadsheet was done right and the colors complemented each other) everything made sense. Planning gave her a sense of power and a feeling of control. She liked the control. Control of the order in which the house was going to be cleaned, the number of loads of laundry that would be completed, or the vision of a sparkling clean and peaceful home. The order and plan varied by project, naturally. But the picture in her brain of the end result...that stayed the same. At the end of the day, there was always to be a spotless home, a warm cup of coffee, candles flickering with tropical scents, all her homework assignments complete, and the serene quiet that is only really yearned for by heavy metal roadies and mothers of toddlers.
Mediocrity became her arch enemy, and done well and half-assed became synonymous. Somehow, she felt that if their household was organized and her desired level of perfection attained, the feelings of peace and accomplishment would overshadow the emotions she fought tirelessly to ignore. The longing to have her husband home, the dull ache in her stomach as she waited for the phone to ring, and the fear that the phone would not ring, and that she could easily become one of the many that...well, you know. As long as their home stayed dust free and in precise order, the dust covered Afghanistan would somehow balance karmically and keep her husband safe. She knew the thought process was as senseless as some of the war casualties were, and she knew that if life were to change, the absoluteness of the situation wouldn't be altered or sugar coated by a clean bathroom floor or laundered curtains. But she scrubbed and washed, nonetheless, until everything shone and smelled pleasantly of bleached flowers.
Bit by bit, she worked her way through their home. Meticulously wiping, scrubbing, vacuuming and rinsing every inch of reachable space. Nothing left undone, for fear that it would mess up the order of the never ending task. Although two pets and the spastic three year old loin fruit rendered the task of cleaning down to little more than a vicious, lavender scented circle, she scoured every inch of the self-imposed first circle of Hell like each stroke of the sponge put a gallon of fuel into her husband's plane home.
The plastic doctor's kits and floppy brown slices of apple became par for the course, and were picked up daily without thought. Spiderman stretched proudly across the comforter that was tucked in neatly every day, and the dinosaurs knew better than to stay the night with the train sets or the puzzles. Once the task of righting the toddler-topia was complete, she would move to their room. Although it had long since felt like her room, she worked around it as though doing it wrong would make him uncomfortable. So she continued to fix the sheets on his side of the bed just the way he liked them. Sometimes she'd pretend that he would be there to sleep under them that night, and sometimes she'd allow the knowledge that she'd sleep alone again. In either event, she'd convince a smile onto her face and keep tucking, as though tucking the bedding tightly enough would coax her sanity to stay in place, too. She kept his soaps and razors in the shower caddy, although they were so light from being nearly empty that the bottles frequently fell down onto her head when the caddy was bumped. She put the t-shirts of his that she wore back in his bureau, even though she was the only one there to take them out and wear them. She left his cologne taking up space on the shelf, missing his scent but terrified that if she smelled it, the emotions would take over. So there it sat and there it would stay, dust free and full of the smell of the love she missed, encased in green glass and silent mocking.
Most days she was able to ignore the pain and loneliness. Even when their son cried relentlessly for Daddy. Even on those days, she was able to keep a brave face and provide comfort. But some days...some days, being human took hold. Some days she would cry relentlessly with the boy, and they would hug each other back into solace. But those days, the days when humanity flexed its awful grip, the glorious feelings brought on by cleaning, organizing, and perfection came to a screeching halt. The glorious feelings were then replaced by feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and fury with the marital dislocation. Most times, she was able to push them down so they weren't so overwhelming, so it was just enough to feel like things weren't the way they were supposed to be. Like when you pick up a pencil and your brain and hand don't agree, so the pencil takes flight. Easily remedied, but still askew and still all her fault. Still needing to be fixed, regardless of the situation the repair interrupted.
It wasn't all bad, though. The hard work and exhaustion, whether from algebraic equations or furniture polishing (or, more often than not, both) were rewarding. For each dish put away clean, each sheet smoothed and pillow plumped, each paper typed and resource cited, she checked off a block on her mental list that equated to keeping up her end of the bargain. She'd traded in her dusty boots and guns in favor of securing the home front, and she would be damned if their home ran like anything other than a Swiss timepiece. As long as he was away, she'd keep the world they'd built in order.
As long as nothing was out of place, in her mind, he was safe.