We checked out.
Last week I wrote a piece covering just a few of the ‘Myths and Facts’ of the latest change in California schools for the 2014-15 year, Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In this piece one very important fact was shared … the ever luminous and talked about Common Core is a standard not a curriculum. In other words, it’s now a set standard in which education will be measured nationally. It was up to each district, however, to find the curriculum which they felt would best suit their staff and student body.
Admittedly, prior to our 2014 Back to School night I had little to no understanding of what Common Core was. I had seen a number of reports on the news, opinions on social media and thoughts in the hall at my children’s school as ‘mommy talk’ goes. I’d also seen a few ‘sample’ math problems which quite honestly gave me a headache and made no sense. Why were we making math so complicated?
I’m reactionary first and then rational. So, I tend to be conservative in the way of forming opinion on things which are unknown. Everyone’s experience is different and as a mom I can firmly attest that no two children are the same. So over the summer as the Chief Executive Officer of our household I pondered some big decisions.
Once school resumes life can become daunting as a full time working mom … juggling homework, projects and extra curriculars. Now we would be adding a whole new curriculum to our homework pile, how would we be able to keep up?
This is probably where I should also share that I subscribe to the notion that my children’s education is just as much my responsibility as it is the teachers. I am not a ‘we versus them’ mom. I believe in partnership. I see what educators are up against. I recognize that many of them have been doing this for years, largely they became teachers because they love children and learning. The curriculums are dictated to them. This is not their choosing. Do some see it necessary? Of course. Does that make it easier? Of course not.
So, during BTS night, as I listened to our teachers share what ‘we’ were up against in the coming year I felt empowered and grateful.
I felt empowered by the fact that the district recognizes the mathematics our children are now learning as a result of Common Core are not ‘mom and dad’s mathematics’ and have encouraged the teachers to do as much of that work in class as possible. I’m encouraged that my children are now learning to think through math and not just memorize. Something which normally does not happen until higher math. I happen to remember that transition very distinctly. It both scared me and made me feel incompetent. Training the mind to work this way from the onset will ultimately prove beneficial in the long run.
From the area of gratitude we go back to my big summer decision as family CEO. As I looked ahead to the coming school year and reflected on the year we had just left I recognized something had to give. We are a powerful trio, but we are human and as humans we need to allow ourselves time to breathe. So, I did the unthinkable … I eliminated all extracurricular activities until the start of 2015. We needed to nail this Common Core concept and that wasn’t going to happen if we were rushing.
To some this may seem minor, for me it was huge. Both children have been active in their respective activities since the ages of 3 and 4 years old. This longevity however helped me realize they would pick it up just fine once they return.
The real reward came when I informed them of what I had decided. Their initial response was telling of their confidence (which I took pride in). What if we have down time, then what will we do? Valid question for two kids who have done homework from dance studio floors or in a spare office of this building as they await their ride.
“We will play games, go to the park, walk the dog, late night hikes,” I stated. “We will do all the things you both always say you wish we had more time to do. In other words, we will live life.”
This is not to insinuate that when we are rushing from place to place we are not living, it’s just different. This decision was made for one reason and one reason only … To reduce stress and focus on priority. Education in our home is priority and this was what our family needed to do.
I am happy to report almost one month in, we are slowly wrapping our minds around Common Core. Well, mommy more than her duo. Kids are pliable, they are not struggling. They are actually a bit excited by this new door which has opened. My son of course is not a fan of ‘all the writing’ (as numbers are expressed in words), but he is getting the concept and its necessity. Adding to the sweet reward, we have been able to get some park time in before dinner and even attend some midweek activities we would have otherwise missed.
Do I believe the addition of this curriculum is the answer to our problems as a nation? That’s a really big question, with an answer that remains to be seen. What I am grateful for is the opportunity to try.
Oh, I see the heads shaking. I hear the voices speaking … this is education, it is not a trial and error time. I could not disagree more. There is no ‘proven theory’ when it comes to education. All minds, great and challenged, learn and process differently. My hope is that this curriculum will now give students who have struggled with numbers the opportunity to thrive. My hope is parents will recognize this is equally their responsibility, maybe not to help, but to encourage. To not make their shortcoming that of their child.
Still lost? Yup, I have that answer too. Visit the district website www.oakdale.k12.ca.us and check out the homework help videos with your student. Even better, join myself and other parents of the district as we attend the Parent Math Night at Cloverland this evening, Wednesday, Sept. 3. The workshop for district wide K-8 is just one more tool that we as parents are empowered to use.
Most importantly in the way of helping your student just be present. It’s amazing what can happen to human confidence just by knowing someone is at your side. As corny as it sounds, be their Core.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.