In the article I referenced in my last post – Smithsonian Magazine’s focus on Finland’s educational system, there was a documentary mentioned – Waiting For Superman.
Curious, I located a copy and watched it…and cried my eyes out.
It wasn’t long ago that I was in close to the same situation as the parents in the documentary – poor, overworked, single, and without options when it came to what school educated my child.
I had forgotten, for a moment, what it was like to feel so helpless – so without options.
Waiting For Superman documents the plight of millions of families in America – too poor to afford private schools, stuck in horrible school districts, and without the ability to control how their children are taught (or not taught).
In cities across the country, there are emerging strong leaders in schools – excellent schools – that have few if any openings available to those who need them most. And lotteries have sprung up, actual lotteries for those few, choice openings.
That was what got me. Seeing hundreds of parents and children sit in auditoriums as names or numbers were called out. In some places there were maybe 100 openings, with over 1,000 applicants. Imagine sitting in those hard plastic seats, your child nestled beside you, waiting to hear if the child you love more than life itself will be accepted into a school where she has a future, or consigned to one that will instead cause him to be delayed and fall behind his peers.
Having been there, not in a lottery situation, but still without any real options, at the mercy of my child maybe “getting lucky” and having a good teacher, and then again maybe not, it is sobering to revisit it.
Homeschooling families make sacrifices. I am not a stay-at-home mom, I run a cleaning business and teach classes, but it only takes 5-10 hours out of my week, my daughter comes with me to all cleanings and even some classes, and I make a mere 1/4 of what my husband makes in his job. Many homeschooling families survive on one income, I know a few who make it on less than that, squeaking by, choosing a simpler life, in order to give their children an education on their terms, not some official’s, and not in some maybe good, maybe bad, public school.
Throughout Waiting For Superman I am reminded painfully of those who don’t have that choice. They simply cannot be in two places at once. They love their children, they agonize over their lack of choices, and spend their days and nights worrying about what kind of future they will have, what choices the people they love so much will find available to them after a sub-standard education.
It reminds me of how lucky I am. To have a husband willing to be the primary bread-winner. Who supports our decision to homeschool. I’m lucky that my job allows for me to do both – and to have my child with me when I am earning money (what a rarity that is!). It makes me thankful for my cleaning clients, and for the enthusiastic attendees in my classes who get to listen to a 6-year-old pipe in with her own comments on the class, “Basil is edible, I like it very much.” And, “Chickens are omnivores, but one of their favorite treats are red grapes!”
I wouldn’t trade what we have for the best public school in the area.
Waiting For Superman will make you think – it will make your heart ache – but homeschooling or not, I hope you will watch it. All I could think afterwards was, “There has got to be a way to fix this.”
Let me know what you think.