It’s Inauguration Day! No matter you political affiliation, it’s a historic day for our nation. It’s a time of change. Change brings uncertainty and many times, fear. I’ll be honest, I think it’s good for our country to sway back and forth from Republican to Democrat. We are a vast nation with many different beliefs and views. While I welcome change, there is a major issue on both sides of the aisle that is consistently used as a pawn in elections. Dare I say it? Education.
We owe it our kids to give them a quality education that will give them the opportunity to become contributing citizens to our society by using their gifts and talents. We also owe it to our kids to give teachers and students more of a voice in determining the path of education. I have 4 points of view in public education. Being a military family, we have been enrolled in 3 public school systems. Currently, I homeschool one of my children due to lack of services in the public school system.
We started Kindergarten in Alexandria, Virginia. I remember Kindergarten as a fun year of exploration and socialization. I had a great love for school because it was fun to learn. This was not our experience in Kindergarten. It was a race to learn how to read. It was filled with stress, deadlines, and tests. We cried on a weekly basis, including the teacher. I felt like we were in a pressure cooker. I was constantly pushed to read, read, read with my child who HAD to be at a level D by Christmas. I was pushed to have my son diagnosed as ADHD and put on medication, which I did not do. We were also dealing with a deployment which no one at the school understood. It was the most miserable experience. This was no fault of the teacher. She was just as stressed as we were because the environment was not developmentally appropriate. I did learn in this tumultuous year was that my child did have apraxia and ADD. I did not chose to medicate, but I did chose to see an occupational therapist because sensory issues were also at play. I thank God on a daily basis for occupational therapists. They have been the only ones who have ever truly understood the problems my child has faced and provided solutions.
After Kindergarten, we got orders to Germany. I was so apprehensive. My daughter would be starting Kindergarten, and my son would start 1st grade. We were at a DOD school (Department of Defense) on an American base. It was truly amazing! It was like being surrounded by family. It was a supportive environment, filled with love while following standards. Teachers were encouraged and supported. I never felt like we were in a pressure cooker. I felt supported with my child with what we discovered to be dyslexia. The special education team and occupational therapist were open and willing to work with my son to help him. When a deployment rolled around for any child in that school, they were supported by staff and teachers. Kids were also encourage to be outside and travel. It was amazing! We spent Kindergarten – 3rd grade at that school, and I tear up thinking about it. It felt like we left a family, our village.
We now find ourselves back in the states. We moved to Louisiana. I am back in the pressure cooker and it pains me to send my child to school. I decided to homeschool my dyslexic son because teachers are not trained in dyslexia in the public school system. It would be a total waste of time and destroy his self esteem. I am fortunate to be able to do this, because many parents don’t have this option and it pains me to know of the fight they will fight every single year. My daughter had panic attacks the first 3 weeks of school. Last Friday, she had 5 tests. Kids at her school get maybe 20 minutes of recess if the weather is perfect. She doesn’t have any learning disabilities and is very much an overachiever. We are lucky to have a fabulous teacher! She is amazing but she is stuck being forced to follow standards that steal the joy from learning.
As you can see, 2 of these experiences have been stressful for my family. Joy has been sucked out of education in the states. Teachers are leaving. Kids are suffering. We do need change. I always have an open mind to change. I want to see another point of view. What I realize is that all politicians use education for their platform and then discard it, not making any significant improvement. It really enrages me. I was open to listening to Betsy DeVos at the confirmation hearing. I listened, and I am not only disappointed but angry. She clearly had no clue what IDEA was or is, nor did she have any experience as a teacher. This is like asking a someone to build an airplane who has no experience building airplanes. Would you fly on their plane? I think not. I see this nomination as a direct flight to disaster, especially for our kids with disabilities. IDEA is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that was initially passed in 1975. It has been amended and updated since it’s passing. It protects the rights of kids like my son and gives parents a voice. She wants to leave that to the states. You may think that is a great idea, but it’s not. There will be no consistency. Time will be wasted in the fight for services, leaving the kids further behind and their self esteem destroyed. This is a enormous issue for military families and way more stress than we need. I for one, don’t have the energy to fight the system every time we move and be confused by a system that doesn’t embrace you, but fights you. In case you forgot, we are still at war.
I want to take you through the process of going through IDEA at the school level as it currently stands.
- You or your teacher will request an evaluation. This has to be signed off on by the parent before it can begin.
- At least 2 professionals will evaluate your child and a case manager will coordinate a meeting of the team to provide results.
- This process can take months depending on the load and resources the school has.
- It may be after Christmas before any of the IEP recommendations are implemented.
- You have to constantly follow up with staff to make sure the recommendations are followed, especially if your child has multiple teachers.
- If you are at the same school, the next year won’t be so time consuming and you can flow into the grade with an IEP.
- If you move, which military families do every 2-4 years, you have to start this process all over again.
We need a teacher for Secretary of Education, one that has been in the classroom in the last 10 years. Public Education is failing our kids and you can see it with the influx into homeschooling. Homeschooling has increased over 61% in the last 15 years and it’s continuing to grow. When are we going to start letting teachers teach to learn and not to test? Let’s stop dictating curriculum developed by people who have never been in a classroom with kids. Public education can work when we let teachers teach and pay them what they are worth!
The journey with my son has led me to ponder what my ideal school looks like? Here’s what I dream about for a school. What’s your dream school look like?
- Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, multisensory, whole brain teaching
- A team of occupational therapists, speech therapist, and ABA therapists
- A large therapy room
- Physical activity every day, 2 x a day
- Health & Nutrition education every week
- Outdoor classrooms
- School garden
- Life skill courses
- Music, art, and foreign language courses
- Culture of support and love
- Small class ratios
- Teachers with a voice and continuing education opportunities
I can only pray that our nation and it’s leaders will wake up and understand the disservice we are doing to our teachers, kids, and military families, who bare the burden of our freedoms. We must demand that education stop being used as a pawn in political arenas. We must start letting our trained educators make the decisions, not the legislators or lobbyists. I will continue to voice my opinions to my state senators, representatives, and President. Will you?
Author: Betsy Ramirez
Betsy is a registered dietitian/nutritionist, homeschool mom, & fairy tale junkie, who loves getting crafty. Being on my bike and lifting weights are my therapy. Thinking outside the box is my jam!