Saturday, May 14, 2011


This afternoon I took my 6 year old boy to a birthday party. It was for a little girl in his class. I don't know her family, it was at her house, I was a little nervous about going. Turned out there was no need for nerves (as usual) as I sat with a couple of other mums, who happened to be teachers, too. One mum mentioned that she has just taken her boy out of our school. This boy was a friend of my boy's and he hadn't told me a thing about it. That's typical of my boy, never tells me anything, so I was a little embarrassed that I didn't know this. I was also a little shocked because I love the school my boy goes to. I taught there when we moved to this town. Most of the teachers there now were on staff when I worked there. The principal has changed, but I still feel at home there and I'm very happy with the school.

I have heard from other sources that some parents are not happy with numerous things. However I pretty much just thought these were whinging parents who didn't know better. But this mum today is someone who's opinion I take seriously. So when she said she moved her boys, I took notice.

When I came home and told my husband, I immediately knew I did the wrong thing. You see, he's the type who looks for ammunition. If he thinks for a moment something is not right, he's onto it!

So he brought up the question of our boy's extension. Last year he was tagged as 'a gifted learner' in Maths and was having extension classes. This year it was supposed to continue, but I don't know if it has. Our boy says he is not going to any extra classes so my husband was not happy.  The parent/teacher interviews are in a couple of weeks and I was going to ask about it then but apparently that's not soon enough.

So, all of this has left me with a million questions...

If parents (who are both teachers) pull their children out of our school, am I missing something?

If other parents are saying they're not happy, am I blind to the truth?

Do I have misguided loyalty to teachers I worked with nine years ago?

Am I right in prefering Catholic schools to State schools*?

Is 'not wanting to rock the boat' making me a lazy parent?

Should I be more proactive in my son's education?

In the case of 'gifted' children, do they lose it if they don't use it?

Do extension classes really make a difference, or do they just keep clever kids busy?

Am I behind the times when commenting on the National curriculum and NAPLAN when I really know nothing about working with them?

Do things still change roughly every seven years in education and these are just new phases?

Can you see now why my head is spinning???
Some of these questions may not even make sense to you.
But if you have any answers to any of them, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

*Just to let you know, all of my own and my husband's primary, secondary (and tertiary for my husband) education was with state education. I studied at a Catholic Uni and have only taught in Catholic schools. I actually prefer them for their religious ethos. I know there are excellent state schools.


  1. There are different schools for different kids.

    I think you should decide if your and, more importantly, your child are happy before you get too concerned.

    It is so hard not to get caught up in others opinions. I can see why your head is spinning!

    I am glad the party went well though and that your concerns were unfounded.

    Your blog is lovely Thea - I love how you share your thoughts so readily.

  2. It is so so hard hey? Did the parent give you any reasons for their concern? Is it something you can relate to?

    I very nearly pulled my big boy out of school to homeschool for a term last year. It was a miserable time for him, and for me because I really believe most teachers are in it for the love of the kids as well as understanding the importance of their role. Sadly his didn't. I spent a LOT of time with the principal and VP who were wonderfully supportive. Had they reacted differently my kids wouldn't be there this year.

    Best of luck to you, sometimes being a parent who knows the system is very challenging.

  3. Not a teacher myself so I can't comment on that side of it, but how's this for a headspin re schooling:

    * Eldest, autistic, is starting HS next year. He has only ever had special ed classes in mainstream schools and yet he is no longer 'disabled enough' to gain a place in the very, very few special ed classes available at the HS level. Thus, he will be going FULL MAINSTREAM for the first time in his life. He's happy, and generally makes friends, but HS is a whole 'nother ballgame - throw in general 'starting HS' nervousness that all kids have, AND PUBERTY and hoo-eee, this mama is stressing out something shocking. Seriously.

    * In a comical turn of events, Middle was identified gifted in Reception (prep - he's now almost 11) and started doing extension activities with a Year 2 class for Reading/Spelling. Eventually skipped Year 1 (although this was after he'd done six terms of Reception, screwy SA system). Has progressed through PS like someone lit a fire up his bum, scoring off charts for NAPLAN etc and NOW, as well as the issues we're having with Eldest, Middle is in the centre of an application/interview process for advanced placement class/school in HS which *could* mean he starts HS next year, skipping Year 7 (SA's last year of primary school). He's also very short, so skipping would make him stand waaaaay the heck out - it already does, he's often mistaken for a Year 1 or 2 (he's in 6) - and the only saving grace (apart from the 'hey, wow, our kid is pretty clever') would be that all his classmates would be on his academic level (oh, and then you throw in the whole 'well maybe we should explore private school scholarships' just to really sweeten the stress-deal!) Realistically we'll probably defer (one nervous breakdown-inducing child-related issue at a time, sigh) if offered a place at this (public, but very well respected) advanced program but geez, my boys are SO VERY DIFFERENT regarding strengths and weaknesses it's almost like God punk'd us!

    (And then, Youngest, awesomely average everything, which after Eldest and Middle is just WONDERFUL sometimes).

    I spend a fair chunk of most days rocking in a corner. Come Xmas, I will be a WRECK re Eldest and HS. Bullying, keeping up in new environment....auuugh.

  4. I should also point out that we've been INCREDIBLY lucky with teachers for Middle. He's had the same (male) teacher two years in a row now and he recognises Middle's strengths and gives him special projects and extensions which has been fantastic. Certain teachers make ALL the difference...

  5. Hello lovely Thea.....I don't know the answers to your questions but what i do know is that you are most definitely not a lazy parent.
    What I would say to you is "what is your gut telling you? what are your instincts saying?" Trust those Thea because I reckon you got good ones xxxx
    PS: Sorry I havent been here for a while....way behind on my blogging commenting and reading

  6. Hi thea:-)
    I also have had the same problem but miss 11 is going to high school next year and i am listening to all these mums i know (yes some are teachers as well) say that the high school is old,boring lacking learning etc...
    So i also have a zillion q's to ask I am going to this high school Monday to look for myself and see! scary

  7. if you haven't sensed anything with your child, i would assume that nothing is wrong. when my son has had problems, it has always been QUITE obvious with his home behaviour. and while i am not 100% happy with everything about his school, i am 'happy enough' not to drag him to another, since his sensitive nature means some of the 'problems' are 'his', and starting over would only compound these … personality shouldn't be, but is, a big part of how well your child does.

    definitely worth asking those questions … take a list or you'll forget or get caught up in what the teacher wants to say. good luck! xt

  8. I have just been through this a year ago with my child.I would say just worry about what's right for your child.

    If it's working out then don't change a thing but if he's not being extended then I would be making sure he is.

    I do believe that gifted children need to be extended or a) they will get bored, b) they need challenges and c) I think they would plateau at some point if they're only being taught at their school level when they are above that and just waiting for something new to absorb.

    I guess it depends on the other person's reasons for leaving the school and whether they relate to you at all.

    Good luck with it all but if you think everything is moving along nicely, then stay put. :)

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  10. Interesting questions. Here, where almost everyone goes to public school (which by definition cannot be religious schools in this country), you cannot simply pull a child out of a school because you do not like something. You go to the school which is yours by reason of where you live. But you raise some interesting questions. (My wife and I are both teachers as well.)

    I never allowed either of my children to be put in accelerated classes, as I knew how much pressure was being put on those kids (at least in the 1980's) and also knew the quality of the mainstream classes in the school they would be attending.

    When we moved, my son and daughter would be going to different schools - being 2 years apart. I met with the programmer at my daughter's new school who was very accommodating about placing her in the correct classes. (I had her records with me.)

    My son, going into his last year in elementary school, had a different experience. When I met with the Assistant Principal, he informed me that their classes were homogenous - which were very common then. I accepted his word. I could not attend the beginning of the school term meeting with the teacher, so my mom and dad (both retired teachers) attended in my place. When they came home they informed me that we had a problem. His teacher's goal was to try to have the whole class at or above 70 percentile in reading and math. (My son was in the 99th percentile.) This was no homogeneous class.

    I made arrangements to take a day off and meet with the administration again and my suspicions were confirmed. I was lied to. He wound up being moved to the gifted class (which I didn't ask for) and after an initial rough period, rose to the challenge.

    In a few years he will represent 100 unbroken years of teaching in our family, as today, he is a high school science teacher.

    So, yes, I do believe you need to be proactive, and no, I don't believe it is necessary for a gifted child to be in a gifted program. Just one which is advanced enough to keep him/her challenged.

  11. Wow Thea, I don't envy your position one little bit. It sounds terribly confusing.
    Unfortunately I have no answers to offer, but I do hope everything works out for the best.
    I am quite nervous myself, about the prospect of my boys going to school. I know it will open many issues that we'll have to deal with. It will complicate our lives. But it's such a necessary complication.

  12. Sorry - just catching up now. It's a difficult thing being a teacher and a parent isn't it!
    We had our children in an elite private school. It failed our son. There are no other words for it. I spoke to the principal, had meetings with his teacher, and they glossed over it. I went with my gut. We moved both children to a local state school. In his first week there my sons's reading level jumped 14 levels. FOURTEEN. Years later it still makes me furious.

    We then moved interstate and the children began at yet another school. It has gone through a number of changes in the past few years and I thought about pulling the kids out, but they were adamant they did not want to move schools again.

    I am still not all that happy with the school overall, but our son has an excellent teacher, and he is happy. Our daughter too.

    So, for us it came down to a) were our children happy? b) did we think they were getting a decent enough education and c) how would moving them again affect their social development?

    Because school, it's about more than academics. Social skills are sometimes underrated and undervalued. They are so important to a child's overall wellbeing.
    So, I guess what I'm trying to get at is, is your boy happy? Is he progressing? and would/does extension benefit him - as in does it challenge him and make him happy?

    Sorry, but of an essay reply Thea!

  13. Admittedly, I scrolled straight down to check if Nomie had commented here! We think along the same lines, I think.

    The only thing I'll add, is what Hubby and I do. We make a meeting each semester at least (or each term if probs) with our boys' teachers around Week 3 in to the term. That way, we can find out how they've settled in to the term/semester and see what we need to address. We learnt our lesson when in our eldest son's Yr 1 class, we only found out about a few things that needed addressing right at the end of the first term (nothing major - mostly attention issues) - which was far too late by the time the teacher/parent meetings came around.

    Unfortunately, no matter what school it is, you just have to keep on top of things, because I fear not all teachers will contact you if there are any issues, or something's not getting done. I can't tell you how many times a teacher has told me something, and I've thought, 'Why didn't they tell me that sooner?!'

    Good luck, hon! xxx

  14. Its really hard being a teacher and a parent. I was a foster parent and depended on sons school as they had known him longer than me. I voiced my concerns in term 1 week 2. They said I was over reacting. Suddenly I was summoned in for an interview 6 weeks later.Guess what they were airing concerns about the issues I raised in week 2. My hackles were up. I didn't like the teachers and I didn't like the program.

    I watched and waited. The final straw was when he was put on detention every lunchtime for I don't know what. I was never consulted. My boy got really upset on the last Sunday night of the school hols. He didn't want to go to school because the detentions would continue.

    I saw red. I yanked him out of there so fast and put him into my school. Best decision I have ever done. AND he was in year 7 final year of primary school in the NT back then.

    A long winded story, but basically, teachers are not perfect (I am a teacher, and I do my best at all times), and if your gut tells you to move your kid, then move them.

    Moving my boy was the best thing we did for him.

    Thea just watch your kids and follow your gut and make your own decision.
    Remember school is all about learning to learning and how to apply that learning.
    Socialision occurs too but its not the biggie for going to school.

    Sorry to rave on.

    I love your blog!!

  15. From Julie:
    It is so much trickier than when we were just teachers isn't it?...
    I mostly think I am happy enough- but I regularly think the school has not been the best for them- though it has a splendid reputation... I also worry that I am not enough of an advocate for my kid because I don't want to make waves.
    But kids are tricky... when charli had the teacher that every one says is "THE BEST TEACHER ON THE PLANET" she cried EVERY SINGLE DAY THAT SHE DIDN'T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL. I did nothing.. I knew she was happy when she got there. And then this year she is as happy as larry with a strict boring COLDEST TEACHER ON THE PLANET.. kids! :)

    The thing is as much as you respect another parent - often squeaky wheels have different priories, different kids, and as I have learned reputations good and bad are often not earned but can often spread from on loud persons opinion. My dearest friend from school often send me into a "OMG the school is rubish" spiral but then it all turns out to be exaggerated or just her daughters spin of an incident.
    I am now surrounded by teachers who sell themselves as "THE BEST TEACHER" and parents... and even other teachers buy it ... but usually their class is doing rubbish most of the day... as a relief teacher you get to see inside the hype. Yes talk to the school about extending him but know that their learning time at school for maths (for example) is x. There is other (good) stuff going on. Who can really cater for him - you. You ARE doing it in every day life right now! C was reading chapter books in year one and got regular readersI just went along with that with that but kept feeding her novels appropriate to her comprehension. she still reads 3 novels at a time and will read a novel like BFG in an afternoon.

    As you know so good teachers cater for differences without anyone noticing - so go an talk with the teacher... your team mate!

  16. Our son goes to a small Catholic school that has always catered to his/our needs. Until this year. They withdrew his funding without telling us, even though I asked the learning support work 3 times was he getting a helper (because he had told me he was not) and each time she assured me he was. He qualified for 8 extra hours of one-on-one help last year, because of his ASD and ADD and other issues. They did not even tell us. According to them, it was across the board with all Catholic schools and nothing personal. When I told his paediatrician, she was furious and told us of other funding we were eligible for. When I asked the school I got a rude response that the paediatrician had no idea what she was talking about, and they were sick of parents thinking they weren't helping the kids.
    I can see they are frustrated but I cannot forgive them for not telling us about the funding issue, and then for basically calling us in and running our son down because he wasn't achieving.
    And yet ... the school is better than most schools I've come across, there is generally a lot of support, and my kids have had to go through so much change in the past few years, I don't want to take away their familiar school environment, friends etc.
    It's a battle.
    All we can do is weigh up what's going on and make what we hope are the right choices.
    I know that it doesn't help, but just wanted to say I feel your confusion. xo

  17. Hi Thea,

    My son is also gifted. He's eligible for Mensa and the school is catering for him. He's currently in Year 3 but doing some Year 5 maths. So this is all well and good now but my question has always been what happens when he hits Year 6 (final year of primary in NSW)? He would have completed the primary curriculum before he even starts his final year at primary school.

    Does he play Sudoku for a year?

    Although I did read an article a couple months back saying that gifted Year 12 students can start doing university subjects during their final year of school to help them remain focussed.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M

  18. Thanks everyone for you excellent comments on this one! It has helped, a lot!

  19. I am late to the discussion but just had to tell you that my sisters and I all went to Catholic schools for both primary and secondary so we started our daughter at the local Catholic school too. I was actually teaching at the Catholic girl's secondary school nearby. Anyway, we were very unhappy there. Our daughter was not challenged enough and when she finished work way before everyone else was asked to go and help other friends. When I heard this I was upset but let it slide when they said they would give her extension work. Well, that didn't happen so we moved her to a Presbyterian/Methodist school and it was the best decision we ever made! She started there in Grade 3 and is in grade 9 now and is doing very well. I have another story I could tell you about our son but I might leave that for another day!

    Go with your gut instinct and make some noise if you have to. Don't stand for mediocrity, especially when you are paying for your child's education!

    Best wishes and best of luck my dear!


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