Common Core and Vegan Zombies—Confessions of an ADD Mother

The Spawn loves airplanes. Watching The Blue Angels.

The Spawn loves airplanes. Watching The Blue Angels.

This week I have to go to a parent-teacher meeting regarding The Spawn. They are concerned he is developmentally behind because he’s four and people have a hard time understanding him. His speech isn’t where it “should be.” And this just puts a knot in my skirt.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I want to honestly and lovingly help my son with any challenges he might face, but sometimes I want to scream. We have handed our kids to the bean-counters and academics and the children are the collateral damage.

This Isn’t Our First Rodeo

When The Spawn was two months old, I took him for his first checkup and vaccinations. They wanted to give him and UNGODLY amount of vaccinations at one time and I said no. I wanted to space them out. He weighed only eight pounds and common sense dictated that a tiny body could not take that kind of bombardment.

The pediatrician shopped short of calling me an abusive mother.

Jerk Doctor: Well, the American Medical Association says—

Me: Okay, stop there. Doctors also thought radiation for everything was AWESOME and once recommended X-Raying children’s feet to fit SHOES properly. They prescribed Thalidomide for morning sickness which caused rampant birth defects. Every drug pulled by the FDA has first been approved by the FDA. So logic is not on your side, Buddy, and forgive me if I don’t worship the APA, AMA, FDA because I think that’s a good way to end up DOA.

He loooooved me.

What was particularly interesting was when I took our dog, Pippa, to be vaccinated, she weighed the same. Eight pounds. The veterinarian made me take her in multiple times because a body that small couldn’t take the onslaught of mass vaccinations. I asked if she could be my son’s pediatrician because she had more sense.

Let’s just say I have a history of being THAT Mom.

College Prep for Infants

So a couple weeks ago I hear a commercial for an on-line education system and I’m sure it’s great. But the commercial ticked me off. It’s a mom’s voiceover with touchy-feely music talking about how her son was born with a health issue and spent his first six months of life in a hospital and she was deeply concerned he’d be behind educationally.


All right. I am from Texas and maybe I’m a dumb redneck, but what’s a kid learning between birth and 6 months that needs help from a computer learning tool? Maybe The Spawn is defective because I remember chewing on toes and rolling across the living room floor to be the big deal.

I’m a bad mother. I was letting him teethe on picture books instead of refining his understanding of fluid dynamics.

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 8.35.15 PM


Big Trouble in Little Wedgewood Elementary

I was always in trouble in school. Yes, I see your shock face. I didn’t learn linearly. I had to reverse engineer everything and still do. I have the mind of an engineer or a ferret (jury is still out on that one). I have to pull things apart to understand HOW they work.

My mom was great. She didn’t force me to sit at a desk and do things the way “normal” kids were supposed to, likely because she already knew The Normal Ship sailed without me. She didn’t care if I did my homework hanging like a bat at midnight wearing a tutu so long as it got done and I made good grades. School, on the other hand, was not thrilled with me hanging like a bat in a tutu and this is why all memories of third grade involve me sitting in the hall.

Kristen Circa Third Grade

Kristen Circa Third Grade

I made the best grades but was in the most trouble and not a lot has changed.

I think standardized testing is fine…no, sorry I think it’s boneheaded. It has nothing to do with knowledge and only tests one’s ability to take a test. I scored so low on my SAT I think they had to check me for a pulse. I started out in junior college in Moron Math while I tutored Chemistry and Physics for extra money and read books on Chaos Theory for fun.

The “Test” told them what math class I needed and the Oracle Test doesn’t lie.

I dropped out of high school twice. It took me five years to graduate by the skin of my teeth and I am the reason for the current truancy laws. But, in my 20s, I spoke four languages and earned a degree in International Relations with a heavy emphasis on Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa. I was a killer code-breaker and every branch of the military wanted me in Intelligence. So that whole reverse-engineering I received Fs for in school was apparently very useful after all.

Ironically, this skill is what makes me an excellent teacher.

What is Standard Anyway?

Either let our teachers be teachers and do their jobs and their art (which teaching IS) or just be honest and hand them a white lab coat and a clipboard and be done with it. Reward the kids with a Nutri-Log if they can figure out how the hell Common Core Math works.

And this whole notion that “Your kid is this age and should be doing this” would be fine with me if it weren’t worshipped to the point of stupidity. Yes, we need benchmarks. We need to know areas to focus so we can guide and nurture our wee ones. And maybe The Spawn is verbally behind because he loves solving highly advanced puzzles more than talking. He’s like his parents. More like Shawn cuz I never shut up, but dig puzzles.

Our boy is FOUR. For the love of all that is chocolate, let them be BABIES. Let them be LITTLE. It is such a brief and beautiful time and we are forgetting that.

Bat Spawn and his trusty minion, Lazr Cat. And, no. I have NO idea how he got up there.

Bat Spawn and his trusty minion, Lazr Cat. And, no. I have NO idea how he got up there.

They’re kids not copies. No human is identical. We don’t come off an assembly line. Can someone please tell the bureaucrats and scientists that they will never create a single operating manual that will work on all of us.

Michelangelo was dyslexic. DaVinci nearly lost every commission he was given. No one wanted to work with him because he was a NOTORIOUS flake. He’d start a project then see something shiny and disappear for weeks or months. He was SEVERELY ADD and that’s a good thing because we can thank him for his art, his groundbreaking work in anatomy, his early designs of flying machines and SCUBA gear and on and on.

Einstein likely had Asperger’s. Walt Disney was considered slow. Churchill had a speech impediment and was bad at math. Agatha Christie had dysgraphia (an inability to  understand written words) yet grew up to profoundly impact an entire genre with her unique writing style.

What if these geniuses had been in our modern school system? I think they’d have been sitting in the hall, too. Maybe the “experts” would have even medicated the genius right out of them so they could grow up to be something soul-sucking…with dental benefits.

No I’m Not Crazy. My Mother Had Me Tested.

I know I might be overreacting. I’m a writer and we can be dramatic, but often I think it’s because so many of us were chastised for being different. We didn’t fit in. We couldn’t be “measured” as accurately as others. Maybe we even were told we were learning disabled. Because my brain works differently than the fat part of the bell curve, I am disabled? Really.

Yes, I wrote a half a million words in less than a year…I also put the mayo away in the microwave.

And The Spawn is SO funny and clever. He made up the death metal song “Zombies and Babies” at age three. Not long ago he started singing “Zombies and Pears.”

Me: Zombies and pears? Zombies eat brains. What kind of zombie eats pears?

Spawn: *matter-of-factly* Vegan Zombies.

And HOW do you argue with that?

What are your thoughts? And feel free to disagree with me, I only ask that any debate be polite. I’m anti-drone so feel free to offer me another POV. It’s how I learn. Maybe there is a perspective I haven’t considered. The Spawn is my first and only boy, so this is new. Any of you have suggestions? Ways I can prepare for this meeting? I am bringing Hubby so he can hold my leash and make sure my muzzle stays on.

Do you think all this college-prep crap’s gone cray-cray? Maybe SAT instruction for pregnant women to put on their bellies?

Are you frustrated that every year they seem to be putting our teachers in a tighter straight-jacket? Are you one of those kids who sat in the hall, too? Hey, we’re Hall Peeps! Any teachers who can offer some help, advice, anecdotes? Do any of you  “suffer” from a learning disability? Has your “learning disability” actually been your greatest asset? I know my ADD presents many challenges, but so does being boring.

How have you overcome your disability? And sorry, that last question still ticks me off. WE need to overcome? Maybe “normal” folks should have a moment in our brains and see what they’re missing…SQUIRREL!


To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

I will announce April’s winner after waking from the conference coma in a couple days.

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Understanding the Antagonist

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  1. I vote for kids being kids. Whatever happened to just having fun? The Spawn is lucky to have you as his mom. Write on!

  2. when my son was 4 the preschool freaked me out and told me to have him tested for speech and for focus issues… i jump through hoops like a clown on crack for them to say, oh, he’s fine. feh!

  3. Reblogged this on Year 'Round Thanksgiving Project and commented:
    Some excellent thoughts (and I agree with) on some of the testing we are subjecting our children and ourselves to

  4. Kristen, as a math teacher (sitting in my lab waiting for my first students of the semester) I’m totally on your side. I think people learn better – in general – when they’re outside of a classroom. I’d love to have classes outside, weather permitting. But…I’m in Florida, and the heat and critters make me crazy. Plus, the upper-administration drones would consider outlandish and something that would be forbidden by our insurance. So.

    BTW, Spawn is brilliant. I absolutely LOVE the Vegan Zombies. You should run with that. It’s a whole new take on the genre.

  5. I so get this! You have articulated what I’ve thought and felt for years! I could tell you stories, but I won’t.
    Let me just say, I finally took my son out of traditional school, away from the mentality that they knew what was “best” for my son than his parents, and homeschooled him for eight years.

  6. Now, just another thought – would Vegan Zombies be “developmentally delayed” because of a protein deficiency. Just wonderin’…

  7. Reblogged this on In My Words and commented:
    If you never read Kristen’s blog – pop over there! She is brilliant and funny – and looks like we need to add great mom to that list!

  8. I hear you. Our older son (he’s eight now) was a late talker. And a late crawler. And a late walker. Oh, and his adult teeth are coming in late. I think we had him too early.

    But you know what? He’s FINE. He’s happy, he’s doing well in school, he has an incredible imagination, and he gives the best hugs. Most of those aren’t things that tests would ever measure, but he’s pretty special.

    Don’t get me started on standardized tests. We don’t have to deal with them quite as much as you will, but they have to do a big, serious, province-wide math test in grade three and other subjects in other grades. Simon’s teacher is being amazing about it– very low pressure, just encouraging them to do their best and making sure they’re prepared, but not making it out to be the BIGGEST DEAL EVER. She’s too busy teaching them writing workshops (squeak!) and making sure they’re doing okay socially to let one test take over the classroom. I kind of love her. And I really think that her methods (her art, if you will) will get better results than pressure and focusing only on the testing.

    All this is to say I’m with you. I hate the idea that little kids are expected to be preparing for college these days. I’d rather see them playing and exploring the world and making up songs (they tend to be about Minecraft around here these days) than doing flashcards for hours on end. But then, I’m crazy like that. I’ll take extra help if the school ever offers it to my kids, but I won’t let anyone make me or them feel inadequate for any reason.

    • newfsull on May 6, 2014 at 7:51 am
    • Reply

    I am Never at a lost for words, but none necessary here, other than

  9. The monster had speech problems and he has had a few social issues partly as a result of that and partly as being the terrible mum I am I like him to look at books, watch documentaries and know about wildlife rather than sitting on a game console killing things, it seems to times schools really want you to dumb your kids down and stunt their creativity to fit in with the masses rather than pushing others to raise the bar. But one thing to consider checking out relating to speech problems is his adanoids, the monster had his removed around age four and his speech came on loads after that as they were enlarged and blocking the back of the passage between his mouth and nose forcing him to constantly breath through his mouth which made certain noises difficult

    1. The Spawn had all four front teeth knocked out when he was 2 and a half. Give him a break! Thanks for the ideas.

  10. The first week of first grade my son brought home a note with the words “We had a bad day…” pre-printed on the top. Apparently, the teacher had an entire note pad of these…and yes, we received quite a few.

    By fifth grade our son was clearly not learning to his ability and he was diagnosed with ADHD. I don’t believe in medication but our doctor suggested a low grade prescription. We talked to our son and decided to give it a try. It was like night and day. Our argumentative, over active, hyper-sensitive son became a normal, happy, fun to be around kid. He did better in school, did his homework and even cleaned his room (sort of). By his sophomore year he asked to stop taking the medicine and we agreed as long as he maintained a B average and didn’t argue with us about every little thing. He held up his end of the bargain.

    I agree that all kids learn differently and we really should let our teachers teach instead of forcing them to comply with strict rules. There has got to be a better way. And if they need a little extra help, so be it.

  11. The universe definitely send you what you need just when you need it!

    I have two daughters. The eldest has vision problems, is not reading ‘for her age’ and is currently being assessed for possible ADD or ADHD or learning difficulties. And then this morning the teacher of my younger daughter (the bright as a button, already reading nearly as well as her big sister, daughter) asks for a conference to talk about her work.

    Needless to say, I’ve been veering from angry to so depressed I want to cry to guilt (am I not doing enough for them?) … until your blog post popped into my Inbox.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for making me feel so much better and for helping me realise that maybe it’s not me or my kids, but a system that’s rating them on a scale they just don’t fit. They are my daughters, after all.

    1. I feel you. I spent half of yesterday trying to recall anything I did when he was a baby that might have “damaged” him. Did I drop him on his head and forget? Then I sat down and blogged about it because writing focuses my mind and emotions and it helped me come up with a clear and witty answer. It started out as BITE ME, but then I edited it 😀 . I have no problems with genuine help and guidance. Maybe a kid needs meds. That’s the parent’s call and not the government’s. Anyway, hug your babies and keep perspective. And NOW we know why tyrants shoot the writers first, LOL.

    • intimatewriter on May 6, 2014 at 8:02 am
    • Reply

    The vegan zombie part made me laugh. There is actually a youtube channel that goes by that name. They posts vegan recipes 🙂

  12. Listen to your gut. YOU know your child best and may need to provide alternatives for him to thrive in ways best suited to his own learning style. My children are perfectly spaced along the bell curve and we didn’t do that enough. Even though we had special tutors and activities for the kids on each end of the curve, we ended up regretting how our kids were “handled” by the school system. The kids turned out fine but it was traumatic (and unnecessary) for several years. I will carry the guilt to my grave. DON’T DO THAT. This is one instance where being all Mama Bear has its place. And one daughter is a teacher who is so frustrated with Common Core and administrative turmoil, she’s considering a career change.

  13. You make valid points here. Spreading out vaccinations makes complete sense to me; I can’t figure out why they are lumped all together. If your son is happy and thriving I would keep doing what you are doing and maybe add a speech class to help with clarity. Unfortunately teachers hands are tied these days so they can’t be creative and teach the way kids learn (hands on). Let him be a kid and the rest will come eventually.

      • pjsandchocolate on May 6, 2014 at 9:01 am
      • Reply

      Our doctor said that the reason the vaccinations were lumped together was because most parents aren’t willing or don’t remember to schedule the extra appointments to get the vaccinations on a spread out schedule. It’s a target or opportunity, nothing more. Our doctor was quite willing to spread out the vaccinations if that was what we wanted. Fortunately, my own ADD issues mean that I LIVE with a calendar and multiple daily alarms on my phone, so we never missed an appointment.

      1. I wondered if that was the reason behind lumping them. Thanks for confirming it.

        • shawn m on May 6, 2014 at 1:42 pm
        • Reply

        Unfortunately, not all Drs play it that way. In fact, we were threatned by the Dr to call CPS if we didn’t do it his way. Needless to say, Dr’s are replaceable..

        1. I had blocked that out. See, this is why you need to be in the meeting with me. *head desk*

  14. Thank you for this post, Kristen! I was one of those kids in the hallway and so is my son. To put it mildly, I hate the current school system. The best analogy I’ve seen is a cartoon with all different animals (land, sea, air) standing in front of a tree and they’re being told to climb it. I think that’s what the school system is trying to do to our kids.

    Like, Romy I feel frustrated and guilty that I’m failing him and at times have pushed him to be someone he’s not and hated myself for it. Not anymore! He smart, bright and I know he’ll turn out fine. I did. 🙂

  15. I just so happened to have a learning style that suited school (most of the time—I naturally think of exceptions to things, which sometimes led to accusations of overthinking things). I also just so happen to be dyslexic.

    But because of my learning style and because of the coping mechanisms my undiagnosed dyslexic mother taught me before I even started kindergarten (at which point I was already reading and doing basic algebra—the latter skill I later lost from disuse), everyone told me I couldn’t be dyslexic. It was impossible.

    So in college calculus, I decided to drop my coping mechanisms, because everyone was telling me I didn’t need them.

    Teacher: Do you have some sort of math disability? Because I have no other way to explain what you did on this test.

    I flunked so badly that I had to drop out of calculus before the drop-out date.

    Before college, for several schools I attended, I ended up tutoring others. In one, I even ended up teaching elementary math. A second grader asked me how to solve 2 – 6, so I showed her. The teacher was gobsmacked, especially after I pointed out that if the girl was asking about it, she was ready to get an answer. (I also got in trouble for teaching a girl dimensional analysis when she couldn’t understand the confusing elementary school method for converting units. I ended up having to explain dimensional analysis to the teacher.)

    If a 4-year-old asks me how electricity works, I’ll give a basic but technical explanation—not because I expect them to remember my answer later, but so it’ll sound familiar the next time they hear it.

    I read my mother’s psychology textbooks at 8. To this day, I find myself recognizing or voicing psychology concepts that I have no conscious knowledge of. (It also shows up a fair bit in my writing, as some of my readers point out to me.)

    As someone whose attended 9 different schools before graduation, my perception of the education system is that it assumes too much. First off, kids are smarter than they’re usually given credit for—and even the things they are ready/willing to learn are often presented in ways that don’t naturally make sense to them. They’re taught the what without the why—and even the “what” that they’re taught isn’t necessarily relevant to them.

    Case in point: An 8-year-old reading her mother’s psychology textbooks. And understanding them well enough that bullies promptly started leaving her alone. Psychology was interesting and useful to me at that age. Most 8-year-olds? Not so much.

    Your son’s “Vegan zombies” line demonstrates plenty of intelligence, to me. So maybe he isn’t learning what the school wants him to, when it wants him to. Your son’s learning ability is only one part of the equation, there. His interest in the topic and his teacher’s presentation of it matter just as much or more than any kind of learning issue.

  16. I couldn’t agree more I wish in my childhood they woulda let me be a child instead of shoving pills down my throat for adhd and “teaching” in special ed classes .. Btw you learn nothing in those! Avoid them like the plague .
    The doctors and the “normal” way of doing things is not always right!

  17. As the behavior management teacher for my district (and believe me…be managing someone else’s behavior is HIGHLY ironic), most of the time the kids that get placed with me…just need minimal intervention to be successful. They need room…they need movement…they need love. Granted, I have the luxury of a smaller room so they can have that, and the other teachers are sitting at 32 kids in a tiny room, so one kid running around isn’t working for them, but maybe (GASP!) it’s not working for ANYBODY. When we started overloading classes, we took away teachers ability to REALLY differentiate instruction and give the kids room who really needed it. Granted, there are those teachers who would bitch even if their class size sat at 15 kids. *sigh*

    Fight the good fight, Momma. He has a good advocate…make shit happen. 🙂

  18. Fab post, Kristen! I’ve had conversations with TEACHERS who complain about this over-assessment craziness.

    As for our family, we describe our two oldest boys (gifted, but with attention-deficit…watch out) as “the square pegs in the round holes of public education.” Wish we could afford private schools…

  19. Reblogged this on Yummers914.

  20. When our older daughter was in kindergarten, we were told at the first parent-teacher conference two months after school started that she was behind in reading. WTH?

    She was behind because we sent her to a preschool where they had fun and learned stuff (obviously not reading) by doing and playing and interacting.

    We increased the number of minutes we read to her everyday and had fun with it. We never forced her to read. Two months later, she was reading independently and off the charts by the end of the school year. She never knew she was “behind.” (No one should be surprised that I birthed readers. LOL)

    I agree with you. I have teacher friends who aren’t allowed any room for creativity in their classrooms. Somewhere the “powers that be” lost sight of what teaching is supposed to do for our kids. Teach them to love learning, teach them to solve problems, and teach them to cope with life.

  21. My two are Mensa-level bright. The elder also had endless ear infections; and the younger turns out to be severely dyslexic. I spent thir early childhoods grinding my teeth against the stupidity of a system that tried to put them in “average” boxes; eventually I learned that school is for their emotional development, and home is where they get educated.

  22. My parents homeschooled me. I did awesome on the SAT and great on the COMPASS test. I am now a youth pastor and from what I observe, kids are given to much work at school. It’s like the schools are keeping the students busy SO they won’t get into trouble. I agree with you, kids need to be kids and not bogged down with homework all the time. I am considering becoming a teacher, but I know I will be fired cuz I will give them as little homework as possible.

    • Lanette Kauten on May 6, 2014 at 8:26 am
    • Reply

    This is why I tout the advantages of home school. Every child is different, so when you put twenty kids with various learning styles and strengths and weaknesses into a classroom, it’s impossible for the teacher to meet every student at each individual level. My 9yo is on a 7th grade reading level, but he has dysgraphia and his comprehension skills are way below normal. Unless there’s one-on-one, how can any teacher deal with a five year discrepancy between comprehension and reading level? I understand not every parent can have the flexibility to home school their children, but I urge those who can to do it.

    As to your question about our own disabilities: If I was born twenty years later, I would have been labeled with Asperger’s. I had all the obvious symptoms growing up, plus a few no one thought of before. I was the weird kid who peeled the paint off the school walls during lectures because of an obsessive need to pick. Until I was twenty-three, whenever someone tried to engage me in a debate or argument, I would tell that person to wait while I wrote down my response and read it back to them. I usually won simply because no one had that much patience. I’ve overcome most of my symptoms through stubborn will, but social situations still scare me, and I have to have someone with normal speech patterns go through my writing looking for stilted and awkward sentences because it all looks natural to me. Despite all this, I’m glad Asperger’s wasn’t known of in this country when I was growing up because if I was told that I do such and such because of it, it would have given me an excuse not to work against it. I don’t think I would have worked as hard to overcome my oddities.

    As to the Spawn, he’s four. I wouldn’t worry about it too much at this point, but definitely continue to keep an eye on his development. If you need peace of mind, get him a speech therapist. I would say that whatever you do, do not let the school railroad you, but I already know you won’t.

  23. Thank you for this post. I know so many families affected in this way, including mine.

    When my eldest was five, his teacher decided he was autistic. Mainly because she said he wouldn’t make eye contact. She was an intimidating person who had no concept of personal space. Heck, I didn’t like making eye contact with her. But just to be sure, we took him to a paediatrician. He said he was just a sensitive, socially awkward little boy. Definitely not autistic.

    When he was 11, they tried again, claiming he had to be on the autistic spectrum because he had trouble socialising with his peers. He’s very, very smart and his peers were mostly interested in reality television and football. Can’t for the life of me imagine WHY he couldn’t relate to them. We didn’t bother getting him tested.

    He’s now nearly 18. He is thriving at his school and has an extensive friendship circle. He just needed to find his ‘people’.

  24. Kristen–thank you for saying what needs to be said. I’m an educator, 8th grade through college graduate, and I speak from the heart when I say that classes are too large, teachers have been forced to ‘teach to the test’, and the kids are getting lost. When my own child was a first grader I was called in for the dreaded parent teacher conference. Her behavioral issue? She refused to ‘pay attention’ and sat in the back of the room reading books! Needless to say we yanked her as soon as possible and put her in a small private school where she could teach the kindergarteners how to swim, wander by the principal’s office for an afternoon chat with him, and get personally tutored in algebra, because that’s what interested her. You go girl! Be nice and polite to the teacher, but in the end do what’s best for your child. And remember to breathe! L.

  25. As a teacher, I could not agree more. We are professionals who have degrees in child development. We know how to reach individual children and give them what they need in order to learn. Teaching is an art. The problem is when all the “experts” with no background or knowledge in education are given the power to make decisions. And, unfortunately, it’s the children who suffer. Teaching isn’t reading a script or handing out a book, it’s about knowing each kid in your class, where they are, where they need to be, and how to get them there according to their learning style.

    1. Exactly!! The “experts” drove me from teaching. I took my kids with me and now homeschool. There are a number of school districts around me that are now teaching by script. And lets not forget the “wisdom” of having politicians with no education experience set the laws and requirements to govern our schools. Teaching is the only profession not governed by its own.

  26. Yes, we live in a society that is much to quick to label kids (and adults too). Yes, standardized testing is totally out of control. And yes, much of what you say is true. But none of it has anything to do with whether or not your son would benefit from some additional services. I don’t pretend to know if he does. But what I I do know is that if he does, it is a good thing to start those services earlier rather than later. It’s okay to hold onto a healthy dose of skepticism. Feel free to challenge the professionals. Make them make their case. But don’t let that stop you from accessing services that may, in fact, be beneficial for your son.

    1. Oh, I agree. I want to be honest and that’s why Hubby’s going with me.

  27. Great Post! Hilarious as usual. I was that ADD kid that spent a lot of time in the hallway and it never helped me focus any better. As a teacher now (how the Hell did that happen?) I have a special place in my heart for those ADD and ADHD kids that spend so much time out of the classroom and hardly ever send them outside myself (unless of course it is for their own safety when I begin considering strangulation as reasonable punishment). I teach middle school, which is arguably the lowest point in human development, and behavior is generally bad whether kids have an identified *disability* or not. In some ways being a middle schooler is a disability. The problem is there are so many different ways for students to learn, but the ways we measure learning are so limited.

    I personally believe that life is not supposed to be measured on a bell curve. I also believe that video games and access to instant information on smart phones and other electronic devices are destroying students ability to interact socially and think critically. I love it when a student tells me obsidian is harder than diamond because it is the hardest substance in Minecraft. I love that my Environmental Science students will literally beg me to go out to the school garden, and then spend the majority of their time trying to play video games on their phones, or even better, watching videos of someone else playing video games. And btw, by love I mean the opposite of love.

    But I’ll save that ranting for the post I am currently writing about how smartphones are dumb and making us dumber. Thanks for the post. It’s given me a lot to think about.

    1. And I almost forgot. Vegan Zombies? Brilliant!

  28. Reading all of this makes me very happy I grew up when I did. I am glad The Spawn has you on his side, Kristen. 🙂

  29. I think you have one smart spawn there. That apart, there’s nothing I can add to what a lot of other people have already said.

  30. You hit it right on the head, Kristen. Terrific post!

    My kids are both adults now, but I definitely remember the day my daughter brought home a practice FCAT (Florida’s version of insanity-based testing) writing exercise. I was horrified. It was totally formulaic: “First, I…. Second, we…., Third…. and finally…” I blew up (almost literally). What’s wrong with creativity? What’s wrong with not fitting inside someone else’s narrow parameters?

    Heck, my mom was letting my brother wear plaids and stripes together when he was about three. When I asked her why (with typical teenage angst), she told me that it didn’t hurt anything and he thought he looked great. Who was she to interfere?

    There are ways to address educational issues without stifling creativity, but its much harder to do and often, no one but a parent can take the time. God bless the teachers who, while swamped, manage to encourage the differences.

  31. Your gorgeous post is reminding me of a ‘children’s’ book I found as a teenager that made me weep with recognition and filled me with hope. It’s called ‘The Geranium on the Window Sill just died but Teacher you went right on’ by Robert Cullum. Never stop speaking up and out, Kristen. We are listening.

    1. Sounds fabulous, THANKS!

  32. Best of luck on your ‘visit.” Too many kids are forced to stay inside the box to learn. That is why I carry a box cutter…to give my kids an opportunity to learn in a way that fits them. Great article.

    1. Box-cutter. i dig it :D.

  33. Great post, and interesting from my point of view. My mom is an educator, having taught kindergarten, gifted, special education, and music, and is now a principal. She absolutely loves kids, and because of her background she’s been amazing at getting the help some kids actually need.

    I find education is difficult if you’re not average. My best friend (dyslexic and ADD) had the same grueling experience and feeling out of place that I did (I was ‘gifted’ in math). We were both pulled out of class for special education, and ostracized because of it. It isn’t fair.

    Now that I’m pregnant and looking at it from a parent’s perspective, I try to balance my views because I’ll be the crazy “don’t mess with my kids” mom, but I also know how restricted teachers are as educators.

    One book that was around a decade ago, that you might find absolutely wonderful, is the multiple intelligences theory book by Howard Gardner. Look at the original one, the 7 he’s proved work because he’s found people who only have one of each.

  34. I am a hundred million percent on board with letting kiddos be kiddos. I have a three-year-old son who sounds like he would just get along famously with your four-year-old (he slams away on his dad’s drum set singing about Batman and Spiderman) and we are just now starting to face the education system.

    I was a journalist covering public school systems for some time, so I know intimately the flow and ebb of politics and policies that inform the public school education, so my thought was to look at other avenues of education. But, I found as I looked at preschools for my little man that those praised to the skies and back again were those that were recommending FULL DAY preschool, 5 days a week… um, what?!?! I thought that did not happen until first grade, as in three years from now!?

    Then I found out that if I did not put my child in these programs that I would be severely limiting his abilities in the future, he would be behind by the time he got to kindergarten, that he would be one of THOSE boys… you know, the ones making up the statistics about how boys are so terrible in school and the WORLD IS ENDING.

    What to do? Then I discovered that there is an actual backlash among moms I have talked to who are now pulling their kiddos out of school and homeschooling them because it is just too much. I am not the kind of person who could homeschool (losing my mind = bad education for my son), but I can absolutely agree on why these moms are staying home.

    Unfortunately, through all of my research, a solution has not magically appeared. My sweetly rambunctious son is going to be the kiddo that gets in trouble for talking too much, for performing in front of audience, for not settling down. He will get through because he has a mom and dad committed to making it so (just as you are, bravo!!)… but that doesn’t make the years ahead any easier to face…

    Long comment… but, I love that you have shared and done so honestly. Stay strong in the face of a system seemingly set out to steal childhood from the children. 🙂

  35. The three most important things for a child to grow into an intelligent adult are:
    The willingness to learn
    The expectations to do your best and to excel from parents. (Really, it all boils down to parental expectations. it’s what almost all achievers have in common. parents who taught them about hard work.)
    The last thing:
    An institution/teacher willing to give knowledge and reward the hard work.

    But all that’s going to hell.
    A lot of people don’t encourage their kids to learn or do hard work and simultaneously the schools are, as you say, become drone-builders.

    1. Meat grinders. Blech.

  36. ROFL! Kristin, this is you all over, but you’re right. Bean counters get involved and watch out! As someone, who marches to the beat of a different drummer, thank you for the article.

  37. thoughtful post as usual Kristen. We returned home from living in 3 different countries overseas where 2 of my children were “force-fed” reading by the British system which, in essence, declares that ANY child NOT reading by 5 (I kid you not) is “likely delayed for life.” Well let me tell ya that my middle kid came back to US schools and was such a dreadful SPELLER because of having to memorize words in order to “prove she could read” at seven years old (this after 2 years in an I.B. system preschool in Istanbul) they thought we required an I.E.P (Individual Educational Assessment)–i.e. they thought the girl was mentally retarded and required Special Services–the short bus, if you will. That kid now studies Environmental Science at the University of Michigan and plans to go into Geological engineering–yeah, she’s a numbers person, Crazy 4th grade teacher who gave her a total complex. She still can’t spell worth a you-know-what.

    The private English school teachers were NUTS about making my kids pretend to be able to read which was devastating. My youngest to this day breaks out in hives when she “has to read a book” thanks to the terror she experienced in front of her “classmates” (at 4 years old) over “reading out loud” every flipping morning.

    I’ll admit I’m a “got a shot for it? give it to my kids” kind of mom as far as that goes but none of my kids got a bunch of them at once time. It took a lot of trips back and forth in their first 10 years or so (which was fun, considering 2 of them were overseas while were in the middle of all the vacation years–you should see the list of things my youngest had to take after she was born in Japan!).

    Hold your ground Mama Bear.Those are your cubs.

    The antagonist class sounds awesome but I have a beer event—too bad too because I am getting my arse kicked by one of those (not a beer event, an “antagonist” who won’t coalesce for me the way my editor wants him to).


  38. Kristen, I totally get where you’re coming from big-picture, but just wanted to advise you as a mom who’s a little farther down the road (kids are 7 and 5) – leave the philosophy and the chip at home when you go to the meeting.

    99% of the teachers I have dealt with are very levelheaded and sincerely have my child’s best interest at heart, they are just seeing things from a different perspective than me. And the other 1% are doing their best and just overwhelmed. I can sympathize with all that, can’t you?

    You may walk into this meeting and the teacher will say “Spawn has an amazing vocabulary, he’s trying to discuss things way above the level we expect, but we’re concerned because he gets so very frustrated when we can’t understand what he’s saying. Here’s some tips for you to work on at home, that will reinforce his pronunciation without making him feel selfconscious.”

    I’ve walked into situations all pre-mad and walked out feeling pretty foolish – and relieved. Expect the good so you don’t miss it when you see it!

  39. Mega-dittos from someone who spent many days at a desk in the hall watching the traffic go by. Thankfully, my father had the good sense to pull me out after a knock-down-drag-out battle with my fifth grade math teacher who was certain I was the dumbest kid in a generation.

    I’m still not great at math, I have a GED instead of a high school diploma, and have started and quit college twice, but I operate (and own) three small businesses and can make up a smoking political thriller. I have the Amazon reviews to back up that statement (and I only know about 10% of the reviewers in any way, shape, or form that could be considered personal. 🙂 )

    ~ Ian

    1. AWESOME!

  40. Kristen, I feel for you, big time. I have a son who is 9 now, but remember being blind-sided when my “perfect”, super-smart, talkative, funny child, at 4, had that meeting where suddenly 8 or 9 educators were in the room telling me he either had behavioral issues, sensory issues, or some sort of spacing-out problem (focus), or something regarding a spectrum, and at the time I had no clue what they were talking about. In Pre-K, they were able to give him services (OT, PT, Speech/Language) without having to label, so we just kind of went with it, because if they thought he needed something, all power to them to teach him. When in 1st grade though, I was horrified that IEP was to be taken away, unless he was properly “labeled” and even now, he has a 504 instead. Anyway, we don’t use labels with him, or anyone at this point although officially signed those papers, but are starting to see Anxiety as the biggest issue. This is so hard –I remember being awake at night forever, so upset by this. But do remember, you have an awesome kid and with great, smart parents, he will do great…that’s what I keep telling myself. And just to mention about your hubby–I am going to recommend he be a part of this 100%, all the time, with the school. Not just to keep you from going overboard, but because he will learn a ton about your sons learning style and who knows, it might ring a bell with him too. My husband has learned so much about his behavior growing up, because my son is similar and he provides perspective sometimes that I just don’t get (the anxiety element specifically…), and that has come in handy lately with anxiety and homework specifically.. Anyway, hugs to you, I know these meetings are so tough. Please keep us posted.

  41. Supposedly, I have a genius IQ. I graduated with a 2.1 GPA from high school, I fall asleep if you hand me classic lit, I’ve never been able to make any headway with college and last night I stabbed my mouth in two places while eating an almond. Clearly, testing does not tell the whole story.

    I was an excellent test taker but a crappy student. When I was in middle school, I scored so high on the MEAP in math and reading that they sent me to some sort of Odyssey of the Mind type event. Like Quiz Bowl, but for math problems. I was hopelessly outclassed because frankly, I guessed on nearly all of my MEAP answers. The next year, I had to take some other kind of math placement test and scored so poorly they put me in a special class for the mathematically challenged. Not a single teacher, counselor or bureaucratic ninny questioned this. I was in gifted classes in elementary school, special classes in middle and I slept through my high school classes so we’ll never know what I would have done there.

    I was really good at writing, reading and comprehension, so no one was prepared for me in high school. Most of the good teachers didn’t have a curriculum that challenged me and they became uncomfortable when I asked questions they couldn’t answer. So they let me coast. I never finished a single book I was assigned in school. I’d read the beginning and the end, fail the homework and ace the test. I learned at a very early age, if you SEEM smart, people assume you are, and leave you the hell alone. I rolled with that. So I rarely did homework, barely paid attention, never took a single note and everyone just let me scrape by, squandering whatever neurons I might have rubbed together for the greater good. So I graduated in the bottom five of my class. Despite my love of reading I had no basic grasp of punctuation and grammar and I still can’t take notes or do homework.

    School and assessment tests are not designed for the creative or the intellectual. They are there only there to reward and encourage conformity and the people who will make the best worker bees. The person at the top of their class is rarely the smartest, but they are almost always the hardest worker. Schools don’t know what to do with the brilliant, the unusual, the creative or the unruly.

    I don’t have kids but if I did, I’d be pissed too. Instead of valuing all the wonderful things your Spawn can do, they focus on the one thing that they can quantify. We are nothing but numbers on the page and making someone a number chokes out their fire, their magic.

    When I think of school, I think of this Robert Mccammon quote from Boy’s Life:

    “You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn’t realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.”

  42. Love, love, love this post! So many of my own thoughts articulated. Vegan Zombies! Brilliant. The reassurance I offer myself about my own unique kids (and me – I was a hallway nerd myself) is that the often-ridiculous stuff they will get from school gives them something to work against, which every genius needs. Without obstacles to work against (and *sometimes* the school system or a particular class or teacher becomes the obstacle), we can’t build our awesomely huge muscles.

    Maybe being stuck out in the hallway made us more fiery and passionate about the things we love, made us fight for what our brains could do. If I’m honest, I probably learned as much from teachers and experiences I hated as those I loved…

    • beccapuglisi on May 6, 2014 at 9:40 am
    • Reply

    You’ve already had plenty of good feedback, but you can never get enough encouragement, so I’ll add my two cents. I taught elementary school for ten years before having kids of my own. My class was one of those where the kids were often wearing tutus and hanging like bats. My administrators were wonderful, embracing my desire to embrace kids’ differences, and getting on board. As a result, I always had a boy-heavy class. They rarely left my class behind grade level. I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back, but to agree with you that YES, PLEASE take the leash off our teachers and let them do their jobs the way it needs to be done.

    As for your conference, I would say that you’re right on about The Spawn. He’s FOUR YEARS OLD. So definitely stick to your guns there. But obviously, be cool. My advice would be to go into it with the attitude of just having a healthy conversation about your son. Try to check defensiveness at the door. And prayer, of course. Lots of prayer :).

  43. For me I used to get in trouble in math. I tended to be a very intuitive kind of thinker and I didn’t NEED all the steps they showed to get from point A to point Z (and indeed, usually drew horses in the margins of my worksheets). So I got accused of cheating, until my teachers started giving me math problems on the spot and literally watched me work them out with no paper and still give them the right answer. Then there was that time I was caught doing 7th grade algebra in the 3rd grade. Now, I was lucky in that MOSTLY I had fabulous teachers who recognized that I was smart and ergo easily bored. And some of them gave me other work to challenge me (aka keep me quiet) while everybody else was off doing long division, so I didn’t spend a lot of time in the hall.

    This whole one size fits all education trend we’ve had going on the last decade or so drives me insane and is another strike against having kids for me. I don’t understand why they won’t let teachers TEACH. Thank God I still have more or less free rein teaching at the college level.

    1. Thanks. This is why I am bringing Hubby. I know my inner pit bull can come out. Praise GOD for great teachers. I would have never loved learning and kept pressing without them believing in me.

  44. I was the last kid in my school system to be promoted; I was therefore the youngest, smartest and most miserable kid in every class. My achievement test scores were the best any kid in the state had ever scored (even though I was a year younger), but I had to go to summer school to get enough credits to graduate. School was a prison for me. Now, it’s a prison for every kid. Teachers are guards and principals are wardens.
    That’s why my kids are HOME schooled.

  45. The Spawn. I love it. More people need to call their kids this, haha.

    I don’t have a learning disability, but I am I am in a wheelchair, so sign me up for the physical disability list. My bones are fragile, so that’s why. Anyway, I completely understand the not fitting in thing. On top of people apparently not being able to process “tiny girl sits in chair = perfectly not weird,” I was your class A dork who loved dragons. I was actually ahead of the bell curve (in other words, the annoying kid in school who never has to study), but, ironically, that is just as hard to do as being behind the bell curve. Everyone hated me because of my wacky brain that critically thought about things, looked for out of the box solutions, etc., and how dare I be smarter when I’m *gasp* different because of the chair?

    That was the attitude I got anyway. I never really cared, because I just assumed they were idiots for thinking that, and I tend not to take advice from idiots. 😀

    My mom was the best and never played the pity party. She popped me on the mouth for being sarcastic just like the rest of the kids. 😉

    My brother, on the other hand, was dyslexic, so my family has been through the hoop jumping thing. It really damaged his self-esteem, and to this day, I don’t think he’s gotten over it. He was a little slower, but if the school had understood that, I bet he would believe in himself a lot more than he does. It’s sad when you think about it. My disability has always been way worse than his (I have to be careful giving someone a high-five because I might break my arm), but he’s the one who’s had to struggle solely because of the school system. “You’re not developing fast enough. Look at your sister.” I was horrified. Someone actually said that to him. Not in so many words, but it was implied. He really loved me after that. *sigh*

    Sorry you have to deal with this. The Spawn looks happy, and if he’s smart enough to make that Vegan Zombie joke (so hilarious I had to stop reading for a second), then he sounds like he’ll be fine. Wit takes you pretty far in life, as does nerves of steel, and a report card really isn’t the diamond of the world. Hope you get through your “parent teacher conference.” You could maybe take the muzzle off a little bit just to watch the teacher’s face, teehee.

  46. This is why I home schooled my kids, they got to be free range and study whatever and however they wanted. At 10 my son could read a flight school text book, yet not read story books (no idea what that was about). At the end of the month he’ll graduate from a private college prep school- he wanted to go there for high school.
    My daughter goes to a hippie charter school, and is so fierce.
    I love the fact that they got to figure out who they are and how they learn without people shoving labels on them.
    And with you fighting for him, the Spawn will be just fine- well okay you will keep him safe as nothing from you could be as ordinary as fine 🙂

  47. As a substitute teaching with experience in grades pre-K through 12th I agree in part. It’s easy to just throw out all standardized testing and say, boo hiss, it’s not teaching them anything. WRONG. It’s not teaching them EVERYTHING, but it is teaching them how to memorize and regurgitate information and that is PART of learning. Most of us remember learning our times table by rote and can still recite them. There’s something to be said for memorization. I can still recite the preamble to the constitution. How useful is that, not sure, but my times table have come in might handy.

    That said, what we’re NOT doing in education is teaching problem solving and think-out-side-the-box analysis.

    Is there a place for the “box” we put kids and teachers in. Yes, but only if it supplemented with other learning.

    When I talk to home-schoolers they are horrified that I would send my kids to public school especially in our socio-economic depressed district. But what their kids are getting in FREE thinking, they are missing, how to handle a routine, how to budget their time, how to push on and through subjects that are not a natural fit. Hmmmm, sounds like real life and real jobs, doesn’t it.

    So, I take a hybrid approach. I do not expect my public education (which is over-burdened)to be the end all of my child’s education. I supplement with theatre, music, reading at home, gardening, crafts, museum visits, etc.

    That’s my take on it. Take responsibility for your children. Be a partner with your teacher, not a judge and jury.

    But, Kristin, at this point, I wouldn’t worry too much yet, but I’m sorry you are going through struggles and fears. Being a parent is hard. Stay strong.

  48. I lovelovelove this post. My spawn is just finishing up his junior year of high school, and has come to the point of being just so very done with the absurd academic demands at school that he can’t stand the idea of even *thinking* about reading for pleasure anymore — and this is a child who until not too long ago used to spend his own meager earnings on books whenever allowed. It makes me so sad to see his fatigue; he’s only seventeen. Is killing the joy of words and reading in our children really what we should aim to accomplish with education?

    • Robert on May 6, 2014 at 10:13 am
    • Reply

    I laughed till I almost cried!

  49. Your spawn reminds me so much of mine. So intelligent, so gifted, with delayed speech….

    I’m dyslexic and a little dysgraphic, my three kids are all dyslexic, and two are also dysgraphic, one has physical disabilities. The first two were delayed learning wise but their gross motor skills were off the charts. The third child was just the opposite. By the time my youngest graduates, I will have spent 15 years dealing with Individual Education Plans and 504s. Unfortunately, everyone (including many special ed teachers) think that learning disabilities equals a lack of intelligence. I think it’s just the opposite.

    My son is terribly dysgraphic, dyslexic, and incredibly intelligent. When I asked his special ed teacher if he could use his accommodations during the AP tests, she told me she didn’t know. She’d never had a special ed student in an AP Class. Tony was the first kid in his high school with an I.E.P. to ever take advanced placement classes. My daughter was the second.

    I asked the special ed teachers what they were doing wrong? So many of these kids are so intelligent, most of them should be in AP classes–unfortunately, the special ed teachers are sent to lower level classes, and all the special ed kids are stuck in those classes to get the required hours of special ed teaching regardless of whether that class is the right class level for the student.

    When Anna was in the 3rd grade, I requested testing because I saw the dyslexia and dysgraphia (after all, Tony had been diagnosed the year before, and her sister had been diagnosed with dyslexia a few years before that) There were nine teachers and administrators in the meeting meant to bully me. They told me that Anna had average intelligence and was doing average work. Needless to say, I’m not easily bullied. I asked if they’d broken the law and given her an IQ test without my permission. They swore they hadn’t so I asked how they knew her intelligence level. They told me that they just knew. That wasn’t a good enough answer for me. I very nicely asked if they had things to do that day. They explained that they were very busy. I told them that I wasn’t busy, and I was prepared to sit there all day until they agreed to test my child. And guess what, I wasn’t busy the next day either. Then I referenced the law giving them 90 days to test her and report the results to me. Ninety days later, they called and said they’d discovered my child had learning disabilities. I said, “Well, aren’t you smart.”

    Anna tests in the 99 percentile in intelligence but the 20th in processing speed, she’s dyslexic and dysgraphic and spends her life in a state of frustration. After her testing, the teachers asked her to explain how she came upon the answers to several of the questions they’d never been able to figure out. It might take her longer to get the answers to a question, or to absorb information, but when it’s there, it’s set in stone and it’s right. This year, her senior year, she’s taking five AP classes and her lowest grade is a 98. Latin last semester killed her because of her inability to spell without the aid of a computer–she still got a B.

    The four of us have always been square pegs being forced into round holes, and pumpernickel rye swirl in a world of wonder bread. I’ve had to fight a constant battle with the school system to not let my children coast through. I demanded the education they deserved, and the one time they refused to allow one to have it, I pulled Anna out of school and home schooled her for 2 years. I fought constantly to make sure my youngest, Isabelle, wouldn’t receive more special treatment than she needed because of her physical disabilities. Give her more time to do the work, sure, but don’t demand less work. That’s not going to help her. Oh, and if she does 50% of the work, give her a 50% which is an F. You’ll only have to do it once. The teachers couldn’t believe I wanted them to give my child a failing grade even though she deserved one. My kids are smart–they will play teachers and administrators like a fiddle and the result comes out sounding like Bach. Seriously, Izzy’s been doing it since 2nd grade. My kids are smarter than the teachers and administrators–they’re IQs prove that point. Just because they might see things differently or learn in a different way, doesn’t make them any more or less deserving of a great education.

  50. It’s heartening to hear so much advocacy for a child. In the end, that is what really counts. A parent’s unconditional love, understanding, and attention is what makes spawns thrive.

  51. My son, now 55, is a perfect-score test taker. Disorganized and slow to speak, bouncing around with part-time jobs, we’ve diagnosed him with probable Aspergers. in 3rd grade for fun, he’d multiply 3-digit #sin his head. His teacher told us he he was failing reading. After school he’d open the Britannica and read up on vultures. Noted doctors told us, “He just seems to have some little screw loose in his brain,but he’s so smart he’ll compensate for it.” So it has gone all his life. Eventually, the only positive comment teachers could make was, “Gordon has made great strides.”

    Our 5 kids raised us—each one so different I claim no knowledge about kids except that we’re cheating them out of their childhoods.

    New topic: me. i’m now 80. Had a hysterectomy at 50 and took estrogen for 22 years until they decided it would kill me. Had miserable hot flashed for a year, but still going strong.

    I’m a winter writer. Having persevered, I found an agent for my family history at the PNWA conference last summer. A publisher may be in sight. I focus on my noted Seattle pioneer contractor father, Hans Pederson, who died when I was a month old. No one told me about him. I have my next book in mind too, if I live long enough, God knows when I’ll ever get to it. I’m slogging into social media—your Machines book is much the best. I’ve thought up most of the website, have drafted 60 blogs as I figure my focus. Have only set up other sites as I want to understand them better before I jump in and make mistakes.

    I’ve tried WANA but had no response, probably haven’t done enough. Much of it seems now to be on Twitter—haven’t done anything there yet. Tech surgeons looks like the place for my website, but haven’t seen his discount on WANA Int., I may be doing WANA wrong. Have misplaced your blog where you mentioned some upcoming web designers?

    Anyway, I’m hooked on your writing. What a talent. Thanks for reading this tome and helping me so much already.

  52. First of all, good for you for not letting them ” experiment” on your child. I’m not a mother yet, but I wouldn’t allow that either. It’s a shame that doctors think they are God when certainly they aren’t. Great post, Kristen.

  53. Hell, we all have our own unique ways of learning. Some of us want a set list of directions, others like a FAQ or a how-to. Others pick it up instinctively. Some are fast, some are slow. From my own history, I was categorized as exceptionally intelligent kids early on, probably around 3rd or 4th grade or so, and got to do some nifty extracurricular things. Come 7th grade, though, my grades started getting wonky, I wasn’t finishing homework in time, etc. I even flunked one semester of English. English! My bread and butter nowadays!! And it didn’t really stop, either–my grades could have easily been A’s, but I was firmly ensconced in B-minus up until I graduated college.
    Sure, I could say it’s ADD/ADHD/whatever else you want to categorize it as, but after a couple decades of thinking about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that it wasn’t any chemical or mental imbalance at all. I was BORED, plain and simple. I should have been put in a grade ahead, which would have forced me to apply myself better.
    My point being–the Spawn is the Spawn. He’s not Kristen, he’s not me, he’s not the teacher, he’s not someone else. He learns in his own way, and it’s obvious that the kid’s intelligent and eager to learn more. Sounds like he’ll turn out just fine. 🙂

    • Ron Estrada on May 6, 2014 at 10:33 am
    • Reply

    Now you got me started. Our elected powers-that-be seem to be determined to find a one size fits all strategy for the brainwashing…I mean educating of our youth. Today is my son’s last day in high school. We’re done with the public school system forever. And thank God. If we had to start today, I would find a way to home school if it required l work three jobs. We’ve allowed our kids to be kids and now have a 20 year old daughter and 18 year old son who are very bright, have never drank, tried drugs, and, as far as I can tell, have avoided sex. Where were all those horrible teenage years? Could it be we just raised them according to our Christian beliefs and–gasp!–they turned out to be outstanding young adults? We must have done something wrong. I’d better check the common core recommendations for child raising.

  54. Testing drove me nuts when I taught high school English. Once a week I was hauling my classes down to the computer lab so they could take some test or other. And of course, they never clued ME into what was being tested. Probably because I didn’t matter. I was only the teacher. My job was to try to teach the standards to teenagers, most of whom had already given up because they were shoved through to classes they weren’t ready for.

    I learned the hard truth that teacher don’t check for accuracy anymore. They don’t have the time. That’s, I think, why kids aren’t learning properly and no amount of testing is going to make them learn.

    Kids can’t be put in a box. You can’t just give them the material and expect them to absorb it without help. If you don’t tell them they got an answer wrong and help them to get the right one, they’ll assume they got it right. Isn’t that what teaching is? Showing a student how to get the right answer?

    I wonder if the people who come up with these tests have ever been inside a classroom as anything other than a student themselves.

  55. This is one of the first posts of yours I truly relate to (sorry). I wasn’t a good test taker but had an A average, I thought out of the box (but still get stomach aches at the thought of it, as it wasn’t much admired), and I have 4 kids, one labeled LD (ugh!). I’m also an educator who left the business quick, as I couldn’t be myself nor could I let the kids be themselves. I wish I had some answers for the way education is going (Common Core – give me a break!) but maybe the straight jacket, narrow-hall, small minded, way we are proceeding is already in our rear view mirror. One can hope! Great post.

  56. Vegan Zombies…why the heck not? My husband was a high school teacher, more than 30 years in the LA County school system. He inspired students to do better, to dream beyond what they’d thought was possible, and he wasn’t the only teacher to feel that way. But that older crowd is gone now and most of the good teachers left in that school are gone, or they’re counting the hours to when they can retire. They’ve had their initiative tested right out of them.
    Vegan zombies…why the heck not! Spawn is a lucky, lucky little boy.

  57. Not sure from the tone of your article if you are for or against teachers. Please explain what you mean about handing over the kids to the bean counters and kids are the collateral damage. As a retired teacher, I know how hard teachers work and try their very best to give each child the best education possible. Would appreciate positives about teachers, especially since this is Teacher Appreciation Week.

    1. If you read the entire post I am VERY PRO TEACHER. I HATE the “theorists” and politicians who are keeping teachers from what they do—TEACH! We have people with a PhD who’ve never really taught coming up with ridiculous methods that burden and hobble teachers and hurt the kids.

      And the teachers whole loved me and understood I was different were my greatest heroes. The ones who sent me to the hall were the ones who probably were too overworked by bureaucracy and too many kids in a classroom to give me what I needed.

      Also many of my teachers were hobbled by the idiot tests. I blew the test, ended up in a remedial class that my teachers KNEW was wrong for me. But, the TEST can’t lie.

  58. Great post, Kristen. I’m a former elementary teacher and HATE, HATE, HATE standardized testing and all the dumb bureaucracy that ties teachers’ hands and hearts to keep them from truly teaching kids and not tests. I’m reading Readicide by Kelly Gallagher right now and it makes me so sad, because schools are killing the love of reading and learning in general because of how focused they’ve become on teaching to stupid narrow-minded tests. And that is scary for the future as more and more students graduate and are aliterate (meaning, they don’t WANT to read because school has taught them to hate it). Keep being THAT kind of mom you were with the doctor. Parents that care can beat the system, although it takes constant work.

  59. I’m THAT mom, too, Kristen. I have a child with ADD/ODD and for many years people thought I was being an overprotective/ over reactive mom and waved me off. I was told many times by many professionals that I had a “extremely head strong child” that would grow out of it. I was head strong, too. Bless my mom for putting up with me through those growing years.

    I’m a visual learner and it took until high school to figure out I needed pictures instead of words to follow instructions. Even now, my husband, who is a teacher, will grin because I’ll ask him to interrupter directions because there is no pictures. We’re the perfect fit in that sense.

    I’m just entering the tween years with this child and I’ve got two other younger children who make the rough days better.

    Your post is right on. Thank you for always being real. I appreciate those who share life rather than hide it as if imperfection is wrong. As you said, it’s what makes each of us individuals. We were created to be such.

    • netraptor001 on May 6, 2014 at 10:54 am
    • Reply

    So many good comments already! I have one son and three daughters. While my girls were all speaking in articulate sentences by 18 months, my son spoke caveman until almost age 4. He just turned 7, is smart as a whip and very articulate, and still has a bit of a baby accent. Boys are just different from girls. Don’t let them medicate him. My entire family is OCD and they are all geniuses. Meds would have killed that.

  60. I was one of the few kids in my class who could sit still for whatever reason. Before I even entered preschool, the teacher (who was my daycare provider) told my parents I was smart enough to start school, but lacked the social skills. Isn’t that what preschool is FOR? To be around other kids? My parents didn’t tell me that until I was in third grade, and then I started to think something was wrong with me. I’d always been a faster reader and worker than my classmates.
    I’m all for letting kids be kids, and putting them in school when you think they’re ready, but kids start preschool to much earlier now, it seems. I don’t have kids yet, but I plan to homeschool. I’m not a fan of the way the education system is heading, despite having several teachers for relatives.

    • Tamara LeBlanc on May 6, 2014 at 10:55 am
    • Reply

    I LOVE your sense of humor, I think you sound like the BEST mom a kid could ask for and I’m in awe of your accomplishments!!! A code breaker, huh? Amazing!!!
    After reading this I have some hope for my 20 year old son (who took a hardship withdrawal from college to be with Dusty before he passed, but is now dragging his feet about applying for jobs before classes start again in August…IF he even goes back) 🙁
    Thank you for letting me know that we’re not all perfect and we ALL have our own way of getting things done.

  61. 1) They started vaccines on the Monkey at birth. One barrage then (I think two vaccines in three shots over a four hour period) and then more at 2 weeks, 3 months, etc. Perhaps someone finally changed the rules.

    2) The states…at least the Midwestern and Southern states (I’m from Texas/Oklahoma) are looking at retaking their educational reins fully. Common Core was one of the ways they discussed transitioning so I’m hoping that it moves on through fairly quickly.

    3) Perhaps you should, NICELY, suggest that your son learns differently Look up Brain Based Learning and make sure that you have the facts about the (I believe) 12 different learning styles. Creative types are often misunderstood, quiet (while working at least), and eccentric…and that doesn’t have an age range. My 20 month old can give us full clear sentences….and usually uses the word ‘Bell’ to tell my parents and I everything. (Bell Bell Be Bell…pointing. Bell is short for TinkerBell who apparently has all the answers!)

    4) Take a video of the puzzle solving or take the Spawn and sit him in the corner with something supposedly too advanced for him and just let him go while in the meeting. Perhaps he’s showing a regressed state because they are not challenging him. I used to do that. I would et bored and begin mockingly acting like the kids around me. I would be unintelligible because they were ‘babies’.

    Hope I helped!!

    1. You DID. THANK YOU. I am new at this and I know my both my husband and I had “learning disabilities” and school was very hard on us. We are hoping to remain honest and open-minded, but preparation—GOOD/SOLID preparation is key. So thanks for giving me ideas and taking the time. MUCH appreciated.

      1. Not a problem! A lot of the ‘learning disabled’ kids (and adults) that I have met aren’t actually ‘slow’…they just learn a different way and the schools aren’t prepared for that.

  62. Kristen, I’m the opposite of you. I’m VERY linear. I have to follow every single step of a math problem through. I struggled through math in high school, only to lean in college that it was okay to do every single step. And got through calculus. Loved physics too. Gee. Guess I wasn’t so dumb after all, LOL.

    Thanks for yet another compelling blog post. 🙂

    • Sarah Brentyn on May 6, 2014 at 11:35 am
    • Reply

    I think we really do need benchmarks. Both of my children were way off where they should have been and I’m glad someone had those handy since I had no idea what the heck they were “supposed” to be doing. I’m glad I know because now I can help both my kids with their special needs. Standardized testing was later part of helping us figure out what was going on with my kids. It was gold. Especially since all signs pointed to a diagnosis my child did not have–testing saved him from being misdiagnosed.

    Ironically, I detest a lot of the Common Core and standardized testing and, especially, the everyone-will-do-exactly-the-same-thing-in-the-classroom crap. Neither of my kids is “normal” (average, neurotypical, whatever) and neither can function well in that environment. And it’s awful for good teachers to be restrained from being creative in their classroom.

  63. As a retired principal and a mom with a son who has learning differences, I have had loads of experience with what you are writing about. As a principal, I took great pride in implementing the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program where children were taught through inquiry methodology. You, Kristen, would have excelled as a learner in our public school, as the students are inspired to delve into a unit of inquiry to the depth of which they are capable. They are motivated to actively engage in their learning. Quirky learners have teachers who have learned techniques to support their students by differentiating the curriculum.

    I know how frustrating and upsetting as a parent it can be when the educational community appears to want to label a child( at a much too early stage) and this can have serious ramifications where a student becomes viewed in a particular way that can perhaps erode the child’s confidence in themselves as a capable learner. You sound like you have great common sense and no one knows your child like you do. Follow your gut, it is usually the right approach. It is early days and just remember, no one is saying your son isn’t intelligent, they are just questioning why his verbal skills are not yet developing. Good luck with your meeting. I have a feeling that you will leave them knowing your son better and admiring your positive and pro-active approach to raising your boy.

    • Diana on May 6, 2014 at 11:46 am
    • Reply

    Love the post.

    My didn’t talk clearly and when he did talk he was a boy of very few words.He was tested by the school district at the age of 3 three. The doctor told me some kids don’t talk until they can hear the words correctly in their minds. But we also had to rule out a hearing problem. Which I was 110% sure he didn’t have.

    The speech pathologist did some tests. His tongue just didn’t move -it couldn’t move- in the correct way. He was in speech classes from elementary to middle school. He is in high school now. Most of his speech has been corrected from the practice from those classes. People understand him just fine now. They think he has a cool accent. He has a problem with the rl combination sound like in world. He speech has nothing to do with his intelligence, he is a very smart young man.

    It was all about practicing words correctly and using the techniques by the pathologist to help make the tongue and lips and whatever make the right movements.

    It has all worked out well. I am greatly appreciative of the speech pathologist that he has had. They helped him more than I could have on my own.

    Good luck

  64. Kristen,

    You are my Hero of the Day – maybe the year!

    And my only questions would be, if I couldn’t already see the answer in every picture and word you’ve written about the Spawn…”Is he confident and happy? Do his parents understand him well enough to meet his needs?”

    When my now-big blonde boy was little, we couldn’t. Even me, and I’d spent years working and playing with little kids. When he started to feel stupid and frustrated, we got speech therapy through the school district (same one I attended from kindergarten to graduation, so I had no illusions.) When they wanted us to bring him to the school twice a week, I refused. We were already planning to homeschool, and he wasn’t in preschool, so why introduce him to that dynamic?

    For months, there was little progress, but he loved his therapist, and my daughter could say ‘speech therapy’ perfectly before she was one (of course, she could also tell you what DNA stood for, and quote Shakespeare at 2, so it may have had more to do with who she is and my own early-talker genetics than anything else).

    The change came shortly after he was four. Within two months, he went from being hard for most everyone to understand, to someone referring to him as ‘well-spoken’.

    I wonder, now, if it was the speech therapy, or just growing up .

    For your meeting, I would say go armed with your confidence – you know, the one you used with that doctor. Preschool is not essential to a happy and productive adult life. I know a whole collection of happy, creative, productive adults who never attended school at all. What I’ve learned from living with my own unschoolers is overflowing two blogs, my Facebook page, and leaches into my fiction.

    The Spawn clearly has a loving, nourishing, enriching home where who he is is valued. My guess is that he’s getting a lot more from that than he will in a place where they don’t understand him and measure him, not by joy and confidence, but by a rigid set of “shoulds”.

    We’ve been radically unschooling for over five years now. No, my kids don’t know everything they’d learn in school – but they know a LOT they couldn’t learn there, and they know it because they want to. The depth and breadth of what they know and how they know it amazes me every day (hint: The Simpsons and Family Guy are very educational, whatever school thinks of them!). They own and use what they know, not to pass tests, but to achieve their own goals.

    And they have the Internet, so they can find all those facts the schoolkids cram into their schools long enough to vomit up on a test, then forget again…

    This is more like a letter than a comment. I have a deep well of passion for the freedom of children to be exactly who they are!

    By the way, my 9 year old LOVED the Vegan Zombies, and it led to a fascinating discussion of what T’Pol would eat if she were a zombie, and she calls our dog a pear, despite the fact that he has no obviously pear-like characteristics…

    1. The T’Pol as a zombie thing has me sniggering. ^_^

  65. Reblogged this on shanjeniah and commented:
    I love this. Make that LOVE, in great big letters! =D

  66. Amen and thank you! As a language arts teacher, I am at the end of my rope. I’m currently debating whether or not to go out quietly by handing in my letter of resignation over the summer or come back for one more year where I absolutely refuse to cooperate with any of the testing/standardization nonsense and get myself fired. I just can’t see the sense of playing by the “rules” when the rules constantly shift and do much more harm than good.

    • Carolyn Dekat on May 6, 2014 at 11:57 am
    • Reply

    I was too chicken to turn my kids over to a system that put my husband in a dark closet with a piano–routinely–when he was in kindergarten. He was simply bored and looking for something to do. No dark closets for my kids! Older son would have been labeled because he could do math in his head but not on paper till he was older than average. He started reading quite early though. The baby got the math early, but struggled with reading until he was around nine, when he found a James Patterson series he loved and was suddenly reading fluently and for pleasure. That wouldn’t have happened in school–he’d have been made to feel behind and dumb and would have learned to hate reading. I feel so very thankful that we were able to teach them at home. They are both professionals now.

  67. My son is four and I fought tooth and nail with the school not to have him labelled as a ‘behaviour kid’ this fall. He is the sweetest, most sensitive little boy I have seen in a long time, and he is so bright. He also loves puzzles and has a great imagination. His ‘problem’? Hitting other kids in class! So how can he be an angel everywhere else (including afterschool care) and a monster at school? The trigger is clearly at school (after very little investigating I was able to pinpoint precisely what was wrong at the school, and now the problem is solved). My suggestion to you (although your situation is different) is to really understand the environments your kid is experiencing. See the classroom when it is full of kids…see what your son sees, how he is treated, what is on the walls, is he stimulated, where does he sit, what are the rules and consequences in the classroom, how does the teacher talk to him vs. the other children, what are the other children like…all parents should do this, but especially a parent who may/may not need special attention for their child. I have also worked with children and adults with special needs for a long time, so I know the benefits and downside to a ‘diagnosis’ on record…I highly recommend avoiding a label (unless your child really needs extra funding and personnel) as it can be very, very damaging.

  68. Since I know we live in the same general area of North Texas, I just wanted to offer a recommendation. Hopefully, you’ve found a pediatrician for The Spawn you like, but Practical Pediatrics in Grapevine is the bees’ knees. To the point I’ll drive from Roanoke instead of switching. Even if she has to get shots, my kid is still excited to go see everyone, likes it’s a flippin’ field trip. Anyway, I thought of them when you were writing about not giving your kiddo all the shots at once. Not only did they give them over time, they actually let her skip some since she wasn’t in daycare and this didn’t need them. Okay, gushing done. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. THANK GOD, Spawn is very healthy. I’ve fired four pediatricians but the last one seemed all right. We will see and at least now I have another option. Sounds like a fab doctor!

  69. Hilarious! And so true. We are so quick to label children, especially little boys. P.S. – looking for the facebook button so I can share. Do I get credit for that?

    1. Now that you told me? YES. Thank you!

  70. Recent research supports the theory that we are going about education all wrong. Kids learn kinetically for the first five years. Until then they ought to have only very limited access to electronics, including TV. And until age ten they ought not to use electronic devises in school. They have actually coined the term .digital dementia’ referring the the gaps in normal brain development in kids who have too much access to electronic devices instead of moving their bodies and learning to solve problems with their own minds.

    On top of that, we are over-scheduling and over directing our kids to the point that they have no opportunity for creative play or even for learning social skills. They are taught to be task driven and this leaves little room for learning compassion and sensitivity or how to be good world citizens.
    I fear for the upcoming generation. They are being grossly short-changed in both their schools and their homes.

  71. We are definitely hall peeps, Kristen. My sons were just as big misfits in school as I was, so the genes run true. I was constantly dismayed by the school system, but my sons were lucky to have the stellar teacher from time to time who made up for the stupid tests and misunderstanding of square pegs.

    I spent a lot of time interacting with my kids, as it is clear you do with the Spawn–it is that interaction that will serve him well. My sons are now 21 and 22, still proud as hell square pegs.

  72. My son was diagnosed with ADD but a few years ago he stopped taking meds for it. He does have a learning disability and yes, he didn’t start talking till age 5/6. He’s in speech therapy at school. Just in the last few months, I’ve seen him start bringing his homework home to do his self (before he had IEP teachers helping him) and his speech is almost normal. He still has a few problems but he’s really started to turn things around. I, personally, don’t think he had ADD. He is on meds for another condition and it’s made such a profound difference in his life of late. He’s more respectful, courteous, helpful. He has his days, we all have those. I guess what I’m saying is: be sure. Back then, he had been kicked out of different pre-schools for not minding/mood swings. Today, he has the help he needs, but it was a LONG road.

  73. Sorry Kristen, but the nerd in me has to point out that it was Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel and not Leonardo da Vinci. Great post apart from that!

    1. Sorry. Was ticked when I wrote this. Will correct. THANK YOU!

    2. But another good point is that Michelangelo was actually dyslexic. I mushed them together. My bad 😀 .

    • lccooper on May 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm
    • Reply

    Common core should have been named common crap for what it is. The Internet is littered with YouTube videos blog posts about the damage common core is doing to our children of today… The future leaders of tomorrow. It’s a gigantic Charlie foxtrot that had no business evolving from a bunch of drunks at a Governors Association meeting junket. I have four kids, all school age, who are being beaten over the head with common core; hence, two of them are now homeschooled and the other two will be homeschooled beginning this next year. If you can do it, homeschool your kid until this common core nonsense blows over. Remember the story of the emperors clothing?


  74. There are a gazillion things in this post I want to say amen to. I’ll settle for, let’s get rid of the required standardized tests, for God’s sake (and the teachers’ and children’s)! WORST IDEA EVER.

    I learned to read really well in second grade (and I later discovered that I have a staggering 80% retention level). There was just one problem. I didn’t read “silently.” I moved my lips and whispered the words under my breath.

    My second grade teacher felt this indicated that I was a “slow” reader, so she put me in the slowest group (i.e., the one still using the boring 1st grade readers…See Dick. See Jane. See Dick chase Jane.) What really grated was that the stupidest kid in the class sat next to me, and he was in the group that had the fascinating reader about some kid living out west during the pioneer days.

    Can you guess what’s coming? I got caught reading over his shoulder, because I was whispering the words out loud. Did the teacher wise up? No, I sat in the hall for the rest of the day (*waves to my Hall Peeps*) and then she moved my desk to be with the other sloooow readers.

    I had some fab teachers through the years, most of them were fab, really, but the 2nd grade one… not so much!

  75. What a great post. I feel your pain. And be warned – the teachers may not like you. My kiddo was a micro preemie, had health issues & developmental delays, but all in all, did pretty well (she’s now 18). My kiddo’s 4th grade year was horrible. We were told that she couldn’t sit still & focus during the lectures (yup, you read that right. Lectures. 4th grade.). School told us they wouldn’t do anything for her as far as an IEP until she was medicated. Her pediatric neuropsychologist (yeah, we had one, because of my kiddo’s brain injury – and the school wouldn’t accept her diagnoses) came up with a solution – give the kiddo a pill. A teeny-tiny pill that would have no recognizable effect. Essentially a placebo for the school. It worked. But the teacher refused to ever talk to me again, and I was assigned a “liaison” that I had to go through. But that was OK. I didn’t like that teacher anyway.

    OK – this rant got longer than I intended. So glad the Spawn has you. Be strong.

    And for Common Core, check out Jami Gold’s rant on F/B yesterday. EXCELLENT read.

    1. I’d already seen it and when I was blogging was trying to figure out how to put it in the post, LOL. Jami ROCKS!

    • shawn m on May 6, 2014 at 2:00 pm
    • Reply

    Don’t worry folks, while Kristen is Momma Bear, Pappa Bear will be attending as well.

    And Pappa Bear has had his share of learning difficulties because the system wasn’t designed for my kenesthitic learning style. While I was scarred for life that the school told me Id never graduate school because I was low functioning. yeaI … it took me every summer from kindergarten to senior in hs to graduate. I promise iwas laughing at all those teachers when I got to fluid dynamics class and I had a proffessor that taught it very differently, and I got an A in it, made the dean’s list, and who’s who. I can think circles around most folks. Later in life I was tested by MENSA.. Now what I see is a chip off the ol block and nothing to worry about. The problem is this, is the glass half full or half empty? Neither, you have the wrong size glass…

  76. Thanks Kristen. I’m 64 going on 65 and my grasp of linear time has deteriorated lately. I’ve always had it but now it has become more apparent. Like you I was “slow” at school. Until the nun interrupted my staring out the window with “What did I just say Thomas?” I told her word for word’ The classroom was monochromatic penguins the outside had color. I liked color. The “Spawn” (I don’t like that term, maybe “Future World Ruler” is better) is a normal kid. He’ll catch up to his brain when the time is right. He’ll be scary smart, like his mom. You’re a loving mother and you’re smart enough to see that we all develop at different rates. You are a reason for home schooling because the square pegs that don’t fit into the round holes get worn on the sides. You’ll make sure that he doesn’t get to worn down by the bean counters.

  77. Since you have tons of perspective here, I’m going for the lighthearted angle with my comment.
    If you drop your child on their head it’s detrimental to their development? That explains my youngest son. He literally rolled down the church aisle as a two-month old and I nearly fell on top of him. He had both speech and occupational therapy in kindergarten through 2nd grade and he didn’t really learn to read until the end of 2nd grade.
    All because I dropped him on his head! Thanks for clearing that up for me.
    (PS I cried through a meeting where we discussed holding him back to repeat first grade. Most teachers care about the child and know you understand your kid better than they do. You will do fine.)
    (PPS Don’t get me started on the standardized testing or Common Core rant.)

    • Eli on May 6, 2014 at 2:45 pm
    • Reply

    I completely agree. I’ve been home schooled and unschooled for most of my life. My grandmother was a retired teacher and for awhile she was teaching me, except she taught me her way. I’m not sure what it was but I didn’t understand things, even though looking back her words were in plain English and they make sense. It was too restricting and I couldn’t learn what I wanted to learn, which was history.

    I’ve developed a bit of uncertainty and doubt when it comes to my education. But through experience I know I can learn anything I want quickly. I learn best when I’m the only one doing the teaching. That’s why I love the internet.

  78. I couldn’t help myself. I nominated you for a Sunshine Award. But I know you are the busiest person on the planet and already have more followers than you know what to do with. But if anyone deserves an award, you do. So Happy Sunshine! Here’s what it is, if you are curious:

  79. Hi Everyone,

    Kristen asked me to share my Common Core rant. 🙂 She might add this to the post itself, but just in case, here you go. I posted this on Facebook yesterday: (

    My Common Core Rant

    (Note: This isn’t going to be the post you’d expect. )

    Most people who argue against Common Core come from a non-governmental-interference perspective or from a Common-Core-test-questions-are-stupid perspective. My frustration comes from a different place.

    I actually support the Common Core STANDARDS. The CC problems–and they are MAJOR–are 100% with IMPLEMENTATION.

    The CC Standards simply say “A 2nd grader should know place value up to 1000.” That makes sense, and there’s no politics in that. Good.

    But there are also no implementation instructions. There are no standards on “HOW to teach place value.” And while that lessens the government-interference worry, this is also where we get into trouble.

    Far too many teachers, school administrators, school districts, curriculum publishers, etc. have taken the opportunity of the switch to CC to implement their pet project theory:
    “Let’s try New Math again!”
    “Let’s outlaw all auditory instructions, even for auditory learners!”
    “Let’s assume Kindergartners already know how to read!”

    (Yes, I know of schools doing all those. Grr.)

    There’s no certification process for calling these “methods” compliant with CC, so they’re ALL claiming, “You have to do it MY way–this is Common Core!”

    Um, no, No, NO. Every crazy *ss problem you see out there labeled “This is what the Common Core is teaching my kid, and this sucks” is really just the schools using kids as guinea pigs for their theories and claiming CC to justify their experiments. Still NO.

    The implementation of CC is NOT standardized and does NOT require certain teaching methods, so…:

    * Push back on the teachers, schools, school districts when you see stupid teaching methods.

    * Educate yourself on what the CC STANDARDS say–and what they DON’T say.

    (This post–with quotes from the lead writers of the CC Standards and links to the standards themselves–is a good start:

    * Call out the stupid IMPLEMENTATION theories.

    * Do NOT let them tell you that their implementation theories are part of Common Core. They are lyin– *ahem* severely mistaken.

    * If necessary, throw a temper tantrum until your child’s school completes an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for your child that exempts them from the experimental teaching methodologies and REQUIRES THEM ONLY TO PROVE MASTERY OF THE STANDARDS THEMSELVES. <– This is how CC *should* be implemented.

    Common Core isn't the problem. Using kids as guinea pigs for their pet theories on HOW to IMPLEMENT Common Core is.

    *drops mike* *steps off soapbox*

  80. 2 things.

    First, you’d be an AMAZING homeschool mom.

    And my son had a ‘verbal delay’ also. I made him crawl (all the kids in the neighborhood loved this…they’d be out there playing follow the leader while doing crawling laps around my house), do crossover toe touches and jumping jacks for a month. After that no more delay. It had something to do with right/left brain connections not being laid down properly when he was a baby. I guess he didn’t crawl enough then.

  81. Okay, so I’m late to the party, and I don’t have the time to read 100+ comments, but I have to ask (without expecting an answer). When everything you say makes perfect sense to me, how come your four-year-old is in school, for pete’s sake? Why is he being exposed to being judged, at that early age, for proper development by people who are setting arbitrary standards for what is normal and what isn’t?

    1. It is a preschool/nursery school. He doesn’t even go to Kindergarden for another 16 months. WTH? I thought he was there to play, socialize, be a kid and have fun with paint and glitter. I guess I was mistaken. And I see the newest comments first, so no worries :D. Thanks for commenting anyway.

  82. Right on the nose, as usual. Unfortunately, the teachers I know don’t have time to teach because they have to A. babysit without the freedom to deal with the troublemakers B. try to keep up with a ridiculous amount on a plate that keeps getting fuller. They need to simplify. Give them the time to teach the basics and make certain that kids have a chance to absorb, question, and grow. And children who require additional stimulation and increased challenges should be allowed to pick up the pace so they don’t tear their hair out. I know. Not enough teachers and tutors to go around, but if it was marketed as a Profession and an Art, (and treated as such) then it might attract more of the gifted teachers out there.

  83. I could say SOOOOOO much on this topic.
    I did well in school. I was usually near the top of my class, 3.5 or higher GPA, did well on tests, etc. However, I hate standardized tests! They teach absolutely nothing. The only thing you learn from doing standardized test after standardized test and test prep all year is how to memorize long enough to get through the test!
    My old brother who passed away several years ago dropped out of high school his freshman year. He was 18. He had failed and been held back enough that he was 18 and restarting his FRESHMAN year of High School. He took an ACT prep one year- 98 percentile. His math skills and spatial awareness (or whatever it’s called. He could look at a cube, then look at a space and tell you how many cubes would fit in the space with no measurements at all) were crazy off the charts. But he was going to be a repeat freshman at 18 years old. And he worked three jobs and was starting his own business by 20, just before he died. Yeah, failure was just written all over him! *eyeroll* He was practically a genius, but barely got his GED.
    As far as little ones being ‘behind’ I totally know how you feel. My 3 year old was recently diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder and fine motor skills delay. We got home from his appointment and, once the kids were bed, I looked at my husband and just started to cry. I wracked my brains trying to figure out if I’d done something wrong. Honestly, the only thing I did was have a child because I have sensory troubles, too. His is just more pronounced and he has more actual issues related to his SPD. His brain literally doesn’t process sensory input the way it’s supposed to. I explain it just like that and immediately correct anyone who says his brain doesn’t process things “normally.” What the heck is ‘normal’ and how would that even be measured!? I actually came home from a get together once and told my husband that I almost punched someone during our little dinner thing. This man had actually had the nerve to look at me and say, “I’m so sorry about G! That’s really rough. I’m just so sorry.” Um, your sorry about my freaking amazing little boy who has an incredible imagination and is so crazy intelligent and intuitive and special? He’s not dying! I was so mad! And then, of course, he followed up with “He seems normal to me.” Sigh. That’s our other fun one. It originally made me angry, but now I wonder about all the stupid things I’ve said that were unintentionally hurtful to someone going through a hard time or weird circumstance. My response to that one is, “It’s not that he’s ‘not normal.’ It’s just the way his brain processes things.” I go all mama bear at the idea of labeling him with a ‘delay’ or as ‘special needs.’ Ugh. He’s 3. His goals right now are to pick on his little brother, build ‘the tallest tower in the world’ out of Legos, and avoid nap time at all costs. If he were 15 and still screaming when I forget to warn him to cover his ears so the food processor doesn’t freak him out, I’d be much more concerned. But for now, he’s little and I will do whatever I need to do to help him overcome the sensory issues while keeping him little and encouraging his awesome little-boy-ness for as long as I can <3
    You are doing awesome with Spawn, Kristen! Don't think it's something you did. And don't kill anyone at your meeting. 😉

    1. Very interesting story. THANK YOU for sharing. He seems “normal” to me? Is that an insult? Please don’t ever call my child normal. How dull, LOL.

      1. I know, right?! I think it’s supposed to be reassuring, but it gets under my skin every time. They seem to be saying, “He seems normal” as in “I don’t notice anything wrong with him.” I want to respond, “He’s not normal; he’s extraordinary.” It seems like a very biased answer since I am his mother, but my goodness. He’s a three year old, very active boy who’s brain doesn’t process sound, specifically speech, the way it’s supposed to, but he still speaks well. He has trouble focusing on more than one form of sensory input at once, but he tries so hard. And his ability to zone in on one thing and just put so much concentration and energy into it amazes me. Yes, my son has this ‘disorder,’ but it doesn’t make him any less of an awesome kid.

        Sorry, I get a little passionate (minor understatement) about the labels they slap on kids and the stigmas that come with them. They can standardize tests all they want to. They can’s standardize kids or the rates at which they learn or reach certain achievements.

  84. I am totally with you of this, Kristen! Learning is best accomplished when the student is having fun and interested in the lesson. Intelligence, skills and talents are nurtured through excitement, not standardization. Our education system is seriously backwards on this. I recommend up schooling, by the way. And it seems like you might just be crazy/gutsy enough to try it!

  85. Correction: unschooling, not up schooling.

  86. Wonderful post. Vegan Zombies!! The name of my new punk band.

    I take it you’re not shopping universities yet? How on earth do you expect to get him into med school!

  87. And…don’t forget about diagnosing Myers Briggs ENTJs as ADHD. I’m a big believer in Myers Briggs. What we are seeing is the SJ’s running the world, and they are terrified of the NT’s, because we don’t think like they do, and don’t need to go through every step to get the answer. At some point, we just know.


  88. I sent your post to my niece and nephew-in-law who are teachers (and new parents). I’ll be interested to hear what they say. Very thought-provoking piece! You are never boring!

    1. Thanks, Deb!

    • Donna Edwards on May 6, 2014 at 5:57 pm
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    Both my kid (girl anf boy) were considered ADD and dyslexic. I did medicate but as little as possible. Keep up the good fight. Both mine have graduated high school and are happy. My daughter is a step-mom of 2 little girls with one on the way. My son graduated with a degree in Industrial Machine Tool Technology. Everything will be fine.

  89. It seems like your school system thinks standards are there for the purpose of standardization – what Madeleine L’Engle called “making muffins of us, muffins all like every other muffin in the muffin tin.” I refuse to be a muffin. I’d rather be a crumpet.

    Good luck with your meeting, and remember the words of Mushu: “listen to your teacher and no fightin’, play nice with the other kids, unless, of course, one of the other kids wanna fight, then you have to kick the other kid’s butt.”

  90. I actually wrote out a long comment spanning several paragraphs, but decided I could not add any more than what has already been said. I also considered that my comments, while commensurate with some of the others, are a little absurd because I am, in fact, not a parent. I am just an observer of many successes and failures I have witnessed over the years. If it counts for anything, you have the right attitude and spirit. You are doing just fine.

    1. Hey, non-parents have a unique perspective. I used to give dang good parenting advice to my sister-in-law before becoming a mother myself. Thanks for contributing your thoughts anyway. I’ve loved reading all these beautiful and encouraging stories. You guys are so loving and generous to me.

    • Shireen Burki on May 6, 2014 at 7:56 pm
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    I’ve enjoyed reading your from-the -heart blog with its generous advice and insight but never commented. I’m a lurker. But this post hit a raw nerve and I wanted to commend you for going with your maternal intuition vis-a-vis the vaccinations. Dumb trusting me… I didn’t follow my intuition twice (with 2 of my boys and the military loves to vaccinate as early as possible with 16 vaccines in four stabs in ONE visit). My husband said its ok and he held the child as I couldn’t bear to be in the room. Well….its a long story but the short of it is my boys ended up w/autism. One’s intestines were damaged but over time recovered. They both are “case studies” or “post boys” of how early intervention DOES WORK. They did “recover” not cured (docs don’t use that term). It was a bloody long and painful process/road. But now I trust few. If the medical establishment can be so superficial and unconcerned about using vaccines (with thimerosal i.e. mercury) than how the hell can we trust much of anything or anyone. These are HEALERS for crying out loud.

    Anyhow, now that I’ve vented, and again kudos for not being bullied to do what your intuition told you NOT to do…onto the issue with the school telling you your 4 yr old has problems with speech. In defense of the schools (ours have been fabulous and helped in our boys recovery along with the army of therapists for ABA etc etc), they do have the expertise to recognize potential areas of concern. No harm in getting your son checked out by a speech therapist. However, LOTS of boys have delayed speech…wired differently. As my son Josef loves to remind me, his hero Einstein didn’t begin to talk till he was four. Josef and Vernie (who we thought would never talk) now have beautiful speech. Yes, it did take years of daily work. It’s natural for a mom to be defensive. Again, no harm in getting him properly evaluated (and possibly even a 2nd opinion) and if need be to get speech therapy. It can’t hurt.

    The one gripe I do have w/schools regarding boys these days is that they want compliant zombies in the class when boys aren’t wired that way. Early on due to their autism related symptoms, the neurologist wanted both to be on prozac. I said no. After the vaccines, I no longer trusted the system and had done my research. Took the hard behavioral intervention/applied behavior analysis road and they responded. None of my boys are on meds. And they are happy, well functioning gifted kids.

    So deep breaths. Don’t be alarmed (ha) I know easy for me to say. But most importantly follow your maternal intuition and listen to that voice within. It will guide you to give your son what he needs and not what others think he should have.

    Warm wishes and thoughts your way.

    1. Thank you Shireen ((HUGS))

  91. You could have included in your rant that doctors used to advertise cigarettes. 🙂

    As for “normal” and “should be,” until recently being gay was officially classified as a mental illness. People with Asperger’s are sometimes treated as if they have a disorder (an opinion which many aspies dispute). I’ve seen vehement disagreements between people with multiple personalities as to whether that’s something which needs a “cure,” or whether it’s a perfectly fine way to be.

    Wait, you mean the mayo _doesn’t_ go in the microwave…

    Anyway, my current story winds up with a fairly low-key ending — two women on a roof, seeing each other and talking for the first time in years. They are, in very different ways, decidedly abnormal and definitely not as they “should be,” but at this point in their lives they’re okay with that.

  92. Well, this is clearly a hot topic looking at all the posts here and the ones on FB earlier. And it should be a hot topic – it’s your kid. I don’t have children, but I get so irritated just hearing about all the bullshit my friends who do have them go through. I’m sure I’m not going to add to anything here that hasn’t already been said except you and I looked remarkably similar as children. 😉

    Beyond that, hang in there, Kristen. Stand your ground.

    1. I still enjoy the comments. Reminds me I am NOT alone ;).

    • Joanna Aislinn on May 6, 2014 at 8:36 pm
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    You are speaking to my heart, Kristen. By day, I am a school-based occupational therapist. I provide direct services (as in, treatment sessions) to kids who are classified with “special needs.” Many of these li’l guys and girls are just taking a bit more time to get to that next developmental stage. Unfortunately, “no child left behind” makes life VERY hard for that child who might be at the later end of ” normal”. Makes. Me. Crazy.

    My older son was “itchy,” as his seasoned and wonderful first grade teacher once said, relative to his mildly active behaviors. Pre-k teacher suggested I have him evaluated when he was five. Deep down I knew better and let go the idea once his first grade teacher assured me he would be fine. He is now a junior, a great student; a ridiculously and inherently smart young man who is making his way on his own terms. He’s considering studying law.

    Glad I didn’t listen to the pre-k teacher.

    WONDERFUL POST. Give Spawn time to outgrow the boy busyness and into who God intends him to be. He’s already got a phenomenal example in his mamma.

    1. I’ve REALLY appreciated the encouragement, especially from my education/teacher peeps. ((HUGS))

        • Joanna Aislinn on May 7, 2014 at 6:21 am
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        This parenting gig is WORK, and all the uncertainty and STUFF coming at parent(s) from all sides doesn’t help. Besides encouragement–which I found very hard to accept along the way despite appreciating it very much–hindsight was the thing. Hard thing is, it takes a LONG time to gain it. Hang in there, Mamma. It’s a process and a journey.

    • Kevin on May 6, 2014 at 9:18 pm
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    Homeschooling for the win. For all the reasons mentioned above. 😉

  93. I am not sure if it is a good post. It certainly is a controversial post, generating lots of comments. Many of these comments make good common sense, some seem to blanket white-wash all schools everywhere in the known universe. (Too Dramatic I know, I am trying to be a writer)

    But what I think you are all missing is the silent majority of children, parents and teachers. The children that don’t have advocates as parents. The teachers that take home bruises from a Grade 3 students (my wife, a music teacher). For everyone one of you who posted there are 10 children who come to school underfed, in fear, unloved. For every teacher or administrator that you single out there more that aren’t. If it was a bad as it is portrayed, there wouldn’t be a school system at all in any country in the world, it would be a war zone everywhere.

    One school near our house can’t get a child evaluated because that would mean the child would be removed from the house and the parents would lose the support money they get. Nothing that the teachers or administrators can do.(Believe me they have tried)

    One child at this school still lives in a house with the man that abused his mother and will have to testify in court about what he saw the man do to mommy.

    On the other hand It is excellent that many of you found a way for your child to get a better education and a better deal out of society. I would just ask that you remember the silent majority who weren’t lucky/blessed enough to have you as a parent or teacher or administrator or blogger.

    Kristen – I love your blogs and don’t read them enough, please keep up the good work, I always learn something from them, today I learned something about myself. Be Well.

    1. I wish they would spend more time focusing on those kids WHO NEED intervention instead of manufacturing crap and spending time on kids in good homes who might be a little different. Focus on helping kids who are in REAL NEED. Not those who are a slight deviation off the bell curve. And I feel you. I volunteered in after-school programs for urban kids for YEARS and I wanted to take all of them home with me.

  94. Well, my eldest spoke fluent gibberish going into her third year. Her younger sister spoke at an early age as she sought to compete with big sister. The two together fed off each other after that and learning for them both accelerated. My little gibberish talker set a 5th grade record for most books read. Each child is different. Sure, it’s good to monitor progress, but don’t pigeonhole kids and restrain teachers. Our schools are becoming a place where test administrators (formally teachers) overlook test takers (formally students). Original, dynamic teachers are an endangered species. Go to your meeting with an open mind, but go armed (figuratively, of course).

  95. I love your post but I’m a little confused about the Leonardo da Vinci thing. I know Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel but maybe there is some story about Leonardo that I’m not aware of. Can you explain? Either way I totally love you and the post. I think you’re absolutely right about how kids are taught today. Your son will be thanking his lucky stars he had a mom like you when he looks back on all this.

  96. I want to make you President. Right now. My son is autistic. He’s 15 and can’t deal with the diploma track workload, so we’ve had to move him to the certificate track. His teachers are great but I can’t stand his principal. “Reward the kids with a Nutri-Log if they can figure out how the hell Common Core Math works.” THIS! OMG, YES!

    • karenmcfarland on May 7, 2014 at 12:06 am
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    I am standing up and applauding you Kristen!!!! Yes! You nailed it!

    “For the love of all that is chocolate, let them be BABIES. Let them be LITTLE. It is such a brief and beautiful time and we are forgetting that.” Amen!! Thank you for saying this. I have been preaching this for years. What is the rush?

    I was a rebellious mother. When our kids were born, we held off letting them put the drops in their eyes until we had a chance to bond with our sons. I did not let them give my children all the shots they felt were required. And this was in the early eighties. Your example of your son verses your dog was brilliant.

    And when they grew older, we took them out of public school and taught them ourselves. With the help of a fully accredited school. Teaching and learning is not a one size fits all situation. Every child is going to learn at their own rate regardless of their capabilities.

    Keep standing up for what is in the best interest of YOUR child!

    You are not alone!!! 🙂

    1. We need WANA schools around the world for the weird kids of writers, LOL.

    • Lisa F on May 7, 2014 at 12:07 am
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    I feel like I finally met my long lost twin sister…except I’m 20 to 30 years older. Oh well, I completely agree with your perspective and even though I didn’t spend as much time in the hall, I definitely spent a lot in the high school library…helping build, catalog and run it. I’ve had the same opinion about standardized testing for the last 25 years. My children are very much like The Spawn, one or two in particular. Conferences could be difficult but mostly I listened to the teacher, told her I would work with my child on Handwriting, oral fixations, long winded explanations or whatever the perceived problem was. Then go home and read the amazing (poorly handwritten) stories and listen to an ever expanding vocabulary (way ahead of the class) and decide we would take it one day/ one complaint at a time.
    Be strong. Do what you feel is right. And know you are not alone…I love the vegan zombies 🙂

    1. Thank you. I have read ALL the comments and relished all the stories and support. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Kathleen Azevedo on May 7, 2014 at 2:16 am
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    We are of similar mindsets.
    Have you read the books by Dr. Robert S. Mendelsohn, MD:
    How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor and
    Confessions of a Medical Heretic

    When my daughter started college, I gave her these books to take with her.

    Both parents are left-handed. I am told it is hereditary.
    Mom would give my sister and me things by holding them at midline, so we could choose which hand to use. We used both hands equally.
    Trouble for me began in kindergarten. I was having a hell of a time with the right-handed scissors, so I asked to try the left-handed scissors. Teacher said, “Don’t ask to use the left-handed scissors unless you know you are left-handed.” I was intimidated by that.
    It is harder for boys. My little brother, who was left-handed by birth, was so bright that he taught himself to read before kindergarten.
    He was punished into using his right hand. He not only lost his ability to read; he became dyslexic! Girls have a bigger corpus callosum, so they can cross from one side of the brain to the other more easily.
    For boys it is harder- all of his reading skills were on the wrong side of the brain, and he could no longer access them. His teachers were cruel, scolding him in class for his stupidity. Then he was put into the mentally retarded class until high school. The problem was that his interests and intelligence was at a very high level, but he couldn’t read at the level of his interests.

    It is getting harder and harder for students to qualify for college.
    Asian children take special classes to prepare them for college on Saturdays in Japan.
    Chinese children and East Indian children are also pushed into a very academic lifestyle.
    I believe that this puts Caucasian children at a disadvantage even in the US.

    I used to work for the Birth-to Three program testing babies for developmental delays.
    One mother was very concerned about her son. He kept taking everything in the house apart, including the stove. She thought he was abnormal.
    He tried to take apart the window blinds while I was testing him. He had a very high energy level.
    My advice to her was, “What you have is a baby scientist. When he gets a little bit older, give him things like legos and erector sets, and electronic kits to play with.”
    You see, my ex was like that. When he played war with the other kids, he went into the garage and, using an old-fashioned DDT canister, he created a flame thrower. His side won. He used to terrorize his baby sitters.
    He had taken his toy train transformer apart, and when he put it back together again, blue flames shot up whenever he plugged it in. It was under the dining table.
    When the sitter said, “Bed time!” He would say, “No, it’s snack time.” His mom couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t keep a sitter.
    One of his adult friends had had a very tolerant father. He told his son that he had permission to take anything in the house apart, as long as he put it back together again correctly (this means toasters, radios, TVs, etc- anything!)
    That guy grew up to be the best tool and die maker I have ever seen. He could invent anything!

    My ex worked for Lawrence Livermore Lab- and all of the guys there were the same kinds of children- all very scientific minded, mechanical and inventive from a very early age.

    Have you considered an Alternative School for your son? They are much more appreciative of individual differences among children, I am told.

    More power to you!


    1. Wonderful story! Sounds like my little brother and we had the same rule. “You can take anything apart as long as you put it back together!” Often he did. And fixed things. He repaired our dishwasher when he was 6. Now, he’s a successful CEO of his own company despite the schools shoving him in classes for the mentally retarded.

  97. Kristen, I read ALL of your blogs, and I just want to say you are AWESOME!

    Always. Every post. 🙂

    I could rant about my confusing years as a child in school (I’m a genius! I’m a failure! This teacher adores me! This teacher vehemently hates me!), but it would take too long. Plus, it doesn’t matter: I’m the only ME that God created. And I’m exactly right as ME. I can’t be anyone else. Period.

    Every child–even identical twins–are completely and utterly unique. There are no “normal” fingerprints. Or people. “Normal” does not exist in reality. Thank God for such amazing, incredible variety!

    I love to listen and learn from every fascinating (even frustrating) person/child what their world is like. Everyone wants to be loved and appreciated for who they are. I try to give everyone that gift as much as possible (as a teacher and with everyone in my life.) Every little effort of love, listening, and responding/adjusting to someone’s uniqueness makes a difference…