Kindergarten, or, God Help Us All

So I’m finally facing the fact that my child will be going to public school in the fall. We originally planned on homeschooling, but we’re realizing that I don’t have the patience or, with the new baby, the time and effort resources, to do that. The fall-back plan was Catholic school (despite the fact that I’m a Jew and my husband is agnostic bordering on atheist—if you instruct your kids to take the Jesus stuff with a grain of salt and completely ignore the bits about Hell, it’s a damn good education) but it’s turned out to be too expensive. Oooh, you get a thousand-dollar discount if you tithe to the parish! That’s a damn good deal! Maybe if you work at McDonald’s . . .

Public school it is, then. Please excuse me while I go vomit and breathe into a paper bag for a while.

My own experiences with public school were horrible, bordering on hellish. It left me suicidal at the age of 11, homicidal by 14. For the most part, I hated the teachers (with a few notable exceptions, one of whom I just found on FaceBook, OMG!), I hated the administration, was bored to tantrums by the curriculum, and hated with passion unrivaled the other kids.

And this is what’s causing my current panic attack. My child’s future peers.

May I regress to my former profanity-laced, hyperbolic, and knee-jerk blogging style for a moment? Most kids are worthless little shits. I love children, in theory, but in practice . . . Jesus tits. They’re whining, ungrateful, unmannered, and in some cases, psychopathic miniature thugs. They have no manners. They have limited grammar skills. Their hygiene is atrocious. They are so unworthy of my shining perfect child’s company that my fantasies of retreat to a desert isle are growing more grandiose by the day.

Okay, so my child isn’t perfect. She can be an utter brat sometimes. But at least she says “Please” and “Thank you,” doesn’t deliberately hurt other children, cleans up after herself with a minimum of attitude when asked, and is intrinsically kind and cheerful, helpful and sensitive.

I don’t want her to be soiled by other asshats’ accidental loinspawn.

I am a snob when it comes to the children I allow her to interact with. My recent experiences with the neighbors’ psychopathic brats hasn’t helped my attitude on this, I’ll admit. (Update—turns out their father, aside from being a probable drug dealer, had beaten up and raped a sixteen-year-old girl while his wife was pregnant with their second of five children. I don’t know which of those parents I think is the bigger criminal—he, for committing the act, or she, for taking that stupid Tammy Wynette song too much to heart.)

She gets to play with her cousins, with the children of friends whom I’ve vetted (although not always successfully), with the terribly young hipster neighbors who race her across the fence while clutching cans of PBR (hey, at least they’re polite). She has the occasional interaction with other children at the park, where she instinctively gravitates towards the 10-year-old boys roughhousing and then gets hurt feelings when they won’t let her play with them because she’s a little girl (joke’s on them—she could dislocate their shoulder if they’d grapple with her). But for the most part, I keep her away from other children because, frankly, I don’t like them, don’t like their parents, don’t like how said parents are raising said children.

Yes, I sound like an asshole. But this is my genetic immortality we’re talking about. This is my little girl, and the thought of her being tainted by kids whose parents didn’t even want them in the first damn place, who have raised them with that lurking in the background, who let them do whatever the hell they want regardless of the consequences, who don’t enforce artificial consequences for bad behavior, who don’t care what the fuck they do as long as it doesn’t interfere with the episode of “John and Kate” they’re trying to watch . . . . AARRRRGGGHH!!!!!!!!! I might have to go back to punching walls.

Yes, I realize that not all of the children she’ll be going to school with will be like this. I realize that many of them will be “wanted” children, will have been coddled and nurtured and generally spoiled by good intentions. This scares me almost as much as the “bastard” hooligans. (Again, I’m being hyperbolic. Y’all should be used to this by now. Many of you love me for it, dammit.)

I have very specific, and very unpopular, views on child-rearing. Most of them come from observing my friends and peers—I know a lot of people who got the shit beat out of them as children, and I know a lot of people who were treated like Faberge eggs made out of spun sugar, and the former set generally turned out less fucked-up, in the long run. I don’t beat my child, but I don’t hesitate to discipline her, either. I tell her about ten times a day that she’s awesome, that she and her sister are the most wonderful thing to ever happen to me, but I also tell her when she’s screwed up, and punish her (yes, sometimes physically) for awful behavior.

And I observe the way that other parents deal with their children, on those occasions when I have the strength and the stocked flask to be around them. I watch them “tsk tsk” their kids’ atrocious behavior, I hear them murmur “Jackie, that’s not nice,” when their oldest knocks their youngest to the bottom of the jungle gym and bloodies his nose. I hold my tongue while they bribe their kids with Happy Meals to please come with Mommy, when you’re done with that, if it’s okay with you, okay, just one more go-round, then that’s it, I’m going to start getting angry.

And I wonder how the hell a public school teacher with 40 other students, to whom she can’t so much as say “boo” without legal recrimination, is going to keep that child from hurting mine. I wonder more about the lessons regarding action vs. reaction that she’ll bring away from those encounters. Bruises heal, I’m not nearly so worried about those as I am the real-world lesson that you can fuck other people over without recrimination from the world at large, represented in this case by authority. God forbid she turn out a bullied child, but God help us all if she turn out a freaking anarchist or some such bullshit.

I had much less anxiety when contemplating her in a classroom with an ovarily-frustrated nun wielding a knuckle-bound ruler, to tell you the truth. I’d much rather my child get whacked a few times for insubordination that learn from her peers and authority figures that it’s not only okay, but cool, to talk back, to disrespect, to feel like she’s the center of everybody’s universe and that nothing she does will ever have consequences. I fear for her well-being much more when thinking about her being in a classroom full of “snowflakes” than I ever would thinking about her in a classroom with Sister Mary Ignatius Explaining It All To Her.

I know that the upbringing she gets at home will be much more influential, in the long run, than the influences she gets, or doesn’t get, in her school setting. But God dammit, I don’t want to watch my child suffer. Anything. Ever. And even more than that, I don’t want to have to correct those other, horrible influences. I’m too old, too tired, and too lazy. I’ll do it if I have to, but I can’t help but be pissed off at the thought.

Anybody have an island for sale, preferably packaged with a Mary Poppins who’s willing to work for booze and free tailoring? I’m willing to barter . . .


sssoundsystem 13 years, 11 months ago

All I can say is...look into Montessori, and Waldorf as a last resort. Many schools offer assistance for tuition. Best of luck.

Megan Green Stuke 13 years, 11 months ago


My child is not even out of the womb yet and already I'm panicking about this issue. I can tell you this: I taught in Catholic high school for 7 years. I am an agnostic. Still, I was happy there, for the most part. At the end, I was having too much trouble keeping my outrage over their pro-life antics to myself (and the fact that my insurance covered viagra, but not birth control for me), and I had to take my leave. But, for a kid, the education is commendable, if he has sane parents who can balance out the Jeezus bit.

I taught in public high school for 1.5 years - the worst seasons of my life.

We will not be able to afford private school. I would like to homeschool, but will probably have to keep working.

What will we do? I don't know yet. Please let me know what you decide. What district are you in? If I lived in KC, that would have a lot to do with whether I sent my kid off to the hell that is public school or not...

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 13 years, 11 months ago

We live in Overland Park, Shawnee Mission school district, though. They're not too bad--at least I don't face my cousin's dillema, she lives in the Dot and her school district doesn't even have textbooks, they're so broke. I'm seriously contemplating renting a studio apartment in the Blue Valley district, just for the schools. Okay, not seriously, but the thought often crosses my mind.

Megan Green Stuke 13 years, 11 months ago

No, don't do that. You want Shawnee Mission over Blue Valley. Trust me. Talk about the bad influence kids. I wouldn't let my kid go to school with those Blue Valley A Holes to save my life.

I think Shawnee Mission schools are the best in KC, in my never-to-be-humble, been-there-done-that opinion.

Megan Green Stuke 13 years, 11 months ago

No offense, of course, to any of you out there who go to or went to Blue Valley schools. I'm sure you're lovely people. My student teaching there was a enough to ward me off for life. And really, it was the parents, not the kids, who did me in. Still, the privilege is rampant and the effects on the youth of Blue Valley is painful to behold.

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 13 years, 11 months ago

Hmmm, something to consider. Seriously. Thanks for the tip. Always nice to have a former teacher in your network.

alm77 13 years, 11 months ago

Five words to save your kid "What happened at school today?" She'll tell you everything. And being the first born perfect child (like my daughter who is 10 and still perfect despite public schooling) she won't leave anything out. You'll have it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. Then guess what you get to do? The thing every involved parent longs for; communicating your beliefs, morals and yes, even judgements, on the day's events.

Just to give you an example that allowing your kids to "mix" with the moron's kids doesn't contaminate them I'll tell you what happened the other day. My daughter came inside in a rage of righteous indignation and said to me, "MOM! You are NOT going to what JUST happened! Bob (names have been changed to protect the guilty) just asked Jack if he'd ever HAD SEX or KISSED a girl!! And so I told him that was completely inappropriate at ANY age and that he had better leave our yard this instant!"

So I asked "Did he leave?" and she said "After I told him again."

"Did he cry?" Then she said "Yes, he cried, but I made him leave anyway."

It gets better though, she didn't even hesitate to tell her dad when he got home.

So there you have it. Communicate with her and she'll tell you everything. You're her guiding light.

lori 13 years, 11 months ago

Amazingly enough, my children have also remained perfect, perhaps even attained a new level of perfection, despite going to public schools.

I can sympathize, because I had these same thoughts when my oldest went to kindergarten. How could I send her to the wolves? Except that they weren't wolves, they were cute, sweet little kids--just like my kiddo. So far they have rarely had a less-than-stellar teacher and most of their teachers have been in the fantastic range. The kids in their classes are mostly not rotten, and they love, love, love school. Oldest says that junior high is awesome. Not something I would have said about junior high, for sure.

I feel like I spend quite a bit of time volunteering at my kids' schools. Although some kids are not my favorite, I find that really, whether I'm at the junior high or the elementary school, I really enjoy the kids. They are mostly funny and sweet. I'm amazed at how polite the elementary students are to me. I love the great sense of humor the junior high students have. My husband tells me that high school kids are even better. Since he teaches them, I'll take his word for it.

Something that works for us on the communication thing is at dinner every night, everyone has to say three things about their day. We found if we simply asked "How was school?" the answer was always "fine." and nothing more. If we said "Tell us three things about school today" we got so much more detail. It's a nice topic for dinnertime conversation, and then everyone in the family knows what's going on in everyone else's school and work lives.

rivercitymom 13 years, 11 months ago

All the advice here about working hard to communicate and find out what is REALLY going on with your child at school is spot on.

My girls are both teenagers now and have done well in the Lawrence public schools -- and by that I don't mean they are both stellar students (one is and one isn't), just that they are well adjusted and don't have any major issues with teachers or other kids.

And I really love that they have friends from all walks of life. I think they will go into adulthood knowing how to get along just fine with everyone they encounter. THAT, to me, is the true value of a public education.

I was raised as a Catholic, and I respectfully disagree with Megan. A Catholic school is about the most misogynistic environment possible for kids, so right there is a huge issue of girls and boys on unequal footing. (Unless, of course, it is an all girls school, catholic or otherwise, which is supposed to be the absolute best for girls.)

alm77 13 years, 11 months ago

Ooo. I second dinner time conversation!! Good call Lori!

And another thing I thought about, there is a SERIOUS anti-bully movement going on in the public schools. I don't know what the exact program is, but they talk about it all the time. I don't think it's like it was when we were kids. At least not in L-town.

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 13 years, 11 months ago

I'm not so worried about bullying. I lived through it, and although I wouldn't want my child to have to do the same, I'd rather her deal with that than pick up entitlement issues. Surviving bullies makes you stronger; believing that you're the center of the universe at a formative age turns you into a basement-dwelling douchetard.

Dinner conversation will be no problem--we can't shut her up at the table, and even on the rare occasions when we have fast food, we still take it home, put it out on the table, and eat like it's a real meal. I wholeheartedly believe in the family dinner table.

Thank you all for the excellent advice, and more so for the encouragement. I know she'll turn out okay, no matter what schooling we go with, because we are awesome parents. I just hate people, is all.

DOTDOT 13 years, 11 months ago

Penny will be fine. I'm not patronizing either. She is a natural leader, and will be a good influence on the other kids. And you will be involved enough to meet other like-minded parents. That's not to say all your fears won't be realized. They will. But you will solve each situation as it comes along, and it will be easier to do so than you can imagine right now. Brace yourself, Misty, you are actually going to enjoy this. I am betting both dots on it.

Not to beat on this old drum, but she is no safer in a Catholic or otherwise private school. It just costs more money. There is not a whole lot I can testify to in my short life, but bet your ass I can testify to that.


that_will_do_pig 13 years, 11 months ago

I don't have children, nor do I like them or want them, so I suppose my opinion on this might not be too valid, BUT--I loved every minute of public school I attended, K-12. I'm serious. All of it. And the stuck-up, entitled, asshole kids that I knew growing up here in Lawrence were honestly the ones whose parents put them in fancy Montessori preschool, then the private/catholic schools. I mean really... if you're worried about what kinds of kids your child is going to meet, it seems far more likely to me that the kids whose families can afford to send them to the fanciest schools are going to be the ones with bad attitudes, bad manners, and no respect for authority.

I also remember a kid who came to public high school from being homeschooled his whole life, and honestly, he was really awkward. Nice guy, but I don't necessarily think it's fair to shelter children from everything you get with public interaction--the good and the bad. And if you don't think that the education that she's getting is good enough, then you could always just practice other things with her at home, right?

But as I said, I know nothing about what it feels like when faced with educating your own child. I only know that I wouldn't have traded my public education in Lawrence for any amount of private school. Yes... I even loved junior high. It IS possible.

bhdonovan 13 years, 10 months ago

Penny is very kind and gentle with animals and chickens. Therefore, she will be just fine. It's those kids who are mean to critters you need to keep her away from. They grow up to be downright evil.

And she does say please and thank you.

I would suggest that you get some Phonics workbooks, though, as there are very few public schools who teach reading properly. That's why our son went to Catholic school until 4th grade - to get the reading down.

By 5th grade, he was reading at a 12th grade level. Making kids memorize words is stupid, that's what the Olathe school district was doing then. I don't believe they have yet figured out how bad a method that is for teaching reading. Anyway, your daughter will be fine. Don't worry.

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