He’s Coming Home Too


Back in February, I wrote that we had decided to put all of your kids in school in the interest of my own sanity. Homeschooling moms will tell you not to make any educational decisions in the dark month of February because the cold, lack of sunlight, and general burnout will get to you every time. I suppose that’s true because by May we had reversed our decision and were trying to figure out how to make it work with all but the one already in public school staying home for another year.

Last week he asked if he can come home too. He’s done with public schooling, he says.

After we looked at his final grades, we agree with him. There’s something wrong with the way public schools are teaching our children.

He failed Algebra II for the year (He’s given me permission to tell people that.) Summer school starts next week, so I thought it might be a good idea to do a review in preparation for it. What I discovered is that he doesn’t have a good enough grasp on the basics to even begin to understand Algebra II. In my dismay, I pulled up his grades for last year (Algebra I), past the simple grade book, and into the teacher’s notes. (I hadn’t looked before because he’d passed, so I hadn’t worried about it.) Every grading period included “extra credit” points that had pushed his grades into the mid 70s every time.

He should have failed Algebra I.

I mean he really should have failed Algebra I. If they’d failed him, he’d have gotten the chance to re-do the class and actually learn the foundation for all of the math that was coming up next. Instead, they looked at my nice boy who “tries really hard” and didn’t want him to “end up discouraged.” (Per an email exchange with his teacher yesterday.) Instead they left him hamstrung.

He’s an amazing kid, but math has never been one of his strong talents. Most years we’ve been ecstatic if he managed a B. He isn’t afraid of working hard, and put in the work with Algebra II as well. There was just no way he could pass without a basic grasp of what was going on.

In one of our parent-teacher meeting in the winter, I pointed out that not only was he going to class five days a week, he was also voluntarily attending an hour of tutoring with his teacher after school 3-5 days a week, and going in for extra help most mornings. And he was still failing. Where did the fault lie, I asked. Was it the teacher, the curriculum, or my son who was the problem? Because no one should spend 8-12 hours a week in school for a class scheduled to take up five hours of his week and still not be able to pass. There was definitely a problem. I succeeded in offending the teacher, but not in getting solutions.

By the last six weeks, we recognized that summer school was inevitable, but encouraged him to do the best he could. He went to every tutoring session. We again offered him help or a tutor, but he said his teacher had told him that wasn’t necessary. If he worked hard enough he could pull it out and pass for the year.

He didn’t.

Then came this week and the revelation that he didn’t understand the FOIL method or absolute value. He couldn’t even correctly identify polynomials.

We opted out of the Algebra II summer school for this year, and we’ll be spending the summer reteaching him the Algebra I that he never learned. Math has to build up layer by layer or it can’t be understood, and he needs to be able to do this.

I’m so disappointed. This is the second child we’ve attempted to send to public school (his little brother attended third grade in Oklahoma), and the second one who has been failed by the school system.

I never want to hear again about how I’m unqualified to teach my children because I’m not a trained teacher. Not when I’m spending our vacation fixing the mess that trained teachers and the policy of “social promotion” have created.

About Rebecca Frech

Rebecca Frech is a Catholic author, speaker, CrossFit coach, and the Managing Editor of The Catholic Conspiracy website. She is the author of the best-selling books Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us and Can We Be Friends? She is a co-host of the popular podcast The Visitation Project, and is a columnist for The National Catholic Register. She and her husband live just outside Dallas with their eight children, a German Shepherd named Dave, and an ever-multiplying family of dust-bunnies.
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4 Responses to He’s Coming Home Too

  1. Sarah says:

    Hang in there! I saw this all the time in my time teaching remedial math for adults at a local community college- they didn’t get the basics and then concluded that they were “stupid” at math. When they came back to the local trade school to get a certificate in SOMETHING, they had to take one of my classes in basic addition or pre-algebra.

    I had grown adults crying because for the first time, they realized they weren’t STUPID, they just needed it explained another way. There were grown women my mother’s age (I was in my 20’s at the time) who had been told, “honey, you’re just not good at math” when really all they needed was the math explained in another way than the teacher knew to explain it.

    I can’t believe the damage that can be done to a person’s potential and esteem by a teacher who gives up on them as a child.

  2. Preparing for Launch says:

    We had a similar revelation with our younger daughter, in her case in the 2nd grade of an academically-well-regarded Catholic school. They were supposedly learning double-digit addition and subtraction. From helping my daughter with her homework, I knew she did not really grasp it; she was skating by on good test-taking skills, good guessing, and her winning smile (really). I met with the teacher about it and was brushed off with “she’ll pick it up.” We began home schooling the next Fall. If I hadn’t been in daily touch with my daughter’s homework, we never would have known, either.

    Here’s a little encouragement: my other daughter, now in college, recently thanked me for the home school high school integrated history and English. As she was working through her college honors writing course, she was feeling the benefit of what I had taught her to teach herself. THAT’S what it’s all about.

    Hang in there; it will be worth it.

  3. Ron says:

    You are absolutely right in saying that math is built up layer upon layer. Going back to Algebra I is the right way to go. In 8th grade, I took first year Algebra (and did well). But then we moved to a different state and the only math they offered in 9th grade was first year Algebra. I complained, but re-taking that year over again laid a very strong foundation that enabled me to get all A’s in four college calculus classes and become an engineer. Good luck!

  4. Math Dummy says:

    I was failed in math so many times it wasn’t funny. I was math impaired, though I can add and subtract. I can multiply and divide with a LOT of scratch paper and a LOT of time . I still count on my fingers. I was never taught properly from the beginning, and algebra was a horrifying nightmare. I took it and failed, of course, got a 52. Took it again in summer school and got a 43. Couldn’t do it. No one seemed to care, they all just thought I was stooooopid , even though my grades in all else were good to excellent, it was just math. They did let me take bonehead business math twice to fulfil the math requirement, so I could graduate at 17. Otherwise, I might still be in that rotten school! I don’t know that being ignorant of algebra has ever affected my life or career choices. I would always hope there is room for the arts, for music, for writing as well as math wonks who can figure ‘PI’ for years and estimate the distance from the Earth to the planet Uranus with whatever passes for a slide rule today.

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