Parenting Month: Daycare to Graduation

February 20, 2012

The journey into parenting continues, and today we’re discussing a topic near and dear to me: education.  And it’s fitting, since there’s no school today.

I have a passion for teaching children and education’s power to change lives.  The problem is that education is America is failing.  Our kids are still kind of stupid when they graduate.

So it can be a daunting task for parents to decide (if they have a choice) where to send the kids to school.   To a public school, where they might lose their souls?  To private school, where you can break the bank?  Or to homeschool, where children will be socially handicapped forever?  Can a child thrive in any school environment if the parents don’t have any other options?

I got a few people who know a thing or two about education to help me out.  Turns out, maybe the choices aren’t all that grim.

Public School: A Pit of Despair?

Here’s the problem with public education in a nutshell: it sucks.  It has, as I see it, has two major problems.

The curriculum: districts are constantly cramming kids’ skulls with useless information, from political propaganda to sex ed in kindergarten.  All this while we continue to fall behind every industrialized country in the stuff that matters.

Then there’s the bloated, virulent “system.”   It’s the bureaucracy and the unions.  I will say it: the teachers’ unions need to be dismantled.  They have evolved into nothing but political machines that protect lazy teachers and prevent people like me from getting jobs.  Don’t believe me?  Watch “Waiting for Superman.”  All those whining teachers in Wisconsin weren’t heroes.  They should’ve been fired on the spot.  I’d have gladly come to work for half their salary and benefits.

But not all is lost in public schools.  The district I live in is great, and I’ll gladly send my kids there.  My mother and sister in law are wonderful public school teachers too.  And I didn’t lose my soul in public high school.  In fact, there may be some hidden advantages to sending kids to your local public school…

“My husband and I send our kids to our local public school because we believe it offers the most opportunities for us to teach our kids about loving their neighbors.  At school our kids are exposed to a diversity that reflects the world they live in and we are intentional about talking them through situations as they think through their faith.”

Alexandra Kuykendall – “Momology,” MOPS.org

Private School: A Matter of Choice

Of course, some people have a choice on where to send their kids, a charter school, or a private school.  But too many parents look at school like a Wal-Mart.  They think it should be a one-stop shop for their kids to get all the education they need.  But who ever felt more educated in a Wal-Mart?

The other half the problem with education is what happens at home.  Maybe it doesn’t matter if Christians send their kids to public or private schools…

Christians should educate their children in the venue that best serves your child’s education and moral development.  Our kids attend a public charter school, which is Montessori based.  We make sure they get a strong Catholic foundation at home and through our parish.  I don’t think there is one answer, other than take it seriously.  Schooling does have a lot of influence.”

Susan – “The Ironic Catholic”

Homeschool: Awkward Forever?

If you have a steel will, you can just homeschool.  Actually, homeschooling is becoming more prevalent across the country, and even homeschool academies are popping up everywhere (where kids can go to school and learn from other homeschooling parents the subjects their own parents aren’t qualified to teach.)  I actually taught at one last year.

But I wondered.  What kind of accountability is there for homeschooled kids?  And does staying home make them weird and awkward forever?  Maybe homeschooling isn’t as unnatural as you think…

“Homeschooling allows parents to make adjustments to the curriculum, peer pressure is minimal, and kids learn social skills from adults who theoretically have better social skills than other kids.  It builds strong family ties and teaches kids how to build strong families.  That’s one of the most important aspects of homeschooling because no one ever got a divorce because they did poorly in math.

I don’t think homeschooling socially handicaps kids, though it might pop-culturally handicap kids.  But public, private and homeschool will all leave gaps in a student’s education.  That’s why adults lose to ten-year-olds on “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader.”  In reality, homeschooling may have more accountability than public schools.  With only two people managing the curriculum and lots of tools for tracking, there are fewer subject gaps.”

Kristina Overtoom – “Tandeming Troll”

I’ve taught in all three places: public, private and homeschool academy, and my experience backs up what these moms know: your kids’ education amounts to what you put into it.  All three places have their own problems, but one thing stayed the same: the parents.  Kids did great with interested parents, and lousy with disaffected parents.

Easy question today.  Tell us where you send your kids for their learnin.’  If every choice was an option, would you keep them there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

37 responses to Parenting Month: Daycare to Graduation

  1. The situation here in the public system in Australia isn’t as bad as it appears to be in the States. However, my wife and I are both products of the public system and we’re happy to educate our kids the same way.

    People in Christian circles look at us strangely (or explicitly accuse us of negligence) for choosing to send them to state schools. Yet the state system isn’t going to get any better if we take all the best kids out. And taking an interest in the education in our kids (and their friends) does no end of good, so we make sure we volunteer for things there where possible.

    We’re not just going to rely on the state to educate our kids. But we’re not going to just pay someone else to do it either.

  2. Hi Matt,

    As you know my six kids are grown with their own homes now. But when they were in public school I taught them that whatever they need to know, they would have to learn in spite of the school system. They were legally required to do to school somewhere but ignore what they teach, just make the best of it and endure. Read on your own in whatever field interests you… And you can skip school anytime you want, just tell me beforehand.

    They racked up bundles of scholarships, most finished college, work, pay taxes, have professional careers. never been in jail yet… Something worked right in spite of my lackadaisical approach to their education and they are now my best friends in the whole world (Last year they helped me bury that Indian I wrote about)

    Teach ’em to read and ignore–that’s my system.

    John Cowart

  3. One of my sisters and I went to public school for the whole thing and I’ve got some younger sisters that my mom homeschooled, so I think I’ve seen the bad and the good in both.

    WRT the homeschooling, my mom got around the “accountability” issue by having them sit for the same state standardized tests that the public school kids take. When they got to high school, she also ended up having them take classes at the community college in subjects she felt unqualified to teach–like higher-level math and foreign languages. Education-wise I think they turned out quite well–one went to grad school and the other is in training for the ministry. I don’t think “socialization” was much of an issue either (the kind of “socialization” I got in public school was very overrated, in my opinion.)

    However, just like public school–actually maybe moreso since there’s hardly any oversight at all–there is the potential to really screw up a kid’s education with homeschooling. My mom came across plenty of really wacky ideology among the homeschooling families she networked with–refusing to let the kids make any decisions for themselves, failing to teach their girls math or science because “they don’t really need it”, viewing anything remotely connected with the state with suspicion. (When my mom let my sisters take our state’s standardized tests, there were some of the homeschool moms that thought she was setting herself up for being “tracked by the government”.)

    For my own kid, I’d homeschool if I could, but with my job I don’t have the time to devote to it. My husband stays home full time but had a hard time academically and has said he wouldn’t feel qualified to do it. The public school where we live has a really good reputation and we’ve had a good experience with it so far.

    • Oh yeah, I knew a family that didn’t teach their girl any math, but they made room for theater, dance and voice lessons. Because she wanted to be an actor. Then when she was 16, she decided she wanted to be a vet. The advice she got? Go back to second grade and learn math. Homeschool isn’t college. Kids don’t know what they want, and parents have to be responsible to that reality.

    • Accountability, I think, has two aspects: 1. Making sure kids are being taught and 2. Being able to make changes when there is a problem. As a teacher, Matt, you would be able to tell us how schools can make changes when it is apparent that kids are not doing well, either as individuals or as a class. I went to public school all of my life and I remember the teachers coming up with some individualized planning for some of my issues. I totally agree with Matt that teachers unions remove the second form of accountability.

      I personally think that though standardized tests play a role in accountability, the best form of accountability is friends and family and coaches for homeschoolers and, regarding the public and private schools, parents. I just started having my older girls take standardized tests, just to get practice in taking those types of tests.

      I agree with Susan that as long as parents are involved in their kids’ education in some way and manage to pass on a love of learning, regardless of what educational path they choose for their kids, the kids will get a great education.

    • Abby you said ” (the kind of “socialization” I got in public school was very overrated, in my opinion.)” Exactly.

      As for the “wacky ideology,” homeschooling is more work than a more traditional schooling method. Part of that work is seeking the right curriculum to suit the specific needs of the child. If your going to do it you can’t flail on the details and the prep.

  4. As someone who was homeschooled for most of his life, and as a student of the Public education system in Nova Scotia, I fully agree with what Kristina says.

    “I don’t think homeschooling socially handicaps kids, though it might pop-culturally handicap kids.”

    This is totally true, and while I’ve never been able to fully integrate myself at my current school because of my lack of pop-culture knowledge, I don’t really regret this.

    • Our propensity to absorb pop culture, when we are bred in an environment that values it is astonishing. Some days, it’s like kids don’t have an original thought of their own.

      • Matt–if you’re not yet familiar with Weapons of Mass Instruction, by John Taylor Gatto, you should absolutely read that book. Or start by googling his essay “The Six Lesson Schoolteacher.” Those started me down a rabbit hole (in which I’m still trapped) that began with simply asking the question “What if the only reason we do school this way is because it was done to us this way?”

  5. I turned out just fine going to a public school my entire childhood. Now that I’m an adult and enrolled in a private university, I regret the decision. Public school is the way for me.

    Ultimately, I think it comes down to a case-by-case basis. Every person learns differently and thrives in varying situations. That’s just how it is. We were all created uniquely.

  6. My son is in 2nd grade at a public school right now. So far, he seems to be doing well. We make sure we are involved in what he is learning, and we supplement in areas he is interested in…like math and science, etc. We also take responsibility for teaching him manners, social skills, correct behavior, and other skills some teachers complain parents expect them to teach on top of academics.

    I nderstand some of the desire for homeschoolers or parents who put their kids in fath-based private schools. But, see, I was saved in a public high school because of Christian students. What would have happened if all the Christians were homeschooled?

  7. I think public schools are just terrible.

    They don’t teach kids what they ought know, but are indoctrinating them in all the latest leftist causes.

    They leave good little socialists with super high self-esteem…not knowing many of the things that they actually should know to get along in this world. The more money they spend (the public schools) the worse things get. It is a sure, steady decline.

    The best educated and best adjusted kids I know come out of private schools, or have been home schooled.

    Of course I paint with a very wide brush and I know there are many exceptions.

    • I’m sorry but, yes, you do paint with a very wide brush, and yes, there are plenty of exceptions.

    • There are lots of exceptions, but I wonder…In the districts that are failing, where kids come out with diplomas that are worthless, why is no one advocating for returning the tax money to the citizens? Of course I know that won’t happen. But whenever you pay for a product or service that does not meet the advertised expectations, you get a refund. Yet there are plenty of districts that are simply money pits, and the taxpayer never sees a return on the investment.

      • Interesting thought. I guess it comes back to the question of why failing districts fail–has anyone really figured this out?

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but schools with a low level of parental involvement are more likely to do poorly, yes? It seems to me that if most of the parents are already uninvolved in the public school, they probably aren’t going to be likely to demand their tax money back when the school sucks.

  8. I was educated completely through the public school system (even a state university for my BS and MS). I’m pretty sure I’m still “pop-culturally handicapped.” Public school didn’t help me any with that.

    Our oldest is 5 and will officially start kindergarten next fall. We have been homeschooling for preschool because a) we’re cheap and don’t see a point in paying to send our kid to be taught what Sesame Street teaches for free (I’m kidding, but seriously…he already is working on reading, why would I pay to have someone else “teach” him his letters?) and b) because he’s genetically pre-disposed to ADD (no diagnosis yet, but given what we’ve observed of his behavior, it’s only because we haven’t sought out a diagnosis). Were my son in a “conventional” classroom, he would constantly be told to sit still, be quiet, stop interrupting, etc. My husband spent his childhood being told how disruptive he was, how out-of-control he was. He still bears the scars of that today. It is best for our son to be taught one-on-one, at whatever level interests him, by someone who understands a) how smart and creative he is, and b) that he’s not being _intentionally_ disruptive. I can take the time that a teacher with 20 kids can’t to teach him how to focus his attention. I can work with him on persevering when another teacher would have to stop and move on (allowing him to quit).

    Will we homeschool forever? I don’t know. It’s possible that when he gets past the “little boy” wiggles, and is armed with focusing techniques that he learned at home, that we’ll put him into our local public schools (some of the best in the country). But mostly it just depends on what’s best for him.

  9. Well I’ll throw in my piece now.

    I am a product of the public school system in Alabama (gasp – I know…some of us can read and write). We didn’t have any private school options and both of my parents worked (so no home schooling) but never felt that this was a poor choice.

    My school was not at the top of performance scales, but I ended up attending one of the best engineering colleges in the nation (on a full scholarship) and graduating magna cum laude “despite” my public school education. The difference was what went on at home. I knew that I was expected to do well in school. We watched Jeopardy as a family, tuned in to the History channel for specials (once we had full cable) and I watched PBS and educational shows when I got home (and didn’t have any homework). So I’ve got no problem with the idea of public schools. It’s more about what happens at home anyway.

    Our family’s situation now is different though. Our son is in kindergarten at a public charter school. We refused to let him go to the school he is zoned for. Why? His safety would have been an issue and our public school system is ranked last academically in the state of GA every. single. year. I am not sacrificing my son’s education when there are other options where the teachers don’t have to worry about unsupportive parents who expect the school system to raise their children and therefore can’t spend enough time teaching. And I will never sacrifice his safety.

    The charter school is part of the public system but performing beautifully. We got in on a lottery drawing and were thrilled because if that had not worked, we were going to have to fork out the money for a private education.

    I’m not opposed to private schools if they are actually better than the public schools but I know too many of them that are just more of a name or contain a certain socio-economic group that parents would prefer their children to socialize with. And that’s unfair to the children and not really realistic for what they will encounter in this world.

    Homeschooling? I have had several friends pull it off beautifully. But I can certainly see the potential for really screwing a kid up here.

  10. I don’t have kids yet myself, but my husband and I have had long conversations about education. I was in public school all the way and he was homeschooled, and we both turned out fine (in my humble opinion :)).

    It’s got to be on a case-by-case basis, I would think. It all depends on the personalities of the people involved. Some kids thrive in a public school environment. Others would do better at home.

    There seems to be a move in Christian circles to pull out of the public system completely, and that scares me a bit–because, as others have said, if there are no Christians in the public schools, who will be a light there?

    As for the education of the individual kid, I think others have nailed it–as long as the parents are involved, the child will learn. The problem comes when parents assume others will take over their primary responsibility–educating their children.

    • Totally agree with your third paragraph especially.

      Everybody’s got to what’s best for their own kid. However, I’m disturbed by this overwhelming tendency in Christian culture to create these walled-off little societal bubbles, living in fear of everything on the outside. It doesn’t seem to end with education, either–it’s not enough to keep the kids at home so they don’t have be exposed to “socialist” ideas, you have to keep their minds from being warped by “secular” music and keep them out of “wordly” bookstores in case they accidentally wander into the occult section and get possessed by demons. Heaven forbid they view people of different faiths, races, and philosophical backgrounds as anything other than potential mission projects.

      Sorry to go off on this tangent–your comment just got me thinking about how it seems like discourse in this country seems to be devolving into increasingly isolated tribes just lobbing rocks at each other, without any attempt made at understanding. Considering how depressed it gets me, I’m reminded that I’m going to have to just go on radio silence until the election is over.

      • No, I don’t think it was a tangent at all. (Well, maybe it was, but it was one I completely agree with).

        We seem to gravitate more and more to extremes, isolating ourselves from the corrupting influences of the “other side”, until we are unable to hold a civil conversation. It’s true in politics and religion, and I think the mass exodus from the school system is a symptom of that problem. And, unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle–involved parents don’t like the way the public school system is going so they pull out, and then there are fewer parents trying to improve the system so it gets worse, so more parents pull their kids out, etc.

        Of course, not everyone who homeschools is guilty of this mindset, and it is not my intent to paint all with one brush. And Melissa certainly has a point–parents are responsible for the well-being, equipping and protection of their kids, and the world IS a scary place.

        Again, it comes down to the individual child, the individual school, the individual family.

    • Right, we seem to bounce between being in the world, and pulling back to complete isolationism so we aren’t polluted by the world. I think protecting kids from bad influences is kind of a poor reason to pull out of public schools. After all, we’re all adults, we know what the world is all about. We can handle it. Why? Because we learned to, our parents taught us discernment. It all goes back to the parents. Why is sex ed so important in schools? Because parents don’t teach discernment at home.

      • First, let me remind you, Melissa = public school educated and turned out pretty well (imo). I see both sides here, I’m just trying to explain the other to you.

        The “world” is a big and scary place. And just like you wouldn’t send a plebe at the Naval Academy out in command of a unit on the front lines of combat or to captain a ship, there’s something to be said for taking time out to train your children prior to sending them out into the world. Yes, some plebes might be able to survive or even thrive in that environment, especially if they have a mature mentor alongside them – but the conventional thinking on the matter is that you “sequester” them for a period of training prior to sending them out into the “world.” The Naval Academy is a “walled-off little societal bubble” if you will.

        Yes, there are extreme examples of the ultimate in helicopter parents who attempt to control the outcomes of their child’s lives by “protecting” them from every outside influence (many of their children rebel at the first opportunity). But I think that the majority of the Christian homeschooling community sees it as an opportunity of training their children _for_ the world (prior to releasing them into it), not sequestering them _from_ the world.

        • Don’t get me wrong-I’m certainly not knocking homeschooling or anything like that.

          It’s just that all good intentions have the potential to be taken way too far. It’s something that I’ve seen happen. That, and as my husband tells me, I have a tendency to allow my blood to “get all angried up” about things that are probably actually irrelevant to the topic at hand.

          • Heh….when discussing our New Year’s Resolutions this year, my husband suggested one for me, “don’t get so upset about/by internet discussions.”

            Abby, you and I may have very differing philosophies about many things, but I think we’re very similar people all the same! It’d be interesting to meet in real life to see if those similarities are the kind that would made us fast friends despite our differences or if they’d immediately make our hackles rise! :)

          • Melissa–

            I like to think that in “real life” I’d probably get along pretty well with anybody on this board.

            I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to say stuff on the internet that I would never say to a person’s face :)

  11. We sent our kids to public schools, despite having a close relative who owns a major homeschooling curriculum company and despite my having a credential. Granted, we lived in excellent school districts; I’m not sure what we would have done if we lived somewhere with poor schools.

    However, even though we were taking advantage of the tax-supported schools, we always assumed full responsibility for our kids’ educations. We read to them, then made sure they were reading on their own. Our family “field trips” included museums, national parks, and other places with educational value. We tried to make learning fun.

    We frequently discussed their school lessons. I even read every single book they were assigned through high school.

    Our kids both have college degrees now, and have told me how much they loved having us supplement and discuss what they were hearing at school. I guess we did something right.

  12. I am someone who absolutely supports public schools. There are many ways that they could be better, but I don’t think that they should be abandoned wholesale. My main beef with them is that methods are too inflexible, and I say that as somebody who has done a lot of work in public schools during the last four years in graduate school. I think that there is a lot of ineffective practice and poor teaching methods. There needs to be more communication to the parents, clearer statements of expectations and a refocus on teaching skills to mastery, rather than speeding through a curriculum.

    I am in favor of teachers unions. I may be a bit biased because my mother is a teacher, but among charter schools who won’t hire teachers in unions, the burnout rate among teachers is ridiculous. There is a school in NYC that has most of the teachers and staff quit one year because of the long hours and ridiculous amount of work required for minimal pay. If we want to make a commitment to quality teaching and skilled teachers, I don’t see how cutting pay and benefits makes teaching an attractive options for people with the skills needed to do the job. Yes, desire to make a difference is an important aspect of the job, but if you want to attract potential teachers with advanced degrees in math, biology or literature, 30K and minimal benefits while working 60 hour work weeks probably won’t get it done.

    That said, I am in favor of teacher evaluation as part of the whole package. I think that teachers should be regularly evaluated and the ones who aren’t getting the job done should submit to training to improve their teaching ability. teachers make a huge difference, bigger than most people realize, and if someone shows a commitment to improving. I think they should be given an opportunity.

  13. In 1995 my son was 5 years old and we toured the Madonna School, a small converted church in Benson and the only private school for special needs children in our region. We were desperate for an option…the public school system was already dissapointing us.

    We were greeted by book pages covering the principal’s floor. He apologized for the disarray, explaining he was creating the 40 odd math syllabuses for the nearly 50 students. “Wait-” I said. “You don’t force everyone into three peg-hole options?” The idea of school staff being on the same team as Marcus, of our educating and preparing him together to face the world-that concept created hope.

    The story of the school’s beginnings, as I remember it, was that Sr Mary Evangiline went to enroll children from the St. James Orphanage into the public school system and they were turned away as “uneducable.” From my few conversations with the Sister, I expect her reaction was something similar to “Hogwash!” She began schooling them herself, believing in their potential to develop academically and cultivating their capacity for independent living. She became not only educator but also advocate in the community for those developmentally disabled – believing and proclaiming the value of caring for all God’s children.

    In that first tour I felt the missing something from every other school we toured to that point: love. And I also felt a very powerful spirit of determination. Other halls I walked through dripped with defeat, not these. Even in the tiny classrooms and cramped halls, purpose filled the air.

    This year Marcus will graduation from the transition program at the Madonna School. Thank God for the option.

  14. I am a product of all three methods of education. I was homeschooled for a brief period in elementary school, and split the remainder of my education pretty evenly between a private self-paced Christian school (till the 8th grade) and a public school in a small town in Texas (8-12).

    The pros and cons that you outlined are pretty dead on. My parents were not well-educated so my homeschool experience was lacking in that regard. So they put me into a private academy where I could work at my own pace, similar to homeschooling, with the support of educated staff. I entered 8th grade in public school and, like any good, sheltered child was completely clueless about everything. I was socially awkward and pop-culture illiterate. It was a difficult social transition, but school was never a problem again. I was not challenged in public school at all. I had fantastic teachers; the work just wasn’t ever hard. I did 5 years worth of busy work and managed to come out halfway intelligent (I like to think so anyway).

    I’ve now graduated from college with dual degrees and feel that my private school education was the best that I had. It allowed students with different abilities and challenges to work at a pace that facilitated meaningful learning. I attribute all my academic success in public school to the skills I developed in private school. We had uniforms and minimal social interaction. We actually went to school to learn.

    My apologies for writing a book. This is a topic that fascinates me and thought I might offer a sliver of relevant insight.

  15. We homeschool. Simply put, it is the only acceptable option for us living in rural Paraguay, South America. We homeschooled in the U.S. before we moved so the transition was not a huge one in terms of school. They were a part of a cooperative that included 200 families as well as being active in many community civic groups. Socialization was not an issue.
    They attend a public school here for the same language classes the Paraguayans take. They are super active in our mission work which is very New Testament communal life sorta stuff, so they are very social here as well.
    They are 13 and 15 and both fluent in English and Spanish as well as semi-fluent in Guarani(tribal) and Portuguese(Brazil).

  16. I sure do get tired of hearing how our school systems “suck”. I know there are poor systems and teachers out there, but I can tell you that in my system, the education the children receive is first rate. I know this from the inside, as a teacher, and from the outside, as a parent.

  17. Both of our kids are in public school. We’re fortunate that we live in a good district and the schools my kids go to (and will go to) are nationally recognized for excellence. But still…

    I’ll echo what others have said. You as a parent have to know what they’re doing. I don’t check homework every night because they’re both old enough to take responsibility for their own work, but I do routinely look at completed work (usually before it goes in the trash can). Over the weekend, I saw a handout from my daughter’s 5th grade science class entitled “The end of fossil fuels” which made me grumble. I don’t like schools trying to indoctrinate my kids into the religion of Environmentalism on my tax dollar. But again, part of my job as a parent is to teach my kids to think for themselves.

  18. My two sons are both thriving in public schools, but my parents aren’t happy with that choice.
    I’m a product of Christian schools through college, and although the academics were quite good–I never encountered a person of color until graduate school. That definitely was a shortcoming in my education.
    My husband started out in a Christian private school, and his mother had taught in one previously. But at that particular school, there wasn’t money for playground supervisors and they didn’t assign teachers to that duty. He was small for his age; he was bullied. His mother pulled him out in second grade when he was developing ulcers from stress.
    We are fortunate that our school district has had strong support for gifted & talented programs and allowed our sons to take classes above their current grade level; not all schools allow that flexibility.
    But it all starts at home–we starting reading to the boys when they were about 9 months old. As toddlers books were comfort objects, not toys or blankets. We model reading and have reading materials throughout the house. We count ourselves fortunate when our oldest pleaded for a subscription to “Popular Science” for a birthday present as a 13 yr old.
    One note on homeschooling–it’s not just the social adjustment, it could well also affect learning styles & skills. A good friend of mine was home-schooled through high school (“Not my choice” he adamantly states now). The curriculum that his parents used was largely text based–read material & parrot it back on tests. He started undergrad only to discover that he had developed absolutely NO auditory learning skills. He was completely lost when it came to listening to a lecture, taking notes, & getting main ideas from presentations. He had a lot of catching up to do in his first year.

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