Essay Contest: My Children are not Guinea Pigs

Here is an essay contest entry by Michelle Nicholes.


I am writing to express my concerns with the direction that our public schools are heading as a result of the federal government stepping in and more specifically (I am going to say it, but please keep reading!) Common Core.  I know that there are a lot of good and bad things being said about Common Core and you are probably more than tired of dealing with it, but I truly believe it is something that still needs to be addressed.

When I first started hearing about Common Core, I was fine with it.  (Not that I really had a choice, since it had already been implemented before parents were told about it.)  It sounded like a good idea.  But the more I started researching and learning, the more it started to confuse and concern me.  I’m just beginning to really understand what is happening with the control over education being taken away from the state and the implementation of this new curriculum and standardized testing.  And while I still don’t know everything about it, I know enough to be more than just a little concerned.

As a parent, I’ve always been actively involved in the education of my children.  Because of this there are many things about Common Core that bother me.  Below are just a few:

*It is very concerning to me that as a parent, I might not always have a say in what my child is taught in the public schools.

*I’m very angry that something that hasn’t even been tested or confirmed successful is being implemented.  My children ARE NOT guinea pigs.

*I am disturbed that there is data collecting on children that has nothing to do with school.  Why??

*I am frustrated that they are attempting to standardize education making it a one size fits all, when no two children are EVER going to be alike.  It doesn’t take into consideration the individuality and also the struggles that some children face.

My son started struggling with math two years ago in third grade.  He really struggled last year in fourth grade.  Nor has it improved this year.  I discovered that Common Core math was implemented the year he first started struggling.  I was told that because of the new curriculum, they needed to cram a whole bunch of new math ideas into the year to get them on track for the next year.   That all sounded wonderful, let’s get our students smarter, faster!  But that isn’t exactly how it will work.  They are introducing new ideas, new concepts that require children to learn things they are NOT ready for.  Their brains are not developed enough to grasp the concepts yet and all it does is frustrate them.  I saw that with my second grader last year in math as well.  As an adult, the concepts they are teaching kind of make sense, if I look hard at the reasoning behind it.   But most children are not ready for this way of thinking and reasoning.  They have taken math from simple steps to many complex steps and I don’t understand why or see how it is helping.  If you have looked at the Common Core math, then you’ll know what I mean.  If you haven’t, I would encourage you to try to solve a few problems- following the new rules, not the way you were taught.

I had to relearn how to do long division last year in order to help my son with math.  It confused me as to why it had been changed.  After all, haven’t we all succeeded just fine – for many decades, I might add- with the tried and true method of long division?   I showed him how I was taught to do it and he told me “I wish I could just do it that way.  Your way is tons easier!”  All this new curriculum is doing is frustrating the students and affecting their self esteem.  Frustrated children give up.  Most children that feel stupid or inadequate because they don’t understand something, will just give up!  Children are not known for their patience.

I won’t go into everything that concerns me, but there are many more that I could mention.  They are concerning enough to me that I will be withdrawing my children from public school next year in order to home school them.  My children’s ability to learn and feel successful, instead of feeling stressed and inadequate, is important enough to me to make this big decision.  I love our schools and teachers.  I have no problems with them.  However, I have no love for Common Core and what it will ultimately do to our children.

My hope is that you will continue to research and become aware of all that Common Core really is.  Our children’s future is too important to not make a careful, educated decision.

–Michelle Nicholes

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