I think that as parents of young children we all agree that we send them to get an education so that they have a better chance to succeed in life. We all want happy and productive lives for our children while we have them in our care and once they become adults, we want them to move forward from their solid foundations toward personal success that will make them joyful and content for the rest of their lives. Love and parenting are the most important means to meet these goals for our children. Formal education is the second most important factor. From lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic to STEM, socialization and self-awareness, education provides our kids with tools that help them know how to participate, manage, survive and succeed in life.

In a perfect world, differentiated learning would work in the classroom. Each student would be able to learn at their own pace in order to build new knowledge upon prior knowledge. Children would be able to utilize various styles of learning to solidify meanings and make connections. Kids would learn the intended content before moving on to the next. The truth is though, that a select few children have a plan in place to get some type of adjustments made to the regular content but truthfully, every student is expected to fit into one plan and all are measured to one standard that decides whether each person is a success or a failure in their education. In a perfect world, children would all have the same advantages to succeed and learn, but the resources and time will  never allow any such dream. Regardless of the vast amount of variations that exist to effect learning results, all children must work to overcome obstacles and find a way to fit into the way that government and others have decided will work best for every child.

In a perfect world, everyone would learn to be kind to one another and every child would  have a level playing field for feeling empowered, appreciated and included. Fairness would be granted to everyone and no children would have to agonize over ridicule , embarrassment or fear. There would be a perfect way to help kids learn and understand the value of friendship and inclusion. Everyone child would have the same opportunities to be themselves freely and respect the differences as a positive characteristic rather than a circumstance for deliberate harassment. My child have certainly been on the side of being bullied in various degrees. It angered me for sure, but mainly it just broke my heart for my child who I saw as a perfect soul who was suffering and I felt helpless. Perhaps my children have sided with bullies to some degree laughing at a classmate for a perceived imperfection or to prove their loyalty to a friend group. This too would break my heart to know that they strayed from basic decency to purposely hurt someone. But society will never be fair, human nature will cause every last one of us to pass judgement before we can choose to, and school is a place where growing and learning to survive in real life requires an acting out from everyone to find their place.

I don’t believe I could have ever home-schooled my three children and gave them all the specialized and individual educations that would make the most impact on their ability to learn. I can’t imagine the time it would take to plan activities, create curriculum, teach and assess. I certainly could never do that for each child in a thirty kid classroom. I do believe that my children were offered a good education to the best of the abilities of our community resources. I admit that I supplemented my kid’s educations when they were younger to provide opportunities that would hopefully instill the intrinsic love of learning that would serve as a foundation for their lives. I also admit that human nature, my past experiences and my current beliefs all jumbled together with the best intentions, made a sometimes toxic mess of my parenting when trying to give them a foundation of how to be a unique and successful person in society. I was far  from perfect when parenting my children and admittedly unqualified sometimes in my many roles.

I have cooked hundreds of meals over the years although I am not a chef. I have made life altering decisions for my children, but I am not a spiritual guru. I have acted in the role of a chauffeur, special education advocate, psychological counselor, paralegal,  doctor, and more, although I am unqualified for most of the job descriptions in these roles. With all the love and good intentions that a loving mother could muster I set out to be the best of the best for each of my children in every role that they needed me to be. In many cases I actively consulted educational and professional sources to be better at my roles, wanting the best experiences and opportunities for my kids. But for everything I didn’t know to ask, or just simply did not understand, the disadvantages that my children received as a result caused set backs for them in education and in life.

I have loved as much as a mother can love. I have sincerely and with every best intention parented each child the best way I thought they needed at any moment of their childhoods. Sometimes I was unsure what to do. Sometimes I was too depleted to know. Other times I was angry, confused, scared or sad and my parenting was more harmful than helpful even if it was the best I could do at the time. Sadly, and against my strongest wishes, love does not conquer all.  I have left an imprint of safety, comfort and love on their hearts, but I have caused them weaknesses that they must learn to overcome.

For my children in their formal educations there were various combinations of  learning disabilities, personality issues, misguided priorities, teachers and peers that contributed to little failures in school and life.

Two of my children are now adults and one is a teen. I am still parenting and loving them the best I can. I look back at my past 28  years of parenting and see clearly that I had exponential amounts of stamina in the beginning and less as time has passed. I have come to terms with the fact that I can not be every role to every child. I have settled into the truth that I was not as great a parent as I had hoped to be. I love my children with all of my heart and still parent with the best intentions, but another ugly truth is that the older they get and the more independent they are, the less I know where I fit in and the less roles I am equipped to play. My children are all still either in or planning to be in formal education. They are still finding out who they are and what they want to be in society. They are still learning  in every way possible.

Looking back I still believe that love and parenting are the most important means to meeting our goals for our children and that formal education is the second most important factor. We need to instill good values in our kids. We need to advocate for their education needs in their schools. We need to participate in the changes we want for our communities. We need to continue to educate ourselves so that we can be in the best place to play all the roles that are required of us to care for our children. We need to do whatever is needed in order to provide our kids the opportunities and strategies they need to live a successful life from babyhood to adulthood.

Whatever it takes, parenting and education must be our top priorities for ourselves and our kids.

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