Monday, October 11, 2010

Take the MommyMaestra Challenge: Waiting for "Superman"


This weekend I attended the Blogalicious conference in Miami. This gathering of multicultural bloggers allows them to connect with various brands and each other, while attending sessions to help them further develop their blogs.
I learned about a lot of great programs/products and met some wonderful people, but the greatest experience I had (and the one that directly relates to this blog) was on Saturday afternoon when we were given the opportunity to watch the movie, Waiting for “Superman.”

This amazing documentary by director Davis Guggenheim and producer Lesley Chilcott, presents the crisis of our public education system in such a way that will leave you, dear reader, with a much better understanding of how our schools are failing our children, why it is happening, and if can we fix it.

If you have never seen a documentary in your life, NOW is the time to do so.

Waiting for “Superman” is unlike the traditional documentary. It may, in fact, set the new standard for future films of this nature. While the movie is filled with information that is carefully presented to promote understanding, it is not boring, tedious, or dry.

Instead, from the very beginning, the movie reached out and engaged me deeply. As a mother, as a Latina, as a writer and educator, I was tormented and relieved and angered and hopeful. Guggenheim has done such a remarkable job of making me care about this issue by chronicling the lives of five families and their struggle to find and secure a good education for their children. It is an intimate peek into their desperate attempt to enroll their children in a good school. Their hopes hinge on the fickle and somewhat absurd lotteries that these great schools must use to fairly choose from an overwhelming number of families who apply each year.

I watched the movie with mi amiga, Roxana, from Spanglish Baby. I don’t think either one of us really knew what to expect. But by the end of that movie, I think we both walked away with the issue weighing heavily on our minds.

There is SO MUCH to say on this subject, I simply cannot finish in one post. So I will be talking about this subject a lot over the next few months. I want to continue the conversation that this movie has started and get us thinking about this problem that affects us all.

You might wonder, why is she talking about this on her “homeschool” blog? Why should I see this movie or care about this issue if I am homeschooling?

There are a lot of reasons.

First of all, while I am a Latina homeschooler, the information I share on this site is for any family or educator, who is looking for ways to teach their children at home, or to supplement their traditional education. I have been extremely pleased to discover that many of you are teachers in public or private schools, and even more excited to find out that some of you with children who go to elementary or middle schools are reading, too.

My greatest desire is to help our children succeed academically, regardless of how they are being taught.

And maybe you are one of the lucky ones whose child is in a great school, with awesome teachers and lots of resources. That is so wonderful! You are so blessed. But maybe you know someone who is not so fortunate.

Second, even if you are homeschooling your children, as I am, chances are pretty good that you have friends or family with children in public school. Because I love my friends, I love their children, too, and it pains me to see them have to struggle just to give their kids an education in a safe and nurturing environment.

I also realize that not everyone CAN homeschool. Sometimes, it isn’t realistic, because the parent(s) must work and can’t find the time. How many single moms or dads do you know? I’m guessing at least one. And sometimes it just isn’t a good fit for their familia.

This issue really hits home for me because the reason I started homeschooling was partially due to the fact that I live in a failed school district. Two of the schools in my town were closed and the State has taken over.

And I am lucky that I have a husband who makes enough money that I don’t have to work outside the home, too. At least not yet! But I also know that if anything were to happen to him, my entire world would be turned upside down and my ability to homeschool would disappear.

And to be honest, yes, it angers me that every child in our great country does not have the opportunity to get a fabulous education. Chilcott says in the book written to accompany the movie, “It just seemed so wrong – really the opposite of what America stands for. You can go to the store and there are seven different kinds of peanut butter to choose from, but you don’t get to choose your school? And when there is a good school available to you, the way you get in is determined by a bouncing ball in a cage?”

This issue affects us all.

Consider the following statistics:

• Only 55 percent of Latinos graduate from high school. The numbers are even worse for African Americans. And while whites graduate at 76%, why isn't it 100%?

• High school graduates live (on average) up to seven years longer than their dropout counterparts.

• In Pennsylvania, 68% of state prisoners are high school dropouts. (I imagine this number is roughly the same in other states.)

• The average college graduate earns 73% more than the average high school graduate

The list goes on and on.

I don’t want my children to be one of these statistics. I don’t want any of my friends’ or family’s kids to be one either.

So here’s my challenge for all of you: Hire a sitter and go see this film with your spouse, best friend, parents, or whoever. Don’t worry! Waiting for “Superman” does give you hope and talks about solutions.

But be prepared: I’m going to ask you next week to see if you’ve gone to see it yet!

So go here to find a theater near you or to take the pledge. And for each ticket that is purchased on their website, you will receive a $5 gift code to give a classroom of your choice on DonorsChoose.org

Con mucho cariño....

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