Mkay, so you know we moved, right? Yeah, right, like anybody missed that one. That’s been the MJ’s funeral of my life for, what, ten years now? Well, it feels like it to me… prolly it feels the same to you too. But wait, there’s more! Because, at the very same time, my sister and her hubby and the delightful Kaybug are also moving. To Florida. To Lakeland, even. What a coinkydink! So, not only am I living my own personal moving angst, I’m living theirs too! Yay! And, with a ten year old in the mix, I’m learning up-close what you deal with when you move a child. And I’m really glad that I don’t have that to deal with on my own. Really. Glad.
The big difference? Schools. And it’s a really big difference. Because the Florida school system is way ahead of TN. Like majorly ahead. Like entire skillsets ahead. Because my niece is starting 5th grade this year and she’s never been introduced to writing stories or essays. At all. But in Florida, because of Florida Writes, Fourth Graders had to test on this skill on the FCAT. TCAPS? Readin’ and ‘rithmatic only for fourth graders, thankyeverymuch! No ritin’ needed yet, because I guess forging Oxy and Hydro prescriptions only takes a few words… they can pick those up in 5th grade… right? Sad that of the two states, only Florida sees the need to start preparing kids for silly things like, oh, I don’t know… THE SAT??? But, anyway, because of this deficiency my precious niece (and everybody else in our house) is having to endure summer tutoring. And from the sound of the coaching lessons, apparently somebody should call DHS because summer tutoring is undoubtedly child abuse of the highest level. Actually, I’m thinking my sister and her hubby are both qualified for jobs at Abu Ghraib, because their torture skills with this homework stuff are right up there with thumb screws and waterboarding – simultaneously. Apparently, also from the protestations we keep hearing, this is something so horrible that no other child in the ENTIRE WORLD has ever had to do this. Go figure. My niece is living a colossal parent fail. Poor thing. I know I feel sorry for her. Not.
But, lest you think the academics are the biggest difference, there’s more. Like the county-wide uniform code. FTW! Just ask my sister and my Mom. Finally… school shopping with an cheaper and easier button! Just pick up some khakis, a skort or two, a few polos and cotton shirts, and you’re done! It’s garanimals – for everybody! Yay! And, before you start blathering about expense or personal style, just STFU! First of all, uniforms cost considerably less than regular clothes. Really. Don’t believe me? Head over to Justice, or the Hannah Montana section of Wal-Mart. Then go look in their tiny uniform section. And that’s my point exactly. $7.99 for pants. $5.99 for polos. Damn. As for stifling young Einstein’s creativity by forcing him to conform in his dress code? I feel that this is the point that I will respectfully suggest that a better outlet for your little budding quirky genius’s abundant creativity would be art or music, or science. You know, something useful. Not his perfectly coiffed faux-hawk or his ohsostylish fake Christian Audigier teeshirt with the fake tattoos. And, no, with this I am not saying that the perfectly coordinated Gymbo combo isn’t just the bomb, but now my Thi Thi will be able to save it for the weekends, not see it ruined on the frickin’ playground. I, for one, think this rocks! And, furthermore, color me, as an unreformed feminist, happy as hell that my niece (a very smart little girl who has carried straight A’s all the way thru school so far) will never again run the risk of receiving as her superlative "Best Dressed". WTF? And yes, she got that award the year she read more books than any kid in her class, and achieved more AR points than any other child. Way to go school system! That’s how you reinforce the message that being smart is cool… er, um, yeah. Lucky for her teachers that it wasn’t my child. Because I know without any doubt that the day they handed out those awards would have been the day I became "that mother". Another thing my child I didn’t have can be thankful for.
But wait, after all those sunshine and rainbows, there’s even more! As in less. Because in the Nirvana called Polk Co. Schools, there is no four mile long supply list, kept in a deep dark secret place until the first day of school… after tax free days are long over and done. Yeah. Amazingly, the magical lists down here are already out. Released ahead of time, so you can shop the sales. And almost too good to be true, all 6 levels of Elementary School are printed on one page. I know, seriously, WTF? How can this be? But they are. And even more astounding? No toilet paper, paper towels, or hand sanitizer (in the convenient 72 gallon jug). Nope, nothing on this magical list other than actual school supplies. Like pencils. And paper. I know this is almost revolutionary today, but we were told by a school administrator that the Superintendent of Schools in Polk Co. was the one who spearheaded this move. She was the one who said that no supply list for any grade should cost more than $10 per kid. I know, crazy. But it’s a good crazy, and I like it. Because I’ve looked at my niece’s ever-lengthening list from her east TN school each year, and the activities fee they paid on top of that, and I’ve always been amazed that the schools can get away with it. And I’ve just got to ask how long schools think they can get away with asking parents to provide virtually all of the disposable supplies required to educate children, and also continue to pay taxes that are supposed to do just that. Because I’ve seen upclose the quality of that education. And it’s sad. To see a diplomaholder of 18 who isn’t prepared to do anything really. Other than, of course, an amazingly fruitful career that includes the words "you want fries with that?".
And after all this, my only thoughts now are thank you Jeebus for making all of us move. Oh, my niece isn’t too happy about it right now, but she’ll adjust. And she’ll come out of a public school with a college-bound background, prepared for the world, if she keeps up her current education work ethic. Which is as it should be. And I know that east Tennessee is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places on Earth, it is always going to be my home. But you have to see there’s a problem if the only way you can ensure that your child is going to be ready and able to go to college is to pay for a private school education. We did. She is. But we shouldn’t have to. And before you start getting all statisticky on me, I know that Florida schools are not perfect. I’m well aware that they have virtually all the societal issues that Tennessee schools are dealing with. But they’re doing something right down here. Maybe they’re making Education more of a priority? I don’t know, but I’m glad they’re doing it, whatever it is.
Yay them! Yay us! And most importantly, yay Kaybug! You’ll do great… I know… remember, you’re just like your Aunt Missy! God help you.