Two Million Minutes: My Kid is in Diapers and You’re Talking High School?

Two Million Minutes is a documentary that tracks two American, two Chinese and two Indian high school students, examining how three superpowers are preparing their students for the future.

Is this an issue of interest to parents of young children? I think so.

When my wife and I shopped for preschools for my daughter, we debated three schools. One emphasized reading and math, one emphasized fine motor skills (such as quilting), and one had lots of activities, but was essentially glorified daycare. And there’s always Waldorf schools that buck all trends with such ideas as not teaching reading and writing until age 7.

Then there’s the issue of Spanish use in preschool because it could influence whether we eventually choose the kindergarten program that does Spanish immersion. Or maybe we’ll choose the other elementary school that has the best test scores in our region, but is also criticized for pushing its kids too hard.

Five minutes later my wife and I found ourselves discussing high schools (the “average” high school vs. the one with an International Baccalaureate program). Holy cow!

Sure, high school is a long way off, but it doesn’t just magically appear one day. Education is a journey with each step influencing your child’s direction on his path to adulthood. Your kid can still go on to great success despite, say, bad grades in high school… but boy, the more he knows upon leaving high school, the more options he has to pursue in life.

I suspect Thinga-readers fall into two camps — “our schools are lackluster and we plan to supplement our kids’ education as much as possible (with homeschooling or private school)” and “our schools are fine and if you rush your kids you’ll do more harm than good.” Yes? No?

Parents pour a lot of money into “educational” toys for their babies and track milestones month-by-month, but does that deep level of interest persist? Will you at some point switch off and trust your preschool, your kindergarten and so forth to handle all aspects of education? Or will you stay actively involved in your child’s education in some manner?


12 Responses to “Two Million Minutes: My Kid is in Diapers and You’re Talking High School?”

  1. thordora says:

    I have no faith in the schools where I live-the literacy rate in this province is frightening. My oldest starts school this September, and is very excited. Since the scores for the schools in our area where close, I went with the nearest school. I wanted Montessori, but we just can’t afford it.

    Neither child has been in preschool, on purpose. We wanted to raise them ourselves, and wanted to spend the 0-5 years as a family. It’s been hard, but the added benefit is saved money, and a fantastic relationship with both children. I can’t imagine trying to have a normal life shuttling to and from day cares or preschool. (Not a judgement-I just really can’t imagine because I’m lazy)

    We’ve been doing the usual stuff at home-encouraging reading, writing, basic math skills, but my oldest hasn’t held much interest. She likes it better when we’re out in the backyard naming bugs or talking about the compost, or doing stuff in the house. Gives me a chance to talk about a lot of science, but I find it hard to not talk over her.

    We have ZERO intention of letting the school take over. I remember mine, and how it killed curiosity. I don’t want her to lose that, and we’re committed to working very hard on keeping it intact.

    February 21st, 2008 at 3:59 am

  2. Jennifer says:

    I do think that our schools are somewhat failing our children. However, we are also putting too many demands on the schools of what to teach the children. Get back to the basics: reading, writing, arithmatic…remember those?
    It is essential to be involved in your child’s education as well. Many studies have shown that the more involved a parent is in a child’s school and schoolwork, the better they do. I can attest to that fact personally. I remember my mom checking my homework everynight until I was 14; I also remember at about 10 year old complaining that she was treating me like a baby because of it. However now, as an adult, I remember those times when she started to back off…so did my grades. Children’s grades tend to drop off about junior high and even more in high school. Why? Because we give our children some more freedom and start backing off a bit. Many teachers will tell you that the students that do better are the one’s whose parents show up on back to school night and at conferences.
    It is a big issue and a big question.
    The school system in this country needs to be reconstructed!

    February 21st, 2008 at 6:28 am

  3. STL Mom says:

    If your kid is failing in school, you definitely stay involved!
    My daughter went to kindergarten at our local public school, considered a good school in the area. She was miserable and made no academic progress. We switched her to a private Montessori school and it started out great, but by the end of first grade she was miserable again and making little progress.
    We had her tested and found out that she has learning disabilities and attention problems. Now she is at a private school for kids with learning disabilities and is doing great.
    What we’ve discovered is that a school can be wonderful for one child and terrible for another. For example, the Montessori school teacher gave our 6-year-old a work plan in the morning and then expected her to organize her own time and work independently for the next 2 1/2 hours. Many kids thrived in this system, but ours did not. She is doing much better in a highly structured environment with direct instruction.
    In my experience, it was very difficult to figure out what the best kind of school would be until we tried a few. So go ahead and research your options, but don’t be afraid to look at your decision again in a year or two. A fantastic school may not be the right school for your child.

    February 21st, 2008 at 7:52 am

  4. Cindi Hoppes says:

    In our town, it is know for its’ wonderful educational system! Our population is rising rapidly! In the smaller towns around us, their test scores run even higher. I think that is because of smaller classroom size and more individualized attention.
    My older sister is a retired school teacher of 34 years! I have learned a lot from her. To me, making the best of each child’s ability is what the importance of education is. It is a combination of socialization, learning, character traits, etc. My sons are so different, especially when it comes to their learning styles. We work at home ( they go to the public schools) with each one empathizing their strengths! Cindi

    February 21st, 2008 at 8:14 am

  5. JMo says:

    I don’t think I fall into either of your camps AJ. We stretched ourselves to buy a house one of the best school districts so that we could send our kids to public school (and of course for resell value, should we ever decide to move). While we plan to utilize the public schools, we also plan to be very hands-on with their education. At this point, even the best schools have limited resources, so I believe it’s our personal responsibility to make sure our kids are successful in school. I also understand that schools don’t have the resources to provide a well-rounded education that includes arts, music, physical education, nature, etc. That’s where we plan to supplement the public education programs.

    To answer your last question – I think we will always be actively involved in our children’s education. Personally, I really needed a lot of help from my parents with high school math and science homework, and I asked them to proofread my papers for English and history. My parents pushed and encouraged me throughout high school and college and I owe much of my success to them.

    My son is 17-months old and we are currently interviewing preschools. We are leaning toward Montessori, but have a few other preschools to check out before we officially decide and fork over the application fee to get on the 18-month waiting lists.

    February 21st, 2008 at 9:37 am

  6. brandy says:

    I believe many elements of our educational system are flawed and I worry about kids getting ‘left behind,’ but it also looks like the documentarians set out to prove their hypothesis that American high schoolers were lazy, ungrateful, and unprepared when compared to children in high-pressure, overachieving cultures. A lot of potential for things to be taken out of context. We will encourage our kids in all areas of study, and I plan to dedicate all kids of time where it is needed. But I don’t care if they get straight A’s or make honor roll as long as they aren’t slacking off, and as long as they are focusing energy on what is important to them–developing skills in art or music or whatever. Life isn’t all about succeeding in the global marketplace. There has to be some common ground, a happy medium. I’d rather not groom my kids to succeed in a world of money, stocks, and board meetings. But I don’t want them skipping college courses to try on sunglasses, either (well, not regularly).

    February 21st, 2008 at 1:51 pm

  7. bombaygirl says:

    funny…I was just commenting on my search for the right preschool for my son, last night on my blog. I am torn, trying to decide what’s right for him. And no, I don’t think I will every give up my monitoring of his educational needs vs. his capabilities.

    February 21st, 2008 at 3:41 pm

  8. kim says:

    My daughter is a year old and my husband is a french teacher in high school. I am frustrated to hear about all of the American parents taking their kids out of school to home school them. If those parents took all of that energy and geared it towards changing the public schools then they would not need to home school. Parents need to get involved to see changes. At the “Meet the teachers” night last fall my husband had 3 parents show up– he teaches over 150 kids!

    February 21st, 2008 at 5:47 pm

  9. Jessica G says:

    I think it is normal to have these discussions – it shows that you care about your child’s education. The preschool our children will attend is not the same thing as the preschool we attended … there is competition, waiting lists, detailed curriculum, etc… So of course, high school is going to be on the long list of “what do we do?” I managed to find a preschool that focuses on education in the morning and socialization in the afternoon. A happy balance that did not strike me as extreme in either way. My 3.5 year old is learning about weather patterns, history, basic math skills and the importance of reading (although most reading is about listening). In the afternoon she gets to learn about what to do when a certain boy pushes her on the playground or how much fun it is to play kitty-cat with five other kids hyped up on cupcakes.

    I try not to judge people for their schooling decisions. Admittedly, I think most parents that home-school their children have “crazy eyes” (I could never do it) but I try to respect the decision.

    Ideally, I would like my daughters to start kindergarden at the local school and continue through 4th grade. Then I would like to find a girls school for 5th-8th. Then return them to the public school system through high school graduation. This plan is based on where we live, with a great school system. If that should change, the plan would change. I want my daughters to have the best opportunity when it comes to math and science and statistics (and my own experience) are on my side with putting them in a all-girls environment for those pre-teen years.

    February 22nd, 2008 at 9:21 am

  10. gweipo says:

    Schooling is interesting, but at this stage I’d say the most important thing you can do for your child is read aloud to him / her. Do this 3 times a day, or 3 books a day (come on a kids book takes all of 2-5 minutes to read if you really stretch it) and they’ll have no problems no matter what school system you put them in!

    February 22nd, 2008 at 6:54 pm

  11. Joe says:

    I live in the state with the highest property taxes in the US. (take a guess! its fun.)

    While it is brutal to shell out this money every quarter, we here in Taxland can boast that we have some of the best schools, highest graduation rates and highest % of graduates who complete a 4 year degree in the country. It also helps that my wife is a teacher. We plan on using our public schools and getting some value on the dollars we have spent.

    I work with children I can say with some certainty that parental behavior and expectations are the biggest indicator of how your child will perform. If you are lazy, never read and blame others when you fail, your child will follow. If you enjoy reading, learning, discovering things and being active, your child will make a great student.

    February 23rd, 2008 at 12:12 pm

  12. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    “If those parents took all of that energy and geared it towards changing the public schools then they would not need to home school. “

    Not true. Before homeschooling took off, you had parents active and VERY involved in the schools. And they got the schools telling them that they had no right to question X, that they were overprotective for wanting Y. Etc. Eventually the schools squashed the parents’ involvement. And that is when parents started removing their children to homeschool in a big way. Because they got the idea that their involvement did not make a difference in the schools.

    You STILL read stories of the courts telling parents they have no right over what happens in the schools. That does not help matters.

    February 25th, 2008 at 8:40 am