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Monday, June 22, 2009

Wounded by School (Non-Fiction)

Released April 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

In 1997, my 4 1/2 year old son was ready for school. He was reading picture books by himself, wrote his entire alphabet, counted to 50 and could add single-digit numbers together. We went to sign him up for the upcoming year of kindergarten and learned the school board opted to move the required starting age to five by August 31st. If your child was even a few days short of that new deadline, they would have to wait an extra year before entering school. My son missed that age requirement by a few weeks.

Despite our very public televised and print battle, the school was not going to waive their new policy. My father-in-law was a teacher with more than 30 years experience and he even went to bat for us saying our son was more than ready. In the end, our son waited a year. A year later, the school was telling us that our son was too advanced for kindergarten and that we should consider having him skip a grade. Not only was it frustrating for us as parents, our son suffered too. WOUNDED BY SCHOOL takes a look at how today's modern school system is forgetting about the joy of learning and focusing on required testing (NECAP here) and other programs failing our children.

As a child "wounded by school," I found Kirsten Olson's offering to be a refreshing read. One that I'd like to think teachers, school boards and government officials take to heart. I still remember being a kindergartener and being told by the teacher that she had to make phone calls so she wanted me to sit in her chair and read out loud to my peers. Three books later, she returned. However, my peers singled me out, even at that age, and picked on me for being so smart and being a teacher's pet. Any time I was put in her chair while she made phone calls, I'd get laughed at and pointed at by my classmates. In the end, it made me nervous when put in front of a group of people. That plagued me my entire school career. I hated speeches and often took the F rather than deal with the anxiety. While I maintained As and Bs in classes, speeches and presentations never went well.

Kirsten Olson shares the stories of a number of students who explain how schooling affected their self-esteem. Learn about a substitute teacher who battled for a student only to be shot down by the principal or a student placed in a remedial reading class and how it affects his self-esteem.

WOUNDED BY SCHOOL is geared for teens and adults. The book offers plenty of insight into the problems students face, both from school teachers and their parents, and suggests ways to make school fun again.

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