I Watched My Child Disappear Before My Eyes

My daughter is 9 years old. She is the light of my life. She is creative. She is joyful. She is beautiful. She loves ballet and playing the piano. She loves sewing. She loves playing with her friends. She used to love school.

I am not a writer. I have never written anything except college papers and poetry when I was young. I have never been more compelled to write something this much in my entire life.

I am not writing to belittle teachers or schools. This is just a mom who observed her child go through Kindergarten through 4th grade in the current education system in this country. I am disheartened and just done with all of it. I think I have gone through the stages; many of them and now I am here. I think this stage is acceptance although I long for change. I am dying for change.

Even though I was planning on homeschooling my daughter from the beginning, she asked me to please let her go to “big kid” school like her friend. Her friend is a year older than her and so my daughter wanted to go where she went. So, I let her. I became very involved in the PTA and was usually president, vice president or some other role. I saw teachers at their best and worst. I don’t know how they do it. I must have said that out loud hundreds of times. This is an unfair situation for them to be in. Too many kids in the classroom, not enough resources, no funding for projects. This year my daughter was one of about 22 kids for one teacher. Her first year, kindergarten, she was one of 20 kids for one teacher. I thought this teacher was the bravest human I had ever met.

Over the years I have watched teachers buy items with their own money like erasers and paper. This is a dark time we are living in. I kept thinking every year it would get better but it didn’t. Teachers are exhausted and rightfully so. How they have any energy left for their own family at the end of the day is beyond me. So many of these teachers get to school early to prep, answer 1000 questions a day and then stay after to either work in their own classrooms grading papers, prepping for the next day or helping with clubs at school.

Because there are so many children and not enough resources, I watched this militant environment that I will never forget. Children are forced to sit very still at age 5 and walk in a very straight line with their arms at their sides and eyes looking forward. I can’t do that at age 39 so I don’t know how on earth they are supposed to do this. Even in 4th grade I saw children struggle with this. It is unnatural.

At age 9 my daughter had about 1 or 2 hours of homework a night after being at school from 7:30 am-2:30 pm. If she was sick, she had 3 to 4 hours. She was so exhausted I watched her become just a fried mess. One time she got the flu and was out for 6 days in a row. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. She was pulled out of recess by her teachers (which was only about 15-20 minutes a day) to do makeup work and tests in the teacher’s classroom. I believe this was the teacher’s only break as well. Then, she was pulled out of her electives (band, music, P.E., and library ) to do makeup work and tests. So, she had no break; no time for her brain to relax.

My daughter was disappearing before my very eyes.

She used to wake up in the morning and tell me about these creative dreams she had the night before. Sometimes they were about unicorns and rainbows and sometimes they were a little bit scary with robots or witches. Now she only wakes up and tells me she had a nightmare she hadn’t studied enough for a test or she needed to finish her math she forgot about. I couldn’t believe this was my child. What happened?

I made the decision to pull my daughter out of school and homeschool her. Well to be accurate, I let her take a few weeks off and become a child again. Then, we will start homeschooling. What is happening in our school system? Why did I just watch my child disappear?

A week or so after pulling her out of school I slowly watched her come back. She started using her imagination again. I noticed her being creative for the first time in what felt like forever. I saw her sewing and wanting to play piano. My child is coming back to me. She’s only 9 years old. She deserves a childhood. She deserves to have time to breathe in between lessons, to be creative, to use her imagination and to enjoy it all.

About Elizabeth Branch

Elizabeth is originally from Illinois and moved to New Orleans in 2008. She has lived in many cities including St. Louis, Boston and Chicago; where she went to Loyola University. Chicago is an incredible city that is so diverse with so much culture but wasn’t quite home.  She had visited the city of New Orleans a couple times and fell in love with it; as one does. The last thing her mother said to her before she moved was, “You better not meet someone and have my grandbabies down there.” Well, Elizabeth met her now husband two months after she moved here. They have been married almost 10 years now.

Elizabeth is the owner and photographer at Little Fish Photography. On a typical day she can be found photographing a child with a real life unicorn at her studio in Slidell or in City Park photographing a huge family or Jackson Square photographing a couple siblings. Each day is different and that is what she loves.

When she isn’t photographing, she is with her 9 year old daughter or doing both at the same time. She also enjoys yoga in an air conditioned place and group exercise. Her key to happiness is coffee, chocolate, being around loving people and a daily ten minute Epsom salt bath.  Sometimes the occasional long conversation with a stranger is exactly what her day needs and sometimes sitting on the couch with one of her dogs sleeping in her lap does the trick. She has a rabbit named Thumper that loves bananas and pretzels. Elizabeth’s favorite place to visit is Gulf Shores, Alabama because her parents are there and so is the beach!

Elizabeth’s work can be found at www.littlefishpics.com


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