Tag Archives: Education

Hope We Get An “A”

Would you like to know the way I spent this past weekend?  Well, I ended up doing helping my eight year old do a report and project on Louis Armstrong.  Since it is Black History month the teacher at my son’s private school required them to write a report, make a memory box and display board.  Now, I don’t remember at eight years old ever having to do something this involved.  At eight I think we were just starting to read, but alas this is the way things are now…we expect our youngsters to be years ahead in some respects then get upset when they act their age.  Anyway, the project was assigned a few weeks ago and like any eight year old boy, my son waited until this weekend to put it together.  Needless, to say I learned a lot about Louis this weekend.

Now I have always been the kind of person that when an assignment is given to me (for work, school, volunteering, etc.) I don’t wait around to do the assignment because it literally eats away at me.  If I don’t start the project right away I get very nervous and feel ‘under the gun.’  Ahhhh….to be eight……..apparently this is not a trait my son and I share.  I told him a week ago to start reading up about Armstrong.  He did this in about two minutes in a book that had a tiny paragraph devoted to the singer/trumpet player/dancer.  I asked him what he learned and I think his words were something to the effect, “he sings jazz.”  I asked him if he jotted any notes down and he looked dumbfounded.  “What do you mean notes?”  This is when I asked him if his teacher had gone over just how to do this project.  I mean it’s one thing to tell a kid what they need to do, but if the kids have no idea what you’re talking about then how are they going to do it?

I spent the next few hours with my son finding all kinds of information on the internet, listening and watching some videos on YouTube, and trying to devise our report.  Isn’t this something the teacher should be doing?  I knew I had one of two options….1.) I could let him do it on his own entirely and he would learn by trial and error (and witness a project that would make me cringe from the lack of neatness)…or 2.) I could pretty much walk him through the process showing him how I would do it so he had a better understanding the next time how to do it all on his own.  I, of course, chose the latter.

By nature I am an extremely neat and orderly person.   I am especially so when it comes to putting a display together.  When I went to school for Interior Design my boards and projects were one of the neatest in the class, if I must say so myself.  I can’t tell you the worry that overcame me when I thought of how my eight-year-old would put together his display board and memory box.  The report he did pretty well, albeit, I interjected some key points that otherwise he would have passed by…but he’s eight.  The memory box and display board I held my breath on.  We went to a craft store to try to find anything that would represent Louis Armstrong.  When we got home I worked with my son on how to lay everything out and put the pieces in the box so it looked organized….all the while he had his Bionicle in his hand acting like it was flying.  That was enough for one night.

The next night we worked on the display board.  This is a tri-fold display board….oh goody – more pictures and pages to line up neatly without getting glue all over.  My son and I looked on the internet for pictures of Armstrong, his house, his records, etc….again, all the while my son is flying his Bionicle on some sort of ship and dancing to the music playing on my ipod.   When it was actually time to adhere everything to the board and put his lettering on I really had to muster up the guts to let him do it.  Anyone who knows me has to knows how difficult this would be for me.

I drew guide lines on the board so my son knew where to place the pictures.  He actually did a very good job.  I was impressed.  Now had the lines not been there I’m sure it would have been a different story, as I can attest to by the lettering placed on the back of his board.  It kind of looks like his letters dropped off a cliff………but he’s eight.   So he takes his project to school and I’m more excited than him to find out how his rates next to his classmates.  And you know what he tells me? “Mine isn’t nearly as nice as my friends.  They made really neat memory boxes.”  I’m thinking how can this be?  So I inquire as to what makes them so nice and he tells me how one has a basketball in it and one has a whistle made out of clay.  And this is when it dawns on me…….he thinks the projects that his friends did (probably more on their own than with the help of their parent), no doubt, not as neat, are better than what he did…..and I say to myself, “I should have let him do it all on his own….he would have been happier with it.”  Oh well, as a parent you certainly live and you learn. I just hope we he gets an “A”.

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Unschooling?…That’s Crazy!

I recently submitted a post about home schooling and I thought this might be a nice tangent from it.  It shows usunschool where our world is headed.  Supposedly there’s a hot topic in the blogosphere about  an unconventional parenting choice called “unschooling.”  What is unschooling you may ask.  Apparently, as REDBOOK magazine states, ‘it is a way of learning that allows the child’s interests to dictate what he does each day, whether it’s reading a book on dinosaurs or simply digging in the yard.’  No set curriculum is followed, in fact there is no curriculum at all.  This is LUDICROUS!  Even my eight-year-old son said, “I like that idea (of course, what eight year old boy wouldn’t?), but that’s CRAZY!”  If a child can see it for what it is, why then can’t the adults?

I’m imagining what unschooling would be like with my eight-year-old son.  Although Legos teach him to design, create, and build I have a hard time with the idea that he would actually be learning substantial math skills.  And although he enjoys reading books like Harry Potter I find it hard to believe he would be learning the past and perfect tense of verbs (unless someone pointed it out to him).  The whole idea of schooling is that the child needs to learn.  Yes, I do believe children learn many things on their own, by doing, but come on…they don’t know what they need to learn unless they are taught.

When I heard about this unconventional way of home schooling it rather infuriated me.  I did home school my oldest son when he was in Kindergarten and believe me if I would have just let him learn from play I’m sure he’d be a renowned sculptor of Playdoh but, really, as a parent would I have felt like I did my overall best for him?  This gives home schooling parents a bad name.  As if home schooling weren’t  negatively viewed by society already?

They actually make a manual for this?

They actually make a manual for this?

When I read some of the comments by the parents who ‘unschool’ I was outraged to hear how selfish their motives are.  One woman indicated that ‘unschooling’ to her meant that she didn’t have to worry about bedtimes and her family could go out on the town any night of the week.  She continued to say that it allowed her to decide how to spend her child’s days and with whom.  This all sounds rather self-centered and it’s not teaching a child that there are schedules that need to be followed in life.  I’m sure when that child grows up and enters the “real world” his boss is going to love the freedom his employee shows by never starting work on time.

Actually, after thinking about this more, the parent really is teaching their child.  They are teaching them to be self-centered, irresponsible, and care free individuals.  The whole point of schooling is not only to teach the basics of Math, Reading, English, Science, etc. but to teach humans, from a young age, that there are responsibilities, schedules, and directions that need to be followed.

Like most things, I think this unconventional way of schooling is yet another way to ‘push the envelope’.  But what about the children?  They look to their parents for guidance and if they aren’t being guided and are guiding themselves, how are they possibly learning what they need to be well-educated, well-rounded, responsible grown-ups?  Home schooling wasn’t meant to just let kids run loose and teach themselves…..as my eight year old said….”THAT’S CRAZY!” (Check out the FAQ page).

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To Home School or Not To Home School…That Is The Question

As we come to this time of the year I am once again torn as to whether or not to home school my boys next year.    It’s a very difficult decision.  I’m not unfamiliar to the home school experience as I took the plunge when my oldest son was entering Kindergarten.  It’s extremely time consuming and effects the entire household.  Here are the pros and cons to my home schooling experience.

First, you may be wondering why I home schooled.  Believe me, it was something I thought I would never do (but you know what they say – never say never).   My husband and I purchased our first house when my oldest son was 2 1/2 years old.  It was a house in a very nice part of our town, however it was just on the cusp of being in the “bad” school district….just our luck!  We had heard that the elementary school was rated very good, although it was being compared to the worst.   But we thought the house would just be a starter home.  We figured he may have two years tops in the elementary school and that didn’t seem too terrible.  — I mean how bad could an elementary school be, right?

Well, we signed my son up and when we went to meet the teachers and see the school it was evident to me that I couldn’t send him there.  Call it mother’s intuition or just common sense, but I didn’t see how he was going to be able to learn when most of the students there that day didn’t know the English language.   I remember walking out in tears with the thought of, “where is the emphasis going to be if the majority of the students didn’t understand what was being said.” My son, very bright and well aware of the English language, would surely fall through the cracks or end up helping to teach the non-English speaking students the language.  A burden no child needs in Kindergarten.

I had heard about a virtual charter school from a few parents that I knew and decided to give it a try.  Now, I must premise this with the fact that I love my children very much and I love playing with them and teaching them but I am not going to win awards as far as patience is concerned.  I knew it would be a huge undertaking, especially with my overly active, impulsive, newly-turned-five-year-old boy.  I remember saying “how hard can it be to teach Kindergarten” just to give me the push I needed to enroll him.

I didn’t home school to hide my child from the world so I kept him in the Pre-K program at his preschool.  The plan was for him to get some socialization and play time in the mornings, come home and have lunch, then start with the Kindergarten program.  Factor into this an 18-month-old toddling around the house, needing a nap and wanting to play with Mom and brother every time I started teaching………….Good Times!!

The virtual charter school I worked with used the “K-12” curriculum, loaned you a computer and printer with internet access (they paid for), and assigned us a teacher that we checked in with every other week.  There were also socials organized by the teacher for the children in our area being home schooled.  All the materials needed (art materials, geography maps, science experiment tools, books, and workbooks, etc.) were shipped directly to my house a week prior to school starting.  I have to say that the curriculum was great.  It was a bit advanced; for example art, was not just cutting and pasting but the discussion of paintings by Renoir; Geography was learning the seven continents through song; and Science was knowing the differences between solid, liquids, and gas.  A lot for a Kindergartener to take in, but my son seemed to like it and absorb much of it.

The Kindergarten program was approximately 5 hours of schooling a day…basically full-day Kindergarten.  It was difficult trying to juggle everything a mother has to do:  laundry, cleaning, playing with children, picking my son up from school, making dinner, etc. and then adding Kindergarten in.  I remember feeling so stressed everyday, until it got to the point where I was ready to rip my hair out.  I’m the kind of person that if you put an assignment in front of me I feel as though I have to finish it….there’s no coming back to it later, it has to be done when it has to be done.   Finally I had to tell myself for my own sanity, and my husband’s, that I could only do what my son and I could do that day.  I couldn’t push to finish it.  I had to be patient (there’s that word again).

The program itself was easy to follow.  Each day I would login on the school-loaned computer.  Everything that needed to be studied and completed that day was listed.  I would go into each individual category we needed to for the particular day and follow the computer guided instructions.  There was always an assessment at the end of each assignment to make sure your child understood what they read/learned.  Sometimes there was workbook assignments, journals, handwriting practice, etc.  added to the computer work.  The difficult part about using the curriculum with a Kindergartener is that it all had to be read to him.  At the second grade level I’m sure it becomes a little easier.

We took home schooling day-by-day and finally before we knew it (alright, that sounds a little too quick)….finally the end of the year came.  We made it and I have to say I remember feeling so much relief….like a heavy weight was off my shoulders.  Then I thought….what am I going to do about first grade?  My husband emphatically said that I wasn’t going to home school again.  I guess it was rougher on him than I thought.  Ultimately, we ended up sending my son to a private Lutheran school (1st – 3rd so far), which we have been happy with.

My son is going to enter fourth grade next year and my younger son will be going to Kindergarten.  We really like the private school my older son attends but there was a combining of grades this past year that we didn’t know was occuring until a week before school started (the combined grade levels 3rd and 4th is not to our liking – not to mention he will have had the same teacher three years in a row), and quite honestly, having two children in private school really puts a strain on the pockets.  So, once again, I struggle with the question of home schooling or not home schooling, and once again, add in another toddler (20 month old).  I still have time, but this will now haunt me until next school year.

PROS

* You call the shots – you decide how much your child has to do to prove he/she has learned the information, rather than doing 35 redundant problems in math that mentally drain your child.

*You get to know your child and the way they learn better.

*You know exactly what your child is learning.

*You know exactly what your child has problems learning.

*You get to see the sense of accomplishment your child has when he finally understands something you’ve been teaching him.

*You feel a sense of accomplishment in that you taught your child.

*You don’t have to worry about the bad influences your child may be exposed to in a school setting.

*The curriculum is very challenging and fun.

*You are guided every step of the way.

*You can decide what you consider a learning experience; maybe it’s through a family “field trip”, or a social gathering.

*The older the child, the easier it is (depending on the child, of course).

*Depending on your child, it may be less stressful than being in school.

CONS

*TIME!

*TIME!

*TIME!

*Depending on the parent, it may be more stressful for the child than being in school.

*Juggling everything a mother has to juggle and adding teacher to the list.

*The lack of exposure to other kids his own age in a learning environment (some kids learn better with other kids around, others are too distracted).

*The stress.

*The time needed to balance among other children in the house.

*The patience needed – it can be difficult to teach your own child.

*You have to be willing to spend just about every day at home.

*TIME – it can be very time consuming, I don’t know how to stress this enough (I’m sure as they get older this lessens).

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