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Common Core and Reading

common core

Common Core and Reading

Since 2009 there has been a lot of passionate discussion and debate in the public common core and readingarena about something referred to as Common Core (CC). It is the newest education initiative in a long history of initiatives for what is supposed to be best for America’s children in learning. Kathleen Porter-Magee in the National Review says:

“Here’s what the Common Core State Standards do: They simply delineate what children should know at each grade level and describe the skills that they must acquire to stay on course toward college or career readiness. They are not a curriculum; it’s up to school districts to choose curricula that comply with the standards. The Fordham Institute has carefully examined Common Core and compared it with existing state standards: It found that for most states, Common Core is a great improvement with regard to rigor and cohesiveness.”

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/344519/truth-about-common-core-kathleen-porter-magee-sol-stern

As listed by Pauline Hawkins in the Huffington Post, an accomplished English teacher, the four standards for reading and language arts of Common Core are:

Standard 1: Oral Expression and Listening

Standard 2: Reading for All Purposes

Standard 3: Writing and Composition

Standard 4: Research and Reasoning

common core and reading These standards seem reasonable and straightforward. Ms. Hawkins says that,

“These four are titles more than they are standards, but the Common Core Standards document for reading, writing, and communicating includes detailed benchmarks or “evidence outcomes” for all grade levels; this document is 173 pages long.”

Upon further research there are separate evidence outcomes written for math. Within Common Core literature there are no standards written or mentioned for other subjects such as science and history.

Common Core initiatives have put even more emphasis on testing, and it still causes problems in the learning environment. @yesphonics Click to tweet

For the first several years of Common Core in operation, teachers and their principals spent an inordinate amount of time delving into the benchmarks to figure out how to implement them. School districts scrambled to purchase curricula written that specifically earmarked the outcomes. This is messy business, and knowing teachers like I do, many had their own ideas about what to do and in which order to do it. The states are free to choose their own curricula and ways to do this. I’m glad for that, but I imagine this undoes a little of what Common Core had in mind from the beginning: to have students across the country on the same page of ideas at the same time.

Getting Common Core in gear for the classroom took a lot of work and still does. From Ms. Hawkins:

“What has been difficult the past few years is having to unpack the Common Core Standards. We have spent countless hours reading through the document for each level we teach, lining up our curriculum to what the standards deemed as critical skills and looking at the skills students would be tested on in the spring (which will now be a battery of tests instead of just one). We’ve had to switch our curriculum around so our students will be ready.”

Ready for What?

The students need to be made ready for the battery of tests that are now required. The initiative before common core and readingCommon Core was referred to as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). It was considered a dismal failure and put American students even further behind in their reading and other subjects. When reading fails everything else is effected, which makes sense because the ability to read IS nearly everything. One of the biggest criticisms of NCLB was that it relied heavily on testing and test results. Teachers felt compelled to teach to the test, something that was nearly hush-hush in the NCLB days (not that long ago). However, that climate has changed. It is no longer a taboo topic to speak aloud about teaching to the test.

Common Core initiatives have put even more emphasis on testing, and it still causes problems in the learning environment, to say the least. Precious teaching time is taken away from students and teachers so that they can be prepared for the battery of tests. These tests have their own language to them, and students must understand it or they won’t know what is expected on the test.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pauline-hawkins/nclb-and-common-core_b_5236016.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pauline-hawkins/part-2-the-perfect-storm-_b_5243729.html

The Good and the Bad

The people who write or speak positively about Common Core initiatives say that it has great benefits to students. On paper it does sound wonderful: students will learn fewer things but go deeper into the subject matter, learn critical thinking skills, and be able to move across the country, drop into any classroom and know what’s going on. Common Core is also supposed to be leveling the playing field so that children who live in poverty have the same advantages as children who don’t.

Often the answer to the question of, “Why Johnny cannot read, still?” is poverty. Poverty is also the common core and readinganswer given for why prisons are full of people raised in lower socio-economic situations, and why high school dropout rates continue to climb. I do believe too much poverty exits. I do not believe that poverty is the answer to why we have these particular problems. A teacher from Pennsylvania told me that she was required to read a book on poverty in America to understand that her lower socio-economic kids should not be required to do their homework, and that she shouldn’t expect it of them.

Not requiring things like home work because of poverty makes no sense to me. If you think this through what would you conclude? One thing that occurs to me is that someone somewhere does not WANT certain people to succeed. But how can this be proven? I don’t think I can prove it here, but if we want to eradicate illiteracy and poverty (they go hand in hand) we must encourage and allow people to be educated, not necessarily with free college, but long before that with basic tools that will help them get to anywhere they want in life whether it’s college or endless entrepreneurship.

When Will We Learn

When will we learn from our mistakes in education, and why can’t we teach children the most basic foundational things to help them get ahead — READING? Of all things: reading. It should be a simple thing to teach reading and thinking skills, yet it’s difficult and political. However, study after study has been done and has shown that systematic phonics approaches (widely known as explicit phonics) to reading far out-play the prevailing look-say, sight word, whole-language methods, yet educators turn a blind eye time and time again with uneducated, unpracticed, and unproven opinions on the subject.

Whenever a systematic explicit phonics approach to reading is brought into a school whether private or common core and reading in the lowest of socio-economic school districts their scores always go up, first in reading, then in every other subject as the reading improves.

https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/html/prfteachers/reading_first_print.html

There is a lot of proof that systematic phonics approaches to reading are effective, but educators do not want to hear it. Try to discuss this with a school board member, superintendent, principal or 2nd grade reading teacher. The discussion will not be coherent, and it will be frustrating to you. Some analysis by the National Reading Panel on why systematic phonics instruction helps students learn to read well sheds a lot of light on the subject. http://www.nifdi.org/research/journal-of-di/volume-2-no-2-summer-2002/443-systematic-phonics-instruction-helps-students-learn-to-read-evidence-from-the-national-reading-panel-s-meta-analysis/file

Other proofs to the effectiveness of explicit phonics programs are in private schools, classical schools, Christian schools, and home schools. Those who use explicit phonics instruction to teach reading and language arts to their students are having tremendous successes.

Extreme misunderstandings and misinformation abound around the ideas related to explicit phonics methods of reading instruction. At an annual conference of the New England Reading Association held in October 2015, nationally recognized reading experts, Regie Routman, Richard Allington, and P. David Pearson were trying to rally teachers against phonics. P. David Pearson is quoted as saying,

“The phonics troops are gaining ground. They’ve already made inroads in states such as California, where legislation mandating a phonetic approach to teaching reading has been passed. Join me in the Radical Middle! If not, the voices from the far sides will be the voices that will be heard — and ONE side will win!”

See more of their rhetoric at educationworld.com. http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr036.shtml

Consistency is Key

common core and readingThis argument is annoying. The frustration lies in what they say about their own whole language methods: that they work, they do use phonics, and people just are too ignorant to know. But that’s what I think about their criticisms toward phonics approaches to reading. A systematic explicit phonics approach to reading WHEN USED CORRECTLY, CONSISTENTLY, and HOW IT’S INTENDED far better teaches children how to think, how to decode and encode words, builds a strong vocabulary, fixes fluency problems, helps dyslexic tendencies, gives systematic tools for spelling, and sets a solid foundation for reading comprehension and coherent thoughtful writing.

Bringing it Altogether

Children need the proper tools to learn to read and think well, and they aren’t getting them from schools that are constantly changing programs to make things better only to make them worse. http://www.rinr.fsu.edu/fallwinter9899/features/phonics.html

Common Core is supposed to teach less and get deeper into fewer ideas with students while spending more time teaching critical thinking skills. Does anyone think that American school kids in 2016 should be learning less? The statistics are dismal with how we are doing in math, science, and the most basic of needs to function in society: READING! This is a complicated issue. Schools blame parents. Parents blame teachers or schools, and government blames poverty and other influences.

I would like to end with an intriguing idea, however. Education initiatives like Common Core are not necessarily the main crux of the problems in education and reading in our schools today, but the methods indeed need fixed. Changing the methods in how reading and other subjects are taught would mean a major overhaul in thinking, training, and teaching from the university level down to the classroom teacher.

https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/html/prfteachers/reading_first_print.html https://www.csun.edu/~sch_EDUC/assets/take-away-tools/2013/chavez-lahav-reading.pdf http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr036.shtml

https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/html/prfteachers/reading_first_print.html

The study cited in lincs.ed.gov is from the National Reading Panel, Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction–Reports of the Subgroups.

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How to Teach History

Sometimes Kids Think History is Boring

HistoryThere are many reasons why September 11, 2001 stands out in people’s minds. What are the reasons for you? The atrocity of it all? The magnitude of the buildings that came down in New York City? The number of people who died in the attacks? The fact that it actually happened on American soil? How sudden and quickly it all seemed to happen? All of the above could be factors in why such a thing would stay with us in our memories. Another reason is that we saw it take place in real time, and it is part of our history.

The phrase, Reading is Fundamental (RIF) became popular in the mid to late sixties, and it stuck in our minds for decades because it’s true. Not only that, but the RIF group is the largest non-profit literacy group in the United States who are known for putting millions of books into the hands of young readers. Reading truly is foundational to everything a child learns, especially history. A student not only needs to be able to read about history, but also to be able to experience, remember, and appreciate it.

 

Author’s note:

One thing about history: it’s not as cut and dry as we might like it to be sometimes. When it comes to history there are many quotes that go something like this: “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it”. (Winston Churchill) “History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?” (Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code”) What’s the point of showing these quotes? History seems to have a slant to it, especially when it comes to the “how or why” of the matter. Depending on who tells it, the truth will be somewhere in the midst of two or more sides. Choose curricula wisely. Teach your children to be critical thinkers and to delve deeper into topics that interest them as they get older, so that they eventually see there may be differing viewpoints.

“The challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present.” @yesphonics Click to Tweet

History Should Never be Boring

history Often children and older students think history is boring, so they have a hard time remembering it. I found history difficult in college. My general education history professor sat on the edge of his desk and talked for 1 ½ hours twice a week. His continual knowledge for that amount of time was impressive, but his voice was his only mode of transmitting information. The hardest part for me was staying awake to take notes. I hope his tactics changed over time.

Modern historian David Thelen says that, “The challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present.” This is a challenge to you today; decide how to introduce history to your young students who are usually very eager to learn. “History does matter. It has been said that he who controls the past controls the future. Our view of history shapes the way we view the present, and therefore it dictates what answers we offer for existing problems. History is a story about the past that is significant and true.” http://msc.gutenberg.edu/2001/02/the-importance-of-history/

Significance and Truth Will be Defined in Different Ways

What is true and significant is defined differently by people. You will have to decide for yourself as a teacher from which truths you teach, but please teach history in a compelling and interesting way so that your child will be intrigued enough to continue learning history as he grows. We are all part of history eventually.

Knowing how things work and come to be are important in knowing how to move forward. This may be a silly example, but I just watched a clip of something from the mid to late 90s called, “3rd Rock from the Sun”. The alien person living on earth has no previous knowledge of “tipping” a waitress. When his friend puts down a tip, he takes it and puts it in his pocket. The friend chastises him, and tells him to put it back. When the waitress takes the tip he tells his friend that the waitress stole their tip. He didn’t have any background history of the concept of tipping so it made no sense to him. Present day will make much more sense to a child as she gets older if she knows the past.history

How to Present History to Young Minds

The methods of imparting knowledge to young students are important. The younger years should be filled with fascinating facts, stories, songs, and activities about explorers, inventors, political leaders, and artists. The brave and courageous people, who dared to do what couldn’t be done in most people’s minds and then set out to do it, should be presented in such a way that young students would be inspired by what they accomplished, whether for good or for ill.

You can start today by showing your child or student a clip of why we celebrate Memorial Day. It’s not just a Monday federal holiday for no reason. Here’s a 4 minute clip to get you started:

http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history/videos/history-of-memorial-day#

Here are some tips on making history come alive and interesting to your students:

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What is Meant by a Classical Education

The Virtues of Truth, Beauty, And Goodness

Have you heard any home schooling friends talk about something called, Classical Conversations? Do you Classical education have a neighbor whose kids attend a classical Christian school? Does your nephew go to a classical charter school? You could be wondering, “What in the world does “classical” mean? As you hear your friends talk about the fruits of this approach, and how their children are enjoying learning and expressing themselves, well, you might be challenged to consider your options. An even better question is: “Is classical education something I should consider in my own approach to teaching?” I’m going to give you some foundational knowledge to help you to make a more informed decision.

There is much emphasis in a classical school on the ideas or virtues of truth, beauty, and goodness.@yesphonics Click to Tweet

Classical In General

A classical approach encompasses the intrinsic ideas of wisdom and virtue. In general, a classical approach to education teaches children how to be critical thinkers with everything they learn. The approach is methodical and intriguing for students and teachers. Teachers are encouraged to motivate their students in more interesting ways. Students learn by rote, chants, jingles, songs, timelines, memorization, map drawing, projects and ways to present them, and much more.

This type of education is not new by any means. Its roots are ancient, as far back as early Greece or even earlier. It’s gaining resurgence in the United States and even in other parts of the world. https://www.nationalreview.com/nrd/articles/424900/back-basics http://www.classicaldifference.com/light-of-the-nations/

By resurgence I mean, even in my small southwestern town of about 45,000 people, there is a classical Christian school that’s been going strong for over 15 years, a classical charter school opening its doors for academic year 2016-17, and one Classical Conversations group. There are at least five such groups in nearby Tucson and also a classical charter school boasting an enrollment of 550 students with expansion underway.

Classical education A liberal arts education in its truest sense; students learn how to read, write, and think well. Other typical studies include Latin (and often other languages) language arts, logic, rhetoric, literature, history, sciences, and mathematics. Also important in the curricula are art, music, and physical education–in as many forms as are available from the pool of people associated with the school.

An interesting note: classical Christian schools, which are private, do charge tuition, but often operate on shoe string budgets. However, they are able to provide a well-rounded superior education for their students because they operate on ideology and content rather than being driven by budget or basic government requirements. (Their outcomes do meet any federal requirements that come along.) I could write another blog just about the accomplishments, accolades, scholarships, and wonderful things that go on at the classical Christian school where I taught, but I won’t for staying on topic’s sake.

Classical in Specific for Wisdom’s Sake

As mentioned earlier, wisdom and virtue are the two main elements that make up a classical education. For wisdom’s sake, the trivium model is used. This model is easily understood in three stages: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. These stages are defined broadly throughout an entire school career, (Grammar: K-5th or so, Logic: 6th-8th, Rhetoric: 9th-12th grades). Each subject can also be defined by having its own grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages as the subject is studied, broken into its parts, learned, applied, then reapplied in experiments or research and discovery.

Grammar Stage

The grammar stage is also known as the poll-parrot stage. This beginning phase is for filling young minds with learning how to read well, facts of all kinds in math, science, grammar, and writing. They also study and participate in music, art, and physical education. There are almost always extra things that go on too, such as volunteering in the community, participating in plays, science fairs, game days, sporting events to cheer, a robotics club when there is a volunteer at the helm, and field trips.Classical education

Logic Stage

Students are now prepared for the logic, also known as the dialectic, stage. At this juncture, students learn how to evaluate the facts they know; how to apply their knowledge to problem solving, and how to think more critically on a subject. From the beginning, students are exposed to great books (good literature), and will read, think, write, evaluate, and critique what they read.

Rhetoric Stage

The final stage is called: rhetoric. From http://www.classical-homeschooling.org/rhetoric/rhetoric.html “Rhetoric is a unique subject in that its very definition has been of great concern to rhetoricians from the earliest times. It is a word that, unfortunately, has become practically synonymous in our times with “false language” or “hot air.” However, in earlier times, rhetoric had noble connotations, such as “public discourse, civil and democratic speech and the expression of social values and purposes. Originally rhetoric was credited with the power to create and maintain civilized society.”

In the rhetoric stage, students learn the art of persuasion and how to dissect and discern what is being said and taught. Some classical schools, like the one in my town, require their seniors to do a research/thesis project, present their findings to an audience of invited guests where they must defend their position and take questions about it when they are finished. Their senior year is not the first time they are exposed to such research, writing, and speaking. They are required to do similar projects throughout their high school years.

Classical in Specific for Virtue’s Sake

There is much emphasis in a classical school on the ideas or virtues of truth, beauty, and goodness. People in general are held in high esteem. What we know as “the arts” are also held in high regard. Students are taught to know, appreciate, and act on truth, beauty, and goodness in learning, in the sciences, in the beauty of knowledge, in aesthetics, and in their treatment and respect of others. They are encouraged to take their learning elsewhere into the world: to the home, the workplace, to lectures, concerts, museums, theatres, and so forth. Watch this one hour tutorial on classical teaching. Https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UJu6kwULbo (How to Teach Classically, When You are New to Classical Education)

Classical Conversations (CC)

classical education Classical Conversations is a way for home schoolers to get a great classical education. It is parents coming together to share in the work load, yet remaining in charge of their children’s education. This approach embodies a definite Christian world view with an added sense of community. Groups of children and parents come together once a week to learn from a teacher and from each other. The approach is systematic with everything provided in curricula and schedules. There is an abundant supply of information online for you to learn more, to see if there is a CC group near you, or how to start one. https://www.classicalconversations.com/what-classical-conversations

Modern Day Gleaning

There is a biblical concept called, gleaning. For instance, farmers would leave some corn or wheat in their fields rather than combing it off completely, so that the poor could glean or gather food for themselves. I call shopping at thrift stores and yard sales, modern day gleaning. This concept can be used in the context of the topic of classical education too. If you don’t want to take the time to learn a whole new mindset or way of teaching and learning, just glean from the ideas. Pick and choose what might be helpful to you and your students, and apply those things that will enhance their learning experience.

There is much more to say on the topic of classical education. I’m sure that you have enough to get you started if the subject has piqued your interest. I’ve compiled a short list of helpful books:

“The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home,” by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

“The Well Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had,” by Susan Wise Bauer

“Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning,” by Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans

“Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America,” by Gene Edward Veith Jr. and Andrew Kern

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Parent Teacher Relationships

parent teacher relationships

Parent and Teacher Relationships

Maximizing Learning Opportunities

During my tenure as an elementary teacher at a classical Christian school, one day I mentioned an issue Iparent teacher relationships was having with a student to my principal. Before I knew it the principal called the parents and set up a meeting with them for that same afternoon to work out a plan for the betterment of the student. Flustered to say the least, I was second guessing myself and feeling like I hadn’t thought through the situation. I really just wanted to discuss it with another colleague and think on it, decide on a plan, watch for the problem to disappear on its own, and then maybe call the parents at a later time. However, deep down I appreciated that my principal acted swiftly to nip a potential worsening problem. The parents got involved, and the problem was curtailed quickly.

Teachers need to take the lead by being proactive in their own communication. Click to tweet 

Developing Good Relationships Takes Work

Communication in any relationship is a good but sometimes difficult thing. In its most basic form communication is an exchange of thoughts and ideas with another person. There are breakdowns because somehow we are not clear enough, or the listener may interpret what we said, wrote, or expressed in a different way than what was intended. This can be frustrating, especially in a day when sending off an e-mail or text is most convenient, but the face to face is lost and so is the tone in which something was said.

The parent-teacher dynamic can be simple and sometimes complicated. This is because good communication takes consistent work, and everyone is very busy at best and lazy at worst. There are certainly studies to show that when communication is good between teacher and parent, or school and home, students do better in school overall. Consequently, despite the exertion, it’s important to put the effort into the relationships.

Teachers Must Take the Lead

parent teacher relationships Teachers need to take the lead by being proactive in their own communication. Often, when parents know what is going on in their own child’s classroom they are more positive toward the teacher. The positive aspect can fluctuate if a teacher only communicates with the parent when there is something negative to convey, or when too much time elapses since the parent’s last query. Problems surface when a parent shows no interest or when a parent shows too much interest. Finding the balance is a key factor in the parent-teacher relationship. The parents who seem to need the most help are the “helicopter parent” and the non-involved parent.

Helping the Helicopter Parent Find Balance

We all have known parents who were involved in every aspect of their child’s lives to a fault. But the term “helicopter parent” surfaced around the time the millennial generation came into adulthood. These hovering parents never allow their children to figure out how to resolve conflict on the playground or discuss their academic problems with their teachers on their own. A lot has been written about them. Even college professors have complaints about the helicopter parent. For some interesting reading on the subject check out this article written in the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5-ways-to-tell-you-were-raised-by-helicopter-parents_us_5609de6ee4b0dd850308e26 0 (By the way: the article is good for information. I think the solutions could be better, but they -HP- have many others on the same topic.)

To help these parents find a balance it’s going to be up to the teacher to set a tone of reassurance, kindness, and patience. Allow for regular times that you will communicate with parents. Assure them that you are being fair as a teacher and you would love to listen to their student argue for the extra point on a test to encourage their debate abilities. Find creative ways to tell parents that it’s important for their child to communicate their own needs and ideas to the teacher or other adults. I found some great apps for better communication between classroom-teacher and home-parents that will be placed at the end of this article.

Helping the Uninvolved Parent Find Balance

parent teacher relationships As educators I know that sometimes we feel like we’ve tried everything and nothing has worked to have some parents involved in their child’s education process. Often these particular children need the most help at home. Certain parents either don’t want to be bothered or they can’t take the time to invest in their child because of a demanding work schedule. Just in case you haven’t tried everything really, here are some encouragements for you.

Continue to include the parents in everything anyway. You never know what might hit a nerve and gain a response. Require a signature on good work the student has done. Work hard to help the student produce something good. Write notes about the child’s struggles that include suggestions that would be helpful to do at home. Encourage your student to ask their parents for the help too. This may be risky business in some situations. Simply keep trying things here and there to show you care even if it is never met with a response.

Share Information

“Good two-way communication between families and schools is necessary for your students’ success. Not surprisingly, research shows that the more parents and teachers share relevant information with each other about a student, the better equipped both will be to help that student achieve academically.” The list of ideas below comes from a website called www.graphite.org and they have more information for you too.

Rather than reinvent the wheel be sure to use your own school’s tools for communication, and remind the parents often about the way to get on the school’s website and check for things. If your school doesn’t have such systems in place yet, check out these helpful ideas and apps to help make communication between home and school easier and maybe even a little more fun for everyone. Involve your kids. They will be able to help the adults use the apps and to have other information coming from the school.

Resources/Ideas For Your Convenience

Get started with better communicating to build those worthwhile parent-teacher relationships:

(https://www.graphite.org/blog/13-apps-and-websites-for-improving-parent-teacher-communication )

  • Parent conferences
  • Parent-teacher organizations or school community councils
  • Weekly or monthly folders of student work sent home for parent review and comment
  • Phone calls
  • E-mail or school website
  • Discuss topics and spur collaboration with parents and students. Check out Collaborize Classroom.
  • See a visual timeline of your students’ progress that you can share with parents. Give ClassDojo a try.
  • Reach parents quickly and securely, while engaging your students, too. Head to Remind or ClassDojo Messenger.
  • Create a classroom blog or website to get students writing and parents reading. Try Edublogs or Blogger for blogs, Google Sites or Weebly for websites.
  • Adopt a multipurpose tool to send announcements to parents, handle grading, and be a digital portfolio for your students.  Check out FreshGrade.
  • Repurpose a tool you’re (likely) already familiar with. Use Twitter to get information out to connected parents and students.

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Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Friedrichs v. California Teachers AssociationFriedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Can One Person Really Make a Difference?

When I landed my first teaching job I was approached on several occasions to be reminded that I hadn’t turned in my PSEA information form and dues. PSEA stands for Pennsylvania State Education Association which is Pennsylvania’s arm of the NEA, National Education Association. The NEA is also known as the Teacher’s Union and one of the largest (probably the largest) political lobby groups in the United States.

Even as a new college graduate who didn’t know much about much, I knew that I didn’t really want to join the PSEA/NEA because they represented and stood for things that I did not. I was finally told in no uncertain terms that if I did not fill in the form and submit my dues, if I ever had any troubles with parents or students and was going to be brought into court for anything, the PSEA/NEA would not be able to help me. So, I succumbed to the pressure and filed the paperwork.

Does one person make a difference? Yes, a very big difference. Click to tweet

Benefits of a Union

Being a member of any union has many benefits to its members. Unions help negotiate to improve worker’s wages, hours, and working conditions. Union members often have job related health coverage and are more likely to have a guaranteed pension than non-union members. This does not mean that problems do not exist occasionally.

https://www.unionplus.org/about/labor-unions/benefits-union-membership

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Jumping ahead to current day; a Supreme Court Case was recently heard called, Friedrich’s v. California Teachers Association, CTA. Rebecca Friedrichs, California 3rd grade teacher and 9 other teachers along with the CIR, Center for Individual Rights, wanted to be heard in their case about the unfairness of being compelled to pay dues to an organization, their local arm of the NEA, the CTA, that does not support the classroom as it should, (in their opinion) and which stands for many things that they do not. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2015/08/11/two-teachers-explain-why-they-want-to-take-down-their-union/

California teachers are allowed to opt out of 30% to 40% of their dues called agency fees, but in so doing they are not considered full members of their union, which means they can’t vote in union elections, can’t vote on whether to ratify the union’s collective bargaining agreements, and are not eligible for certain benefits, including disability and life insurance. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2015/04/07/california-teachers-unions-face-new-legal-challenge-over-dues/?tid=a_inl

Interview with Rebecca Friedrichs160108180539-rebecca-friedrichs-headshot-large-169

Upon listening to an interview with Ms. Friedrichs, one of her main concerns seems to be what does not happen in the classroom. She believes that her local arm of the NEA should be more concerned for the students and what actually does happen in the classroom rather than higher teacher’s salaries. Among other issues, she has wanted a teacher’s aide to help her more challenged students who are mainstreamed into the classroom.

A quote from Ms. Friedrichs about this from the interview: “Their (the NEA) benefits aren’t worth the moral costs. Something I would love to have in my classroom is a teacher’s aide. I haven’t had one in probably over twenty years and when I did have one it was maybe twenty or thirty minutes a day. I’d really like to have a teacher’s aide in my classroom all day because I have some high need kids in my classroom who could benefit from a teacher’s aide, but my district can’t afford that because salaries for the teachers keep going up and up without regard to anything else. We don’t have a music program in our school. We don’t have a science program in our school…I would love to offer those things…” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Md0zHMm8vII

Upon my own investigation, it also appears that the NEA supports at least 62 organizations, many of which have nothing to do with education, but have a lot to do with very liberal ideas with which many parents could potentially have problems. This is something that Ms. Friedrichs hinted at and I wanted to see for myself. http://www.teachersunionexposed.com/unions.php (scroll to bottom to see the list)

It could be argued that putting energies and especially monies into those organizations that have nothing to do with education in the classroom or many other related areas for the betterment of educating children are hurting our students. Also to be possibly contended: the NEA, the voice of teachers, isn’t really interested in better education for children, but in their own agendas. The Friedrich’s case isn’t the only one that has argued such things over the last two decades, and there will continue to be more.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers AssociationEven on the Wikipedia NEA page the NEA’s own mission statement seems to be in violation of itself. “The stated mission of the NEA is “to advocate for education professionals and to unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.” Some of Ms. Friedrich’s arguments along with the Center for Individual Rights have been very concerned with the fact that the NEA has lost their way in “preparing every student to succeed…”

One Person

Statements such as: “One person can make a difference” and “Your vote counts” really are true. Parents teachers, coaches, and the movers and shakers of the world, like explorers, inventors, scientists, those who make medical breakthroughs, those who make laws to help us live peaceably with one another, all make a big difference in the lives of children and people in general.

One person who has made a huge impact in America is the late Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia. Our supreme court is made up of 9 Justices; there is one Chief Justice and 8 Associate Justices. As a Supreme Court Justice, Scalia was considered to be one of the more prominent legal thinkers of his generation. http://www.biography.com/people/antonin-scalia-9473091#synopsis

How many of you thought much of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia? How are Rebecca Friedrichs and the late Justice Scalia connected? In the interview mentioned earlier in this article, Terence Pell from CIR, representing Ms. Friedrichs, said that their initial oral arguments were heard by the Supreme Court on January 11th, and they seemed to go well. Quoting Mr. Pell, “It appears that at least five justices are leaning in our direction.” They were not to know the outcome until May or June. One of those five justices was Antonin Scalia who passed away on February 20, 2016. Rather than May or June, the Supreme Court opinion was given on March 29, 2016 with a vote of 4-4. Does one person make a difference? Yes, a very big difference.

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Students and Their Learning Styles

learning styles

Students and Their Learning Styles

learning styles

Oops! Where’s the Motivation?

Picture this: School has been out for a month and there is a home school curricula convention coming up. You aren’t sure what in the world to teach for middle school history next year, and you talk to several friends about what they do for history. Two people you really like and trust totally love their history curriculum and their kids do too. So, you go to the convention, see the program, and listen to a speaker present it. You think it’s a little bit expensive, but you don’t have to pay for shipping if you buy today. You buy it, bring it home, let it sit for a while because you’re afraid of it and a week or two before school starts again you crack it open and get going.

Everything is going well for the first few days. Then, oops! A page seems missing. The page that says: “How to Motivate Your Students.” There can be many reasons why a student isn’t motivated. Today’s twist will be on one of those reasons: learning styles.

The “Struggling Learner” blog that I wrote previously concluded with an encouragement to watch what brings your student more alive in the learning process. This is directly related to learning styles. My “Labeling Children” blog ended with a few ideas to apply, one of which was to know that children learn in different ways, and to be willing to change what you are doing to accommodate. This is also is related to knowing a child’s learning style.

(I know that no one has an ending supply of money to keep buying new curricula, but you could borrow your friend’s books for a week or two in the summer before you decide to buy your own, or with wisdom, allow your older student to be part of the choosing process in research at home or at a convention or both.)

Considering your child’s learning style is sometimes very helpful, especially if you hit a roadblock in any of your teaching progress. Click to tweet

Learning Styles

learning styles What do I mean by “learning styles”? Perhaps this is a “no brainer” for some of you, but if you’re like me you need it a bit more spelled out. A learning style is your tendency toward how you like to learn best. If you are a visual learner you may not enjoy a straight lecture. You would rather have someone show you how to do something rather than tell you.

Typical Learning Style Definitions

Typically there are three divisions of learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. The auditory learner’s strength is seen as within the hearing realm. The visual learner’s strength is in what he/she sees, and the kinesthetic learner learns best by doing, moving, and using their hands. But these three categories seem to make learning styles too simplistic.

Debra Bell Says…

This brings us to what Debra Bell says about learning styles. She goes beyond the typical auditory, visual, and kinesthetic categories of learning. Most of us are a mixture of a couple of types, but once in a while one particular style jumps out at you, and you say, “That’s why my son/daughter/student isn’t responding…they are totally THIS instead of THAT.”

Mrs. Debra Bells puts her learners into 4 categories defined in an expanded way.

  1. the Active learner
  2. the Routine learner
  3. the Focused Learner
  4. the Global learner.

learning styles Ms. Bell’s research in the development of her categories takes into account the typical auditory, visual, and kinesthetic, plus information from Myers-Briggs, considering the thinker/feeler, sensor/intuitor, judge/perceiver, and introvert/extrovert. https://www.davidmarkley.com/personality/letters.htm

In addition to Myers-Briggs categories, Ms Bell gives focus to the concrete/abstract, active/reflective learners and how they take in and internalize information. She gives attention to temperament types, going on the work of Dr. Keith Golay and his research on learning patterns and temperament. http://www.leapingfromthebox.com/art/kmg/learningstyles1.html

A condensed version of category breakdowns and suggestions from some of Ms. Bell’s own words:

The Active Learner

The active/spontaneous learner likes to take things apart, learn spontaneously, does not like constraints or routine, has short attention span, is competitive and quick, is inventive and outgoing, and can be somewhat deviant when boundaries are proposed. This child needs quiet, needs rewards, and needs to move. Make learning concrete rather than abstract: think unit studies and sports.

The Routine Learner

The routine learner is compliant and thoughtful in nature, but is upset easily and does not work well in large noisy groups. This learner has difficulties thinking in the abstract and is not an idea person. Rules and clear guidelines are important to this learner. Material that is presented as factual and in a timeline fashion makes the routine learner most comfortable. Set up this type of learner for success by giving small and frequent opportunities to be creative, which is hard for this learner. This learner is very dependable and organized.learning styles

The Focused/Conceptual Learner

This learner can’t get enough information about everything. This child is serious minded, inquisitive, doesn’t mind being alone, likes to collect things, can be easily frustrated, and is somewhat of a perfectionist. The weaknesses in this learner are social skills and acceptance of their own limitations. This learner needs to be able to be free to move ahead at his/her own pace. This child is good on the detail, but not on interpersonal skills. Set him up with ways to develop relationships or to care more about others’ needs.

The Conceptual/Global Learner

This learner is creative, loves to read, is outgoing, dramatic, ambitious, and popular with a broad range of interests. They do not like to study be organized, or not have choices. She can be competitive, but like to cooperate among a group of friends. Group learning like in group unit studies is appealing to this learner. A group is fun and motivating for this learner.

In Short

Giving credence to learning styles can help you select curricula that your child may better respond to. (See: The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, by Debra Bell.)

The descriptions of Debra Bell’s learning styles are very helpful in choosing curriculum for your struggling learner or any learner if you want to design your studies around them. Spend time in the books you choose before purchasing. Look through the table of contents and any notes to the teacher. Leaf through its pages; see what the assignments are like, all the while keeping the learner type in the back of your mind.

Taking into account your child’s learning style is sometimes very helpful, especially if you hit a roadblock in any of your teaching progress. If you can’t afford more curricula right now, take courage and adapt what you have. Create assignments that cover the same material, but in a different way. Have fun using your teaching manuals and workbooks as tools that work for you not against you.

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Labeling Children

labeling children

Labeling Children

Labeling Children

When my daughter was 4 years old I was teaching her how to read, and in the very beginning stages I noticed that she was having a hard time doing what I showed her how to do when it came to copying the print. To make a short story shorter, she needed to go to the eye doctor, and I needed to change the course of what we were doing for a while.

Had my daughter been in public school, her eye problems would have been more of a hullabaloo, and she may have been labeled with some disability, at least for a while. Instead, we got the vision therapy she needed and went on with learning in a slightly different way. Even so, by the end of her second grade year she had read a few of the “Little House” books and did a history fair presentation on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I know that had she been in a typical school situation she would not have fared as well.

At the risk of boring you with family stories, my son was very quiet when he was young and didn’t want to make mistakes, so he was slow to speak when asked a question. Everyone from Sunday school teachers to t-ball coaches answered for him. I know that he might have struggled a bit in school because of this personality trait. He finally burst on the scene when he was about 9 and hasn’t left it since.

What’s the point to these family experiences? Sometimes the best way to handle a possible learning problem is to simply change your course when you have to. There are few scenarios where this is possible unless you are homeschooling or in a small private school, possibly.

Not knowing their past history and labels was actually very helpful to me and the students I taught. Click to tweet

Link between Expectations and Labels

Labeling Children In the last article called, “How to Teach Language Arts to the Struggling Reader” I wrote on expectations of the teacher and the student. There is a direct link to expectations and labels. By label, I mean some sort of description about the child’s learning situation whether ADD, ADHD, Learning disabled, or handicapped in some way that might affect the learning process.

Labels play into expectations because when a child has a label it has a direct effect upon how the teacher looks at and treats a student. Labels are often seen as a good thing. Sometimes parents spend precious time trying to get the school to see that their child has a problem.

The interesting thing about doing research on labeling children is that there are contradictions all over the place. Some websites say labeling does no harm, and some say the opposite. Even formal studies contradict each other. So, what should we believe? It’s complicated because every situation and learner is different. We cannot speak in generalities.

Interview with a Teacher

I did a cell phone interview with my sister who teaches in a public middle school in central Pennsylvania. She says that it’s impossible not to treat a child a certain way when they have a label. Her students don’t like the labels, but they do like and want the help that comes with them.

When a child has severe enough (and sometimes not so severe) learning disabilities to have an IEP, Individualized Education Plan, there is a lot of help. But there is something called, “Inclusion” by law (most often referred to by the government as LRE, Least Restricted Environment, but teachers use the term “inclusion”). Because of “Inclusion” a child with an IEP is supposed to have everything read to him/her if they struggle with reading. These students are mainstreamed into a regular classroom and must have an aide. Even though “inclusion” is supposed to help the learning disabled to fit in with regular kids (least restrictive environment), it’s obvious to everyone that they don’t, and it does cause problems.Labeling Children

In addition to this situation there is another going on in at least Pennsylvania. There is one time when teachers are not allowed to read to and for the IEP student: during the PSSAs. This is Pennsylvania’s standardized test like the AIMS in Arizona (recently changed to AZ Merit).

My sister expresses frustration for her students who get read to all year until the PSSAs. It seems unfair for the student, and it brings the school’s overall average down on the test. This is definitely in my thinking of what we would call a lose-lose situation.

Labels are Complicated

The issue of labels is complicated. Saying that labels can hurt children, isn’t exactly true. Saying that labeling a child’s disabilities or learning problems are a tremendous help to children may not be true in all cases either.

When I was in college, I remember a class I took for special needs learners. We learned about something called, “The Label Treat Act.” As simple as its title: how we label kids is how we treat them, and how we treat them is how they act. This has held true in my teaching experiences for nearly 30 years, and it goes toward the expectations I discussed in the “Struggling Learner” blog. Kids can sometimes do better without labels even though there is a time and place for them when necessary. (See the Guardian website at end.)

What We Sometimes Do Not Know is Helpful

Once in a while ignorance really is bliss. I’ve had teaching experiences where what I did not know was very helpful. As long as I wasn’t told that a student had a particular problem without thinking, I expected that student to respond like any other person in the classroom. In hindsight, it seemed a welcome change to the struggler not to be known for his/her label.

In the case of a vacation Bible school class, one student ended up being the master of ceremonies at the week’s end performance to the amazement of the church (having responded to nothing or very little in Sunday school or anywhere prior). In the classroom, several students made progress in areas where others expected little change, and in tutoring sessions, parents have marveled at what their child would do for me that they wouldn’t do for their teachers or their own parents. Not knowing their past history and labels was actually very helpful to me and the students I taught.

When I taught in a small private classical Christian school, k-12th grades, they would do everythinglabeling children possible for any student in their school before bringing in people to determine what labels to put on the particular struggling learner. What did this look like? It was work: the teacher and principal spent an incredible amount of extra time with the student. They had extra meetings with the parents to discuss what could be done differently at home and school, and would sometimes bring in an extra tutor. In the “real” world this would cost a lot more, but in the private sector you have people willing to do a lot to make positive things happen for a struggling learner.

Proceed with Caution

What can we conclude about labeling children for educational purposes? Proceed slowly, and exhaust as many avenues you can before going for a label. Children learn in different ways: be willing to change what you are doing. There are many resources and help available to you.

http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/lre.faqs.inclusion.htm

http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/jun/20/secret-teacher-too-quick-label-children-arent-perfect-adhd-dyslexia

http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/diaglabel.pdf See pages 3 and 4.

http://wvde.state.wv.us/research/reports2012/LitReview_EffectsofDisabilityLabelsonStudentswithExceptionalities2012.pdf

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How to Teach Language Arts to the Struggling Reader

teaching struggling readers

teaching struggling readers

How to Teach Language Arts to the Struggling Reader

Can you relate to this? Your struggling student loves to read things that interest him, but fights you every step of the way if it doesn’t capture his criteria for what is interesting! You spent good money for a great language arts curriculum, and it includes everything you need, except…how to motivate your struggling reader to get the work done.

(Oh, in case you’re wondering what Language Arts is; in a nutshell it’s reading, spelling, writing, comprehension, literature, grammar, and composition.)

It can be a difficult thing to motivate a struggling reader. There are a variety of reasons for this, but in the end it has to do with insecurities within the reader. Bad habits set in quickly, expectations the student has of himself or the teacher has of the student, or the lack thereof, plays a critical role in this too. All of it can be stressful for the learner and the teacher.

The bad habits are simply those of the struggler not wanting to respond to the teacher because of fear of being wrong, thinking like, “What’s the point, I’m going to get it wrong anyway; I can’t do anything right.” Then the manipulation begins, and school days are often going badly.

When the manipulation tactics taken by the student get burdensome and things happen like when a teacher isn’t really prepared to teach (You know who you are…come on, raise your hand. I’m right with you) stress sets in quickly for the teacher and the student.

Somehow, we have to take the stress off the table, but how? Take a deep breath, clear the table, and rethink your expectations.

It’s much easier to have higher expectations and change them when you need to, than to have low or no expectations… Click to Tweet

Expectations

teaching struggling readers I have experienced several teaching situations in which I was able to get a struggling student to do something no one else could. This was because of mostly what I did not know. If I had to sum it up in one word it would be: EXPECTATIONS. Whether it was in vacation bible school gatherings, elementary classrooms, or in tutoring sessions, I did not expect certain students to behave very differently from others, and they rose to the level that was expected of everyone: to do the work, be involved in projects, take on leadership in the classroom, and be a participating student.

It’s much easier to have higher expectations and change them when you need to, than to have low or no expectations and be frustrated when students don’t respond the way you think they should. Expectations are important, but they need defined.

Saying the phrase, “We have high expectations for our students” does not mean you have them, and it can seem meaningless like in this article from Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/05/06/what-setting-high-expectations-for-all-students-really-means/

Expectations should include clear specific goals and objectives that are attainable and measureable milestones to conquer, lessons to be tackled, and academics to be learned. Teachers have their own expectations in weekly, monthly, and yearly lesson plans. These are mostly reflect the certain outcomes they want their students to achieve. Be sure to communicate at least some of the goals to your students.

What You Can Expect from Your Learner

Expect your struggling reader to enjoy books when the right title comes along. Find out what the student teaching struggling readers likes and try to cater to him/her if at all possible. (To homeschoolers this is called, “tailoring the curriculum.”.)

Expect your struggling learner to squirm, move, drop pencils, make noises, move, move, and move: if they are not interested, if you don’t have their attention, if they are uncomfortable, or IF THEY ARE YOUNG! Allow for some movement. No one can sit still for very long.

Expect your struggler to enjoy experiments, science centers, nature walks, observing insects, creating art or music, collecting things, exploring worlds in the sky, under the sea, under the earth, talking to you about thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, playing, asking, asking, and asking.

Expect your struggler to start enjoying learning more as he/she gets more engaged in the process and become less of a struggler.

What Your Learner Can Expect from You

Read something to your students above their grade level every day. You will be surprised how excited they can get for a story that is picturesque, moving, or set in another time, and you will marvel at just how much they understand. Ask occasional questions, or ask them to retell a paragraph, a page, or a chapter. Use the activities from study guides prepared for many classical or popular book titles.

Allow your students to draw while you read. Encourage them to draw a scene from the book. This is not easy at first. It is not an inherent ability; it must be learned. If a child has difficulties with this, allow doodling or even resting.

If the acts of reading and writing are true problems for your student, rather than being defeated and teaching struggling readers stopping the process, read and write for him/her. Show them that learning doesn’t have to stop, but do continue working on their weaknesses. (See “weird unsocialized homeschoolers” website at the end.)

Create simple games to go along with the language arts lessons for extra practice on difficult concepts. There are many ideas on the web, but your curriculum will also have suggestions that we often ignore, mostly because they seem to take up too much time. Set aside the rigid timeline, and make a day where you only do those fun things that seem to take too much time. Or plan better and do a little project a few times a week.

Remember to mix the seemingly more fun undertakings with the seemingly more mundane assignments. They are both important, and they are avenues to the learning process. Watch what brings your student more alive in the learning, and try to go toward that bent in his/her character.

You don’t have to set your expectations high or low, just set some. These are goals and details on how you will reach those goals. Take into account how your struggler learns, and put more time into your planning. Yes, children do have struggles, and you can work with them. Look for ways to make your teaching better. Consider what motivates you, what motivates your student, and manage your expectations.

http://teachingasleadership.org/sites/default/files/Related-Readings/DCA_Ch2_2011.pdf (The Power of High Expectations)

http://edworkspartners.org/expect-success/2012/1

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Teaching to Mastery Versus Teaching to the Test

Teaching to Mastery Versus Teaching to the Test

Why Should I Test My Students If I’m Teaching to Mastery?

What does the word “test” conjure up in your mind? Fear? Anxiety? Dread?  If we were doing aTeaching to mastery vs Teaching to test brainstorm session there would be mostly negative words on the board, no doubt.  Other than negativity, many homeschoolers don’t see the point to testing for another reason.  “Why bother testing if I’m teaching to mastery?” that is, teaching until your student knows the material well.  I want to make a case for the value of testing your students.  Testing will not thwart teaching to mastery, it will only enhance it.

Let’s define what I mean by ‘testing’ first.  For our purposes today we will save discussing standardized tests, required in some states, or scholastic aptitude tests for college entrance for another time.  The focus will be on the regular everyday assessment of what our children have learned at the end of several lessons, a chapter, or a project.

I spent years teaching my own two children and also being a part of or leading homeschool support groups.  Opportunities to discuss and encourage in the area of education and homeschooling abounded.  During these years and some that followed in a private Christian school, I found that no matter how well you teach to mastery, there is almost never enough review of the material, and unless you test it, you do not really know how well your students know it.

Testing will not thwart teaching to mastery, it will only enhance it. Click to Tweet

The Hawthorne Effect

My husband recently gave some credibility to my findings that I thought were only my personal unproved opinion.  He explained, “In the business world there is a maxim that states: ‘You can’t improve what you can’t measure.’ I became intrigued in the saying and did a little research. There is a great article by Todd Smith, entrepreneur and author of, “Little Things Matter” that explains this idea further. Here are a few highlights from it:

“It’s not a stretch to say that any team, organization, or person who wishes to perform better or accomplish more has meaningful points of measurement.  If they didn’t measure their performance, how would they know if they improved? Quite simply, what gets measured gets done. Think about it. The very nature of knowing that something is being monitored causes us to work harder and perform better. There’s actually proof of this—it’s called the Hawthorne Effect.”

teaching to mastery #2I found myself wanting to quote the entire article, so here is the link for you to read it in its entirety: http://www.littlethingsmatter.com/blog/2010/08/23/You-Cant-Improve-What-you-Dont-Measure/ .

Which Type of Testing Is Best?

Assessments can come in many forms, most often written. Typical tests can include short answers, essays, multiple-choice, fill in the blanks, labeling of pictures and diagrams, and solving problems. Oral assessments can be good and should be given, but they are better used for a continual review of learned concepts, rather than a formal measure of what was learned.

A popular form of testing for some homeschoolers is to discuss what your student has learned and have him or her tell you about it.  I caution you here: this is a great tool for reviewing what they know, but it is not a valid form of testing.  Charlotte Mason teaches this as a learning technique rather than a testing tool, and she calls it “narration.”( http://charlottemasonhome.com/ ) There can be a big difference between what your kids can tell you in a discussion and what they know in a formal written test.  If a student knows something when prompted by questions only a mom can ask, he or she probably does not really know the material well, even though he can go on and on about it.  

A Measurement of Success

In the elementary stage, grades are less important because they don’t follow a student into high school ortesting to mastery #3 college, but everyone likes to know how they are doing.  As your children get older it is necessary to test them because it is part of preparing them for the life ahead, a life without the parent or teacher leading their way. Unfortunately, our world isn’t yet ready to do away with tests to get a grade, be accepted to college, compete for scholarships, get hired for a job, or join the military.  

Prepare your kids for the world in which they are living, and understand that it’s not tests for the sake of tests.  It truly is for getting a measure of what they have learned. Tests can be used in many ways: for a sense of accomplishment, a measure of how well things are progressing, or an assessment of strengths and weaknesses of the student or of the curricula itself.  

We can’t get away from tests in one form or another.   They are an additional way we can prepare our children for a lifetime of learning. If you have been a staunch believer in not testing, consider slowly working in the concept with your students.  They will adjust, and you won’t be selling out; you will be enriching their learning experience. You will be making them better prepared for whatever is ahead of them in life. Making tests part of your homeschooling aids rather than hinders teaching to mastery.

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Are You Qualified to Teach Your Kids? Part II

phonemic awareness

Are You Qualified to Teach Your Kids? Part II

Increase Test Scores: GuaranteedPreviously, I wrote about a question that often gets asked to people who homeschool their children: “Are you qualified to teach them?” Occasionally, parents do ask this question of themselves: “I want to homeschool my children, but am I really qualified?”  Almost always the answer is, “Yes.”

Studies have shown that parents who homeschool their children have a variety of backgrounds and education levels from college graduates to no high school diploma at all. The educational background of the parent has little to no bearing on the outcome.

One of the biggest downfalls of home schooling is that parents let go of the teaching and managing much too early. Click to Tweet

Key Ingredients

What does have great impact on the outcome of home schooling on the part of the parent-teacher is the willingness to become a student, to seek good information, to persevere, and to eat a little humble pie once in a while.

The willingness to continue to learn by becoming a student too

Home schooling is like any other worthwhile pursuit when it comes to details. The more you learn, the more you realize, there’s MORE to learn. Worlds of curricula, support groups, conventions, authors, textbooks, and learning styles, (to name a small handful) begin to open up to you in a way they never had before. You have to wade through a lot of information.

It becomes your duty to ensure that your children have quality curricula, adequate workspace, good lighting, access to a computer when necessary, and a routine that works for your family. It takes time and study to make many of these things happen.

The willingness to grow wise by seeking good information through networking, reading, and explicit phonicsresearching (This also ties in with becoming a student too.)

As you read, talk to others who home school, listen to speakers on relevant topics, etc., you will begin to understand ideas and concepts and see that certain avenues will work for your children better than others. As you do this work you will gain wisdom.  

–  The willingness to persevere through the daily grind and the difficult times

Requiring work hours for yourself will be a good example to your children. You need  time for planning, gathering materials needed for the day, the week, the month, looking ahead to know where you are going academically, socially, spiritually, and being prepared to teach what is necessary.

Learning comes easy for some children and not for others, or maybe one subject will give a child fits.  It is the parent-teacher’s job to find something that works, or at least find the way to forge ahead even when the learning is tough.

It’s not important to get up at dawn every day and work for 12 hours at the desk or dining room table.  But it is important to have a routine or schedule that works for your family.  Having a plan in place, even though it gets broken from time to time, is very helpful in persevering through difficult days and situations.

The willingness to eat a little humble pie enough to seek help or make changes when you hit a road block.  

It’s not easy to make changes in your schooling approach, but it’s sometimes necessary.  The first difficult step is admitting you have a problem. Once you do, you will quickly realize that others have struggled too, and they will be willing to share.  Where do I find these people?  In hundreds of online forums, at home school meetings, at home school conventions, anywhere you meet a fellow home schooler.  You will learn that you are not alone in your struggles.

The Flip Side: Disqualification

Kids learning phonics using DVDI have many years of experience in meeting with parents who want to home educate, and I can tell within about a 15 minute conversation whether or not it’s a good thing for them to do so. These are touchy situations, but once in a while it’s what is best for that family.  If you truly believe the following statements of you and your family, and you are unwilling to change the situation, then you should not homeschool your children.

  • “I can’t really get him to do anything at home.”

If this statement is really true, then homeschooling won’t work.  If you are committed to educating your children for their future, then it’s a worthwhile endeavor to teach them the benefits of listening and respecting what others have to say. Learning to read, study, listen, and work well are very important aspects of growing into productive adulthood.

  • “We don’t have a computer.”  “No, we can’t get to the library to use their computers because it’s too far away and besides, we don’t like their policies.”  

This statement isn’t necessarily just about computers. If you are prone to making excuses that never end, please don’t homeschool your children.  

 

  • “I can’t be home much during the day because I have to work, but I will buy a great DVD program or sign up with an online program and make sure my child gets his work done.”

 

One of the biggest downfalls of home schooling is that parents let go of the teaching and managing much too early.  Of course we want children to be creative and learn to work independently, but children left to themselves completely will take the path of least resistance and get away with as much as they can. This is not only in their nature, but ours as well.  They need teaching, supervision, and motivation, someone to keep them on task and working at a good pace.

In short, being qualified to home school your children has little to do with any stamped, sealed, or Teaching Phonics to improve concentrationcertified document from a higher institution.  It has much more to do with having a perseverant attitude: being willing to continually learn, push through difficulties, and have the wisdom to seek other/better solutions when necessary.

https://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000002/00000214.asp  See, “The Myth of Teacher Qualifications.”

https://www.hslda.org/docs/study/ray1997/07.asp  See charts of parent education levels.