I walk the line June 24, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, homeschooling, older son.
Tags: education, gifted, gifted education, high school, homeschooling, homework, older son, perfectionism
I’ve been watching the older son grappling with his courses for the past year. He was taking courses through an independent study organization to finish up some credits he needs to enter college. I didn’t feel comfortable with some of these (especially literature classes), so we decided to go this route.
In doing this, I’ve discovered that the older son has a deadly combination of issues: ADHD and perfectionism. I didn’t quite understand how the two fed into each other, but I can definitely see it now.
The older son also had the disadvantage of not working in the classes with peers. The first few he did were in print rather than online. He would struggle for days to complete a single assignment, and it didn’t make sense to me at first.
Another thing I found odd was how one of his teachers was initially very abrupt with him. It didn’t take long before she had completely changed her tune and was being incredibly nice and encouraging, which I thought was odd.
The second set of classes have been online and part of the assignments involved discussing things in a forum, so the student could see what the other students had submitted. This was an eye-opening experience for me. It also helped me make sense of his teacher’s dramatic change in behavior.
After watching him and seeing what other students have submitted, I realized three things:
1 – He can easily and quickly finish things that are simple.
2 – When things appear to be more difficult and/or time-consuming, he has difficulty concentrating and finds himself unable to stay on task.
3 – Part of the reason things are difficult and/or time-consuming is because he has seriously high expectations for himself that are way beyond what is often required.
I’m not saying he doesn’t have ADHD, because he most certainly does. We tried for years to forego medication. One day, he came to me and said he couldn’t even concentrate on projects he wanted to do for fun, so we opted at that point to look at something to help. (He does take meds, but it’s the lowest dose that’s effective.)
However, in homeschooling him, neither of us had a reference for what a ‘typical’ high schooler should be doing in his classes. He would give me an assignment, and we would spend a lot of time revising it. He worked very hard, but progress was slow. In one or two cases, he would hand things in half done because of lack of time.
What surprised me is that even the items he handed in half done or that were rough drafts often came back with exceptional grades. I remember one assignment full of rough drafts of short essays which he aced. I couldn’t figure it out.
The problem is that both of us really expect a lot out of him, and I learned, after seeing work that other students were doing, that it was likely too much. Far too much. While he was going into a detailed analysis of similarities because characters from two different novels set in two completely different cultural and temporal reference frames, it appears his fellow students who likely are trying their hardest, are writing something much more simplistic. They are being told to elaborate, and he’s being told to eschew obfuscation.
The thing that has me concerned is that college is around the corner, and I worry that he’s going to continue to hold himself to those standards, even when it is so obviously working against him. He struggles with the idea that it’s better to just hand something in, even if incomplete (by his standards), than to turn it in late, though perfect.
A lot of perfectionists deal with this. I have told him that it’s not a bad trait, but that he needs to save it for the things that are really important to him. If he wants to write the Great American Novel that people will pore over and debate and analyze, that is the time to be a perfectionist. If he’s handing in an assignment that fulfills the requirements laid out by the teacher, who likely will spend ten minutes skimming the entry, being a perfectionist is really not going to help. He needs to learn to walk that line. To some extent, we all do.
A Rite (Triangle) of Passage May 13, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in education, family, gifted, homeschooling, math, older son, teaching, younger son.
Tags: homeschooling, learning, learning styles, math, pythagorean theorem, visual-spatial, younger son
1 comment so far
The younger son recently started his pre-algebra class. Somehow, this has made math a bit better. I think the fact that it has algebra in the title makes him feel very accomplished and that, in turn, has made him more enthusiastic about math.
The other day, he was doing some of his homework, and the lecture was confusing to him. I listened to the lecture and then said, “It makes more sense if you draw a picture.” He responded that, “Pictures always help me learn better. I guess the math program doesn’t realize that some of us are visual learners.” I was both amused and quite stunned. I think I’ve been discussing educational theory a bit too much at the dinner table. I can tell he’s listening to us.
Tonight, he hit a milestone. He called Mike over, and I followed, so he could ask us how to pronounce “pythagorean.” He was sure he’d heard us talking about it before (yeah, we discuss this stuff around the dinner table), and he wanted to be sure that was what it was.
“Oh, wow!” I said. “You’re doing the Pythagorean Theorem. That’s awesome!” Suddenly, there was an impromptu round of cheering and high-fiving. The older son even came over and gave his little brother a big hug, saying, “Woo hoo! The Pythagorean Theorem is awesome.”
As the lecture progressed, it reiterated the terminology, focusing on right triangle legs and hypotenuse. Given I’ve had ZZ Top in my head, I had to immediately sing, “She’s got legs! She has a hypotenuse!” I wasn’t able to come up with much more, though.
Yes, I have to admit that I realized how odd it was, in retrospect. We were having a celebration that younger son had made it to the Pythagorean Theorem, and we were all making a huge deal about it.
But younger son didn’t think so. He thought it was awesome and giggled continuously for the next few minutes. I guess he likes having a math cheer team.
If you send your kid to public school, you’re a dunce September 1, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in education, homeschooling, societal commentary.
Tags: education, homeschooling, public schools, school, stupid
That’s a strong statement, calling someone a dunce because they allow their children to go to a school that’s provided for free and, in most cases, even required by law. Why would anyone say that? I’m not sure, but it was about as useful as the title of an article on Slate: “If you send your kid to private school, you are a bad person.” Generalizations are, in general, pointless things, and they aren’t much better as titles.
The article itself, however, was downright appalling. The author, Allison Benedikt, starts out by saying:
I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental.
That’s probably the only point in the whole article I can agree with. The whole thing was a judgemental screed against people who don’t send their kids to public schools. None of it was backed up with evidence or even anything remotely resembling solid reasoning. She discusses the fact that she attended public schools, and after reading her complete inability to form a cohesive argument, I dare say she made me even more convinced that our public schools have gone down the tubes.
She did have some reasons for her premise that those of us who send our kids to private schools are bad people. She starts by saying that if everyone would send their kids to public school, they would improve…it would just take ‘a generation or two’. You see, those of us who have the means to send our kids to private school are just supposed to sacrifice our kids’ and grandkids’ educational needs to meet some utopian goal that has a small likelihood of occurring. It apparently never occurred to her that she has made exactly the wrong argument to these people: people who send their kids to private schools may have several reasons for doing so, but I would guess that the main three are going to be that they strongly value education, they strongly value the ethical systems taught at some of these schools, and they are worried about what I would generally call ‘status issues’ (things like who their kids hang out with and perception of their families). Does she really think that parents who are that concerned about one or more of these three things is really willing to ‘sacrifice’ their kids? That’s the whole reason they’ve elected to go with private schools to begin with: the sacrifice of large sums of money is less important than the sacrifice of their kids’ education (and the things that go along with it). However, Benedikt wipes these issues away and says they’re not compelling. She started her whole argument by finding the most compelling way to isolate her audience.
In fact, she starts belittling education and claiming that you really don’t need those things. She is a perfect example, apparently, because her parents sent her to school and really didn’t care about those things. That is quite obvious given her line of reasoning…and, as I said above, compels me to want to send my kid to private school even more.
Benedikt says school is really about is interaction with other people. I won’t disagree that a large part of school is socialization, but I, of course, don’t buy this argument as I’ve written before about how public school is actually generally worse than options like homeschool when it comes to socialization. Throwing together a lot of immature people to learn socialization from each other results in, surprise surprise, lots of immature people. More adult interaction with those adults role-modeling mature behavior is a far better socialization system than the one present in most public schools. Again, this is actually an argument against the public schools, in my opinion.
Finally, Benedikt says that if only we redirected our private school endeavors to public schools, that would make everything better. Here, I can only assume she is incredibly naive on so many levels.
I will start by saying that I don’t hate the public schools. The notion of free education available for everyone is most definitely a public good and vital to maintaining democracy. However, I think that our public schools have some major problems. As the political right wing says, they don’t work to educate children. The structure is set up for teachers, not for students. As the left wing says, they are underfunded and undervalued. I think both sides have very valid arguments. Schools have, for generations, taught children using the least effective methods, mostly by people who aren’t well-educated themselves (particularly in the grade school years). They have a better handle on crowd control than educational psychology. On the other hand, they have to because of they way the public school system ties the hands of teachers.
There are so many educational reforms that would make the schools *work* but people are not interested in trying them out or are scared that it may affect their job security. Or they are just apathetic about education. I’m not talking about things like vouchers or charter schools. I mean things like making grade levels fluid, getting rid of grades, making the classroom a place where students are leading their learning and teachers are facilitators. The notion of allowing children to excel in areas of interest and take more time in areas of difficulty is almost heresy. In other words, what schools ought to be are places where kids really learn, where interaction provides useful feedback about knowledge and behavior, and where you’re not locked into doing something simply because of how old you are. Education needs to be tailored to the individual student because teaching to the average is useless for everyone.
These are the kinds of reforms that would bring parents back from the private schools. Simply saying that the schools would be better if all parents sent their kids to public school is naive, at best. It is as blind a solution to the problem as just shoving more money to the schools, privatizing schools, or forcing kids to pray in school. Almost every reform out there is completely blind to the fact that we are using teaching methods that actually fail to education children. If you don’t change our fundamental assumptions about how to educate students, you’re not going to get any different results.
I will say that I agree that it’s sad not more people take an interest in seeing public education thrive. However, part of the reason is that the way public education is conducted is virtually set in stone. It takes a divine act for most places to change even the smallest things. Too often, school teachers don’t have the time or knowledge to deal with individual students’ issues and the parent of such children is viewed as an enemy combatant. My choice as a parent then becomes whether I want to devote my time to change the outcome for my individual child through whatever means I have (for instance, by homeschooling or sending to private school) or continuously shoving an immovable object. If I had left either of my kids in public school, I wouldn’t have fought harder…I would have quit because of the futility in trying to work with most teachers and administrators who have no interest in seeing the system change.
Making your mom proud (if she’s a physicist) August 19, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in gifted, homeschooling, older son, physics, science.
Tags: homeschooling, older son, physics, science
One of the classes that the older boy is doing this year is physics. Rather than give him something very math intensive, I instead chose to have him study from Paul Hewitt’s Conceptual Physics text. It’s a book I came across after I’d already had a couple years of physics, and I regret not having had that book first. It does a wonderful job of explaining how physics works and what the concepts mean without drowning the reader in math.
When I picked up the older son after his study session the other day, he began talking about how imbalances in forces are what cause objects to accelerate. For instance, a car will move forward when the force created by the engine to move the car forward exceeds the forces of friction, gravity (if it’s on a hill), etc. After listening, I asked the question, “What happens then if the forces become balanced?”
I fully expected him to say that the object would stop moving. I really did. This is what the vast majority of students in my physics labs assumed when asked that question. Their assumption is that the forces must always be out of balance if the object is moving.
It would really depend on if the object were moving or still to begin with. If it was moving, it would continue to do so, and if it wasn’t moving, it would continue to stay still.
My response was to yell, “Yes!!!!!” at the top of my lungs and pump my fist. I’ve been proud of my son many times over the past few years, but few things make me beam as much as displaying a clear understanding of Newtonian mechanics.
Tags: education, gifted, gifted education, homeschooling, research
A very long time ago, I was asked to teach a workshop for the Homeschool Association of California annual conference. It had to do with computers, though I don’t remember what. What I do remember, however, was expecting that I’d be dealing with a bunch of antisocial technophobes.
I couldn’t have been more off the mark than I was. I only had a handful of kids, but they were definitely not technophobes. Admittedly this is probably a self-selecting group because, after all, no one was forcing them to go to the workshop. But what surprised me even more was that they were very sociable. Unlike other high school kids I’d worked with, they didn’t seem intimidated by me or afraid to ask questions. I remember coming out of that workshop and feeling like I’d been slapped upside the head.
The thing I realized from that is my assumption that children schooled at home were anti-social was due strictly to my lack of imagination. I had assumed that if you didn’t spend all day in a room with other kids that you wouldn’t learn to interact at all. It’s not that I’d ever met many homeschoolers. In fact, it was probably my lack of exposure to the culture that made me construct my own version of how they must behave.
Interestingly enough, I find that it’s the one thing that most non-homeschoolers key on: in order to be ‘properly’ socialized, you have to go to school. After spending time around homeschoolers, and recounting my own school experience, I have always been extremely skeptical of that argument. It didn’t help when my older son spent a year going to middle school full time only to come out of it incredibly angry because of the horrid bullying, by students and teachers alike, that he’d encountered.
It’s interesting to me that this question also brought up in response to doing anything different for gifted children in normal schools. That is, there is the argument that grouping children by ability or accelerating their academic curriculum means that kids won’t learn to appreciate diversity and get along with other people. Most people assume that putting gifted kids in different groups or classrooms is bad for everyone.
I hate assumptions, though. I have, over time, come across studies here and there saying that, in general, these assumptions were wrong. I can only think of one study that said ability grouping had negative consequences, and one study on homeschooling that showed a neutral outcome on homeschooling. The topic came up in a discussion with someone, and I thought it was high time for me to make sure I wasn’t blowing smoke.
Unfortunately, the research on both groups is relatively sparse. I suppose it’s not a compelling interest for the majority of the population, so not a lot of resources are put toward it. I am kind of a fan of summary papers, mostly because they save a lot of time by summarizing the results from several different studies while noting the drawbacks of each. In that vein, I managed to come across one for each group, although both are rather ‘old’ by my standards. The paper on gifted socialization was from 1993, while the one on homeschooling was from 2000. (Social science progresses far too slowly for my tastes.)
For the gifted group, Karen Rogers wrote a synopsis of a paper which talks about several different forms of grouping and acceleration. The paper looks at 13 different studies on gifted accelerations methods. She found that academically, almost all methods had positive effects. If you look the psychological and social effects, the were probably neutral. Some forms of acceleration resulted in positive outcomes, some in negative. Her conclusion was:
What seems evident about the spotty research on socialization and psychological effects when grouping by ability is that no pattern of improvement or decline can be established. It is likely that there are many personal, environmental, family, and other extraneous variables that affect self-esteem and socialization more directly than the practice of grouping itself.
The studies that discussed homeschooling were covered in a paper by Medlin. Surprisingly, there were a lot more studies covered in this paper than on gifted education. Medlin broke down the studies into three groups, each addressing a different question. First, do homeschool children participate in the daily activities in the communities? The results indicated that they encountered just as many people as public schooled children, often of a more diverse background, and were more active in extra-curriculars than their public school counterparts. The second question was whether homeschooled children acquired the rules of behavior and systems of beliefs and attitudes they needed. (I keep feeling like there’s a comma missing in that…) While detractors may be pretty upset at this, the conclusion was that, in most cases, homeschool children actually fared better in these studies. Admittedly, though, the studies were hardly taking large numbers of students into consideration. There was speculation on this set of results:
Smedley speculated that the family “more accurately mirrors the outside society” than does the traditional school environment, with its “unnatural” age segregation.
This particular view stands out because it’s a view I see reflected a lot in analysis of gifted education, too: age grouping is unnatural and ability grouping is more likely to occur in real life.
Finally, Medlin asks whether homeschooled students end up doing okay as adults. There are very few studies in this section, but the conclusion from those studies was that they not only do fine, but tend to take on a lot of leadership roles. (I do know there was a study commissioned by the HSLDA a few years ago that came to similar conclusions, but I find a bit of conflict of interest in that one given who paid for it.)
If there’s anything people should be taking out of these studies, it’s that our adherence to age-based grouping of random kids really doesn’t provide the beneficial socialization we think it does and may, in fact, have some pretty negative impacts. In fact, I recently came across and article called, “Why you truly never leave high school,” that talks about those negative effects and how they may actually be carried with us into our adult lives. (Yes, I do realize some of the conclusions make the title a stretch, but it’s food for thought.) Given the presence of issues like bullying that have gotten more air play over the past few years, I’m very surprised people haven’t realized that it could, in fact, be detrimental.
In set of overlapping quandries… June 10, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in education, homeschooling, older son.
Tags: college, homeschooling, older son, online learning, transcript
I spent some time looking at options for the older boy.
First, I’m really not thrilled with the idea of a transcript (as you may have guessed) because I don’t feel it’s legit to write one up. Yes, he spent time studying some physics in the form of reading a book on the thermodynamics of cooking and doing some experiments. I’m sure he learned a lot about heat and thermo and it’s practical applications. BUT. He didn’t have a formal high school physics course, and I don’t feel comfortable putting down just “physics” on a high school transcript. I don’t know that it’s ethical to represent what he did that way. That’s the sort of thing I’m wrestling with.
I’m very reluctant to just throw something together because if I put down ‘physics’ and someone finds this blog post, for example, they could claim I lied on the transcript. There are some potentially very real repercussions, including the possibility that he gets kicked out of school because he was accepted on the premise that he took a physics class which they believed contained certain content but which actually didn’t. That’s not fair to him, obviously. On the other hand, I think a transcript is the worst possible way to show what he’s done. A lot of unschoolers bypass this issue by putting together portfolios…but the school won’t accept that: they want a transcript. Period.
(I am not sure what you would call our schooling style, BTW. It was something along the lines of “use what works, throw out what doesn’t.” I was primarily concerned that there was a lot of competence established in math and language arts because ability in those areas will help with other areas like social studies and science. Those are a foundation…other things are icing on the cake. But that’s just my opinion.)
The other problem I have with the transcript business is grades. As an example, it’s pretty clear cut that he did a macroeconomics course. In most high schools, this would be the equivalent of AP Macroeconomics and would probably be a year-long course. So I’m totally fine with putting that as a course. However, when it comes to assigning a grade, I don’t feel good about that. He worked pretty diligently, but I wasn’t examining what he was doing on a day-to-day basis. I wanted this to be his thing that he did because he was interested. My evaluation was just likely to kill that interest. He was working through the text and the study guide as well as watching a video course. When he took the CLEP, he got a 50, which is what ACE says is the lowest passing grade and equivalent to a C in most college courses. So do I give him a C because that’s what he got on the CLEP? Or do I give him an A for passing a college-level class as a sophomore in high school?
You see…there is no objective standard for grades. Grades are almost always context dependent and don’t, in my opinion, honestly reflect mastery of material. A lot of what goes into grades (and I can say this as a teacher) is understanding and meeting requirements in a timely manner. In other words, did you do what the teacher wanted, when s/he wanted it? Some of these requirements have little to do with mastery of material. (Not all, mind you…but some.)
In looking around, however, I found a program that actually is for high schoolers to take college classes online through a reputable university. (There are several of them, BTW, but this one has a couple of majors that the older boy is interested in.) As a homeschooler, they have several requirements for exams, such as SAT and subject tests. But they also will accept a GED…and if he has the GED, he can bypass submitting things like SATs.
The thing that I’m questioning is that it’s all online. I was hoping he’d get the experience of having to go to classes and set up a schedule and figure out when to study. He has said things go better for him when he works out of the house. Now, I imagine that if we do a similar situation like we did with his CLEP, only he totes a laptop with him, it may go alright. He’s still getting out and following some sort of schedule, right? And he’s definitely learning some independent study skills as well as knocking out some college classes. (I really also think he’ll enjoy the college level stuff more, and I’m hoping he’ll try some classes just for fun.)
On the other hand, he can actually complete a degree entirely online through this program, and so is there really a need to physically go to classes? (Although, once he’s old enough, he could hypothetically attend this college in person.) I’m not sure. I don’t know what the best approach is for learning those “life skills” he’ll need when I’m not there to drive him to the library in the morning. I also have this gut feeling that the more college he has under his belt before he leaves home, the better. I have this hope that it’ll improve his chances of finishing because he’ll be into the ‘fun stuff’ in his major and not feel like he’s wasting his time doing all the general ed-type stuff. (I’m also hoping he’s got a more solidified direction after trying some general eds and seeing what he likes.)
I really had no idea that trying to figure out what to do with my kid in high school was going to be more of a mess than when I tried to figure out what to do for college.
Terrified of homeschooling (again) March 27, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in education, homeschooling, math, older son, younger son.
Tags: acceleration, gifted, gifted education, homeschooling, homework, older son, younger son
Last night, the younger son was working on his math homework while I sat next to him and played sudoku. I’ve found that this is the best way to oversee his homework because I don’t really pay attention to what he’s doing unless he asks for help, but I’m close by in case he starts getting frustrated. And really, I can’t concentrate on anything important when I’m interrupted every ten minutes for an explanation.
The younger son has started running into problems with a concept now and again. After he gets so many wrong, the program will switch gears and have him work on something else for a while. Then it goes back and tries the subject again. This happened for the first time a few days ago. He complained, saying it was repeating questions. I told him the program thought he needed more practice. Last night, it happened again.
“Mom, the program thinks I need more practice. But I don’t. I know this stuff.”
“Well, you’ll have to prove it to the computer.” And he answered every question correctly. The fact that he got peeved about repeating questions is a huge improvement from the kid who would avoid doing pretty much anything for fear of getting it wrong…and if he did try and get it wrong, there would be a major emotional blowout to follow. That kid is a distant memory…but was around as recently as six months ago. This, in my mind, is why you need to present challenges to perfectionists.
I’m now anxious for another reason. I really thought the younger boy would slow down in his math progress. Yes, I did up the amount of time he spends from 20 to 40 minutes per day, my reasons for which are elaborated in another post. And he no longer gets everything right. In fact, on his daily practice, he’s usually hitting somewhere between 80 and 90 percent correct answers. But he’s still not really slowing down.
At the end of the year, he’s going to be three years ahead in math. We didn’t expect this, and this puts us past the ‘drop dead’ point where the school can do anything. His school only goes up to 5th grade at his campus. The other campus starts at 6th and goes through the end of high school. Realistically, he’s not ready for that with his reading and writing. So now we’re obligated to keep going with his current math program for the next three years. Because of the structure of the courses, he will have to slow down signficantly. However, we’re still looking at a realistic possibility of him being through algebra 2 before he starts middle school. At that point, we are going to have to see if the school is willing to let him join a bunch of high school students for geometry or precalc…when he’s 12.
I’m nervous about this because of what is going on in his classroom. He’s not participating in the regular math class, but he does work on addition and subtraction drills. His teacher is putting on his report card that he’s ‘beginner level’ in math based on these drills. I really am not worried how he’s doing on this because of the fact that I know he can add two and three digit numbers in his head, even though he still writes some numbers backwards when writing the answers. I am guessing the pressure of timed quizzes, the act of writing, or perhaps lack of interest are causing his poor performance. (Incidentally, while he may not do every problem, all the problems he does are correct.)
I am concerned that teachers in the future are going to look at this and believe he doesn’t know math rather than looking at what he’s accomplished through the online math program. And I’m worried this will have a negative impact on our ability to accelerate him when the time is appropriate. But, mostly, I’m frustrated that so much of the assessment of his abilities rests on judgements of things like basic arithmetic or handwriting when it’s become so obvious to me that he’s got some serious abstract thinking abilities. No teacher is ever going to see that unless they give him some challenging material. (I have to admit that I had no idea until we started down this path with the math program.) Likely, they won’t because they’re so stuck on what I consider to be somewhat superficial things.
Based on my experience with the older son, I guess this is starting to leave me terrified that the younger boy will eventually need to be pulled out of school. I have that thought every time I get a note about some problem at school. Admittedly, most of them are small things that I don’t have to worry about. The thought is sitting just under the surface, though, and pokes an eye out every time something seems amiss.
For now, we’ve decided to just keep him moving through regular school while supplementing math during the school year and language arts during the summer. I imagine that in about 3 years, however, we’re going to hit a pretty serious fork in the road. I’m a person who doesn’t take well to waiting, however, so even now it’s still on my mind a lot.
Leave it to the experts: the homeschooling parents September 9, 2011Posted by mareserinitatis in education, homeschooling, older son, teaching, younger son.
Tags: education, homeschooling, research
A friend on Facebook posted the following article: What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents
I agree with some of the sentiment of the article: helicopter parents are damaging to their children. On the other hand, I have enough experience not to buy this line:
For starters, we are educators, not nannies. We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don’t fight it. Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer.
Most elementary school teachers are trained to deal with a room full of children. They are not heavily entrenched in child psychology, learning disabilities, giftedness, or many other things that can affect individual children and their functioning in the classroom. Their training is in dealing with large numbers of average children…a more sophisticated form of crowd control.
I am not trying to be mean to elementary school teachers; I am stating a fact about their education. (I considered becoming a teacher at one point, so I do know what types of classes are required.) The reality is that their education is limited, and they are reluctant to admit that. Now, there are exceptional elementary school teachers out there. I ran into a couple during my youth, and I’ve run into a couple as my children have gone through school. Unfortunately, my experience is that they are also the minority, if not completely rare.
Too often, teachers have told me that “they are professionals,” but they fail to realize that I am the expert in MY child. They will come to me with a complaint about the child’s behavior, and when I give them suggestions on ways to deal with it because, well, they asked, I am told that what I am suggesting is not possible. If these people are professionals, then why are they asking my opinion and, better yet, why are they then telling me they can’t take my advice?!
To add further insult to injury, I more than once ran into teachers who told me that my son’s difficulties in school were because of homeschooling. I remember clearly when the older boy’s third grade teacher said he obviously didn’t remember his math facts very well because he always performed poorly at Around the World…only to be told a couple weeks later by the principal that he’d done exceptionally well during their annual testing and that, “he obviously knows his math facts!” All I could ascertain from this was that the teacher was biased against homeschooling as well as having a poor handle on my son’s actual abilities.
I felt rather vindicated, therefore, reading the results of a scientific study on homeschooling done at a university – that is, it isn’t being done by opponents or proponents of homeschooling and therefore has no reason to be biased one way or the other. It was also funded by the Canadian government.
The study showed that homeschoolers who use curriculum are more likely to be accelerated in their studies relative to their publicly-schooled and unschooled peers when measured by standardized tests. They don’t look at the Big S (socialization), although they mention that schooling is an important form of socialization. (And it’s one that is a very poor form, if you ask me. I am still appalled by some of the things my son heard at school from his classmates.)
They weren’t certain of the factors that led to acceleration, but they mentioned more focused study on math and reading. When I homeschooled, I felt like the topics were more diverse than what my kids have encountered in a regular school. Also, we spent less time doing schoolwork than what my kids spend in a regular day at school…and that doesn’t include homework.
I’m certain that more studies will bear out the same result (in fact, most have), and help parents to be more confident that homeschooling is an acceptable and even superior alternative to a public classroom (and a cheaper alternative to private school). At the very least, I’d be happy if a few teachers paid attention and realized that parents can be as or more effective in working with their own children than the supposed experts.
Homeschooling and Teaching with Brain Rules May 3, 2011Posted by mareserinitatis in education, homeschooling, older son, research, science, teaching.
Tags: brain rules, homeschooling, teaching, US History
As many of you know, the older boy is on a partial homeschooling arrangement. One of the plans this year was to cover US History and then have him take the relevant CLEP exams. (What can I say – I’m a cheapskate, and doing this this way is a lot cheaper than having him take classes at the university.)
We started out the year with three books – a CLEP review book, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, and a Patriot’s History of the United States. My thought was that 1) he would see a point/counterpoint in the interpretation of US history by reading the various books, and 2) there would be a decent amount of repetition.
I have definitely been vindicated on the first point. The older boy has really enjoyed reading the People’s and Patriot’s History books because of the fact that they’re rather politically charged. But when it came time to do a practice exam, no dice. He barely passed the exam.
I was nervous about shelling out the money for an exam only to have him fail it (although I imagine that will happen at some point or another), so I tried to think of some way to help. I decided to order the History of the United States video from the Teaching Company. (Before you pass out at the price tag, keep in mind that these go on sale at least once a year and I didn’t pay that much.) The older boy took to them instantly, and it was probably one of the few times this year I didn’t have to nag him about getting his homework done. After getting through the first part, he took another practice exam and earned an A equivalent.
I have read many times that the textbook for a course is where most students get their information. I also have argued with people about this point because, while I use them as references, I’ve only been minimally successful and garnering much information from them. When I have been successful, it’s because I’ve done things like compiled vocabulary lists or extensively used the practice problems…not because I’ve simply read them. On the other hand, I’m very surprised by the older boy’s jump in test score.
I shouldn’t have been. I recently listened to the book Brain Rules. I heard about the book after looking into a class on educational neuropsychology that was using the book for some of its readings. After reading it, I can tell you that I strongly suggest that anyone who functions in any sort of teaching capacity read or listen to it. It has a lot of very good information that educators should, but often don’t, know.
When listening to the chapter of stimulating the senses, I found the explanation for the big jump in scores. It turns out, according to the book, that one of the best ways to get people to remember things is to stimulate multiple senses. Reading by itself is problematic because there is a significant amount of decoding that goes into translating the written word. However, watching a presentation where someone is talking and that speaking is accompanied by visuals, especially if they are animated visuals, will drastically increase memory of the subject matter.
This is undoubtedly the case with my son’s score discrepancies: watching the videos, which include pictures as well as someone speaking, did a lot to boost his memory of the topic matter. (Granted, this was history and not science or math, where I expect a somewhat significant amount of additional practice would be required.)
As a homeschooling parent, this means that I am definitely going to be on the lookout for more high quality videos. Fortunately, I can also find things through places like MIT OpenCourseWare and iTunes U. And this means I will also keep this mind if/when I ever get back into a classroom.