Monday, May 30, 2005

Everything Bad is Good for You

Pop Culture Is...Nourishing

Everything Bad is one of those books that you feel a bit suspicious of because it tells the lazy man what he is glad to hear. (Here’s the classic in that particular genre.) If you are a parent, you know all too well that preventing kids from spending every minute of their free time in front of a flickering screen (computer or TV) demands constant vigilance and effort. A lot of people will take Steven Johnson’s message as: “Hey, you don’t have to bother!” In fact he is much more thoughtful than that, and wants kids to do some book reading in among their gaming and TV-watching.


At first, I too was skeptical of this new title. Promoting TV and video games as educational and enhancing cognitive ability seems counter intuitive to other findings.

After reading "Endangered Minds" I was convinced that over exposure to television, computers, and video game systems was harming today's youths. However, I was not convinced that an hour of gaming per day was going to poison any child. It appears that,just like with sun exposure and nutrition, moderation and balance is just as important to cognitive development.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Importance of Subject Integration

Hickory Creek Middle School changes focus to student-centered instead of subject-centered

"Hickory Creek Middle School student Laurel Dietterle took notes on important battles of the Revolutionary War in social studies class.

In language arts, the seventh-grader read the fictional account of Johnny Tremain, a horseman for a patriotic newspaper who witnessed pivotal events of the American Revolution.

Come technology period, Laurel paired up with friend Kate Walsh to create a PowerPoint slide on events in the colonial period.

'Sometimes it gets old, but it is also really helpful,' said Laurel of the subject overlap.

The overlap is an essential component of the middle school philosophy at Hickory Creek, and it is one of the techniques educators there will model for other schools in coming years."


As far as schools go, Hickory Creek appears to have a great educational philosophy.

Subject integration gives each topic more meaning and relevance as opposed to a hodgepodge of disjointed information. My favorite classes were always team taught, integrating the knowledge of both teachers/professors to give the subject more depth and real world applicability.

This integration can be used in numerous educational settings whether it's homeschooling or the traditional classroom environment.

Most importantly, integration offers students time for discussion and analysis. The keys for learning are held in this time for critical thinking and exploration.


More work and less play

Preschool is a problem

"The notion of standards are coming down almost to the embryo," said Adele Brodkin, a psychologist and child development consultant. "We are not allowing normal, creative, interactive play. We are wanting kids to sit down and write their names at 3 and do rote tasks that are extremely boring at a young age."

Protection for Homeschool Families

Senate Bill 402: An Act Relating to the Protection of Children

"This bill will require all social workers to be trained in their duty to protect your constitutional and statutory rights during an investigation. Furthermore, this bill will require social workers to inform you of the allegations against you during an investigation. Up until this point, social workers in Nevada often will not tell what the individual is accused of and simply demand entry into the home. They also are not currently trained in your Fourth Amendment rights."


Violating homeschoolers 4th Amendment rights, social workers are currently authorized to intrude upon families while withholding information about allegations.

This intrusion is not limited to a home-inspection of material findings. Without parental consent, social workers are demanding physical inspections of children as well as interviewing children alone.

I'm not sure that this bill will make the trauma of going through an inspection any less traumatic but it's clearly a step in the right direction.

It's a shame that Uncle Sam is overly concerned with private families when there are plenty of abuses witnessed within the system. A social worker would have had quite a case with my enraged high school band teacher for throwing music stands at students.


Sunday, May 22, 2005


Socialization of homeschoolers a non-issue

"Homeschoolers are at least as well-socialized as public school students – most of them better-socialized, according to Susan McDowell, author of 'But What About Socialization? Answering the Perpetual Home Schooling Question: A Review of the Literature.'"

Virtual Schools

Virtual schools: the next big thing in public education?

"Now, a new trend is emerging: online education for primary schools. These virtual schools, operated by either state governments or local school districts, promise to give students more flexibility while also lowering education costs for the state.

Even some homeschooling advocates are upset by the virtual schools movement, however. They fear that the schools might dupe parents into accepting less autonomy in the name of accountability and support."


Autonomy is the cornerstone of homeschooling. Any time parents divorce themselves from a child's education, they are offering outside forces the privilege of influencing said child.

Virtual schools, like any new societal advance, have costs and benefits depending on their use. As a tool to enhance education, Virtual Schools offer students an outlet for learning on their own and a resource to parents looking to outsource certain areas of study.

On the other hand, I do not believe that Virtual Schools should serve as the sole outlet for a child's education. The only person who should serve as the sole outlet is the child.

Filling a child's "basket" with one educational system may be easiest. However, a more enriching environment with varying experience fosters the development of a more balanced and holistic worldview.


Friday, May 20, 2005

More Fun than Monopoly

Avon's calling...and that's great for home schooling

"As part of their home schooling education, Marie Sanders thought up a creative way to teach her children about business by getting them to participate in every aspect of selling Avon beauty products.

From answering the phone and taking orders to calculating customers' bills, Ms Sanders says she is teaching her children a number of valuable skills they'll need to succeed, both in a classroom setting and in the real world.

She explains that having the children actively involved in selling Avon teaches them math skills, like addition and subtraction, as well as reading and writing."

Cognitive Development in Teens

Teen's ability to multi-task develops late in adolescence or Why Teens are Lousy at Chores!

"Parents of teenagers frustrated by their children's inability to focus on more than one thing at a time can take hope: a new study from researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis finds behavioral evidence that the part of the brain responsible for the ability to multi-task continues to develop until late adolescence."


A large percentage of my students are coming into their teen years and it has been fascinating to watch their cognitive and emotional fluctuations.

Through observation, I hope to gain more insight into the adolescent mind.


In Support of Play

Expert sees value in child's play
School mandates cutting into time for students' fun

"'Play speaks to creativity and playfulness. It comes with an attitude that this is interesting, enjoyable and centered around the children's interests,' said William Strader, professor and director of Mitchell College's Institute for Early Childhood Teaching and Learning in New London.

Play has a role in all areas of a child's development — emotional, social, linguistic, motoristic, cognitive and even values, he said.

Strader said children who choose their play activity, learn easily because they are interested in the subject.

'We have wonderful research in the field of early childhood research that shows that children are active participants in their own development. They want to explore and master their own environment,' Klein said."


Andrew, my five-year-old student, learns about mathematics strictly through play. Using beans and other manipulatives, he has discovered the basics of arithmetic, fractions, and types of numbers (even versus odd, etc.). Already, I can see that he has a very solid understanding of numbers at such a young age.

This discovery time fosters real understanding of math concepts and promotes healthy feelings about math. He clearly views math as fun, rewarding, and challenging!


Monday, May 16, 2005

First Day of School

Homeschoolers have an exceptionally strong commitment to education and children

"Those who homeschool have an exceptionally strong commitment to education and children, according to Rudner’s study, and place a greater emphasis on study skills, critical thinking, working independently and love of learning.

'They seem to be better prepared,' King Recruitment Director Darren Parker said of homeschooled students. 'We’ve had nothing but positive things to say about them.'

He attributed some of their academic success to the personal attention they receive. Many have had one-on-one instruction throughout, he said.

'The students we’ve gotten are first-rate,' he said. 'They are very strong students. They’re impressive students in terms of SAT scores.'

The grade-point averages of those students also tend to be higher than the freshman class average, Necessary said.

Nationally, homeschoolers score higher on three standardized tests than the average student.

[Joel Font] has thrown himself into his college experience, never mind that it’s the first school he’s ever attended.

Font, who was homeschooled, has been able to adjust and find success in college.

He said he’s grateful he was homeschooled, and he feels prepared for college. Having to assume responsibility for his studies while growing up has helped him at Emory & Henry, he said.

'I’m interested in learning,' he said. 'I’ve had to teach myself to learn.'


In the coming years, as more homeschoolers are headed off to college, more reports on the academic success of the homeschooling population will become public. I look forward to these reports statistically validating the practices that homeschoolers follow, as well as encouraging others to join this community in educating their children.

Confirming my thoughts on emotional intelligence, homeschoolers assume responsibility for their studies, can work independently, and most importantly love to learn.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Public School Monopoly

Determining the Legal Requirements for Homeschool in Your Area

"One area in which government could be a great help to homeschoolers is by the creation of vouchers or tax credits for homeschoolers. As a homeschooler, you are responsible for all the costs associated with educating your children. And, assuming you pay the taxes that support public education in your area, you also "pay" for public education services that you don't use.

Vouchers tend to be very controversial because they threaten the public education system's monopoly and all that that monopoly engenders.

Although vouchers aren't currently being contemplated for homeschoolers, they are still an important topic for us as well. That's because any effort to loosen the grip that government has over the mandatory direction of tax dollars to public education services that we don't use will eventually be beneficial to us as well.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to me that those of us who take the responsibility of our children's education should somehow be able to recover some portion of our taxes that we pay to support public education. A tax credit system would enable us to do so."


The thought that "vouchers aren't currently being contemplated for homeschoolers" is quite disturbing to me. Homeschoolers have chosen to dedicate the majority of their waking lives educating their children. By prioritizing their child's education, they have taken a lifestyle pay-cut.

As it stands, instead of being able to use their own limited resources for books, classes, and field trips, by law, they are forced to pay for someone else's education in a system that they don't believe works.

With the numbers of homeschoolers increasing each year, change is on the cusp. It is time that families put themselves first.


Friday, May 13, 2005

EQ in Education

Emotional intelligence is largely being implemented in the work place. However, we only tend to hear about EQ being implemented in education in the form of mass assemblies that preach the importance of self-esteem and saying no to drugs.

In the article linked above, using EQ in a one-on-one coaching scenario appears to boost the EQ of said employee. As a teacher and one-on-one educator, I find that the article describes precisely how I approach my students.

The science of the motivational gap is less important than the art of what happens during one-on-one conversations in which the leader gets to know the employee and seeks to understand rather than to be heard.

Leader as Coach outlines the respective roles of the development partnership. The supervisor agrees to act as a coach by working one-on-one, orchestrating resources and learning opportunities, and providing encouragement for learning and focus. The direct report agrees to assume primary responsibility for his or her development by setting priorities, accepting new challenges, testing new behaviors, reflecting and extracting learning, and seeking feedback and support.

Optimally, one-on-one teaching should encourage the same roles. While working with my students, teaching becomes a cooperative event with much back and forth discussion. Lecturing is not an option. Students are asked to set their own goals and I highly encourage them to face their challenges head-on with a positive and open minded attitude.

Furthermore, I have observed that my students tend to vary on how they react to my "leader as coach" role depending on what type of education they are receiving. Homeschoolers largely accept my role as facilitator and show the highest EQ in the form of internal motivation as well as external appreciation for our sessions. Students in non-traditional school settings (charter schools, Montessori, etc.) also show a high degree of EQ. However, students in traditional settings tend to have a more difficult time accepting my role as a coach, and would largely prefer that I act as a lecturer or Pez-dispenser of knowledge (giving out information that can be easily accessed without the need for thought-provoking discussion time).

To some degree, we are all products of our environment. The more independent minded the education, the more independent the student. Traditional schools tend to foster dependency on the teacher and her knowledge. It would be quite atrocious to blame my traditional-students who have a difficult time with the question, "Well, what do you think?" It's surely quite frustrating to a student who goes to school, gets their lecture and answer session, then comes home to me and is asked to think for themselves. It's a mixed message at best...I just hope mine wins out.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

In the hands of the students, democracy will thrive.

Alternative school frees the mind

"Fairhaven School was founded in 1998, modeled after the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts. Students are free to pursue their education as they see fit, based on the assumption that when children are left to their own devices, they initiate worthwhile pursuits. On the 12-acre campus off of Queen Anne Bridge Road, barefoot students play fantasy games such as "Munchkin Wars" and build forts next to streams."

Unschoolers Celebrate Themselves

‘Unschooled’ get diplomas in unique graduation ceremony

"The graduates participated in a unique commencement ceremony designed to showcase their individuality.

Specializing in areas such as sheep raising, combat robotics, cosmetology, floral design and break-dancing, each student took the lead in deciding how his or her education would be administered

Webb said any student with willing parents can be home schooled and many see results that reach far beyond what’s achieved in public school. Founded in 1993, West River Academy accepts students from across Colorado as well as from other states and countries.

Through “unschooling,” students are able to develop their own identities and explore various options for the future, rather than being forced to “march to the beat of someone else’s drum for 12 years of their lives,” Webb said."

Endangered Minds

Don't touch that dial! TV-Turnoff Week is reality, unplugged

"The idea behind the effort, according to the TV-Turnoff Network, is that watching less television will lead to healthier lives and communities.

Besides no televisions, Richmond Waldorf doesn't use standard textbooks and also has no computers -- except in the administrative offices. Classrooms are warm and welcoming but short on bright colors, garish plastics and elaborate toys.

The school's educational approach puts a premium on engaging children's imagination and curiosity through hands-on learning."


The Richmond Waldorf school may be on to something bigger than "healthier lives and communities" as theorists have proposed that increased stimuli (tv, video games, computers) may be having a negative correlation on cognitive ability.

Jane M. Healy, author of "Endangered Minds," is also an advocate of turning off the tube. Exposure to fast paced and flashy tv shows (such as Sesame Street) has been correlated with decreased attention spans in elementary aged children.


Waldorf, Montessori, and Bank Street Preschools

Big names still a draw for nursery school

"The selection of a nursery school can be as personal as finding a spouse, requiring of parents and teachers respect, dedication, common goals and an agreement to work together. A little love doesn't hurt, either."


I have found that Waldorf, Montessori, and Sudbury Valley schools offer a great alternative for parents who decide that homeschooling is not feasable for them. Each philosophy encourages individual child development and independence.

Parents should take the time to learn about each teaching philosophy that they are considering, as some schools advertise as "Montessori, Waldorf, etc." that do not specialize in the method.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Homeschool Freedom Bill

Homeschoolers Protected by New Utah Law

"A bill shielding homeschooling parents from requirements that they meet state credential standards and give public school officials records of what they teach passed unanimously in both houses of the Utah legislature in February.

"Because the [state statute] was vague, it led to inconsistent and varying interpretations between school districts, and even between people within school districts," he continued. "We just wanted to clarify it in favor of the parents, and let the school districts focus on educating the children they have the privilege of educating.""