At a time when public education is circling the drain, and we keep throwing more money to spend in the same way on the same problems…..here’s a fresh idea: Let the per-pupil-spending dollar be spent at the discretion of the PARENT. As much as you might hear that ‘it takes a village’, which may or may not be true depending on the family, parents should at least be able to choose the village with which they want to partner. As always, about the only way to get the attention of government powers-that-be is the Almighty Dollar. Our family homeschooled for a time, paid local taxes AND the cost of homeschooling and I can say that the cost of homeschooling is nowhere near the per-pupil-spending amount, but of course, I donated my personal time, resources and skills. Time for a change……radical, even. Here’s an article about what’s going on in other parts of the country, that should interest all ages—hellooooo, COLLEGE TUITION. South Carolina is one of the worst school systems in the country and while the potential is there for being one of the best, it will take some radical, outside-the-box thinking, and gutsy nothing-to lose action. Nikki? Nikki? Beuller?
I learned to read before I went to school. It wasn’t because my mother stood in front of me with flash cards for hours every day. It wasn’t because my dad prepared an advanced protocol for subliminal messaging during sleep. It wasn’t because I went to an exclusive, cutting edge preschool (Ha….if you only knew!). This was back in the day, in the rural South before there was kindergarten…..or pre-K…….or Head Start. The answer is that I learned to read because by sweet, smart, not-too-much older sister came home from first grade and read her books to me…..and for some reason, it clicked. For me, I was developmentally ready to read, for others it comes at a different time. But that does not mean that early is better. I’m still waiting for the developmental phase for singing to come to completion.
We are at a stage in public education in America when everything, every child, every decision is driven by testing and data. And data. And testing. And it doesn’t matter the stage of development, children are driven by the data and the test scores to conform, even down to kindergartners. There is a steady stream of five and six-year-old kids sent into their pediatrician’s office, whose parents, armed with volumes of ‘agenda’ notes, are repeatedly given the message that there is something wrong with their kids and they ‘need to be evaluated’. These developmentally normal kids end up in their physician’s office after having been expected to do developmentally inappropriate tasks, become frustrated, lose interest, ‘get off task’, and get punished. These kids, though sweet and polite, will not/cannot stay seated (so?), are not interested in learning (what method? what material?), and even though they lose recess(the absolute wrong thing to do!), have ‘silent lunch’ (now that’s a real character builder if I ever heard one), spend the day in the ‘Opportunity Room’(might just be better than the real classroom for some)— end up just not liking school. Imagine that! Never mind that these kids are bright, articulate, have a keen interest in dinosaurs and animals, and can tell you more than you know about a subject that interest them. Never mind that these kids can sit spellbound for longer than anyone when looking at a book that interests them. Never mind that they can build a working xylophone from Lincoln Logs or build a geometric structure from rolled paper. Never mind that they can score highest in the class when evaluated one-on-one in class, but “It doesn’t count unless they can pass the ACRONYMOFCHOICE test on the computer.”
Oh, I see….makes much more sense to take away recess– where physical activity can stimulate the production of neurotransmitters for brain activity. Replace those chemicals artificially, keep those kids in their seats and conforming focused. Oh, I see…..makes much more sense to insist that each and every child demonstrate knowledge on a multiple choice, easy-to-grade, computer-generated test–rather than an accurate assessment that truly assesses the child’s mastery of skills–and hold them back if they cannot conform. Oh, I see…..this method of herding educating children in the early years encourages separation into clear-cut, easily distinguishable categories and makes it easier to progress through ‘the system’. Uniqueness is a distraction and should be discouraged.
Parents, you know more than you are led to believe and your gut feeling is, more often than not, accurate. Teachers who know what is right probably need parents to take charge of this issue and demand change–you know what they say about excrement and a downward incline. More to follow…..
You have just picked up your eighth grade student at the end of the school year–squealing out of the middle school parking lot, turning on two wheels as though Satan himself were behind you. You have never been as relieved to have a season of your life in the rear view mirror. Your student is actually looking forward to high school–the sports, the social events, the fun and freedom. But, being the responsible, proactive parent that you are, you are a little nervous about your student choosing the right academic path over the next few years. Thank goodness there will be people there to offer guidance.
The first piece of advice here is that there probably are not people there to offer guidance. There are people there to fill out forms and check off boxes, and occasionally, if you know the right question to ask, there will be someone there to give assistance in advising your student along someone’s opinion of a predetermined ‘path to success’. Some of these folks mean well, but are overwhelmed with paperwork and are doing all they can to survive. Some may try to send your child down a path that is not where you or your child want to go. And some just don’t care–biding their time until someone peels them loose from the door jamb and sends them out the door to the golden days of retirement and pension-land. You will have to dig for information, prep course information, scholarship information, opportunities, etc. You should not depend on the public school system to advise as to the best option for your child. Let me repeat that: you should not depend on the public school system to advise as to the best option for your child. Some of the best resources are parents who have ‘been there done that’ and have an opinion as to what they would do differently if they could do it all over. You will have to choose the strategy for the high school years— to prepare for the next level…..or to play the game. These two courses, though it sounds as though they are one in the same, may be mutually exclusive.
Here are a few points to remember:
1. Admission into major universities depends, to a large extent, on GPA and SAT/ACT scores.
Inquire about prep courses–some are free or inexpensive and given at local colleges. Numbers may be limited so ask early–spring of 10th grade or early fall of 11th grade year.
If you think your student may have trouble with the SAT/ACT start early (start getting a plan at the end of 10th grade, early in the 11th grade) and give plenty of time, and funds, for retakes and prep courses. No matter what you hear, this testing is big business.
2. GPA can be padded in many ways. Look for higher weighted classes whenever possible: Dual credit, Dual Credit and Dual credit. Did I say Dual Credit? Maybe an AP class here and there if there is a decent teacher and a decent pass rate on the AP exam for that teacher/school. (Locally, the AP pass rate has tended to be around 30%.) So don’t count on getting college credit as you would, say, for Dual Credit.
Art Appreciation as a high school elective vs. Art Appreciation as dual credit. Dual credit is heavily weighted and jacks up the GPA, but it may have an associated expense.
Teacher Cadet, Auto Mechanics, Etc. may be offered as dual credit. Take it. Do it. Play the game. Jack up the GPA where you can.
You must weigh preparation for college against padding the GPA. It is not always as clear-cut a decision as you would think.
‘College Prep’ level in no way is preparation for college. It is deceptive. Kids are likely to get a better grade, but not truly prepared for college level work in most cases. Around half of college students end up taking remedial courses for material supposedly taught in high school. Half. Let this sink in while you consider that a year in an average state four-year college is now more than $20G. High school=free, college=costly. Good grades=scholarships, hard classes=well prepared. You have to choose but you pay now or pay later.
Not all ‘Honors’ weighted classes are preparation for college either, but you are more likely, especially with core subjects, to get a better preparation with ‘Honors’ weighted classes, than with ‘College Prep’.
AP Classes offer the attraction of earning college credit—IF you pass the AP exam and IF the college chooses to accept the credit. Some colleges are starting to recognize the financial loss and are accepting less AP credit, so that might be something to check into before you make course selections. AP courses may be weighted as such, but not all are academically structured as AP, i.e. college level work, so you will get the padding but not the preparation.
3. After the 11th grade, most of the work is done as far as college applications are concerned. Anything you can do the 12th grade year for college credit, dual credit, is gravy….college credit costs MUCH less than as a full-time college student.
Coursework completed in the first semester of 12th grade will enter into the calculation of GPA and class rank.
A well-planned course and a motivated student can rack up almost a year’s worth of college credit before high school graduation, which can mean $20 grand, or more, in addition to an advantage in graduating college in four years, or graduating with a double major.
4. There are lists of scholarships and opportunities, all of which have deadlines which don’t seem to concern those holding the information. Start early. Ask often. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.
5. There are many opportunities, besides sports, that will give your student visibility and open doors. Robotics. Boys and Girls State. Clubs. Student Government. Work and volunteering outside school.
6. Sometimes college acceptance may be highly competitive for a particular major, but not for others. A strategy to consider might be to apply to a less competitive major to gain entrance, and consider changing majors at some point in the future. There may also be a tuition break offering in-state tuition for out-of-state students for some majors not offered in your state–check out Academic Common Market for more details.
7. Highly competitive colleges are onto the weighted GPA-thing, so as in life, there are no guarantees. Play the game the best you can and don’t waste any more time than you have to–many wish they had move on sooner.
Here is a re-post of a great article by Peter Greene outlining where we are in American public schools. Teaching and ‘learning’ are largely dictated by standardized testing….and testing……….and testing. I’m kind of an old-school curmudgeon myself, and, after seeing first-hand what has happened over the last thirty years, I agree with this guy–what we are doing is not working. But, the proposed answer is more of the same, starting in kindergarten (eye roll). Please do not let the glut of testing define your child. As teachers are whipped into a frenzy over the testing as though their livelihood depends on it (it does), do not let any of these numbers define your child. Maybe as more and more parents refuse to engage in the drama, this mistaken philosophy will die a natural death…..
TIP OF THE DAY: Once again, do not let others define your child with a test score and do not get caught up in the frenzy and angst over testing. It serves no useful purpose in the public school system.
I am a product of the public school system….back in the day…..before the creation of the Department of Education. I received a great education in a small public school system much like the one my kids have attended. I had a great experience and the education I received has served me well over the course of my life. With that perspective, I had similar expectations for the education and experience my kids would have in the public school system, however for the most part, I have been disappointed. I know…..I know……the School Report Card says they have an ‘excellent rating’. Compared to…..”other schools like ours”. If you are told that you are doing as well as all the other cancer patients like yourself, is that something to celebrate? Or, rather than being in the ‘living with cancer’ group, wouldn’t you want to be in the ‘healed and thriving’ group? So where do we start?
The philosophy of some in the public school system is that the ‘school’ is an extension of parenting. I have heard administrators say– tongue-in-cheek, I’m sure, “….if we could just get them sooner…..”. The only problem with this philosophy is that the love and ultimate responsibility for the outcome is not there in most cases, and unfair expectations are placed on teachers to deal with the results of the ills of our society–poverty, dysfunctional home circumstances, etc. Back in the day, the teachers and administrators lived in the community, were friends and family members, had a stake in the outcome of the child, and loved their job as well as the kids. Today, many teachers are burned out, perform a function, have no autonomy in their profession and for the sheer sake of survival and making a living , enter into the never-ending push for an administrative position. So, in an arena promoted as an extension of parenting, care and concern has been replaced by data and testing, loving discipline and relationships have been replaced by protocol and punishment.
As a parent, you are asked to place your child into this one-size-fits-all system and give up control of academic and character instruction, moral and philosophical influence, and ‘trust the system’. And herein lies the problem: the system is no longer accountable to anyone but itself. It’s message is “We are excellent. We give ourselves an excellent rating when we compare ourselves to ourselves and, by Gruber, if you can’t see that, then you are just too stupid to be a parent.” Parents are isolated, intimidated and expected to force their kids into a prescribed regimen that in the end seems empty and phony–completing the course, collecting points and tokens–while often missing out on the real purpose. In the name of self-preservation, teachers and parents play the game, holding the kids in position until the allotted time has passed and the game is over, freeing kids to move on with more meaningful activities.
But all is not lost….there are still caring professionals at ground level who are genuinely concerned about the education and lives of kids. While our family seems to have crossed paths with every kook in the local system, we have also crossed paths with some truly remarkable people–the teacher recruited from the business world where there is a higher expectation for organization, accountability and expectation of results–and the mom-administrator who truly gets the big picture and is in the profession for all the right reasons–we thank you and appreciate you.
We start moving from the ‘living with cancer’ group to the ‘thriving’ group by removing government control and empowering parents in the process locally. This comes through real transparency in the operation of schools, realistic choices for academic pursuits, and the incentive of local schools to have to compete for the per-pupil spending dollar by providing a truly excellent education. Real transparency comes through giving parents and students real information, not just the spin to make the next political agenda palatable. Realistic choices in the ‘Information Age’ should include any number of options for online studies to accommodate both the academic interest and personal circumstances of the student–and not block the way for anything other than what’s convenient for the school system. And as in any other endeavor, competition improves quality and efficiency–put more power of choice and funding in the hands of the parents.
TIP OF THE DAY: You are still the parent, you know more than you have been led to believe, and you can still make choices for your child’s education. It may involve taking the ‘road less traveled’.
For those who are paying attention, there continues to be a nationwide movement, an awakening of parents, students, and teachers to the headlong rush of increasing government control in public education. Parents and teachers, often intimidated by the repercussion to a student or loss of a job, are hesitant to speak up. The truth is that government schools have been sold out to business. Public schools are big business for Pearson, Apple, Google, and many others, and businesses are dictating the content of your child’s education all along the way–from elementary math to the SAT and career choice. The collusion of these businesses with the development of Common Core, the testing materials, the control of content, and the sharing of student datais a little unnerving. There is now a Google App for Education--could be great…..could be a source of information for Google if there is no commitment to privacy. Google is in the business of selling data, don’t kid yourself.
Here is a repost of Pauline Hawkins’ blog–a group of seniors in Colorado take a stand regarding the overreach in standardized testing that some would say is pushed, in part, by a financial agenda:
When you realize that your thoughts and feelings are being validated by others, in other parts of the country, you can become part of the critical mass that speaks up for change. In all parts of the country, the politicians, businesses, labor organizations, and maybe administrators are all in bed together, selling out kids’ education to the highest bidder. Number one on the agenda is not always the best interest of the student, but the protection of the financial and political structure that has evolved to control public education.
TIP OF THE DAY: Do an online search for ‘Pearson’ and look at some of the business dealings, lawsuits, etc.–it is thought-provoking, to say the least. And that’s only one of the businesses involved in the development of Common Core. If something doesn’t seem right, ask questions and use your own common sense and gut instinct…for the sake of your kid. Pay attention. Question everything.
You are at your father’s bedside as the surgeon discusses his assessment of the situation with other hospital personnel.
“You know,” says the surgeon, “there are many ways to deal with this kind of thing–diabetic wounds are notoriously hard to heal, but with intensive control of blood sugars, and aggressive wound care I think we could see a good outcome in this case.”
“Yes, but that will take a lot of time and man-hours, and we aren’t guaranteed of adequate support, and you never know what goes on after discharge. I mean, does the family really know how to do wound care?” asks the hospital administrator.
“And you can’t forget how much the medication and supplies for something like this would cost,” interjects the pharmacist.
“And the skilled nursing costs…” adds the nurse supervisor.
The surgeon turns to you and states, “Well, I guess we will have to go ahead and amputate. I’ll get the papers ready for you to sign. This will be the best thing for all concerned.”
“Wait a minute!” you frantically exclaim. “Best for all? Who is ‘all’? What about my dad? Doesn’t he have some say in this? Aren’t there other options we can consider? We have the ‘Cadillac’ insurance policy and money is no object! We can learn how to take care of him and do what needs to be done to get him through this!”
“Well,” the administrator adds, “you must remember that while you may have a slight increase in your insurance rates, this is to help the less fortunate, and we must consider what’s best for the community as a whole. The local prosthesis factory has a surplus of prostheses and we need to consider the impact on local business. We have to best manage our resources for the best outcome for the whole community, keeping jobs in the area, maintaining the current tax base, conserving available medical resources so that all can be served, and making sure that all pay their fair share……in one way or another.”
“Are you kidding me?” you scream. “You are talking about cutting my dad’s leg off when there are other options available that we are willing to try!”
“I’m sorry,” the surgeon murmurs, “it’s out of my hands.”
You see where I am going with this if you have ever endured a 504 or IEP meeting…..six of them and one of you and they are holding all the cards, have all the forms, use all the lingo, and have the power of government behind them. I am here to tell you it does not have to be that way. But you have to grow a spine, go against the flow and choose something better for your child, even if you have to fight for it.
We are told that there is an abundance of technical jobs available and high school students could be shunted into technical courses to be ready to step into these positions upon graduation. We have been told that businesses, chambers of commerce, school administrators and technical colleges should work to produce high school graduates that are job-ready. That’s great…..except for one small detail: It’s my kid and it’s not their choice to make. It’s ours. So as our schools move to accommodate businesses instead of parents, and continue to create worker bees and not thinkers, and you find yourself in a meeting where you are being told what your child’s 7th grade aptitude test reveals and what their future holds…….do not fall for it. We are sometimes made to think that a child who doesn’t fit into the box is marked for failure when exactly the opposite may be true…..do not fall for it. You know your child better than anyone else and have more at stake in seeing that child succeed, whatever the personal sacrifice you must make.
The arrogance that would encourage a bureaucrat to laughingly deceive taxpayers based on the ‘stupidity of the American voter’ will eventually be revealed and reversed. Likewise, the arrogance of the public school system to manipulate you and choose your child’s future for you will eventually be revealed and reversed by a critical mass of parents choosing something better. Maybe the biggest bureaucratic mistake to be made is to pull a Gruber—taking advantage of people, insulting their intelligence, and let thinking people get too close to the workings of the system where much is at stake. Just like some groups of lawmakers refused the deception, some groups of educators are now doing the same.
TIP OF THE DAY: Do not let your child become a casualty of the system. Choose what is best for your child and do not settle for less.
It has been said that to home school all you need is a library card and an internet connection, and to a certain extent I would agree. We are now in the Information Age, moving away from brick-and-mortar schools, and the world is literally at your fingertips. You can choose the political and religious perspective that you wish to impart to your child through the selection of material, and this freedom seems to be the point of contention with the ‘progressives’– parents, non-educators, having the audacity to choose what your child learns. However, that being said, there is a convenience component in using a prepared curriculum compatible with your needs, not having to reinvent the wheel, while making sure your kids are getting what they need.
There is a wide spectrum of educational materials available for homeschooling. If you have an opportunity to attend a curriculum fair you will be impressed. Some families like to use pre-packaged year-long curriculum with everything included, others may choose to fit together a number of sources that suit individual needs, while more and more families are using online curricula from a number of sources. Public schools are increasingly getting on the home school bandwagon with K-12 options–public school curriculum online. A cynic would say that this is a way to keep your child and their per-pupil-spending dollar on the attendance rolls. But that’s so cynical. There are numerous online options, varying in cost and content, and while the K-12 option is free, you may find another option that fits your circumstances better depending on your purposes for homeschooling.
Regulations and documentation varies from state to state, and as homeschooling families continue to increase in number, the regulations and restrictions may have relaxed, depending on what part of the country in which you live. Recently in South Carolina, home school students have been allowed to participate in public school athletics, having previously been excluded, despite the fact that their taxpaying parents are supporting the public schools. Requirements for accountability of home school students can be through the public school system, legislated accountability groups, local accountability groups, or have no accountability requirements at all. Contact your local representatives, school officials or home school groups to determine the legal aspects of home school accountability requirements and documentation. Many also advise that you join Home School Legal Defense Association as a resource for meeting legal requirements and to assist if legal issues arise.
“GUUUURL…..If we homeschooled our kids, there would be blood on the walls!” I’m not going to say that there are not days that are frustrating, but the experience is all about the mindset of why you choose to do what you do. I lost both my parents as a young adult and my kids never really had the experience of knowing their maternal grandparents. I realized at the time of my father’s death, that we have no promise of tomorrow, and it was at that point that I determined to make the most of every day that I had with my kids, and would not hand them over to someone else to raise at such a young age….or ever. We made the decision to homeschool our kids, to make the most of the time we were given with them, take the opportunity to travel, and to give our kids every possible advantage. I regret the decision we made to put our kids into the local school district in later years–it erased the academic advantage we had worked so hard to give them.
Families choose to homeschool for a variety of reasons. The movement initially grew out of a desire for religious education and avoidance of the ever-increasing influence of secular agenda in public schools. As time went on and the movement grew, the option of homeschooling became attractive for other reasons–freedom of schedule, freedom of content, and increased ability to pursue individual skills and interests. Now the appeal of homeschooling is rapidly gaining momentum as more and more become disillusioned with the problems and ultimate outcomes within the public education system. And not surprisingly, so as not to be left out of a chance to make a buck off of a kid and his education, public schools are getting into the game with their own online options. These public online homeschool options serve to maintain public school enrollment and their stake to claim the twelve grand in per pupil spending dollars attached to each student. Call me a cynic.
Knowing that the motivation for homeschooling may differ from family to family, it becomes important to choose support groups carefully. You will no doubt experience frustration if belief systems, goals, dreams and methods are not compatible. For example, the most important thing in my child’s education is not whether or not they wear a tank top, or if we exclusively use the KJV Bible. ( I like Tyndale’s New Living Translation, myself– I avoid tank tops, but my daughter looks great in one.)
“But what about socialization?” Yes….what about it? With the recent growth of homeschooling families, there has been a parallel growth of support groups, cooperative schooling groups, and organized activity groups for students. My experience has been that there are more student groups available than you can possibly participate in, and still have time for the actual school work. This usually affords interaction with a range of ages, interests and activities. And when you think about it, this is actually a more natural setting than being placed in a group of kids the same age, all doing the same thing for twelve years. You must also consider the ‘socialization’ that the kids receive in a public school setting and ask yourself if that is what you want your child to learn about interpersonal relationships. F-bombs, bullying, harassment…..and then there are the students…… 🙂
“So how do homeschooled students rate compared to public school students?” Follow up data from several sources shows that the average homeschooled student’s test scores are significantly higher on whatever standardized test used. Additionally, college performance measured by first year GPA and final GPA also are significantly higher. Learning how to learn, how to teach yourself, how to think for yourself and how to discipline yourself to finish the job are all skills that will serve the individual throughout life. These, sadly, are not the skills being acquired in the public education setting today.
TIP OF THE DAY: You have options, investigate them and choose the best for your child.
“Why to you keep watching all that stuff? You know it doesn’t make any difference! It’s almost time for the game.” my husband remarked one Saturday as I was watching a political debate on television. This observation comes after spending the entire morning listening to hour after hour of a pregame call-in show featuring equally loyal fans—one regular, painful caller reminiscent of Mel Tillis…..bless his heart. I finally, after a season of family conversation monopolized by the latest SEC happenings, I got through to him. “This is like sports to me—I follow politics the way you follow college football.” The light bulb went off—-just like the time I told him, “I don’t NEED another new purse—it’s like an upgrade for your computer.” Gotta speak the lingo, I guess.
That being said, I have found that there are number of similarities between college sports and politics:
1. They both require reading, studying, thinking, strategy, and practice. OK just practice.
2. They both involve an elite group, coddled and protected from the common folks, and learn from early on that they don’t have to follow common folks’ rules.
3. They both utilize posers players that present a persona/facade—only to disappoint and embarrass you at some point in the future with illegal and immoral behavior. Jameis Winston, for example.
4. They both consume an inordinate amount of your time, money and emotion—and in the end they are the only ones who profit.
5. They both create an enormous amount of hoopla, ‘team spirit’ and anticipation, but in the end the outcome doesn’t make any real difference for you. They profit greatly.
6. They both are committed to the Almighty Win and will do whatever and say whatever it takes to get the W. The secondary gain is enormous and often worth sacrificing their integrity.
I love Peyton Manning and I love this play….the best EVER….
Every once in a while there is the class act athlete who loves the game, appreciates the gift he has been given and blesses others because he has been blessed. And, occasionally there are people, genuine public servants, who run for public office for all the right reasons and truly act for the good of all, and not for how much they can gain or themselves. When we get these people into office the outcome can be vastly different and beneficial for all. Do your homework, research the candidates and go vote.
TIP OF THE DAY: the power of government is still in your hands. Choose individual candidates, not just a party affiliation, and VOTE.