Category Archives: Schools

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Hi!

I found a particularly egregious error in the social studies textbook used in Hillsborough County’s sixth grade classes. You know how much fun I have picking on educators and their horrible textbooks, so click to share the mirth.

I found a spam email in my inbox that used Obamacare in its sales pitch.  You know how much fun I have picking on leftists and their horrible policies, so click to share the mirth.

I found a humorous phrase that feminists use to sound academic, and you know how much I enjoy offending feminists, so click here to share the fun.

I found another layer of Orwellian doublespeak that may go into usage now that the shine is wearing off the old Common Core lingo.   You know how much I enjoy picking on the academic sounding, but ridiculously empty Common Core Standards, so click here to share the joy.

Okay, I’ll see you when I see you.  Hopefully soon, I really need to post about my garden.

A Post List

I keep failing to link to my work over at the Da Tech Guy. So I’ve got quite the list.  As you will see, I am really stuck on the subject of education, but hey.  I’s kinda my raisin duh etra lately. I did throw in a little about food, and about introversion.

Dot Gov Sites for Children: We Make Propaganda Fun!

Our History, Gone Like a Dream of Yesterday

Common Core Standards:  The Measuring Stick with no Measurements

The Culmination of Progressive Education

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

The Post in Which the Introvert Navel-Gazes

Okay then, folks.  Click em and read em if you have the time and inclination.  I sure appreciate every single reader I get, now that I’m no longer as dependable nor sociable a blogger.

 

 

 

 

What I’ve Learned . . .

If I can get disciplined enough to maintain a new posting series, it will be What I’ve Learned. Today the subject is What I’ve Learned While Teaching My Son Math.

At the beginning of the school year I decided to forge my own path through 6th grade math, using no pre-made curriculum at all.  After two years and two different curricula, it just seemed like nothing would be a good fit until Older Son got a handle on the basics and started feeling confident about his ability to do math.

Besides, I told myself hopefully, how hard can it be?

Well . . .

It’s kind of hard.  I am not disciplined enough to put in the preparation that I should.  That translates into me trying to think up and write down the ten to twelve daily math problems, while Younger Son is hopping around the house because he finished his math in three minutes flat, and Older Son is getting distracted from his Reading or Writing or Whatever assignment by anything from the dog sleeping in the corner to the eraser shavings at his elbow, while I’m simultaneously thinking about the next subject we are going to cover and wondering how many we’ll get done before we have to leave for _______.  /Fill in the blank with any one of myriad group activities./

So far it is worth it, though, because it’s working.  I mean, I think it’s working.

I can’t be sure it’s working, because I haven’t been testing him and I only just resumed grading his assignments, and he doesn’t have classmates to compare with, and I don’t have a textbook with an end to aspire reaching.

But he seems to be making progress.  He is keeping some concepts memorized on a more permanent basis lately.  More importantly, he seems to master his anxieties and frustrations easier than he used to.

I’ve come to realize it was not the numbers giving Older Son so much trouble.  It was the negative emotions firmly attached to the act of solving math problems.  I’m not sure when the anxiety attached itself to math in his mind, but it had a very firm hold by the end of 3rd grade.

I wish I could say that pulling him out of brick-and-mortar solved the problem.  But the truth is, I didn’t make any progress whatsoever in lessening his math anxiety in 4th or 5th grade.  All I did was slog through teaching a perpetually upset pupil.  My biggest mistake was to focus on completing the math curriculum, instead of focusing on my child’s unhealthy relationship with math.

If there is one thing Older Son has taught me, it is this:  no matter how smart a child is, and no matter how many times you teach him a concept, if he works himself into enough of a lather, all those smarts and all that knowledge goes Straight. Out. The window.

Sigh.

I haven’t found the “secret recipe” or anything.  Another year of maturity may have as much to do with his improved attitude as anything else.  Also, there is still more progress to be made.

For what it’s worth, though, here is what I believed has helped so far:

A) Creating our own 6th Grade Math Outline by putting concept definitions, instructions, and examples in my son’s own words I have to help sometimes, but most of the phrasing is his, typed by his hands.  (Heck, I have to seek help online sometimes.  Try writing an explanation of “square root” on the spot, and see if you don’t end up with something awkward like “the square root is the number that when multiplied by itself produces the number that is in that little checked-roof thingy.”)

B) Taking away key stressors for a while, even though those things are normally useful, even necessary.  That meant no testing and no grading for the first semester.  I checked his work and made sure he understood and corrected his errors, but I did not mark his work with the dreaded red pen, or any pen for that matter.

Also, he did no word problems and no geometry during that time.  I know he needs to learn these things . . . but first things first.

In addition, I imposed no time limits or minimum number of problems.  What’s that you said, child?  In the last thirty minutes you’ve done exactly two problems?  And oh look, they are both incorrect.  Nevermind.  You can work on it tomorrow.

Sometimes it took a whole week to correctly complete ten math problems.  I had a hard time curtailing my own frustration when this happened, because he is smarter than that.  He can do better.  I know it!  He is never getting anywhere at this pace!

I wish I could say I was totally zen about it when he got bogged down, but instead I’d snap and add to the already existing stress.  There’s a balance between relieving stress and encouraging persistence, no doubt, but it’s mighty hard to find.

C) Hand-writing or hand-typing assignments.  This helps for a many reasons.  First, I can tailor to his exact level.  The worksheet found online is too easy?  Add a couple of zeros.  Too hard?  Do the reverse.

Second, and this surprised me:  it’s not as big a deal to him when he gets something wrong.  It’s just a dumb piece of paper with his mother’s scribble on it, I guess.  It’s not his Official Math Workbook, irretrievably scarred with Proof of How Stupid He Is.  (His opinion, not mine!)

Creating my own assignment also allows a personal touch.  I don’t always make up problems from scratch; a pre-made worksheet can be a template.  It just needs tweaking.

Now that I’m adding word problems to the mix, it’s a handy trick.  I mean, really, who cares what total number of mangoes Raul has, if his ratio of mangoes to bananas is 3:1?  Older Son doesn’t get his hackles up as quickly if the ratio problem asks how many tanks his side has, compared to the enemy.  After all, World of Tanks is his favorite video game.

Finally, the biggest advantage to writing or typing your own assignments:  you can finally make sure your child has enough room for his work.  Running out of room was a major source of stress, believe it or not.  Pre-made worksheets rarely provide enough space.  Just do the work on a separate sheet of notebook paper, I would repeat.  Over and over.  For some reason, that frustrated him more.  Ample room directly under the problem = a less-stressed child.  Fine.  Whatever.  I’ll put one problem per sheet if that’s what it takes.

D) Changing my strategy because of its flaws.  Letting Older Son focus on filling his 6th Grade Math Outline with rules and definitions, while simultaneously letting him do very few practice problems, was definitely not a long-term solution.  Sixth grade math often requires several steps, especially long division using decimals.  I neglected the wisdom of “practice makes perfect,” and I certainly noticed that “little practice makes lots and lots of careless errors.”

Soon into the second semester, things had to change.  Now, he must complete at least ten problems per day.  (Except for Thursdays, we are literally gone from 8:30am until 8:30pm.  It’s STEM/Latin/ParkWithBHSF/TKD day.)

To be fair, it helps that the first semester resulted in a beefy outline.  When he can’t remember a particular rule, he is actually beginning to refresh his own memory by looking at his 6th Grade Math Outline, instead of requiring me to hold his hand and walk him through it for the umpteenth time.

And the new emphasis on practice is working!  I can tell because I’ve resumed grading.  He even helps me figure out his percentage.  He even took it in stride this week, when he earned a “D.”  Aw, I stink at math, he said.  But he said it in a voice that was only half-serious, praise God.

You do not stink at math, I responded.  You are perfectly average in mathAnd can an average student earn “A’s”?  I asked.

Yes, he answered begrudgingly.

Begrudging may sound like a bad thing to you.  To me–a parent used to lamentations and gnashing of teeth–it sounds like victory.

End note:  If you would like to see the 6th Grade Math Outline, detailing exactly what Older Son has covered thus far, I’m happy to share it in a separate post.  Just let me know!  I would have included it here, but this post has already grown far too long.

Hello

I should be working on my Tech Guy post right now, but the urge to say something on my own turf is too strong to ignore.

I haven’t been writing much here anymore, and the reasons are so myriad that it’s hard to put into words.  First of all, there’s the apathy that comes from realizing we are doomed unless a major correction of some sort.  This apathy has plagued me since the 2012 election.

Then there’s the fact that I write for someone else once a week.  It turns out, my standards are much higher when someone else’s reputation is at stake.  Which means I spend too much time on too few words.  But I’m happy with the arrangement and will continue it.  Frankly, I may have quit blogging altogether without the impetus of a commitment made.

Next is the school situation.  Now, I pulled the boys out of brick-and-mortar way back in aught-diggety-eleven (2011).  Being a chicken, I signed up for Kansas’ virtual school program.  Which was worth the public school baggage, given the fact that it was run by a man whose wife homeschooled their children.

He knew that the social component was important.  Fun Fridays were not to be missed.  Folks from other districts would sign up to his district and drive the distance, because their district simply didn’t have an equivalent program.

But the point is, I wasn’t in charge of the curriculum.  Someone else was.  All I had to do was sign up and follow the schedule.

Our first year in Tampa I signed up for so many private homeschool opportunities, there wasn’t much time to think.  Math was neglected as a result.  It’s pretty easy to neglect the thing that causes the most pain.

This year is really the first in which I have taken full responsibility for the education of my eight and eleven year old boys.

It has been glorious.  With help from the Khan Academy, math results have been positive.  I could write a whole series of posts on the adventures of teaching math, but maybe another time.

The Sonlight curriculum is great for marrying literary material with the history material.  Mostly, though, I have ignored the rest.

That means that it’s up to me.  STEM and TAG classes for both.  Multiplication drills for Younger Son, math problems daily for Older Son, grammar lessons for both, typing and cursive, impromptu vocabulary lessons, whatever reading material they choose, a random geography project, and whatever else crops up.  It’s amazing how much there is to teach and to learn.

Children have a saturation point, unfortunately, and I run up against that point on a regular basis.  Cross that point, fine.  But don’t expect them to absorb a thing.

There’s another important aspect.  Homeschooling is as much an educational endeavor as it is a mission.  Get active, and before you know it, you are coordinating field trips, offering carpooling, and generally looking after the welfare of your community.

Fills up your time quite nicely.

But I just wanted to say hello anyhow.

Hello.

A Follow Up to Educators Gone Wild

Here I am!

Last week’s contribution to Da Tech Guy is a barn burner:  Education Experts Gone Wild!  Since that post, more recent Zero Tolerance Zero Brain idiocies have occurred:

Six Year Old Suspended for Sexual Harassment

10 Year Old Johnny Jones Suspended for Shooting Imaginary Arrow

In searching for the above two links, I found some more cases, but they aren’t new:

Back in 2011, somebody got arrested for burping in school.

Via Reason.com, which has a good list under the tag Zero Tolerance:

An autistic student was suspended for drawing a cartoon bomb. (It’s a pretty good drawing.  Reminds me of Spy v. Spy.)

A high school girl was suspended for driving her brother’s car which unbeknownst to her had a gun stowed inside.

A high school girl was arrested because she rescued a drunk friend from a party.

Say, all this reminds me of the case of the honor roll student who actually told on himself because he suddenly remembered that his unloaded shotgun was in his locked truck the school parking lot.  Expulsion for you!  (At least he got a scholarship to Liberty University scholarship for his troubles.)

And of all things, how could I forget the video of NEA union delegates doing “the wobble?” (Via EAGnews.org)  Apparently, “Wobble” is yet another disgusting, unmelodic rap song that we’d all be better off never hearing.

And finally, I found a website devoted to the unfair suspension stories that “zero tolerance” creates.  It is entirely relevant, but focused specifically on high schools funneling students into the criminal system for minor school infractions.  The video in their latest post is worth watching.

The Sneaking Common Core In Our Schools Act of 2013

My next post is up at Da Tech Guy’s place!

Please do click over to read it.

I will be getting back to additional posts here, soon.  And also visiting my fellow bloggers.

Part of the problem has been the fact my email notifications stopped coming.  Without the email prompt, my OCD-like need to sort didn’t get triggered.  Instead, my procrastinating tendencies set in, and my Instant Gratification Monkey kept leading me elsewhere.  Like to the WaitButWhy blog.

I got on my reader and found that notifications were for some reason blocked.  I unchecked that box and hope to get my email box filled again soon.

Cheers folks.

How to Ensure Every Child Gets a High-Quality Education: A Comparison

The following is my rewording, summarizing, and annotating of a section of the proposed education bill S. 1094.  My version is better, but if you must see the original text, it’s here.

Strengthening America’s Schools Act

Title I:  College and Career Readiness For All Students

Sec. 1001:  The purpose of Title I.  The purpose of this new Title I is ensure every child has a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to get a high-quality education.   That was the purpose of the 1965 education law’s Title I too, but that law didn’t quite reach the goal.  So we’re just tweaking it now.  Totally gonna get it right this time.  After we pass this law, education is going to be All Fixed.  Really.

The old law listed 12 ways to accomplish our totally immeasurable and unobtainable goal.

#1 was all about making sure state standards were challenging and making sure the parents, teachers, and administrators were able to measure progress.

Our new #1 way to accomplish Title I’s purpose:

setting high expectations for children to develop deep content knowledge and the ability to use knowledge to think critically, solve problems, communicate effectively, and collaborate with others, in order to graduate, from high school, college and career ready;”

Isn’t that new language much better? Magic phrases like “deep content knowledge” will definitely help students be college and career ready.  And the best part?  Did you notice who will be setting those high expectations?  We didn’t say it outright; perhaps it’s better left unsaid.  But this is a federal law, so unless stated otherwise it will be administered at the federal level.  Those dumb states, local administrators, teachers ,and parents have had since 1965 after all, and they just aren’t accomplishing the unaccomplishable like we can.

Our new #2 way to accomplish Title I’s purpose:

supporting high-quality teaching to continuously improve instruction and encourage new models of teaching and learning;”

The old #2 was about focusing on the students who have the highest need.  We’ll cover that in #4.  The new #2 will hopefully fool you into thinking we want high-quality teachers, when all we really care about is coming up with new-fangled ways to teach.  See how we cleverly assumed that encouraging something new is de facto going to support high-quality teaching?  Because the newest way is always the best way!

We still like the old #3 way to accomplish our educational goals:  closing achievement gaps.  So we’re keeping the idea and just rewording it.

The old #4 was all about holding States, local school authorities, and schools accountable for education.  Obviously, all that nonsense had to go.  We don’t want to hold them accountable anymore, because we want to take over education at the federal level.

Our new #4 is where we provide additional support to those students who have the highest need.

The old #5 was about providing additional support to the schools and local authorities that need it most.  We don’t want to bother with those middlemen anymore.  We just want to aim our federal laser-like focus directly on the children now.

We want to direct that focus as soon as possible, so here is the New and Improved #5 way to ensure a great education for all:

“providing young children with greater access to high-quality early learning experiences to ensure they enter school ready to learn;”

High quality early learning!

The old #6 and #7 were more song and dance about making states accountable for student achievement, and even worse:  providing greater decision-making authority and flexibility to schools and teachers in exchange for greater responsibility for student performance.

How very 1965.  Deleted!

In the modern era, we are all about removing barriers.  Doesn’t that sound better than boring, old-fashioned accountability and authority?

New #6:

“removing barriers to, and encouraging state and local innovation and leadership in, education based on the evaluation of success and continuous improvement.”

New #7:

“removing barriers and promoting integration across all levels of education. . . .”

“Promoting integration” sounds much nicer than “federal takeover,” doesn’t it?

The old #8 was about enriching and increasing quality instruction time.  Whatevs, we covered all that with our magical “deep content knowledge.” 

So we had to come up with something new.  What’s better than removing barriers, we asked ourselves?  Of course!  Streamlining!

New #8:

streamlining Federal requirements to reduce burdens on States, local educational agencies, schools, and educators;”

So, we kind of let the cat out of the bag by admitting that Federal requirements tend to be a burden.  But we’re totally fixing all that No Child Left Behind bureaucratic mess with an even bigger bureaucracy of our own!

The old #9 used the phrase “scientifically based instructional strategies.”  That phrase has got to go, what with the way we’ve foisted an untested Common Core on most states.  Science, shmience.

New #9:

strengthening parental engagement and coordination of student, family, and community supports to promote student success.”

Our ninth and last way to accomplish our education goals is based on the #12 way from 1965.  Numbers 10 and 11 were just some fluff about professional development and coordinating services.  Since we’ve already explained that we want to promote integration of all levels, coordination is a moot point.  Mostly we are just hoping you don’t know that integration means combining different parts into a single (federally controlled) entity.

Whew!  Well that was fun, but I’m never going to get anywhere on this bill if I keep fisking like this.  I’ll try to make more efficient progress next time.

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