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Teaching Textbooks Scores

I thought I was finished with discussing homeschooling, but I was wrong. As my spouse sells our material, she cannot get rid of Teaching Textbooks, and the reason she is told are the test scores. Apparently, the scores have dropped. This leads me to wonder if it is the parent and child and not the curriculum. Here is why I think this.

My sons switched to Teaching Textbooks (TT) beginning with algebra. Prior to this, my sons used Saxon Math, a very nice curriculum for the lower maths, but not very impressive for the upper level. We tackled Algebra I with Teaching Textbooks and carried on through to Pre-Calculus. How did my sons do?

On the standardized test, my youngest score perfect scores in math. My sons scored very high on the SAT for math and one had the option to test out of math for college. Taking calculus at the major university as an early to college student, the lowest grade was a B, and I blame my oldest for his attitude and not applying himself. In fact, I would say only 2 B+’s were worst grades my sons achieved at the university. This is a total of 6 or 8 math classes. Forgive if I forget how many the oldest had taken as he has just graduated from college. This data does not fit well with the idea of Teaching Textbooks producing poor testing scores.

We had one demand on my sons with TT as well as the other curriculum. They had to complete ALL of the problems for math. Work had to be shown and explained if required. All problems that were incorrect had to be reworked until correct. Any major issue in comprehension meant that WE, parent and child, went over the lesson and problems. This meant 50+ problems had to be done each day and corrected each day. We did this with Saxon math as well.

Going from verifiable data to anecdotal or information provided to me by parents, the child never did all of the problems and few if any corrected what was wrong. The parent may have gone over the problem instead of having the child redo it. I do not think this is the primary issue as I believe parents do the same with other curricula. TT provided an out for the parent whereas other curricula do not. The child doesn’t require the parent as the solutions to the homework and tests can be viewed by the child without the parent being present. THIS is the major flaw and it is on the parent! Parents routinely allow their child freedom to do use the answer keys to check their work without the parent’s supervision. Doing this does not allow for an understanding of the material. It is a common theme amongst homeschooling parents to allow their child to educate themselves whenever possible. TT is viewed as a digital instructor where no parent is needed. That is the flaw.

Of course, this is my opinion based on the limited data I have, but it should be considered as a potential reason for TT’s failure in the test score realm. Parents are limited on time, especially the larger families, and this allows for shortcuts to be taken. These shortcuts hurt the education of a child. TT allowed the parent to believe they could effectively shortcut their parental-educator role. The solution is for the parent to become involved with the education.

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This is the End

April 19, 2018 Leave a comment

We or I should say “the main educator” was going through our homeschool room cleaning out the room. I would venture to guess thousands of dollars worth of homeschool items were being reviewed and sorted as we began our decluttering of homeschool material. The numerous books, language courses, math texts, and science-related material were bringing back memories and the “Oh, I remember that, now. We never used it.” It was a culmination of over ten years homeschooling that we were cleaning out.

Our humble beginning began when a school teacher recommended ADHD drugs to my wife for use with my oldest son. The only knowledge I had of homeschoolers was some old 70s movie and a 60 minutes episode talking about those crazy people. Other than buying into the media’s version of who these people were, I never gave it a thought until I came home from Colorado and was told we were homeschooling. My response to my lovely wife was, “Okay.” She was persuasive in her own right, but the issue of drugs upset me. My family isn’t the first to encounter the standard school indoctrination issue. Also weighing on me was this same teacher telling me to NOT teach my son mathematics because he was “too far ahead of the class and needed to slow down.” Our parent-teacher meeting was not very friendly and I was not going to be bullied by a woman that is too lazy and hate teaching (Another story). In as kind of a way as I could, I told her where she could go and that I would continue to educate my son. He paid a price.

I must say that I was naive about homeschooling as I was told of unschooling and how you only teach a student for three hours which amounts to the same as a public school. My sons and I took a field trip on our first day of school together as I had no clue what to do. Thankfully, I had my wife who was organized and planned out the path we as a family would take.  I became the principal, Severus Snape, the evil headmaster, Mr. Wizard (Gotta go way back for that reference), and several other instructors. As Mr. Wizard indicates, they were all antagonists to my sons. My niche became the evaluator of the curriculum which meant I went to homeschool shows and talked with those selling items.

I learned quickly that most children do not do well teaching themselves, so you had to understand your child’s method of learning. Unfortunately for my family, my sons were different learner which meant different material at times. Science and math were my things, and you could sucker me with neat science experiments, however, I bought from established companies and not the Mom and Pop sellers. History was another area of expertise, but this did not translate well as my sons did not enjoy history. Go figure. They can’t be mine.

What developed in our family was a closeness where our education was year round and vacations were education oriented. We would go to a talk at the local historical society about a figure in history and then go visit relatives with the primary focus on visiting the site of the where the figure had an impact on history. It was also easier to go to a sporting event on a weeknight and get home late. My sons could sleep in.

It was not all wine and roses as my sons could be difficult. Think of being the husband arriving home to a frustrated spouse, obstinate son, and the thought that work was the better place. I never mastered the idea of what I was supposed to do when I came home. I got used to eating in a small place at the table surrounded by experiments and even the smells of unfinished dissections. Struggling with a stubborn child could be frustrating. We still find occasional notes in the math texts my oldest wrote about me. See where the Snape reference comes in?

We held a huge fear that we were not doing enough and were failing in our educating of our children. There was a constant question of our effectiveness even though all indications said otherwise. Even as my oldest come close to graduating from college this May, we won’t confirm a success until he is holding that degree. How could you brag about your child knowing that they will fail? Our children’s success was an affirmation of not only what we did but the fact we did the right thing.

As we went through the various curriculum in the room and reviewed the old posterboards, papers, and whatever else our children wrote on, smiles came out like a bloom after a Spring rain. We chuckled and remembered everything with fondness recognizing it was hard work but work worth doing. These items had served their purpose and some of them, hopefully, will help others as we decide what to sell and toss out. For me, the memories brought some sadness as I missed much of the experience while working.

This curriculum and documents are an affirmation of the work my family willingly performed in order that my oldest can graduate and go to graduate school in the science filed and my youngest can go to a university with a scholarship. Soon we will have only memories and a few mementos as we finish cleaning the room. Even this blog will finish its transition from homeschooling to some other activity. Our fifteen or so years of homeschooling was an overwhelming success in so many ways. We went from going into the unknown to the enlightenment with homeschooling. We chose a tough path but the rewards were worth the effort. I have reached the last page of a book that had no title. I encourage others to take on that book with no title and create the title as you will not regret it.

They’re Out There

February 26, 2018 Leave a comment

As a soon to be former homeschooler, I am surprised at the number of homeschoolers my sons encounter in the collegiate world. I know the local homeschoolers that interacted with my sons while in their high school year, but beyond this period it becomes difficult to track. The reality for homeschoolers is that there are those just like your children going to college.

As my youngest struggles to select the correct school for himself, I have been discovering something hidden and apparently unique but isn’t. There are homeschoolers at the collegiate level and plenty of them. Oh, they are succeeding, too! They are not always obvious until a discussion of what high school do you attend is asked. The homeschooled college student speaks up and conveys a sense of assurance to the prospective undergraduate. Three of the universities my youngest has visited have a sizeable population of homeschoolers.

My oldest has found, through his education at the university, a number of homeschoolers. One of which is looking towards medical school upon graduation. These homeschoolers are not found in the Liberal Arts fields but in the world of science and engineering. These students are not just struggling to get by, they are blowing past some of their peers. The science professors are fully aware of these students and have accepted them based on the students’ academics.

All of these former homeschoolers range from freshmen to seniors with many considering graduate schools. This anecdotal evidence is proof that homeschooling can succeed if done correctly. Heck, I know of a young man that graduated from Montana State University and is highly regarded at his workplace. If you are concerned as to whether or not homeschooling will work, just keep in mind of those that may be preceding you.

Yes, I have 3 months before I become a former homeschooler. This amounts to 14 years of homeschooling, and the Educator and I are at a loss of what to do, especially her. There is a sense of loss when your children have grown up and are ready to leave the nest. That nest has gotten much larger and quieter and lonelier.

 

Success of Homeschooling

January 8, 2018 Leave a comment

My youngest is now finishing the last half of the senior year while the oldest is finishing the last semester of a college career. These two have been homeschooled for most if not all of their life. There were predictions of how they would turn out and most were negative. In fact, I would venture to guess that most if not all homeschooling families have encountered opposition to homeschooling.

When our decision to pull my oldest out of school and homeschool was made, the teachers and principal notified us of how we would “ruin our child.” We were told of how backward our child would be. Our child would amount to nothing and be rather stupid. We were viewed as horrible parents who secluded our child from the world. Our oldest would be destroyed based on our decision to homeschool him after a horrible several years experience at a school.

My youngest never had the opportunity to go to school. The idea of destroying this child was prevalent within the community we associated with. School teachers told me of how my son wouldn’t learn anything and how public school was so much better. My youngest was ostracized by the public school families as these parents looked down upon my youngest. He was destined to be the second failure in our family and a lost cause to society.

How did it turn out? Are my two children ruined? Is my oldest finishing up some cheap online degree from a no-name school because he cannot handle a “real” college? This private university with an endowment of $88 million and some 5,500 plus students is not some no-name school. It sits within the top 10 of the Parents and Colleges ranking. It is in the top 100 colleges worth considering. Not that I buy these rankings, but it shows that my oldest goes to what is considerd a worthwhile school and is “earning” his degree in chemistry. Yes, that is right. He is earning his degree with a current 3.84 gpa. He has been accepted to graduate school from multiple major universities.

What about my youngest? He is attending a major university for his second year and holds a 4.0 gpa at the university as a high school student at this school. His SAT was higher than any of the averages of the local high schools. He has taken calculus, biology, and upper-level college courses. Nine classes are taken and nothing less than an A. He is currently deciding what university he would like to attend next fall.

What do you think? Are my children failures? Has homeschooling destroyed them? I would say no! Academically, they have succeeded beyond all naysayers expectations. So, what about their social skills? Obviously, they are socially awkward and cannot function within society?

My oldest is giving a presentation at some event this spring and is favored by underclassmen for the classes he’s a lab assistant. He has many friends who are not homeschooled. He talks to strangers and interacts with them, too! He used his social skills for applying to graduate school, working, and many other things. He has dated young ladies without any issues.

As for my youngest, he is very active with his friends at the university. He has a friend from Pakistan as well as others from different parts of the country. He is not short on the activities he involves himself in at the school and outside of the school. He was capable enough to perform in front of an audience.

Even though I cannot go into too much detail about my sons and their social life, I have given enough evidence to show that my sons function in society. Now they do not pick on or make fun of people because of the societal disposition concerning what is normal. The treat everyone with respect and are eager to help those in need.

Is homeschooling a success for my family? Yes! The same can be found with many other families. In fact, had we not homeschooled my sons, I doubt if my oldest would be in college or my youngest would be out of trouble. I do not necessarily blame public school as much as I blame parents, but the influences found in public schools can be very detrimental towards our children.

For anyone struggling with homeschooling, take this post as proof that you can succeed and your children can succeed. If you are wondering if you should homeschool but are afraid homeschooling does not produce success, then keep this post in mind. Ignore the naysayers and trust yourself. It is a lot of hard work but the effort is worth it and success will follow. The success of your child is based on you, the parent, and not the naysayers.

We are finished with our homeschooling years and I won’t say it was easy. In fact, it was trying at times and even expensive at times for us, however, this was a sacrifice we were willing to take. We held a constant fear that we were not doing a good enough job with our children. I want to belay the homeschooling family’s fear of not doing a good enough job. You are doing a nice job of homeschooling.

Schooling Through The Summer

August 18, 2017 Leave a comment

Last June, I was in a discussion about education and having school year round. The parent’s thought was that it would be beneficial to her son’s education as their school was implementing some type of system to maintain students year round. Is this necessary? There are a few reasons why I believe year round education to be not worth the effort and a poor idea, but am I missing something?

The common argument I hear is that students lose so much over the summer to the point that teachers must spend a considerable amount of time reviewing what was taught the year before. How accurate is this assessment? I’ll take a look at several subjects and analyze them.

The first is history. Some schools do not teach history on a linear basis or chronological basis. There is some jumping around in the realm of history, therefore, what teacher reviews the previous school year’s history? If we look at how history is taught at the high school level, we immediately see that it is nothing more than a cursory coverage. While in graduate school alongside school teachers, the common statement was how little students know about the Civil War and even the Second World War! Do you think any of these children know about the War of 1812? Asiatic history is fully ignored and with understandable reason. The majority of the American population is European based so no one will recall the Imjin War or the multiple Chinese dynasties. Even South America is blank for Americans as few to none know who Simón Bolívar was. Certainly, no one recalls the first successful slave revolt in Haiti. They definitely wouldn’t know that there were black slave owners on Haiti at the time, too.

My point is that history at this level is too superficial and disjointed to require any summary. Another point is that our method of teaching history is so dull that students forget the history shortly after the knowledge is no longer required for exams. Another factor to consider is that there are people that simply do not enjoy history. I love history, but I will fail to recall certain historical topics that I have no interest about. Even going to school year-round will not help the student accumulate a wider knowledge of history as it is just too much and it continues to add up every day. We can say the argument fails. Even the idea of having more time for history fails as little is gained.

What about the sciences? We are talking chemistry, physics, biology, and the other types of sciences taught. Again, these subjects, though related, are not related in educational terms. If a student fails to remember water is made of 2 parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, it won’t hurt the student in physics or biology or even the study of clouds. The argument is even flimsier than when applied to history. When I dissected a frog, I had no need of how to balance chemical equations, how to determine acceleration or force, or what types of clouds there are.

What about English, do students lose something? Yes, students lose something, but this is less of forgetting and more that the instructor couldn’t teach. If you learn the fundamentals and understand them, you are more likely to retain them. Having a review reaffirms what has been learned. The review helped to solidify the foundation of what has been learned. You build upon what you learn but the vast majority of students have not been properly taught as it is tedious and rather dull. My sons have had their summers off and never struggled with reading, writing, and understanding the basics of English. What difficulties they had fell to my spouse and me as we did not educate them properly.

I have saved my favorite for last. Mathematics. This is a field that is similar to English. Again, I find fault with the original argument. Students do fail to recall elements of math after the summer and do need a review. Is the argument correct for this? Yes and no. Any of us that studied math should be able to attest that we forgot what we learned at the beginning of the course as we neared the end. Students go to school continually from late August to early June and yet, students forget much of what they learned in the fall. If you look at certain math programs, extra problems are built into each chapter that review previous chapters, why? Without continual practice, a student who does not understand the fundamentals will forget. How does learning math year round help? It doesn’t. You will need a review period or increase the homework, even more, to accommodate what was taught six or eight months ago. If the instructor properly teaches the students then the review becomes less necessary.

I will openly admit my sons forget elements of their math as they didn’t understand the concepts taught. In fact, they would fight me when I tried getting them to understand trig functions through deriving them. Once you understand how something is developed or calculated, you are less likely to forget it. Sadly for many out there, math requires an understanding of the concepts taught and practice problems to reinforce.

This isn’t a comprehensive review, but it does show how unnecessary going to school year round is. Our educational failings are with our school districts and those teaching. They are failing our students and money has nothing to do with this. It is how we apply our education strategies as schools and teachers. To continue with schooling through the summer is an expensive effort with little reward. The student is going to gain almost three months of what knowledge? It is a nice idea to think of how much more our children will learn, but if the process is inefficient, to begin with, how will a few extra months help? I do not the value exceeding the overall cost of educating year-round.

Socialization Through Social Media

February 24, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve discussed social media in various forms in the past, but this was based on a short timeline. After almost ten years of allowing and monitoring my sons on social media sites and Xbox, I have arrived at a conclusion that has defied my original thoughts. On our way home, my soon to be former-educator and I talked about how social media, particularly Xbox, has affected our children and their socializing skills.

Socialization continues to be the biggest concern with skeptics of homeschooling. Knowing a few college professors whose wives homeschool, they constantly worry about their child’s social skills. We have been contacted on a number of occasions about how well-adjusted our sons are. We live in a rural area with little opportunity to have a strong connection with homeschool groups without placing much energy and effort into it. One homeschool group required us to be a member of their church otherwise, they would shun us even though we were included for a short time. Very Christian of them, don’t you think? Those belonging to our religious faith were an hour away. Our options were limited. We had a long drive to a group, sports, scouting, and other clubs that my sons would enjoy.

All of these options have pros and cons. Scouting wasn’t for one son while sports didn’t work the for the other. The long distance homeschool group worked on a partial scale, but the distance became prohibitive. There were local friends, though not numerous enough and this required a lot of work as well. When you are not going to the same school, the relationship begins to whither. The public school begins to distort the friendships as the negatives of public school bring out the worst in our youth. I do not especially blame the school system for it has more to do with parents, teachers, and our society’s belief that our youth are capable of thinking and acting like adults. Our public schools are hurting our children simply for the fact it is a conduit for the new societal laziness in giving our youth too much responsibility in decisions and sensitivities. This is worth another post with studies showing my point. This is where social media steps in.

Social media is like any other tool or option. It is only as good as you allow it to be. As a parent, if you do not monitor, social media becomes evil while if you over-monitor you become the issue. It is a balancing act. I hate Facebook, but I joined in order to monitor my children. Yes, I have twitter and a few other accounts that I hardly if ever use. Why? I am a parent, and it is my job to regulate and censor if need be. This is no different than me being visible at their scouting and sports functions. I do not let other people raise my children. Another aspect is the strict adherence to respect for other people that are expected of my sons whether online or in person. They understand that people are special and treating them with kindness goes a long way to helping that individual.

The biggest mode of media is Xbox, Minecraft, Runescape, Instagram, and Tumblr. The gentlemen use smartphones, computers, and the Xbox as the pathway. It is by my family law that I have free access to all of their work. This method may not be perfect for items can be deleted before I view, but it does send a message to my sons that I am involved and do care. Being an active parent is the biggest part of social media success. I have rules of no pictures on Facebook or personal information, though I can’t stop others from providing or fully stop my sons should they choose to do so. How has the social media worked?

You do get bullying, but this is found more prevalently in public schools and in the streets. There is no change. What I have discovered are the international relationships that have been developed from friends in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Sweden, and other countries to even the national friendships. Friendships wane as they become incompatible, and older friendships have been the most beneficial, though I closely monitor that. The older friends, when properly selected, have protected my sons in situations of language, sex, and other inappropriate situations. This new style of relationships is alien to me as I grew up with the face to face relationship. The relationships between groups of friends are monitored and more democratic than what I saw on the sports field or scouting. Adults have less control over the social media youth, which allows them to grow. Xbox, Minecraft, and Runescape have been one of the largest positives in my family in terms of socialization. Through Minecraft, my oldest learned the failures of socialism and how it evolves into totalitarianism (again, another topic). My youngest finds joy in helping new people as does my oldest.

Downsides come from those with issues such as the young girl whose parents do not care about her, and now she exhibits suicidal thoughts or the parents that do not monitor their child’s activities. I see that and read it. I’m known as a stalker in the family because I research these potentially influencing people. Who are they? What is their intent? My sons, now older, are too inexperienced in life and wisdom to always make the correct decision, so that is where I, a parent, come in. It is my job to counsel them on mitigating the negative influences. There are those out there to corrupt our youth, and they will provide pornographic links often time specializing in homosexuality. How do I know? I am a parent and I monitor as well as educate my children.

My sons have developed some long term friendships with people from different countries. They have not met, but they sing, talk, discuss personal issues, and help each other solves problems without ever being face to face. The make fun of each other, pick on each other, care for each other, and are there for each other. Socialization has been a key component of being online, but what makes it successful is my allowing it to grow. I accepted the negatives and work to mitigate them, but I won’t limit my sons to access the world simply for the fact I don’t understand. One thing that surprises many parents is that I have no time requirement for my children. I have let them play ten hours and have asked them to stop after two. What I notice is they are never sneaking when the privilege is lost unlike many of my friends that have strict time limits. We have rules, but these are rules within a standard family construct and does not target online activities. Online socialization does not work under an hour. Sometimes it takes hours.

As a means of socialization, the internet through social media is very useful. I continue to encourage face to face relationships but do not shy away from electronic relationships. When a child states that social media has kept him sane, then there must be something good. I do not know what the studies will show in the future about our online interactions, even though there are early studies out showing some concern. I do know that a healthy dose of face to face and online relationships are very healthy for socialization skills. Our children NEED both. If there are two takeaways for homeschooling parents or any parents, it is these: Be a parent and monitor your child’s activities and do not stifle their social media exploration. You fail as a parent when you place unreasonable constraints or do not monitor your children.

 

Riding a Bike

November 3, 2016 Leave a comment

When our second son began to take college courses this fall, we were a little apprehensive about this. He is actually a very bright young man, and this, naturally, was not our concern. Compared to his older brother, we considered our youngest to be the most likely to fail. His older brother has the perseverance that the younger one does not. Failure could destroy the confidence of our youngest and  his anxiety about the upcoming classes had us concerned.

You see, when our first son began taking classes, we were prepared to let him go but continue to monitor from a safe distance. Well, we discovered how that went. His grades would suffer below what we thought he was capable of. Okay, I’m considered less realistic when I expect all A’s. When I actively engaged our son and became a part of his college life, the grades improved. I was Moses during the fight. As long as my arms were up, my son did well, but when I lowered them his grades suffered. God made a poor selection in me. I am the least worthy and capable of this type of task, but I was the only one left in the bullpen, I guess. The reality was that our oldest son was immature and not ready for a full-time schedule let alone two or three courses. His first two years as an official college student was one of weeping and gnashing of teeth. No longer could I be the direct influence upon my son. Though he did well, he also struggled. His junior year has been his wake up year as maturity takes hold.

Our oldest son’s experience weighed us down with our youngest, and the anxiety our youngest had was not helping. Another factor was how my oldest relayed to his brother his study habits. He NEVER read any of his books! All that money we spent on those books! The oldest is an audio learner and does well when the professors actually can teach. He struggles when they can’t and must rely on Youtube for supplemental learning or directly talk to the professor. Our youngest is a different type of learner. He is not as curious as his older brother and does rely on audio learning. His distaste for reading worried us as well, for this was one of the main ways he needed in order to learn.

We are in our third month of the semester, and my youngest son is actually doing great. The first two months were spent by my wife and me supporting our youngest son. He was given leeway on his chores and other tasks. Once he got his firm footing, he was off and running, and unlike his brother, I am not as attached to his college coursework. This doesn’t mean I won’t be a part of it. For the next two years, I will be a support person for my son and maybe even the first two years of his official college life.

As homeschooling parents, my wife and I have recognized that our sons learn differently and require different needs. This is true with all youths. For our sons to succeed on their own, we need to be like the parent teaching their child to ride a bike. We hover around the child as they wobble on the bike and let them go once they achieve the balance needed to ride a bike. This is something I think all parents need to recognize. Our children or young adults need our parental assistance even when we or they think they are on their own. I no longer follow my older son’s coursework. He is riding on his own. My youngest is beginning to learn to ride. My wife and I will surround him until he, too, masters the balance needed for life. We are the first lines of defense against failure.