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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.

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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.

Sanitized History

October 11, 2016 Leave a comment

I have noticed that many homeschoolers have talked about using traditional history book whether they are textbooks or book written years ago. They do not like or approve of the history being pushed to the American public today. There are claims made about modern history stating it is incorrect or wrongly portrays events. This new history demonizes America and fosters a hatred towards certain groups. Are past history books better than the current history being taught?

I recall in my youth learning history through the bland textbooks the schools provided. I also recall the history books in the ill-funded libraries. What made these books and history in general so dull was the simple fact these histories were sanitized. As a youth, President Kennedy was pure and perfect. George Washington’s biggest flaw was the folklore of chopping down a cherry tree. When slavery was presented with Washington, he became a kind and gentle soul who emancipated his slaves, after his death. Much of this history has been called patriotic history. How valid is this history?

Sorry to say homeschoolers that past history books are horrible. These books present an unrealistic past that glosses over the horrors of man, and in some cases outright lies about the past. What African slave was truly happy that they were a slave under the dominion of a kind master? Sorry, but there are plenty of books out there describing the misery these slaves endured. The perception of blacks being slow and unintelligent was a purposeful propaganda begun in the late 19th century to keep down the black population. Even our treatment of the Indians has been sanitized. We allow disease to wipe these people out, and portray most if not all of the horrendous treatment of colonial people to Indians. These past histories perpetuates myths and lies.

A second reason why past history books are flawed is the simple fact they are outdated. History is full of discoveries. I recall growing up while being taught the Norsemen visiting North America was a myth. How wrong we are. We now understand how the Danes migrated to Britain. Through discoveries, we are able to correct history that we got wrong. New discoveries of hidden facts alter the history we know. We have learned much about Jamestown in the last twenty years that any book or article before, say 1990, is likely to be wrong. Archaeology done on battlefields have change how the victors and losers portrayed what happened. The past may be static, but history is ever changing.

Are modern histories correct? The old history books portray a biased viewpoint based on the period. At the end of the 19th and early 20th century, historians would represent Indians in negative terms such as calling them savages. There was a view of white superiority based on how Europe conquered that looked down upon the Chinese, Japanese, and other cultures. These attitude permeate many of these books. If the old possessed this bias then it stands to be that modern history has the same types of attitudes. Yes, modern history is as flawed as ever and grossly over-represents the negatives of people like Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other characters of history. Like their past, modern historians make the characters of history one-dimensional and bland. Slave owners become the cartoonish, evil character we see in movies like Die Hard or the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Columbus is portrayed so one-dimensionally in history, now, that he becomes a mythical evil creature like Jason, Alien, or other unrealistic monsters. The minorities or down trodden become one-dimensional as well as their sufferings they must overcome makes them the comical heroes that, again, we see in bad movies, or they are tragic characters that we are forced to relate to as their humanity is taken away for the effect desired more so than their being.

Sanitization works two ways. One method makes history pure and wholesome while the other side makes history evil and corrupt. Today’s history does have a tendency to portray the worst in people and nations in order to try to balance a mythical problem. Today’s history must accept that people can be good and bad. It cannot focus on one element in order point out what was missed. It must be even keeled.

Modern history is the best option with a very healthy dose of skepticism. When history begins to describe the attributes of the character in a one-dimensional way, then allow skepticism to take over. Humans are flawed characters where they can do acts of bravery, kindness, sympathy, and empathy while often portraying the worst that can be imagined. History is at its best when we do not trim a section we do not like or do not focus on one aspect. If history is too good to be true or too terrible, then doubt its validity.

Paint.Net

September 27, 2016 1 comment

As the family winds down the homeschooling lifestyle, there is one program that I continue to be thankful for, and this is Paint.Net (http://Getpaint.net). 2004 was the initial release which coincides the time we began homeschooling. Actually, I think we started schooling a year before this program came out.

Paint.net is a free download that allows you to alter images or create images. There are add-ins to improve the capability of the program, and once you play with it for a while, it becomes a great program to use. At one time, you used to be able to download the code, in C# I believe. For what I used it for, the program was great for homeschooling.

Porfolios were a must where we live, and our family constructed as nice of portfolios as we could. We took pride in educating our sons, and the portfolios were are a part of that pride. I altered images or fixed imperfect images and created artwork to apply to the portfolios. As you can see, the portfolio was the main purpose of this program, though occasionally I used Paint.net on photos that I took. I never really did much graphical artwork with the program, but it could work with it.

If you are looking for a cheap graphics editor, then this program may be worth a shot. Having this program can’t hurt, since it is free. If you don’t like it, you can easily remove it.

Categories: Homeschool, Software Tags: ,

Praise

The power of praise works! I am built on criticism and not praise. My expertise, if it is so lofty, is critiquing an event or person’s actions. Coaching sports, I was able to point out what a player was doing wrong and provide corrections. Most of us are critiquers, too. (I should say critics, but…) The polar to criticism, praise, can be very effective and maybe better.

As an aging graduate, my confidence entering graduate school wasn’t the highest. My attitude was, if I do poorly then I know and nothing lost other than tuition. If I do okay or better, I’ll play along until I fail. Get the idea of my confidence? My age and experience also allowed me to be pessimistic, since a graduate degree isn’t likely going to improve my station in life. The lackadaisical approach works well with my situation. As my classes became more numerous, a change happened with me. What was more interesting are the professors I encountered.

I have had seven or eight professors. Most I would say are knowledgeable. Okay, they all should be but that is another post – why you don’t have to be smart to have a PhD. My confidence and grades fluctuated with the professor I had. One would assume that the worse I did the harder and the undergraduate idea of meaner the professor was. That was not the case. Harder didn’t mean worse and easier/not as brilliant didn’t give a better grade. (NOTE: what I mean by brilliant is how the professor is able to catch short-cuts and such. Yes, you can get one past professors.) What I discovered was their response to me directly affected my grade and confidence.

My most difficult professor was my favorite. She inspired me and was critical of my work. I did get the worst score with her and the highest with her. In the subject where she was an expert, I received high praise for my work. What did she do? Well, she did point out my errors which were embarrassing for me, but the biggest thing was her praise of my work and the positive criticism she provided. When I was at my lowest, she took a moment to send me an email and give me the moral support I needed. What I did was try to excel to not only meet her expectations but to please her. I went the full mile to learn and achieve. Yes, she provided criticism, but it was not the primary interaction. I honestly try to emulate her methods of criticism and praise.

One professor was my worst. He isn’t a bad guy. He wasn’t positive with me and was rather insulting in an unintentional way. Indeed, the class he taught was one I was most knowledgeable in, and I was looking forward to this class. I ended up dreading and hating the topic. What happened? For starters, he was quite negative about my work. He would state that he quit recording certain errors because there were too many and went on to criticize something else. He was right. I made my typical errors, but he offered nothing else; no constructive criticism. It was coming to the point where I would think, why try? I easily predicted which fellow classmates would drop out. I never received praise and felt any positive image about myself from him. He drained the enthusiasm from me.

Other professors are somewhere in between. My current professor provides a positive impact with me by complimenting and pointing out the positives. Now there are the negative criticisms, but these are not emphasized and do not bring me down. He is succeeding with his students by his method of criticism through praise. He is inspiring us to look at our mistakes as well as the good parts of our work. This method makes you want to excel and succeed.

When we instruct our youth, we need to be mindful of how we criticize. Everyone makes mistakes. They know when the screw up. What they don’t know is how close they are to succeeding. A few kind, supportive, and helpful words may be enough for the youth to get up and succeed. Everybody will fail and everybody can succeed. Why don’t we place a positive spin on failure and help them along. Don’t worry, they’ll do the work to succeed.

Quick Post About Education

My experience with other homeschool families has been educational to me. I see the front they put up while listening to the clues the provide about educating their children. In many respects they are no different than me, but there is a trend with many that I think is folly.

When it comes to education at home, reading tends to get overworked, and this is a good thing. You can never read too much. Sadly, this is a 50-50 deal with some families involved in cyber school or using a school based curriculum with history textbooks. These two groups generally do not read as much as other types. Being partial to reading, I believe they do not read enough.

History is one area where some families use outdated beliefs from older books whose information was based on the knowledge of the time. The facts of history may not change, but our interpretation and understanding of history does. Sometimes we need to update a little. Another aspect of history I have notice is how patchy the historical knowledge is. Often times European history is covered, and it is hit and miss at best. Even our own American history is flawed as we use outdated ideas and history that was concocted based on lies in order for one group to justify their actions. Yes, I’m talking about the Lost Cause’rs.

Finally, the one subject I stress the most but see little effort with most homeschool families I have associated with, and this is mathematics. It is seldom stressed or emphasized at home. The children are left to skirt the edges of mathematics and not develop the strong foundation required for engineering or the sciences. It is my belief that many of these parents are uncomfortable with this subject. In larger families, parents seldom have the time to immerse themselves in the subject in order to provide the necessary support for the youth. For others, it is a matter of confidence especially if they thought of themselves as having poor math skills. The solution is to start the math from the beginning with your child and re-learn it. It is not as difficult as one may think, and the parent will do their child justice. As much as I like Khan Academy or the many YouTube videos, they are better utilized as pieces to assist in the learning and not the main form of learning. A parent sitting next to the youth is more helpful than the online work.

My recommendation to parents is to put time into your child’s learning in the attempt to maximize your child’s learning. As they get older, it is understandable and helpful to begin to distance yourself, but remember the parent is still the safety net. When a child meets resistance to their learning, they will take the path of least resistance and learn nothing. It is difficult being a parent who homeschools, but we accepted the challenge and responsibilities when we made the decision to homeschool.