Sunday, October 20, 2013

Common Core

So with all the uproar around here (New York State) about the Common Core, I feel the need to put my two cents in. Those of you who know me, know that one of the main reasons we decided to homeschool was BECAUSE of the common core. I saw that coming, paired with the passing of full day kindergarten and said NO WAY!

The system has been taking away the flexibility and opportunity for teachers to be creative and innovative for years. But THIS is the biggest shackle of them all! My first reaction to the common core was "Why hire me, a teacher with a master's degree, 3 certifications and 17 years of teaching experience? Why not just put this crap on a smartboard and hire someone to monitor behavior?" My second reaction is that it is ridiculous to think that a child in the bayou of Louisiana should be on the same page as a child in New York City. Or that a child living on a horse ranch in Montana should be on the same page as a child in the desert of Yuma Arizona. In fact, it should be ridiculous that IN YOUR OWN HOME TOWN to think that each first grade class should be on the same page at the same time as last year's first grade class, or another teacher's first grade class!

Each group of children is special and unique. They come with their own life stories and experiences, their own unique cultures and family backgrounds, and their own unique ways of learning. This should be celebrated, not squashed!

Then comes the PAPERWORK! Really?! These are 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 year old children. They should NOT be glued to a desk and chair all day. They should not be doing worksheet after worksheet. This country continually asks children to do what their bodies are not developmentally ready for and then we drug them to make them compliant. And for the most part, we as a society have bought into this nonsense and agree with it!

Young children (and not just 3-5 year olds, I'm talking about up to 12 year olds) are meant to learn through their senses, through exploration, trial and error, and DOING! They need to move their bodies continually. They need to touch, taste, smell, hear and feel things. Sadly on top of increasing their sitting time, many schools are turning gym or PE into a writing activity as well. And they are reducing or eliminating recess! And you wonder why there are so many kids labeled with ADD/ADHD or behavior problems?

Then there's this ridiculous 'critical thinking' piece to the common core. I'm sorry but the way you create critical thinkers is to ALLOW them to think! Decades of cramming facts down kids throats to memorize for the test and then forget because it's considered useless information isn't going to create critical thinkers. So you don't fix that by continuing to maintain that same system but add wacky questions that don't make sense, or use words that haven't been used since the time of Shakespeare. Or by just making everything harder.

Add to all of this Teacher Evaluations tied to state test results and what do you get? Teaching to the test and only the test. It used to be that they evaluated us by observing, seeing how we planned lessons, what we planned and how we implemented them. Since the common core is a giant script of what to say, when to say it and what worksheet to hand out with it, I guess evaluating teacher's lesson plans and implementation is pointless. DISGUSTING!And don't blame the teachers. Believe me, every public school teacher I know HATES this!

Finally you should all be suspect of anything that comes from a national or federal level and involves money. Make no mistake that the sweeping integration of the common core in 45 states is due to a big fat paycheck from Uncle Sam!

All in all, education historically goes through shifts and puts people in an uproar. Remember the whole language versus phonics debacle? Kids will adjust, they are flexible. New York has done this a few times in my adult life. What usually happens is this type of thing fails, so they modify it so that the majority can pass, and then the uproar ends. (Remember when Regents was no longer a choice? same thing).

So how do I feel about the Common Core? I pulled my kids out of the system over this (BEFORE it was implemented). What you do is up to you. Just my two cents.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Deschooling? Fact or Fiction?

There is a lot of talk about Deschooling your child when you start homeschooling. For those of you who are not familiar with this term, Deschooling is a process of allowing your child time to get used to life without school. Not much different than detoxifying. I definitely agreed that my children, especially my oldest, would need some time to adjust to our new way of life. BUT I truly thought maybe it would take a few weeks, a month or two at most!

BOY was I wrong! Even in the midst of Deschooling, I was oblivious that it was happening. It appeared that homeschooling life was going to be some struggles and butting heads with my children to get them to participate and show interest in learning. This made me sad. Even though I knew homeschooling was the right choice, that learning by doing was better than worksheets, that freedom was better than the institution, my dream for homeschooling was that my children would CRAVE learning. I was hoping they would seek it out, be eager to learn and participate. Last year that is NOT what happened.

So we get through the year and summer comes. I let it all go. (Mind you we follow mostly an unschooling model - so 'all' is not much). We have a great summer traveling, camping, swimming and playing. September arrives and it's time to start with our schedules again: our weekly co-op, weekly art class, archery, sports etc. WELL......the first day of co-op my children FLY out of bed, are dressed in a flash, sitting at the table ready for breakfast. After they eat they are asking what they should pack up to bring. They are SUPER excited! We get there and they are participating spontaneously. At one point my youngest runs into a room I am in & squeals "First grade is THE BEST!" My oldest is giddy and chatting up a storm telling me all about her day! (usually getting her to talk is like pulling teeth). I got my children some new library books without their input, in an attempt to branch them out a little. This usually receives great resistance. My oldest read one of the books entirely the first day and then ASKS to do a book report!!!!! She HATES to write! My youngest who usually puts up a fight to practice reading is jumping in my husband's lap with her new library book!


I'll tell you. These are my children. The children I knew in my heart of hearts were there. The children I knew that loved learning once upon a time. And after a FULL YEAR of Deschooling......They Are Back!