Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up, week 83, at Mom Is Teaching

Summer Minor is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at her blog Mom Is Teaching.

As many are gearing up to go back to full time homeschooling, Summer Minor suggests we take stock and have a physical. She sorts the many posts into categories like listening to your heartbeat, testing your reflexes, getting enough exercise, and so on.

As summer is drawing to a close, go check out the carnival and learn from others on how to improve your homeschooling.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Monday, July 30, 2007

Gesturing at math problems makes the learning process three times more effective

A friend told me about the ScienceDaily mailing list. Each week I get an email with a list of links to recent articles about the latest research news. To join, go here.

This week's email had a list to an article titled Hand Gestures Dramatically Improve Learning. Some researchers found that children who were "asked to physically gesture at math problems are nearly three times more likely than non-gesturers to remember what they've learned."

It sort of sounds like Thomas Armstrong's book Multiple Intelligence, but the study here found that gestures helped most of the children.

Maybe as teach our chlidren, we need to have them be more physically active.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

A benefit to homeschooling: your daughters won't co-ruminating

Dr. Helen wrote about an interesting study in Is Too Much Girl Talk too Much of a Good Thing? A study found "that girls who complain about their problems were at greater risk of developing anxiety and depression."

Public school supports often worry about homeschoolers missing out on socialization. It is always put forward that public school has such great benefits for socialization. The truth is children in public schools are teaching each other how to be social, rather than learning from adults good social responses. The children are not doing a good job.

From Dr. Helen's post:

"A researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia has found that girls who talk very extensively about their problems with friends are likely to become more anxious and depressed."

Studies like these reinforce our belief that homeschooling is a great choice.

(Hat tip: PalmPilot Pundit.)

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

250% Increase in use of antipsychotic drugs on children

Scary, scary numbers.

The 'atypical' dilemma

More and more, parents at wit's end are begging doctors to help them calm their aggressive children or control their kids with ADHD. More and more, doctors are prescribing powerful antipsychotic drugs.

Is it the parents or is it the schools who are asking for meds?

More and more, she said, they get referrals from the school system for disruptive kids. Parents tell her that the school has told them their children need to be put on psychiatric medication before they can come back - even though state law specifically forbids that.

The numbers are frightening.

In the past seven years, the number of Florida children prescribed such drugs has increased some 250 percent. Last year, more than 18,000 state kids on Medicaid were given prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs.

Even children as young as 3 years old. Last year, 1,100 Medicaid children under 6 were prescribed antipsychotics, a practice so risky that state regulators say it should be used only in extreme cases.

Medicaid? It looks like they are using children on welfare as guinea pigs.

These numbers are just for children on fee-for-service Medicaid, generally the poor and disabled. Thousands more kids on private insurance are also on antipsychotics.

Almost entirely driving this spiraling trend is the rise of a class of antipsychotic drugs called atypicals.

These drugs emerged in the 1990s and replaced the older, "typical" antipsychotics like Haldol or Thorazine, which are often associated with Parkinson-like shakes.

The atypicals were developed to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adults. But once on the market, doctors are free to prescribe them to children, and for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

What are they thinking?

There is almost no research on the long-term effects of such powerful medications on the developing brains of children. The more that researchers learn, the less comfortable many are becoming with atypicals.

Initially billed as wonder drugs with few significant side effects, evidence is mounting that they can cause rapid weight gain, diabetes, even death.

Why continue to use such dangerour drugs? Follow the money.

They're also expensive. On average last year, it cost Medicaid nearly $1,800 for each child on atypical antipsychotics. In the last seven years, the cost to taxpayers for atypical antipsychotics prescribed to children in Florida jumped nearly 500 percent, from $4.7-million to $27.5-million.

Medicaid and insurance companies have fed the problem, encouraging the use of psychiatric drugs as they reimburse less and less for labor-intensive psychotherapy and occupational therapy.

Another factor: Doctors have been influenced by pharmaceutical companies, which have aggressively marketed atypicals.

You would like to think a doctor would not base a diagnosis on marketing, but you would be wrong.

A recent New York Times analysis of those records found that doctors who took the most money from makers of atypicals tended to prescribe the drugs to children the most.

Here's another horrifying data point.

Using stimulant medications for ADHD should be "rare" for kids younger than 4, the guidelines state, "and only after a failed behavioral intervention such as parent training." Last year, 367 toddlers 3 and younger were prescribed ADHD medications.

Cavitt said 3-year-olds put on psychotropic medications typically are autistic, mentally retarded or brain injured. They are extremely self-injurious or physically aggressive to others, he said.

Robert Whitaker, a journalist and author of the book Mad in America, says there is no circumstance where it makes sense to prescribe an antipsychotic drug to a 3-year-old.

"It is not a scientific use of drugs," Whitaker said. "It is an experiment. There is no data showing that they are helpful in a 3-year-old kid. None. Zero. Zip."

The whole article is worth a look.

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Carolyn makes a great point about the requirements for homeschooling

At Guilt-Free Homeschooling Carolyn addresses the misconception that you have to be smart to homeschool. Some parents want to homeschool, but feel they are not qualified. In So You Think You're Not Smart Enough to Homeschool? Carolyn points out that many of us took college classes from teachers who helped us understand Rembrandt paintings or Shakespeare plays. But these teachers were not able to produce comparable works.

Carolyn writes:

"If I had waited to begin homeschooling until I felt confident enough in my own knowledge and abilities that I could answer any question my students might ask, well, I would still be studying. In reality, I learned right along with my students."

This is a great point. By teaching our children while we are sometimes learning with them, our children learn an additional lesson that we as adults are still learning. Our children watch as we model how to continue our education. Public schools teach that the only valid way to learn is to be taught in a school. The implied message is you can not learn on your own; you have to go to an "expert."

Children who are homeschooled recognize that both methods are valid. An expert may be able to teach you something faster. But we need to be able to learn on our own. There are times when you find a piano teacher and get help learning to play the piano. But there is so much we can learn on our own. It is exciting to watch your children to become active learners.

The Lioness made a similar point last year in her post about The Golden Quote. She wrote that research found tutoring to be the most effective way for a student to learn, way more effective than a classroom setting.

If you are considering homeschooling, but think you "aren't smart enough," or know someone who is reluctant because they feel incompetent, have them check out Carolyn's post.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

Reminder - you have ten hours to get in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

We have a new host for the Carnival of Homeschooling. Summer Minor will host the next carnival at Mom is Teaching.

As always, entries are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Here are the instructions for sending in a submission.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Carnival of Space is up, along with thoughts about why Power Point is bad

Brian Dunbar is hosting this week's Carnival of Space at LifePort Staff Blog.

Ugh. I just realized that I never posted about last week's Carnival of Space at the Music of the Spheres. I sent out emails telling several bloggers it was up, I updated the carnival schedule and archive, but I completely forgot to post about it. Ugh.

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Google reveals popular searches

For years Google provided a service they called Zeitgeist which listed the popular searches for each month.

For example the top ten searches in July of 2001 were: wimbledon, tour de france, british open, morpheus, big brother 2, chandra levy, final fantasy, kazaa, max payne, and g8.

A couple months back Google came out with something they are calling Google Trends. This service provides more information. You can see the hot trends are for each day. Each day they'll list the top one hundred search patterns.

For example at the time I'm writing this post the number one pattern is weigh down. This is in reference to a diet plan called the Weigh Down Diet. Evidently CNN recently had a show on the diet plan. For each of the top 100 search patterns Hot Trends provides a cool page. The page has a graph showing the traffic for the search pattern. The graph shows that there was almost no traffic until about 6:00 AM today. By the time you check out the graph it will probably have peaked and started to drop off. The page also has links to News articles, blog posts and web sites mentioning the search pattern.

If you ever want to know what the rest of the world is looking for, Hot Trends is a fun site to see what they are searching for.

Google Trends will also let you compare two or more search patterns, for example education and school. Google Trends breaks this down by regions, cities, and languages. It was interesting to me that in Washington DC the searches were about ten times more for school than for education. In contrast New Delhi people search almost as much for education as for school.

Technorati tags: Hot Trends, popular searches

The 4th edition of the Thomas Jefferson Education Blog Carnival is up

Maureen put together the latest Thomas Jefferson Education Blog Carnival at her blog Trinity Prep School. If you want to know what is a Thomas Jefferson Education you can start with Maureen's introduction.

If you would like to participate in next month's Thomas Jefferson Education Blog Carnival, you can use this carnival submission form.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Carnival of Education is up

This week the Carnival of Education is at Education in Texas.

It seems with public schools on summer break all the teachers are blogging. There are several dozen posts in this week's carnival.

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Maria Montessori on the goal of a teacher

This came in today from the A Word A Day mailing list.

The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, "The children are now working as if I did not exist."
-Maria Montessori, educator (1870-1952)

This is a good thought.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education, ,

More on teacher certification

Do you ever wonder why so many teachers can't pass a simple skills test? I have a friend with a masters degree who is getting her teacher certification. She pointed out some of the ridiculous course work she is forced to take to be a "certified" teacher.

Here are a few excerpts from the text book, Foundations of American Education: Perspectives on Education in a Changing World, used in her first certification class:

Teachers as Social Activists (p. 129)
Multicultural education requires educators to be active participants in the educational process. Social justice, democracy, power, and equity are more than concepts to be discussed in class; they are guides for action in the classroom, school, and community. Educators become advocates not only for their own empowerment but also for that of students and other powerless groups.

Silly me, I though teacher were supposed to teach basic math and literacy skills. No wonder academic subjects are falling by the wayside. Teachers are busy working as social engineers "for their own empowerment." I shudder to think how are teachers empowered through their students.

Thinking Critically (p. 129)
Educators who think critically ask questions about why inequities exist in their classroom and schools. They wonder why girls are responding differently than boys to science lessons. But they don’t stop with wondering; they explore and try alternatives to engage the girls in the subject matter. They realize that teaching equitably does not mean teaching everyone the same way. Nor, however, does it mean using thirty different lesson plans each tailored to the individual learning style and cultural background of each student. Teaching equitably may mean helping students function effectively across the multiple cultural styles used by students in the classroom. Teachers who think critically figure out ways to build on the diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences of students, acknowledge the value of that diversity, and help them all learn.

Remember, it is important that all children act and think the same. If they don't, it is inequality in the classroom which is very bad. I'm getting flash backs to George Orwell's 1984.

Critical thinkers are able to challenge the philosophy and practices of the dominant society that are not supportive of equity, democracy, and social justice. They are open to alternative views; they are not limited by narrow parochialism that is based on absolutes and the notion of one right way. They question content for accuracy and biases, and they value multiple perspectives. They seek explanations for the educational meanings and consequences of race, class, and gender.

There is no such thing as right and wrong. "Narrow Parochialism" translates to "your parents are stupid, don't trust them."

Making School Democratic Socialist/Communist (p. 131)

....The goal is to understand that democracy is not so much an ideal to be pursued as an idealized set of values that we must live by and that must guide our life as a society.

Democratic schools reflect democratic structures and processes and include a curriculum that provides students with democratic experiences. These schools require students, teachers, parents, and community members to be active participants in the educational process. Equity undergirds the structure of democratic schools. All students have access to all programs. Tracking, biased testing, and other practices that deny access to some students are eliminated. The emphasis on grades, status, test scores, and winning is replaced with an emphasis on cooperation and concern for the common good. Those involved in this democratic project also work toward the elimination of inequities in the broader community as well as in the school.

Can you say "dumbing down?"

A democratic curriculum encourages multiple perspectives and voices in the materials used and the discussions that ensue. It respects differences in viewpoints. It does not limit information and study to the areas chosen by members of the dominant group. It includes discussions of inequities in society and challenges students and teachers to engage actively in eliminating them. Establishing a democratic classroom or school is not an easy undertaking.

Sometimes colleagues and parents resist it; some people believe that teachers should he all-knowing authorities who exert control over their students. Those who want schools to prepare students for social efficiency are supportive of stratified systems using grades and test scores to sort students into tracks that prepare them for future jobs. Supporters of schooling as a route to social mobility expect competition to determine which students deserve the greatest rewards, such as acceptance into gifted programs or admission to prestigious colleges. Democratic schools, on the other hand, support equity, equal access, and equal opportunity for all studlents.

Remember, schools don't exist to teach children how to read and do math. Schools exist to support equity because all children "deserve" the same "rewards" regardless of their own efforts or talents. We can't have those kids at the top ruining the program. And what ever you do, don't listen to the parents.

Teaching for Social Justice (p. 131)
Culturally relevant teaching helps students struggle in class with social problems and issues that many students face daily in their lives both within and outside of school. Racism, sexism, classism, prejudice, andl discrimination are felt differently by students of color than by members of the dominant group. Anger, denial, guilt, and affirmation of identity are critical elements of learning about and struggling with the pernicious practices that permeate most institutions. Although it is sometimes difficult to discuss these issues in classrooms, doing so means they are confronted in a system based on diversity and equality.

You are a victim by default. If you disagree, you are a heterosexual, white male or in denial.

(picture from page 131 of text book)

Most students of color, females, low-income students, students with disabilities, and gay students have probably already experienced discrimination in some aspect of their lives. They may have not acknowledged it, or they may be angry or frustrated by it. On the other hand, many students from the dominant group have never experienced discrimination and often do not believe that it exists. In most cases, they do not see themselves as advantaged; they do not think that they receive any more benefits from society than anyone else. These students will have a difficult time fighting social injustices if they have neither experienced them nor become aware of their existence. Are they receiving a good education if they are never exposed to the injustices that do exist or helped to confront their own biases?

The question should be "Are they receiving a good education if they can actually read, write, and balance their checkbook?"

In teaching for social justice, teachers help students understand the inequalities, oppression, and power struggles that are realities in society. But this kind of teaching does not stop there. It provides hope for a world that is more equitable and socially just. Students and teachers become engaged in confronting injustice and working to remove the obstacles that prevent equality as an academic subject is studied.

This is why my children don't go to public school.

So, if you are wondering why teachers can't pass a basic skills test, it is because their training is light on academic content but heavy on "equity." There are so many bad ideas to point out in this text, it is like shooting fish in a barrel. I really wanted to do more commentary, but I just don't have the stomach for it.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Obese girls less likely to attend college

This is an appropriate follow-up to I bet this will cause a stir.

UT study: Obese girls less likely to attend college

A study being released today by a University of Texas researcher shows that obese girls are half as likely to attend college as peers with healthier weights.

"Obesity predicts college enrollment even when I compare girls only to other girls with the same race," Crosnoe said. "This effect is slightly stronger for black and Hispanic girls than for whites, but it exists for all three groups."

It is a bit ironic that mothers are working to move their family into the middle class. The resulting obesity problems will bar many of those children from the middle class as they become adults.

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The Carnival of Homeschooling is up - week 82, the Florist edition

When I was in college delivered flowers for awhile. It is a fun job. Everyone is excited to see you.

But I don't think I saw as many types of flowers as Tami has in this week's Carnival of Homeschooling.

Drop in and brighten up your day.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Does school attendance effect crime rates?

I got the pointer to this from a local homeschool newsgroup.

What Effect Does School Attendance Have on the Crime Rate?

Increasing the length of school attendance does not decrease the crime rate, according to the postwar trends in most industrialized countries. Arguing that requiring children to attend school longer would reduce crime is arguing from a statistical fallacy. Neither school uniforms nor longer school days or school years can be expected to reduce crime as long as schools themselves promote the development of youth culture. A much more effective set of crime control measures, as demonstrated by the experience of the United States in recent years, is vigorous police work, strict law enforcement, and allowing young people more choice in education.

Here are a few insightful quotes:

"As the labor of children has become unnecessary to society, school has been extended for them. With every decade, the length of schooling has increased, until a thoughtful person must ask whether society can conceive of no other way for youth to come into adulthood."

A socialization used to mean something different.

Kett demonstrates, among other things, that the "peer group" of most children used to range in age from four to twenty-two-- until age-segregated public schools became commonplace after the Civil War.

Montgomery reached the conclusion that any time a state adopted compulsory school attendance laws in the nineteenth century, its crime rate and youth suicide rate increased. United States census figures are cited throughout the book. Montgomery also reemphasized the point Cowper made a century earlier, that age-peer socialization produces more criminal behavior than socialization by parents.

This is a different point of view than those awful commercials promoting universal preschool.

A 1992 Associated Press article about Dr. Shyer's research was widely reprinted in newspapers across the country. Dr. Shyers reports that direct observation by trained observers, using a "blind" procedure, found that home-schooled children had significantly fewer problem behaviors, as measured by the Child Observation Checklist's Direct Observation Form, than traditionally schooled children when playing in mixed groups of children from both kinds of schooling backgrounds. Shyers concluded that the hypothesis that contact with adults, rather than contact with other children, is most important in developing social skills in children is supported by these data.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

I bet this will cause a stir

This is the headline:

Risk of obesity soars with family income

Children with wealthy middle class parents are more likely to be overweight or obese than those from poor households, a study has revealed.

The findings go against conventional wisdom that Britain's poorest families have the worst diets - showing the risk of obesity actually soars with family income.

However, this is the real story:

Researchers linked the problem to the rise of highly-paid working mothers are often forced choose to leave a nanny or nursery in charge of their child's diet and physical exercise. - who

They were more likely to be overweight if their mother had taken up any work since their birth. Children were also more likely to be overweight for every 10 hours she worked per week.

"Long hours of maternal employment, rather than lack of money, may impede young children's access to healthy foods and physical activity," the researchers said.

"For example, parental time constraints could increase a child's consumption of snack foods and/or increase television use.

"We found that children were more likely to be overweight if the mother reported that she 'did not spend enough time with her child because of work'.

"We can speculate that these children may have had greater access to convenience foods and/or fewer opportunities for physical activity."

The study found children in childcare were more likely to be overweight or obese than those cared for by their mother or her partner.

In school-age children, those whose mothers worked were less likely to eat healthily than those whose mothers were full-time homemakers.

The researchers said that while breastfeeding had been found to protect children from becoming overweight in this study and others, returning to work early put many women off starting or continuing to breastfeed.

No link was found between the number of hours worked by the children's father, or mother's partner, and weight problems.

Can you imagine that? Mothering actually matters to the long-term health and well-being of children. And here I was worrying that I was wasting myself at home. (For those who may be passing through and can't tell, that was sarcasm.)

It should also be noted that children cared for by their fathers were healthier than children in daycare.

Families will need to rethink their dual income strategy if both parents are working to "give their children a better life."

On a side note, I would be interested in seeing the obesity rates for homeschooled children. Most of the homeschool families I know are very health conscious.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Reminder - get your submission in for the Carnival of Homeschooling

Tami will host the next Carnival of Homeschooling. Tami has put out a plead that submissions come in early.

As always, entries are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Here are the instructions for sending in a submission.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Another cheating scandal

Look at the dramatic drop in test scores when outside monitors were used.

TAKS free-fall raises suspicions of cheating

Does Forest Brook High School have a TAKS cheating problem? It depends whom you believe. But new evidence points to yes.

Despite highly suspicious test scores, a February report by the Texas Education Agency declared the Houston school cheating-free – largely because school officials, when asked, said they were unaware of any wrongdoing on their campus.

These numbers don't lie.

Here are the passing rates on the 11th-grade TAKS graduation test at Forest Brook High School. Outside monitors oversaw the 2007 tests to prevent cheating.

Science: 93%
Math: 87%
Social studies: 99%
English language arts: 73%

Science: 89%
Math: 80%
Social studies: 100%
English language arts: 83%

Science: 39%
Math: 44%
Social studies: 72%
English language arts: 75%

The plot thickens.

One school, Oak Village Middle, has earned an unacceptable rating in each of the last three years. It's one of only five Texas schools with such a string of low performance.

It was Oak Village that led TEA to require monitors to oversee TAKS testing this spring. Under Texas law, a fourth year of unacceptable scores gives the state education commissioner the authority to order a school closed.

In March, then-Commissioner Shirley Neeley sent a letter to North Forest officials saying she wanted to make sure the scores reported this year were completely accurate. That meant, she wrote, the district had to bring in outside monitors to oversee testing and ensure no security rules were violated.

As it turns out, the monitors appear not to have had a significant impact on Oak Village's scores, which increased slightly from 2006. But scores at Forest Brook High took a remarkable nosedive under outside supervision.

Here's the kicker:

The state's clearing of Forest Brook had one other effect on the school. It freed up its access to the $165,000 Governor's Educator Excellence Grant the school had qualified for. It was awarded the money because of its rapidly rising test scores in 2006.

I'm less concerned about low test scores than the high level of cheating. How do children learn to be moral and decent adults in a school environment of cheating? This is yet another reason to homeschool.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Top of the class

I have to admit, I don't know how many planets are in the solar system but I'm sure my husband does. Besides, I'm never sure if Pluto is in or out.

Children outclass parents in general knowledge

Parents' grasp of general knowledge is scarcely better than that of their children, research shows today.

In some areas - including geography and science - the average child aged between eight and 12 actually outperforms most adults, it is claimed.

According to the study, more children knew the answer to the question "how many planets are there in our solar system?".

Perhaps surprisingly, more youngsters, who were no older than 12 when questioned, had a better knowledge of the planets and Earth. Seven out of 20 children knew how long a year was on Mars, against six out of 20 adults; while 28 per cent could correctly identify the number of planets, compared to 27 per cent of parents.

However, the parents knew a lot more history.

But concern over pupils' grasp of history was shown by the fact that only half of children could name Shakespeare's birthplace compared to 90 per cent of their mothers and fathers.

At the same time, parents were more likely to identify Florence Nightingale, Winston Churchill, Queen Victoria and know the number of soldiers in a Roman Legion.

So, which do think is more valuable? Knowing how long a year is on Mars or having a grasp on history? I vote for the history.

This does point out a benefit of homeschooling. Parents learn right along side their children.

To see how you rank, click here to take the test yourself.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dumbing Down Trend

The author of this editorial, Marc Epstein, is a teacher at Jamaica High School in Queens and served as dean of students.

Regents exam: American history for dummies

People who took their Regents exams 30 years ago assume that the current version of the tests is essentially the same. They would be stunned to learn how dumbed-down the tests have become. You might say that the American history Regents gives new meaning to the term "E-ZPass."

The test has three components: 50 multiple-choice questions on American history; 15 questions pertaining to eight historical documents, and two essays, one requiring the student to make use of the documents, and the other a general thematic essay. The multiple-choice questions cover a range of topics, from the writing of the Constitution through the Cold War. They are, by and large, fair and representative.

But the 15 document-related questions are ludicrously easy. The documents include some written passages, but are mostly political cartoons and photographs. In the test given last month - which I helped administer and grade - several concerned the women's suffrage movement, such as a photograph of a suffragists' parade showing women carrying various signs containing the word "suffrage." The exam question asks, "What was a goal of the women shown in these photographs?"

This reminds me of the joke, "What color was George Washington's white horse?"

Another document is a reproduction of a Massachusetts Women's Suffrage Association poster listing "Twelve Reasons Why Women Should Vote." All of the reasons on the poster begin with the word "because": "Because laws affect women as much as men," for example. The Regents question reads: "What were two arguments suffragists used in this 1915 flyer in support of their goal?" To get full credit, all the student has to do is copy two of the reasons from the poster!

You are going to love the grading scale.

Once teachers have marked the exams, they are to use a chart created by the state to convert the raw score into a final grade. The extraordinary adjustment built into the chart makes it possible to get only 20 of the 50 multiple-choice questions right and still pass. It's also possible to complete only one of the two essays and pass.

Who benefits by making the Regents Exam so easy that almost everyone can pass?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Teacher Certification and Testing

We've heard all about the push for testing of children. Here's an article about the test scores of the teachers.

Educators Repeatedly Flunk Required Exams

Lorraine Snowden is a teacher at Urban Park Elementary in East Dallas. State records show Snowden started taking her certification exams back in 1989 but failed year after year until she finally passed in 2003. She flunked exams a total of 54 times in 14 years.

The Texas Education Agency told Fox 4 most teachers in Texas pass certification exams on the first try. So, Fox 4 analyzed TEA’s teacher testing data to see how teachers at major school districts in North Texas fared on the first try. The records show: at Plano ISD 20% failed exams at least once; at Arlington ISD 25%; at Fort Worth ISD 34%; and at Dallas ISD 41% failed a test at least once, 3790 teachers. The data show 478 DISD teachers failed a test at least 5 times. 71 of them took 10 times or more to pass a certification exam.

“(It is) highly unlikely you are going to find an effective teacher among those who can’t pass those minimum competency tests.”

It’s not just teachers Fox 4 found having trouble passing certification exams. Dolores Chavez failed the exam required for school principals 16 times. State records don’t show her ever passing the exam. Yet Fox 4 found her working as an assistant principal at Barbara Jordan Elementary School.

I'm not a fan of so-called certification requirements, but I do support basic competency testing. Effective teachers and administrators will easily pass tests measuring basic competency.

Here is the 2006 version of the TAKS. I've been told that the California test is designed to be on a 10th grade level and very easy. Here is a CBEST practice test.

Here's a sample question from the CBEST (California):

After touring the plains toward the close of the cowboy era, journalist Richard Harding Davis observed, "The inhabited part of a ranch, the part of it on which the owners live, bears about the same proportion to the rest of the ranch as a lighthouse does to the ocean around it."

Based on Richard Harding Davis' observation, which of the following can be inferred about a ranch toward the close of the cowboy era?

A. Most of a ranch was uninhabited by its owners.
B. The size of a ranch rivaled the size of an ocean.
C. Inhabitants of a ranch typically lived in privacy and seclusion.
D. The working area around a ranch was uninhabitable by humans.
E. The inhabitants of a ranch, like those of a lighthouse, should be viewed as caretakers.

(The correct answer is A)

There have been some dispute that this type of testing is discrimitory because minority teachers fail the test more refrequently than whites.

Even more disturbing for some was the fact that minorities were failing the tests in disproportionately high numbers. "Fully 72 percent of blacks and 52 percent of Hispanics," Toch wrote, "have failed the Texas education school admission examination, compared with 27 percent of whites. In New York, 64 percent of blacks failed the communications-skills section of that state's teacher-licensing examination in 1987, 65 percent failed the general-knowledge section, and 43 percent failed the professional-knowledge section; the failure rates for whites were 17 percent, 22 percent, and 9 percent, respectively. In Florida, 63 percent of blacks, 50 percent of Hispanics, and 12 percent of whites have failed the state's basic-skills teacher-licensing examination since its inception in the early 1980s.

The problem with the plaintiffs' case against the CBEST is this: When you look at the test itself, it's hard to imagine how any college graduate couldn't pass it.

Albert Shanker calls the test "extremely easy." David Wright, director of professional services for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, testified that he gave portions of the test to his then 11-year-old triplets, and they answered all 60 questions correctly. "Each reported to me that they found the items 'easy,' " Wright noted. Gary Hart, the former California state lawmaker who sponsored the initial CBEST legislation, says the test is "not a particularly sophisticated examination." Mary Bergan, president of the California Federation of Teachers, which supported the CBEST right from the start, says, "It's an easy test." (The much larger California Teachers Association was less enthusiastic about the idea, but it eventually supported the CBEST. In 1993, however, it filed a friend of the court brief in support of the plaintiffs' lawsuit. The CTA argued that the test was a "major impediment" to achieving ethnic and racial diversity in the schools and therefore should be scrutinized by the court.)
[Taking on the test]"

The test may reveal racial discrimination, but not in the way the plaintiffs charged. The fact that college graduates are failing the test with such racial differences points to possible reverse discrimination. Are white students held to higher standards than minority students and are consequently receiving a better education?

All of this points to still greater problems with a teacher training system that produces so many teachers of all backgrounds who can't pass a 10th grade test.

Which brings me to this philosophical question: Should there be a place in public education for teachers with mid to low academic performance? Does it influence the quality of instruction when the shop teacher can't do geometry or a grade school teacher can't write a 10th grade essay?

There would be some that would argue that it doesn't matter. For example, the level of parental education is not much of a factor in homeschool success. Parents with no college degree routinely turn out well educated homeschooled children. However, the homeschool realm is more flexible than public education. Homeschool parents utilize resources and methods not generally available to large classroom settings.

Then, what makes a successful teacher in a classroom setting? If it were my child, I would want a teacher that spoke and wrote grammatically correct with a large vocabulary. I would want a teacher with good analytical skills. Both of these requirements are easily measured with a well- designed basic skills test. However, a test can't measure teaching and classroom management skill, high character or good judgment which are equally important. We all have had at least one really smart teacher who was a really awful teacher.

Ultimately, I do support the use of tests like the CBEST and the TAKS as a way to measure the quality of teacher training. It is important that these tests are well-designed so that they measure what they claim to measure. Also, other methods of evaluating teacher performance must also be included to weed out those who don't have the temperament or training to manage a classroom of students.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

Why We Homeschool - Part 2

My top ten reasons we homeschool. By the way, these are in no particular order.

This is my next installment in the "larger, and more sinister, agenda."

See Why We Homeschool - Part 1

2) To promote fiscal responsibility

This encompasses many different aspects. First, schools are hotbeds of consumerism. All of a sudden, children want to have the "right lunch box" or the "right clothes." Students no longer want things for the enjoyment the desired item could bring, but for how owning, wearing, or being seen with this item will effect their social ranking at school. Spending habits develop based on a delusional belief that it is possible to "buy" self worth.

This consumerism goes hand in hand with a distorted senses of entitlement. Children want the material wealth right now that took the previous generations a life time to achieve. There is something seriously wrong when it costs an average of $1000 per couple to attend a high school prom. In addition, the average American teen spent more than $104 a week in 2001, according to the marketing research firm Teenage Research Unlimited.

Obviously, the parents are a major part of the problem, but good parents find themselves fighting a losing battle when children set their expectations by their peers at school. I personally know middle class families whose children needed loans to pay for college because the child spent all the money the parents saved in addition to what he/she supposedly earned for college on clothes, cars, eating out and cells phone bills. This spending trend follows into ghetto schools where even children in great poverty are sporting the latest styles, gadgets and designer labels.

At college, this spending trend expands. Undergraduates carried an average balance of $2,748 while graduate students carried an average balance of $4,776. Nellie Mae also found that of the 78% of undergraduates with a card; 32% have four or more cards; 13% have credit card debt between $3000-$7000; and 9% have credit card debt greater than $7,000 (Nellie Mae, 2000). [ERICDIGESTS.ORG]

This debt is not being incurred to pay for essential school expenses but to pay for a lifestyle of shopping, beer and pizza.

Most of this generation have grown up during an era of almost uninterrupted prosperity. The skills which my parents and grandparents developed to live frugally are lost to a majority of the rising generation. Not only have they not developed the self control to limit spending, but they don't have the skills to take care of even their own most basic needs. Cooking, gardening, sewing, mending, home maintenance, budgeting, basic car repair are just a few of the skills no longer part of a well rounded education.

Schools are simply not an efficient way to teach these kinds of skills. Contemporary school schedule packed with homework and extracurricular fluff, don't leave much time for anything else. An occasional shop or home economics class can't take the place of a lifetime of learning by doing in the home. As children spend less and less time at home, many parents choose not to involve their children with the day to day management of a household because the children have so little family time.

Homeschooling gives our family a three-fold advantage:

1) Our children are not immersed in a consumerist society.

2) We have time at home to teach our children "do-it-yourself" skills.

3) We are free to choose a curriculum that emphasize sound money management principles and avoid the "money can buy happiness" philosophy prevalent in our society. (By the way, our curriculum includes the books like The Richest Man in Babylon, The Only Investment Guide You Will Ever Need, Money Doesn't Grow on Trees, and The TightWad Gazette.)

That's my agenda.

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Dr. Raymond Moore has died

Another Google alert brought the sad news that Dr. Raymond Moore has died, as reported at My Domestic Church. Here is some more details.

Dr. Raymond Moore and his wife wrote a number of good books on homeschooling. The Moores have been long time supporters of homeschooling. They created the Moore Foundation.

I really enjoyed Better Late Than Early in which they persuasively argue that pushing children to learn before they are ready is damaging to children. They both explain why, and report on a number of studies supporting this argument.

Raymond Moore will be missed.

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Bureaucracy may destroy the public school system

A Google alert took me to a news story out of San Luis Obispo, California. School transfer is a lesson in bureaucracy is a classic story of a parent who wants to do what is best for her son. She doesn't want her 11-year-old son to travel far from their home, when there is a closer school. The school district reviewed her petition and denied her request.

The key point in this situation is the school district is worried about the money. So they don't want to let the child leave, because they would lose money.

One of the problems with public schools is they are run by bureaucracies which have little accountability to the parents. For decades parents had little choice. About the only option they had was to spend thousands of dollars and send their children to private schools.

Homeschooling gives parents another option. If they want something better than the public school is willing to provide, academically, socially, convinence, or what ever, parents remove their children from a public school.

Which is what Judy Bedell is going to do in the situation in San Luis Obispo! She is getting ready to homeschool her soon.

The article has a poll which asks: Should students be allowed to attend San Miguell schools if they're closer to their homes. The two options are:

1) Sure, it makes perfect sense.
2) Well, I can see why Bradley doesn't want to give them up. Keep them there.

Currently out of 26 votes, 25 people have said parents should be allowed to have their children attend closer schools! I wonder if the one opposing vote was from a bureaucrat?

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Reminder - get your submission in for the Carnival of Homeschooling

Dana of Principled Discovery will hosting the next Carnival of Homeschooling.

As always, entries are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Here are the instructions for sending in a submission.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Some good carnivals this week

Work has been hectic. This is a catch up post to promote some of my favorite carnivals.

Brian Dunbar hosted this week's Carnival of Space at Space For Commerce. My wife isn't that interested in space. I did read her Brian's excert of Space Cynics' post - "I've done my job." To enter a post for the next carnival, go here before the 18th.

Dana hosted the 9th Carnival of Principled Government at Principled Discovery. Dana is looking for other people to take turns hosting the carnival. Hosting a carnival is a great way to get more exposure for your blog. If you are interest, drop her a note. To enter a post for the next carnival, go here before the 22nd.

The Carnival of Education, week 127, is up at The Education Wonks. This is one of the oldest carnivals around. I think it is the first one I read. To enter a post for the next carnival, go here before the 17th.

The Carnival of Family Life is up at The Expatriate's Kitchen. Entries are due by the end of today, if you are interested in entering a post, go here.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Hitler and Churchill drop from history lessons

Look at the changes in history lessons in the UK. And they accuses homeschoolers of revisionist history. At least my kids know about Hitler and Churchill.

Schools told to dump Churchill and Hitler from history lessons

Secondary schools will strip back the traditional curriculum in favour of lessons on debt management, the environment and healthy eating, ministers revealed.

Even Winston Churchill no longer merits a mention after a drastic slimming-down of the syllabus to create more space for "modern" issues.

Along with Hitler, Gandhi, Stalin and Martin Luther King, the former prime minister has been dropped from a list of key figures to be mentioned in history teaching.

This means pupils may no longer hear about his stirring speeches during the Second World War, when he told Parliament that defeating Hitler would be Britain's "finest hour".

I'm reminded of a famous quote:

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

How can anyone intelligently discuss current events without a historical context? The answer is they can't. But, they will feel really good about themselves while they spout nonsense.

Run, don't walk, to the nearest exit!

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why We Homeschool - Part 1

This is the first of my top ten reasons to homeschool. This has been on my mind lately as I've read various comments by critics of the homeschool phenomenon. Particularly vilified have been the "Christian" Homeschoolers who have been characterized as "part of a larger, and more sinister, agenda" equivalent to the Flat Earth Society or Holocaust deniers.

So, I'm taking the guess work out of it for the anti-homeschooling critics.

This is my agenda.

1) To promote moral development of my children

Most teens immersed in popular culture emerge from adolescence as little more than amoral pigs who feel "really good" about themselves regardless of their conduct. We actually teach our children to feel bad sometimes, as they learn and grow from their mistakes. This is called a conscience.

Popular culture maintains that it is not wrong to binge drink, drive drunk, use illegal drugs, cheat on exams, cheat on spouse, lie to their parents, have sex with multiple partners of either gender, or dismember your own gestating child. All actions are now morally equivalent with the notable exception of abiding by traditional standards which, of course, is just mean and hateful.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating the decline of civilization, here are a few statistics:

More than half (58%) of 12th graders report having been drunk at least once in their life. One fifth (20%) of 8th graders report having been drunk at least once in their life.*

During the last 30 days, 28.5% of high school students nationwide had ridden one or more times in a car or other vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol.*

Half (50%) of American young people have tried cigarettes by 12th grade.

Half of teens (50%) have tried an illicit drug by the time they finish high school.

Currently 46.8% of all high school students report they have had sexual intercourse

Nationwide, 14.3% of high school students had had sexual intercourse with four or more persons

A 1998 Harvard University study found that 42.7 percent of students had been binge drinking in the two weeks before they were surveyed,

71% of all high school students admit they cheated on an exam at least once in the past 12 months (45% said they did so two or more times);

92% lied to their parents in the past 12 months (79% said they did so two or more times); 78% lied to a teacher (58% two or more times); more than one in four (27%) said they would lie to get a job.

40% of males and 30% of females say they stole something from a store in the past 12 months.

In 2002, 34% of all teen pregnancies ended in abortion.

We don’t send our children to school because we don’t want our children to set their standards by a peer group. In addition, the machiavellian tactics crucial to achieve the pinnacle of adolescent popularity are not the type of socialization we value. My children need to know enough to protect themselves, but they do not need to be immersed in a poisonous environment five days week, week after week, year after year to function well in society.

Some children in school do successfully navigate in such treacherous surroundings, but they do not come out entirely unscathed. They become desensitized to destructive, yet popular attitudes and practices. I’m reminded of the poem by Alexander Pope which cautioned:

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As, to be hated, needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Children naturally imitate what they see. We regulate contact with influences we don't want imitated. I do not want to give the impression that we are isolationists. As children mature and pass developmental stages, we broaden the scope to include discussions and analysis of more disparate perspectives.

We do not pretend our lifestyle is the only lifestyle or that others don't have convincing reasons for what they believe or how they choose to live. Ultimately, children will have to make their own choices. Our goal as homeschool parents is to teach our children how to discern where these choices ultimately will lead.

That's my agenda.

See Why We Homeschool - Part 2

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling: Week 80

Welcome to the Carnival of Homeschooling: The top 10 reasons to homeschool*

* According to the 1999 Survey by the Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics

I've noticed that these reasons for homeschooling are phrased with the assumption that there must be something wrong with the school, wrong with the child or wrong with the family to motivate homeschooling. This is not surprising considering the list came from the Department of Education. Thus, I've added my own commentary in parenthesis.

NOTE: We apologize if we missed any posts. Google’s spam filter is very aggressive. Henry found 5 or 6 posts buried in with the 370+ spam emails the Carnival of Homeschooling received this week. Also, we've noticed that some entries spent 12 hours in limbo before they were delivered to CarnivalofHomeschooling@gmail.com.

Can give child better education at home (or good enough for less time)

Annette at Homeschooling Journey explains the use of Scope and Sequence. If you think you may one day be returning your child to the public school system, it's essential for you to understand what a scope and sequence is.

Barb at The Heart of Harmony explains how art is something homeschoolers push aside many times for the more academic subjects. Summer is a great time to work on drawing with your children. Here is a great book called Drawing with Children to get you started.

From It's a Small World, we get helps on hints for the Five Paragraph Essay.

This is from a homeschool student perspective. Super Angel at the Daily Planet describes the schedule for her last year of homeschooling in It's July... Can you believe it??

From Lothlorien, another homeschool student describes a recent outing in We are Homeschoolers, No Doubt.

Religious (and Political) reasons

From Abrianna at Yankee CowGirl, we get the update on the so-called " The Homeschooling Candidate".

Tiffany at Life on the Road: Home Business, Homeschool, and Cats! passes on information about the Maryland school system's policy that the state supersedes the rights of parents in Remind me not to go to Maryland...

Poor learning environment at school (or to take advantage of a rich home environment)

Schools have a difficult time utilizing Discovery Learning techniques. Dana at Principled Discovery points to the importance of teaching children how to observe in Building a reflective homeschool, sharing the wonder.

This next post is a good summary of all the reasons to homeschool. From The Lady Of RFH at Rowen Forest Homeschool we can read their journey to homeschooling called Homeschooling Since February 17, 1999.

Jenny at Little Acorns Treehouse points out how "with unschooling, you need to have a resource rich environment and access to a wide variety of materials that you can follow as your child asks questions or shows interest" in The Summer of Unschooling.

Stephanie at Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood shares A Tree House for Kids.

Family reasons (or to spend time together as a family)

Barbara Frank in The Gravitational Pull of Homeschooling describes how homeschooling is an attractive family lifestyle choice that is hard to walk away from.

Homeschooling is an important part of how we build a strong family. Alasandra responds to criticism that children belong to society (not the family) and that homeschooling should be banned in kestrel9000 Attacks Homeschooling at Daily Kos.

Here's a good example of family time from Gary at Homeschool Buzz in Independence Day aboard the USS Constitution!

Have you ever heard the argument that moms teaching teen boys is unproductive? Kim at Mother-Lode explores this debate in Mothers and Sons.

To develop character/morality

Homeschool parents often run into a conflict between their values and those promoted by the public school system. This phenomenon can also find its way into our relationships with extended family members. Sebastian at Percival Blakeney Academy gives some good advice in Planning for Christmas.

Jacque at Seeking Rest in the Ancient Paths explains how teaching manners and character is a continuous process in a Summertime Learnin' - Manners.

To teach character and morality, parents must somtimes "read the riot act" to their kids. At Home With the Kids explains the history behind this phrase in Read 'em the Riot Act.

Object to what school teaches (or simply a desire to follow a different scope and sequence)

Quietly into the Night points to a Seattle Times article that explains This is why my son is Homeschooled.

.....In the name of student achievement, more teachers must follow stricter rules about what — and sometimes how — they teach. In some places, they stay almost literally on the same page.....

christinemm at The Thinking Mother answers the question, "How do you do all that homeschooling?"

The following is a response I sent to an email I received from a homeschooler that lives in my town, who I met about a year ago, who comes to my homeschool support group meetings, has been to my house and has seen all the books and educational “stuff” we have in our home.

Nerdmom at Nerd Family describe the philosophy they are going to follow in Looking for Resources

So if you have used a different scope and sequence, will you have trouble getting into college? Silvia at Po Moyemu--In My Opinion looks into Questions about Homeschooled Kids and College.

School does not challenge child (or parents do not want to wait around to find out)

Patti at All Info About Home Schooling has a challenging and fun First Aid Worksheets.

Lindafay at Higher Up and Further In shares How We Use the Handbook of Nature Study, all 800 pages of it!

Do you remember the Summer Hill School founded in 1920's. Their unique philosphy influenced the homeschool pioneer, John Holt. Wired for Noise describes how she stumbled across a book on Summer Hill School.

Other problems with available schools (or support from the wonderful homeschooling community).

From Life Without School we get a glimps of the diverse and exciting world of homeschooling in Who are you? and it's follow up in Celebrating Our Diversity.

Janine from Why Homeschool found an insightful look at Sir Ken Robinson's Do schools kill creativity?

Student behavior problems at school (or not wanting to mess up an already well behaved child)

Sometimes we can have behavior problems in the blogosphere too. It is easy to get sucked up into a heated response to a comment. Homeschooling and education are one of those topics that can inspire great passion and harsh words on both sides. Hernandez at APMFormulators has some sound advice on how to avoid a tit-for-tat debate in Christian Women who Love to fight.

Taking turns is an important part of good behavior. From the Headmistress, Zookeeper at The Common Room we get some advice on Narrations, Whose Turn Is It?

Child has special needs/disability (or don't all children have special needs?)

Each child has "special" needs and homeschooling helps parents meet those needs. Denise at Let's play math! has a card deck for number games, plus how to make a nifty card holder for young hands in How to make Math Cards.

Because each child has their own set of special strengths and weaknesses, parents may struggle to determine what is best for each child. Lilliput Station reminds us that "No one knows your kids better than you do" in Homeschooling: The Second Generation (Part 3.


There you have it, a look at the top ten reasons to homeschool according to the Department of Education. If you have enjoyed this carnival, please spread the word. Please mention the carnival on your blog, and other appropriate places.

Go here for the archives of previous carnivals.

Next week the carnival will be held at Principled Discovery.

If you are interested in submitting a post for a future carnival, click here for information.

We thank everyone who has helped out. Thank you to all the participants in this carnival. And thanks to all those who help promote the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,