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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Recapping This Educational Year

For a while now I have been captivated with the history of the 'school' and have been discussing this with my husband. Today, I found this site with the history of the public school system and was intrigued with what I read. Many books from early America taught only to grade eight. You can come by and see if you could pass the 8th grade exit exam of 1895.

We are coming to the end of our 'school' year and something I have noticed about the books I purchase for my 7th grader and 10th grader is that some of their books taught the SAME material. Their history books for example, have the same table of contents and in the same order. In previous years, Jess, had confessed to me that when she was in school they never got passed the third unit. This means she has learned the SAME material each year. I was far too naive and should have looked further into what she was learning. I took for granted that since she had straight A's that it meant she was really learning. I'm not meaning to be critical about the school they were in, not at all. She had a few wonderful teachers that taught her quite well. (More about this later.)

Moni has been studying pre-Algebra and something I have noticed in her book is that the majority of the book taught various techniques of using decimals, percentages, and fractions. She's bored. Needless to say I am skipping some of the 'busy' work in her math book and will create a placement exam for her to complete this year's math studies.

Another interesting thing I am finding out is that their grammar books are the same. English and grammar is just the same each year. Also, since we use a Christian English book, much of the examples and exercises involve History as well as Bible. I like that, except that there is so much 'busy' work in those as well. I rather enjoy having my children read classical literature to stimulate their brain in stead of 'busy work'. Next year we will make further adjustments in their studies to create an environment of academic desire that will promote their ability to research and educate themselves. If I allow my children to continue to do 'busy work' how will they ever figure out how to accomplish other tasks as an adult? I want my children to be able to figure out how to complete a task on their own.

Schools don't always offer classes that are necessary as an adult. Most schools offer Shop as an elective, yet it is such a vital part of life. Not every family can afford to take their car to a mechanic. Most schools offer Home EC as an elective, yet girls should KNOW how to create a shopping list, prepare nutritional meals, and be hospitable to guests. I also feel that Wood Shop is vital for students in order to make needed updates to their own homes. Yet, schools make classes mandatory, such as four years of English, which is the same year after year. In my opinion, English for four years should include classic literature studies, and a lot of writing. I'm not just talking about writing reports, I'm talking about writing creatively such as for the newspaper or writing short stories. Oh boy I could say more about reports.

Ok so I will.

When I hear parents of schooled children talk about reports I cringe. They are required to write about things that have been written about time after time, by millions of people, over the years. How can any report about Martin Luther King Jr. be any different from any other paper about him? The facts are still the facts. There is nothing to be added about his life! Yet teachers will claim the child has copied another person's work.

Okay. I must ask.

How would they know? The facts are all the same. How can you write about his childhood and speech any differently than anyone else has? Many times my daughter would want to add how she felt about the person she was writing about and that was refused. The teacher didn't want to know what she thought, only what the facts are. How does that help shape my daughter into a successful human being?

I feel it's so important to allow children to come to conclusions on their own. I feel it's important to learn history, but not to re-write it year after year. My oldest daughter writes wonderful children's stories and I have admonished her to compile her stories into a book and have it published. If anyone asks her if she, as a homeschooled student, got good grades in English, she can say that she published a book. So how's that?!?! (Yes, I'm being a bit sarcastic.)

I can teach my children facts about History, but facts alone don't 'teach'. I enjoy discussing History with my children. After reading a portion of history I ask them how they would have felt if they had lived during those times. How does what they learn compare to the world today? What can you learn from this portion of history? We select a variety of words from our literature readings and discuss their meanings and how you might use that word in another sentence. So much more interesting than memorizing vocabulary words they may never use.

I may be able to continue this, however I'd like to say a few good things about some of the teachers my oldest daughter had while growing up. First of all, I'd like to say that her third grade Sunday School teacher was the best Sunday School teacher she has ever had. I can't say enough about this woman, really I can't. She made all the difference in my daughter liking the Bible stories and understanding what God was teaching her.

Next is her kindergarten teacher, who placed an incredible amount of importance on her handwriting. She taught Jess that she should learn to write her letters well. Not just legibly, but WELL! She used the Victory Drill book for learning to read and we bought one after the year was over. We still use it today.

Now I'd like to say something about her fourth grade teacher. She spoke kindly to her students and taught them so well by her example. She was one of the best teachers I have ever known in my entire life. I really believe her calling is to be a teacher, yet she doesn't teach today.
Her last child is about to leave the home and go to college, a fine young man! She used concepts to teach and inspire the children. I learned so much from her myself!

Once Jess got to sixth grade she struggled immensely with Math. I became her tutor and we used my husband's office for many weeks for our night study time. Jess was able to bring up her grade from a C to an A in about a month's time. When she got to junior high she did quite well with her 'grades' and her math teacher is a very talented teacher. Jess was also blessed to have an excellent English teacher during her eighth and ninth grades!

By this time Moni began struggling in school. We even changed private schools and hired a tutor to work along side myself as I tutored her the other nights. Gina began struggling as well, in Kindergarten, and I also became her tutor. The school required her to be held back, because she wasn't grasping the material and had a difficult time learning her phonics. An entire year later we found out she had a speech difficulty due to her jaw having abnormalities. Thank the Lord for the doctor who pointed this out to us. After a few months of speech therapy she was doing quite well.

During these frustrating years, I believe God was teaching me how to teach my children. I'm thankful for the teachers my children had during their time in school and for God revealing to me what He wanted for us to decide for our children's further education. He has taught me through His Word and by what He allowed to take place in my life, that He wants me to teach my children. There are things He wants me to teach them that aren't offered or focused on in school. Being home gives us more time to be able to insure that they will learn those things that we feel God is showing us is important to Him and for their futures.

1 kind words:

Anonymous,  March 27, 2008 at 7:08 AM  

Sister Lisa,
You have once again written a thought provoking article and I LOVE IT!

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