Challenges in educating (all of) our kids

During my Master’s in teaching, I had to review a lot of research that didn’t sit well with me.  Often, my classmates and I would exclaim “No wonder what we’re doing isn’t working!  The research says it won’t!”  Or we would ask “If the research says this, then why is public policy doing the opposite?”  We were told that we–the new, untenured teachers–would have to be the change the system needed.

The current teachers in the schools are laughing right now at the idea of a new, untenured teacher attempting to change culture and policy in a school…

Problems in the larger system trickle down and become the confines by which the classroom teacher is bound or the students are captors of.  Many of my high school students knew it, too.  That was really hard for me to see.   It was harder when they didn’t see it–when they truly believed that what the schools thought of them was their value in life.  Because I did not teach core subjects, I had some flexibility in my classroom.  One day, that meant talking to my class of 23 boys and 1 girl about how being a “C” student in school didn’t mean they would be a “C” person in life.  I went on to explain the numerous things that were of great value “out there” that we never taught or tested them on “in here”.  I explained how those things should be pursued and encouraged even if they didn’t rate or weren’t well regarded by a report card because they could take you far in life.  At least one boy in that room went on to college and told me he never imagined he COULD go to college because his passion was in making movies.  The school (and therefore, his daily “community”–quite possibly his parents) didn’t value making movies as a worthwhile thing even though the school HAD at least one elective class for it.

Ugh… it made me so upset.

I thought about how my students often had to integrate knowledge from various core subjects to do the work I assigned them in business or computer classes.  That integration not only solidifies the concepts, but usually gives real-world context to them and helps the students build on a more solid foundation.  But my classes weren’t required.

Last week, I spoke with the Assistant Superintendent in my school district–the one in charge of testing–about BigGuy and trying to determine placement for him.  (see my post “Testing, Testing… 1, 2, 3”)  My little scientist would be completely neglected in an area he was enthused with, motivated for and had strong intelligence and understanding of… for at least another 4 years.  In an area that we, as a nation, know we need more hands on deck.  How does that happen?  Not to mention that science is yet another subject that requires the integration of multiple subjects.

People think that homeschoolers don’t care about the public schools, but WE DO!!  Many of us are active in education reform groups.  We want to see it better.  Some of us are either partly engaged in that system or are hoping to partake of that system at some point.  Hell, if nothing else, our kids have friends in that system and we love those kids.  We care.

Here is a good, short talk set to animation about some of the pitfalls we face as a nation trying to educate our kids–things that are not discussed in the mainstream media because they require more than a 3-minute sound byte.  This is only 11 minutes long, but such a monumental difference.   I happen to really like Sir Ken Robinson‘s talks.  Feel free to search for him on YouTube for more of him.  And keep your eyes open: I’m finishing up an e-book on how to evaluate education options for your kids.  It’s not about homeschooling, it’s about determining what environment will match your family’s needs and goals.  ❤

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