The Homeschool Challenge

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This past year, my oldest son was in first grade. For preschool and kindergarten, we had sent him to the Lewisville Christian School. In that environment, under the care of great teachers and excellent faculty, he arrived andrew and learned am blossoms. We have always tried to be proactive about our involvement in our kids lives as their parents. So when deciding what to do for his first grade year, we were not confident that the public school in our zone would be the best option. For one thing, the school is not very highly rated. Another thing, even the best schools in our area have a very high student to teacher ratio. Coming from the very intimate and a personal relationship with his teachers at the Lewisville Christian School, where the student to teacher ratio in kindergarden was 6 to 1, we felt that would not be adequate or advantageous. We know several teachers in the public school system who believe strongly that the public school system is not fertile ground for a child’s growth and education. It is somewhat adequate, but certainly not as ideal as the Lewisville Christian School environment was.

So we were left with the choice: public school, which we did not believe in as a reasonable option, private school, which we certainly could not afford, or homeschool. In my job as a youth minister, I know many many parents who home school. In fact, in our suburban area, this seems to be a popular option. There are well developed homeschool groups that meet regularly to share resources and have collaborative learning and even go on field trips or do fun activities. It is a good time and a good place to be homeschooling. The greatest appeal perhaps would be the ability to teach our own child what we believe is best for him to learn. academically, of course, we would need help there because neither my wife nor I are educated to be educators. It is part of our personality and consistent with our passions, but we do not know the particulars about what needs to be taught in first grade or about appropriate and creative ways to do so. But as I stated before, this is a great time to be home schooling because there is an abundance of resources for knowing what to teach and providing ways to teach.

As a Christian family, ensuring that our children are taught truth about the world and about bass is the utmost priority for us. homeschooling would allow us to teach the values and beliefs that are central to our family. we know our children are taught that in Lewisville Christian school, but we know that would not be part of the curriculum at d public school where they are zoned. And so we made the decision to homeschool, with much prayer i might add.

Much of homeschooling was a joy. Many days, my wife and son could complete the work early enough for a full afternoon of fun. it allowed us a great amount of flexibility and our family travels and in our daily and weekly schedules. My wife sound ways to teach creatively that my son enjoyed. Rather than being stuck in A classroom, the kitchen or the living room or the back porch or the trampoline or the tree or the alley or the park or the library or a museum or the car where his classrooms. The Word of God and Christian values were taught as a regular subject, as well as being woven into the other subjects (science and history, for instance).

Homeschool also have its challenges. It requires a great bit of discipline to get work done, particularly on those days when there are other family needs or on trips or when my son and or my wife were burned out on the schooling for that day or that week. Also, it was such an adjustment for my son to have to do this type of work load, that he often resisted. It did not help the matter that he was at home, where he is accustomed to freedom and being able to play. it is not as though he was jealous of his friends who were able to go to school. He just had very little frame of reference to understand that what was being asked of him and demanded of him was actually typical, if not a bit lighter. My wife did not set the standard low or require less of him, but the ability to get them done at a faster pace with individual attention in a more comfortable environment and in ways and place is not possible for kids in a school, he had it quite a bit better than those students and did not realize it. Another great challenge was that my wife had to switch roles back and forth from mom to teacher. she is excellent at being a mom, and for the most part, our children let her do that job and respond to her well that way. But as a teacher, it was so strange for my son to have to sit and be instructed by her that he struggled with ascribing her that a thority. It created a lot of tension and our family, and made my wife feel like a failure as a mom and as a teacher. She had not failed at either, but the feeling came from the tension that naturally arose.

One other thing about homeschooling is that the input into the child’s education comes from only one source. The pressure is solely on the parent doing the teaching to provide everything the child needs. In a school environment, there are often multiple adults giving input to the child’s education. They may have teachers for different subjects, 12 specialize in a certain subject, whereas in homeschooling, if a parent is naturally less interested or less competent in a certain subject, there is no one to make up for that deficit. Also, in schools, there are other staff and faculty and AIDS, a community of people surrounding the child and each adding something valuable to his or her development.

 

All these things considered, we have chosen to put our child back in school for second grade. fortunately, we were able to secure a place for him in a charter school, a local Classical Academy that has much more intimate student to teacher ratios and who teach, not necessarily overtly Christian values or worldviews, but good character and values that are consistent with our Christian beliefs.

Higher education

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Albert Einstein is credited with saying famously that everything he needed to know about life he learned in kindergarten. Indeed, in those early formative years, children are like sponges soaking up every bit of knowledge they can learn from what is taught and from every single experience they have. This foundation is crucial for what they must learn later. But it is crucial that they also continue to learn and build on that foundation.

This is something that, as a student grows, may become less natural. That is, of course, unless it is taught and reinforced by the parents and by the child’s community, including teachers and coaches and churches, that further education and even higher education are basic expectations.

Those who were raised to believe that further education, and especially higher education, are optional will be more likely not to take that option when the time comes. Of course there are certain other options such as military or trade school that might also be reasonable options, but College remains crucial as part of a person’s resume for most desirable jobs. In the grind of junior year and senior year of high school, signing up for another 4 or more years of homework and studying and exams just does not sound appealing. It is in that grind and motivated by that stress when many decide not to pursue a higher degree in college. Often it is a strictly emotional choice. The student has not set firm goals of what they truly want to accomplish in life and then decided that college is not productive to meeting that goal. If they were to sit down and write out their goals and determine what steps will lead to that result, most often, College will be a vital part of that plant. Therefore, it is imperative for those who are invested in that child’s success, as mentioned before, the parents teachers coaches and church, and still in that child the significance of pursuing a higher education and helping them in the high stress scenarios and those high school years that are so strenuous that many choose not to pursue college who that they encourage the students to make the choice that is best not that feels the best.Continue reading

Required reading

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Junior year in high school in Tennessee where I grew up was there any artists, most demanding year for high school students. Freshman year, there is all of the excitement of finally being in high school, the feeling of new freedom, and the opportunity to make new friends for this new adventure. Sophomore year was not the hardest, but it was the most dull. in the sophomore year, there are few openings for electives, meeting classes that are chosen based on a student interest rather than merely the required courses, and the classes that are required that year tend to be the most boring and rote. Senior year, while there may be quite a bit of heat in a competition over class rank, as well as the E infamous battle for valedictorian, the attention of all this is tempered by the excitement of it’s being a student last year in high school, last months and weeks before the exciting new adventure of college and independence.

Junior year is sort of a perfect storm for stress and tension. Like the sophomore year, many of the classes are prescribed and required rather than chosen. but like the senior year, there is the stress of it being the last opportunities to make the grade or on a high rank or college acceptance and scholarships. My favorite class and a bit of a stress-reliever was Art. The teacher was fun and used to ease our pain by taking us on trips to various places nearby. She also was the lead teach in the visit to a few of the local colleges such as the Nossi College of Art. That particular visit was a lot of fun- they took a whole bunch of us and it was a riot.

Between my sophomore and junior year, we were assigned summer reading. our junior English teacher can to our sophomore English class and passed out a list of the books we would need to read over the summer. I did not expect this. I had no idea that would be fine. Of course I know now that is a common thing, and that many begin long before sophomore and junior year. at the time it seemed unfair and unjustly burdensome. There were approximately 12 books assigned for us to read that summer. Only two or three looked remotely interesting. The Red Badge of Courage and a few stories from Edgar Allan Poe we’re the only ones about which I was not frustrated.

As can be expected, I was sluggish about beginning my reading. Summer fun began, & I had no interest in doing school work. I would occasionally pick up one of the books but lose interest quickly. I suddenly realized I was in serious trouble. I add about 11 books to read in 2 weeks. I did not read more than 6 or 7, but that took me 2 weeks of solid effort.Continue reading

The Need for CIS

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In a school district where I live,  in the schools with which I have contact as a youth minister at a church in that school district, there is an organization called Communities in Schools (CIS). This program, to which I was introduced almost by accident in 2010, puts counselors and social workers within schools to help students labeled as at risk. at risk, by their definition is at risk of dropping out and not completing high school. The students are determined to be at risk through a screening process. to be completely honest and in the interest of full disclosure, I am NOT personally familiar with what that process entails. but I do No and believe that it is done with the utmost integrity, and it has proven to be very effective and identifying students whose life circumstances make them at risk of dropping out and not finishing high school.

I have interacted with these kids personally and have first hand experience with them on several different levels. I volunteer as a delivery person for the boxes of foods in the program food for kids. I have experience with the counselors and social workers. I have overseen and organized events to benefit these families, including to holiday fair events in which the families received free items that their family may need and that could be given as Christmas presents, in addition to a free meal, free games for all the kids, and free services such as haircuts and manicures. The teenagers in my youth group from the church have collectively volunteered in the Communities in Schools summer program for at-risk kids. We have facilitated days of learning, days filled with fun and active games and other activities, and have even taken them on field trips.

So obviously, I’m a believer in the effectiveness of the program and then personally invested in making a contribution to its success.

I think there are several things that make Communities in Schools a worthwhile and effective program. One of these, perhaps the most important and most significant ingredients would be the communities in schools counselors. The individuals, at least the ones with him I’ve had interaction, have almost exclusively then high quality figures in the kids lives. they spend a great deal of time with the kids. They are at the school all day have a meaningful interaction with them, and then after school, there are tutoring programs and other after school offering that the counselors provide for the students. The counselors use this time to show love and encourage the students, something that many of them lack and the emotional damage of which is a major contributor to them being at risk of dropping out. They also use e time to teach skill, to tutor the students, particularly in subject that the students are failing or in danger of failing, and to find ways to instill character in the students.Continue reading

Considered boring, bothersome and blasé by many, poetry has had a poor reputation of being a means of communication reserved for hopeless romantics. For the longest time I had believed something similar; however, concealed inside every poem is a beauty that cannot be described but through the exact words the author chose to go in that exact order. Poetry is a creative art form that deserves more consideration than it is normally given and more in depth time spent discovering the experiences and unique features behind every poem’s curtain of words. Conveying an idea through words is no small task. Writing requires stress and scrutiny to find just the right way to say something. A poem does not simply convey an idea but an experience. Commonly misbelieved to require a lesson or strict moral, poems embody an experience the author wishes to recreate and share with the reader. Some poems encountered through this course, such as The Eagle by Alfred Lord Tennyson, contain no obvious meaning or purpose to the uninformed observer; to the skilled reader, they represent an experience – positive or negative – that is worded so perfectly it becomes beautiful. If a poet is successful in the construction of his or her poem, the reader comes away with a greater knowledge and understanding of the subject. Encased in the poem, the author utilizes figurative language to reveal the image he or she wishes to convey. Similes, metaphors, personifications, synecdoche, metonymy and many others aid in enhancing the experience by drawing comparisons and conjuring a life to the poem that ordinary phrases fail to reveal. The energy of a poem can be masterfully created through the correct use of words in their optimal arrangement. A poet also seizes the opportunity to enhance his or her poem through the intentional use of rhythm and rhyme, or lack thereof. Varied rhyme schemes and meter can affect the attitude a poem conveys. Unstressed syllables contain a lighter feel while stressed syllables can carry a heavy mood to them. Likewise with the rhyme scheme, a poem that flows and rhymes easily will feel fluid and almost musical. Picking up habitually on the sounds and rhythm of a poem, a reader’s ear will be able to interpret the sounds it hears as pleasant and euphonious or disharmonious and chaotic – either of the two can be utilized by the poet to convey an idea or theme. A talented poet gets creative in how he or she uses style to enhance their poem. For example the poem Hero and Leander by John Donne is extraordinary in its representation of the story of the Greek myth in two short lines. The poem succeeds in unveiling a tale of romance and tragedy by exposing the four elements in the four sections of the two lines in the poem – an impressive image of the compounds of life and the ability of those compounds to deprive. The experience of discovering and uncovering the various elements of that particular poem can in no way be repeated or described effectively. The surprise of realizing elements of the poem and the joy when grasping a new aspect that before had gone unnoticed is incomparable to anything else. All elements of a poem come together to produce a precious and unique piece of literature. Beginning to comprehend the depth of knowledge and breadth of understanding, I hold a far greater appreciation for poetry than ever and find myself enjoying what I read. Rich with beauty and concealed creativity, poetry proffers an endless supply of mind-provoking material for those who take the time to dive in and relish it’s hidden surprises. Poetry itself can be a reward for readers who dig around for the images and experiences contained inside.

In high school, I was very involved in the school’s color guard. This experience has drastically impacted my views on education and work ethic. At the center of a person’s personality lies their work ethic, a characteristic I believe to be a major factor in my life and experiences and one that helps define whether I can consider myself successful or not. This being said, I do not measure success on how much money I make or how quickly I escalate the ladder of business, but by how much of myself I have poured into what I think is important. Through my entire experience in grade school, I always strove for excellence, pouring a lot of time in effort into my classes and maintaining excellent grades. As I transitioned into high school, I began to discover that hard work and persistence applied to more than just academics. I became involved in my high school’s color guard, a part of the marching band, and instantly fell in love. I adored the directors, the student officers, and my fellow members. I thought the camaraderie was amazing and after one season, just a few months, surrounded by these people, I realized that we were not just teammates. We were family. After my first season, I knew that I wanted to be a big part of that organization. From that point forward, I put all of my effort, energy, and enthusiasm into the program. I invested in my teammates to form bonds that I undoubtedly believe will last a lifetime. My junior year of high school, I was given the title of “Lieutenant” where I was blessed to work alongside three of the senior leaders in the color guard. Watching them earnestly, I learned valuable skills that I would carry on to my senior year when I was then the “Captain”. The most fundamental and foundational aspect I learned is that people are the heart of every community, whether it is a sports team, a business, or a marching band. Without people, the color guard would not exist. It would not function without members who each cared very deeply about what they were doing. This was my number one priority as a leader. I worked diligently to make certain that every decision I made was what was best for my group. I poured my heart into those girls and my mission was for us to maintain a cohesive bond as a family. The better we trusted each other off the better our performance quality on the field. Every performance we strove for excellence, but achieving this required discipline and diligence. Success does not happen over night. Long, exhausting rehearsals were required to ensure the success of the color guard, but also the band as a whole. As a leader, I put forth my greatest effort to ensure that I had the most positive attitude of anyone on the field and enforced the same on my teammates. I knew that the road was hard and the journey difficult, but I knew that a positive attitude makes all the difference. This was not an easy task, but part of my responsibility as the captain involved aspects of leadership that are not always fun, like maintaining a positive attitude in the middle of a ten hour rehearsal while the temperature outside is over one-hundred degrees and there are directors yelling and making corrections constantly. If you are not invested one-hundred percent in the task at hand, then you will never get all you could out of it.

Education has always been critically important to societies. Hundreds of years ago, it was important for children to learn their parents trade, be it farming, carpentry or vending. Today education has shifted to a more versatile way of learning. As our world continues to become increasingly developed, the education of children becomes more focused on professions of industry versus professions of agriculture. Yes, there are still place where parents raise their kids into agricultural or trade jobs, but that realm is gradually closing and more parents are sending their children to schools and even colleges. We are in the midst of a cultural and educational revolution and teachers and schools are being forced to keep up. Class sizes are exploding and low teacher salaries are turning many young adults away from that profession. Teachers must get creative in dealing with their oversized classes and lack of time due to the increased number of testing days. So, the real question is, how do we change the classroom atmosphere to combat these problems?

One way that colleges are doing this is using the technological revolution to their advantage. Classes are beginning to be half in-class and half online or just online completely. You can complete a class thoroughly and never see a teacher. Or classes will meet once a week and have an hour or two of class online where work can be completed from home instead of in a class room. Each of these ideas has pros and cons in its implementation. College and high school students are allowed more freedom to learn at their own pace and are not forced to keep up  in a classroom setting. On the other hand, students are receiving less face to face help and class time. Scholars are concerned that this may attribute to today’s social withdrawal tendencies of those who are fully immersed in technology. Students who take online classes are not being forced into social environments where they have to meet face to face to work with peers and teachers. Many diverse opinions are out there, but for now the popularity of online courses still stand as an alternative to oversized classrooms. Already most if not all classes have adopted this technique and offer online classes regularly.

Teachers are also faced with the problem of technology in the classroom. Even just a few years ago, a majority of elementary and middle school children did not own tablets, laptops or even their own phones. Now, teachers have to learn how to handle elementary schoolers who are bringing iPhones to class with them. To tackle this, teachers have started a new power on – power off policy. Students are allowed to use their technology at certain times of the day such as lunch and recess. It is interesting to contemplate the way our society is evolving and constantly changing. What are your experiences in the class room? How have the changed over time? It is fun to think about what may arise in the next decade or even the next five years that teachers and school administration will have to battle in the classroom.