Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Days Provide Opportunity

For all of those who aren't familiar with the purpose of my blog, or with me, for that matter, I am a mother of one. I view the role of mother as my most important job in life. Also important is my role as wife to my husband (I have to remind myself of this lots of times), but even the most essential aspect of that role's importance is providing the environment to nurture our offspring.
I view education as being very important. I've been a teacher on just about every level imaginable, and from this experience I have concluded that a lot of what's done at school is a disservice to some of our children.

My Goto Example of Education Disservice: Sight Words

For example, I am a firm believer that not every child needs to be introduced to sight words. Sight words themselves aren't the culprit, but the idea of a list of words for students to memorize, especially when words on that list are decodable, is. I feel that sight words are used because it's easier for the teacher. No real concept is to be taught when using sight words. Sight word instruction, while sometimes inventive, is merely presenting words and helping students remember them by sight.
I taught sight words to a class of four years olds. My youngest kid of 3 progressed the fastest and within her first week in my class could recite several sight word books. Her mom was so amazed that her 3 year old was "reading." I really wanted to tell the mom that nothing about what this child was doing is "reading" and that I could really teach her 3 y.o. to read if the school would let me bring my own materials, implemented a real discipline plan, and allowed the teacher to deviate from that curriculum and actually gave time for actual instruction instead of going around the building to have useless extra-curricular classes (I love these classes, if done in a systematic way that actually produced a skill- I mean why go to a class to learn that book= libra, but not be able to construct any Spanish phrases) all day, her 3 y.o would be learning to read. But for as long as unknowing parents are impressed by the non-education of our children, these schools will continue to do what they already do.(Please see Some May Call Me the Sight Word Nazi and How I Taught My Daughter to Read.)

For the Most Part, Teachers Are Not the Problem

I am not hear to bash teachers. I am in my own regard a teacher at heart. Society has painted teachers as people who enter the field to make money, and while in this economy, there may be some truth to that, I have not met a teacher that did not want his class to do well or her students to master the state's standards. The people aren't the problem, but the approach. The fact is that there is no real way to differentiate to meet every single one of the class' 30 kids' needs. It is my experience that differentiation in the classroom is really for those who underperform. Enough is done to ensure that students stay on level. Often times lots of energy goes to bringing up those low level students, but only if there are a lot of them in the class to begin with. And then higher performing students' parents are coaxed along in order to keep their child in the class/school to bring up test scores.
If your three or four year old, or even two year old, is ready to learn to read, why wait until age 6 to teach them. Right now, my first grader can add two digit numbers in her head and extremely large numbers on paper. We're beginning to learn times tables, but have I seen any of this work come home? Will any of these skills be nurtured in any way at her school? The answer is a swift "no." On the Star reading assessment, my child tested on the 5th grade reading comprehension level. Her teacher was proud, I guess, because I heard about it from other parents before I was informed by the school. But have I seen any 5th grade books come home? The idea is supposed to be that at the end of the year, or at least at the beginning of next year, she's advanced a complete year, comprehending at 6.3. Will she this year? If so, it won't be because of work she's done at school, or even work that's sent home from school.

Conventional Schools Are Not Equipped to Meet the Needs of Every Single Child

What I expect for my child- what every child deserves- is nearly impossible for the school to do as it is set up. First of all the idea of grade levels being associated with age instead of skill or knowledge is ridiculous. The idea that you have to spend all year learning something that you can learn in a month is equally ridiculous, but how else is group education to function? I will admit that in recent years great gains have been made in differentiation with regard to reading, but this is really only on what the students read, not so much on direct instruction. Math, however, hasn't come as far along.
Everyday I ask my child did she learn anything new in her regular class. Except for one day, the answer has been "no." Now I do admit that she's exposed to different things in the gifted program. Things that I would not think to do, they've done. For that, I'm thankful.

More About Me and This Here Blog

I view myself as a part-time homeschooler. Why don't I homeschool my daughter full time? I got to come-up just a bit to do that, and believe me, I've been working on that. Academically, I got her, but some of the other things suffered when she was homeschooled due to her not being around others in her age group, and not having certain experiences. But with just a little more work on my part, I plan to eliminate these issues with my own homeschool.
My mantra is that no one at any school, public or private, is able to teach my daughter as well as I. I am my child's primary (not only first, but chief) teacher. And it's not that I'm such a good teacher. It's that I know my daughter. I've taken the time to get to know her, and at this stage (and I hope always) I am one of the ones who is most influential to her. She is the clay, and I am the primary molder. I take this job seriously. This blog documents our educational experiences.

You, My Dear, Are Qualified

How is it that I am able to teach my child with no teaching degree or certification? I do have an advantage in that I've actually taught in schools. I know how to make an effective lesson plan. Based off of the standards, I can develop my own curriculum and curriculum maps. I can read and understand the maps of school districts and compare and contrast them. I can read testing data. I can develop adequate pre and post assessments. I can ask higher order, open ended questions, basing my lesson on the essential question. I've been instructed on positive behavior and teacher efficacy. I have an advantage, but still I have to research, research, research. I research what it is that my child should know and/ or wants to know and/or what I want her to know. Then I research the best way to teach it. That's all, boo. You are totally qualified to teach your own child. Even if you don't know yourself, you can follow this model- research, learn, teach. If for some reason that doesn't work, then you contract the teaching out. Maybe you can leave that aspect to the schools, loved one, or to a tutor.

Take Snow Day Action

So if you have time during these GA snow days, instead of being concerned about the time your learner is missing from school, take the time to fill in the gaps in her education. You as a parent can do more than visit the school to help your child in the academic arena. You can do more than making sure that he gets his homework. I encourage you to take on the role of educator for your children. Work that role, rather it be daily or weekly or monthly. I encourage you to view these "free days" as an opportunity to academically educate your own child. In your researching phase, you'll probably learn that the best way to approach a subject isn't congruent with the school's approach, anyway. Follow the model and the motto. Let's say it together.
I am my child's primary and best teacher. I honor this responsibility and move through it with gratitude, knowing that I am doing what's best for my child. I am qualified by God for this position, and thusly, I take the time to research, learn, and teach.
Happy Teaching!!!


  1. I think I needed this! My daughter Grace is currently in first grade but is not quite on level/ I've visited with her teacher on numerous occasions in an effort to bring her [Grace] up to speed. I've become extremely frustrated with the way children are taught today. No, I am not a certified teacher, but I so feel that there is a STARK difference between how we were taught (I'm sure those methods had their faults) and how children are taught today. I realize [and know] that I am my child's primary educator; I become frustrated because I don't feel like I am equipped - because I don't feel equipped, that leads to frustration. Frustration: she isn't getting it and I don't know how to help her get it.

    1. Thanks for your comment. It can be frustrating dealing with schools, but please know that they are doing what they think is best for the body of students. What's best for the body may not be what's best for your daughter. May I suggest that you try to pinpoint any existing problems. Your school can help with this. Ask for every assessment, for every single thing that helps them to determine where she is. Research the best way to correct the problems and/ or curriculums. Then just teach. My daughter is also in first grade. If I can be of any help, please contact me. Be encouraged. You are more than capable.