Thursday, August 7, 2014

Why can't my child print their name?

Here I was at it again.  As my youngest child approaches 6 years old, I start to go inward.  I go inward with thoughts of achievement or non achievement.  It is easy as a mother to do this, especially in a competitive world.  Children are being taught as young as 3 years old in preschool to print their names.  What happens by the time your child is in kindergarten and they are not printing their name or even showing interest in putting pencil to paper?  As a homeschool mom for the last 10 years, I still go through this type of internal tug of war between  high emotional achieving competitiveness and my complete logical commonsensical understanding of a child's natural learning ability.  All signs point toward my child being on a clear path to learning at a natural pace.  When she wants to draw pictures, she will draw squiggly lines and crooked circles.  I have seen it many times with my children.  The squiggly lines soon turn into something noticeable and familiar. They draw you, in the form of a stick alien.   You will have 3 stick fingers on each hand, a big belly...always with a belly button and usually no hair. 
 The process varies between children and the speed of that process has variables.  Are the parents artists? How often does the child see drawings and how often does the child observe others drawing?  The age of the child also varies of when they draw 'better' or you start to notice some distinct object on the page.  We as parents are proud as we hang the squiggly lines on the walls and show the extended family when they progress to the alien family looking pictures.  Some children at 5 years old are drawing complete people with a scenery of grass and house.  It's hard not to admire the younger friend my daughter has already drawing the scene with grass, flowers and people with hair and sometime secretly wish your child was already doing that. 

Why is it then, when I want my daughter to learn her letters I feel this urge to sit down with her, make sure she is holding her pencil or crayon the 'right way'?  Why do I wish that she would just push herself to have so much desire to form the alphabet that she now recognizes?  I can suddenly feel the fear creeping in if I allow it, that perhaps I have done something wrong in the process from 0 -5 and start looking for things I missed and signs of possible learning delays.  These thoughts are fleeting as they are just thoughts of fear coming from a system within myself as a mother, wanting to be proud, wanting my child to be the best, the brightest.  I understand the moment I do this, I undo all that I set out to do.  What I set out to do was to provide an environment for my child that would allow her, no matter her learning abilities, to work at her own pace.  I understood from experience and research that given enough time, she will eventually print her name and flourish in this world.  One of my daughters did not read until she was 7 years old. While all the other children were reading, she was working towards it.  Two of my children did not become avid readers until 5th grade and before that I wondered why they didn't love to read like I did when I was younger.  As soon as they discovered some books they liked, their love of reading was exponential.

My 5 year old, loved learning her ABC's.  She loved working on a fantastic multi sensory software program called Vocabulary Builder.  I  put her on this when she expressed interest to do so, as it is designed to work with a child's natural learning ability.  She would spend as little as 3 minutes on it in the beginning.  I was only the facilitator.  It was not meant for me to push her, react to her, bribe her to do just 1 more minute or 1 more letter for my own self gratification.  I allowed her to be her own guide.  Eventually with the program she worked up to 30 minutes a day and would wake me up in the mornings handing me the laptop so I could put her on it.  I then started to get the workbooks out to see if she wanted to learn to draw those letters she now knew.  She showed interest to trace them for about 2. 5 seconds and then would move on leaving me with many uncompleted workbooks.  If she didn't get the line just perfect she would give up.  I would draw letters and see if she wanted to draw letters. Her eyes, her pencil grasp seemed so displaced and uncomfortable as I would watch her.  I resisted the urge to correct or move her hand to the right position.  I would ask her and sometimes she would allow me to suggest some things, mostly however it was her guiding me.    When her interest was not in drawing, or printing, which was most of the time, I would continue to read to her and point at letters that are in the world around us.  I would make letter sounds for animals and items and play verbal games with her which she loved.  She would draw pictures and ask me how to spell her name over and over again. I would try to guide her hand along as she let me to make the letters showing resistance if she couldn't get her hand to do what she wanted.   She would ask over and over again how to spell her name as people would ask her. I must have repeated it a hundred times and yet she could not remember and not print it on paper. I never forced the issue.   As other children had been spelling their names out loud for over a year, I told myself it was ok, she would one day print her name, just as all the other children had.

One day she asked me how to hold a spoon.  I showed her how I held mine and she started to change the way she held hers and suddenly she was excited at how much easier it was.  She had been using a spoon since the age of one and with new found dexterity she naturally started to hold her spoon in the new position.  As her birthday approaches I start to think of ways to get her start printing letters, which is against my train of thought.  This child is not about to be told how to do anything unless she wants to.  She doesn't pick up a pen or crayon to draw anything for 2 months and I wonder if I slacked too much.  The tug of war that goes on inside my mind is one of insane incompetence, where what I know slams into what I fear.  As I relax and just let her be for a few months with just playing computer games, reading out loud, imaginary play and just life experiences, out of the blue something happens, just like it has happened before.

 At the wedding of a family member she got the intense desire during the reception to draw the bride a picture.  We found some paper and crayons and she went to work.  She drew a rainbow, folded the paper and then brought it to me to look at.  There on the folded top was her name.  It was printed across the paper in different colors, each letter in capitals.  Still with all I know, it took me by surprise, I asked her who wrote her name, as if some other child magically appeared and did it for her.  She said she wrote it herself.  In all honesty I doubted her as she rushed off to give her masterpiece to the bride.  One week later while sitting at a restaurant she asked the waiter for crayons and paper and wrote her name out again, holding the pencil just as naturally as she could and then asked how to spell all our names.  She asked the correct spelling and with confidence, letter by letter, printed our names.

It is a tough world for us mom's. Our desire is to give our children the best of everything, the best start, the best instruction and the most love can be a challenge. How challenging it is to stay out of the competitive mindset and standardization of what young children are told they must know or have to know before starting kindergarten or at any given timeline as they grow.  As a parent, I am constantly unschooling my mindset from the status quo.

Find ways to remove emotional upsets or environments in the home if your child does attend school or is homeschooled.  There are many ideas, meanings of words, thoughts and emotions your child integrates on a day to day basis.  Remembering that your child wants to learn and not feel this pressure to be or do something they are not quite ready to do. On the flip side, and the great reward, is that this environment will also allow them  the natural ability to excel faster when they do find something they love and it will blow your mind as their confidence soars and the world around them becomes limitless.  Imagine as adults how much we resist when we feel pressured to do something we don't like and how much we grow when we find something we love!   We must as parents understand that a love of learning is fostered at a very young age based on the environment or environments that child is in.  This week my child printed her name. Now I get to wait, observe, explore with her and see what she does next and with common sense I will enjoy the journey as I watch her perform a lyrical dance that is a beautiful sight to behold. I realize in that moment she is not worried about printing her name.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Parenting, Teenagers and now Homeschool?

A growing concern for parents that are deciding to homeschool after their children have been to public or private schools is not always an easy decision and certainly can come with struggles in the transition.  Becoming a parent is already a full time responsibility and adding 'schooling' to the repertoire often is something unforeseen.  I remember when my first daughter turned 8 years old and wondering where that cute little baby went to.  She was growing so fast and suddenly searching for your own identity in her own world that I wasn't prepared for.   This child who had explored her world, who came with me on many of my adventures in my life, traveled with me, hung out with me, shopped with me, laughed with me, hugged me constantly was slowly showing me signs of resistance to all of that.  As I fumbled through each day communicating to her the way I figured was the best way at the time, I realized she was no longer this little person who wanted my constant attention and the ease of 'what was', for me was becoming 'what the heck?!'  As I internally processed the idea that she was 8, I realized no one had ever told me when she was this new little baby, a bundle of pure beauty and expressive joy, that one day I would be a mother to  an 8 year old, or a 12 year old.  Yet there I was, wondering daily, like the first months of her newborn life making sure I was saying and doing the right things correctly.   Where was the Chapter 8, or Step 8, or Age 8 part in the book that I could read now  to support this next stage?  Searching the book shelf I found the last book I had on parenting and what to expect and it was called, 'The First 2 Years'.  That obviously was not going to cut it.

For personal reasons we decided to home school when this daughter was 14 years old.   I wanted her to experience the 'school of life', to explore the world, to travel and to experience culture and to report back on that to the school.  Now a home learner, the school mandated that she  follow curriculum and at that time there was not another option.  With the books in hand, the curriculum in hand and the online teacher support I was transported back to Grade 9 with her.  It was as if I was having to redo my whole grade 9 year over again.   She had all the books and outlines from school that were expected of her. She had resources and access to online teachers for math which were extremely helpful.  To speak honestly I  realized how rusty I was and she was. We studied Social Studies 9, English and Math together.  It was a lot of writing, reading and answering pages and pages of questions and then submitting them.  What I noticed was that there was no satisfaction with learning when my daughter was doing the school work.  She was bright, already fluent in French and English and yet when doing her school work I observed that her goal was just to get it done and that was it. There was not much excitement in learning the school work or a satisfaction of learning what she read. In fact I was more into what she was reading when I studied with her than she was, even though I knew at one time I had studied this exact same material in school myself, somehow I was enjoying it more now than I did then!

Once the school work was done, as a family, we explored the the country we had traveled to.  We took Spanish lessons, traveled to unknown places and cites with ruins that were thousands of years old.  We climbed pyramids, swam in Cenotes, learned of early civilization, wars and ends of civilizations.  We went to museums, hiked, swam in the pools and the ocean and whatever we could do to explore this new world.   We saw those living in poverty conditions.  We had discussions about life, poverty, lack, gratitude, and forged a new relationships with each other that were more still, calm and grounded as we as a family and our children could see what life may really be like outside the classroom.  I wanted her to still excel in school and education and have a love for learning.  It was apparent that year, the love of learning from textbooks was not there.  The years of testing and submitting and worrying about a grade mark being the status quo were not a want or desire, just a want and a desire to 'get it done' and to move to the next grade.   Eventually that year ended and she went back to school in 10th grade.

There were many things I realized in that year and now looking back, we were fortunate to give that opportunity to ourselves as parents and to our children.  What was needed was remediation and time to unwind from the traditional school.  Very easily I could see how the affects of the learning in the atmosphere of pedagogy had hindered the older children's love for learning.  Taking the time to allow them to unwind from the school work, stress and to see that learning comes in a variety of ways aside from testing and regurgitating back information out of a textbook was important for her and for us as parents.

I have discovered, that my struggle as a parent suddenly having a teen homeschooled after traditional schooling, was having to change myself first and not the child. It was important to have the time for just rewinding, clarification and just shaking off the pressures of the traditional mindset.  I realized in that year, once I removed the pressure from myself that my child must succeed, or must get the highest mark, or must understand every thing she read immediately and if she didn't then unintentionally make her feel bad or not good enough or smart enough,  that she started to relax and really learn.  My desire to have her succeed was coming from a starting point of fear of what I would look like as a parent in that year if she did not get good marks or worse yet, failed a subject. To me that would of meant I had failed and I cared more about what others would think of me then what really was best for my child.   When I changed my starting point to one of understanding and love, and a real focus on what she really needed, it was then that I started to understand her world and her frustrations. When that became clear to me, something magical happened. This child that that I experienced in her first 8 years was still there and I just couldn't see it because of my own interpretations and my starting point of fear.  We laughed more, we had closeness, we communicated, we traveled, we hugged, we learned together.  She was free to find some of her own interests.  She still had to complete the school work and with my help she did. However she found that there were so many other things in the world to learn, explore and study that didn't have to end with an exam or a question/answer period, it was just natural learning.  I saw that part of the foundation of her learning in those first years of school with the pressures I had put on her to learn had become cracks that needed to be filled first with myself and then with her before more learning could take place.

I suggest if you are faced with deciding to homeschool your child for whatever personal reasons you may have, that as a parent you take the time,whatever time is needed to look at the foundation of learning first, not just your child's but your own.  All children are brilliant and given enough time, success will come.  It is important to look at the foundation whether your child is in traditional school or homeschooled and see where the cracks need to be filled in first.  Structuring that foundation to be the best comes from vocabulary and understanding how we use words as parents to the child.  I was not prepared to be a mother or a homeschool mother at the time and since have worked on filling in my own cracks in order to be more effective not just as a teacher to my children, but as a parent.  This goes a long way when suddenly your newborn baby is 14 years old! Prevention is always the best cure!

Friday, April 18, 2014

How to Start Homeschooling Naturally

Once the decision is made to homeschool it can be challenging to know where to start and what to do.   When I made the decision to homeschool the 5th child it was when she was 2 years old. There were many avenues I could of taken.  Her environment was already one of exploring, playing and natural learning.  In a short 2 years she had learned to sit up, crawl, stand, walk and talk and think! Wow, imagine the amount the body can absorb and learn to do all that!  I had read a book on baby sign language before she was born and also taught her baby sign language before she could even speak so that I could give her a tool to communicate with.  It was amazing that at 6 months old she used her first sign with me and from then until she could use words, we communicated in sign language.  By the time you get to the 5th child, you get smarter and a little more creative, unfortunately the things you wished you had done, or wished someone had told you when you had your first child, you don't become skilled at until you have parent/child experience and with each child I learned as they learned.  We don't have a parent manual of a one size fits all 'what to do' and 'what not to do' when we become a parent.   I can say I did a lot of the 'to dos' and 'not to dos' by trial and error and by own  upbringing with my parents.  Little D at 2 years old had already so much going for her, she could speak very well, count to 20, do 100 piece puzzles, was super obedient and clearly I decided I was the best mother ever.  It wasn't until number 6 came along that every thing I ever thought I knew about motherhood and parenting went out the window! That is another blog I am going to start soon on the 'Gifted Learning Disabled'. 

Regardless of those experiences, the environment I provided for Little D and with her little sister 6 years later 'Little M' were the same.  The homeschool environment should be matching a place for free play and natural opportunities for the child to explore their world.  I started with just having my mornings devoted to play, reading books in a corner of the living room, or on a couch, or the floor, or kitchen table. We had crafts available, scissors to cut with, glue, and glitter. Toys were in the toy box, in the bedrooms and I would often rotate different ones in and out.   We had drums, a keyboard, maracas and music Cd's galore for singing and dancing along too.  Computers games for kids to learn on were just becoming mainstream and she at 2 could work a mouse and figure some things out. Today with my youngest its a whole different computer scene!  There was the favorite Barney Videos that had to be watched over and over again.  There were characters to act out from the various children movies they watched. Many times Tinkerbell or Snow White would show up for breakfast in the morning and we would play out the role with Little D who no longer was Little D but  in full character.  I acted out many parts for the princess movies she adored watching. There were many apples with one bite taken out of them as Little D would rewind the scene multiple times a day where Snow White would eat the apple and be poisoned.  There was little D also falling on the floor in a full out faint with the apple rolling away.  Often I was the prince, the fairy godmother, the wicked stepmother in each scene where appropriate and she was Cinderella. We must have acted out the same scene 50 times, each time cued perfectly to her timing.   When we went to the store it was learning, when I cooked there was learning, when we gardened there was learning.    The home environment was key to providing her a place to create freely, unencumbered from any structure aside from the structured time I set aside every morning to be completely engaged in their world.

Often I have heard new mothers starting their homeschool journeys concerned about where and how to start.  Feeling so much pressure on them to educate their child to prepare them for life, I know I did.  It can be daunting and seem overwhelming.  Keep in mind that a child has a natural learning ability and they will form their character from those first 7 years.  From the time they are born, speak to them with clear concise words and make sure your words match the correct meaning even through play.  A child's vocabulary or lack of vocabulary has a huge impact as studies now show in the first 18 months of a child's life that affect their learning in higher education.   The more words a child has spoken to them daily has impacts on their learning as they grow.

Here is a quote from the following article ""...By the time a child is three there will be about 1,000 trillion connections in his brain, and that child’s experiences continuously determine which are strengthened and which pruned. This process, gradual and more-or-less irreversible, shapes the trajectory of the child’s life..."

We underestimate the human body and with so much new information coming out with common sense perspectives, we may just be able to design that parent manual after all.   There will be many opportunities for your child to learn as they lead you to their passions and joys through play.  Whether you stick with homeschool or not, the environment is a key point to their natural learning ability and the way they will learn.  Enjoy the moments and watch your child blossom.

Friday, February 28, 2014

"What Did You Learn Today?"

When I decided to homeschool, our 5th child was 2 years old.  A friend had given me a book which started my whole journey called;

A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century.

Up until that point I never imagined myself to become a homeschool mom or understood why a parent would homeschool.  What happened was that upon reading this book I realized that the philosophy spoken in the book had always been my own innate idea of how a child learns.  What stood out to me the most was the 4 Learning Phases of a Child that was taught.  I took some of the key elements from these phases that made sense to me at the time and decided that I would homeschool child number 5. 

4 Phases

Core Phase
Love of Learning Phase
Transition to Scholar Phase
Scholar Phase

Read about the phases here:

Phases of Learning

The Core Phase is ages 0 - 8 where the child learns through reading and discussing good books, physical movements and play in their environment, games and having fun through their family values and structure.  Lessons in self-discipline, perseverance and pursuit of excellence are modeled by the parents, and experienced by the young child, in mostly physical ways.

I figured that this was the best way for my child to learn and the phases made practical sense.  

What I experienced was quite unexpected.  Within my core being I wanted to have this type of environment for my child and to foster her foundation to be strong for lifelong success in education and life.  Feeling at times completely unqualified and questioned by others, specifically family members who were expressing themselves through genuine love and concern, I was constantly battling some inner doubts the first 4 to 5 years.  To combat this I surrounded myself with others who had been on the same journey with their children for quite a few years, met with other families with young children who were also just starting their homeschool experience and carried on. I read, I researched, I found mentors, great alternative schools and I started to see a whole new world emerging. 

There would be weeks and months where I was completely satisfied and pleased with the progress and environment I created in our home to facilitate a love of learning through play, games, acting, household chores, fun cooking activities, singing, dancing and reading.  As my daughter grew from the preschool age to the kindergarten to Grade 1, the questions increased from those around me who did not fully understand my decision. Then there would be weeks and months where I would question myself.  When it came to the age of where my daughter should be reading like all the other grade one kids, we had a problem.

The problem was not that she wasn't reading, but 'almost' was, the problem was that other children would question her as well as family members.  In all the years of homeschooling the most asked question my child was asked on a weekly basis from well meaning family members was ' What did you learn today?' It was asked with the connotation of 'what possibly could you have learned and what are you missing out on if you were in school', at least that's what I heard it sound like!  As a mother/new teacher I would cringe inside of the question being asked as my daughter would always answer the same way.  'I don't know!' That's all she would say after I thought we spent the most magnificent day learning as we explored the world around us! Of course I would stand there and defend her, myself and my wonderfully creative home environment and remind my daughter all that she had learned that day such as patterns as we took a long walk and pointed out every pattern we saw from flowers, to sidewalks to houses, to trees and leaves.  Alas, it never seemed like the answer that was good enough and only because I had yet to master my own confidence in my own decision and stand by that.  There were days when teaching her to read because I felt so pressured, I would wonder if I was actually doing her a disservice and I would start to compare her reading level to other children that went to school.  She belonged to many outside social groups so other kids that knew her and grew with her would ask her why she was homeschooled, in which she would reply 'I don't know!' (me, again cringe)

One of the concerns of parents today that are taking the homeschool route are those same things I concerned myself with in the beginning of self doubt and confidence in their ability to provide the best for their child.  The great news is that we live in a time where information and support is at our fingertips.  Surrounding yourself with those that have children who are older and have gone through their whole education in the home and seeing their success will ease those concerns.  At the end of the day, it is you as a parent that understands your child's true potential.

My daughter who is almost 12 today is an avid reader. As she grew she became interested in music and acting.  She started playing piano at 6. She performed in a few musical theatre productions  and picked up the guitar at 9 and with a mentor started self teaching.  She became a songwriter and  composes a song on the guitar in as little as 20 minutes, lyrics and all.  She is articulate, smart, and is now in the the next phase, the love of learning.  This stage is where that foundation that was fostered in the Core Phase now comes into play. She has deep questions, not just about what a text book is telling her but how things work in this world.  She creates art, music videos, street performs and has written chapter books for kids and is working on her third.  She loves to learn!  I think we are doing pretty good.  She doesn't get grades, she doesn't take year end exams, she is followed by a home learning consultant and can communicate effectively with her peers and adults. 

I can say that starting out with little understanding of the 'how' I was going to do this, I unschooled myself from my own schooling and learned and experienced along the way.  My daughter suffered from anxiety from the time she was 3 to 7 years old.   Everything I knew or was learning, I had to look at to see if this was the best for my child.  It was not that any one thing was wrong, it was more that I could provide so much more for her since there was her and I in a very experiential free flowing environment which happened to be a more natural environment.  This has paved the way for me to become confident and sure based on results and one happy child.  The road is not always smooth and I still am always learning as she grows. 

There is still that question I hear sometimes, 'What did you learn today?'  Instead of me answering (cringing) or having to defend anything I simply stand and smile while she says "Well, let me tell you all about it..."

To Be Continued... 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

America Hates its Gifted Kids?

America hates its gifted kids..what? The term gifted children was first used in 1869 by Francis Galton. He referred to adults who demonstrated exceptional talent in some area as gifted, for example, a gifted chemist. Children could inherit the potential to become a gifted adult, and Galton referred to these children as gifted children. Lewis Terman expanded Galton's view of gifted children to include high IQ. In the early 1900s, he began his a long-term study of gifted children, whom he defined as children with IQs of 140 or more. His study found that IQ alone could not predict success in adulthood. Leta Hollingworth, too, believed that the potential to be gifted was inherited. However, she felt that providing a nurturing home and school environment were also important in the development of that potential. In 1926, she published her book, Gifted Children, Their Nature and Nurture, and the term gifted has been used ever since to refer to children of high potential.

In a recent NEWSWEEK article titled 'America Hates its Gifted Kids' the author explains that America's best pupils are being cheated because of a growing school of thought that the U.S. education system has had a laudable quest to make sure the worst students reach minimal standards.

"It still happens today. A 2008 report found that the controversial No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 indeed helped low-achieving students rise to meet a more rigorous course load, but shifted teachers’ sights away from the gifted kids, who seemed capable of helping themselves stay on track."

There are Different Definitions of Gifted and you can read online about what that means in todays current terminology.  The early uses of the term gifted have led to different uses of the word and different ways of defining giftedness. Galton’s view left us with the idea that a gifted person is one with a gift, a special talent demonstrated in adulthood. People today may use gifted child the way Galton used the term gifted adult. In other words, to be a gifted child is to demonstrate an exceptional talent in a particular area. Terman’s view led to definitions of gifted, which not only included high IQ, but also the notion that giftedness should be a predictor of adult achievement. Hollingworth’s view, however, led to definitions of gifted as childhood potential that must be nurtured in order for it to be developed in adulthood.

A modern day growing group is the Giftedness as Asynchronous Development. Linda Silverman added a new dimension to definitions of gifted when she included the uneven development of gifted children, which she called asynchronous development. Definitions of gifted that include asynchronous development consider not only IQ and talent, but also emotional traits of gifted children, such as heightened sensitivity. The definition developed by the Columbus Group is an example of this type of definition. "Giftedness is 'asynchronous development' in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally."

The author of the article in NEWSWEEK points out the following;

“Gifted children are a precious human-capital resource,” said David Lubinski, a professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University, in a recent news release. They are the “future creators of modern culture and leaders in business, health care, law, the professoriate, and STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics].”

We can look at the results of the education system and see that in America the results our children are getting are not just affecting 'gifted' children, they are affecting all children.  There is not a parent out there that would say that their child that is not defined as gifted is 'less of a precious human-capital resource'.  If we start to label and define and base our continual education system on the separtism of children based on tests and IQ's how we will ever as a nation succeed and provide a world where the future is filled with creators of modern culture, leaders in all areas of science, technology and stewards of this earth to create a better world for all.  Until we can look as parents at ourselves and see that if a system that is allowing the time to be spent on those that are not in the high IQ, or gifted, or talented then there is a problem as a whole for the whole.  This suggests that not only the 'gifted kids' have been failed by the system its even the kids who are struggling to keep up to standards.  The problem is not that America Hates Gifted Kids, the problem is lack of practical solutions that can work with all children based on that all children are precious human's and are the future. 

"Tomlinson’s frustrations, much like those experienced by many of the nation’s public school teachers, are compounded by the larger forces acting on the environment in which she works. Figures released early last year showed 80 percent of entrants into City University of New York schools needed remediation in reading, writing and math in order to enroll"

When America has to remediate 80% of entrants into any University in reading, writing and math in order to enroll then it would be safe to say we have a huge problem that needs to start from the bottom up and not just from the top.  The mindset that the world is one big arena where the winner takes all, leaves a lot of losers at a time where we as a nation can no longer afford to lose.

"For the U.S. to reach the upper echelons of educational attainment in an increasingly competitive global environment, it probably needs change that comes from both the bottom, through teachers like Tomlinson, and the top, from serious education reform focused on cultivating intellectual achievement. Before innovative ideas like Lubinski’s can take hold, there needs to be a consensus among all the stakeholders that winning is important, and it isn’t enough to simply enter the race."

Who are the stakeholders then?  Wouldn't parents be the biggest stakeholders? After all they have the most 'precious human-capital resource' on planet earth.  As parents we can start to look at what we want individually for our children and by seeing their true potential as a parent can, then provide the best environment for that child and not allow random events, law and policy makers, education reform and waiting to be that child's foundation.  We can structure foundations to ensure functional excellence in order for our children to be successful and master any environment before they leave the home and go out into the world to create, innovate and change the world.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Vocabulary - Teaching Words That Matter Most - A Scholastic READ ABOUT

Common sense can tell us that we are the words that we know.   We are doctors, lawyers, teachers, researchers, technicians and scientists, to give a few examples, because of the words we know.  Vocabulary is important to effective communication in an ever changing and competitive world, where understanding one another in clear definitive way is not as commonplace as we would like it to be.  When it comes to the success of our children today, what emphasis do we place on learning vocabulary at home and in our schools?  Are the results our children are getting good enough for what we as parents would like from them or what the world expects of them? The following article from Scholastics Read About entitled Narrowing the Language Gap: The Case for Explicit Vocabulary Instruction takes a look at how vocabulary is taught in schools and given the pivotal role of vocabulary in virtually all aspects of academic competence, it is alarming that classroom research consistently reveals how relatively little focused academic vocabuarly instruction actually occurs in the typical K-12 classroom.

The article is upfront, to the point and backed by vocabulary research and with combined  50+ years of classroom experience of the authors and provides a clear foundation for an effective and efficient vocabulary instructional routine. The magic word here would be 'foundation' as without a proper foundation within words, how strong would the future of our children actually be? Imagine yourself standing on a 12 story building you personally built not realizing until the 12th floor that you did not even use footings.   Would you want to stand on that building or want your children to stand on it? The authors look at what a foundation with proper footings can look like at the instructional level within the classroom. 

"Something as rudimentary and essential to teachers as how to teach an important new word effectively is rarely mentioned in both language arts and content area curricula. Surprisingly, teacher’s editions of core curricula routinely direct teachers to address central lesson vocabulary with little more than the brief exhortation to preview, cover, review, or introduce key terms. Meanwhile, they neglect to provide any explicit direction in how to effectively and efficiently teach word meanings. The following steps can most certainly be elaborated and adapted, depending upon the relative importance of the words in question and students’ background knowledge. However, in our experience, students greatly benefit from a consistent and recognizable approach that incorporates the following steps:

1) Pronounce- Classroom observations indicate that, far too frequently, the teacher is the only person who pronounces and uses the academic language of the disciplines. Thus, the first step in teaching a new term is guiding students in correctly pronouncing the word.
2) Explain - Understanding the meaning of a new term requires a clear explanation
of the meaning, using language familiar to the student.
3) Provide Examples- Students will usually need at least two or three examples of a new term to firmly grasp the meaning. Moreover, these examples should be drawnfrom a variety of contexts, not only the one used in the reading or lesson.
 4) Elaborate - Research in cognitive psychology consistently indicates that learners understand and remember information better when they elaborate on it themselves.
 5) Assess- Researchers such as Baker et al., (1995) and Marzano (2004) have documented the importance of incorporating regular informal vocabulary assessment into the instructional process, especially with academically diverse learners. Assessment of vocabulary involves both formative, quick informal checking for understanding during the lesson, and summative evaluation as students subsequently take a formal quiz or test. In all forms of assessment, it is helpful to go beyond simple memorization or matching tasks and require students to demonstrate some deeper level of thinking and understanding.
The basic instructional process outlined above is offered as a foundational strategy, not an end point"

The above is just a snapshot view given as the authors go into more detail with comparisons of the how and the why as a building block and while looking at the information provided in the professional report it should be considered as parents that we can also follow this same consistent and recongizable approach and bring it to the home environment as well. We do not have to wait for a child to attend school before implementing what can easily be done at home.   The reality is for example, Durkin (1979) found that upper-elementary teachers spent less than 1% of their overall reading instruction focused on vocabulary. More recently, Scott and Nagy (1997) documented the paucity of vocabulary instruction in 23 ethnically diverse upper-elementary classrooms, reporting that only 6% of school time was devoted to vocabulary, with only 1.4% allotted to content area vocabulary. Biemiller (2001) reached a similar conclusion, noting that there appears to be relatively little explicit vocabulary teaching in the elementary grades. 

We have more responsibility as parents to set that foundation strong and secure and we as parents at the end of the day, know and understand the true potential of our own chidren better than anyone else and given a good blueprint for understanding words and how words create our world, we can ensure the success or our children so that their starting point or 'footings' is based on vocabulary and clear meanings of words that ultimatley ensure their success in life and the success of our nation. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

If You Have Kids in School You Will Want to Hear This

Do you think there are problems with the modern education system today? Well so does the Techno Tutor Dr. Steven Lamer. With 30 years as a physician under his belt as well as a first hand account on the deterioration of the education system,which could in turn be ruining our society, Dr. Lamer as the practical solution to fix this. Here is a 45 minute Audio Interview that was recently done on AM 1530
WCKG in Chicago. Whether you have children in school or not what Dr. Lamer refers to is the case with all children and how our education system was designed. He poses the question that if we do not know where we came from then how do we know where we are going? Find out where our school system education came from so you can determine where you want to go with education in our communities and our country.

At about 12:18 he is asked what is the solution to what parents and educators can do about our current education system.  Find out at 14:00 how a child naturally learns in ways you may have not understood before. Be sure to follow along closely as he leads to the solution called Techno Tutor and how you can get it into your home to support your child's learning at about 20 minutes. You will be surprised at what the homeschool statistics are at about 24 minutes.   

You can find more information about this by contacting Dr. Lamer directly on the following website. Even though he is located in Chicago he is working and teaming with others across the United States from Coast to Coast and Canada.