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Setting Your Own Hoops January 21, 2011

Posted by Beth in Education, Personal.
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My daughter is trying to decide whether or not to take two AP classes next year.

The work is demanding, although not particularly enriching or even of clear educational value. Yet—to take the “regular” courses is to be separated from the bright, motivated and more responsible kids in the school. Yet—the shear volume of work will make it difficult for her to have the time to let her musical creativity blossom.

The decision is hers, and it is not an easy one. What I am trying to help her do is to make the decision based on her own goals. To let her know that she can take the harder classes, and get whatever she wants to get out of them, i.e. not stress about the grades–or she can take the less challenging courses and concentrate on activities which are more meaningful for her.

The fundamental point which came to me and that I hope she can understand and accept is that school is a tool for her to help her reach the goals she sets for herself. It is not a measure of her intelligence, or competence, or worth as an individual. The grades are important only as the means to achieve what she wants to achieve in her own life.

The world is full of people who can successfully jump through hoops—-hoops that others create and set the standards for.

What the world needs more of are people capable of identifying and generating their own values. People who are able to take their own measure and ask questions like: Does school measure up to my standards, my needs, my values…rather than do I measure up to theirs.

This is not to say that external measurements are worthless, only that they must be held in the context of one’s own personal goals, values and standards.

This is one of the gifts our friend Auri gave to those who were lucky enough to know him. He not only set his own hoops, he spent his life helping others set theirs.  Gently. Lovingly. Truly an inspiration. Thanks, Auri.

Such Irony January 28, 2010

Posted by Beth in Education, Politics.
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Thursday, January 28, 2010 Washington Post

Home-schoolers win asylum in U.S

A U.S. immigration judge’s decision to grant political asylum to a German family with “a well-founded fear of persecution” for home-schooling their children should send a powerful message to the German government to change its stance on home schooling…Home schooling in Germany is illegal in most cases, and violators can be fined, jailed and even lose custody of their children.

And where do American’s go when they are fined, jailed or lose custody of their children for the crime of educating their children without the blessings of the state?

What is it about High School? January 17, 2010

Posted by Beth in Education, Miscellaneous Musings, Personal.
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I am reading an interesting article pointed out to me by Janine Cate at Why Homeschool on the social experience in Jr. High and High School relative to the social experience in “the real world.”  This reminded me of some thoughts I have had tumbling around in the back of my mind about the high school experience in general.

I have watched my son go through high school and pretty much languish. Nothing seems to have inspired him. He started out gung-ho as a freshman, but each year since, he has seemed more and more apathetic about his classes, uninterested in actual learning or working to acquire skills for the future. Granted, he is in a government school, which is less than ideal, but when it became obvious that he needed to get out on his own away from me and homeschooling, that’s the alternative we chose. Where we live, any private school would have been a 30-45 minute commute each way, and both he and I wanted to stay within our community. I knew of good kids who seemed to have thrived at the school, so we thought it would be ok. I am not sure we made the wrong choice, but it definitely has its down sides.

Lately, it has struck me just how much like a prison the high school has become under the control of a new principal. The last one wasn’t so great either, but had a healthy dose of benign neglect that now I am missing.

So, what is it about high school?

I do think the social scene is better than in Jr. High. The kids are a bit more mature and not so cruel. There are definitely opportunities for growth—-although less so academically than in the extra-curricular activities offered. A passage from the article I mentioned above has a clue:

I think the important thing about the real world is not that it’s populated by adults, but that it’s very large, and the things you do have real effects. That’s what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow.

When the things you do have real effects, it’s no longer enough just to be pleasing. It starts to be important to get the right answers.

To this I would add, you also have a much greater degree of choice.

I don’t think that high school has to be like a prison—although I can see that avoiding this atmosphere would be very difficult for a government school whose main thrust is complying with compulsory attendance laws. I mean, what’s the big difference between a high school senior and a college freshman? I don’t think it’s the kids that change so much over the summer–but something is clearly different in the college environment that makes it a superior experience, while high school is marginal at best. A big part of that is the degree of choice college students have–not just in whether or not to even be there, but also in the classes they can take.

I have tried to do what I can to help my kids work outside of the box the high school tries to lock them in. Both only went half-time as freshman and both are taking advantage of courses offered at the local community college to better meet their unique interests. Both know that they don’t have to be there–that there are workable alternatives.

However, with the bulk of their curriculum uninspiring and with minimal alternatives, the emphasis in high school turns to the social scene. For those whose strengths are academic not social, it’s a tough ride.

At this point for my son (he’s a senior), I can only hope that once he gets to college, he will find a way to reignite his spark. My daughter, who has 3 1/2 more years left, has immersed her self in the extra-curricular activities and social scene. It will be interesting to see how she navigates her remaining time there.

Tax Dollars at Work September 24, 2009

Posted by Beth in Education, Politics.
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This is education?

Perhaps, but only in the same way that education camps educate.

Maybe we need to add the education budget to the tally of campaign funding for Obama.

(For those of you who don’t know me, I would find this repulsive no matter who the children chant about.)

This was filmed around June 19, 2009 at the B. Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington, NJ.

Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said that all must lend a hand [?]
To make this country strong again
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said we must be clear today
Equal work means equal pay
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said that we must take a stand
To make sure everyone gets a chance
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said Red, Yellow, Black or White
All are equal in his sight
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama

segue to

Hello, Mr. President we honor you today!
For all your great accomplishments, we all [do? doth??] say “hooray!”
Hooray Mr. President! You’re number one!
The first Black American to lead this great na-TION!
Hooray, Mr. President something-something-some
A-something-something-something-some economy is number one again!
Hooray Mr. President, we’re really proud of you!
And the same for all Americans [in?] the great Red White and Blue!
So something Mr. President we all just something-some,
So here’s a hearty hip-hooray a-something-something-some!
Hip, hip hooray! (3x)

HT Gus Van Horn

222 years ago September 16, 2009

Posted by Beth in Education.

On September 17, 1787, the delegates of the Constitutional Convention signed the document which they had had spent months creating: The Constitution of the United States of  America.

The Bill of Rights Institute offers several series of lesson plans related to understanding of the Constitution and the controversies which have developed around its basic principles.  You can subscribe to receive  free monthly emails such as the ones below. I have learned a lot by reading the resources myself.

Current Events and the Constitution eLesson: The Healthcare Reform Debate

Briefing Sheets for September 14, 2009

All three activity sheets stand alone and are constructed to help your students understand the issue from different angles.

Have Students read a transcript of President Obama’s Health Care Speech delivered on September 9, 2009:

Have students complete any of the following three activity sheets:

Last Edited On 9/16/2009 8:29:00 AM

Landmark Supreme Court Cases and the Constitution

Freedom of Speech – Skokie and Brandenburg

This month’s Landmark Supreme Court Cases and the Constitution focuses on two cases that tested the limits of the First Amendment, and that demonstrated the United States’ commitment to freedom of speech. In these cases, National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie (1977), and Brandenburg v. Ohio (1968), the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects individuals’ rights to express their views, even if those views are considered extremely offensive by most people.

Last Edited on 5/28/2009 10:25:00 AM

Other resources include:

The National Archives: Observing Constitution Day

The National Constitution Center: Constitution Day

Landmark Cases of the Supreme Court

And for a set of videos and learning opportunities which brought me a long, large smile, check out 3 Ring Binder, Memorizing the Preamble.