Homeschool Life

Smoking The Core

photo (10)Did you know I’m a principal? It’s true, according to the Ohio Department of Education. By way of explanation, there are two ways to legally home educate in Ohio. One of them is to become your own school, so to speak. We mavericks are called 08 schools:  non-chartered, non-tax supported schools, which are granted autonomy for truly-held religious beliefs. Before home education became a right in and of itself, 08 schools were the only way to legally home educate in Ohio. Now there are other options, but I still prefer to be an 08 school. The letter to the right is a mass-mailing to all private schools, and the greeting was made to suit the majority– which reminds me of another initiative that aims to pull into the galaxial fold of public education, the myriads of divergent  learners in the spectrum: The Common Core.

The Common Core… the Miley Cyrus of the education scene.  “What’s so bad about the common core?” my son asked one day when it sallied into his awareness through a facebook post. Why on earth would the well-intentioned efforts of the educational establishment garner such a cold– nay, shall I say, violent– reception? Thankfully, my local district mailed out a newsletter to clear things up.

The first claim the newsletter makes is this: [By way of definition,] the Common Core State Standards set clear, consistent goals that build upon each other at each grade level… [and] provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn… Note the words  clear and consistent. With those, I have no argument. I’m sure they’ll be clear and consistent… and less academically rigorous than what we now have in place, which is less academically rigorous than what we had in place previous to those… previous to those… etc.

The newsletter claims Standards do not equal curriculum or lesson plans!  so emphatically as to use an exclamation mark to convey strong emotions about these standards. Red flag. Actually, that statement is absolutely, completely, emphatically, exclamation-marks-all-around false. Standards directly affect a student’s education at the atomic level.  Make no mistake about it, these new, higher (snort) standards for education will make their way into your living room. And why does that even matter? Why does my local district feel the need to spend precious dollars on propaganda to stroke me and croon there…. there... over the Common Core? Red flag number two.

The example given is Algebra I. The standard is an expectation that students will know and be able to apply the concepts in Algebra I to real life situations. The curriculum used to teach Algebra I are up to the teacher– lesson plans and curriculum are not set by the standards. Really? Lesson plans and curriculum are not set by the standards? The truth is, national standards like the Common Core spawn scads of new curriculum. They have to. To say that curriculum is not set by the standards is to say, Hey, we’ve thought up these new goals, but no worries. We won’t be teaching them. They won’t affect things. As you were…

What does Algebra I encompass, as far as math skills go? That’s a variable, if you’ll forgive the pun. What constitutes Algebra I (in practice as opposed to theory) is ultimately decided by the standards because the measurement of whether or not we’ve hit the mark set by the standards is the assessment. Simply, the creators of the assessment tests have the power to decide what will be taught in the classroom.  Even I, small-time 08 principal that I am, will feel the effects of the Common Core, as the private curricula does homage to the new standards (it always does, eventually).

What happens when new standards are rolled out is that new tests must be developed to determine who attains these standards. As the results of standardized tests carry more and more weight in defining student, teacher, and school district adequacy, more focus must be on the limited content of these ever-narrowing, one-size-fits-all tests. The stakes are high.

All together, class: NEW STANDARDS = NEW ASSESSMENTS TESTS = NEW CURRICULUM.

American students are already the most tested students on earth. [1] If testing were the answer, we’d be churning out the brightest and best minds the globe over.  Clearly, Captain Obviously, it’s not.  So what to do? Our only recourse (until Common Core is common trash) is to teach more than what’s common, to go beyond the core.  Smoke the standards… go above and beyond… apply diligence… demand excellence. Rocky Balboa-academic-rigor is the core… of a consummate education.

Lewis and ClarkParents, whether you homeschool or help with homework, you are the trump card in your child’s education. No test, no bill, no local mandate or school board can take the place of a committed, on-fire-for-education parent who is willing to smoke the core. Initiatives like the Common Core come and go. (Go, please go. The sooner, the better.) Until then, parents can take this simple action to ensure an uncommon education for everyone: Read. Together. Every day. Check out this reading list. Read the source documents on history, i.e., don’t limit your study to a biography on Lewis & Clark; read the journals they kept as they slogged across our country. That’s where you’ll get the whole truth and the bonus of some juicy details left out by conservative texts. Read. Everything. You. Can.

Parents, if you make their high bar your footstool, you can’t go wrong.

The Broadest Road to Great Writing... Reading

[1] http://www.fairtest.org/whats-wrong-standardized-tests

 

Advertisements
Homeschool Life, Personal Journey

Car Wars: Driving Through the Dark Side

Rated R for Rant.

7:05. Wake up and drive Katae to Berea Courthouse for her internship.  Well, she drives there.  I drink my joe.

8:30. Get home.  Have 2nd cup of coffee and read Bible, eat breakfast, read emails, yell at kids.

10:00-11:00. Take boys to the orthodontist where we try to get school done.  Gabriel gets spelling done between xrays.

11:30.  Josh arrives 30 minutes early for his testing; I’ve got a mouth full of deep fried cheese-bean quesadilla.  Kids work independently (I love that word) while I administer his test.

1:30. Josh finishes his testing.  Way to go!  🙂

2:00. Take Josh’s test and Gabriel to my post office (ahhh, post office… how do I love thee?).  I leave the test there, but take Gabriel on to the library.  The questions about whether or not Gabe is “fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous,” throw me, as he’s all of those things.  Now I know: he’s unshippable.

2:30. Stopped by my neighbor on my way home from the library to talk about some heavy things.  Not the weather.  Not just “fine-thank-you-how-are-you?”  We talked until the rain drew him away from me.  Gabe sat in the back seat, engrossed in his recently checked-out Captain Underpants the whole time.

Me: Did you hear what I was talking about?

Gabe: No… what?

Me: Nothing.

Gabe: (desperate b/c he senses a secret) What??

Me: Nothing.  Just old people stuff.

3:00. Finally begin the complicated math lesson with Gabe I absolutely have to do, as it’s a new concept he can’t just teach himself.

3:01.  (not joking) The phone rings.  I ignore it.  Have I mentioned I always ignore my landline?

3:05. (not joking) The doorbell rings.  I say to Gabe, “Tell your friends you’re still wor–“

“It’s a big person,” Gabe interrupts, crestfallen.

(sigh)  It’s my neighbor again.  With an umbrella.  He tells me I never answer my phone.  We talk a while longer because I value relationships more than math.  Yes.  I value relationships more than math.  Yes.  I do.  Gabe sits listening for something juicy because of our conversation before.  Nothing gives.

3:20. Gabe & I begin math.  Again.  I do some actual school: checking, teaching, coaching.  Luke’s history notes need coaching, but he resists my attempts to show him what adequate note-taking looks like.  After we sort out the 13th & 14th Amendments to the Constitution and learn some cool facts about the “Radical Republicans,” who fought for the rights of blacks after the Civil War, I’m getting in the groove when…

4:15. My timer goes off, which means for Tory it’s time to make the Donuts.  I take Luke with us, because after I drop Tory at Dunkin, Luke needs to be at his FLL club.  Gabe stays home and plays with the neigborhood kids.

5:00.  Drop Luke at FLL club.

5:09. Pick up Katae at the courthouse.

5:45.  Get home for crockpot dinner and admonish Gabe to eat his chunk of meat.

6:40. Leave to pick up Luke and friends from FLL club.  On the way home from what feels like a marathon of driving, Luke tells me he needs help with his algebra lesson.  There are a few things that make me want to drive off a cliff. Non-understood algebra lessons are on that list.

7:55.  Begin hated algebra lesson.  It isn’t so bad after all.

8:05.  Take Abbott for a much-needed walk (not sure who needs it more– him or me). Bob asks if I’d like a partner (besides Abbott). Yes! We have a lovely walk while I rant about my day.

8:50.  I leave a bit late to pick up Tory from Dunkin Donuts, so I speed accordingly.  I am exhausted– can’t wait to get home and curl up in my cozy bed.

9:03.  Sit in the parking lot of Dunkin and watch the many, many people who–amazingly– order donuts and coffee at this late hour.

9:07.  Receive this text from Tory: I don’t get off till ten just FYI

9:08.  My response: Telling me that at 9 isn’t working 4me.

9:09.  Enraged.

9:10.  Wonder what I can possbily do to redeem these minutes?  Dishes are at home, crusty and piled; my computer, my work is there too.  All the stores I’d like to browse (ie, Volunteers of America, Goodwill) are closed.  I start praying about how not to lose character (ie, yell my head off) over this pathetic waste of my time.  MY time, right?  God reminds me it’s His time.   I pray for truth in the inner person, truth in my relationships, truth about God and many other things.  God brings to mind one practical thing I can do at 9:26 at night:  Walmart.

9:35.  Arrive at Walmart and buy a birthday gift for Gabe’s friend.  I pray my way around the aisles, looking for the perfect gift that won’t offend, won’t cost a ton, etc.  I find a stomp rocket for $12.94.  Sold.

9:57.  Back at Dunkin.  More people ingesting sugar and caffeine just before bedtime.

10:04.  Tory gets in the car.  “Hi.” She says sweetly.

“Are you kidding me?”  Not sweet.

10:25.  Tory & I arrive home.   Alive.  We still love each other.  A little miscommunication that iced my cake-of-a-day, is all.

10:30. Snuggle down in my comfy bed.  zzzzzzz

Personal Journey

My Sister’s Response When I Bemoaned my Consumer Status

Recently I tried to get a “real job.”  Not that what I do right now isn’t work.  But most of what I do is pro bono, gratis, charity– you know, housework.  A too-good-to-be-true opportunity came my way, so I dropped everything summer and spent five hours updating my 20-year-old resume.   I somehow managed to not look like an antique in my resume and landed an interview.   That was where my dust started to show.  Uh, a block of time?  You want me to give you an available block of time?   I thought this was a project gig.   At some point my rambling and inability to commit got me the secret gong signal, and I was hastily ushered out.  My reaction: a kamikaze plunge into self-pity and worthlessness, at which I declared to anyone who would listen, “I’m nothing more than a consumer!”

I didn’t actually want the job, but I was still cut that I didn’t get it.image (3)

My sister, bless her wise heart, is witty and Godly and real.  She had this to say:

Also, per your comment last night that you had a moment where you thought you were not contributing [to the world at-large]….each day you invest hours into your kids’ lives so that they will have the ability to navigate through the salt marsh that is our world. It may not feel like much… but trust me, your presence in Him [God] is doing more than you can ever imagine. Keep fighting the good fight. Your kids are worth the investment….as you know. 

I wanted to share Heather’s words, as they speak straight to the daily challenge of impotence or unimportance that can creep over us parents like the tide.    Each day… we invest into our kids, pouring into them what we think matters.  Some days the fight is “good.”  Some days it just feels like street fighting.  But I’ll try to keep my presence in God, like she says, because He is the One who sustains me.  

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Phillippians 4:13

Beach 2013 109

Personal Journey

Stairs That Avail Much

Do you get stir crazy in winter?  We do.  But thankfully we have these super spiral stairs that double as a jungle gym.  My kids find alternate uses for just about any apparatus* around, including the walls, couches, mattresses, even the dog.  They stave off the winter blues by finding creative ways to enjoy/destroy whatever is at hand.  Likewise, when my son clambered up the outside of the playground tube slide, my brother (an elementary school principal/authority on child behavior) commented, “There’s more than one way to enjoy that slide.”  I liked that attitude.   Obviously, it’s crept into my parenting too.  But this kind of creativity is, I confess, born of necessity.  You see, we don’t have cable TV.  So next time you see a couch cusion or a pot lid, think battle gear, think obstacle courses, think of the messes you can spend all winter cleaning up.   I thank God for these stairs that avail much.

*”apparatus” was a spelling word we had last month.  I could not, for the life of me, think of a way to use it in a sentence… until now!