The Homeschool Journey – Why Do People Homeschool?

One of the most common questions people ask us about homeschooling their children is, “Why do other people homeschool? Is there usually some kind of academic or social problem with the children?”

Our answer is always the same: there are as many reasons for people to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. One thing they all have in common is that they are parents who want the absolute best education for their child, and they will do anything within their power to assure that. They are courageous enough to march to the beat of their own drummer.

What do they look like? The homeschool parents we know are doctors, lawyers, investors, entrepreneurs, nurses, dentists, directors, actors, bankers and more. Their children are just as socialized as kids who attend traditional schools, often even more so. Since so much more academics are accomplished in a shorter time with homeschooling, there is more time for extracurricular activities like art class, karate, running clubs, online groups, sewing or cooking classes, Lego Mindstorm projects, soccer, baseball, and much more.

It’s a new kind of education where parents and students are empowered to make their own decisions about what, when, and how they’ll study. In the upcoming days, we’ll be focusing on some specific reasons why parents homeschool. Stay tuned.

Learning Through Play

“That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes.”

On November 4. 1915, having just completed his two-page masterpiece, the theory of general relativity, Einstein sent 11-year-old Hans Albert the following letter, found in Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children

 

My dear Albert,

Yesterday I received your dear letter and was very happy with it. I was already afraid you wouldn’t write to me at all any more. You told me when I was in Zurich, that it is awkward for you when I come to Zurich. Therefore I think it is better if we get together in a different place, where nobody will interfere with our comfort. I will in any case urge that each year we spend a whole month together, so that you see that you have a father who is fond of you and who loves you. You can also learn many good and beautiful things from me, something another cannot as easily offer you. What I have achieved through such a lot of strenuous work shall not only be there for strangers but especially for my own boys. These days I have completed one of the most beautiful works of my life, when you are bigger, I will tell you about it.

I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano. This and carpentry are in my opinion for your age the best pursuits, better even than school. Because those are things which fit a young person such as you very well. Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal. . . .

Be with Tete kissed by your

Papa.

Regards to Mama.

 

Einstein Quote

Community Service

It’s that time of year again – summer freedom is almost here, time for lazy summer afternoons, late morning sleep-ins, fireworks and…community service?

For our students at QED, giving back to the community is an integral part of life education. Some students volunteer all year long, while others use their off-time in the summer to focus on activities that benefit their community. Either way, this is often the most enriching, rewarding part of their year.

How to decide upon a worthwhile pursuit? Often, their tutors will help them find activities here in New York City that conform with their interests and talents – like teaching, working with animals, building scenery for summer workshop programs, or visiting the elderly. Other students turn to the New York Cares website to get inspired by their database of worthy activities – things like helping revitalize local libraries, environmental activities, or working to ease hunger.

If you are looking for a way to become more involved with the community this summer or throughout the year, we highly recommend visiting the NY Cares website, here: http://www.newyorkcares.org For those who live outside this metro area, another excellent resource to inspire ideas for community service is Volunteer Match, here: http://www.volunteermatch.org You can enter your zip code and search an extensive database of very worthy activities.

Whatever you decide to do, making it a regular part of your life is guaranteed to enrich you as much, and more, as those whose lives you will touch.

Why Schools should be fun

Adults often believe that children who enjoy themselves in school can’t be learning. This video makes a very good case for why we should enjoy what we do. the_dreaded_stairs

The Book Whisperer

This review is from the Google Products site. Donalyn Miller’s new paperback provides interesting reading for parents and teachers alike. Miller takes the old formula of testing the love of books right out of children and turns it on it’s head. We agree!

.” . . a primer of the heart on how to make reading magical again.”–Carol Ann Tomlinson

Donalyn Miller is a dedicated teacher who says she has yet to meet a child she couldn’t turn into a reader. In “The Book Whisperer,” Miller takes us inside her 6th grade classroom to reveal the secrets of her powerful but unusual instructional approach. Rejecting book reports, comprehension worksheets, and other aspects of conventional instruction, Miller embraces giving students an individual choice in what they read combined with a program for independent reading. She also focuses on building a classroom library of high-interest books, and above all on modeling appropriate and authentic reading behaviors. Her zeal for reading is infectious and inspiring, and the results speak for themselves. No matter how far behind Miller’s students may be when they start out, they end up reading an average of 40 books per year, achieve high scores on standardized tests, and internalize a love for reading that lasts long after they’ve left her class.Travel alongside the author as she leads her students to discover the ample rewards of reading and literature. Brought to life with Miller’s passionate voice, “The Book Whisperer” will help teachers support students of all levels on their path to reading success. It also includes an invaluable list of books that Miller’s students most enjoy reading.”Miller’s new book, “The Book Whisperer,” is a breath of fresh air. Powerful and practical, this book will support you as you change your classroom for the better while helping you to understand how to overcome current classroom cultures where some children learn and many learn to hate reading.”–Richard L. Allington, Ph.D., University of Tennessee”In “The Book Whisperer,” Donalyn Miller deftly describes the inherent need children have to engage with books, intellectually and emotionally. The book is a timely and rare gift for teachers.”–Ellin Oliver Keene, author and consultant”This book reminds anyone–who is lucky enough to have loved a book–what classrooms and kids have lost in our frenzy to ‘cover’ content and standardize student performance in the name of reading. This is a primer of the heart on how to make reading magical again.”–Carol Ann Tomlinson, William Clay Parish, Jr. Professor of Education, University of Virginia « less

Teach Like a Champion

I didn’t realize how heavy on theory and light on practical information my college training was until I entered a classroom.  I had lots of opinions about education, tons of great notions, but no idea about how to get a bunch of first graders to quiet down long enough to learn. That they absorbed anything during my first of year of experimentation on them is a testament to my enthusiasm and their ability to assimilate–despite my lack of actual teaching skills.

To prepare for my second year of teaching I read lots of books, including Harry Wong’s outstanding classroom management book, The First Days of School.  Together with what I’d learned by trial and error my first year, I had a very different second year. I started by teaching procedures:  what students should do when they needed to sharpen pencils (one person at the sharpener at a time), or when they needed to use the bathroom (take the pass, use the lavatory, wash your hands, leave immediately), or the right way to pass out papers (take one, pass them back). We even practiced how to stop talking when I gave the “silent signal.”  (We practiced that a LOT.)   I taught other procedures like this, too.  It took a few extra days at the beginning of the year but it sped us through the rest of the year  and eliminated the need for a lengthy list of classroom rules.  Other teachers began to notice how well behaved my class was. They started saying I was given a “cream puff” group. The following year the same thing happened. Each year, it seemed, I had been given the “best behaved” class.  What a difference a book made.

Not since Harry Wong’s book have I seen another one packed with the same kind of solid, useful information.  But reading through Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov, I discovered a kindred spirit.  His book covers not only procedures but the art of teaching itself for elementary and middle school grades. It demystifies the idea that great educators are instinctive and gives truth to the notion that one can be taught the skills to become adept at teaching.  Some examples:

“Many teachers respond to almost-correct answers their students give in class by rounding up. That is they’ll affirm the student’s answer and repeat it, adding some detail of their own to make it fully correct even though the student didn’t provide (and may not recognize) the differentiating factor….Great teachers praise students for their effort but never confuse effort with mastery.” (Right is Right, Technique #2

I love the term Lemov uses for this:  rounding up.  This is essential, and yet teachers so often overlook it.   Rather than supplying the balance of the information for your student, use the Socratic method and ask questions to elicit the rest. Give them the satisfaction of drawing the correct conclusion — don’t take that from them.

“Avoid chastening wrong answers, for example, ‘No, we already talked about this.  You have to flip the sign, Ruben.’ And do not make excuses for students who get answers wrong: ‘Oh, that’s okay, Charlise.  That was a really hard one.’  In fact, if wrong answers are truly a normal and healthy part of the learning process, they don’t need much narration at all.”  (Normalize Error, Technique #49).

I’ll let you think about this one and ask yourself how you would handle it differently.  You’ll see the wisdom in it.

The best thing about Lemov’s book?  If current or future teachers read this book, highlight it, take notes and pay attention – they will become better teachers.  With practice, maybe even really good teachers.  And then hopefully they can avoid the kind of first year I had, with students who loved me for my enthusiasm but surely not because I could possibly have helped them learn to their fullest potential.

Listen to the Mustn’ts

Theo Jansen is a talented artist and inventor who has created a kinetic sculpture that moves and lives on its own. His goal is to make a new life form, one that gathers energy from the wind.   These unique, animal-like creatures are made from PVC, walking up and down the beach with propellers and wings, each new generation becoming increasingly independent.

The creatures are an incredible display of ingenuity and persistence. Theo has dedicated 20 years of his life to this project, with the love and care a parent gives to their child.  One youtube video of Theo’s sculptures has attracted 740,000+ viewers, but as incredible as the creatures are, so are the variety of comments following it.

While many are positive (incredible, unbelievable, inspiring) others are less so  (I don’t think it’s that useful, I’m not impressed, I’ve seen better stuff).

If Theo had listened to negative statements like these throughout his lifetime, he might never have invented or refined his amazing brainchild.  But he remained true to his vision and persisted in researching laws of science to take his vision through years of improvements that have led him to realizing what was in his heart.

Persistence, faith, protecting your dream.  Are you teaching your student the qualities they need to succeed in reaching for the stars?

Listen to Mustn’ts, child, listen to the Don’ts.
Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the Impossibles, the Won’ts.
Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.
Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.
Shel Silverstein

Owning your destiny

When I was a young teacher, I remember a parent saying to me, “My child just loves to come to school.  You’ve instilled a love of learning in him.”  I felt rewarded and appreciated.  Of course, I was teaching first grade and most of what we did all day was pretty darned fun, so it wasn’t much of an accomplishment.

Dedicated middle- and high-school teachers don’t often receive that  same validation. Kids that age don’t jump out of bed in a rush to get to school and work on their calculus or biology.  But it does raise the questions of what motivates students, and do their teachers have anything at all to do with it?

We can be fairly sure that a poorly performing teacher can singlehandedly cause their students so much frustration and confusion that they will give up trying to be successful in school.  It’s also fairly certain that if a teacher is organized and clearly states the requirements to get a particular grade, this allows students some control over their performance and helps teach them how to plan ahead for success.

How would this look in a classroom?  Providing a scoring rubric in advance for a project or essay – or making one together.  Giving out a list of requirements for getting a certain grade in a class.   Letting students know the percentages of the overall grade various items represent, like tests, homework, and class work.

It seems to me kids like things a lot more – whether at home or in a more formal classroom environment—when they have a sense of ownership about their destiny.  Come to think of it, I do too.

Keep your kids current (at every age)

The other day while I was in line at Port Authority bus station, two young teenage girls were in front of me chatting with an older gentleman and, though I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, I couldn’t help but hear their conversation.

“It was just like what happened to that guy. you know the mayor of Washington D.C. with the drug problem. What was his name…”  (This was the man speaking, and he was referring to Marion Barry.)

The girls were too young to remember him. No problem. The conversation that ensued, however, was.

“I don’t know too much about politics.” one girl said apologetically.

“Me neither.” said the other.  “I never know this kind of stuff.”

“Well, I know we have a mayor of New York. That’s Bloomberg.”

“Right. Right.”  (Pause here)  “Is there a mayor of New Jersey?”

Um. Really?  I had a hard time stopping myself from jumping into their conversation and having one of my teachable moments.

These girls had mixed up their basic knowledge of government, and it reflected poorly – not on them but on whomever had managed their education.  It raises the broader question:

Are you including current events into your curriculum on a regular basis?  Do your students know what’s going on in their world and can they discuss it?  This process begins in nursery school and it never ends. It should be a weekly part of every good curriculum – articles from reliable sources and scheduled discussion (including around the dinner table) are vital to the informed mind. It’s easy to get so busy that we’re tempted to leave this out. Don’t. Because if you do, well, I don’t have to tell you.

Ask the mayor of New Jersey.

Is ADHD Becoming Obsolete?

Lots of jobs already require people to balance two phones, a computer, a live conversation and three pads of data.


Will a student with the skill set needed for listening to a single conversation and thinking slowly and carefully do as well in these jobs as one who is used to playing with lots of windows open on a computer screen, listening in on several conversations at once or running a few different tasks at the same time?


ADHD students spend their lives doing that every day.  They’re fine in a fast-paced, unique environment.  It’s slowing down for a classroom where they run into problems.  But more and more, our world is changing in a way that accommodates their style.


Will the slower, more reflective thinkers who have usually done well in the classroom become the attention deficit students in the classroom of tomorrow?


And if so, what would that classroom look like?