Monthly Archives: September 2009

The Homework Debate

Homework Facts:

  • In 2004 the University of Michigan did a study and found that there had been a 51% increase in the amount of homework that students were receiving.
  • In 1981, students ages 6 to 8 were doing about 52 minutes of homework per night. In 1997 this had increased to 128 minutes per night.
  • Studies have found that while some homework does cause standardized testing scores to rise, if students in high school are doing more than two hours of homework per night the scores lowered. For middle school student test scores dropped if they were doing more than 60 to 90 minutes of homework.
  • Countries that outshine the U.S. in education typically assign less homework.
Homework opinions:
  • Some educators feels that we assign children more homework because we are crazed with standardized test results. It has been said “it isn’t about knowledge, it’s about winning”.
  • Parents have stated that a student’s interest in learning overall fades when homework is so time consuming.
  • One parent makes the point that what goes on in schools should set an example to the students. If there is so much homework, doesn’t this give the student the example of poor time management by the schools? How is it that they can’t get the work done with all of the hours they have our children?
  • One private school that does not promote a lot of homework finds that their students are excited about taking projects home to their parents, enjoy playing music with friends after school, get involved in other great activities and in general are not “at risk”.
  • Educators who are pro-homework have declared that homework sends the message to parents that the schools “mean business”. They believe that homework fosters critical thinking, persistence and diligence when looked at over time.
  • Parents and educators tend to agree that in younger years there is little academic value to homework.
  • An educator pointed out at a forum at Harvard recently that a teacher never knows who is doing the homework when it is sent home. There are those parents who do it for a child or hover over the student and don’t let them really learn.
One thing is consistent and that is that this is an ongoing debate with heated opinions on both sides of the fence. There are those that want to abolish homework altogether and there are those that believe it is a precursor for real life and teach valuable skills to students.
Parents in general find homework to be a full time job. While they may enjoy having the time with their students they may wish that they had more options of how to spend such time. Homework tends to become a full time job just for the parent and in many homes causes great contention between parent and child. Perhaps if this is the case a parent contract could be used to help set standards in the home.

The GED

History of the GED:

During World War II the GED was created so that Veterans coming home from the war could finish their high school education. This enabled Veterans to prove that they were ready for a college education or technical training as made available in the GI Bill. So necessarily it was so that these individuals could be successful in their educations. The GED was a way for the Veterans to continue in their education and go on to be what they dreamed of without feeling like being in the Armed Forces had taken them away from their personal goals.
Soon after the GED became available to all drop outs. By 1959 most GED test takers were civilians. In 2001 the number of GED certificates given was about 650,000.
About the GED:
The GED is comprised of five general sections. Those sections are:
  • Language Arts, Writing
  • Language Arts, Reading
  • Social Studies
  • Science
  • Mathematics
To pass the GED you have to score better than 60% of high school students. You are allowed anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes per section to complete the test. It just depends on where you are. In 2002 the Department of Education reviewed and changed the GED so that it had progressed in line with a typical high school education. This means that much of the test is harder to pass.
The Education Commission of the States declares that those with a GED got very comparable grades in post-secondary education as those with high school diplomas. They also note that most GED test takers claim that they want the GED strictly so that they can further their education.
People who get their GED cannot help but have a sense of accomplishment. Whether it is a high school diploma or a GED certificate, they both help a person’s self esteem. There is a lot of value in getting something like that accomplished. GED holders will have higher paying jobs, further education and be happier with themselves. It is obvious that a high school diploma is always a better alternative. But, when that just cannot happen then the getting the GED passed is certainly a better options than dropping out and not completing anything.

Students and the Economy

There are some interesting things going around on the Internet in regards to what kids think about the economy. In these stories you hear heartbreaking stories of what it has been like for kids to have two parents who have both lost their jobs, their homes, have no where to turn and watch whatever investments that they did have just dwindle away. Anyone who thinks that our students are not affected by the tense feelings all around and the strife at home is dead wrong.

CBS news put out an article late in 2008 that stated that from the people they had talked to the students most worried about the economy were ages 18 to 25. They were worried that they wouldn’t ever find a decent paying job, there was no good reason to contribute to your 401k or assume that you would ever have a retirement. These same students are going to school on student loans and only have time to work so many hours if they can actually find work. It is very hard for them to stay hopeful when they see all things financial just tanking all around them.
As for younger students, many feel ashamed that their parents can’t buy school clothes or supplies like they used to. They are ashamed because their “social status” has dropped and other children can be less than understanding.
A great way to overcome this problem is to teach kids that no one is immune from having financial hardship. Everyone works hard, saves, and tries to be prepared but there are some things in life that are just harder than expected and things don’t always go as planned. Better to save than be sorry though. It is important not to let a student feel like it is futile to try to get a better job down the road or to learn to handle their money in a wise manner.

Public School Safety

Statistics currently show that homeschooling is the fastest growing “school” in our country in the past few years. When parents who chose this option were asked what their top reasons were a large majority were concerned about public school safety and how it would affect their children.

Since the Columbine shootings that occurred in 1999 it is probably safe to say that we are all a bit nervous about the growing problems in our schools. Take that with the college shooting and violence that we know of and it is a huge problem. On just about any nightly news channel you can find something in regards to school security or school violence.
So what are the schools doing about these problems? How are they increasing security and taking precautions so that we can all feel safe sending our children to their doors? And how do they make the children feel safe so that they are in a frame of mind where they can achieve academic success?
Here are a few things that many schools across the country have implemented or are working on to improve safety.
  • Police presence at schools. In today’s world there are rarely schools (other than elementary schools) anywhere that can be found without a police officer roaming the halls.
  • Metal detectors. While many school districts do not feel the need for such items or have the money for such expense there are those that are using them and they do seem to lesson violent events.
  • Teacher and administrator training. The school leaders are more trained than ever to watch out for depression in students, bullying, declining grades and more signs that trouble could be brewing in a student. If these things are identified and helped early on then there are a lot of things that can be done to keep a student from wanting to go to such great lengths as to harm someone.
The bottom line though is that we need to stop the violence at schools starting in our homes. The presence of violent television shows, movies, video games and other media are not okay for kids of any age. Kids slowly become desensitized to these images and ideas and then things escalate. Or they think that violence is the solution to any problem. In homes where physical violence is used parents should really consider doing some research about the lasting effects that these behaviors have on today’s children.

Homeschool Technology Classes

If your homeschool curriculum isn’t online or doesn’t include computer work you may want to supplement your current curriculum by adding some technology training. Starting in third and fourth grades students should be learning to type and have general keyboarding skills. They also have the ability to start learning how to use work processing programs and other computer programs besides games. There are many homeschool curriculums online so it is fun to see what you can do for free.

There are some great things offered online that can be useful to a homeschool parent. Luckily most things are offered for little or no money which makes them even more appealing.

Sense-Lang.org/typing – Offers an online flash program as well as a download. This teaches students to type touch and also includes tests. The online version is free of charge.

NimbleFingers.com – Free online typing program has various levels so it is not just for beginning typists but also intermediate and advanced. Teaches the importance of good posture at the keyboard and includes various exercises as well as games.

FreeTypingGame.net – Includes free games, lessons, scoreboard, tests and you can customize your lessons and games. You can even do typing lessons in other languages.

talibiddeenjr.amanahwebs.com/technology.htm – This site offers courses on web design, information processing, and graphic design. These courses are full of benefits for homeschool students or anyone just wanting to learn more about computer technology and programs.

Columbus Day Lessons

In 2009 students can celebrate Columbus Day on October 12th. Here are a few ideas that you can use to supplement your curriculum and add fun activities to your regular school days. These ideas are generally fit for elementary school age kids but we have found that even tweens have fun and these ideas can be adapted and done on a larger scale for middle school and high school students.

Columbus Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October each year. This holiday is great for history, geography, sociology and for certain science projects.
History: Teach about the life of Christopher Columbus. Great questions to foster great group conversations are: What was Columbus trying to discover? Was it easy for him to find someone to fund his trip? What was his birth name? What did his father do for a living and what country was he born in? If you were sailing with Columbus what would you want to take with you?
Geography: Chart by coordinates the path that Columbus took to the “New World”. Have students make their own map of the “New World”. Show and talk about where Columbus landed when he got to North America. Talk about where he was supposed to land.
Sociology: Discuss with students what the current customs were for people like Columbus in his day. Talk about how this differed from the customs, language, way of life, art, and music of the Native Americans that they met when they got to North America.
Science: Since corn is often affiliated with the crops of the Native Americans you can make your own popcorn by starting early in the season with fresh corn and go through the whole process. You can also discuss corn and how it grows and all the ways we use it today including as an alternative energy source.
The possibilities with Columbus Day are endless. Most students love learning about the ships, the travel, the customs and the whole overall story of Columbus. This is the perfect time of year to get them excited about these things. It is also a great time to discuss how immigrants brought diseases to North America that were not originally native to here. This can even lead into conversations about where viruses like H1N1 have originated and how they got here. This also lends itself to discussions about how we fight these diseases and the importance of immunizations on a global scale.

Fall Season Lesson Ideas

Fall is a splendid time for discovery with students. There are so many great lesson ideas that can be used in a variety of subjects. Here are just a few ideas on how to enjoy the fall season with your students.

  • Chart temperatures – This is the perfect time of year for students to chart the changes in the temperatures. As the season progresses student’s will note how drastically the seasons change. This is a great opportunity to teach students to graph, chart and analyze material. They can also summarize the findings and share them with their peers or the teacher. You can even have them give a “weather report”. It’s fun to get out the video camera and let them see their videos of their reports. This is a great way to add geography into the lesson if you have them use a map behind them of their state or the country and to talk about the weather in different places. By having students find out about the weather in places other than their hometown you help them realize that the world is so much bigger than there own little corner.
  • Subjects of interest for students to do some research on are things such as: Why do the leaves on the trees change colors? What is the chemistry behind this color change? Why do the leaves fall off of the trees? Why does this change not happen to trees that are evergreen? These are great topics that foster researching skills but also writing, grammar, and handwriting.
  • Write fall poetry. Use any pattern of poetry that you like. Possibly have a poetry recital where students share a memorized poem (of their own or another author’s work) with a group or class.
  • Great fall activities are: raking the leaves and letting kids jump in the piles, take a field trip to go see the fall colors in your area or a close by area, dry out fall leaves and then make a rubbing of the leaf in fall colors on pieces of paper. If you collect several types of leaves you can have students learn about the different trees.
There are so many fun things to do when there is a change in the seasons. Get outside and enjoy the fall weather, do something active with your students and get them involved in hands on learning. These will be lessons and memories that will stay in a student’s mind and heart. We hope these give you a few ideas or at least some inspiration to add something fun to your usual curriculum.

Special Education Overview

The United States Department of Education has an Office of Special Education Programs to help those individuals from birth to 21 years of age with disabilities. These programs help fund, support and lead the special education efforts in our communities across the country. The need for these programs is on the rise. With increasing awareness of special needs and disabilities as well as learning disabilities we now have more resources than ever to fit the needs of individual students.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities states that:
  • 2.9 million students are currently receiving services in special education for their learning disabilities.
  • Most people with learning disabilities have the disability affect their reading ability.
  • 44 percent of parents that saw warning signs of learning disabilities in their children waited at least a year or more to take the signs seriously.
  • 38 percent of kids with learning disabilities drop out of school.
  • Students with learning disabilities are more at risk for substance abuse due to their lack of self esteem and trouble with their schoolwork.
There are thirteen different reasons (general) that qualify a student for special education services. These are: learning disabilities, autism, brain injury, deaf/blind, speech and language problems, visual impairments, hearing issues, multiple and cross over disabilities, orthopedic problems, mental retardation, serious health issues, behavior disorders (or emotional), and multi-sensory impairment.

Hooked on Phonics Review

Hooked on Phonics is a company that has been in business since 1986. They started as a company based on teaching children to read. Then in 1990 Hooked on Math was born. Since then things have just taken off and now the company takes in subjects like foreign language, spelling, many levels of math, reading for all ages, handwriting, Bible stories, and more. Their method is proven and they have a high success rate.

Hooked on Phonics has been the recipient of many awards. Among these are Teacher’s Choice Awards for Learn to Read Pre-K Edition (2009), Hooked on Handwriting (2007), Hooked on Phonics Master Reader (2004), Hooked on School Success (2003), and Hooked on Math (2001). These are just a few of the awards they have won. They have also received awards from iParenting Media, The Association of Educational Publishers, Creative Child Awards, The National Parenting Seal of Approval, National Parenting Publications, and Dr. Toy.
While the success rate for Hooked on Phonics is high and they teach great skills for the foundation of readers and other subjects, it has to be said that it can be very repetitive. Which is great because it really gets the sounds and everything into a child’s mind but it can be too repetitive at times. The great thing is that you can skip tracks on the cd’s and move forward in the workbook to meet your child’s needs.
The games, and all of the materials you are given are well worth the money. It would be hard to put a price on having your child learn how to read and enjoy the process. This system allows for a lot of parent/child time together. These programs make a great addition to any curriculum or to just use as a single subject curriculum for homeschool use.

Palindromes

A palindrome is a word, phrase, verse or number sequence that reads the same forwards as it does backwards. Children and adults alike enjoy these wonderful things.

When an author composes literature solely based on palindromes it is an example of “constrained writing”. This form of writing is very common in poetry. Constrained writing is just writing where the author is bound to certain form. Besides palindromes, other types of constrained writing are: Anglish, Anagrams, Reverse-Lipograms, Chaterism, Unicolavic poetry, Acrostics, Alliterives and more. Each has their own rhythm and form and the author is bound to those which is why it is constrained. This is a method of writing that can be used with any method of schooling or learning style.

Palindromes can be dated back to 79 A.D. This was discovered in ancient graffiti when it was seen on a wall. One example of why these are so amazing is that the words can form a square like shape:

K
A
K A Y A K
A
K

You can then fill in the other blanks in the square with other palindromes so that the top vertical and far left horizontal lines are the same and so on. This may seem easy but use the word above and see if you can make a square full of palindromes so that it works in all directions. This is a great things to present to students. Even if at first you ask them to make up words that follow the rules of a palindrome and then move on to using words found in the dictionary. Student’s benefit greatly from any kind of work game.
It is fun to have student’s make up there own palindrome sentences. For example:
Race car I saw. = Was I race car?
Note that that the punctuation doesn’t matter, nor does it matter if it makes sense or not. It is strictly for fun and to see what you can come up with. These types of games and ways of thinking make the brain think in a different way and it opens up a new line of creative thinking. Different teaching methods can use these activities and games for various things.
Other words that are palindromes are: pop, madam, toot, sis, and more.
A great place to find free worksheets for fun with palindromes is: enchantedlearning.com/english/palindromes.