Today’s Parents: A Re-Education On What Education Is

TO LEARN OR NOT TO LEARN

There is no question that most American parents who have children of “school-age” are very concerned about what sort of education they receive.  In past essays and conversations I’ve often mentioned that every child on Earth is “home-schooled” in the sense that all their primary sensory experiences be they emotional, physical or intellectual are learned in their home environment–the faculty primarily consisting of immediate caregivers like parents and colleagues like siblings.

HEADLINES READ: “ANOTHER SCHOOL SHOOTING”–WHAT’S GOING ON?

The knee-jerk reaction to the current epidemic-like rash of violence in schools in that past couple of decades has been to blame the availability of weapons like guns, addictions to drug substances, excessive use of internet social media for awkward adolescents making bullying all the more callous, et cetera.  In my humble opinion, I believe the issue may be as complex as the one unfolding in the environmental/agricultural circles regarding CCD and the fate of the honeybees. 

For instance, did anyone happen to catch the little bit of research data released to the Associated Press (compiled and explained by Philip Elliot) that printed in papers like my local Palm Beach Post today?  You can look it up yourself by “15% of U.S. youth idle, report says” and at a link like this http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/youth-unemployment_n_4134358.html

All of these factors and more that I’m leaving unlisted can overwhelm us to the extent that we don’t know what to do first: complain to our government and educational institutions or just yank our kids out of school and move to a semi-utopian place like Costa Rica.

BASICS FIRST AND FOREMOST

I was in the throes of the “baby blues” during the early months of my firstborn in 2008 when I came across a book or article (real fuzzy memory of that time for obvious reasons) that noted what all first-time parents/caregivers need to keep in mind as the single most important thing you can do for your newborn: LOVE THEM.  It turns out that starting with this basic but profound intention will in turn help everything else fall into place when taking care of your offspring.

Loving your child(ren) will help you get attuned to their needs–especially as they grow and approach the ages that our society and American government deem as the appropriate age to start an academic education.  The blessing of the year 2013 and beyond is that we live in a time of continuous progress in information technology that has drastically altered our home lives, professional careers and the overall commerce of the world in general–the effect that it has on what we consider education is so revolutionary that many of us haven’t grasped or accepted the fact that we all need a re-education of what “education” truly means.

In short, if you are a parent/caregiver today of persons of minor ages, you have a vast array of options as to how you conduct/delegate your child’s education to help them grow into individuals who will be able to think for themselves and give back to not only their family units and local communities but hopefully the world population as well.  Yes, I understand that for many options may be limited because of social and economic status–however, in America, it really isn’t an excuse when it comes to pursuing what is best for your child if you are involved one way (like homeschool choice, virtual schooling) or another (public schooling, magnet program seeking, charter school grants, etc).

RANDOM READING AND HOPES

I truly mean to encourage others that education for our children really shouldn’t be such a stressful topic.  They need love and honesty from us: when my 5 year old asks me countless questions and there’s inevitably one I can’t answer then I admit that’s the case and take him along to find out the answer (hint: “google” or “Siri” needn’t always be the one to go to, it’s good to take them to find the answer in other ways too).

Best wishes to all and I hope you can feel empowered by all the information available to you and your families as you navigate what’s the best path for your children’s education–also that you can find peace as that path can and may change more than you’d like to experience.  But then again, as our children learn we can learn more as well and that’s the best way to stay truly human and living in the now.

R.V.S.B.

P.S. for those interested in some alternative views on education beyond the confines of Common Core or whatever the latest standard is and will be for public education curriculums:

http://www.triviumeducation.com

“Dumbing Us Down – The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling” by John Taylor Gatto

 

 

 

The Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

NOTE: If you don’t feel like reading this blog right now,please consider watching this now or later, a TEDS talk clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

State of Education

Parents or caregivers in 2013 are facing very different straits than 50 years ago when it comes to deciding where and how their children will be educated during their formative years as set by our local and federal laws.  As a parent, I’ve been hypersensitive to any news regarding the state of education in our country whether it be standardized tests, curbing of budgets, teachers’ fatigue or fights and the list is endless.  We’d all be lying to ourselves if we didn’t also admit that our emotions are assaulted when observing horrific criminal acts occurring on school grounds—school campuses where it is understood as an unspoken sacred place that we entrust our students will thrive and learn without suffering the pains of a scary world just yet.

Perception

Why has it all shifted?  Most adults recall our early days as students in school as either taking a bus or having our parents/carpool drop off us at a building(s) where we congregated daily Monday through Friday from the morning until a few hours after lunch time—simple, repetitive, no awareness of alternatives.  Of course, there was the occasional homeschooler (read “weird outsider”) that we would encounter but as young children it was easy to fear or make fun of that which we didn’t know.

These days the common buzzwords for educating our children include public, private, magnet, charter, home-schooling, virtual schooling and more.  There is a contentious divide between the public school system and everyone else.  Of the many heated debates in my home state, for example, the Florida legislature considered a bill (HB 867) known as the “Parent trigger” that would allow parents to collectively pull the trigger on a failing school—see The Palm Beach Post column printed on March 29, 2013 by Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of www.FundEducationNow.org: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/commentary-florida-public-school-parents-dont-want/nW6zY/

I’m beginning to finally process all of the information I’ve been ingesting over the past decade on the topic and have hit a peaceful conclusion to be continued on a daily basis as my children grow.   What do we think our children should learn? I believe that apart from knowing how to engage in language and other common core standards (see: www.corestandards.org ) that my children should love to learn.  I believe it’s not so important to make sure they attain greatness in one school or another as much as they should enjoy the journey of growing up surrounded by family, friends and community—I wish to help protect my children from the wrath of apathy rampant in many students today.

Possibilities

The Palm Beach Post printed an article today highlighting a place in Delray Beach, Florida called “Space of Mind” written by Allison Ross, read more at: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/local-education/delray-beach-social-homeschooling-facility-riding-/nYpwt/

Although “Space of Mind” is a very unique idea that may be catching nationwide slowly, it signals along with many other developments such as charter schools popping up everywhere that our country is definitely in the midst of an Education Revolution.  There are probably many folks who are unsettled by this reality of the “traditional” education paradigm shifting in different directions, however, may I offer a few suggestions as we ride through this together with the next generation we’re helping to raise?

Try to remember what this is all about: we hope for our future through our children’s progress as we understand that they will carry on after we leave.  With that basic philosophy in our hearts, we can as parents/caregivers exercise our prerogative to decide among the countless possibilities as to what’s the best route to take for our children’s education.

We must also keep in mind that whatever path is chosen must be considered a fluid one as a reflection of what life is really like for everyone.  What works for our 2nd grader attending the local public elementary school down the street may not work for them when they are in 7th grade and would perhaps benefit from virtual schooling with coaching by family and loved ones.  The only guarantee we can assure our young students of is that we love and care for them—we must also accept that we will likely also learn along the way with them, a blessing for adults who have been jaded by life’s difficulties.

Plenty of Resources

Thankfully in the age of internet and iPhones we have many sources of information to access for researching education choices for our students.  Accessing your local school board office is a great start to at least assess what is available in your area.  For example, we have Ms. Beth Gillespie who works for the school district overseeing the home education office for south Florida’s Palm Beach County—a county where more than 5,000 students were home-schooled this past school year.

Whatever you’ve chosen or will choose for your children, you’ll always be their first and most important teacher(s).  May we learn to grow with our little ones as they aspire to be like us—we hope they’ll be greater than us in capacity to love and learn for themselves and each other.

R.V.S.Bean

My sources:

www.palmbeachpost.com

www.corestandards.org

www.FundEducationNow.org

www.palmbeachschools.org

Virtual Schooling: An Alternative to Both Homeschooling and Conventional Public or Private Schooling

Quick Note:  Apologies to my frequent readers, life has been a busy ride with many stops along the way in the past month that has rendered me paralyzed from writing more on this site–however, I hope to remedy that dry spell in the coming weeks–read on!

On Monday, October 18, 2010, our local newspaper The Palm Beach Post ran a front page article by Kevin D. Thompson entitled “In A Class By Themselves” that could be easily missed by most of us harried parents (especially those in stewardship of children 4 years and younger).   Even if you don’t have time to read my blog, please look at the link of this article if you are still mulling over what your options are for the education of your child.  You should be able to pull the link here: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/schools/palm-beach-county-students-benefit-from-virtual-classroom-977282.html?cxtype=rss_news or you may also search on their website: www.palmbeachpost.com

I don’t know where I’ve been in the past several years but after reading this article I found out that it’s been a growing phenomenon to have students from pre-kindergarten age through 12th grade attending some type of school online.  The article cites research data from groups like Ambient Insight and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning who “reports that the number of students taking classes online is growing 30 percent annually.”

Evidently in our own Palm Beach County here in South Florida, we have almost 300 students currently enrolled in the 2010-11 school year and I’m truly excited to hear that there are actually three virtual schools available to our students in this county.  The major difference between a student in virtual school or being home-schooled is that with virtual schooling the student  takes classes online and their parents supervise and encourage while there are state-certified teachers who communicate with the student “regularly through e-mail, voice mail, phone conversations, virtual meeting sites and instant messages to complete the course work.”

It is so refreshing to find out that there is another option for parents who are seeking an alternative to sending their kids to the public or private schools in their areas.  We have a couple of generations now following the infamous “generation X” that have graduated from high school with some apathetic senses of being and as we’re raising our own children we fear sending them into educational systems that only remind us of those endless hours of boredom, frustration, harassment and so forth.

There are two major factors that I feel appeal to parents regarding the virtual education choice: one is definitely cost as most programs are free and open to every student (at least in Florida’s case), the second is the fact that the actual mantle of teaching falls on the state-certified instructors who teach at these virtual schools.  The cost factor explains itself, the teacher factor is helpful for those parents who although they look forward to being involved on a daily basis in their child’s education–they may not feel comfortable enough to be the solely responsible adult teaching as in the case with some homeschooling programs.

This article does cite the standard cons of online learning (and perhaps, tongue-in-cheek about home-schooling as well) that include the thought that maybe these students lose out on interaction with other kids their age and don’t get the socialization that they would in a four-walled classroom.  I personally dismiss that idea immediately as there are so many opportunities for our children these days than when we ourselves were kids in the 70s and 80s (no offense please to the older generations).  It’s just that with all the mommy-and-me programs, sports, religious organizations, internet society and other extracurriculars, I think that kids these days are actually overstimulated to the point of apathy or burnouts.

The other side of this discussion is mentioned in this article and it refers to the teachers who are behind the virtual education and the fact that they are able to be more communicative with their students as they’re involved in writing and responding to them instead of just standing in front of a classroom.  I think this is a great career move for teachers out there who have becoming discouraged in their work because they spend so much time focused on disciplining their students instead of actually educating them on the curriculum at hand.

In the end it always comes down to the parents’ decision on what type of education program is best for their children.  It’s just nice to know that you now have more choices that each carry pros/cons.  In my mind, as I ponder my toddler’s future academic career, I am looking at public/private schooling, home-schooling and now Florida’s virtual schools.  Best of luck as you assist your beloved children, just remember you are always their first and most important teacher in life!

RVSB

Our Children and Nature: A Relationship Worth Fostering

Last week I was relaxing with my husband in our bed watching a favorite sitcom via www.hulu.com and between show segments were these short 30-60 second commercials.  Usually I’m pretty oblivious to the ads except for one that made me nearly fall out of bed in disbelief.

It was a short public service type message that was speaking to the lack of outdoor play time that our children get these days.  The piece closed with a mission proposal to parents that we get our children outside for at least an hour a day along with a website: www.greenhour.org

I read recently in our local newspaper about the current statistics out from the National Wildlife Federation (www.nwf.org)  and was astonished at the idea that many kids get no more than 5-7 minutes a day with nature outside.  I don’t know if that includes accounting for those who play outdoor sports but I also don’t think that really matters.  Bottom line I just can’t believe that this has happened under our noses and am consumed with avoiding such a hazard for my son and any other children we may have.

Boggled by the recent news article and the commercial computer ad, I did an internet search and came across congressional testimony before the Interior and Environmental Subcommittee by Richard Louv at the U.S. House of Representatives on February 27, 2007 entitled “Leave No Child Inside”.  I highly recommend pulling this up and reading it if you would like a concise overview of the problem our nation is facing with the next generation being disconnected with nature.  Mr. Louv is also the author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder”.

In Mr. Louv’s testimony he brings up several reasons why this dramatic decline in children’s outdoor play has occurred in recent years.   There are the obvious technology boom of video games, DVD players, iPods and the Wii (an interactive video gaming system).  While although more muted of a reason, it is a nonetheless pervasive mentality that we have as parents today of being phobic that our child will be the next Fox News or MSNBC poster abduction child.

However, as we delve deeper into this issue I believe you’ll agree with me that the adverse effects of our children having less contact with nature makes the risks of allowing/fostering their interactions outside a small issue.  For instance, there is scientific evidence through various studies to indicate that spending time outdoors helps our children’s cognitive development.

You don’t have to be a “tree-hugger” to also appreciate the fact that we need our children to be in touch with nature so we can ensure our Earth’s future by having conservationists and so forth emerge out of the next generation to replace the current ones who aren’t getting any younger.

Maybe it was my son’s newborn jaundice but I really cannot recall him being kept inside too long on a daily basis.  This also includes the days I wrapped him up like an Eskimo baby and tucked him into the Bob jogging stroller while I attempted running in my postpartum blue days when it was in the 20s and 30s outside in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

I even introduced him to all the trees in our yard at that time and later in my family’s yards.  Nothing special, just a ‘good morning’ and patting the bark.  That was when he was less than a year old, nowadays he’s interested in what’s in the trees like the squirrels and the woodpecker.  He also enjoys feeling the different types of bark.  It goes without saying that he’s in love with those trees that give him stuff like oranges and tangerines here in Florida.

I’m not going to say it’s easy to get your children outside, especially if they’ve never really had a relationship with nature.  It’s a definite sacrifice for parents to get children into nature especially if they are school-age as you contend with their school schedule, any extracurriculars, your work schedule, homework, dinner and so forth.  Of course, if you’ve chosen home-schooling, you have a time advantage that I hope you’re using effectively.

What I’m trying to say is that this is a relationship important enough to foster even if it means you need to adjust dinner time or what TV shows you want to watch–whatever sacrifice it may take on our part as parents is truly worth the dividends for our children to grow up connected to the natural world that we ourselves depend upon for everyday living.

RVSB

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"