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

Palm Beach County’s Possible Folly: Easing Ban On Cellphones in Schools?

Generally speaking, every morning it takes me a nice cup or two of coffee to help me open my eyes and get the fuzz off my brain’s exterior.  However, this morning I was spared my routine overdose of caffeine by the Palm Beach Post’s front page article entitled “Plan to ease school district’s policy on cellphones gets fuzzy reception” that sent shock waves through my cerebellum.   If you don’t live in Palm Beach County, Florida, you can look up the article written by Ms. Cara Fitzpatrick on their website at www.palmbeachpost.com: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/schools/palm-beach-county-school-board-gets-hung-up-535575.html

I struggled to read through the entire article without yelling aloud in back talk as I’m prone to do–especially if I’m watching political pundits on TV.  Evidently there is a group of school technology officials in Palm Beach County that are suggesting that school board members consider easing the district’s restrictions on cellphone use, possibly using them in classroom instruction.

As I must applaud the creativity of using texting to send out memos to students during the day, I also abhor the idea of further overwhelming our youth with technology that offers little benefit overall.

The reality is that as with much of the technology bingeing that our society has participated in only the last three decades, the cons come out much later after we’ve been sold on the pros of the latest gadget or concept (like the world-wide web internet).

In this particular case, school officials have essentially become perhaps a little worn down by the constant need to reprimand their students for illicit cellphone use.  At the same time, I do believe that parents are to fault for sending their children to school with a cellphone in tow.  As for you parents that may be reading this and get upset with me: then at least consider if you do deem it a necessity for your child to carry that cellphone on their person, you are also responsible for ensuring that they do not use that phone during school hours unless it is a serious emergency on your part or theirs (which, honestly, those calls should be conducted in the school administration office, not in the classroom).

One of the ideas for a revised mobile phone policy in Palm Beach County mentioned that “use of cellphones would be ‘generally banned’ in schools, but would be allowed in classrooms for the instructional purposes as determined by the teacher and principal”.  Again, we’ve already learned that computers, both desktops and laptops, offer some benefits in classroom use, but they cannot replace the instructor-student interaction necessary for proper learning as appropriate for the respective grades.  Why would we then incorporate cellphone use on top of a pre-existing educational technology with bigger screens and memory?

A funny proposal was the one I read that offers “students, parents, school employees and others would be allowed to use electronic signatures to sign documents.”  Now I think we’ve truly gone tech-stupid.  The moment a John Hancock is too much for a parent to do in person for their child just makes me angry.  You may want to argue with me on this one and I invite you to do so because perhaps I’m simply a dinosaur in this regard.  I still think I want my child to bring a paper to me in person so we can discuss what it’s asking of he/she as well as myself to sign off on.  Why would we want to treat our interaction with our children regarding their education like some faceless technology swap with our big-wigs at the office or the bank loan officer we’d rather not meed in person?

Ultimately, the article leaves the cellphone discussion “to be continued” in this school board’s case in Palm Beach County, Florida.  It did wake me up again to the fact that our idea of how school was for us certainly is not the same for our children today.  However, I also stand firm that change doesn’t mean throwing away the template completely to make way for something that we still don’t know the true ramifications of in the future.

I’ve written before on the subject of the current epidemic of today’s children not knowing how to interact outdoors in nature unabated.  That is a direct result of a number of factors, mostly involving overuse and overstimulation of TV, video games, computers and other indoor medias that have paralyzed an entire generation of kids.  We must tread carefully as we now witness our technology becoming increasingly handheld, head held (like the annoying blue tooth, I lasted with that for a few months before I decided no thanks).

Of course I’m not saying that we can avoid it entirely.  But I know we as parents do still hold the key to teaching our children how to exercise moderation in every aspect of their lives with technology increasingly becoming a pervasive part of it for them.  Already I am curbing in my own usage and have found that it benefits me personally as well as hopefully an example for my son T.A.–and, no, he will not have his own cellphone in middle school, I can promise you that.

RVSB

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"