In recent months, there has been much ado in the field of education about the Common Core. But what is it and should homeschoolers worry about it or even care?
Essentially, the Common Core seeks to create a "level playing field" for students; teaching the same subjects at the same time to all students. Now you may assume that this initiative originated at the federal level from the Department of Education (DOE). However, while there are strong supporters in the DOE to create a federal education system, the push for the Common Core was initially fueled by an organization called Achieve, which just so happens to be largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Achieve in turn approached a number of state governors across the country and gained enough support to have it become a formal project adopted by the National Governors Association and also has the involvement of the Council of Chief State School Officers. So now, with only five states who have NOT adopted the Common Core as their new educational standard, it is quickly becoming the top priority to deal with on every educator's plate. No bill was proposed, no debates took place, no parental input was solicited, and no voting occurred. Yet here it is to stay and the DOE will ultimately be the agency to implement it. This is what can happen when a board of influential business folks set their mind to something.
So back to the original question; what is the Common Core? Well, no one really knows the full extent of what the Common Core will ultimately entail. Although teachers will be accountable to teach to it and students will be accountable to learn it, the standards remain mostly unpublished, with only guidelines for math and English language arts recently published. The scope and sequence of the whole program is not clear and remains abstract. Worst of all, it is a totally unproven and untested model and yet our country's educational system is going to jump in blindfolded with both feet.
Most teachers are against the Common Core and many administrators are nervous about the shift of power from the state to the federal level that seems inevitable even if it is unconstitutional. Oh, if only Ronald Reagan had really been able to reverse Jimmy Carter's creation of the DOE back in the day! Calling it a "new bureacratic boondoggle", Reagan must have seen the writing on the wall that we are all realizing today in the form of the Common Core's efforts to further centralize our educational system.
There is also a good deal of concern relating to the virtual "itemization" of our children with the creation of a database record that will essentially follow them from cradle to grave by linking educational data with workforce data. "Who will have access to this information?", "How will it be secured from identity theft?", and "How will it be used?" are just a few of the daunting questions that lay ahead.
Yet the SAT and ACT test writers have already aligned the math and literature sections of their materials to comply with the Common Core, even though the standards themselves remain unpublished. Colleges will also require a certain level of Common Core compliance in the future when considering student applications.
So, as homeschoolers, here are three action items we can take:
To read more about a homeschooling perspective on the Common Core, read these articles provided by HSLDA.
How Do We Stop the Common Core?
Common Core Issues
Will Common Core Impact Homeschools and Private Schools?
Who Opposes the Common Core and Why?
Common Core: An International Failure
State-By-State Standards Adoption
"To empower students to be successful in an ever changing world."
This is the school motto that flashes on the electronic announcement board of the local elementary school in our neighborhood. It sounds good, right? In fact, it's one of those statements that seems to prompt agreement and nods of approval all the way around. However, while the statement above seems like a noble quest for any adult educator to desire for their students, we must be careful when defining our goals within the context of our home schools.
Since it is such a broad statement, it leaves a great deal of room for interpretation. While we can probably all agree that we live in an "ever-changing world", how do we interpret the words "empower" and "successful"? Most likely our definitions of these terms and how the local school board defines them are going to be quite different.
Whereas we seek to "empower" our children by becoming "powerless" and relying on the strength and wisdom of the Lord, the world teaches children that they only need to believe in their own abilities to achieve whatever they desire. While we strive to equip our children to be bold in taking a stand for what is true and right in the eyes of God, the world upholds the lukewarm doctrine of relativism; teaching children that "right" is in the eyes of the beholder. Similarly, when we work to spiritually "heartschool" our children; knowing that successful academics will come as a natural by-product of that focus, the world emphasizes children who behave acceptably on the outside yet divorce the motivation to do so from anything that is spiritual or Godly.
Then there is the whole issue of defining "success". Subscribing to worldly standards, success means tolerating each other, following the law of the land, maintaining attractive standards for our person and our possessions, contributing to functioning of our society, and making a decent amount of money in the process. Yet, as Christians, we know that our worth and our standards of success have nothing to do with worldly goals. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." Samuel reminded King Saul, "It is better to obey than to sacrifice." The obedience that reflected the faith of Noah, Abraham, and the other patriarchs were all "credited to them as righteousness". Likewise, we encourage our children to obey what God has commanded because it is right. If we do this, they will be "successful" no matter what tangible form of responsibility they take on in life.
Proverbs 6:20-23 says..
My son, keep your father's command,
And do not forsake the law of your mother.
Bind them continually upon your heart;
Tie them around your neck.
When you roam, they will lead you;
When you sleep, they will keep you;
And when you awake, they will speak with you.
For the commandment is a lamp,
And the law a light;
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,
Is it likely, then, that the instruction and training God intended for the children that He made in His own likeness and then gave to us as gifts should come from any other perspective but the one that Godly parents can deliver? Simply put, no. It is not likely because the concept of "empowering" begs the question "from what source and with what standards are the children being empowered"? Similarly, "success" can only be measured in terms of the obedience and faith that flow from our children's hearts to their hands.
Ultimately, while it is not a bad goal "to empower students to be successful in an ever changing world", as homeschooling parents we need to be boldly specific in our family's vision statement so that there is no question where are standards come from and where their application will lead us.
If you would like to join us for our upcoming spring session where we explore the essential role of creating a family mission statement and many other important topics, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to provide you with those details when they become available.
For years, we have encouraged our couples to join a local Financial Peace University class; a DVD-based financial management curriculum produced by Dave Ramsey that meets in a facilitated small group setting over nine weeks. By working together, families are able to greatly reduce their debt while building up their savings options. Now, another great choice exists for families to not only to get a handle on their own financial situation but to also teach their children the Biblical principles of handling money at the same time! So if you are in need of help in this area or even if you just need support in teaching these concepts to your junior high or high school student, consider investing in this program called, "Foundations in Personal Finance: Homeschool Kit" by Dave Ramsey.''
You may read the reviews at this link. If you would like to order the product, please do so through our store to save $30 off list price!
There is no getting around it; technology is here to stay and as much as many homeschooling moms may want to skirt around the use of it, it is better to be intentional in our use of it than to ignore it altogether. After all, just like money is not the root of all evil, neither is technology the cause of issues within our home. Rather it is a tool to be subdued and used to our best advantage rather than to be categorically omitted or allowed to propagate problems.
So what role should it play in our homeschools? While the answer to this question will, of course, vary, there are some basic ways we can look to utilize technology that will serve both our children and our families well over the long term. While we touch on the issue of internet safety in the TBH program and checking out a tool like Safe Eyes is essential in this day and age, here are some other thoughts that may be useful to consider as well. This is especially since many safety tools can be difficult to implement in reality; striking a hard balance between setting restrictions while achieving access to useful sites.
FEE-BASED SERVICES: Rather than relying on the unpredictable results of Google searching for finding supplemental information, consider investing in a subscription-based service like Encyclopedia Britannica for Kids (ages 6-14) or Brain Pop (topic-specific videos geared for Jr. High and up). Similarly, consider using the Usborne series of Internet-Linked books to extend understanding and discussion about various topics you are studying.
FREE RESOURCES: Another consideration is to begin saving a list in your "favorites" that serve as handy resources for your teaching needs. For example, a site called Watch, Know, and Learn is a free collection of videos that have been organized especially to serve educators. Though you will need to research in advance to locate the best, age-appropriate ones for your purposes, there are some useful videos available here. Teacher Tube is organized similarly. Google Earth is also a fantastic resource (free download) that is very useful when studying geography or history.
TEACHING HELP: At some point, many of us will consider and utilize an on-line private course for our children; especially in the high school season. Besides the plethora of on-line classes available through many of the major publishers, here are some additional options that you may not have heard about: Homeschool Spanish Academy (Skype with your teacher on a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio and learn Spanish at any skill level from an engaging, bi-lingual instructor who works around your schedule). Consider art, cooking, gardening, or hand-craft class options through pre-recorded on-line class options that your whole family can enjoy many times over through Michael's Craft Store. Have your teen take a Constitutional Law class from Michael Farris, co-founder of HSLDA.
HOMESCHOOL HELPS: For teacher development and general research, also locate organizations like Sonlight, or Institutes for Excellence in Writing who regularly host live webinars on various topics of interest to home educators. Other groups like College Plus or HSLDA's "At Home Events" hold webinars that may provide needed support based on a particular season you are experiencing or anticipating. Most of these organizations and other similar ones maintain a database of archived webinars either for free or a small fee.
So remember that no matter what season of homeschooling you are in right now, technology can and should play a suitable and useful role in helping to achieve your family's home education and life skills training goals.
While it is easy to get overwhelmed by the plethora of products available to us as homeschoolers, once in a while, a product presents itself to be universally appealing. Regardless of what curriculum you utilize, consider making the investment in Wondermaps to help with your history and geography needs over all of the years that you will be home educating your children.
Any variation of geographic presentation can be customized. You decide on whether or not you want your child to have a full level of detail with color overlays, keys, and labels or you want them to locate and labels these elements. A variety of individual state, U.S., and world maps are available. Plus, if you utilize Mystery of History or All American History programs by Bright Ideas Press, all of the maps you need for all six years (i.e. four for MOH and two for AAH) are included.
Even if you do not use these programs, any history curriculum can make use of the historical and thematic maps. Historical maps are separated into four groups: The Ancients, The Middle Ages, The Renaissance, Reformation, & Rise of Nations, and Revolutions to Rising Times. Theme options include Explorers, American History, The World Wars, Chinese Dynasties, and more.
With all of the options and the ability to create literally hundreds of different map options, it will meet every need you have while saving you the cumbersome task of photocopying out of a hard copy book. Just select your map, click to customize, and print!
At $50 retail price ($45.89 through our store), it is an investment, but one that is well worth the cost. For a better understanding of this useful tool, watch this helpful Wondermaps Tutorial on YouTube. If you are interested in purchasing this tool, please route through our store to process an order through CBD.
Despite society's continual march towards replacing printed media with electronic options, we homeschoolers still love our books! This weekend, thousands of homeschooling parents will converge on the Phoenix Convention Center to learn, encourage, connect, and spend! So what will be THE thing that most of us are still spending money on? Books----printed books! Even with providing materials for the mentoring program, while electronic resources and options are appreciated, the physical manual is still the one that is most requested!
In 2012 the American Association of Publishers reported that e-Book sales in the U.S. book industry increased by 46%; representing 1/5 of the entire market. One fifth is an incredibly huge number, but four fifths of us are still buying the printed books.
Maybe it is the aroma of the ink or the sound of turning a page that no one else has turned before. Perhaps it is the feel of the cover or the excitement of the design. The ability to dog-ear, highlight, and pepper with "post-it" notes also cannot be minimized. It is a security blanket that allows us to feel that real value has been obtained and that even just holding the sleekly bound text will place us in a mind frame of newness, potential, and acquisition. No matter what the reason, we are definitely not a paperless society yet!
So as you open, review, feel, consider, and smell the books you will evaluate this weekend, know that you will rarely find every single thing that is on your list to buy. If you find yourself in this situation, then, please consider sourcing the balance of your needed curriculum and materials through our site next week. You may do so by entering CBD through our weblink. Proceeds from these purchases go to support the Evan C. Gary Memorial Scholarship.
So as you ponder curriculum and resources that come at you from every direction, what is the ONE book that you simply have to tackle this summer! For me, it is "The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens" by Debra Bell; refreshing and relevant! We are also enjoying "Summer of the Monkeys" by Wilson Rawls as a family re-aloud. It is a hoot and a great read; especially if you have just been studying the late 1800's time period and have boys.
Most of us will find ourselves involved in one or two Easter egg hunts this weekend along with attending a special Easter service at our respective places of worship. Yet, sometimes, this is a holiday that comes and goes so fast we realize that we may not have taken the opportunity to discuss the important points of the holiday with our children. After all, we spend so much time focusing on the birth of Christ and generally not much time at all celebrating the primary foundation of our faith; namely the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. So, as Easter quickly approaches, I encourage you to think about the family traditions you practice in your home that will help to highlight the important points.
One of the things we do every year on Good Friday is to watch "The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus" with our boys. It is a high-quality Claymation production with an all-star voice-talent cast. Appropriate for all ages, the story follows the major aspects of Jesus' ministry; from the beginning right through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Often times, we will pause the film and discuss points and answer questions along the way. See the thumbnail link on this page to purchase your own copy through our store.
Another thing that the boys enjoy doing is talking through our "Resurrection Eggs". Ours is a homemade kit, but you can also purchase them pre-made. All you need is an egg container that you save from putting in the recycle that holds at least 12 eggs (18 eggs if you want to find that many symbolic objects). Then make sure you have a different color of plastic Easter egg (regular size) to place in each slot; making sure to have a white one that will remain empty for the last one. See the thumbnail link on this page to purchase a pre-made one through our store.
One other idea is to bake resurrection cookies. Various ingredients represent different parts of the Easter account and the cookies are left in the oven overnight. Some families even choose to "seal" their oven with tape. Then when the cookies are taken out in the morning, they are hollow or "empty" on the inside, just like when Jesus rose from the grave! Here is one recipe, but there are several variations out there you can try: http://www.motherhoodonadime.com/kids/resurrection-cookies-printable-recipe/.
One of the primary reasons many of us homeschool is to model healthy relationships and behaviors to our children. This is why we laugh at the idea of the "s" word being a problem in this current generation of the home education choice. Our reply to this concern may go something like this...
"Socialization? We modern homeschoolers are not worried about socialization because we know that homeschooled and homebound are NOT interchangeable terms! In fact socialization is one of the important reasons why we are homeschooling. We want to make sure our children interact with different groups of kids throughout the week and that they become comfortable in communicating with younger ones, adults, and seniors alike. We want them to experience a variety of social circumstances in real world settings."
Yet sometimes there is an interesting dynamic in the homeschool community when it comes to the involvement of other adults in our children's lives. We are sometimes all too quick to drop them off at a community center class, sports club practice, co-op learning group, church class, or private music lesson when we may not even know the name of the adult in charge. Remember that these types of adults are influencing our children in a significant and usually regular way. So it is important that we connect with them eye-to-eye before making a decision to enjoin our children to them for a season.
I have made sure to do this with our boys' soccer and physical education coaches as well as the folks who work with our boys regularly in their various church activities. While you want your children to gain the benefit of working with a variety of personalities and learning the skills that they have to offer your children, it is vital that you are leaving them in the care of people who will support your efforts and come alongside you in reinforcing the principles of life that are important to you. We don't want to just be interested in our kids having their time occupied, but that the time they spend there is an extension of what you are reinforcing with them in the home.
Recently, I went through a two-month long journey to engage a new piano teacher for our boys. Our beloved "Miss Cindy", their piano teacher of nine years, had retired and was just helping us along until we could find a new situation. I interviewed several potential teachers and the boys also had several sample lessons with four different possible instructors before we made a decision on a new teacher who is not only excellent at the technical aspects of teaching piano, but also connects personally with the boys and understands the struggle that they have had with long breaks in their practice history. They are being challenged, rather than penalized, in a nurturing environment as they move from one methodology to another (i.e. Suzuki method to traditional) in a way that acknowledges their strengths while identifying their goals. Most of all, their new instructor is a Christian who empathizes with their unique situation of having just lost their older brother to cancer. Now we can move ahead with confidence that we are creating a bond with their new teacher that will complement our familyâ€™s goals for the long term. I must also mention that Cindy, their former teacher, has grown to be one of my very closest personal friends. Even though she does not formally teach them piano any longer, she has been, is, and will continue to be a huge part of our life. So, it is a win-win all the way around when "adult enjoinment" is intentionally planned.
Bottom line: Where we are so careful to make sure they have healthy peer relationships and social interactions with a variety of individuals and friends, we need to be just as prudent to the other important adults that play a role in our children's lives. Pastors, coaches, tutors, and private instructors can become long-time partners with you in your child's journey into adulthood. Even close friends can play an important role in your child's life as surrogate "aunts", "uncles", and "grandparents", when blood relations in these areas are lacking or nonexistent.
Homeschooling since 2000, Carol shares in her blog observations, confessions, information, and musings that help provide perspective and inspiration for homeschooling moms.