Archive for category Mary Leppert
By Andrew Pudewa
Today, as perhaps never before, our society purports to value creativity in education. Touted as the solution to economic, social, and environmental problems, creative thinking has become a primary objective for many educational institutions and homeschool families. Especially in the area of writing, creativity seems to be both the key and the goal. “Be unique! Be creative! Be original! Just make it up!” That which appears to engender creativity is considered good; that which fails to do so, is bad. Therefore, activities which promote basic skills (such as copywork, memorization, rote learning,
drill) are often put aside in favor of activities which appear more spontaneous (story starters, free writing, journaling, etc.).
I’ve heard parents and teachers say things to children like, “First, just get your thoughts down…” or “Write whatever comes into your mind…you can edit later.” Unfortunately there are two fundamental problems with this approach: 1) It promotes undisciplined thinking and therefore bad writing; and 2) It misrepresents the activity of thinking and
First, consider this: To do anything with excellence, we need two things — a plan and sufficient practice. Very few people ever stumble into doing anything well. This is particularly true in writing, because good writing is organized. Good writers learn to structure and order their thoughts, which means they must think before they write. Generally, human thought is broad and global; we make intuitive associations and logical leaps, which is good because it allows for the formation of new ideas, mainly through the combination and permutation of previously-existing concepts. But then, the logical connections and supporting details must be added, often painstakingly, to help the reader share the understanding of the writer as fully as possible. Without a plan, the writer’s task is exponentially harder. Reorganizing huge chunks of stream-of-consciousness prose into something structured is much more difficult than organizing ideas into an outline; it’s hard for most adults, nigh impossible for children.
So our question becomes: How can we teach children to outline and plan what they intend to write? The answer, somewhat obvious, is novel to many of us today, since it requires an antiquated discipline — imitation. If students practice making outlines from existing materials (source texts that can include facts, opinions, stories, descriptions),
they will learn how to create outlines by taking key words from sentences, facts, elements of an original story, etc. They then can practice reconstructing those ideas from their outline, much the way Benjamin Franklin described in his Autobiography. While some teachers or parents may view this process (of taking notes and rewriting already-existing
content and stories from notes) to be a type of glorified plagiarism, what they fail to understand is that this process is the best possible training for the more “creative” activity of taking “notes from the brain.” To read a statement and choose key words to copy into an outline is essentially the same cognitive activity as hearing one’s own thought and choosing key words to put in an outline. In other words, this sort of imitation is the best possible way to develop the essential skill of “think first, then write.”
The second issue is content. Where do ideas come from? A simple, self-evident truth illuminates the problem: Inspiration of the Holy Spirit notwithstanding, the output of a human mind is generally limited to what’s in it to begin with. We don’t get Chinese out of a brain that doesn’t have Chinese; we don’t get physics out of brain that doesn’t have any physics. Output is limited by input. Things don’t “come to you” so much as they “come out of you.” Ideas don’t appear from nowhere; they are the result of the combination and permutation of previously-existing ideas. Stephen King, certainly
one of the most wildly imaginative writers of our time, explained this in his autobiography, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, wherein he gives examples how all of his ideas came from somewhere — things he had read, heard, experienced –
and then combined and morphed into a new, seemingly unique (and often horrific) idea. So children — and all of us, in fact — are limited in our imagination to our experience. A creative mind is a full mind because it has more “stuff” with which to work. In the terminology of classical rhetoric, the “coming up with something to say” is the canon of Invention. What’s so interesting about that word is another word that shares the same root, “inventory”. To invent something, you have to have some material with which to invent! Therefore, building the database of the mind with ideas and experiences through extensive reading and relevant, interesting activity is the best way to stock up the inventory that will allow for the greatest creativity later on. This fact helps us understand what Einstein meant when he said, “If you want your children to be more intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be even more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Stories that stretch what’s possible also stretch the imagination and fill the mind with new ideas that can then become seeds for other new, even more original imaginings. And what’s true for fairy tales is also true for art and poetry, science and law.
Sadly, many modernists, in their elevation of creativity to godlike status, allow their pursuit of that end to displace the development of basic skills, which in writing, as in most arts, requires a foundation built upon imitation. So, let us remember the need to build that foundation, and proceed without anxiety that somehow we will fail our children’s creativity. By following the traditional path that we know works, we will more effectively reach our goal of skilled, creative thinkers. A.P.
This article first appeared in IEW’s September 2011 e-Newsletter. email@example.com.
© 2008 by The Institute for Excellence in Writing. It is available at www.excellenceinwriting.com for your personal use or for distribution. Permission given to duplicate complete & unaltered.
By Janet Esposito
A tour through northeast Ohio Amish country is like stepping back in time, but it was also the first time I have felt “present” in a long time. The stresses of daily life: Homeschooling, bill paying, running kids everywhere…running after kids everywhere – it almost feels as though I constantly live in the future. Just finishing my daily to-do list feels like a monumental accomplishment and I often forget to pay attention to my life as it goes whizzing before my eyes. But a recent family daytrip to the magical northeast Ohio Amish Country turned into an educational field trip for our entire family. Driving behind horse-drawn buggies all day will force you to be patient, slow down, and refocus your attention on what really matters.
The beautiful countryside is full of pristine white houses, picturesque flower and vegetable gardens, and colorful quilts hanging on clotheslines. I remembered how much I love a good clothesline. Standing on the side of the rolling dirt road and looking out at the landscape dotted with wheat stacks, I finally realized why Grandma Moses was so inspired to paint scenes such as this. But as we quickly learned, the area is much more than a beautifully simplistic tourist attraction – most of the Amish community is self-sustaining. The people living here are hard-working, industrious, and committed to the living practice of their deep faith. It was an incredible opportunity for my kids to witness such examples and to learn about their culture, while learning about our own American history.
One of our stops included a visit to Lehman’s General Store in Kildron, Ohio. This store carries many Amish-made items, as well as good old-fashioned products that should be staples in every home. It’s easy to spend hours looking through the handmade quilts, Amish cookbooks, and all-natural medicinal remedies. And there is an entire line of cast iron cookware, including a cast iron waffle maker that cooks on the stovetop – just like Grandma used. There are all kinds of new old products, such as butter churns, kitchen appliances, tools for canning, and even a cast iron cook stove. Your little ones will love the old-fashioned candy selection that includes licorice whips and my personal childhood favorite, candy buttons. You will also find Amish cookbooks, tasty homemade pastries, and a wonderful selection of books, games, outdoor activities, and wooden toys. You can find sleds, children’s gardening sets, Amish-made balloon-powered toy boats, and an incredible exact replica of the original Studebaker wagon.
The Geauga County area includes the villages of Burton, Middlefield, Parkman, Huntsburg, and Mesopotamia. More than 14,000 Amish homesteaders settled here, making it the fourth largest Amish community in the world. Many Amish people own their own restaurants, bakeries, and quilt-making shops. Most also speak a unique language called Pennsylvania Dutch, but is actually a form of German. Students who are learning German will love speaking with the local Amish community and comparing the differences and similarities that developed between the two languages. The Amish people we met were always kind and welcoming; eager to answer our many questions and genuinely interested in sharing their amazing culture. The entire community is an educational playground for a homeschool field trip.
The Century Village Museum is a “living museum,” demonstrating an authentic Western Reserve Village, located in Burton, Ohio. Instead of reading about history, students can truly become a part of it. The museum is situated on roughly 120 acres of land, encompassing twenty-two historical buildings with more than 15,000 artifacts. Students learn about life in the 1800s and can participate in some of the fun activities. Historic artisans are showcased each season perfecting their crafts, including rug hooking, blacksmithing, and a broom squire. There are some educational and engaging tours available, but you must book them at least two months in advance and some require a minimum number of students. Choose the Math and Science Package Tour to learn about 1800s medicine, science and math. The Artisan Package Tour includes a tour of a Victorian dressmaker’s shop, a lesson in tin punching, and a sheep-to-shawl demonstration on an authentic floor loom. Experience daily life in an 1800s farming community in the Farm-to-Table Package Tour, including butter churning, the Dairy Barn, and the Blacksmith Shop. Or explore the many aspects of early American industry in the Economics Package Tour, designed to meet 4th and 5th grade Ohio Academic Standards.
And make sure to check the Century Village website (http://centuryvillagemuseum.org) before planning your trip, because the museum hosts an amazing schedule of events. The legendary Raccoon Music Festival is held every summer and celebrates traditional American music, highlighting fiddle workshops, clogging, and flat-pick guitar contests. Along with square dancing and fun kids’ games, visitors will hear old-time folk music, banjo jam sessions, bluegrass, Cajun, and sacred harp (a traditional form of Appalachian singing). Or visit the museum during the autumn and experience the 65th Apple Butter Festival. This mouth-watering treat is created from apples and cider, cooked in large copper kettles with wood fires, constantly stirred for 4-5 hours. This is a great fall festival for the entire family, with fun activities for kids, music, handmade crafts, and deliciously unique foods. And this is the perfect destination during the madness of holiday shopping, where you can remember the true meaning of Christmas with the whole family. The historic buildings are decorated with natural ornaments; the kids will love the Victorian children’s games; and you will find beautifully hand-crafted treasures for everyone on your list.
For a truly historic experience, tour the Geauga County countryside in an authentic buggy. Search out an owner-operator who can answer questions and discuss the details of this historic mode of transportation. Kids will learn a lot about the skills and tools that are required for even short-distance travel excursions. And learn about the history of cheese-making (not to mention some scrumptious free samples) or watch it happen live to better understand how this staple is traditionally made. After leisurely traversing the backgrounds in a horse-drawn buggy, tour the railroad museum to learn how groundbreaking this form of transportation was for the time. There are even live auctions and flea markets, where students can synthesize their learning about history, math, and economics. Ridgeview Farm, just east of Middlefield, also includes an Amish Cultural Center, petting zoo, hay ride, and corn maze. But if you visit earlier in the year, students can go pick strawberries and learn a lot from the farmers about how our food is grown and sold.
Everywhere you look, there are opportunities for learning and growth. Homeschooling is about bringing learning to life for your kids and this, more than anything, was the lesson I learned from our daytrip. It took going back in time for me to remember why I truly love being a teacher and a mom. J.E.
By Tracy Weissman Dunbar
Our schools have been quietly taken over. We are no longer teaching the skills and concepts that our kids need. Gone are the days of creativity, innovation, and personal growth: Here are the days of nationalized pigeonholing, segregation, dysfunction. It used to be that in America you could be whatever you dreamed you could be and you were allowed to change your mind if your dreams led you in a new direction. In the near future, kids will be allowed to be whatever their Pearson test score says they’re qualified to be, and nothing more, unless we, the loving parents and teachers, stand up and fight for our children.
Kris Nielson, Children of the Core
Until very recently, the new Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) has been a well-kept secret. Sweeping education reforms in the American schools first started in the early 1900s and have been re-introduced every couple of decades, so these initiatives are not new ideas. Also, they are not state-led. In 1994, a former political activist and radical Weather Underground member, Bill Ayers, and Brazilian Marxist, Paolo Freire, joined forces to form the CES (Coalition of Essential Schools). This would later morph into the Chicago-based Achieve, Inc, with a young upstart and community organizer named Barack Obama serving on the board of directors. Together with David Coleman, Linda Darling Hammond, and Bill and Melinda Gates who bankrolled the initial millions, the CCSSI was planned. As each English and Math standard (with full curricula and new methods of teaching) began to be unveiled, the new programs were tested in Chicago, DC, Massachusetts, and California (2004-2008).
On the surface, implementing a set of standards to make students career-and college-ready sounds like a great idea. What was not said was that “college ready” meant community college. On the surface, a “voluntary, state-led” plan for education reform endorsed by both governors and large corporations seems ideal. However, these were serious misrepresentations. Immediately following Thanksgiving break, 2009, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, contacted every state Department of Education with what appeared to be an irresistible offer: A new set of English and Math standards along with computers for each student, and a large sum of stimulus money would be awarded to each state that accepted the new standards. Also, a waiver from No Child Left Behind would be granted. The proviso: Amid the hustle and bustle of holiday parties and pageants, school breaks, and exams, a decision to accept Core had to be made by January 6, 2010, sight unseen and never formally vetted nor yet complete in its entirety. Those states which requested more time or refused the package were then threatened with the loss of their Title I funding. Then there was an additional incentive: The states accepting the new CCSSI would be entered into a game-show style sweepstakes for Race to the Top money. This is a “competition” for states in full compliance with the new program. States will now be competing against each other for the coveted prize money. This sounds like an educational Hunger Games. This new set of standards was still in the process of being developed; it was not state-led, nor was it voted upon by any legislative body or vetted by school boards. The endorsement was not made by governors, but by the National Governor’s Association, an independent trade association funded, in part, by the Gates Foundation.
The Federal government insists that this is merely a rigorous set of new standards to have students (K-12) career and (community) college ready. All the new curricula and existing older texts are being modified to reflect the new set of rubrics. These standards will be universal, so that all subjects taught in each grade across the board will have the same content. No variation. All students will be on the same page (literally) at the same time, countrywide. Obviously, this leaves no more room for individuality, different learning styles, gifted and remedial programs, or English as a second language classes. It is truly a “one-size-fits-all” approach . . . Educational equity for all.
Both parents and teachers are becoming increasingly alarmed and dismayed at the 70% loss of traditional, Classical, Western literature (poetry, short stories, novels, plays). This is more than disconcerting, because our literature forms the canon of Western thought and history. Great literature contains antagonists, protagonists, and morals. It stimulates our imaginations and broadens our horizons. Instead, there is a push to substitute “Informational texts” for the traditional literature. This now includes operational manuals, scientific studies, speeches, social studies, graphs and charts, and how to read political and legal documents and executive orders. If the children aren’t bored enough in schools already, this will be sure to numb their brains.
The new standards in math are just as distressing. Noted mathematicians, Drs. Bill Evers and James Ingram, have refused to endorse CCSSI because of numerous mistakes discovered in both the texts and teachers’ manuals. When reported, they were informed these “could not be changed as they were already copyrighted and in print.” There were missing algorithms ( i.e., converting fractions to decimals and percents); fuzzy, confusing methodologies, and multiple approaches to problem- solving; algebraic concepts introduced from 1st grade on; and extraneous, misleading, or “tricky” parts inserted into word problems. By introducing difficult concepts at an early age – as opposed to learning the basics — the students are handicapped so much that by high school, algebra, normally taught in grades 7-8, is now delayed until grades 9-10 in the new Core. This leaves little time for higher math classes like trig, calculus, statistics, and quantitative mathematical reasoning. The state of New York was the first state to align their assessment testing to Core. The scores were just made public as this article is being written. 29.6% of all NY students met proficiency in math and 26.5% reached basic proficiency in English. The results speak for themselves.
In addition, students are now expected to learn in teams of 2-6. Gone are the days of individual desks in neat lines and rows. There is an emphasis on student-driven community classrooms, with the brighter students mentoring the slower learners. It is also called collaborative or team learning. Instead, recent studies are showing this method creates division and animosity between the students. In order to develop the students’ voices, education is shifting towards increased writing across all subjects. This is a terrific idea, but unfortunately, writing style and emotional language with supportive
“evidence” is being pushed in lieu of the basics: Grammar, syntax, punctuation, cursive. It’s form versus function. The teacher is now a coach or facilitator: In the new classroom, the teacher’s desk is shifted to the side or back of the room. Discussion circles (on the floor) and team centers are at the forefront. After attending several teacher training seminars this summer, and looking at the new books — Science, History, and Health are now Core aligned — it is obvious that truth is now a personal, subjective reality; ethical and moral implications in scientific research (eugenics, genetically-modified organisms, euthanasia, cloning) are left out; and basic facts omitted or distorted. For example, Brave New World, still part of 11th grade literature is being presented as a Utopian society (rather than a Dystopia as originally intended and taught) because all members of society have been provided food, shelter, jobs, entertainment, and purpose. Right, but what about freedom?
The most insidious and invasive factor for all those public, charter, and now private schools who have been coerced into accepting Core, is the data mining aspect. Students K-12 will be interviewed each year covering a wide range of personal
information. Questions include the innocuous “Do you make friends easily? Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team? Do you accept criticism easily?” to “Can you confide in your caregivers (no more parents)? Does anyone in your home own a gun? Do your parents take you to church or synagogue?” and “When you come to school, do you ever feel the need to change into the clothing of the opposite sex? Do you feel the need to use the boys’/girls’ restrooms?” When parents register their child for kindergarten, they can now be expected to fill out a long questionnaire on everything from prenatal and birth experience to family substance use and methods of discipline used in the home. As if this self-reporting was not enough, General Electric (which has funded CCSSI with multi millions of dollars) has developed biometric sensing devices to be embedded into each computer module and in each student’s chair/seat. These include retinal scanners, facial imaging sensors, and arousal/movement sensing devices. (See the document, “Grit, Tenacity & Perseverance” on www.ed.gov, p.44.) Welcome to 1984: Target date 2015-2016.
So, how does all of this affect homeschoolers? A multibillion dollar, multinational corporation, Pearson, Inc., has bought the rights to almost all the major textbook publishers — including Saxon. Many texts are being aligned to reflect the CC standards. Pearson has also bought the rights to all intelligence testing, including Stanford-Binet and Wechsler; and they have the rights to pre-job testing and academic tests – Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, TerraNova, PLAN, etc. Together with inBloom Corp., the data will be stored in large Utah data warehouses controlled by the government. David Coleman, CCSSI chief architect, was elected as president of the College Boards last October. By spring, the SATs, PSATs, APs will all be modified to reflect Common Core. And if this is not bad news enough, in California, community colleges and state schools will only be accepting Core grads as of 2015-2016. What to do?
Homeschoolers are known for their vigilance, creativity, and commitment to excellence. We want more and better for our children. Common Core is just another obstacle which we can overcome. Be alert. Check the content of your textbooks.
Purchase material published pre-Core. Use the Classics. Teach logic reasoning, morality, responsibility. Teach the basics first, then add more complex thought after the child has a firm grasp on the subject and the foundations have been securely laid. Learn more about the ins and outs of CCSSI. Join groups popping up across the country which are coming out against Core. Once you have basic knowledge of this new plan, tell other people — parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends, the people in line at the market. Writing letters to the editor of local papers alerts the school boards and other
citizens that parents are aware and engaged. Call and write legislators — they do listen. Also recommended is joining HSLDA. As homeschooling becomes further impacted from a governmental level, covering yourself legally is never a bad option. I have had my son, going into 10th grade, take his SATs early, pre-changes. But there are other ways to get into colleges and universities than the “traditional” ways. Three of my daughters entered into top universities, two without taking standardized tests. They used their classes taken, extracurricular activities, community service, interviews and
essays for acceptance. And just because the state school route might be closed off later, there are plenty of small, wonderful, and affordable private colleges and universities available. We are strong and creative and determined to give our children the best education possible. We do not cringe (much) in the face of challenge and adversity. Our students will be well-prepared for higher education and for life. We need not fear the sweeping new reforms in education, but we DO need to be vocal opponents of this system now!
∙ Kris Nielson, Children of the Core. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.
∙ Nicholas Tampio, “Do We Need a Common Core?” April, 7 2013. Huffington Post.
∙ U.S. Department of Education, www.ed.gov
∙ “The Common Core State Standards.” Truth in American Education. www.truthinamericaneducation.com
∙ Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America, 1999.
∙ Orlean Koehle, Common Core, A Trojan Horse for Education Reform. Small Helm Press Associates, 2012.
∙ New York Times
∙ Washington Post
R&D Instructional Solutions
3439 NE Sandy Blvd. #359
Portland, OR 97232
By Janet Esposito
For 15 years, homeschoolers and public schools across the country have been using Rocket Math, the highly successful supplemental practice curriculum. Using paper and pencil, worksheet-based math fact worksheets, students practice learning math facts in pairs or with a parent at home. The scientifically proven success has been a hit in classrooms nationwide, but now parents can take this educational experience to the next level using the Rocket Math app for iPhones and iPads. Continue to use your own broader math curricula while supplementing with Rocket Math “games” that your kids will love. The Rocket Math app is free and the science behind its success is well-documented.
Just like the traditional pencil and paper version, the new Rocket Math app is designed to be effective at teaching math facts until your student can recite them automatically. This is an essential component for building the strong foundation your child needs for understanding abstract math concepts and for developing more complex problem-solving skills. While it is true that we, as parents, want our children to have a rewarding, rich education in all subjects, sometimes old-fashioned memorization is necessary. The Rocket Math app transforms the “chore” of memorizing math facts into “games” that ensure your child will recite their math facts without hesitation. With Rocket Math, kids will learn all single-digit math facts for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
The Rocket Math app was designed by the original author of the traditional Rocket Math program. Using small steps in carefully designed sequence, children cannot help but master math facts by playing the games. Like the pencil and paper version, the Rocket Math app ensures success and mastery of all math facts by focusing on just two facts, and their reverses, (such as 6 plus 5 and 5 plus 6) at a time. Students continue to practice only those math facts, using a timer to ensure true memorization. The app is voice-guided, so no adult supervision is required, but parents can keep track of progress and share student achievements online. The games use audible correction procedures and reinforcement to help students master each level.
Begin by selecting either addition and subtraction, or multiplication and division – the app only supports one at a time. And all parents should note that Rocket Math should not be used as a substitute for math curriculum. Students should understand each of the operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) prior to memorizing the math facts associated with each concept. After selecting where your individual student(s) should begin, parents can access the control screen and set up one to three students.
Students begin at Level A and earn their way through to Level Z by answering the math facts quickly and accurately. A picture of a rocket covered with black lettered tiles is used throughout the game. Each time your student passes a level, a corresponding tile is exploded to reveal more of the picture hidden underneath. Parents can easily see a summary of their child’s progress by viewing the tiles left uncovered on the Achievements Page. Two new math facts, and their reverses, are introduced in each level. In the level, students work through three phases: “Taken Off,” “Achieved Orbit,” and “Into the Universe.” The last, “universe” phase includes a cumulative review of the facts learned thus far. Any of the math facts they have previously learned may come up in the “universe” phase, ensuring kids truly learn and memorize all of the math facts. Students must be fast and accurately answer the questions in all three phases to blow up the black lettered tile and pass on to the next level.
No matter which math curriculum you are using, Rocket Math is the perfect supplementary resource to ensure your kids memorize their math facts. Try it for free today – you will be amazed at how quickly your students progress! For more information on Rocket Math and their free app for iPads and iPhones, please visit their website at www.rocketmath.com, or get it directly from the iTunes App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rocket-math-basic-math-facts/id710694074?ls=1&mt=8. JE