Thinking of home schooling? Me, too.

By Allison Barrett Carter

While the rest of the parenting world thinks ahead to summer camps and languid months of their children lounging on their sofa all day, my thoughts are consumed with the month following that: September. My desk has stacks of paper with applications and printouts. It’s the season of charter school lotteries, open houses and registration forms. My anxiety level rises as I desperately look for a perfect answer for my children’s education. Then I unearth an old email about home schooling.

I do feel fortunate to have so many educational opportunities available to my children; it is certainly a privilege to have options. But somewhere between the local public school and its poor performance report, the open choice options, the four private schools we can’t afford, and the six charter schools that are an option only if we win the lottery (literally), my husband and I are lost. What is the best fit for our family?

I grew up the product of public school, as did my husband, and we did just fine. Before we had kids we never imagined we would look for alternatives to the public school down the street.

But things have changed in six years and we, like most American parents, have been bludgeoned with news that the U.S. public school system is failing.

Articles about how public school systems are especially ill-suited for boys are huge. Books about the superior education systems of other countries are bestsellers. One of the most-watched TED Talks, with more than 9 million views, is of Ken Robinson declaring that schools “kill” creativity.

Robinson says: “Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won’t serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children.”

Thus, my husband and I struggle. We want to be part of America’s education solution, but not at the cost of our children’s futures.

So when an email from my friend Gina, who home-schools her three children, hit my inbox, I was intrigued.

“There is a misconception of how much time it takes to educate your children at home,” she writes. “I enjoy that we can really focus on each child’s interest. Each of my children has a separate curriculum that highlights areas where they excel as well as areas where they need more focus. Then, we have certain activities that they always do together.”

Home schooling takes the old axiom “the best teacher is no substitute for what you do at home” and boldly cuts out the middle man. Perhaps it is the solution for our family?

After reading Gina’s email, I became aware that more parents in my social circle are taking this route. I have been privy to numerous playground talks about Classical Conversations — a Christian-based home schooling support network — and my Facebook feed shows many friends teaching at home.

So I did some research. I learned that I live in a state where more children are home-schooled than enrolled in private school.

The New York Times has reported that home schooling is on the rise across the nation, regardless of race or religion. In the 2011-2012 school year, according to the Times’ reporting, nearly 1.8 million children were home-schooled in the United States, compared with 1.5 million five years earlier.

These statistics surprised me, but I guess they shouldn’t. The Internet has opened many alternative educational opportunities; it was only a matter of time before individualized at-home learning reaped the benefits. America is a nation of “do-it-yourselfers” full of grit and determination, so why should we not DIY what matters most: our children’s education.

The Internet offers a potential home schooling parent free step-by-step how-to’s, lesson plans, books, activities, proposed daily schedules, and active communities for support and connection. In my immediate area, I have found multiple Facebook groups of home schooling parents who meet regularly for lessons and field trips.

Add to this the popular lifestyle blogs, such as the Handmade Home, that dedicate entire series to their home schooling tips, and I can’t help but romanticize the idea. It seems like a simpler, slower way of life. No more school buses, 6 p.m. homework battles or packing lunchboxes at 7 a.m. I can change my office into a classroom and our home will ooze family time and learning.

With the help of the Internet, home schooling has become normalized. In fact, with all my clicking and reading, I find myself excited about it.

I am an educated woman with a degree from a top public university; why wouldn’t I be able to teach my own children elementary school topics? After all, the media keeps telling me that many teachers may not be qualified. Maybe I am? With the Internet as my partner, I feel strong.

Home schooling isn’t right for everyone. It is a commitment and it requires an intense dedication from the entire family. My husband and I are aware that a making a decision to become our children’s primary educators is a big one. And like all things in education, there are pitfalls to the decision.

But as families like mine tire of waiting for our country to fix public education, as the Internet puts resources at our fingertips, as it becomes normalized and even romanticized, home schooling is a serious contender for our educational choice this fall. I might just decide to not worry about my lottery chances and DIY it.

Allison Barrett Carter is a freelance writer in North Carolina. She blogs at allisonbarrettcarter.com.

 

Teacher says: Want your child to succeed in school? Help them clean out their backpack.

One of my high school students had asked for help with his homework. “Of course, I’ll help,” I answered.

I told him to find it and watched as he hauled his heavy backpack onto one of the classroom desks and started to dig.

I allowed him a couple of minutes of futile search before asking him to take everything out to see whether he could throw anything away. He claimed he didn’t, but proceeded with enthusiasm.

I wasn’t surprised.

Students love to clean out their backpacks as they believe they get to dodge work. My years of experience as a classroom teacher, however, have taught me that spending time now allows students more time on task later. The student might have thought he was getting away with something now, but I knew I would win in the end.

We found plenty of interesting things in his backpack: stacks of handouts from the previous school year, pencils, old tests and report cards as well as empty chip bags and candy wrappers, all of it covered in a disturbing orange dust.

“Cheez-It crackers” the student explained before he, with a triumphant yell, pulled out what looked like a failed origami project from his backpack.

Locating his homework had taken about 20 minutes.

All parents know that students receive enough handouts to wallpaper a house, and unless they use an organizational system, their backpacks will soon resemble an experiment in hoarding. While students might want to do their homework, they often give up if they can’t find it within a reasonable time.

Cluttered backpacks are overwhelming and it’s easy to miss something in the chaos. Students’ failure to do their homework might be due not to inability or laziness, but to a lack of organizational skills.

There is a simple fix so they will do it themselves.

Use the following five steps to help students to get organized and they might become more engaged in their homework, and in cleaning out their own backpack. If not, at least, they can no longer use the “I can’t find it, I probably left it at school” excuse we all know so well.

  1. Check your kids’ backpacks once a week. I picked Fridays for my own kids, but any day will work. We started as early as fourth grade, but don’t worry, you won’t have to organize backpacks forever. If you start early, they’ll develop the skills and habits to manage on their own.
  2. Ignore protests. Your kids will object; they’ll claim that they need every single piece of paper in the backpack. I’ve seen students cling to their papers as if they were life rafts from the Titanic. Stay firm and make sure you involve them in the process. They’ll enjoy it for a few minutes, tossing and sorting with abandon.
  3. Recycle everything that is obsolete. I’m no Marie Kondo, but a certain amount of ruthlessness is required to make a dent in the endless cycle of handouts. This is a tricky stage. Your kids might not be sure what they still need and worry about throwing away something important. Check the date on top of the paper, if it’s more than a month old, they don’t need it anymore. Work that has been completed and graded should never be returned to the backpack. You may keep some of the finished work in your home, but beware: papers will try to take over your house unless you show them who’s in charge. Save a couple of pieces of stellar work and toss the rest. Remember this, and teach your kids: OLD STUFF DOES NOT RETURN TO THE BACKPACK.
  4. Sort by subject. I don’t care whether students use folders, binders or something else, but separating papers according to the subject makes it easier to locate work both at home and in class especially for middle and high school students. Ask your kids what they would like to do. They’ll be on board and feel liberated by the entire process.
  5. Keep it up. Unless tidying the backpack becomes a habit, you’ll soon have the same mess on your hands. Luckily, keeping it up requires less time and your children will be more skilled at identifying what they can keep or toss. If you get a good start, you can step back in a while and let them manage on their own.

Many students find doing homework easier and much less time consuming after they have tidied their backpack. Once they get their work organized, they feel more confident. In addition, not wasting time looking for their work leaves them more time to study. I have been through this process many times with students and they all end up making the same delighted comment in the end:

“Feel how light my backpack is!”

 By Daniela Loose
Loose is a teacher and a writer. Find her on Twitter.

Taking Naps Are Important!

What do Albert Einstein, Lady Gaga and George W. Bush have in common? Nope, not their fashion sense. The answer is …their naps. Each of these famous people is known for famously protecting their daytime dozing. Dozens of other napping notables join their ranks. Lyndon Johnson conducted presidential meetings while resting in his bed. Bill Clinton once nodded off during a Mets baseball and a memorial service for Martin Luther King Jr.

Why do we love our naps? Well, one reason is rooted in our biology. Many people’s inner clock slows between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., also known as the “postprandial dip.” Many cultures actually honor this natural energy lull with the allowable afternoon siesta, when shops close and people doze.

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Back-to-School Red Flags

I don’t know about you, but as a mother I always worried about my child starting a new school year.  Is she going to transition into her new class well, will she be able to understand the new material, should I have worked with her over summer, and what I ask my self the most is if her first report card is going to be good?  I have had these fears ever since I can remember, and Clovis Unified being as competitive as it is, my fears only increased.  I don’t know about you other mothers but I also dreaded back to school parent-teacher conferences.  The things my daughter’s teacher would say, “she needs to study more if she wants to succeed this year,” “she is not applying herself,” and my favorite “is there anything going on at home, because your daughter seems very distracted…”  Of course my first initial reaction is to put blame on the teacher and say “if you were doing your job right, then…

But instead, I always tell the teacher we will do our best to get her on track.  Where I failed for so many years was thinking that Clovis School District had to high of standards and that the faculty were failing these children.  Then one year, i decided to read the Back-To-School Red Flags a bit differently.  I decided to be more proactive and get my daughter help outside f school.  LearningRx Fresno helped my daughter and warned me about the Back-To-School Red Flags.

As kids head back to school, LearningRx of Fresno is sharing some insider tips on the red-flag phrases and behaviors that may indicate a learning struggle.

“You don’t need to wait for the first parent-teacher conference to find out how your child is doing academically,” says LearningRx Vice President of Research & Development Tanya Mitchell. “There are clues to look for at home. For example, are they taking hours on end to complete homework? Do they regularly complain of ailments to try to get out of going to school? Do they forget what they’ve read as soon as they’ve finished reading it? Do they frequently complain that they ‘just don’t get it’?

Mitchell says these actions can hint of a learning struggle, which are usually caused by weak cognitive skills, such as slow processing speed, weak working memory or visual processing or difficulty paying attention, to name a few.

Although it’s often difficult for parents to determine if certain struggles or behaviors are just a normal part of the learning process or if they’re a more comprehensive learning issue, Mitchell says there are some phrases that hint of the latter.

For example: If the teacher says, “I know he’s smart, but …”

  • “… his work doesn’t show it.”
  • “… I can’t quite get through to him.”
  • “… he makes sloppy mistakes.”

“This is one of the most frustrating symptoms of weak cognitive skills for parents and teachers: A smart child locked inside a struggling student,” says Mitchell. “These phrases are good indicators that several cognitive skills are very strong, while others are deficient and are causing a big bottleneck of information in the brain. At LearningRx, we do an initial assessment to determine which brain skills are weak, then strengthen them with a customized personal brain training program to make a faster, more efficient learner.”

Questions About ADHD!

First off, I want to say thank you for all the emails I have been receiving from my readers.  It is a great feeling knowing that my articles are being read and people are looking to me for help.  It is what I enjoy most, helping people!

I have been asked a lot of questions about ADHD and advice.  Half of my cognitive assessment meetings are with parents looking for help with their child that has been diagnosed with ADHD. They are looking for an alternate treatment for ADHD rather than medication.  I stand behind LearningRx of Fresno to help treat child with ADHD.  Our cognitive brain training has done wonders for our clients and in some cases has helped the child stop taking medicine completely.

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6 Sneaky but Scientific Ways to Help Kids Learn

Hello readers, I really hope you are enjoying the articles I have been posting on my blog!  I have already received great feed back from many of you!  I was asked one question recently that really struck close to my heart.

(Concerned Parent) “Renee, how do I get my child to want to learn?”

(Me) “I had trouble getting my daughter to want to learn all throughout school, this is a common problem.  But then I realized that maybe there is a way of tricking my daughter into learning without her even knowing.  We do it all the time at LearningRx Fresno, we play brain games and through that, our clients are increasing their cognitive abilities without even knowing it.”

(Concerned Parent) “Okay how do I do that?”

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Are Daily Homework Battles Driving You Crazy?

 

 

 Here are 11 Tips to Improve the Homework Experience for You and Your Child


Does your child struggle with homework? Kids who struggle with learning can find homework frustrating and exhausting (as in “tears, excuses, and tantrums” kind of frustrating and exhausting). And of course it only makes things worse when, for struggling students, assignments meant to take twenty minutes can take up to several hours.

Whether you and your child tackle homework immediately after school or a couple hours before bedtime, this kind of recurring routine is exhausting for kids and exhausting for parents, too.

How can you improve the daily homework experience for you and your child? Try following these tips:

Prep yourself 

  • Prepare mentally- Before diving in with your child, take a few minutes to mentally prepare. Decide ahead of time what kind of attitude you’re going to embrace, and how you’re going to respond if things get tense or difficult.

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Stress and the Teen Brain

In case you don’t remember (or were the rare exception), being a teenager is HARD. There are hormones messing with your emotions, the worry about being popular, the stress of getting good grades, lack of sleep, acne, the pressures of going to college, peer pressure and significant changes to your brain. One or two of these things alone would be difficult, but all of them at once can make even the most level-headed adolescent downright crazy! Continue reading

“I’m the Stupidest Kid in My Class!”

What to Do When Your Kid Says Heartbreaking Words Like These

When their hearts break, our hearts break. It’s one of the excruciating mysteries and blessings of being a parent.

We love our kids, and know just how amazing they really are. So when one of our kids is feeling inadequate or discouraged, we want desperately to fix the hurt.

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Are Your Child’s Learning Struggles Turning You into a Monster?

Five Tips to Regroup

  You’re frustrated and frazzled. You’ve been nagging at your kids for hours. Snapping. Yelling, even. You’re not happy with how you’re acting, but you can’t seem to stop the momentum, pull a U-turn and get yourself off Witchy Lane and back onto Reasonable Avenue.

Welcome to the club. Continue reading