Archive for the ‘Homeschool’ Category
Agency Based Education (ABE) is an important organization started by Oak Norton, the same man who is the webmaster for Utahns Against Common Core.
ABE holds yearly conferences attended by parents, teachers and legislators who want educational freedom. (Agency here means free agency– not a government agency.) It teaches the average person what should be widely known, but isn’t, about individual agency in education.
ABE’s site states:
Our mission is to provide an opportunity for the parents and children of the state of Utah to choose an Agency-Based Education.
Principles of an Agency-Based Education
- Must be based in choice and not compulsion
- Helps develop an internal moral compass as one fosters a recognition and love of truth
- Recognizes that truth best inspires when sought from original source materials
- Should be individualized to allow children to identify and develop their gifts and talents and discover their life’s missions
- Must recognize that parents have the sovereign stewardship to guide their children’s educational journey
Our Organization’s Purpose
This is an educational organization that teaches parents:
- Their natural rights
- Principles of a higher quality education
- Current laws on education (Utah)
- What is wrong with compulsory education and why we want change
- What education options are currently available and what they could be in the future
- How to get involved with us
HELPING AGENCY BASED EDUCATION
ABE’s asking friends of the cause for help. I am a friend of ABE and I signed up. It cost me nothing and it helps ABE. You can help, too.
Rather than holding a traditional fundraiser, ABE is asking people to simply sign up for a free account here, so that ABE can receive points (and money) from the retailers who have agreed to pay ABE for the referral. For details on how it works, just click here.
For more information about why ABE’s educational mission is so important, click here.
Here’s a portion of and ABE article that defines the term “agency based education.”
Defining “Agency-Based” Education
By Rebecca Bocchino
What is “agency-based” education as opposed to constructivism and behaviorism, and is there any scientific research supporting these methods? Addressing these questions requires that we consider the various underlying assumptions of the nature of man, upon which are based the intellectual, moral, and cultural foundations for our differing views of the nature and purpose of education. It might also help to put the issue of “scientific research”, with its emphasis on measurable, quantifiable, observable, and replicable behaviors, into a more Judeo-Christian perspective.
Behaviorism, as articulated by John Watson and B. F. Skinner, sees man as an object that is only capable of responding to external stimuli. It claims that man acquired sense organs through evolution, not Divine design, and these sensory organs receive and transfer the environmental stimuli which then act upon the human “object”, causing a response. Thus, choice and action are determined by the process of controlling and manipulating stimuli, which can be reduced to a science in a laboratory.
In his book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, B. F. Skinner dismisses any belief in the free will or agency of man, claiming instead that
man does not act upon the world, the world acts upon him. … Freedom and dignity…are the possessions of the autonomous man of traditional theory, and they are essential to practices in which a person is held responsible for his conduct and given credit for his achievements. A SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS [BEHAVIORISM] SHIFTS BOTH THE RESPONSIBILITY AND THE ACHIEVEMENT TO THE ENVIRONMENT. (emphasis added)
It is upon this humanist moral foundation that behavioral methods using operant conditioning are based.
Constructivism or progressivism takes the concept of free will to the other extreme by operating on the assumption that man is not only a “self”, but that he possesses within himself all the wisdom and individual determination needed to progress. InSummerhill, the British educator A. S. Neill counters the behaviorist assumption by suggesting that…
we should allow children to be themselves…renounce all discipline, all direction, all suggestion, all moral training, all religious instruction…a child is innately wise and realistic. If left to himself, he will develop as far as he is capable of developing.
From this extreme springs methods such as “whole language” and “fuzzy math”.
Many are united in their rejection of constructivism and progressivism as one extreme, but controversy still exists between the humanist underpinnings of behaviorism and the Judeo-Christian belief in redemption and the nature of man. Differences arise in how we define the capacity and nature of man: whether he is a moral agent accountable to a higher, divine law, or a non-redemptive organism to be manipulated, controlled, shaped, and used by an external environment….
Read the rest here.
Common Core Concerns
Please click on the links to get to the original source documents that verify Common Core does far more damage than good.
The Race to the Top Grant Application – In this, Utah got points toward possibly winning grant money. Points were awarded in this application for the state’s having a student-tracker, this federally funded, nationally interoperable SLDS database system. (It is illegal to have a national student database; yet, all 50 states have matching, interoperable SLDS systems. The 50 SLDS’s effectually function as a national student database.
States submit K-12 data to the federal Edfacts Exchange –despite the U.S. Constitution and GEPA law which makes such accountability to the federal government illegal. Note that it is not allowed for any Utah student to opt out of being tracked, and parents are not notified nor asked for consent for this P-20 (preschool through grade 20) surveillance.) Also in this application, Utah got points to adopt the Common Core (without having seen any empirical data to prove Common Core academically legitimate). This lure of federal money was how Utah got in to the current bind. Despite not winning any grant money, Utah unfortunately chose to remain in both the Common Core and what amounts to the federal student surveillance program.
It is noteworthy that despite claims that only aggregated data is submitted to Edfacts Data Exchange, the CCSSO (state superintendents society that copyrighted Common Core) has a “stated commitment to disaggregation of data” and numerous federal websites do model student data standardization and invite states to use common data sets which makes it easier to share personally identifiable information, including biometric and behavioral data.
The No Child Left Behind Waiver – This shows the 15% cap the federal government put on top of the copyrighted Common Core. The 15% rule limits innovation and excellence, being enforced in the common core aligned test systems and by textbook sales companies’ near-monopoly on any thought beyond Common Core. The 15% rule is also echoed in multiple documents from governmental and common core corporate developers.
The State Longitudinal Database System Grant – This is the federally paid-for database that every state in the U.S. has. It tracks students within the state. But each SLDS can communicate with another. There is no apparent limit to how much information is being collected by schools, and no permission is collected from parents to have such information, nor is there any limit on how much information can be given by states to the federal government about students, because of Department of Education alterations to federal FERPA regulations. Vendors, volunteers and other unwanted “stakeholders” can now be considered “authorized representatives” to access data. Parental consent has been reduced from a requirement to a “best practice.”
The lawsuit against the Department of Education – The Electronic Privacy Information Center has sued the U.S. Department of Education for shredding previously protective federal FERPA law. The lawsuit explains which terms were redefined, which agencies now have legal access to the private data of students, and much more.
Utah’s Core Standards – This document (link below) has been removed, but it used to show on page four, how Utah lost local control under Common Core. Utah had to ask permission from an unelected D.C. group to alter its own state standards. It said: modified by permission from CCSSO 2010.
The report entitled “For Each And Every Child” from the Equity and Excellence Commission – This report was commissioned by Obama. It reveals that power to forcibly redistribute resources, including teachers, principals and money, is a key reason that federal education reformers want a national education system.
The Executive Summary of Race to the Top – see page 3, part D 3. This clearly shows the same tactic: the federal education reformers hope to gain the power to redistribute teachers and principals to their definition of “ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals.”
The Cooperative Agreement between the Dept. of Education and the testing consortia – Even though Utah escaped the SBAC and is not bound by the Cooperative Agreement directly, Utah’s current testing group, A.I.R., works closely with SBAC. This document shows how clearly the Department of Education has mandated a synchronizing of tests and the sharing of data to triangulate the SBAC and PARCC under the watchful eye of the Department.
The speeches of Secretary Arne Duncan on education – He claims Common Core was Obama’s plan. He also states that he hopes to make schools replace families as the center of people’s lives, with schools open seven days a week, all year round, almost all day long. See video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuO_nB7WY9w
The speeches of President Obama on education – Obama’s 2020 goal is to control teachers, tests, money, and toddlers.
The speeches of the CEA of Pearson Ed, Sir Michael Barber – Barber wants every school on the globe to have the same academic standards and he promotes the underpinning of global education standards with environmental extremism. He promotes ending diversity, using global sameness and uses the term “irreversible reform.” His ruthless book, Deliverology, is dedicated to American education reformers. It advocates delivering a set goal at any price and at any cost. Pearson is the world’s largest education sales company; it’s now partnered with Bill Gates, the second wealthiest man on earth, to promote global common education, devoid of any academic empirical proving that the standards are beneficial rather than harmful.
The speeches of the main funder of Common Core, Bill Gates – He’s funded Common Core almost completely on his own; he’s partnered with Pearson; he says “we won’t know Common Core works until all the tests and curriculum align with these standards” and he’s writing curriculum for all. He also speaks of the usefulness of having students be “a uniform customer base.”
The speeches of David Coleman, non-educator, and the lead architect of the Common Core ELA standards who has been promoted to College Board President. He mocks narrative writing, has diminished the percentage of classic literature that’s allowable in the standards, promotes “informational text” without studying the effect of the reduction of classic literature on students long term, and, although he’s not been elected, yet he’s almost single-handedly reduced the quality and liberty of the high school English teacher’s options. As College Board President, he’s aligning the SAT to his version of what Common standards should be. This will hurt universities, which now know, for example, that students are not learning Calculus nor much classic literature in high school any more.
Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance – see p. 62/44 – This U.S. Dept. of Education report assures all that data about behavioral and attitudinal indicators of students are desperately wanted by the federal government. It’s all about controlling students by knowing their inner thoughts. Facial expression cameras, posture analysis seats, pressure mouses, wireless skin sensors are all recommended as ways to collect data about children in a continuous stream, in this document.
The federal websites such as the EdFacts Exchange, the Common Education Data Standards, the National Data Collection Model, and the Data Quality Campaign, sites -Three of these four ask states to match other states’ personally identifiable information collection. – The first link shows what we already give to the federal government; the others show what the federal government is requesting that all states do, which does include collecting intimate, personally identifiable information such as bus stop times, nicknames, parental voting record, academic scores, health information, mother’s maiden name, social security number, etc.
The Common Core English and Math standards – These are the actual standards. (CCSS)
The CCSS were rejected by key members of their validation committee, who have published and testified extensively that Common Core is an academic mistake that dramatically weakens high school standards.
American Institutes for Research - AIR’s common core implementation document shows that AIR is not an academic testing group but a behavioral research institute partnered with the federally funded and federally controlled SBAC testing group. Parents and teachers may not see these subjectively written, attitude assessing test questions; and students cannot succeed in this computer adaptive test, which guarantees that all students fail about half the questions.
HB15 – This bill shows that Utah law requires the assessment of behavior and attitudes. See line 59.
SB 175 – proposed amendments to this bill show that it is Utah educational leadership’s will that any student who opts out of Common Core testing will be punished academically (see line 135) and his/her school will be punished as well (see line 168)
Legislators in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Georgia, North Carolina, and elsewhere are working to write protective laws guarding data privacy, upholding parental and local teachers’ voices in education, and halting education dollars for unpiloted, experimental Common Core trainings and tests.
They aren’t only concerned that time and money are being invested in an academic train wreck. It’s a precendent-setting liberty issue. Unelected groups now set governance policies that Utahns must abide by. Surely, CCSSO, NGA, Achieve, Inc., or Bill Gates have no constituency. Yet the whims of this group are ruling teachers, administrators and students in Utah.
This is un-American governance.
“A teacher shall consider students’ summative adaptive assessments in determining students’ academic grades for the appropriate courses and students’ advancement to the next grade level… Students not tested due to parent request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be used in school accountability calculations.” -Proposed amendment to Utah Senate Bill 175
After I read that a Utah student who opts out of common core testing will be labeled “nonproficient” and that his or her school will be punished in accountability scores, I was stunned.
So I wrote to my state school board representative and the state superintendent for clarification. I still don’t know who wrote the amendment or whether it will be law soon. Here is the email string.
Martell or Dixie,
Please explain why USOE documents now say that students who opt out of common core testing will be given a nonproficient score and their school will suffer “accountability” punishments. I have not and will not allow my high school student to take state standardized tests. She takes a pencil and paper alternative so that her school teacher (not the entire state) knows how she’s doing. Up till now this has never affected her straight A record. It has not harmed her schools’ scores.
Am I to understand that new policies will damage her record and her school’s record?
Thanks for taking the time to explain.
Unfortunately the State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education do not write the legislation that requires our schools, districts and state to provide data on school performance for our students, their teachers, their schools, districts or the state. We are required under several legislative mandates to provide data on student performance in relationship to our schools, teachers and our state. Thus if we have parents and students that refuse to provide such data via the assessment systems provided to evaluate student success, we cannot provide the necessary data to the state or national legislative mandates that require such data. It is not that we wish to punish anyone for “accountability”, but as a state organization, we must live by the rules as well as those we serve.
Christel, I would highly encourage you to read a book I just rediscovered from Gerald W. Bracey called “On the Death of Childhood and the Destruction of Public Schools”. It was written in 2003 based on the fallacy of “No Child Left Behind” calling the Act “The Plan for the Destruction of Public Education: Just Say No”. To me it speaks volumes of how far we have come in regard to this act and how long it has taken parents to recognize the expectations it brought to our school system.
Needless to say, as a teacher, a mother, a grandmother, I believe our State Office of Education and our State Board are doing the best they can to limit the intrusion, while abiding by the legislation that we must enforce. I hope you will take the time to look deeper into this issue and others you rail against.
I do aim to fully study the history of education reform once I don’t feel so threatened by the suffocating power of Common Core.
But thanks, and I will take the book recommendation for later. Right now, I have no time.
Because of this school board’s decision to implement Common Core –without ever sending out a memo to teachers, letting us know that our kids and our teaching careers were going to be forever strangled by the transformations of Common Core-- because of that decision, I have to homeschool my kids and give speeches and write articles to try to knock sense into those who do not study these things– none of which I did before, none of which I want to do, none of which I get paid to do.
My time, my life, has been redefined by this school board’s terrible, terrible decision.
This is why I “rail” against the decision. I “rail” for liberty. I rail for legitimate education that puts kids, not fat bank accounts of educational sales companies, first.
I’m sorry that it bothers you. I am doing what I feel compelled to do. I am trying to save something precious.
Martell, do you agree with Dixie on this? Was it the legislature, and not the USOE or USSB who created the language that says that a student who opts out of the common core test will be labeled “nonproficient”? Do you agree with, or disagree with, this language? If you disagree will you join me in writing a letter to our legislature to amend the language so that no student nor school will be punished for excercising their free agency?
Then I wrote to a few legislators who are concerned with education:
Please direct me to those who are writing proposed amendments to SB 175. I would like to meet with them to discuss deleting the proposed changes.
The amendments effectively stop a parent’s or student’s ability to opt out of the secretive, nontransparent Common Core tests and the related mandatory behavioral indicators assessments (See HB 15 line 59) and the related SLDS federal surveillance* program.
In SB 175’s new wording,
1. Schools will be punished if students opt out of the Common Core tests.
2. Students will be punished if they opt out of the Common Core tests, not just with a crashing G.P.A. due to the mandated “non-proficient” score to be received for opting out (which is, of course, inaccurate and dishonest labeling for an opt-out) but also because Common Core tests will count on a student’s academic grade and will help determine whether he/she advances to the next grade.
3. Parents will be punished because any good university will decline allowing a student to enter who has a suddenly-crashed G.P.A., due to having opted out of the Common Core test.
“A teacher shall consider students’ summative adaptive assessments in determining students’ academic grades for the appropriate courses and students’ advancement to the next grade level… Students not tested due to parent request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be used in school accountability calculations.”
Years of straight A’s and hard work will be marginalized whenever the parental right is exercised, to opt out of Common Core testing, a punishment for following the dictates of conscience.
Utah education reforms such as this one are out of control. Please stop this freedom-suffocating trend.
I will publish their responses when I get them.
When Carie Valentine, a mother against Common Core, secured the proper permit yesterday to have a peaceful demonstration against Common Core this coming Friday, she also called the Salt Lake Police to let them know about the event.
The officer on the other end of the line told her that he was thrilled that Utahns are not backing down and asked her to continue the fight, saying that he spoke for many in his office.
So, this Friday, outside the State School Board’s monthly, all-day meeting, Utah teachers, parents and citizens will demonstrate against Common Core. The peaceful demonstration has been organized for many reasons.
1. Normally, the public may only speak at USSB meetings if a request is made ahead of time, and only two minutes are given per person, with a firm limit on numbers allowed to speak.
2. There is a long history with most of the members of this board, that demonstrates a refusal do adequate research about the experiment called Common Core or to acknowledge that there are terrible, sobering academic flaws, and even unconstitutional flaws, in the new agenda. The board tends to use talking points rather than evidence or references, such as pilot studies, references to laws, or empirical data, to make their parroted claims that the Common Core system is legitimate. Many citizens feel that this atmosphere of no debate is an anti-intellectual, un-American stance.
3. There are numerous, serious concerns about the 518-page agenda to be addressed in the meeting, (including a tax-funded propaganda campaign to push common core acceptance on schools, media and parents).
4. The board did not provide a thorough public and media vetting of the transformative changes to our children’s educational experience prior to implementation; and Common Core cannot be amended without Utah asking permission from unelected D.C. groups who copyrighted the standards Utah uses. Local control has thus been opted away by the board.
5. There appears to be no escape now for parents who object to Common Core’s tests (for many reasons, including behavioral assessments mandated by HB 15). Why? SB 175 mandates that any child who opts out of Common Core testing will be labeled “non-proficient” and the child’s teacher is forced by the state to give the child a bad grade and the school will be punished. It reads: “A teacher shall consider students’ summative adaptive assessments in determining students’ academic grades for the appropriate courses and students’ advancement to the next grade level… Students not tested due to parent request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be used in school accountability calculations.” Opting out of tests, standards or attendance quotas should be a parental decision, God-given. As long as we are a free country, the state should take a back seat to parental conscience. But most of the education reforms happening in Utah display a disregard for parental (or teachers’) conscience and agency.
Many who would stand up and protest can not do so; they have to be at jobs at 8:30 on a Friday morning; or they are children, who don’t have a voice to articulate their displeasure with the Common Core situtation; or they are principals, staff and teachers whose jobs depend on them appearing to agree with Common Core’s implementation in Utah.
Keeping that in mind, if you can make it, please come. Know that you likely represent thousands who cannot join us Friday.
Utah State Office of Education
250 East 500 South
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84114
When: beginning 8:30 a.m. this Friday, August 2.
Who: All are welcome.
From Carie Valentine, event organizer:
“…[W]hen I found out about Common Core I was upset and even angry that our state would make such radical and damaging changes to our education system. Since that time, many good parents just like you have worked tirelessly to get the word out about Common Core. Parents are not being educated by our own state school board and so we have had to educate ourselves.
The rally at the capitol was amazing. The [many hundreds of] people that showed up to voice their opposition was inspiring. I would like to continue that momentum and demonstrate in front of the state education offices. Their last meeting before the traditional school schedule begins is this Friday, Aug 2. Please join me to send them a message that we are in this for the long haul.
I have secured the proper permit for a demonstration this Friday at the State School Board Offices in Salt Lake City. This is considered a spontaneous demonstration.
…I have also called the SLC police dept. and they know we are coming and the officer I spoke with was thrilled we aren’t backing down. He asked us to continue the fight and said he spoke for many in his office.
If you have access to a bigger bank of people, please pass the word along. These are our children, our tax dollars, and our schools. You have my permission to give out my email address to others who want to come. Please try and make time. We are all busy but this is important.
This is a chance to let them know we are not going away. If you are coming, plan on attending the public comment period from 8-8:30 and the picketing will be from 8:30am-9:30am. Please make your own sign and if you have an button wear that. Here are the “rules”.
We can’t block the sidewalk or the entrance to the building. We can’t (shouldn’t) swear or yell through bull horns. We can hold signs and chant something clever about “no common core”. We can’t prevent movement of pedestrians on the sidewalk. Please email me your confirmation so I can have an idea of how many of us there will be.
If you would like to speak to the board directly the public comment period will be from 8-8:30.
You must sign up in advance. I tried attending and signing up at the meeting and they took the sign up away before I could put my name on it.
To sign up to speak at the board meeting in advance, contact Board Secretary Lorraine Austin at (801) 538-7517.
To picket outside, there is no need to sign up in advance, but if you want to give us a head count, email Carie Valentine at email@example.com
Tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. there will be a Common Core informational meeting at a home in Syracuse, Utah. If you live nearby, please feel free to stop by and bring a friend. Dalane England and I will be speaking about the Common Core. Address: 2532 South 1300 West, Syracuse, Utah, 84075.
We plan to answer the following questions:
What is Common Core, and why are so many people fighting day and night to repeal it?
Does it harm my child?
Did all citizens and legislators get a chance to vet Common Core prior to its adoption by the state school board?
How does it kill local control of education, of privacy and of local values?
Why is it constitutionally threatening? / How are voters shut out of the decision making processes of Common Core?
Why don’t teachers or principals dare speak out against it?
Why must Utah’s state school board ask permission from unelected D.C. groups to modify ed standards in Utah, under Common Core?
How does unwanted student (and teacher) data mining and tracking rely on Common Core tests and standards?
Why has the Department of Education been sued for its Common-Core-test related changes to the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act?
What are intended and unintended consequences of having students take the Common Core tests?
How does Common Core affect homeschoolers and charter schoolers?
How is parental consent of student information sidestepped by the Common Core agenda?
Who paid for Common Core’s development, tests, and trainings and who will pay for Utah’s future Common Core costs?
Who gets wildly rich when Common Core aligned curriculum are virtually the only salable education products in America?
Why are both the Utah Chamber of Commerce and Utah’s Governor involved in promoting Common Core as part of Prosperity 2020?
What does the anti-common core legislation look like in those states that are withdrawing from Common Core –and can we do this in Utah?
Is there any evidence that Common Core can raise academic success or economic success in Utah? / Was there ever a pilot study or a field test of the standards? / Which lead creator of Common Core admitted that these standards only prepare students for a nonselective 2-year college?
Why did the main creator of Common Core get promoted to be president of the College Board and how will it dumb down college standards?
Which source documents from the Department of Education mandate teacher redistribution, sharing of student level data, not adding more than 15% to the standards in any state, and asking permission of D.C. groups to make amendments to these common standards?
How do we reclaim our now-lost educational power?
Another #Stopcommoncore Twitter Rally
Just a week ago Parent Led Reform rallied 2,493,308 Twitter users to #Stopcommoncore. A second Twitter Rally is planned for today, Thursday, May 2, at 9pm EST- 7pm MST to include participation of working parents, educators and citizens.
Parent Led Reform will host the rally as a collaborative project with Truth In American Education, designed to share the research diligently collected by parents and citizens concerned about the government’s push for national common standards in education.
This rally is an encore of the April 16 #Stopcommoncore Twitter event, which reached 2,493,308 Twitter users.
Karin Piper, spokesperson for Parent Led Reform, said, “Parent Led Reform opposes a lock-step approach to education that takes the focus away from the student and decisions away from the parent.”
The #Stopcommoncore Twitter Rally features a panel of experts who are planning on answering questions by the moderator, as well as taking live questions from Twitter users across the nation.
Panelists are Shane Vander Hart (Truth in American Education), William Estrada (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) Joy Pullmann (Heartland Institute), Ben DeGrow (Independence Institute), Emmett McGroarty (American Principles Project).
Follow our host and panel: @parentledreform @shulsie @shanevanderhart @BenDegrow @will_estrada @Joypullmann @approject @Truthinamed
Supported by Pioneer Institute, AFP, Heartland, Independence Institute, American Principles Project, Freedom Works, Home School Legal Defense Association
Here is the whole show from last Thursday, March 14, 2013.
A friend forwarded the article below to me. I have to repost the whole thing– there’s not a sentence I can leave out. The authors, Raymond and Dorothy Moore, point out that parental time and warmth –and less child-institutionalization– benefits children in significant ways. This method creates the success that eludes the institutions who attempt to force ever more government styled schooling upon ever-younger members of society.
This article validates what I see every day at home. But before you read the Moore article, I want to explain why it means so much to me.
This is our first year doing homeschool and we’re thriving. My fourth grader liked his public school teacher and the children in his class, but he so disliked being institutionalized.
He disliked the one-size-fits-all approach to computers, to math, to art, to most things. He disliked the repetitious “sell-stuff” and “anti-bully” assemblies. He disliked having so little time at home. But he didn’t know how to articulate these things fully. He said that he was bored.
Now homeschooling my nine year old (and two year old) we have learned so much together. (No matter how many degrees any adult has, there are so many knowledge gaps. There is so much to learn or re-learn while teaching– in geography, biography, science, literature, history.)
We do a lot of out-loud reading. And he reads alone plenty, too.
This year he has read books I couldn’t have imagined he was capable of comprehending and enjoying at age nine: Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Twain’s Tom Sawyer, for example. We’re starting Dickens’ Great Expectations this week. Did I mention that he’s a fourth grader?
He was not previously a stand out academic at the top of his school class; yet now he’s far ahead of his age group. Why?
His curriculum is so far beyond what the governments hope for: to churn out worker bees –or “human capital.”
His curriculum’s limitless; it’s customized to his abilities, interests, faith and curiosity; he gets to independently explore; he gets to bask in the love of his family every day. Who wouldn’t thrive?
He has come to the end of the 5th/6th grade Saxon math book (the old, trustworthy, pre-common core text) already; he has read U.S. History and world geography, learned about the elements, electricity and astronomy; studied the life of Joseph of Egypt, short stories and Fairy Tales. He has written Haiku, Limericks, fiction, a 500-word essay (for a contest) and all kinds of codes.
I give him a lot of freedom. I rarely force anything because I want him to love learning and love life. I don’t impose things unless I feel very strongly about them, and then I do it in small amounts: some cursive, some grammar, some sentence diagramming, some multiplication drills, all Swedish conversing all day (until my husband comes home).
On his own, he has studied volcanoes, cars, optical illusions, magic tricks, dinosaurs and inventions. The things my nine year old loves, we do much more of: math, talking, reading, and field trips.
Other things we minimize. For example, although I wanted him to learn a lot of music (piano) he’s not that interested, so we only do a little. I wanted him to do calligraphy, but he’s not that interested, so he draws. I want him to do more reading in Swedish, but he only wants to do a little. (He does speak Swedish with me, but doesn’t want to read much in Swedish.)
I let him take time to live life, to sit on a swing, to visit new places, see animals, play with his baby brother or his cars, his legos –or waste time in the bathtub long after his hair’s been washed, if there are experiments with bubbles or food coloring or squirt guns or thinking that he wants to do. One day he spent hours making Valentine’s Day decorations; another day he spent hours organizing his drawers and his room. We plant things and make things and I let him sit and think.
And the two year old? Well, I don’t believe in “schooling” two year olds, but I do read to my two year old almost every time he wants to, and I speak only Swedish to him and ask him questions all day. He shouts: “MAFF!” (math) and grabs a pencil and does his hieroglyphics in his way while the nine year old does his Saxon math lesson. The two year old loves to point out letters of the alphabet everywhere we go. And when the two year old interrupts the nine year old’s lesson one too many times, we don’t call for a babysitter. We just go outside or take an early lunch or put on his favorite Swedish YouTube video, or move the lesson into the hallway, so we can distract the two year old with toys from another room.
I give this as an introduction to why I appreciate the article below so much. It rings so true to me now. I would not fully have appreciated it a year ago.
This article is enlightening for everyone, whether you choose to homeschool or not. It shows a parent what a child really needs to thrive.
——- ——- ——-
When Education Becomes Abuse:
A Different Look at the Mental Health of Children
By Raymond S. Moore, Dorothy Moore
Reposted from http://www.moorefoundation.com/article/48/about-moore-home-schooling/moore-foundation/articles/when-education-becomes-abuse
“We need more parent education and less institutionalizing of young children.”
In Acres of Diamonds, Russell Conwell’s most famous Chautauqua story, Al Hafed sold his farm to finance his quest for a legendary diamond mine. He searched the world over until his fortune was gone. He died penniless, unaware that a vast diamond deposit had been discovered in the river sands which snaked through his own backyard, now the famed Golconda Diamond Mines.
America’s quest for excellence—for healthy, self directed, student minds—very well could have the same ending.
From the White House to the humblest home, Americans are groping for answers to declines in literacy, ethics, and general behavior which threatens our nation. Apparently, few have noticed the close relationship between the achievement, behavior and sociability we prefer, and the lifestyles that we impose on our children daily which may amount to our most pervasive form of child abuse. For example, a surprising ignorance or indifference exists to peer dependency, a mental health nemesis that is rampant even in preschools.
Instead of studying how best to meet their needs, we often put our “little ones” out of the home, away from environments that best produce outgoing, healthy, happy, creative children. In a federally-sponsored analysis of more than 8,000 early childhood studies, Moore Foundation concluded that the United States is rushing its little ones out of the home and into school long before most, particularly boys, are ready.  The effect on mental and emotional health is deeply disturbing. Dropout rates also are mute testimony, though in some cases, the dropout, like Thomas Edison, is more fortunate than those who stay.
From Piagetian specialist David Elkind in Boston to William Rohwer in Berkeley, Calif., top learning and development authorities warn that early formal school is burning out our children. Teachers who attempt to cope with these youngsters also are burning out. The learning tools of the average child who enrolls today between the ages of four and six or seven are neither tempered nor sharp enough for the structured academic tasks that increasingly are thrown at them. Worse still, we destroy positive sociability.
The sequence for the average child these days often spells disaster for both mental and physical health in a sure sequence:1) uncertainly as the child leaves the family nest early for a less secure environment, 2) puzzlement at the new pressures and restrictions of the classroom, 3) frustration because unready learning tools — senses, cognition, brain hemispheres, coordination — cannot handle the regimentation of formal lessons and the pressures they bring, 4) hyperactivity growing out of nerves and jitter, from frustration, 5) failure which quite naturally flows from the four experiences above, and 6) delinquency which is failure’s twin and apparently for the same reason.
Indifference to the mental and emotional health of children is not new. The pages of history outline great cycles that began with vigorous cultures awaking to the needs of children and ending with surrender of family ties and the death of societies and empires.
Research provides a link from past to present and provides a moving perspective on children today. Persuasive reasons exist for declining literacy, academic failures, widespread delinquency, and rampant peer dependency. All four act in concert to deny our goal of happy, confident children who are healthy in body, mind, and spirit.
Whether or not we can be conclusive about causes, America’s decline in literacy from the estimated 90 percentiles in the last century to the 50 percentiles today parallels the parental scramble to institutionalize children at ever younger ages. 
The Moore Foundation analyses  concluded that, where possible, children should be withheld from formal schooling until at least ages eight – ten. Elkind  warned against student burnout which has become pervasive in American schools. Rohwer  agreed, basing his conclusions in part on investigations in 12 countries by Sweden’s Torsten Husen. Husen subsequently confirmed Rohwer’s perceptions, according to a letter from Husen, Nov. 23, 1972. Rohwer, with deep concern for conceptual demands of reading and arithmetic, offered a solution:
“All of the learning necessary for success in high school can be accomplished in only two or three years of formal skill study. Delaying mandatory instruction in the basic skills until the junior high school years could mean academic success for millions of school children who are doomed to failure under the traditional school system.”
This solution would delay school entrance at least until the child is 11 or 12, ages which become critical.
In face of present practice, how can these remarks be justified, bearing in mind that the present and future health of the child is at stake? First, children normally are not mature enough for formal school programs until their senses, coordination, neurological development, and cognition are ready. Piagetian experiments have shown repeatedly that cognitive maturity may not come until close to age 12.
Interestingly, the ancient Bar Mitzvah of the Orthodox Jew provided no schooling until after age 12 when the child was considered able to accept full responsibility for his actions. Fisher, then considered dean of American psychiatrists, wrote in 1950 how he started school at 13, unable to read or write. Graduating from a Boston high school at 16, he thought he was a genius until he found that any “normal” child could do it. He added, “if a child could be assured of a wholesome home life and proper physical development, this might provide the answer to … a shortage of qualified teachers.” 
Nearly a century ago, Dewey  called for school entry at age eight or later. A half century ago, Skeels  proved that loving, though retarded, teenagers made remarkably good teachers. A quarter century ago, Geber  demonstrated that mothers in the African bush brought up children who were more socially and mentally alert than youngsters of the elite who could afford preschool. Warmth was the key.
Still later, Mermelstein and others  proved that, at least until ages nine or ten, children who went to school did no better than those who did not attend school. De Rebello (unpublished data, January 1985) reported that dropouts who find employment are ahead of their peers in mental and social perception.
Few conventional educators understand this situation. We do not understand fully the damage of frustration nor denial of free exploration, nor the value of warmth as a learning motivator, nor yet the tutorial method which historically never has been equaled.
A UCLA study  of 1,016 public schools found that teachers averaged about seven minutes daily in personal exchanges with their students. This would allow for no more than one or two personal responses for each student. In contrast, our counts of daily responses in typical home schools ranged from about 100 to more than 300.
We should not be shocked then by the Smithsonian Report  on genius which offered a three -part recipe for high achievement, consisting of 1) much time spent with warm, responsive parents and other adults, 2) very little time spent with peers, and 3) a great deal of free exploration under parental guidance.
Study director Harold McCurdy concluded:
“the mass education of our public school system is, in its way, a vast experiment on reducing … all three factors to a minimum; accordingly, it should tend to suppress the occurrence of genius.” 
At the Moore Foundation we recently obtained the court-approved standardized test scores of children whose mothers or fathers were arrested for teaching at home. Most parents were of low socio-economic status with less formal education than usual, yet , the children averaged 80.1%, or 30 percentile ranks higher than the nation’s average classroom child.
Very young children do indeed learn very fast, as is commonly believed, yet only in proportion to their maturity.
The child who combines cognitive maturity with eight – ten years more of free exploration has developed thousands of “learning hooks” and an ability to reason consistently which is impossible for the younger child. Without this maturity, and confined to a classroom, the child often becomes anxious, frustrated, and eventually learning disabled.
The common assumption these days is that well – socialized children require the association schools afford. Replicable evidence clearly points the other way. Cornell studies  found that children who spend more elective time with their peers than with their parents until the fifth or sixth grades — about ages 11 or 12 — will become peer dependent. Such “knuckling under” to peer values incurs four losses crucial to sound mental health and a positive sociability. These losses are self worth, optimism, respect for parents, and trust in peers.
The loss to boys is of particular concern academically, behaviorally, and socially. Despite their widely-acknowledged delay in maturity, we demand their enrollment in school at the same ages as girls. In recent years, many reports suggest that boys are several times as likely as girls to fail, become delinquent, or acutely hyperactive. Perhaps most ominous are recent (Education Week, March 14, 1984, p. 19) findings in American high schools that there are eight boys for each girl in classes for the emotionally impaired, and 13 boys for each girl are in remedial learning groups. Self worth, male identity, and respect for women are lost—unfortunate outcomes especially in today’s society.
A COMMON SENSE SOLUTION
We need more parent education and less institutionalizing of young children.
In the home school renaissance, hundreds of thousands of parents have re-evaluated their child-rearing roles and have begun to study warmly their children’s developmental needs. The result is higher achieving, better behaving, self-directed children.
Some demur, pointing to Head Start. Yet, the Ypsilanti study, the only long -range experiment consistently upholding Head Start, involves the home far more than typical programs. Even such key Head Start founders as Bloom and Nimnicht now laud the home as the best learning nest and parents as the best teachers. [13,14] In physical health and behavior — in exposure to disease (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 5, 1984) and to negative aggressive acts — the home is 15 times as safe as the average day care center.
Several suggestions can help us improve the mental and emotional health of our children:
1) More of home and less of formal school;
2) More free exploration with the guidance of warm, responsive parents and fewer limits of classrooms and books;
3) More concern for readiness for learning and ability to think and less training to be simple repeaters;
4) More attention to educating parents and less to institutionalizing young children;
5) More and higher priorities to child-rearing and fewer to material wants; and
6) More old fashion chores —children working with parents—and less attention to rivalry sports and amusements.
To some educators and parents such ideas may appear prosaic or dull—like the backyard Al Hafed left. Yet, everyone likes diamonds, and that backyard can be an exciting place.
Anything else may be more child abuse than education.
1. Moore RS: School Can Wait. Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University Press, 1979, pp 175-186
2. The Adult Performance Level Project (APL). Austin, Texas, University of Texas, 1983
3. Elkind D: The case for the academic preschool: Fact or fiction: Young Child 1970; 25:180-188.
4. Rohwer WD Jr.: Prime time for education: Early childhood or adolescence? Harvard Education Rev 1971;41:316-341
5. Fisher JT, Hawley LSH: A Few Buttons Missing. Philadelphia JB Lippincott, 1951, p 14.
6. Dewey J: The primary education fetish. Forum 1898; 25:314-328
7. Skeels HM: Adult Status of Children with Contrasting Early Life Experiences: A follow-up study. Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1966.
8. Geber M: The psycho-motor development of African children in the first year, and the influence of maternal behavior. J Soc Psychol 1958;47: 185-195
9. Mermelstein E, Shulman LS: Lack of formal schooling and the acquisition of conversation. Child Dev 1967;38:39-52
10. Goodlad JI: A study of schooling: Some findings and hypotheses. Phi Delta Kappan 1983;64(7):465
11. McCurdy HG: The childhood pattern of genius. Horizon 1960;2:33-38
12. Bronfenbrenner U: Two Worlds of Childhood; US and USSR. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1970,pp97-101.
13. Bloom BS: All Our Children Learning. Wash. DC, McGraw-Hill, 1980
14. Hoffman BH: Do you know how to play with your child? Women’s Day 1972;46:118-120.
15. Farran D: Now for the bad news….Parents Magazine 1982 (Sept.)
Journal of School Health February 1986, Vol. 56, No. 2 73
— — — —
Thank you, Raymond and Dorothy Moore.
Dare to Home School
Education is the continuation of God’s creation of a human life.
This idea comes from author and scholar Dr. Neil Flinders. Think about it: the instant the baby leaves the womb –and even before leaving the womb– he/she is beginning to learn. He gains knowledge from us as parents, from the beginning– language skills, the ability to eat, to feel love, to hear music and to absorb all our “norms”.
Why do so many parents feel pain when they send their five-year-olds to kindergarten– and cry?
They are giving away the child. For most of the day, for the rest of their lives, that child belongs to the school system, not to the parent. It often feels like the wrong thing to be doing. And maybe it is.
When I mention that I’m home schooling my fourth grader, I often get this response: “Oh, I wish I could do that. I don’t dare. I am not ____ enough.” (adjectives vary– organized, smart, brave, educated, confident, etc.)
It is sad that there are parents out there who long to spend more time with their own children, who would be experiencing the academic miracles and family joys that home school parents see, but something holds them back.
So I’m writing today to the parents who are almost ready to home school their children. I encourage you to jump in. Those who want to home school, but don’t do it, usually state either: 1) I don’t know what I would teach, or 2) My child needs peers for social development:
1. I don’t know what I would teach/ I am not educated enough to teach.
There is a misperception that “real” teachers have fairy dust or all-powerful diplomas that make them fundamentally different from you. But every parent, like every child, has got a combination of gifts and weaknesses.
The teaching diploma is Dumbo’s feather. (Remember the story? Dumbo did not really need the feather to fly; it made him think he could fly but he already had that ability without it.)
I know this because I learned next to nothing of actual value in my CSUSB teaching program. The valuable stuff came from mentors and from personal experience.
And, guess what? Even though I am a credentialed teacher and have taught third grade, high school and college for years and years and years, still, when it came time to make the choice whether to home school or not, I froze.
I felt a heavy responsibility to make sure my son received the very best education I could possibly acquire for him. Could I do it without authority figures and lists of rules and tests and bureaucratic ideals to follow? Seriously! I was nervous.
That heavy responsibility is on us whether we choose to home school or not.
The responsibility for what a child learns and becomes is not the government’s or the school system’s. It’s ours as parents, and always has been.
There are so many curricula, programs, textbook series, online ideas and sets of standards that your problem won’t be: “what will I teach?” It will be “what must I leave out” because there is so much you can do.
Just start researching what other successful home school parents do. Then make up your own mind which method sounds the very, very best– to you. You are in charge and you know your child better than anyone on the earth.
So trust your judgment as you would have trusted a favorite principal or mentor in the past.
Studies show that even home schooling parents with low levels of education wind up with children that are better educated than children who attend public schools. See: http://www.mireja.org/articles.lasso
I can see why. Home school works more like the brain works. A child studies a topic, thinks about it, gets questions, and goes to find answers for those questions almost immediately. You don’t have to wait for the whole class to get to the topic. Curiosity stays fresh. Students learn more quickly and more specifically to how the mind works. And if a child especially loves art, math, physics or sewing, he/she may advance in that area much more than he or she could in most one-size-fits-all public systems.
If there’s a subject you fear teaching, GET OVER IT. Those oft-hated subjects, of math, history or science are only hard when you have had boring teachers in your past. There’s a spoonful of sugar element most math-haters or history-haters or other subject-haters, have never seen.
When people say “I’m not a math person,” or some similar comment, to me, it’s like saying, “I don’t speak French.” That’s nothing but exposure, baby. You can enjoy any subject with love, patience and determination.
I am teaching traditional Saxon math to my son right now, who went from 4th to 6th grade math ability in five months’ time by homeschooling. I also teach him the same things I taught my remedial college writing classes– parts of speech, diagramming sentences, using commas properly, writing complex sentences, using more interesting and rich vocabulary, and HAVING FUN by writing about interesting things. His writing skills did the same thing that his math skills have done– soared.
He was not a strong writer last autumn. But last week, he volunteered to write and submit a 500 word essay to a local political essay contest on a very hard topic. No kidding. He did it on his own. And it was good.
No matter what else we do on any given day– and it varies widely; some days we’re swimming and diving at the pool; some days we’re picnicking at the park; some days we are a museum or a grandparent’s house or a quilting bee or touring the local university– but we never skip the Saxon math lesson or the essay writing.
Now, essay writing might mean writing a poem, or creating a powerpoint on the computer with sentences under each photo, or writing a letter to Santa or to a grandparent; it might mean writing a fictional story. It might mean writing about the first five presidents of the United States after we’ve studied them in our history lesson. It varies, but we never skip the writing, nor the math. That’s my way. But you’ll have your own.
I make sure to add in the things that Common Core is deleting from public education:
Cursive- every day, my son writes a verse from the scriptures in cursive, and on many days, I have him write his whole essay in cursive. Because it’s beautiful.
Traditional math- as I’ve said before, I do not like the common core “constructivist” math programs and most textbooks are aligning now to common core. I purchase old, pre-common core text books from Saxon (there are other traditional programs, too).
Classic literature – the only place “informational text” is read in my home school is when we are studying subjects other than English, such as history, science, math, geography, and now, journalism. When we choose reading materials, we choose actual literature: Tom Sawyer, The Hobbit, Swedish Fairy Tales, Great Expectations, etc. The vocabulary’s so rich; the imagery and metaphors and good versus evil concepts and life-lessons are no where else in such abundance as they are to be found in classic literature. Kids need it.
2. My child needs to be surrounded by his or her peers for social development.
The second concern parents usually raise is that their child needs socialization and that’s only available in public school. Really?
With sports teams, scouting, church activities, neighborhood friends, cousins, siblings, parents, field trips, and other, outside-our-home, homeschooling events, I never feel that my homeschooler is socially deprived.
In fact, the opposite is true. He now receives more one-on-one teaching time and talking time with me than he did when he attended public school. Even when I’m not teaching, I’m teaching. He’s conversing with an adult much of the day, and that is educational. He’s not just told to be quiet and listen and occasionally to raise his hand. He talks with me all day long. And we go out of our way to make sure he gets peer play time, as well.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, he mentioned that one of his favorite traditions in public school was decorating a box to receive valentines in. So we made creative boxes for each member of our family and displayed them on the piano. We are putting cards and candies in them all month long. And mailing valentines to cousins, missionaries and others, just for fun. There are very few positive public school activities that cannot be recreated in home school. And many useless ones that can be skipped.
Additionally, there are other home school families either in your neighborhood or online that you can connect with.
Last week, four homeschool families in my neighborhood got together for a “snow day.” The children went sledding while the parents had a teachers’ conference. One mother who had only been home schooling for a few weeks was so excited that she brought all her history curriculum and her children’s binders and was showing us what they’re doing. The children love it so much that when they have free reading time, they are still reading their history books.
Home schooling is hard work; yes, but it absolutely works –and it is so much fun.
One of the most wonderful things about home school is that I get to teach my child faith in God, something government schools are forbidden to do. And I do. The teaching of all subjects under the umbrella of “God is real and God is love” makes a huge difference in the approach we take to any subject.
I will close with one fine example. It’s a video I showed my son as part of our science curriculum this week, that features a renowned scientist, Dr. Lewis, a NASA advisor, explaining his beautiful faith in God and how he combines science with faith.
In an op-ed this month in the Orange County Register, Robert Holland of Heartland Institute explains why private schools, religious schools and home schools are becoming increasingly involved in the anti-Common Core movement.
By ROBERT HOLLAND / For the Register
Defenders of home schooling are beginning to worry about the Common Core K-12 standards morphing into a national curriculum that will stifle the family-centered creativity that has fostered high rates of achievement and growth for home education.
Their concerns are well-founded, even though the official Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as originally adopted in 2010 don’t expressly apply to home or private schools.
Unfortunately, many private and parochial schools, including those of 100 Roman Catholic dioceses across the nation, already are adopting the CCSS prescriptions for math and English classes as they start rolling out in public schools. Their debatable reasoning is that the rush of most state governments (45 so far) to embrace the national standards means publishers of textbooks and tests will fall in line, thereby leaving private schools with no practical alternatives for instructional materials.
The Home School Legal Defense Association sees an even more insidious intrusion on educational freedom stemming from the vaunted “college- and career-ready standards,” and it most assuredly is not about to throw in the towel.
In a Dec. 17 web article, the HSLDA’s federal-relations specialist, Will Estrada, noted that the “College Board – the entity that created the PSAT and SAT – has already indicated that its signature college entrance exam will be aligned with the CCSS. And many home-schoolers worry that colleges and universities may look askance at home school graduates who apply for admission if their high-school transcripts are not aligned with the CCSS.”
Besides the potential of home-schoolers being placed at a severe disadvantage by the SAT’s alignment with a single curriculum, “our greatest worry,” Estrada concluded, “is that if the CCSS is fully adopted by all states, policymakers down the road will attempt to change state legislation to require all students – including home school and private school students – to be taught and tested according to the CCSS.”
The linkage of the SAT to the nationally prescribed academic content is far more than a hypothetical threat. Former Rhodes Scholar David Coleman, a chief architect of the Common Core, embraced that very objective before taking over as the College Board president in October.
An Education Week report in October reached the surprising conclusion that religious schools are prominent among private institutions beginning to adopt the Common Core. Not all private schools are hopping on the bandwagon, of course.
An official of the National Association of Independent Schools spoke of the centrality of “local control, school by school, of what to teach and how to teach” and emphasized that “decision-making through a national effort runs counter to our very being.”
A middle-road approach is the Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative by which educators from parochial schools and Catholic universities hope to develop ways Catholic values can be integrated into instruction based on the Common Core standards. A fair question to ask is how appealing such compromised schools will be to parents seeking to use tax credit scholarships or vouchers to find alternatives to government-controlled education.
One might think truly independent-minded educators would want to examine skeptically government-subsidized standards that already are compelling English teachers to cut out many of the classics of children’s literature in favor of boilerplate text issued by government agencies. Because home-schoolers have had to fight continuously for their educational freedom, it really isn’t surprising that they ultimately are the ones to see through the folly of education nationalization in a tremendously diverse country, and to identify ways to fight it. Estrada makes this relevant point:
“Due to laws prohibiting the creation of national tests, curriculum, and teacher certification, governors and state legislators are the only policy makers who can actually decide whether or not to adopt the CCSS. While the federal government has encouraged the states to adopt the CCSS through federal incentives, the states are completely free to reject the CCSS.”
The HSLDA is reminding parents that they can make a difference by raising this issue with governors and legislators and those who aspire to those positions. Home-schoolers have been instrumental in stopping federal overreach before, and they could do it again. The Common Core is not a permanent fixture – states can repudiate it as too costly, too shallow and too intrusive.
Robert Holland is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute.
Stop Common Core
Talk given by Christel Swasey at the Weber County Republican Women’s Meeting Jan.7, 2013
A few months ago, a University of Utah exhibit displayed original documents, newspapers, books and letters written by Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and many others. The exhibit did not only show the freedom fighters’ side of the argument, but also displayed articulate, meaningful debate from the other side. The heated 1700s argument boiled down to either standing for local freedom or standing for America remaining a managed colony under England’s non-representative government.
In retrospect, how obvious it is to us which side was correct; America should be free. But at the time it was not so clear to all. Both sides had strong arguments that made some sense.
There is a similar, heated battle going on in America over education now. Will we retain local freedom or will we be a managed colony under the Department of Education’s rule, with no say over testing, education standards and innovation? Unconstitutional though it is, this is the battle we face today– a battle for control of American classrooms. Most parents, students, teachers, governors and even State School Board Members seem unaware that it is going on at all.
It’s a battle for constitutional education with local decision making, versus nationalized education without representation. It’s a battle between states retaining the freedom to soar, versus having mediocre sameness of education across states. It’s a battle between teaching the traditional academics versus teaching the extreme political agendas of the Obama Administration; it’s a battle for who gets to decide what is to be planted in the mind of the child.
One of America’s strengths has long been its educated people. The world flocks to our universities. We have had one of the most intellectually diverse public education systems in the world.
But this is changing dramatically.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) leads the changes. The vast majority of states have already replaced previous education standards with Common Core. These national standards standardize– McDonaldize– a dreary and mediocre education plan for the country that lies far below the previous standards of top-ranking states, such as Massachusetts. Although many respected organizations have pledged support for the Common Core, evidence is painfully lacking to support Common Core’s claims. The common core proponents are quick to make sweet-sounding claims, but their claims are not referenced and are, in fact, false.
Many independent reviews suggest supporters of Common Core are sorely misguided. Dr. Michael Kirst of Stanford University pointed out that the standards define college readiness as being the same for 4-year, 2-year, and vocational colleges, essentially dumbing down expectations for university students.
Dr. Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University pointed out that the standards are meant to save us from what is a myth– the idea that American students are lagging behind international peers; Tienken writes: “When school administrators implement programs and policies built on faulty arguments, they commit education malpractice.”
Despite claims to the contrary, Common Core Standards do not meaningfully increase academic rigor, are not internationally benchmarked, do not adequately prepare students for 4-year universities, were never assessed by top curriculum research universities, were never voted upon by teachers nor the public, do not allow a voice for the individual; have no amendment process, and do rob states of control of education and students of privacy.
The Common Core is an untested, federally promoted, unfunded experiment.
The standards creators (NGA/CCSSO) have not set up a monitoring plan to test this national experiment, to see what unintended consequences the Core will have on children. The standards slash the vast majority of classic literature, especially from high school English classes; minimize narrative writing skills acquisition, and push student-investigative, rather than instructive, math at all levels.
COMMON CORE HISTORY:
The Constitution and 10th amendment have long made it clear that only states –not any federal agency– have the right to direct education. Americans seem to have forgotten that we do not live in a top down kingdom but in a Constitutional republic. Many believe the federal government has power to rule over the state governments. This is false. States alone hold the right to educate.
Our Constitution was set up with a vital balance of powers between states and federal powers, and each maintains separate roles and authorities. Nowhere is any authority given to the federal government to direct education.
In addition to the Constitution’s and the tenth amendment’s giving states sole authority to direct education, another law called the General Educational Provisions Act (GEPA) states: “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…”
So the Common Core standards are a set of national education standards which the federal government are forbidden, by law, to control or supervise. Yet the standards were foisted upon the states by the federal government with the repeated assertion that they were state-led standards.
The Dept. of Education paid others to do what they were forbidden to do. The common standards were not written by the federal government, but they were financially incentivized by the federal government and then were promoted by private interests. Bill Gates, for example, spent $100M and plans to spend $150M more to push Common Core.
He gave the national PTA $@ million to promote it in schools. Common Core represents an ongoing cash cow for many groups, which explains why the media does not cover this issue. Many media outlets, even Fox News via Wireless Generation, are entangled in the massive money-making factory that is Common Core implementation. Microsoft and Pearson and others are seeing what a huge opportunity it presents them, as they benefit financially from the newly created false need: millions of new textbooks, teacher development programs, and new testing technologies are called for under the common core and its nationalized tests.
The standards were solely developed –and copyrighted– by nonacademic groups– the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Neither state education agencies nor major curriculum research universities were asked for meaningful input.
We were told that the Common Core was voluntary and “state led,” but it was a case of arm-twisting and financial bribery on the part of the Dept. of Education. States did not come together to write and share great ideas. (If that had been the case, we would likely have adopted high standards, instead, like those previously had in Massachusetts.)
The first time states were introduced to these national standards was when the federal government bribed states with a shot at a huge grant (our own tax money) in 2009. It was called Race to the Top, a grant for states. The Department of Education made a state’s promise to adopt common standards –sight unseen– a prerequisite to getting points in the grant contest called “Race to the Top”. There were 500 points possible. Adopting Common Core and its tests gave us some 70 points. Making the federal tracking database on students, the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) gave us 47 additional points.
Not by any authority of Congress, but by the lure of money –the Stimulus Bill– was Obama’s Race to the Top funded. States were given only two months to apply.
States competed for this money like a taxpayers’ lottery with a points system. There were 500 points possible. By adopting Common Core tests and standards, a state could earn 70 points. By implementing the SLDS (State Longitudinal Database System that serves as surveillance on citizens) a state could earn 47 points. Even though Utah didn’t win any money at all, we took the Race to the Top bait. Then we were stuck with Common Core standards as well as the SLDS database which would track and control citizens.
We were repeatedly assured, “states can get out of Common Core any time they like” but, like the story of Gulliver, tied down by many strings, we are in fact bound– unless we realize our rights and privileges and assert them firmly to free ourselves while we still may, to shake off the ties that bind us down.
Gulliver’s First String: No cost analysis
One of the strings that ties us down is the financial obligation of Common Core. No cost analysis has been done by Utah to date. It’s like a family agreeing to build a house without knowing what it will cost beforehand. It’s absurd. Virginia and Texas rejected Common Core, citing on both educational and financial reasons.
While textbook companies without exception are on a marketing spree with “Common Core Alignment,” it is taxpayers who will carry the burden for the unwanted texts, tests, the professional development, testing technology, data centers, administration and more.
If corporations were getting wealthy at taxpayer expense yet we had agreed to it, by a vote after thorough public vetting, that would be acceptable.
But Common Core never had pre-adoption teacher or parent or media attention, had no public vetting, no vote, and now we see that some of the corporations providing implementation of the common core standards have alarming political agendas that will harm our children. One example is Pearson, headed by Sir Michael Barber, with whom the Utah State Office of Education has multiple contracts.
Gulliver’s Second String:
The myth: that Common Core solves educational problems
The second string tying states down, Gulliver-like, is the problem-solving myth, the myth that our many educational problems, such as low expectations or college remediation, are to be solved by Common Core. Without a doubt, Common Core will worsen our educational problems.
Professor Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram, English and Math professors who refused to sign off on the adequacy of the common standards when they served on the official Common Core validation committee, have written and have testified before legislatures that the standards are not sufficiently rigorous at all.
Students in our schools and universities are required to provide references for their reports. Yet the information provided by official Common Core sites, as well as by our state office of education, is unreferenced and contains half truths and false claims about Common Core.
I asked the Utah State Office of Education to provide me, a Utah teacher, with references to verify the “facts” about Common Core, but the office refused to do so. Why?
The myth that Common Core solves educational problems is far-reaching and is far from being harmless.
There’s a questionnaire that must be answered by any person wishing to be a candidate for Utah’s state school board. The first question on it is: Do you support the Common Core State Standards?
So anyone who for any reason opposes Common Core may not even stand in the candidates’ pool to run for this vital, elected position as a member of the state school board.
The emperor of Common Core is wearing no clothes. Yet, the myth that Common Core solves educational problems is so widespread that most teachers and principals fear raising concerns.
We are experiencing a huge Spiral of Silence. The Spiral of Silence is a well-known communications theory by Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann. The Spiral of Silence phenomenon happens when people fear separation or isolation from those around them, and, believing they are in the minority, they keep their concerns to themselves.
The Spiral theory arose as an explanation for why many Germans remained silent while their Jewish neighbors were being persecuted in the 1940s. This silence extends to parents and legislators who do not know enough about the common standards to feel comfortable arguing that we should be free of them. Truly, this movement has slid under the public radar.
Gulliver’s Third String: One Size Forever, For All
The third string tying us down, Gulliver-like, is the fact that we will never have a vote or a voice in the one-size-fits-all-standards.
Common Core’s copyright, placed on the standards by the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, takes away educational flexibility. There is no way a local voice or voices can alter the standards when we discover the system doesn’t fit our needs. There is no amendment process.
Additionally, the NGA/CCSSO has zero transparency. Though the Council of Chief State School Officers holds over one hundred meetings per year, CCSSO meetings are closed to teachers, taxpayers, and the general public.
I asked a lawyer at the Utah State Office of Education what the process would be to amend the standards. She told me, “Why would there need to be [an amendment process]? The whole point is to be common.”
Her response illustrates the tragic fact that many of our state education leaders do not appreciate local, constitutional control over education for our state.
There is a 15% cap placed on the NGA/CCSSO’s copyrighted standards, a cap placed on top of the copyright by the Department of Education. We may delete nothing. We may add no more than 15% to any standard.
So when we run into a disaster –such as the rule that 12th grade reading material in an English class can contain no more than 30 percent classic literature, and must be 70% informational text, we are stuck. When we run into another disaster –such as the rule that Algebra I be introduced in 9th grade, when it used to be an 8th grade topic, we are stuck. We are literally voiceless and bound by the 15% rule plus the copyright it is based upon. But it gets worse:
Gulliver’s Fourth String: Problems with national testing
The fourth string tying us down, Gulliver-like, is nationalized, federally-supervised, compulsory testing. It commits our dollars without our input. And the content of the tests will be dictated by the NGA/CCSSO to test writers.
There isn’t even the tiny bit of 15% wiggle room on tests. I wrote to a test writer how they would incorporate the 15% variation in state standards and they told me that it is “in each state’s best interest” not to have “two sets of standards.” Why? Because the test won’t be incorporating anything in addition to the national standards.
Why is this bad? What we are valuing and testing is extremely narrow and cannot be altered by any state, but only by the NGA/CCSSO. It opens the door for a one-track, politicized agenda to be taught and tested.
Our local leaders continue to refer to “The Utah Core” as if it were not the exact same core as all the other states. This is misleading.
Teachers and principals will be evaluated and compared using these national tests’ results, so what would motivate them to teach anything beyond or different than what will be tested? The motivation to be an innovative educator is gone with the high stakes national tests. Right now Utah has only adopted math and English standards, but soon the NGA/CCSSO will be releasing social studies and science standards. One can only imagine how these subjects will be framed by the “progressive” groups who write the tests and shape the curriculum. And the test writers will be providing model curriculum for states to follow to prepare students for the tests.
Gulliver’s Fifth String: Common Core English:
David Coleman’s version of what is appropriate for the rest of the nation
The fifth string tying us down, Gulliver-like, was wrought almost singlehandedly by one wrongheaded man with too much power, named David Coleman.
Coleman was the main architect of the English standards for Common Core, despite never having been a teacher himself, and is now president of the College board. He is now aligning the national college entrance exams with Common Core standards. He holds a dreary, utilitarian vision of the language, without appreciation for classic literature or narrative writing. He has deleted much of it, and has deleted all cursive for students.
It was Coleman’s idea to make all children read 50% informational texts and 50% fiction in English classes, and then gradually to get rid of more and more fiction and classic literature, so that when a student is in 12th grade, he or she is reading 70% informational text and very little classic literature.
Does this differ from actual book burning?
It is as if Coleman mandated that all English teachers must put 70% of their classic textbooks outside the classroom door to be picked up for burning. Would the teachers put Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, Melville, or O’Connor on the pile? Which classic books would you remove from a high school English classroom? And what informational texts are being recommended by Common Core proponents to replace the classics? Among the suggestions: Executive Order 13423. Writings by the Federal Reserve Bank. And more. (See: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_B.pdf )
David Coleman explained why he decided that narrative writing should not be taught:
“As you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a sh__ about what you feel or what you think… it is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’”
If Coleman were to value a diamond, he would base its worth solely on the fact that it’s the hardest substance in nature. The diamond’s beauty, or its history as the symbol of eternal romance, would not matter. Just so long as the darn rock can drill. That’s how he thinks about reading and writing.
This is why he has gotten rid of all things beautiful in education:
• No more cursive.
• Very little classic literature, to make room for mostly informational text.
• Informational texts to include Executive Order 13423, in the English classroom.
Gulliver’s Sixth String: Weakening Math
The sixth string tying us down, Gulliver-style, down is weak math. While the Common Core math standards may be an improvement over previous standards in some states, they are deficient for most, including for Utah.
Scholars have written extensively about these standards in reports published by Pioneer Institute and others. They say:
– Common Core replaces the traditional foundations of Euclidean geometry with an experimental approach. This approach has never been successfully used but Common Core imposes this experiment on the country.
– Common Core excludes certain Algebra II and Geometry content that is currently a prerequisite at almost every four-year state college. This effectively redefines “college-readiness” to mean readiness for a nonselective community college, as a member of the Common Core writing team acknowledged in his testimony before the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
– Common Core fails to teach prime factorization and consequently does not include teaching about least common denominators or greatest common factors.
– Common Core fails to include conversions among fractions, decimals, and percents, identified as a key skill by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
– Common Core de-emphasizes algebraic manipulation, which is a prerequisite for advanced mathematics, and instead effectively redefines algebra as “functional algebra”, which does not prepare students for STEM careers.
– Common Core does not require proficiency with addition and subtraction until grade 4, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors.
– Common Core does not require proficiency with multiplication using the standard algorithm (step-by-step procedure for calculations) until grade 5, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors.
– Common Core does not require proficiency with division using the standard algorithm until grade 6, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors.
– Common Core starts teaching decimals only in grade 4, about two years behind the more rigorous state standards, and fails to use money as a natural introduction to this concept.
– Common Core fails to teach in K-8 about key geometrical concepts such as the area of a triangle, sum of angles in a triangle, isosceles and equilateral triangles, or constructions with a straightedge and compass that good state standards include.
There is already evidence that book publishers’ revisions to texts that align with the standards are highly likely to be “inquiry-based”. Discovery and group learning approaches to math have had poor results when they have been used in classrooms across the country.
Gulliver’s Seventh String:
Neither Local Education Leaders Nor Federal Educational Leaders Value American Rights
• A current Utah State School Board member said to me, “I have always understood it is the principle of “equality” not “freedom” that was the guiding principle of our constitution… I have always understood the theme to be equality… you continue to reference freedom over equality.”
• The Dept. of Education has created regions for all America. These regions are to be answerable to the Department of Education. The creation of regional identities ignores the existence of states and consequently, of states’ rights, under the Constitution. This is a dangerous affront to our rights as states.
• Predestining kids: Secretary Arne Duncan says the government needs to control education and teachers via data-driven decisions. The data will be collected: “… so that every child knows on every step of their educational trajectory what they’re going to do.” He says, “You should know in fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth grade what your strengths are, what you weaknesses are.” He’s talking about a managed society, not a free society, where children are to be compliant tools for the government’s purposes, not the other way around.
• The Utah Data Alliance, SLDS system, and the federal Department of Education each seek data at all costs, even without parental consent. Sec. Duncan often says, ”We have to be transparent about our data.” (What Duncan really means is, states have to be transparent about their data to be supervised by the federal government– which is not Constitutional by any stretch of the imagination.)
Duncan’s data transparency statement explains much: why Duncan aims to triangulate data Common Core tests which will be collected and compared under his (unconstitutionally) watchful eye; why Duncan rewrote FERPA regulations without authority or Congressional oversight, why the Department of Education paid states to create SLDS systems to track citizens; why federally, states are pushed to have P-20 tracking councils, and more.
Duncan’s desire to grab private data is further illustrated by the changes Duncan has led in redefining key terms.
For example, you may notice that federal education leaders seldom refer to this movement as the Common Core. They use a code phrase (you can verify this on the definitions page at ed.gov) which is “college and career readiness”. But that code phrase is a deception. College and Career Readiness does not mean what you think it means; there is a new mediocrity to the standards which has made the same standards appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. It has essentially dumbed down the expectations for 4 year universities. So college readiness actually means nothing other than common and mediocre standards. By this definition, states can’t be preparing students for college unless standards are the same as every other state’s and country’s standards. It’s like the old Ford Advertisement: You can Have Any Color As Long as it’s Black.” Secretary Duncan’s version is– “You can have any standards as long as they are the exact same as all other states’ standards.”
Another phrase you’ll hear a lot is “world class education” which doesn’t mean “excellent education.” It means “non-competitive education.” Yikes. Some other phrases that have been officially redefined by the Dept. of Education in federal regulations are: “authorized representative” “education program” and “directory information”
What is the effect of these re-definings?
According to a group that has sued the Dept. of Education, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, this redefining has removed legal duties for state and local educational facilities that used to be in place to protect private student data.
The redefinings open up what used to be tightly protected. But why?
Because the Dept. of Education is using the testing consortia to triangulate the tests and to oversee the data collection. They want access to the data. Words give them access. This brings me to Gulliver’s string, and it’s a whopper.
Gulliver’s Eighth String: Invading Citizen Privacy
The eighth string tying us down, Gulliver-like, is a set of horrific privacy violations. It begins with the fact that Utah built a State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) system, as required by the federal government in exchange for money. The SLDS was supposed to be a benefit to Utahns. The argument was that the more data they collect, the smarter decisions could be made about education. It sounded logical at first.
But the SLDS tracks children from preschool through workforce. It interacts with six other Utah state governmental agencies, beyond the K-12 system. It essentially guides and monitors citizens.
When I found out about this, I wanted to opt out for my children. I asked the Utah State Office of Education myself whether it is even allowed to have a student attend a school without being tracked by the Utah Data Alliance and the federal SLDS.
They finally gave me a straight answer, after I nagged them many a time, finally, and it was simply ”No.”No child, no citizen may escape tracking. We are all being closely tracked. Schools are the starting point.
Unknown to most parents, children’s data is being shared beyond the school district with six agencies inside the Utah Data Alliance and with UTREX, according to Utah Technology Director John Brandt. The student data is further to be “mashed” with federal databases, according to federal Education Dept. Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html
While Utah’s John Brandt assures us that only a handful of people in Utah have access to the personally identifiable data of children, recent alterations to federal FERPA (Famly Education Rights Privacy Act) regulations which were made by the U.S. Dept of Education, as we noted earlier, have radically redefined terms and widened the window of groups who can access private data without parental consent. (For more on that, see the lawsuit against the U.S. Dept of Education on the subject: http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html)
In America, a law is a representative thing. Laws are made by people who either directly vote for that law, or who vote for a representative who votes for a law. Then the people must obey the law, or be forcibly punished.
But watch out for rules and regulations, which are not laws, and which come from unelected boards with appointed members who cannot be repealed by us. Rules and regulations are a form of nonrepresentation, and can be dangerous. Common Core is quickly becoming a snare because of its rules and regulations. FERPA regulatory changes are a prime example. Congress never changed the privacy law that FERPA was written originally to be. But the Department of Education made un-approved regulatory changes to FERPA that are being treated as if they were law today.
Our schools (teachers, adminstrators, and even State Office of Education workers) are being used: used to collect private data, both academic and nonacademic, about our children and their families.
I choose the word “used” because I do not believe they are maliciously going behind parents’ backs. They are simply expected to comply with whatever the U.S. Dept. of Education asks them to do. And the Dept. of Education is all for the “open data” push as are some notable Utahns, such as Utah Technology Director John Brandt and even some BYU Education professors, notably David Wiley. I have heard these men speak and they are passionate about getting data at all costs, even at the cost of not pausing for students’ parental consent.
What it means: Courses taken, grades earned, every demographic piece of information, including family names, attitudes and income, can now legally be known by the government via schools.
The U.S. Dept. of Education’s own explanation is here, showing why SLDS systems exist: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/slds/factsheet.html
There are 12 elements that states had to share or they would not have received ARRA stimulus money. The twelve elements of the SLDS (State longitudinal data system) include enrollment history, demographic characteristics, student’s scores on tests; info on students, even those who are not tested; transcripts, grades earned; whether they enrolled in remedial courses; and the sharing of data from preschool through postsecondary systems.
While all this data gathering could theoretically, somehow, benefit a child, or community, it can definitely hurt a child. Denial of future opportunities, based on ancient academic or behavioral history, comes to mind. The databases are to share data with anybody they define as “authorized.”
The now-authorized groups who will access student data will most likely include the A-list “philanthropists” like Bill Gates, as well as corporate educational sales groups (Microsoft, Pearson, Wireless Generation, and K-12 Inc., Achieve, Inc., SBAC, PARCC, NGA, CCSSO, for example) as well as federal departments that are far outside of education, such as the military, the workforce agencies, etc.)
Furthermore, even psychometric and biometric data (such as student behavioral qualities, DNA, iris and fingerprints) are also acceptable data collection points, to the Dept. of Education (verify: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf )
Verify these facts on the government’s public sites, such as:
Our country is a miracle in the history of the earth. No other country has ever had such a Constitution that limits and spreads out the power of the government to ensure the maximum liberty of each individual, balancing the need for limited government to prevent anarchy. It is important to understand the document. “The powers not delegated to the United States Government are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Nothing could be more clear. It is unconstitutional for the federal government to exercise any power over education.
Our Department of Education is aware of this. Recent speeches by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan include the fact that the Department is “limited” in this country. Yes, very limited. Like, not allowed at all.
We may not be able to take back all the ground we have lost by allowing the federal government to dictate regulations to us in return for our own tax money. But we must not allow them any further ground.
The states (except for the handful of states that rejected Common Core) are otherwise like the neighbor who does not know where his rights are and can never know when they are taken and is thus unable to defend them. This neighbor believes he owns a piece of ground which his neighbor also claims, but he doesn’t know its boundaries. The other neighbor continues to encroach further and further onto land which the first neighbor suspects is his, but since he is never certain where the boundary is, he cannot stop the encroachment.
Until we take a firm position and say: “no further,” there is no line. Unless we remember our rights, we have none. My hope is that as a state, we will say “no further,” and hold onto our own right to educate our own children without interference.
Common Core does not improve college readiness. The educational value of the standards is low. And even if they were to be significantly improved, remember that educational standards are meaningless without political freedom.
There is no amendment process for Common Core. The standards have no checks and balances. Common Core was never voted upon. Common Core administrators cannot be recalled by a vote. Common Core represents an assumption of power never delegated by the voice of the people. The Common Core Initiative has transferred sovereignty from states to a collective controlled by the National Governors’ Association and by the Council of Chief State School Officers. It also transferred educational sovereignty from states to testing groups to be overseen by the Department of Education.
We must realize the strength of our position as states under the U.S. Constitution, and must hold up the Constitution, thus holding the Dept. of Education away from monitoring and directing states’ education.
Senator Mike Fair of South Carolina stated: In adopting Common Core, states have sold their birthright without even getting the mess of pottage. He is right.
Currently, thousands of people have signed the petition at Utahns Against Common Core. Websites and organizations are forming all over the country to fight Common Core. At least six U.S. Governors staunchly oppose Common Core. The majority of Utah legislators have said they oppose it. Americans deserve high quality education without federal interference and this will not happen without first dropping all ties to the Common Core Initiative.
Please let state leaders and school boards know we expect them to be valiant in that effort.
—– —– —–
Contact information: Utah Governor Herbert 801-538-1000 Utah State School Board. Board@schools.utah.gov
State Technology Director / leader of Utah Data Alliance: firstname.lastname@example.org“
Utah State Superintendent: email@example.com
Assistant Superintendent: firstname.lastname@example.org
Utah State Office of Education: Brenda.Hales@schools.utah.gov
Senate Education Committee members – (801) 538-1035
Stuart C. Reid email@example.com“
Patricia W. Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark B. Madsen email@example.com“
Wayne L. Niederhauser firstname.lastname@example.org
Aaron Osmond – email@example.com
Howard A. Stephenson firstname.lastname@example.org
Jerry W. Stevenson – :email@example.com
Stephen H. Urquhart – firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve been doing homeschool for my fourth grader since October.
It’s so much fun!
Having a two year old next to a fourth grader means that sometimes we’re schooling in the hall, watching the baby take a two hour bath next to the open door. It means that sometimes, we have to send the fourth grader into a quiet room with a locked door because the two year old is tantruming and it’s hard to focus in that environment. It means that I rarely dust and barely get the groceries bought before we’re out of everything. Sometimes the laundry and other to-do lists sit for days. I haven’t perfected my systems. But in the midst of the imperfection, it feels like a kind of perfection.
My priorities are teaching my kids and enjoying our lives, before challenging the dust or laundry or almost anything else.
We learn a ton, have a lot of laughs and a lot of fun.
A few weeks ago, we drove to Camp Floyd, a historic site in Utah, to learn about Utah history in the 1800s.
Another day, we went to the local Recreation center to play basketball.
We go to the library, often.
We went one day to the church quilting project, to make Christmas quilts for jail inmates. My son learned how to tie a quilt.
We are so free.
No set of Common Core standards. No dumb school assemblies. No asking strangers for their permission to spend time with my own child.
We are in charge of our schooling.
Every day, we read scriptures, writes a verse in cursive, and we talk about it. Some days it’s the Book of Mormon. Some days it’s the New Testament. Today we read the story of Daniel and his three friends who were kidnapped by King Nebuchadnezzar from Jerusalem and taken far from home, never to return. (I hadn’t remembered the full story. Did you know that Daniel and his friends were to be killed because they were considered wise men, and the king didn’t believe in his wise men anymore because nobody could tell him both what he’d dreamed and interpret the dream? So Daniel and his friends prayed and God revealed the king’s dream and also its interpretation to Daniel– a great, great miracle. It saved Daniel’s life, but more importantly, it taught the king that there is a God who does give power to human beings on conditions of faithfulness to Him.
We have been studying geography a lot (he now knows where the countries of Central and South America are, where the counties of Utah are, and is beginning on the Caribbean Islands.) There are fun and free online games for Geography students.
We have been studying history. He now knows all about the founding of our nation– the first five presidents in detail– and about early North and South American explorers– de Soto, Hudson, Erikson, Columbus, Magellan, Lewis & Clark, etc., and now we’re reading about 14th century Europe.
We read about the Bubonic plague, the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Vikings. I plan to make a giant timeline going all around his bedroom, where he can draw things he’s learned about through history.
Some days I make him diagram sentences, with verb, subject, preposition, direct object, adverbs, adjectives, articles, etc.
Some days I have him correct sentence errors– commas, capitalization, apostrophes, etc.
Some days he does an art project. Some days he takes great photos for his little photography portfolio.
Some days he does a science experiment or looks at things under his microscope and writes about them.
Some days I teach him how to spell a very difficult word and I test him on it later in the day.
Some days we read Swedish books and do Swedish vocabulary or Swedish grammar sheets that I write myself.
One day, we spent the whole day studying volcanoes. We watched some great YouTube clips about volcanoes. I liked the one from Bill Nye the Science Guy. We also read about them in books. We found them in science and in literature. And they were in our text, “What Your Fourth Grader Needs To Know.”
I let curiosity guide us. I don’t keep a tight leash on our curriculum, with two strict exceptions: every day, a chapter of Saxon math and every day, he has to write an essay.
His essays can be poems, journal entries, fiction stories, reports about what he’s been learning, letters to Santa or to a great aunt… he just has to write every day, about a page (a little less, or a lot more than a page, every day).
All the other subjects are covered, but not each day, and not for any set amount of time. Our curiosity determines what we study, with those two exceptions I noted.
Today, as usual, we did a chapter of Saxon math. I usually sit with him for the first half, and then set him to answer the 30 questions that are after each lesson. I usually put dots on a handful of the questions meaning “skip these” if I know he knows the review problems very, very well, so he can fly through. I am trying to keep it interesting and invigorating, not dreadfully heavy, so he’ll love to learn and love math. He’s going to be in the sixth grade book very soon.
Today we read in our Usborn science book (very colorful and thick book which I love) all about the periodic table (we just scanned it) and we talked about why there are groups in one row and periods in another row, and how cool the elements are and how interesting it is that these metals and nonmetals and semi-metals are in everything around us, even in our foods and in our bodies, and how they make jewels and everything on earth. We already knew in detail about the Halogens, but we’ll read about the elements and the rocks they are found in, next week.
We read a few more chapters in “The Hobbit” by Tolkien, today. He can’t get enough. I have to drag him away to do his writing or to eat lunch. When he finishes the book, I’ll take him to see the movie but he must promise to look away during the war scenes. He is only 9 and it’s a PG-13 movie which will certainly be more violent than I want to see, let alone allow a 9 year old to see. But we both love the story. It’s full of new vocabulary words for him (it’s way above a fourth grade reading level) and it enlivens his imagination. He reads it silently sometimes, and we read it together aloud, some times.
This week, we visited his grandfather, a retired Pan American Airlines captain, to have a lesson on how airplanes fly. Grandpa/Morfar also taught my son his math out of the Saxon math book, and taught him how to tie ropes (scouting) and next week, we’re going with Grandpa to a field trip to the swimming pool to learn how to dive, since Grandpa/Morfar used to teach swimming lessons years ago.
He’s also doing a project that his stepfather created for him. They bought supplies to do an experiment. My son has to do the experiment and then, using the receipt from Wal-Mart of the supply list, he has to figure out how much each “kit” costs and how much each part of the kit costs (100 paper clips for $1.37 for example) and then he gets to assess the materials (research and development).
He just finished writing a story. I guided the story by saying it had to be in cursive and it had to include two new vocabulary words: “aileron” and “frond” –but other than that, anything goes. He did a great job. He wrote a vivid adventure that involved an emergency landing of an airplane into a jungle that had mosquitoes the size of your head.
And during recess, he decided to create his own musical instrument. He used a rubber band, a toilet paper tube, a piece of paper, a screw, a paper clip, some tape and a pipe cleaner. It really works, too.
He is getting more and more creative; also wiser. He recognized and pointed out to me an analogy from “The Hobbit” that he saw which reminded him of common core education. Common Core was a goblin bent on making certain useful –but only useful and never beautiful– tools. I guess he was listening when I was ranting about Common Core architect David Coleman and his removal of narrative writing and classic literature from the common core, and I said that literature is for soaring, for beauty and joy, and not just for basic employability.
He read to me:
“... armed goblins were standing round him carrying the axes and bent swords that they use. Now goblins are cruel, wicked and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they can make many clever ones.”
- p. 62, The Hobbit.
What more can I say?
I’m reposting this article from the Home School Legal Defense Association: http://www.hslda.org/docs/news/2012/201212170.asp
It’s important for homeschooling families to realize that Common Core is a movement that is transforming education for every one who ever wants to go to a college or university. It’s deleting freedom and innovation for everyone, not just public school attendees.
December 17, 2012
Common Core State Standards Initiative: Too Close to a National Curriculum
William A. Estrada, Esq. Director of Federal Relations
has been leading our efforts to defend homeschooling on Capitol Hill since 2006. As the oldest of eight kids, and a homeschool graduate who married a homeschool graduate, he has a passion for protecting homeschool freedom. Read more >>
In 2010, the National Governors Association published their “Common Core State Standards” (CCSS). These were meant as voluntary math and English guidelines which individual states could adopt.
HSLDA and numerous other organizations grew concerned about this push to standardize what public school students are taught. HSLDA wrote two articles outlining our concerns, one in March of 2010, and one in June of 2010. We explained that states were being enticed by the federal government—through the Race to the Top program—to align their state curriculum with the CCSS, resulting in de facto national standards. We were concerned that this would lead to a national curriculum and national test, and that the pressure would grow for homeschool and private school students to be taught using this national curriculum.
During President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union speech, the president stated, “We’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards.” How were the states convinced to adopt the CCSS? The simple answer—federal dollars. President Obama added adopting the CCSS as a criterion for states to gain points in the Race to the Top education federal grant program, regardless of whether the state already had comparable or superior educational standards. States with the highest points are more likely to win the competitive Race to the Top federal grants.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the CCSS since 2010. Only Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia have not.
Are the Common Core State Standards a Good Idea for Public Schools?
Recently, there has been a growing controversy over whether the CCSS are even beneficial. Many states have spent years adopting their own state standards, only to throw them away in favor of the CCSS. Some commentators have said that the CCSS will weaken English learning and reduce analytical thinking. Others point to a weakening of math teaching. Still others point out that the CCSS will cost billions of dollars to implement—which could be deal-breaker for states struggling to implement the standards.
The CCSS by themselves are not necessarily controversial. They’re similar in certain respects to other state curriculum content standards for public schools. However, HSLDA believes that children—whether homeschooled, private schooled, or public schooled—do best when parents are fully engaged. And parents are most engaged when they know that they are in charge of their child’s education. Top-down, centralized education policy does not encourage parents to be engaged. The CCSS removes education standards from the purview of state and local control to being controlled by unaccountable education policy experts sitting in a board room far removed from the parents, students, and teachers who are most critical to a child’s educational success.
Will the CCSS Affect Homeschools?
The CCSS specifically do not apply to private or homeschools, unless they receive government dollars (online charter school programs have no such protection). However, HSLDA has serious concerns with the rush to adopt the CCSS. HSLDA has fought national education standards for the past two decades. Why? National standards lead to national curriculum and national tests, and subsequent pressure on homeschool students to be taught from the same curricula.
The College Board—the entity that created the PSAT and SAT—has already indicated that its signature college entrance exam will be aligned with the CCSS. And many homeschoolers worry that colleges and universities may look askance at homeschool graduates who apply for admission if their highschool transcripts are not aligned with the CCSS.
HSLDA believes that a one-size-fits-all approach to education crowds out other educational options, including the freedom of parents to choose homeschools and private schools. A common curriculum and tests based off common standards could be very harmful to homeschoolers if their college of choice refuses to accept a student’s high school transcript if it is not based on the CCSS. Homeschoolers could also have trouble on the SAT if the test is fundamentally altered to reflect only one specific curriculum. And our greatest worry is that if the CCSS is fully adopted by all states, policy makers down the road will attempt to change state legislation to require all students—including homeschool and private school students—to be taught and tested according to the CCSS. Common Core State Standards spreading
The National Governors Association first focused the CCSS on the general subject areas of math and English. However, there is now movement to create CCSS in numerous other subject areas. The National Governors Association is also urging states to align early education programs for young children.
This is also encouraged by the federal government’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, a program which causes grave concerns to HSLDA.
Due to laws prohibiting the creation of national tests, curriculum, and teacher certification, governors and state legislatures are the only policy makers who can actually decide whether or not to adopt the CCSS. While the federal government has encouraged the states to adopt the CCSS through federal incentives, the states are completely free to reject the CCSS.
- To find out whether your state has adopted the Common Core State Standards, you can visit this website’s useful map. (Please note that this is the website for the common core state standards initiative.)
- Contact your state legislators, including the governor, to discuss this issue with them. Ask them about their position on the issue. Find your governor’s current information here.
- If you have a governor’s election coming up in your state, we encourage you to raise this issue with the candidates. Even if a state has already adopted the national education standards, a new governor will be faced with the costs of implementing these new standards and new accountability to the federal government.
- Numerous states that have already adopted the CCSS are considering rejecting the CCSS. Now is the time to help raise awareness of this issue and educate yourself about the CCSS.
- Because this affects all parents, and will not currently affect homeschool freedom, it is not necessary to identify yourself as a homeschooler.
| Other Resources
Math and Science Common Core State Standards
Eagle Forum: “Obama Core is Another Power Grab”
Indiana Superintendent: “Obama Administration Nationalized Common Core Standards Common Core Math Standards Fail to Add Up”
Eagle Forum: “Common Core Standards Aren’t Cheap”
Eagle Forum: “Common Core Standards Dumbing Down the SAT”
“Common Core Supporter: Maybe Opposition Not Paranoia”