Archive for the ‘saxon math’ Tag
Recognizing an American Hero: John Saxon
by Nakonia (Niki) Hayes
This article, found at Education Views, introduces John Saxon, whose math materials are used by one million home schooled students today. Saxon’s textbooks are found in Arizona’s BASIS schools, as well as in private schools and some public schools across the country.
Both this article and the book about John Saxon are written by Niki Hayes, who has given permission to repost the article here.
Seeking recognition for a hero in mathematics education may be a waste of time since so many Americans’ eyes glaze over at the mere mention of the word “math.” Too many claim they don’t like math, can’t do math, or don’t want even to think about math. (This phenomenon is found only in America. Interestingly, such attitudes are not heard in Third World countries that produce strong math students.)
So what’s the point in looking at an American math hero now? Maybe recognizing a math teacher-turned-millionaire-author-and-publisher who took a beating for 15 years from the powerful math education establishment will help refuel the parents and citizens—those special “Davids”—who are stepping up to fight the unified Goliaths of Common Core.
His enemies, who are among today’s Goliaths, will sneer upon hearing his name: John Saxon. They still refuse to accept the results of his “common sense genius” in teaching K-12 mathematics.
Saxon literally popped onto the national math education scene unexpectedly and uninvited in 1981 after self-publishing his first algebra textbook. Reformist authors, who quickly became his opponents, were claiming that making math more fun and “relevant” to girls and minorities was the answer to getting higher scores on international tests. He said his proven book was user-friendly and historically-based and was the answer for all students. They said his ideas worked only for white males and Asians because American girls and minorities couldn’t think analytically or with deductive reasoning. He called them racist and sexist. War was declared on Saxon with all the might of federal, state, and local resources of the math education leadership.
He had no idea that he, in turn, would ultimately choose to be a catalyst for the “math wars” that erupted among parents, school districts, and state textbook committees in the 1990s, and that the results of his promoting parent empowerment for a decade might help set up the battles by parents against Common Core.
Saxon was simply a retired U.S. Air Force officer who had begun teaching algebra to students in night classes at Oscar Rose Junior College in Oklahoma in 1970. Having taught engineering at the U.S. Air Force Academy, he discovered woeful deficiencies in his community college students’ basic math skills. Determining they were capable of learning but that they had not been taught those basic skills, he began creating specially-designed worksheets of problems for his students over the next five years, with step-by-step procedures and a use of creative repetition for continuous practice. By 1975, he had a manuscript that the junior college print shop mimeographed and collated for the students.
Then in 1980, after a year-long pilot study in 20 Oklahoma public schools with amazing results (monitored by the Oklahoma chapter of the American Federation of Teachers), Saxon was ready to publish his book in hardback for any school that taught a first year algebra course. He was rebuffed by six publishers in New York City because he wasn’t “a member of a math education committee.” One other publisher did suggest, however, that he publish the book himself. Borrowing $80,000, Saxon did just that. When he died in 1996, Saxon Publishers in Norman, Oklahoma, had sales of $27 million. When his company was sold in 2004, the reported selling price was $100 million.
For those 15 years as a teacher, author, and publisher, Saxon found himself on the defensive against not only government bureaucrats, but the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), a powerful special interest group with political ties to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The followers of NCTM were receiving large federal grants to write reform math materials that promoted equity over excellence as the new American goal in mathematics. They did not want to share their bounty and prestige with an outsider who wasn’t even “trained” as a teacher. Worse, he disagreed with their equity ideology as the new function of math education.
They attacked his traditional content with no pictures as boring and “drill and kill.” He had refused to put color photos in his books, saying that such space and costs should be used for showing examples on how to work the problems rather than promoting social justice. He insisted on incremental development with one lesson per day, his unique creative repetition, and no separate chapters which he called “hunk learning”—i.e., students trying to consume a major concept and moving on to the next hunk even if they hadn’t digested the previous one. He required a test after every five lessons so reteaching, if needed, could be planned immediately. And, unbelievably, students were not allowed to use calculators for daily work or tests until the eighth grade. (That’s still true today with Saxon Math.)
Saxon scoffed when reformists insisted that historically-proven mathematics, which had been developed over 2,000 years by diverse cultures from around the world, was effective only with “white males” in America—and “Asians.” Then, he would explode with anger over what he called disastrous teaching materials and methods being purchased without proof of their results.
The biggest surprise to the leaders was when Saxon bought full-page advertisements in mathematics journals, magazines and major newspapers to respond to the charges laid against him and his work. As a World War II veteran, West Point graduate, Korean War combat pilot awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and a Vietnam veteran, Saxon was a fully trained and experienced warrior who was now fighting “a good war” for children in American mathematics education. Later described as the “George Patton of math education,” Saxon saw no purpose in losing any battle and was not averse to launching a frontal assault. He often got bloodied, but so did they.
As a man with three degrees in engineering, he also knew about the use of mathematics in the real world, including flying airplanes in life and death situations. He ridiculed the elitists’ feigned “real world” problems in textbooks. Saxon wasn’t about to back down from those he thought were promoting their ideology in textbooks and not proving their programs’ results before launching them into schools. “Results matter,” he kept saying, and he had reams of results to show that his textbooks were working.
He constantly called on parents to step forward and fight the new “fuzzy math” programs. Some parents finally did come out swinging in California and in 1994 led a major change in that state’s curriculum standards. That parental action is being repeated now across America regarding Common Core.
Some of his opponents literally cheered when he died. They still hate him today, 18 years after his death. Schools of education that train teachers dismiss his work even though many of his warnings about their programs have come true:
- Use of calculators too early ruins students’ acquisition of basic skills, many of which must be learned by memorization, such as multiplication facts and mental math.
- Not understanding the importance of algebra—true algebra—at the eighth grade level as the gateway subject for later entry into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) would prevent many students from entering those fields and leave America short-handed for individuals who could help provide growth and development of the country.
- Turning teacher-facilitated, rather than teacher-led, classrooms into discovery fun fests with lots of conversation, written explanations of problem-solving, and a focus on non-competitive, differentiated learning found math classrooms that included the weakest to the gifted student. “White males,” gifted children, and Asians were effectively ignored. Process, not the results, was to be enjoyed. Saxon warned this would cause both girls and boys of all races to be in remedial math classes in college, which would negate many of their career choices. Seventy to ninety percent of community college students are indeed enrolled in remedial math today. Up to forty percent must take it in four-year colleges. Common Core proponents claim they will change that statistic—with their weakened math program that even their leaders admit won’t prepare students for STEM careers.
John Saxon’s Story, a genius of common sense in math education, is the biography of a man who fought for his country in three wars and then, in an unexpected second career, for American children in mathematics education. He became, and still is, a real hero to millions of children:
A class of eighth graders in a Spokane, WA, Catholic school put his algebra book on the church’s altar at Thanksgiving in 1985 because of their appreciation for its impact on their learning. The Window Rock High School Navajo students in Fort Defiance, AZ, chose him as their graduation speaker over the state’s governor in 1992. His materials are used by one million home schooled students today and his textbooks are found in Arizona’s successful BASIS charter schools, as well as in private schools and smaller public schools across the country.
The biography is filled with facts and stories of his successes, as well as an honest portrayal of a colorful, eccentric man “cursed with clarity” who proved to be a born teacher as well as a born warrior. All proceeds from the biography go to West Point’s Department of Mathematical Sciences in honor of LTC (Ret.) John Harold Saxon, Jr. More can be learned about John Saxon and the book at http://saxonmathwarrior.com. (A free 16-page booklet can also be downloaded.)
A friend called last week to say that she’s decided to home school her child. She wanted to know what curriculum I use. She said that ever since Common Core came to town, her child hates school –and sadly, he especially hates math. I told her that I use pre-Common Core Saxon, but that there are many good non-Common Core math programs she can find. The point is to steer clear of Common Core aligned education products. Classical math works. It’s worked for a long, long, long, long time.
Story time: When I began to home school my son just fourteen months ago, his main complaint was being bored in school. He was then just an average student. But he wasn’t given any extra attention, nor extra challenges, as a middle of the road student at that school. He spent a lot of time being finished with his math, just reading at his desk while the teacher helped the slower children, and while the gifted children were in another classroom.
This wasn’t a good use of my son’s time. That was in his first month of fourth grade; and I said, “enough”.
Now, as a fifth grader, he loves math. He’s good at it and proud of it. He wouldn’t admit this. But I know he is. He’s already on the seventh grade math level.
He’s not being forced. He is experiencing the LOVE of learning math, alongside the love of actual autonomy. Liberty.
We slow down or speed up as we need to; our little kitchen/living room/park bench/front yard/ anyplace-we-want-to-go home school is customized to his abilities. We skip along past what he doesn’t need to over-review. We slow down and do extra on the parts he does need to work on.
And we take recess any old time we feel like it. We work hard and we take education seriously, but JOYFULLY. We don’t stress him out. We play at math, we work at math, the way we also play at basketball and at engineering and we still bake cookies and blow up home made kitchen volcanoes and wrestle the three-year-old and visit museums and play the piano or paint or play with the microscope or do deep research on some question he came up with –any time we want to.
We can take naps. We can write books. We can compose music. We can talk as long as we want to about what we learn in history, geography, languages. We are in charge of us.
And he’s sprinted ahead, two years ahead of his grade level in math.
Why do I tell you this? Am I just bragging? No. I am rejoicing. There is freedom in this country to homeschool –or to private school or to public school. (One can not legally home school in MANY places– even in Germany or Sweden, where I spent much of my early life– these supposedly “free” countries. I thank God for this freedom in America.
My high schooler attends public school. Sadly, she and I both realize that she has lost the love of learning. She does the bare minimum to get a decent grade. She doesn’t like math. She doesn’t like science. She doesn’t even like English anymore. It’s dreary now. She puts up with it and then she reads what she actually enjoys reading at home.
Is this just my imagination? Is there an actual, national tragedy going on, that schools under Common Core are sapping the love of learning away from students? Is it to be blamed on the “human capital” angle, the factory view of humanity; just processing people to prepare them to be worker bees rather than preparing them to be free, original thinkers, forging their own paths in life?
I think so.
But there’s one more thing. My son’s math success story is not, as some of my friends suppose, because I happen to be a credentialed teacher.
It’s because I’m a mom who loves to learn. I believe in REAL, classical education, where we teach what’s been time-tested for centuries, and teach a love of learning and a love of God. We do not teach toward a test that politicians and businessmen have hung their career hats on (and have then shoved down others’ throats.) That’s increasingly what public school teachers must do, and what they now also must advocate for. Shudder!
The love of home learning explains why I like this news clip so much. The t.v. clip explains that parents in Oregon are pulling their students out of Common Core math classes to teach them real math at home.
I can’t get the clip to embed, so click here to see the Oregon TV News clip or read more about it at The Blaze.
It’s good to know that there are options. There may be people for whom Common Core makes sense and fits. But it’s not for everyone.
One size does not fit all– never has, never will.
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.
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?
There are as many ways to homeschool as there are recipes for bread.
People keep asking me what curriculum I’m using, now that I’ve started to homeschool. There are way more resources and ideas than time!
For those who doubt their abilities but want to homeschool I would say to trust yourself. Freed from the governmental schools’ mandates that force teachers to spend precious academic time teaching programs like the anti-bullying, anti-drug awareness, going to assemblies and events that may or may not be a wise academic use of time, you will have so much time to teach that you can hardly avoid doing a great job. You are doing a one one one, customized education and you know your child better than anyone.
Research shows that even parents with low education levels turn out students with better educations than their public school counterparts. This is probably a combination of the customization of that child’s learning, the one-on-one tutoring, the attention, the bond, the love. http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/himmelstrands-speech-to-swedish-parliament-let-families-be-secure/
Here comes a list of homeschooling directions I’ve taken that are working, as I’ve gone from after-school supplementing (for the past two months) to fulltime homeschooling for my fourth grade son.
(Some people like free resources from government school systems, but I don’t trust them. I would not take a “free” curriculum from the government schools, personally, because much of it will tend toward “progressive” thinking and “sustainable” education, which is “progressing” learners away from the Constitutional, godly, independent vision of our Founding Fathers. I use time-tested classic, traditional methods. Not trendy “new” reforms no matter how good they sound; I sense that they cheat students of old-fashioned excellence and solid formulas and knowledge. Also, keep in mind that if you don’t want your child’s abilities and personal information tracked, you don’t want to be in online state systems that track the kids via SLDS and P-20 alliances.)
1. MATH: Using the free placement test on the Saxon math site, I tested my son and then purchased a used copy of a Saxon text book from Amazon. Love it. He’s soaring fast. http://www.learningthings.com/samples/SAX/SAX_Middle-Grades-Math.pdf
2. HISTORY AND SCIENCE Using the Core Knowledge Colorado website (not to be confused with Common Core!) I have found wonderful worksheets on, for example, the circulatory system, the respiratory system, American history, etc. This goes along with the book “What Your Fourth Grader Needs To Know” -which we read from as well, almost every day. http://www.ckcolorado.org/lessons/4thgrade.asp I also enjoy http://www.weatherwizkids.com/ for science, where children can learn what things are and then create easy experiments.
3. GEOGRAPHY I’m using the CIA World Fact Book to have my son look up facts about countries. I asked him to draw South America and label each country and capital, for example. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ar.html
4. SCRIPTURES We read scriptures every day. Sometimes, we watch the scripture stories on the computer http://www.lds.org/media-library/video/new-testament-storiesor read from Picture The Scriptures http://picturethescriptures.blogspot.com/. Most days, we write a verse in cursive right after we read, to practice our cursive writing.
5. SOCIAL STUDIES After we learned about the main handful of mountain ranges in the world, we decided to start to study one area at a time. We learned that Machu Picchu is in the Andes, and then we watched the National Geographic special (4 part) about Machu Picchu. He was fascinated.
6. SWEDISH Because we’re a bilingual family, I’m using Swedish fairy tales, Swedish Astrid Lindgren books, and making little vocabulary worksheets for my son, as well as having him practice his cursive in Swedish when we do cursive.
I also love the Swedish YouTube videos, and would recommend Karlsson på Taket, Nicke Nyfiken, Alfons Åberg, Anke och Pytte, Hopphatten, Draktränaren, Ronja Rövardotter, etc. Sample:
7. CULTURE A friend just introduced me to these sites and I will try them this week: http://www.zionvision.com/movies/ziontube/category/classification/presentation/ and http://josephsmithacademy.org/inspira/maps/v2/#zoom=3&markerid=null&geocode=null&type=null
8. GRAMMAR AND WRITING: We write essays. Complete sentences, a full page– or very close to it. We also do short mini-lessons to review everything from where commas go, to what a semicolon is, to parts of speech games (“I say ‘noodle’ and you say ‘noun’. I say ‘tall’ and you say ‘adjective’”), to diagramming sentences, learning subject-verb agreement, learning 1st 2nd 3rd person, etc. I keep these short but do them often. I also like http://www.folger.edu/template.cfm?cid=588 –And I use the UVU curriculum that I used when I taught remedial English. I also use schoolhouse rock YouTube videos to make it fun:
9. TECHNOLOGY I have my son make powerpoint presentations with sentences and pictures. He did one on zombies, one on Legos, one on Disney. He chooses the topic so far. I plan to have him do one on a patriot, a prophet, a hero, an explorer or an inventor later.
10. FIELD TRIPS We do field trips and virtual field trips. We study outdoors, in the car on the way to the park, at the park, at the kitchen table, on the living room couch. We begin by 9:00 and end by 2:00, usually. We are flexible. We go the extra mile. When the 2 year old is being difficult and trying to sit on the math book, we move homeschool to the bathroom. We study on stools next to the bathtub while the 2 year old plays in the tub for an hour or two. It works!
This week, we’re going to Brigham Young University’s free chemistry “magic show” for one field trip, and to the Museum of Art for another. We also went to play basketball at the recreation center this week. When we drive, we talk. We don’t let the radio take over. We might practice multiplication tables while we drive, or discuss interesting things and learn/teach that way. I might tell him the plot of a great novel he’s too young to read. I might tell him what it was like to do all the different jobs I’ve ever worked. I might tell him genealogy stories about his ancestors. I might tell him stories about World War II or the Revolutionary War or what the differences are between Obama and Romney. We communicate nonstop. We really don’t waste any time.
A few virtual field trips we enjoyed this week: http://www.areavibes.com/library/online-field-trips-for-students/
Remember– prayer, parental instinct and a sense of joy about learning with a determination to achieve great things are the real key. –Not a certain curriculum. Not a common core.
Even though the elementary school my son attended up until this week is one of the friendliest, most parent-involved and teacher-dedicated school I’ve ever seen, I decided to homeschool.
My decision to homeschool is not a political statement, although I am vehemently opposed to the Common Core Initiative which has taken over our schools.
It’s not an attempt to shield my son from the pegging that happens with high stakes testing; I had already opted us out of all high stakes, standardized tests at the elementary school.
Although I am a certified teacher with an up to date credential and many years’ experience teaching in schools, I am not basing my decision on that; research I’ve seen by Jonas Himmelstrand, and by others, has shown that even children taught at home by parents with low education levels turn out better educated kids, on the whole, than kids who are taught in public school systems.
My decision was not an attempt to hide from the citizen surveillance program that has recently been implemented via the SLDS and P-20 systems in each state, although I am vehemently opposed to that, too. (BTW, the fact that kids can’t attend school without being personally tracked was verified in an email to me by Lorraine, the secretary of the Utah State School Board that is posted on this site.)
I’m homeschooling because one-on-one, customized tutoring is more effective than teaching in large groups. I’m homeschooling because I can eliminate things I don’t feel are important and make more time for things I feel are important. Example: I have time to teach him things that public schools do not prioritize, such as not only reading and math and social studies, but also geography, cursive, Swedish, diagramming sentences, reading scriptures, analysis of government and liberty. I’m homeschooling because my son wants me to. He asked me to.
Friends have been asking me what I am using.
- Lined paper and a pencil, because I want him to have great handwriting, the ability to write in cursive, and no spellcheck until he’s older.
- A computer, because he can create powerpoints based on what he’s learned, and practice typing, and find maps and dictionaries, etc.
- Saxon math, because it’s “real” math, traditional math, and there’s an online placement test before you buy the text book. I love it.
- “What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know” because I used this line of books when I taught elementary school a few years ago and liked it.
- CK Colorado because it’s a free website with lesson plans that match the “What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know.”
- Swedish Fairy Tales.
- The Scriptures.
- The same grammar books I used for remedial students when I taught English at UVU
- Mad Libs.
- The CIA World Factbook and maps on the internet to teach geography.
- Virtual Field Trips (online: to an apple cider factory, woolen mill, surfboard factory, museums worldwide, Machu Piccu via National Geographic YouTube, etc.)
- Real Field Trips (there are so many things close by– university art and science museums, farms, airports, libraries, historical sites)
And, to ensure he’s not socially left out, I also have him in karate three times a week, boy scouts, church, and I encourage neighbor and sibling play time all afternoon, and I’ve joined the Utah County homeschooling association and will probably do things with them as well.
Ironically, in the October 15, 2012, issue of the National Review, there’s an article called The Last Radicals“The Last Radicals: Homeschoolers Occupy the Curriculum” that came out, ironically, the same week that I decided to homeschool my own fourth grade son.
The author, Kevin D. Williamson, writes:
<!—-> There is exactly one authentically radical social movement of any real significance in the United States, and it is not Occupy, the Tea Party, or the Ron Paul faction. It is homeschoolers, who, by the simple act of instructing their children at home, pose an intellectual, moral, and political challenge to the government-monopoly schools, which are one of our most fundamental institutions and one of our most dysfunctional. Like all radical movements, homeschoolers drive the establishment bats.
In the public imagination, homeschooling has a distinctly conservative and Evangelical odor about it, but it was not always so. The modern homeschooling movement really has its roots in 1960s countercultural tendencies; along with A Love Supreme, it may represent the only worthwhile cultural product of that era. The movement’s urtext is Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, by A. S. Neill, which sold millions of copies in the 1960s and 1970s. Neill was the headmaster of an English school organized (to the extent that it was organized) around neo-Freudian psychotherapeutic notions and Marxian ideas about the nature of power relationships in society. He looked forward to the day when conventional religion would wither away — “Most of our religious practices are a sham,” he declared — and in general had about as little in common with what most people regard as the typical homeschooler as it is possible to have.
“People forget that some of the first homeschoolers were hippies,” says Bob Wiesner, a counselor at the Seton Home Study School, a Catholic educational apostolate reporting to the bishop of Arlington, Va. In one of history’s little ironies, today most of homeschooling’s bitterest enemies are to be found on the left. “We don’t have much of a problem from conservatives,” Wiesner says. “It’s the teachers’ unions, educational bureaucrats, and liberal professors. College professors by and large don’t want students who can think for themselves. They want students they can indoctrinate, but that’s hard to do with homeschoolers — homeschoolers push back.”
Full Article here: https://www.nationalreview.com/nrd/articles/328699/last-radicals