Education: Fowc with fandango

written for Fandango:

My view of education in the Us


As an educator I have a mixed view of public education in the United States. I think there are many great schools and there are some fantastic educators, but I see a problem, as do many educators like myself. Now all of these things are all my opinion and there will be many contradictions and arguments that what I am saying is accurate. That is fine, I am not claiming to have done studies on this.  

Great things about education in the US:  

  • High expectations in many schools 
  • Funding in non-poverty areas 
  • Building new facilities 
  • STEM education 
  • Free education for all 

My list of things I think are on the poor side is a bit longer and I am stating that this is all my opinion and does not represent any specific school, district, or state.  

  • Problems with learning are not identified early enough in the primary grades 
  • Economic discrepancies determine the quality of education in many areas 
  • We are not sufficiently globally competitive 
  • Technology is too distracting, rather than helpful 
  • Administrators are not in a position to make necessary changes, based on what their teachers are saying, because of the bureaucracy of school systems. 
  • Schooling still relies on familial involvement, however, with the breakdown of traditional families, there is not always support available for children outside of the school.  
  • Children don’t value education and view themselves as lucky to have a free education. 

I do believe there are many qualities of our educational system that are great. There are some great teachers who really care about the kids. There are schools that are able to provide everything kids need to learn. The biggest problem is that the US cannot say that their schools are even slightly, consistently equal across the country.  

Do I have a solution? No. I don’t know if there is a solution. The issues are so big and there are so many players. What do you think? How is it in your country? 

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: Z 04/30/2020

Zeal for learning: how to make it happen

This is my last official post for Blogging A to Z in April.

Not everyone thinks learning is fun.
Not everyone has knowledge of everything.
Everyone CAN learn.

Kids nowadays have so much technology and other activities that learning seems like a chore. As adults it is our responsibility to show them that everything we know is “stuff” we learned. It is also important to emphasize that even as adults we are still learning. Kids need to see that we want to learn because there is always something new to learn. And learning can both bring enjoyment and be enjoyable.

For those kids who struggle academically, they also need to be taught that people do learn at different rates and although their best friend may have learned something quickly, that does not mean to give up. It means to keep going and things do take longer sometimes.

Some things to think about – why many kids don’t like “to learn”

  1. It is hard!
  2. It takes a long time!
  3. Nothing is automatic
  4. Sometimes there are a lot of steps to get to one conclusion.
  5. Sometimes you make a mistake and have to redo things, but that’s okay.
  6. Everyone learns differently. Some auditorily, by listening to instructions, while others learn visually, by watching someone do something. There are kinesthetic learners who learn best doing things hands-on. Then of course there are the majority of people who have some sort of combination. The key: FIND YOUR STRENGTHS!
  7. Sometimes the things you are asked to learn seem like they have no point to them. This occurs a lot in math. But, it is all about building blocks. Everything you learn builds to new skills. Mastering a skill means the next time you advance, you already have the beginning skills!
  8. Sometimes things are boring.

There are a few points to emphasize…

  1. Every bit of knowledge you have is a bit more than you had. It is all worth it.
  2. Working hard helps make some things easier in the long run.
  3. Learning new things opens your eyes to things you may learn to love, that you never even knew about.

Staying as positive as possible is also a plus. Don’t ever make your child feel like they are “dumb” because they are having trouble. Don’t assume slow growth is “lazy”. And sometimes silliness is a way to mask embarassment.
No one should be embarrassed to ask for help!

Contact me if you have any questions or concerns or would like to share your experience.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: Y 04/29/2020

You can learn anything

No one is born into this world knowing things. It is with experience and education that we can grow our knowledge base, whether about the world or a more specific topic.

When students, who typically struggle with academics, start a new school year or start a class with a new teacher, they think back to their learning in the past and determine how they will do for the future. What is not told to so many young people is that everyone has to learn. There is practically nothing that people know because they were born with it.

To clarify, students don’t always understand that learning occurs constantly and builds upon itself. For students with behaviors, as those are the ones I have most experience with, they have a lot of missing information, gaps in learning, due to previous behaviors or the inability to remain focused in the classroom. They HAVE to be told that the gaps can be filled in and learning CAN proceed. This unfortunately is why students, who are behind, stay behind, because the thought of having to learn everything they missed is immeasurable, in their minds.

What is the point?

  1. Everyone can learn: It may not be to the same capacity as others or about the same things others may learn, but any new information is learning!
  2. Don’t give up because of gaps: There are faster ways to fill in missing gaps in learning. There are ways that you can work around deficiencies, so as to grow as a learner.
  3. Everyone learns differently: Just because someone else in your class doesn’t seem to even pay attention, but learns anyway, it isn’t because they just have the knowledge, it’s just that they don’t show their learning in the same way.
  4. Learn on your own: learning doesn’t have to be about worksheets and school lessons. The more you try to learn the more you grow academically. This can be in the form of a magazine article or a youtube video.
  5. Remember that knowledge brings a sort of confidence to a person: The more you learn the better you feel about yourself. The better you feel about yourself, the more motivated you will to continue learning.

Keep a positive attitude and let students know that learning takes time and effort, nothing comes for free.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: X 04/28/2020

Examine what works

By this time most children have been out of school for many weeks.
What have you been doing at home to promote learning? Do you “read” the house? Do you “label” the house:?” Was your child excited by any of your homeschool ideas?

Make a list, with or without your child about what things they did to learn, that were fun. Keep that list handy and go back to the ideas they enjoyed. Learning is more apt to grow when kids can be excited about learning.

Let me know what other ideas you came up;

Learning with kids: Things to do!

I have posted a few blogs and this morning saw this from Milwaukee With Kids. It confirms my posts but adds a whole lot of other ideas for staying home with kids and making learning fun!

Here are some other sites that might have a few new fresh ideas!
CuriOdyssey Science Playground:
This site has activities for kids that focus on science and hands-on learning

Free Stem Activity Guide:
This guide has activities for science fun at home using things you find around the home. Most of the projects require things like glue, tape, scissors, and a ruler.
This site has activities around writing, scavenger hunts at home, and exercises for you and the kids right in your own home, no extra equipment is needed!

Parade Magazine: 125 Things to do!
This article has some great ideas for sparking kids imaginations. Some of them, like building a cardboard fort, may require a few materials, but many are items you can find around the home. It has many links to sites, youtube videos, even an article on making elephant toothpaste!

Staying at home without new ideas can lead to boredom and aggravation for parents who really do need to get adult things done. A lot of the sites and activities I have mentioned require minimal parental input (unless your kids are too small to do independent activities).

Have fun!

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: W 04/27/2020

Writing and loving it

Some kids love to write others fight it with everything they can. What makes this difference? Some of the desire to, or lack of desire, to write comes from the feedback children receive on their writing. Topic also has a lot to do with wanting to write.

When I was teaching, I had students (this is high school)that never wrote more than a few sentences at one time. What happened to kids being given 15 minutes to write and they fill a page? One of the messages they conveyed to me is that, as the teacher, I was going to say it was all wrong anyways! STOP! What?

As an educator, we all want children to grow into young adults with competitive writing skills, those that will help them move forward in life among so many other bright and talented people from all over the world. That can happen but you can’t expect it to happen before they feel comfortable writing more than a few sentences. One of my main rules was this: Do Not Erase Anything! Only Add To It! This rule helped my students see that no matter what they wrote we could find some use for it in the finished project. Not only did this encourage students to write, they also loved to see how “adding on” makes it look like they are writing tons of material.

The other problem I faced was topic of writing. There was a semester where students were asked to complete a report for their Health/Life Skills class, on any relevant sickness or medical issue in current news. Of course most of them picked Marijuana and legalization, what it does to you, how there aren’t many long term studies, etc. The kids picked this topic because at the time it was the one topic, here in the US, that was big. But what about the kids who didn’t really have an opinion? I would tell them, if you get to pick the topic, pick something that you want to learn more about. Given this perspective, I used to also let students choose their own topics for most of the 1st quarter of a school year, just to get them to write about things they like. Give it a try….Write about something you are passionate about and the words flow like water!

Not everyone is going to love writing. I have even heard before that there are authors who don’t particularly like to write, but do so because they like to be a storyteller!

For the real young kids, have them pick out their favorite book, and they can copy the pages onto their own paper and maybe even make their own illustrations. Remember to let them know that all rights still go to the author since they are copying someone else’s work. It is never to early to teach copy write laws and plagiarism!

Finally, give kids a variety of options for writing. Writing can be letters to a best friend, a short story for a younger sibling or cousin, or a how-to book about their favorite cookies.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: V 04/25/2020

Verifying information

According to Webster, verify means: make sure or demonstrate that (something) is true, accurate, or justified.

Why is this important and why do we have to tell our kids to do this?

Well, first of all fake news is now “real” news! You honestly can’t tell between the two. To know if what you hear or read is actually true you have to address it from multiple angles to see if things are consistent.

I think it is also very important to teach children that you can relay information but you have to give rights to the people who deserve it. When I was teaching high school it was amazing how many kids didn’t understand the true meaning of plagiarism. You can agree with anything you want, but you can’t call it your own. I think by ingraining this in young kids they will be more apt to want to develop their own things.

It isn’t just about teaching children about verifying information it is also important to teach them how to identify reliable sources. It is comical to see that a student will use Facebook as their source! Also, there are so many magazines and online sites that say they are reliable, but the articles on their sites are not backed up by any sort of research.

Teaching children about verifying information is a form of teaching children honesty and integrity.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: U 04/24/2020

Understanding a child’s frustration

As adults we have so many obligations, chores, expenses, things to do. We don’t need to tell the kids why we are busy, but they need to know that adults do have things that have to get done.

In a child’s life, they also feel they have things that have to get done. These things may not seem like serious obligations to an adult but to a child, especially one that is home all day without other children, they are. It is our responsibility as the adult to try and understand what there frustration is all about.

I’m sure by now you are all getting used to my examples…They are the easiest way to demonstrate my own thinking.

It is already past bedtime. Teeth haven’t been brushed, toys are still all over the floor but Jenny insists she has to send a message to her friend Veronica. What in God’s name could Jenny have to tell Veronica that can’t wait until the morning? What could be that important? To an adult, maybe nothing. To a child, it’s a matter of having something important to say. Their ideas are important.

Disclaimer: Again, I am not saying that kids should be able to negotiate their directives from parents. All I am saying is that you might want to ask why something is so important to them that it can’t wait. If they have a real good reason then that is important. If they can’t come up with a good reason, that is a learning moment where they learn that some things CAN and SHOULD wait.

My whole point is that children need to feel like they are being listened to. They are still the child and still are required to mind their manners and obey rules, but they can still express themselves. It doesn’t have to turn into a fight or a screaming match. If you give a directive and they have an excuse you could say something like this: “Okay, I see that you don’t want to do as I am telling you. Explain to me why, but remember it may NOT change my mind and you MAY be asked to do something regardless.” If you keep the ball in your court that is fine, but you can still listen to what they have to say from their side of the net!

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: T 04/23/2020

Telling versus teaching

By now most parents have learned how to homeschool, even if only a little. We want to make sure our children are getting as much knowledge as we can put into their little heads. So what is the difference between teaching a child versus telling them something? The difference is engagement!

When you think you should tell your child that they should make their bed in the morning when they wake up, that is fine, but not always heeded without a warning or consequence. Instead teach them why they should do it? Talk to them and ask them why it would be better to make the bed rather than leave it a mess all day. Maybe neither of you have a good answer, well then brainstorm a list of pros and cons! A pro might be that dust can’t settle on the sheets where you lay your body. A con might be that you just make it a mess again so why bother? There are pros and cons to everything!

Disclaimer: I am not trying to say that we should reason with our children and allow them to decide what does or does not get done. On the contrary, you are teaching them why you are requiring it! That makes a difference. For example, If I tell little Bobby to rinse his plate before putting it in the dishwasher, he’ll do it a few times and then that might peter off. If you teach them why they should do it, it might make more of an impact. Dirty dishes grow bacteria faster. Old food particles mold. Ants eat left over crumbs, even in the dishwasher!

Here are a few other examples of things that are pretty common:
Turn off the TV when you aren’t watching it! versus Do you understand why you should turn off the TV when you aren’t watching? Maybe they have a good idea of it, but by having the conversation you are helping to strengthen their knowledge and memory and also validating their ideas.
Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, even at home! versus Do you understand why you should always wash your hands after using the bathroom, even at home where the bathroom looks clean?
Clean up the toys on your floor! versus Do you think you can come up with a few reasons why leaving toys on the floor might be dangerous?

Sometimes turning something into a discussion or having the child explain it to you, seems less threatening or punishing, which will then help the child to retain the information better. Just think, if you are in a lot of trouble and someone is yelling at you to do this and get that done….blah, blah, blah….How much are you going to remember? Probably only how loud they yelled or why you got in trouble in the first place!

It is okay to let children know they can talk about your decisions even if the conversation DOESN’T change anything!!!!!!!

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: S 04/22/2020

sealed with a kiss

It is 2020 and technology keeps the world spinning. What would we do without email or texting? What about now, in isolation, without facetime or even just the mobile phone? Not everyone has the latest gadgets or gizmos, which is fine.

What does this have to do with education?

Children nowadays don’t write for fun. They may text for fun, but with the abbreviations and slang they really aren’t learning the language correctly.
In the midst of isolation and social distancing, write a letter! I know, the inconvenience of buying stamps can be a turn off but if you buy a few to have on hand, children can write to family and friends so easily and feel so good about it!

Writing letters is so different than speaking to people on the phone. When you write a letter you often go back and reread what you wrote. You may erase something or reword it, because it sounds awkward. You might write a whole page on what your new stuffed animal looks like and what it’s name is. This is all learning to write! It is using grammar, punctuation, spelling, learning about adjectives, nouns, verbs…They may not all be 100% correct, which is okay to, it is this practice that helps to develop the ability to then go and edit your own work.

One of the beautiful things about writing letters and sending them in the old “snail-mail” is that sometimes you get a letter back! And who doesn’t love getting mail that you actually WANT to open?

Encourage kids of all ages to write to family members. Give them ideas of things to write about…..

  • Things they are doing at home to keep busy
  • Work they have completed for an online assignment.
  • Favorite television shows or even video games.

For any topic there are so many things that can be said. They might want to tell an uncle about the video game they are playing. Have them write down what the object of the game is or what you have to do to move forward in the game. They might want to tell Grandma about the book they just read. Instead of just writing the title, write a book review. How many stars would they give the book?

Get kids interested in expanding their ideas and really making those ideas grow into new ideas. This is one of the best teaching strategies you can do at home!!