Non-traditional learning

by Louise

Why Unschooling Is the Next Wave of Home-Based Education for Kids

What is Unschooling?

Unschooling 101

I know families who are homeschooling their kids. In these families the mother was already at home and for whatever reason, starting very early the decision was made not to send the kids on to traditional schools. These families follow curriculums put out by publishing companies. For high school they are thinking of supplementing with online courses. This is still not unschooling which goes a step further.

Does your family or people you know follow non traditional learning approaches? How has that worked out?

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138 thoughts on “Non-traditional learning

  1. The parents I’ve known tend to be “non-traditional”, but not weird IMO. The kids are a mixed bag, but generally with good social skills, at least compared to typical public school kids I know. The kids tend to be assertive and confident, with many pursuing individualized education goals. These are mainly middle and high schoolers.

  2. I have never considered home schooling my kids mostly because I’d like them to still be alive when it comes time for their high school graduation. Also, DD (who is in high school) has reached the point in science and math where I can no longer help her (let alone teach her).

    I do have a friend who will be doing a combination of homeschooling and alternative private school for her 10th grader this year and I can see why she’s doing so. He was really struggling in school, the school was not at all helpful, he was also dealing with depression, and she needs to break the cycle and get him back on track. If one of my kids was struggling or dealing with severe bullying that the school wouldn’t address, then I could possibly see homeschooling. Or on the flip side, if my kid was a high achiever and the school couldn’t meet my kid’s needs (which it sounds like several people on this board have to deal with), I could also see homeschooling.

  3. We have known people who home school for various reasons. Here are my observations:

    1. Some are setting their kids up for failure later in life, as they are very free form and not bound by schedules or externally created rules. Learning how to deal with these things, especially rules you may not agree with 100%, are skills you will need in college and the work world.

    2.Some are not truly preparing their kids for the rigors of college or work in that they pick curriculums they are comfortable with that do not seem to challenge the children and/or are not truly on par with curriculums in the local schools.

    3. Some are home schooling to ensure their children ONLY learn information consistent with their religious beliefs. One family I am aware of ONLY teaches creationism and does not include any material outside of their belief system, which means for them many of the “classics” in literature are not read.

    4. Some are home schooling due to an illness that means the child misses too many days of school to be promoted to the next year. The people we know who did this, it was more of a 1-2 year time until the child’s condition was under control or the child recovered.

    5. Some are home schooling to allow a child to participate in elite sports (like Olympic training) that are so time demanding in practice and/or travel that standard school is difficult.

    About unschooling – I think that is what parents do at home. My DD#2 was very interested in cooking, but hated fractions in math. We started halving and doubling recipies (especially ones with 1/8 or 3/4 tsp of ingredients) and all of a sudden the fraction thing made sense because it was grounded in something concrete. Scouting is also based on this concept of experiential learning. But, IMO, this all works for lower grades or certain subjects, but I am not sure how you work all the content of middle school and high school in with this theory.

  4. I’m fascinated by the efficiency angle of this. You’re in school for: 6.64 hours on average per day, for 180 days a year, for 13 years, for a total of 15,538 hours. With a customized approach and the right parent and kid, I bet you could achieve the same level of proficiency with 1/3 as many hours.

  5. I’m curious what some ‘unschooled” teens do after this is over and how THEY feel about the situation-how they adapt to formal education and/or a work environment, and if they would do the same for their children.
    Hearing a mother’s perspective on how great it was for her son is not the same as a first person , honest account.

  6. As LfB mentioned the other day, I also have assumptions that are so ingrained that I don’t even think about certain things in unique ways. Homeschooling is one of those things that I’ve always thought of as a fringe practice. I also thought of it as a lifetime commitment to a certain lifestyle. In hindsight, I wish I had been more open. The first writing standardized test in 4th grade brought my son’s long-simmering anxiety to a head, with him eating virtually nothing and sleeping only about 4 hours a night, and beginning some very clear anxiety-related behaviors. I should have pulled him out of the public school at that point and gotten a handle on things, calling it homeschool for those last 6 weeks of fourth grade, then putting him back in public school for fifth grade when things were better.

    Both my kids have gone to school with kids who have been homeschooled at some points. A friend who home schools sends her kids to classes with large groups (100s) of other homeschool kids. They like it so much, the kids have asked to do more of their subjects there. How that is different from school, I am not clear.

    My favorite has been in college tours where the speaker explains the role of class rank in admissions here. At each one we attended, student after student would say “what if you’re homeschooled?”, not five minutes after the another homeschool student had asked and the question has been answered. It’s also addressed on the admissions website of every school. (My kids’ schools don’t rank, so had looked up the answer on the website prior to our visit). One student replied “then you’re first in your class!”, to which my daughter whispered “you’re also dead last”.

  7. I also agree with AustinMom-learnign through interests is a natural part of parenting- in my case a tv show led to a hobby (metal detecting) which led to history lessons, money discussions, etc.-all “unschooled learning” and very valuable

  8. “With a customized approach and the right parent and kid, I bet you could achieve the same level of proficiency with 1/3 as many hours.”

    Rhett – ITA.

    I’ve known plenty of homeschoolers who have done it for a variety of reasons. One was a very Totebaggy full professor who didn’t think that anyone else was smart enough to teach his kids. I’ve got some kooky cousins who fancy themselves homesteaders, so homeschooling is just part of the deal there. Other cousins move around a lot with a U.S. government job at the SES level, and they’ve gone in and out of homeschooling depending on the particular kid, the district in which they find themselves, and probably a dozen other whims of the moment. The wife of my old boss homeschooled their kids, and one did well enough to excel in engineering at the flagship state university. I knew at least one girl in college who had been homeschooled from K-12, and she was successful there, with an abundance of that confidence and assertiveness that CoC mentions (the only quirky thing was that she seemed to lack any sense of irony).

    Our kids seem to mostly enjoy school, and they have an easier time focusing at school than they do at home. Plus, school is free and requires minimal effort on our part; homeschooling would carry a significant opportunity cost. I would, however, like to be freed from the school calendar, but oh well.

    I’m sure all the options will continue to expand. We’re a society that favors ever-increasing levels of customization and individualization, and technology can certainly facilitate that. It will probably have a neutral or positive effect on middle-class kids, and it will have a somewhat negative effect on the poor kids who will lose the benefit of exposure to engaged parents in the public schools. Of course, the share of the tax resources will be slightly higher for them, but that will also be tempered by fewer parents with a vested interest in the quality of the public schools.

  9. One of the points I intended to include, but somehow managed to forget in my long-winded comment, was that if the situation changes down the road for us, if one of our children is suffering from painful bullying or is just really unhappy at school, I think we’d be willing to give a year of homeschooling a try. The older they get, the more they can do self-directed online.

  10. I have two friends that did not choose to home school their HS kids, but the kids refused to go to school.

    They happen to live in separate towns in NJ, so I’m only familiar with that state and the services available.

    I was surprised to learn that school districts will send teachers or other services to your home if your kid won’t go to the school.

    The kids had completely separate issues, but ultimately related to depression and anxiety.

    One ended up in an alternative school supplemented by some online classes. The other kid never returned to school, and she was home schooled by mom and a couple of teachers from her district.

    I have one friend that is local and she pulled her two kids out of elementary school in our district. She tried it for a year, and now the kids are back on school. They hated it because they missed their friends and all of the other activities in school.

  11. Homeschooling sounds like torture to me. I can see doing it if your child has a very specific issue (like an illness or severe anxiety), but beyond that, no thanks!

  12. You could not pay me enough to homeschool my child. If she had some sort of legitimate special circumstances (illness, elite sport, acting career, etc.) I would hire tutors or find an accommodating private school. In “normal” circumstances, I believe that public school offers a good approximation for issues you need to learn to deal with in life. Since I have a healthy non-prodigy with somewhat above-average intelligence and we live in a somewhat above-average school district, I’m not going to any great lengths to do anything special.

  13. Cat,

    I think you’re assuming it would take 6.6 hours a day 180 days a year. It might take 2 hours a day 3 days a week 8 months a year.

  14. Those 6 hours/week would be torture. My kids are much better behaved for others. They save their special craziness for me. Mama Cat needs the break that school provides.

  15. ITA that with a targeted program at your child, school will take less time. I hear that frequently from DD#1 who gets frustrated with repetition in some classes both class time spent and homework. Also, as they get older, with the correct personality and motivation, they can do more online classes and/or community college classes for HS.

  16. We know a handful of home schoolers, some of whom are pretty religious and some who aren’t. They must be only soft core though, b/c they all sent the kids to school for HS. They are all in college now and doing spectacularly, but it’s impossible to know if that’s b/c of the homeschooling, the HS experience or the kid.

  17. My kids are much better behaved for others.

    That is a good point. To work both parent and child would have to be a good fit for their respective roles.

  18. I know at least a couple dozen homeschooling families and took steps to ensure homeschoolers know they are eligible for the essay contest I chair. Usually, at least one of our winners is homeschooled. I think some people are poorly suited to homeschooling, but if the supervising parent is well-educated, you can cover the material in 1/3 of the typical time, as Rhett noted. Homeschooled kids I know have gone into engineering and physics very successfully, and I’ve already noted the one who went to community college and then transferred to Stanford in linguistics for her last couple years. (the budget Stanford option :) I believe she’s now a homeschooling mom herself.

    I would consider homeschooling in middle school, if my children understand that they have to do their work without my having to hassle them. I am particularly inclined to do this if the schools continue to keep all children on the same math track, as Common Core is interpreted to require.

    To me, the main disadvantages of homeschooling are income loss and the lack of adult social interaction for the educating parent. Online academies are pretty good and getting better. Online courses in subjects like foreign language are becoming more available.

    My response when people asked me why I didn’t homeschool my twins for kindergarten was, “And keep them from getting to ride the bus and go to recess and lose my chance to grocery shop in the morning in peace?”

  19. The efficiency is especially notable when compared to kids going to school for 7 hours and then having 3 or more hours of homework. The kid can have a much fuller life if he’s only devoting 5 or less hours to school work compared to 10+ hours each day. He can work, pursue a sport or hobby, and still be able to have dinner with his family. (Or, he can just have more time to watch stupid YouTube videos.)

  20. Unschooling in its full sense is a fringe movement. The child directs the learning, and the parent has to adapt to the child’s interests to stuff in the math and reading and science. There is an assumption that the child’s natural curiosity will be suffice, as long as there is no access to continuous electronic stimulation. An extremely unstructured method might not be culturally acceptable to me, but I have seen it work with one bright child and at least one immersed parent, often in a rich urban environment. I don’t think rural kids with lots of chores around the property and multiple sibs and church on Sunday, even if the regular lessons are not from a mail order house, can be said to be products of unschooling. They have a lot of imposed structure in their lives and don’t drive the family bus. Structured homeschooling has become fairly routine in the past 15 years, from religious adherents to the super professor types or the spelling bee champs. I wasn’t familiar before this blog with the in and out version, helping a child over a difficult patch or making up for deficiencies in the curriculum.

  21. Just thought of another family we know. Their boys started junior college at about 16, then transferred to state 4-yr schools at 18 with about half their credits out of the way. It seems to have worked out very well for them. They were both Eagle scouts, which reminds me that there are some homeschool-only troops around here. I also see kids playing tennis or basketball in our neighborhood furing the school day, so I am assuming that is their PE component and an opportunity for social interaction with peers.

  22. I’m sure DD would want me to add here that the best kids on the junior elite team on Dance Moms were homeschooled. This gave them hours and hours each day to practice dance. So, there’s that.

  23. I think the other big problem for me would be that everyone in my family does better with a little structure and interaction with people in the outside world. Unlike many on this blog, I am not an introvert.

  24. WCE – it wouldn’t have to mean loss of income. There is no reason you have to educate them during traditional school hours rather than evenings. You’d just have to figure out what to do with them while you work.

  25. “The child directs the learning, and the parent has to adapt to the child’s interests to stuff in the math and reading and science.”

    It doesn’t sound all that different than Montessori. Just substitute the parent for the teacher, and take away the tuition.

  26. My daughter has been taking math classes online since mid way thru her sophomore year. This year she is taking two AP classes. I would have loved for her to be able to take those classes at her school with a competent, nonabusive teacher. That wasn’t our reality.

    We could have put her into a private school, although that would have entailed a 35 mile commute each way. She has a coach that works very well with her, and she is fairly good in her activity, so we didn’t want her to lose that. She had to have math to graduate and hit the admissions requirements. Homeschooling was the least bad alternative. It seems that she has covered more material in her online courses than her classmates at school did. Some of them ask her for help on concepts the school just didn’t get to. She is somewhat detached from her high school, but that may just be her personality. Or maybe those traits were exacerbated by bailing on the crazy teacher. It is impossible to tell at this point.

    I should have homeschooled/sent her to private/put her in a different public school in second grade. The school was trying to convince her teacher to retire and put her in a class designed to make anyone quit. The teacher quit shortly after the end of the year, but the damage was done.

    I know a number of people who pull their kids out for a year or do. It is generally based on some combination of can’t take that teacher anymore/medical issue/bullying/just had enough. Oftentimes, they will home school for a year or two, then put their kids back.

    I also have met a few parents who keep their kids out because of compliance with fundamental religious principles. I am a religious conservative myself, but I just don’t understand that attitude.

  27. I would like to see a new paradigm for testing. I would like to see effort put toward setting standards and providing testing for people who want to be testing. This would enable people to take different paths to get to a known status at a known time. It would also make it easier to identify the quality of the paths taken. If you pass the criminal justice exam, you can go to the police academy, regardless of where you picked up the criminal justice knowledge. If you pass the Java programming test, then you can tell any employer that instead of having to pay for a degree.

  28. A Parent – I agree. The way I see it happening is the big companies decide that they can implement this on their own as a cost-savings measure. Walmart Corporate might say “It’s nice to hire accredited MBAs, but if we established our own online training program, offered it for free to anyone who wants to take it, and consider job applications from those who succeed, we can get competitive applicants at 75% of the cost.”

    It would be sort of a modern take on McDonald’s Hamburger University.

  29. Homeschooling would be a circle of hell for my family for numerous reasons. My older kid is very social and would hate not having interaction with others. My younger kid would just want to read all day and never touch any other subject. Also, I have to refer to Khan Academy to help with 4th grade math, so I am not going to be any good as a math teacher. I have found that my kids take instruction better from professionals. This is not a global condemnation but some of the homeschooling parents I have met do not appear that bright. I do, however, admire their confidence that they believe they can adequately cover all subjects.

  30. Milo – Montessori teachers, the good ones at least, go through a lot of training to both follow and guide the child. We had some exceptional ones and one who was not who let my son get so far behind on reading that we had to have tutors and extra help out the wazoo to get him back up to level in third grade.

    I am not capable both in temperament and education and skill set to homeschool, but boy have I had it with our public schools. I’m grateful that we are able to move our kids into private schools but if I couldn’t I can imagine looking for something different.

  31. Milo & A Parent,

    I doubt it would work. The 4.4 high school GPA that got you into the Stanford computer science program that you graduated from summa cum laude combine to demonstrate to future employers that you’re a workaholic perfectionist who has always done exactly what you were told exactly the way you were told to do it.

    Passing the test only shows that you could maybe do it, on your own time, if you felt it was worth doing.

  32. Rhett – I think I look at this differently only because I’ve worked with so many very smart kids who, eventually, were successfully trained to be workaholic perfectionists, but they missed out on the 4.4 GPA due only to some combination of not having the right home environment or maturity to jump through the hoops at that particular time.

  33. This is not for me, largely because of the huge disconnect between DD’s needs and my own abilities. If we both want to survive until college, it is best that someone else be the information-provider-resource. Not to mention the significant opportunity cost that Milo mentioned, as most of these seem to assume that mom is at home or at least in a really flexible job (and, sorry, Rhett, even though my kids are now old enough that the state won’t throw me in jail if I leave them at home alone all day, the last thing I want to do is put in a full day at the office and then go home and tackle school).

    But isn’t this rather insulting to teachers? The public schools we like to disparage insist on hiring only people who have received specific degrees that involve not just knowledge of the subject matter, but also how to teach that effectively. I think we all have different views on how good the quality of that education is, and whether the pendulum has swung too far toward pedagogy vs. substance, but it’s still a lot more years of training than I have (of course, given that I have none, that’s a very low bar). But it would be pretty egotistical of me to think that I could just jump in and do a better job than someone who has actually been trained to do that job — yes, I know my kid better than anyone, but that doesn’t mean I always know the best way to get through to her, to say things in a way that she will hear it (or to guide her toward her own self-enlightenment without setting off WWIII in our house). I see the way my kids’ different teachers manage their classes and get the kids engaged, and there is real skill and expertise and training that goes into that — along with a certain personality and patience that I don’t have.

    We would of course figure it out if we had no better options — bad schools, no money for private, an off-the-charts kid in one way or another. Especially with DD’s anxiety issues, there were times that I at least put homeschooling on the list (even if it was at the very very bottom). But we’re at a place now where I just don’t see a significant benefit to my kid, and the family would take a hit, so the local public remains good enough.

  34. I’ve worked with so many very smart kids who, eventually, were successfully trained to be workaholic perfectionists,

    That kind of training would tend to suck up a lot of resources that could be saved by just hiring a known quantity. Not to say the tests have no value but I think it unlikely that it would significantly impact the value of a decent degree.

  35. “The public schools we like to disparage insist on hiring only people who have received specific degrees that involve not just knowledge of the subject matter, but also how to teach that effectively. ”

    This year, my kids’ school hired a teacher who lacked both a credential and a driver’s license. She also lived over 60 miles from the school. So, the kids got a teacher who didn’t always show up, who didn’t know the subject or how to teach.

  36. I do not know one person in real life that home schools and we’ve never considered it. DD loves going to school and we’re happy with the quality so I just can’t see it ever happening. My husband would be better suited than me to home school if it ever came to that, but he earns way more money so that’s out. I wouldn’t feel confident enough in my abilities to teach math or science (I was an English major) and our family does better with the structure too.

  37. As always agree Laura! My brother and two cousins are teachers and they all have Masters Degrees and devote a great deal of effort and time to being the best they can be. Knowing something and being able to impart that wisdom are two very different things and I have such respect for those that do it well. They are inspiring and change lives truly. When I think about the different people, points of view and ideas that kids might miss being homeschooled I am reminded that there is more to school than book learning. It is where you learn to work with different people, how to co-exist with other people, you become a person there.

    Speaking of Stanford, did you see that the Business School Dean had to resign over some marital infidelity scandal. Smart men and women still subject to the same dumb choices as the hoi polloi.

  38. Moxie,

    In the lawsuit Phills filed last year in Santa Clara County Superior Court, he accuses Stanford of permitting Saloner to carry on an affair with a subordinate — Gruenfeld, a professor who was the business school’s sexual harassment advisor from 2010 to 2012 —

    Hehe

  39. The efficiency part strikes a chord with me, especially when I have to come home from work and look at homework that is incorrect due to the kids not understanding Math concepts at times. The school so far has done a good job of re-explaining things but as DS gets older I feel sometimes I am better off teaching him myself than him coming home with wrong understanding and me having to try to undo that and the battle that ensures till whatever it is, is sorted out. Also, keeping track that kid is submitting all work so that nothing is missed (a problem discussed in detail on here) is a PITA.

  40. “That kind of training would tend to suck up a lot of resources that could be saved by just hiring a known quantity.”

    The company doesn’t actually have to train them, it just has to provide the hoops to see if the person is capable or not. You can make them as difficult and arbitrary as you like.

  41. I have always been comfortable outsourcing my children’s education and then supplementing specific things, mostly math, foreign language and constructive criticism on essays. Zero desire to homeschool.

    I do agree with the test proposal idea. Kind of like specialized GEDs. Why not? They really could be appropriate markers to get people into training programs or apprenticeships.

  42. Yeah – that is the other thing. You’ve got to have a lot of confidence that you can adequately cover the subjects in a developmentally appropriately way. I have zero confidence that I could do that for every subject at various grade levels. I do think teaching is an art, and most of us don’t have the natural abilities to do it well. Not great when your child gets a teacher like that. But really not great when he/she lives with that teacher and doesn’t have the ability to change.

  43. The company doesn’t actually have to train them, it just has to provide the hoops to see if the person is capable or not.

    And what would the advantage to the company be? Being able to pay them less, I presume?

  44. “I wasn’t familiar before this blog with the in and out version,”

    I would think that would be fairly common, with one common reason being the homeschooling parent not wanting to continue.

  45. “it wouldn’t have to mean loss of income. There is no reason you have to educate them during traditional school hours rather than evenings.”

    One friend who home-schooled her daughter was a real estate agent. The home schooling was typically done M-F between about 8:30 and 11 (consistent with Rhett’s point), in no small part because that’s normally when real estate agents have time.

  46. I feel like the nature of testing is such that there would be companies who would teach test prep for a cost, to help you better game the test. The tests don’t seem to be good measurements of what you know, but of how well you know how to game the test. Whatever problems we have currently with credentialing, testing alone seems to make those problems worse.

    I have a good friend who homeschools due to bullying issues at her child’s school. I am of two minds on the whole thing. I would do it if I needed to in order to protect my kid (though I share all those concerns about my teaching ability as it would relate to my relationship with my kids). But I also feel like making it an option gives a big out to public schools. Kids don’t feel safe? Well, not our problem. You can just pull them out and deal with them at home. Public schools have never been and will never be perfect for all the needs of all of the children, but issues of bullying and testing anxiety come up with increasing frequency for kids. That seems to be a systemic problem, not the same thing as Olympic level kids.

    I’m also concerned about the long term effect of too many young kids doing only online learning. I think for high school students who want to do advanced math, etc., it can be great for a class or two. (And I know families with younger kids who incorporate a lot of social opportunities, and work directly with their kids at times during the days.) But I’ve seen families where the family chose home school because the specter of middle school was enough to freak them out. The solution was that a 10 year old was supposed to do all her schooling alone, online, in her bedroom for 3-4 hours a day, and then help run the in-home family daycare the rest of the day.

  47. “Being able to pay them less, I presume?”

    Then having a degree would still command a wage premium from companies not wanting to take risks on unknown quantities?

  48. You’d also have the problem of people quitting after passing the tests and getting a job at a competitor. Colleges get around this by charging non-refundable tuition.

  49. My daughter heard about homeschooling for the first time yesterday, and now I have a second grader on a mission: Quitting school and staying home with mom.

    She wants to get out of the reading and math classes she considers beneath her abilities.

    I’m not going to do it, because I want to go back to work.

    She also needs the social skills that she is getting (slowly) from her peers, although if she keeps getting beaten up she may get homeschooled by grandma when grandma retires.

    Some of my college and law school classmates were homeschooled, and seemed fine.

    On the other hand, I also know one family whose kid had SPD and used homeschooling as a way to avoid dealing with the SPD – which I think will be a real detriment to that kid in the long run. But I’ve been wrong before :)

  50. So, Rhett, question: efficiency in what way? I.e., what is the ultimate goal?

    ITA that homeschooling/unschooling is likely efficient from the kid’s perspective — less time on “imparting specified knowledge,” more time on fun, leisure, exploring. Sounds great!

    OTOH, you have to compare the kid’s efficiency gains against the parents’ (potential) efficiency loss – i.e., how much more time will mom and dad need to spend preparing/researching/guiding/supporting/assessing the kid’s learning, over and above the (annoying) amount of time required to stay current with existing homework and school events? And what’s the opportunity cost associated with that, in terms of $$ (e.g. lost wages), parental stress, or (God forbid) parental free time?

    I think the concept of a school system will be the most efficient from a society-wide basis, because you have one designated teacher per every 20 or 30 kids, vs. one parent per kid (not to mention that most pure economics approaches look at $$ exclusively, so you’d be weighing more free time by non-earners against lost parental wages). The losers of that, though, are the kids, who are taught less efficiently and thus lose free time, and then especially those kids who aren’t served well by the existing system.

  51. I’ve worked with so many very smart kids who, eventually, were successfully trained to be workaholic perfectionists….not bound by schedules or externally created rules. Learning how to deal with these things, especially rules you may not agree with 100%, are skills you will need in college and the work world.

    Are these things you learn? Or do you just do it when it needs to be done?

    Could it be that you could avoid 13 years of hassle and busy work and then when you get your job at Initech, you just suck it up and put the new cover sheets on the TPS reports? Do you really need 13 years of busy work to learn to deal with busy work?

  52. “Then having a degree would still command a wage premium from companies not wanting to take risks on unknown quantities?”

    Yes. But it would give the companies who are willing and able to take a risk a cost advantage. If McDonald’s didn’t have Hamburger University, and they had to rely on independent business and culinary programs to staff their supervisory-level positions, the items on the Dollar Menu would become more expensive.

    “You’d also have the problem of people quitting after passing the tests and getting a job at a competitor.”

    So be it. It’s an online course. Per-student administration costs would be very minimal. It’s like the math programs my kids’ school subscribes to, and it tracks all of their “facts” learned.

  53. amount of time required to stay current with existing homework and school events?

    It could be that teaching them at home could take less time than you’re currently spending just on homework.

  54. “The losers of that, though, are the kids, who are taught less efficiently and thus lose free time”

    Only some of the kids would be losers in that scenario. I imagine there are a lot of parents who are not capable of doing as good a job of teaching their kids as their teachers.

  55. But it would give the companies who are willing and able to take a risk a cost advantage.

    I bet the economics would work out that the employee wages would be a little bit less than the combined amortized cost of tuition and the opportunity cost of going to college. So, you’d save 3 years and $50k and think woo hoo I’m saving $800/month. But, you wages are $1,000/month lower.* $800 for tuition and opportunity costs plus a $200 risk premium to your employer.

    * including tax implications etc.

  56. “But that won’t sort of perfectionist workaholism.”

    It can, if that’s what you want to screen for. You could release every case study for review at midnight on a Friday night, then require that the answers to a long series of questions be submitted by 9 am.

    I don’t think such requirements are all that helpful, but if you just want someone who can test whether people are willing to jump through hoops and meet a bunch of stupid, arbitrary requirements when they’re stressed and tired, well, I’m your Huckleberry.

  57. “I bet the economics would work out that the employee wages would be a little bit less than the combined amortized cost of tuition and the opportunity cost of going to college.”

    We’re not talking about people who would be competitive for Wharton, obviously. But for someone who’s looking at U. of Phoenix or Strayer, or for an employer who’s considering hiring those people, this is a mutually beneficial way to remove the middleman (Strayer) whose interests are aligned only with collecting tuition and printing diplomas. This way, both employer and employee have an interest in demonstrating actual learning and skills.

  58. But for someone who’s looking at U. of Phoenix or Strayer, or for an employer who’s considering hiring those people

    That makes sense. I was thinking directional state U and above.

  59. “It could be that teaching them at home could take less time than you’re currently spending just on homework.”

    Me personally, well, it would be hard for anyone to make it under my very low bar. I did spend maybe 30 mins working with DD on her first English paper this fall, but other than that, it’s a nightly “how’s the homework status? Did you check Engrade?” Oh, and I checked Engrade myself at lunch today to check a teacher’s message and see if there were any misses yet. Of course, the emotion-per-minute quotient associated with said homework “help” can zoom off-the-charts. :-)

    Seriously, though, I think it all depends on the specifics. I could homeschool DS with a snap of my fingers — here’s a new website on LegoRobotics; here’s a story I thought you’d like; go. DH — heck, he read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica as a kid for fun. DD, on the other hand, would require a Ph.D in cat-herding + a constant influx of uppers to sustain the mental effort to keep her within the guard rails + a permanent Valium prescription to blow past the drama.

    So, yeah, I’m sure that some people can find fulfilling jobs that manage to leave then sufficient time and headspace to homeschool. I am sure there are some people for whom homeschooling would be no more difficult than supervising nightly homework (though the people I know who actually *are* supervising nightly homework don’t exactly have the personality to go free-range if they decided to take on all schooling themselves). And I’m sure it all works fabulously for some self-directed, focused, motivated kids. That’s Just Not Us. And, I submit, on average, it would still be more efficient as a whole to centralize schooling.

  60. BTW, I noticed on the DoE website of salaries 10 years out, that U. of Phoenix – Washington, DC listed a median 10-year salary above $50k. That’s in line with the prestigious flagship state U’s.

    So I think for-profits have a place.

  61. “I was thinking directional state U and above.”

    I’d possibly include them, too. And a lot of this could be targeted to current employees who have already demonstrated the necessary level of hoop-jumping and stick-to-itiveness. The employer can save money, the employee gets a little bit more of a guarantee on a return for his time, and the employer wins a little bit more loyalty, since the credential will be internal.

  62. The employer can save money, the employee gets a little bit more of a guarantee on a return for his time, and the employer wins a little bit more loyalty, since the credential will be internal.

    But would it be enough to make it worthwhile vs. the fairly marginal lifetime amortized cost of Directional State U?

  63. the employer wins a little bit more loyalty, since the credential will be internal.

    I doubt that would be true. Your degree really only matters for your first job. If you didn’t go to college but were working as an Accountant III at Spacely’s Sprockets the hiring manager at Cogswell’s Cogs would readily hire you if we assume your proposed system is in place.

  64. Sky, perhaps your daughter needs some extracurricular supplementation to her schooling, specifically in the area of martial arts.

  65. I am thinking that Oracle could administer the “10 things entry level people do with Java ” test, and the “100 things Java hot shots do in Java”, test and Google could administer the “10 things Google needs done in Java” test, and the “100 things Google superstars do in Java” test. This would take the place of a lot of interviewing. People could see the questions ahead of time and learn the information from the internet. If you hired someone from Stanford, they may have more than just this set for skills.

    All of the people I know in computer software today, stared out as something else, most of them engineers of physical or electrical things. These tests would suit them fine.

  66. We know of a family, relatives of ours whose kids are being homeschooled by having a teacher come to their house. The rest of the time they have the grandparents take care of the kids. Both parents work. Quite a different set up from other homeschooling families

  67. Someone was asking above about perspectives from those now-adults who were homeschooled. There’s some of that here: https://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/adult-homeschoolers-speak-out-part-one-why-i-wanted-to-write-this/ .

    The experience of attending school, public or private, is going to be include both great teachers and terrible teachers. If you’re lucky the school has more of the former, but you’re going to get a mix. I would think that homeschooling would by its nature not be so mixed — if mom/dad is a brilliant teacher then lucky you, all your subjects are taught by a brilliant teacher! but if the opposite is true, you get no relief.

    If I were to homeschool I would inevitably miss the stuff I didn’t think was important, and what I thought was important would probably be influenced by where my kids’ strengths lie. Again, it’s the one-teacher effect.

    As I infer from old novels, when the moneyed Brits started sending first boys, and then an century or so later girls, to boarding schools instead of just hiring a tutor/governess, part of the thinking was that a school wouldn’t have the comforts of home and wouldn’t put up with pupils’ entitled behavior in the way that a tutor or governess might feel obligated to in a pupil’s own home. So those who still had a tutor/governess at a time when most peers went away to school would sometimes seem a bit out of place with their peers, similar to how homeschoolers are sometimes viewed today.

    Anyway, like others I prefer to just cover out of school anything I find extra interesting or think that they’re not getting enough of in school (like geography).

  68. Honolulu, I put her in kung fu after someone (you or Finn, I think) suggested it last year. It helps, but it doesn’t totally make up for the fact that she weighs 34 pounds and the older girl involved is probably 80 pounds.

    If she comes home with a mark on her, I will be putting on my litigator hat and marching into the principal’s office. Either the other girl loses her bus privileges, or I press assault charges. Simple as that.

    (This went on for 7 months last year, so in my opinion we are done with second, third and forty-fifth chances.)

  69. Whenever my kids complain about going to school, I tell them, well, we can pull you out of school, and Daddy (who is a teacher) can homeschool you. They immediately look horrified and stop complaining, as they know that my husband would be significantly more demanding of them than any of their classroom teachers.

    There are very few homeschoolers around here. There are plenty of religious schools for people who want a more conservative educational environment for their kids, and several Waldorf schools for people who are looking for a non-traditional, child-led environment.

  70. I am now doing homework with my son each day. It is not pretty for much the same way as LfB feels that she couldn’t be the greatest teacher for her daughter. I too have no training. I have no interest and even less patience. My son is 13 and knows with certainty that nothing I can say can possibly be right.

    It is ugly.

    The school doesn’t want him in aftercare because they say he turns in a better product when I help him. They are guilting me into this. Of course, our home is a war zone.

    I think they are setting me up to flunk him this year. They want to show me how hard it is to really teach my kid.

  71. PTM, I will trade you for a 13 year old girl who all of a sudden cannot make it through a morning or an evening without screaming at family members.

  72. “Again, it’s the one-teacher effect.”

    Locally, and in many other areas, there are coops or similar homeschooling groups where different teachers teach subjects in their area of expertise. It often doesn’t start until about age 10 or so. I’m pretty sure my kids would have received a better education from homeschooling than from their local public school. Here in the NYC area there is an embarrassment of riches in the types of classes available, ranging from core science to debate/mock trial to screen writing to architecture, etc. The bios of the instructors are impressive, often with advanced degrees. Some of the courses are loosy goosy, and some are rigidly structured.

    And then there are some great online courses.

  73. CoC, a coop is really more of an alternative school rather than homeschooling in the original sense, although I realize that “homeschooling” is usually the legal umbrella under which coops operate.

  74. Rhett,
    That is cool. Thanks for the link. For all you STEM people, the Boy Scouts are rolling out a STEM branch. It is coed from grades 3 to 12 and aims to get kids together with STEM pros and do projects. I am going to the kick off meeting in our area tonight. I will report back. I do not think this involves camping.

  75. I couldn’t homeschool. Back before I had kids, and when my first was really small, I sort of fancied that I could and imagined this lovely homeschooling setup. But when I realized how complicated it is to teach a small child, and how little I knew about the process, I knew this was not going to happen unless I was willing to essentially get an education degree. I realized this in particular watching various therapists work with DS2 when he was small and very delayed. The specialists knew how to do things that I never would have thought of or known about. And when DD was struggling with reading in kindergarten and first, I had no idea what to do. After a year in a pullout, and summer work with a tutor who was also a teacher, DD did catch up. If it had been just me, I probably would have made things worse.

    I have learned to have respect for what teachers know, especially the ones in the earliest grades. I haven’t always liked all of the teachers, but I do think they know more about teaching young children to read and do math than I do.

    Interestingly, having a kid in high school is now informing my own teaching. I am learning from the teachers.

  76. Milo – This is taken from one of the links. It is probably the most extreme version, but I didn’t make this up. I have forgotten how to do italics and I don’t want to be reminded of the procedure.

    Unschooling (usually considered a type of homeschooling) is student directed learning, which means the child or teen learns whatever they want, whenever they want. Learning is entirely interest driven, not dictated or directed by an external curriculum, by teachers, or by parents. For an unschooler, life is their classroom.

    a hypothetical example not Montessori at all. At the age of 7, after spending a few weeks in the summer with grandma, the child-in-charge decides that he loves cooking and wants to spend his days learning how to be a chef. (We have seen those kids on TV.) Mom is the principal parent in charge of unschooling, and has been looking forward to his becoming old enough to join her in her love of the outdoors. She had acquired the necessary equipment and has a whole lot of lessons and itineraries already prepared in her mind. She is also one of those people who really hates to cook – crockpots and prepared meals, plus Dad when he is home, are the main source of sustenance in this household. All of a sudden not only does Mom have to figure out how to incorporate math and science and culture and reading and art into cooking, she has to spend much of her day doing something she hates and does badly because the child directs the learning.

  77. I would have considered a Montessori school if we had one that went through high school. But they don’t exist here.

  78. wants to spend his days learning how to be a chef

    In my experience this usually means “I am going to make baked treats and milkshakes and leave the kitchen looking like hell,” never “I am going to take over weeknight dinner prep.”

  79. BTW, my oldest is making smoothies today in chemistry on the premise that cooking is related to lab work so it’s a fun intro to the process. My thoughts: (1) Smoothies? Really? Can’t they just make artificial wintergreen and then taste a little if it smells right? (2) Does this mean they’re only just starting lab work? (3) Mentioning in passing that you’ll be making smoothies for chemistry next week does not count as notifying mom that you will need to bring in specific ingredients on a specified day next week.

  80. HM, I have four older sisters. I remember what they were like during their teens. No way I would ever trade Junior out for a 13 year old girl. Among other things, he does not screech!

  81. What happens when the kid wants to spend five years doing an intense study of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or spend years learning everything there is to know about Rarity and Applejack?

    On cooking, when I was in 7th or 8th Grade Espanol, we had the cooking day. The recipe I found was for Spanish meatballs–albondigas, iirc. Yeah, my Mom took me to the store and paid for the ingredients, including the chorizo, which had never before been part of our repertoire.

    The thing is, she loved the meatballs that I made so much, she had me make them again and again. Make them as a side for a party they were hosting, make them when your grandparents come, make them so she could bring them to a potluck. I must have made those things an additional 20 times.

  82. mooshi, I wonder shy all of the montessori schools in the county do not extend beyond elementary. There are so many options for the younger kids, and then it is a dead end.

  83. Where I grew up there was a montessori school that went through 12th grade. I don’t know if technically they are montessori, but it was where all the montessori grade schoolers went. I knew a few of them in highschool and it sure seemed like montessori – all self study, the student picks what they want to study, open campus to come and go as you please during the day. And of course, a huge price tag to go along with it.

    The reason I knew them is because I worked with them at low paying retail jobs. So their totebaggy parents forced them to work, which was probably a good thing. They all learned to arrive to work on time, clock in, be courteous, work hard/appear to work hard. The life skills were learned there, if they weren’t learned in the classroom.

  84. I glanced at the links and I can’t agree with a philosophy that says children are oppressed. My children have neither the rights nor the responsibilities of adults. They are children.

    I also wonder if we all mean different things by “homeschooling”. Were I to homeschool, it would mean doing Khan Academy or similar for math, teaching science with a textbook/home labs because I think creating them is fun, probably hiring a tutor or taking a class for foreign language and teaching my children grammar. None of us have the gene for literature, poetry or art, so we’d probably ignore all that.

    DS1 is taking piano lessons. Right now, it requires intense supervision to make sure he gets the right notes, the right timing and doesn’t hammer the keys too badly. He is not capable of practicing on his own well and cannot identify his own errors reliably. However, he is improving and I expect that he will be able to monitor his own practice at some point. I’m pretty sure that, one-on-one, I could get my children at least as far academically as their public school teacher teaching first grade for the time with 30 kids in her class. My children’s academically advancement, is, quite appropriately, not her top priority. But as LfB pointed out, there’s an opportunity cost associated with that. Right now, I’m optimistic that whether I homeschool or not, my children will be able to go to a State U and graduate if they moderately apply themselves.

  85. If the school is really doing Montessori, they learn life skills in school. It isn’t a free for all. My daughter went to a hardcore Montessori preschool. The stress was on practical skills like cleaning the classroom, completing tasks before moving to the next thing, focusing, and cooperation. The classroom was always very quiet and neat. The children were supposed to plan their work, then take out their work materials, complete, and move to another task.

    There are a lot of schools that call themselves Montessori that are really just variants of modern progressive education. But true Montessori was always different because of the focus on practical skills.

  86. PTM, sorry you are having such a hard time with Junior. Middle School was ghastly with my son. The work got a lot better by 8th grade, but I know that Junior has challenges that other kids do not. Hang in there baby (assume on of those kittens hanging on a branch posters)

    Denver – interesting article. The biggest take away for me is how people don’t care about anyone but THEIR kid. While I’m not a fan of testing, I have always felt like it is a tax that I pay so that we can be sure that the kids who don’t have the income and involved or able to be involved parents like mine do don’t get left behind. Yes, I do realize that I am a bit of a hypocrite by sending my kid to private school and I do feel myself pulling back in involvement an advocacy in the public system since I feel like we may be moving my daughter. But the schools are indeed one of the places where abused and neglected kids get noticed and find advocates. If no one sees them, no one will know they are underfed, or missing. So in the end, just sad I guess.

  87. My 7th grade son has been bringing home English homework where he is supposed to find his spelling words in song lyrics. Thanks to the magic of google, this hasn’t been too difficult. Apparently, he isn’t supposed to use the internet for this assignment, but since he hasn’t been taught another way to do it, we are going with mr. google.

    Has anyone else seen this kind of assignment? My sense, since google autopopulated the search, is that this is fairly common. Does anyone else override the teacher on time wasting assignments?

    My only trepidation with overriding the teacher on this and other assignments comes from several years ago. Apparently, coloring assignments are used to develop fine motor control, and are not just fun. For years, the kids would come home with coloring assignments that were supposed to be fun. The Murphy family does not color for fun. We tend to find it an unpleasant task. Had I known it was useful, and not a fun thing because our family could find nothing better to do, I would have made the kids color.

    Does anyone have ideas on non offensive ways to ask a teacher if the assignment is useful or just something she thought would be fun?

  88. DS1’s homework this week is to decorate the entire outside of his composition notebook. I asked him if it was fun for him. He said no. So I’m getting out the large stickers and we’ll get it done quickly. He also has to write his very basic spelling words a bazillion times. Mr. WCE said busywork didn’t bother him in school so I curb my tongue… so far.

    I finally got a working computer, after a week at work. My comment to a personal friend was, “It’s a good thing I’m typically cynical. The first couple days, the bureaucratic incompetence was upsetting. Now, we return to the previously scheduled programming.”

  89. Murphy – I find some assignments that seem like busy work given just so that students are more likely to do them and at least open their books/notes.
    For example – studying vocabulary words. This can easily be done by a student opening the text, looking up the definition, reviewing the synonyms and seeing how it is used in a sentence. There is no need to prepare flash cards and draw on said flash cards. However many students will do the flash cards for bonus points thereby doing some studying while writing. My mother asked one of my teachers this question around busy work years ago and this was the response she got.

  90. I’ll trade you 3 (!!!) hours of sixth grade homework for a composition notebook decorating assignment. I know I should have expected it based on past of the comments from posters, but there is a lot of work for these kids to do each night at home. If each academic subject assigns
    30 -45 minutes of homework, the result is many hours of work for a MS kid. The first quiz is Friday so that adds another layer of time to study.

    I was stumped on some of the math homework, and I got DH involved. He ran into the same problems, and the result was a lot of tears. It is only the 7th day of school. I hope it gets better.

  91. @ WCE – I will send you my sticker collection which includes letters, numbers, borders, seasonal stickers (fall, thanksgiving, Christmas). I have come to the end of the sticker phase and Target has ceased to be a stop on the way to work.

  92. Apparently, coloring assignments are used to develop fine motor control, and are not just fun.

    Many video games develop fine motor control, yet you don’t see teachers assigning Call of Duty. I call BS. You can come up with a backsplanation to justify pretty much anything with a little creativity.

  93. Murphy– We haven’t hit 7th grade yet, but I’m stumped that there are spelling words in 7th grade. Really? When do they end? (I don’t remember spelling words after about…. 4th? 5th?)

    Again, I bless my dd’s teacher, who sent home a sheet with a bunch of potential spelling activities, but said basically that the only requirement is that they have to write each of the words once, they do activities with them during the week in class, and they should practice at home with whatever of those activities they like. Some kids write sentences. Some kids spell ’em with tiles. Some kids write them on their parents’ backs. Some kids (mine) just get drilled old school style in the car. Whatever works for the test.

    There are private Montessori schools around us that go up to high school, but they start at $30,000 a year. So…. no. My kids are in a public Montessori that ends up by necessity being a hybrid. Lots of Montessori elements (lots of practical life stuff in the young grades too) but held to state standards. We are big fans.

  94. “Does anyone have ideas on non offensive ways to ask a teacher if the assignment is useful or just something she thought would be fun?”

    I remember a particularly time-consuming assignment that prompted me to ask as politely as I could about its purpose. The teacher’s response was that some assignments are “non-academic”, mostly intended to “engage” the student. IOW, busywork. After that, I didn’t feel bad about letting my kid skip some assignments or me doing them in five minutes instead of having my kid spend 30 minutes or more on them.

    “There is no need to prepare flash cards and draw on said flash cards.”

    OTOH, the act of physically writing out flash cards and practicing with them is supported by research as a good way to learn in some cases.

  95. OTOH, the act of physically writing out flash cards and practicing with them is supported by research as a good way to learn in some cases.

    I’ll vouch for this. My experience was that I got much more out of the act of making flash cards (or other study guides) than actually using the flash cards or guides. Obviously everyone is different, but I’m sure a lot of people are like me and need to do something active in order to retain information.

    That’s why those “Anatomy Coloring Book” type guides work so well for a lot of people (to tie this back into the value of coloring). Same with coloring maps. The activity usually reinforces the material better than rote memorization.

  96. We have friends who are home schooling – hard to know how it is actually going, as the child is naturally quite bright and inquisitive. (He was reading easily at 4, now reading Narnia at 6 on his own). They are doing it because they want to spend more time with the kids – which I sympathize with. I feel like my school-aged children are just becoming more delightful and interesting and now are shipped off all day to the factory. However, our homeschool friends do live in a rich, urban environment. They don’t do activities with other families, and are becoming increasingly insular.

    We have talked about home-schooling, and I see the appeal. I like the efficiency of it – though I am not sure that applies in younger grades. In early elementary, I want my kids to learn to play nice with others, listen to instructions, and learn to wait to be called on before speaking. To achieve those goals as a home schooler, you need frequent regular contact with other kids. I know there are a lot of avenues for that, but I can’t imagine there is a more efficient way than sending them off to school every day. (I imagine home schooling a kindergartner is like arranging 9 months of play dates and baby classes.)

  97. Hand-eye coordination is not the same thing as fine-motor skills. There is no lack of kids who have all the hand-eye coordination they need to succeed as jet pilots (or surgeons). We don’t really need to focus on developing that.

    Fine motor skills encompasses things like buttoning your clothes, writing well, pouring juice from a pitcher. Montessori kids are way better than average at these things.

    Perhaps you can ask the teacher what the goals of the assignment are? I could imagine that perhaps she wants them to learn about skimming/scanning text – which is not so necessary with control-F these days, but is useful when you read things on paper.

  98. “He is not capable of practicing on his own well and cannot identify his own errors reliably.”

    A visiting violin teacher did an exercise in which he played some of the pieces the kids have been playing, and intentionally made some mistakes. He had the kids (and not the parents) point out whenever he made a mistake, and they caught all of them. His point was that we don’t need to point out all the kids’ mistakes to them; if they know the pieces (which they should from having listened to them first), they will know when they make mistakes.

  99. “My experience was that I got much more out of the act of making flash cards (or other study guides) than actually using the flash cards or guides.”

    One of my profs used to let us bring in one or two pages of notes to all his tests (I forget exactly how many). We could put whatever we wanted on those pages, and write as small as we wanted. He thought it was a way to encourage us to distill the material that would be covered in the test and figure out what was important.

  100. I don’t think my flashcards point across correctly. What, I meant to say is there are different learning styles and methods of engaging kids, so many teachers try to incorporate different methods. Last year, one kid had a teacher who wasn’t concerned with how the student learned spelling words, so she didn’t assign a new way to learn everyday but this year, kid is back to writing words twice, using in sentences, putting in ABC order or the teacher suggested students can logon to the computer and play spelling games.

  101. Everyone here knows that I am completely against pointless arts and crafts projects in school, but the decorate-your-notebook project was actually not bad. All three of my kids enjoyed doing it, and it is very easy on parents. We always have lots of magazines floating about the house, so I just point the kid at the stack, give him or her scissors and a glue stick, and say “go for it”. I think the kids all like it because they can cut out photos of ninjas or pokemon, or things like that.

  102. I am also going to speak up for making flashcards. My oldest finds that a useful technique in French and in memorization heavy classes like bio. The act of making the flashcards reinforces the word in a way that just testing doesn’t. In truth, he needs to do both, especially in French.

  103. “DS1’s homework this week is to decorate the entire outside of his composition notebook”

    Yeah, that type of assignment continued into at least middle school. From a teachers lesson guide for The Outsiders:

     Hands-On Project – “Tuff” collage

    “Tough and tuff are two different words. Tough is the same as rough; tuff means cool, sharp–like a tuff-looking Mustang or a tuff record.”  –  Ponyboy

    … For this project, make a collage or montage of what is tuff.

    Suggested materials include:  a large piece of posterboard for the display; magazines, newspapers, and other print media; fabric samples; jewelry; nail polish and lipstick; pictures of tuff people.  (Not very gender neutral?)  The finished display is shared with the class.

    “there are different learning styles and methods of engaging kids, so many teachers try to incorporate different methods.”

    This type of arts and crafts project has been defended by teachers as a way for weaker students to participate and bring their grades up.  No wonder so many students graduate lacking good writing skills.

    I’m not against all types of these assignments, but IME they took up too much time at the expense of instruction in more fundamental areas.  (Going back to the efficiency argument for homeschooling.)  Also, they typically require more parental involvement, especially in the younger grades.  Some of us don’t have lots of magazines lying around the house, and have to help younger kids search online and then print images.

  104. BTW, I was wondering how our Seattle totebaggers were dealing with the school strike there.

  105. Here spelling stopped at Grade 4. They learn word stems after that. I find the Outsiders assignment terrible, but I am wondering if there are kids who are so challenged by reading they need any hook they can get to get them to open the book.

  106. “a way for weaker students to participate and bring their grades up”

    Preaching to the choir of course, but the grade is supposed to be the metric that the goal has been met; it’s not the goal itself. The goal should be learning to write. If weaker students are struggling with basic composition, moving them away from writing in favor of cut-and-paste misses the point entirely. It’s corny, but this is why organizations need things like mission statements, and they need to be very clear.

    I’ve been mostly happy with my kids’ homework so far. This week, for example, in mid-elementary school, they have to read a book, or a chapter of a book, every night. The follow-on assignments are short and vary depending on the day, but, by Wednesday night, we were up to quality questions like “what is the main problem?” “what is the resolution, if there has been one? (chapter readers may be N/A)” and even “what is the central theme?”

  107. “I’m stumped that there are spelling words in 7th grade. Really? When do they end?”

    For better or worse, my 11th grade kid has a vocab book in his English class. I don’t think it’s so much as ‘spelling’ as vocab. But I agree…I’d think that type of thing would be done by now.

  108. Murphy, regarding Kasich, a friend of mine on Facebook posted “Based on his performance so far, I think he wins ‘Candidate I Would Not Fire From A Catapult Into A Volcano’. The rest of ’em? Not so much.”

  109. And +++++++++++++++ to the value of making flashcards / study guides. For two of my 3 kids, the writing was the only way they actually ‘studied’ for a long time. But it worked.

  110. CoC, they aren’t doing that Outsiders collage any more. Most of those projects, and the infernal math feelings journal, bit the dust when Common Core came in. Yay!!!

  111. The whale project is gone from 3rd grade, and the silly famous women mobile, and the scientist diorama they had to do in 2nd grade. All fell victim to the Common Core chopping block. That is why the bus stop moms are so incensed – their whole self worth revolved around those projects. Unfortunately, the infamous 5th grade endangered species project, the one I hate more than any other, is still there.

  112. Ditto on flash cards and the like. I always hated that sort of thing. But by the time I got to law school, actually had to study, and had the “your entire grade is based on the final” to deal with, I found that making my own outlines was the only way to really learn the material (didn’t help that they taught via the case law method, ie, expecting you to distill principles from hundreds of individual cases). I started making the outlines to study from, because I didn’t have the budget to buy the commercial ones, but then I found that by the time I finished it, I had plugged the gaps and didn’t need to study it.

    Also ditto Milo’s experience so far this year. DS’s homework so far has been “real” stuff, easily done in maybe 30 mins (not including last night’s whining time). Yesterday was a math sheet with 27 problems on estimating and place value (largely refreshing the stuff they leaned in 3rd grade), and read a two-page story and write a paragraph summarizing. There will be a science fair project in spring, but most of the froofy mom-projects seem to be done.

  113. “ this is why organizations need things like mission statements, and they need to be very clear.”

    Interesting you mention this. Our school’s mission statement is replete with phrases like “develop connections”, “respect boundaries”, and “practice tolerance”. Fine, but no mention about learning to read and write well enough to succeed in college or get a job. Meanwhile, I used to get brochures from the school for workshops that promised to prepare my kid for the rigors and academic challenges of the next phase, all for a fee of a few hundred dollars of course.

  114. Flash card apps are probably second best since you don’t physically write them out, but we’ve liked Quizlet and Anki for studying. They have the advantage of automatically sorting your cards so you practice more on the ones you miss the most.

  115. Oy, my univesity’s mission statement is mind numbing, filled with phrases like service, respect, community, and Judeo-Christian values (yep, it is that Catholic school thing). It does mention “life long learners”. The worst of it is, as a program director now, I have to write a statement every friggin semester showing how my department contributed to each point of the mission statement that semester. Uh, that programming project where they draw little green squares espouses service to community? Or is that Judeo-Christian values?

  116. I will say that mission statements in industry are just as bad. My company’s statement rambled on and on about commitment to quality and respect for customers. No mention of building great products or making money.

  117. Yeah, when I say mission statement, I mean like ones that actually outline the real objectives, not a bunch of bullshit about tolerance.

    From Mooshi’s perspective and analysis, I’m becoming a big supporter of Common Core, or its equivalents.

  118. I have seen a difference between what DS did and what DD is currently doing. I concur in kindergarten and first grade the coloring type projects DS had, DD did not. DD’s current work does include some coloring but as part of a written piece of work. For example – write a paragrah describing the main character in a book and illustrate in the space below.
    My mother detested any coloring that in her opinion was pointless. I studied all about ancient Indian kings but also liked drawing them – on horseback, with their swords and turbans. Needless, to say there was a big clash between Mom and myself. Therefore, I lean towards a little bit of cheezy fun and tolerate the crayons while the work gets done.

  119. Agree again with Milo. If you can’t say it in 25 words or less, it’s not a “real” mission statement.

    We do have two clients that have their version of “corporate values” — not a mission statement, but more an enumeration of @10 core values — and actually follow them overtly. It is very, very interesting to see how consciously incorporating those values into the decisionmaking process changes the conversation (and sometimes the outcome), as compared to my other clients who don’t follow that approach. It also helps address Mooshi’s complaint: it aligns those identified values with individual evaluations; there are no surprises or pulling together a bunch of last-minute mushy puffery, because they talked about the dang things at every decision point, so every employee can relate exactly what s/he added to the discussion.

  120. I always thought the point of coloring projects was to force you to color within the lines – in the extended sense of reinforcing conformity and rule following and being safe. InMyDay® you were also supposed to use representational colors. The non white children were expected to color the people pink or flesh.

    I watch my granddaughters color or play with other design or game like items. The older one prefers line drawings very representational. The middle one works with shapes and lines and colors and sometimes afterward will in Rorschach fashion describe a natural object that is evoked by finished project – visible to her eyes and perhaps to a docent in a modern art gallery. The older one only makes a move on one of Nana’s tablet jewel games when it suggested by the software, and always runs out of time. The middle one slings things around and may even win a level. Of course the middle one is always getting into trouble, and who knows how real school will work out for her – she seems to do what is expected in preschool. But which person would you rather be?

  121. We have heavy vocab still in 11th grade. Since it’s tested on the SAT, this makes sense. Also, the words are useful.

    Thanks for the reminder on flash cards. DS2 needs extra practice in Spanish–I will suggest making flash cards.

  122. I remember lots of vocabulary later on. By 7th grade it was foreign language vocabulary that got the flashcards, and later still, the dreaded “SAT words.” I never did those. I found those flashcards pointless. I studied a lot of roots and figured out what I could on the test. I knew a lot of words from reading, but many of the words that ended up on SAT study lists I had never seen before or since.

    And ditto on writing things down to remember. I remember those classes where we could write anything we wanted onto one sheet of paper. Often to make it fit we wrote and re-wrote math formulas smaller and smaller– until we memorized them!

  123. “Often to make it fit we wrote and re-wrote math formulas smaller and smaller– until we memorized them!”

    And it amazes me that I was so clueless that it took me until years afterwards to realize that *that* was probably the point all along. :-)

  124. “We have heavy vocab still in 11th grade. Since it’s tested on the SAT, this makes sense. ”

    At least through next January. After that, it’s the new format, which I’ve heard does not test vocabulary the same way.

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