random sometimes funny thoughts

connections-academy1As I mentioned in my last post, my grandchildren don’t attend a brick and mortar school.  Last year my eldest granddaughter decided she would like to try cyber school. (Commonwealth Connections Academy)  The idea of attending classes in her PJs’ without needing to worry if her hair is brushed was too good to ignore.  For those who don’t know Ryder, she’s one of those just-passed-through-tweens that is all girl…….unless she’s feeling too lazy to bother with impressing anyone.  And since she’s the typical 13-year-old girl who’s starting to be very aware of boys, but still uncertain of her place with the other girls, she tends to be overly concerned with what her peers think of her appearance, not to mention status.  She tried really hard to hold her own, but she’s much to emotionally sensitive to be an effective “mean girl.”  As much as she tries to be nonchalant about others’ opinions, she simply isn’t old enough to have learned how her own sense of worth is what should rank highest in her esteem.

So she packed up her school locker, handed in her school books, and took to the computer for her learning experience.  She does very well when she puts her mind to it.  But then again, she also will let her work slide if she thinks no one’s looking too closely.  The experiment with Ryder’s schooling earned a few points with her mother.  Mornings were extremely hectic at the Hogan household.  Kris (Dad) arrived home from his night shift at the Army Depot around 7:15 am.  Lindsay (Mom) was busy putting the finishing touches on her makeup and hair before flying out the door to work, and the four kids were rushing about trying to get fed, dressed, and off to school.  The dog needed to be taken out, lunches had to be packed, and homework located before anyone could leave.  It never failed.  Just when it seemed everything was under control, one of the boys would come strolling out of their bedroom sporting some crazy mismatched, totally outgrown outfit not fit for a hobo and, the mad dash to get-him-changed-before-the-bus- comes, would be on.

East Pennsboro 2011 PSSA scores (blue) compared to Pennsylvania scores (gray)

East Pennsboro 2011 PSSA scores (blue) compared to Pennsylvania scores (gray)

The hectic pace was stepped up when Ryder suffered her accident in late September.  With all the uncertainty over her recovery and the need to travel back and forth to Philly’s Children’s Hospital, the other kids sort of got lost in the shuffle.  No, their parents didn’t lose them, but their respective school officials didn’t seem capable of understanding what was going on.  No matter how many times a family member updated the school regarding the situation at home, they never seemed to have a clue.  Messages didn’t get passed on by office clerks to the teachers.  Teachers failed to respond to emails or to take the appropriate steps to ensure that the kids’ education didn’t suffer.  And when an adamantly demanded meeting between school officials and parents was attended, there were no teachers available.  The school administrator claimed he saw no need to involve the teachers!   There were no acceptable answers of why school assignments and learning tools hadn’t been gathered together so Ryder’s siblings didn’t fall behind.  However, there were a great many inexcusable excuses for why no one had an inkling of what anyone else was doing.

Lindsay made a snap decision and pulled the remaining three kids from public school that very same day.  Within a week they were enrolled in cyber school and back to the business of learning.  Now there were no more lunches to pack, no more racing to beat the clock, no more worries about the boys’ fashion sense or lack thereof.  The expense of constantly renewing the school wardrobe was resolved and the heated debates about whose turn it is to use the bathroom are over.   And while the kids were learning to utilize another method for becoming educated, we adults were right there with them, learning some shocking facts about the public school system.

All those who know me personally, also know of my intense dislike of public schools.  I have absolutely no faith in public schools, nor those folks who line the halls as so-called educators and facilitators.  I know these statements tend to anger everyone who has chosen to make educating our youth their life’s work, but I have good reason for my opinions.  If you’re not one of those who sees teaching simply as a means to having free summers, a paid winter vacation, work days that never go beyond 7.5 hours, and lots of paid holidays….If you’re someone who has chosen the career because you love to be a part of opening new worlds to impressionable minds, love guiding inquisitiveness toward exploration, and thoroughly love leading the young to become adults who can think for themselves….then you’ll understand that what I say has no bearing on you or your intentions and abilities.

20th_century_classroomWhile I privately cheered my daughter’s decision to remove the kids from the brick and mortar institution, the fact is that cyber school is still part of the public school system.  The methods of teaching, the ideology behind their methods, and their belief systems regarding the purpose of education are the same as those espoused in concrete buildings.  Somewhere over the last century, Americans have swallowed the idea that education is simply a vehicle to a better job.  Why are we making career and work the top reasons for getting an education?  Why are we allowing the “machine” to brainwash our children into becoming little worker bees for the benefit of a society that only values money and material possessions?  Why are we citing the idea that being able to buy more things, have bigger homes, drive faster cars and eat thicker steaks is why our children should be educated?  (click here for some insight into American educational history)

hoardersI actually heard a teacher ask one of her students how he expected to find a good job if he didn’t get passing grades?  Don’t get me wrong…I agree that more knowledge can lead the way to a higher paying career.  However, I am opposed to the reason we are giving our children about why a higher paying job is preferable.  Sure, it’s true higher paying jobs allow us to have a lot more whizzers and zoomers, but is that all we want for our children?  Isn’t it more important that our kids and grandkids are able to think for themselves?  Don’t we want them to be able to protect themselves against being mislead by others who may not have their well-being at heart?  Don’t we want our children to learn from history and the mistakes already made by those who have passed before them?

Has anyone taken the time to check their children’s’ critical thinking skills?  Ask any employer what is most important in a potential employee and he will say the ability to use critical thinking, problem solving techniques, and the ability to communicate his thoughts and knowledge effectively.  Ask that same employer how he’s doing finding candidates with those skills and he will shake his head woefully.  The 2010 LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) report claims that 89% of polled employers want colleges to place more emphasis on written and oral communication and 81% perceive a great need for more educational efforts toward critical thinking and analytic reasoning.           (click here for some “inventive spelling” facts)

I’ve been assisting my grandchildren with their school work and to my chagrin, I’ve discovered that cyber school seems to be full of new college grads who aren’t really interested in teaching.  Noah’s math teacher has cancelled more “Live Lessons” than she’s held just since I became involved in mid-November.  There’s always some reason that she can’t show up…she has another appointment, her computer isn’t cooperating, she’s sick, her child is sick…  Her answer to the students missing a class is to assign more written work.  She doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that giving more work to the kids doesn’t help them to understand a lesson that she never bothered to actually teach.  The result is that the students are resentful of having more work heaped on them so their teacher can play hooky from school.

Nikolai’s teacher appears to have an ego problem.  Nik has always been an “A” student, but he was having trouble adjusting to computer learning.  Once he got into a routine and understood the navigation of the site, he began to have better grades.  He was having some trouble with subtracting and borrowing.  I took a few minutes to show him how I had been taught back in the days when the dinosaurs still roamed the earth and I attended a one-cave school.  He picked it up with amazing speed and was quite proud of himself…… Then his teacher decided what was working for him wasn’t acceptable.  She wanted him to do it HER way which had so many steps in it that all the numbers crossed out and written over, only served to cause him confusion.  Then she took it upon herself to demand that he scan all his written work in so she can see for herself that he’s doing it the way she wants.

As far as I’m concerned, she’s nothing more than an empty-headed display case for showing off an inconsequential degree that isn’t worth the paper and ink used to create it.  I thought the idea was for students to learn.  Nik learned how to do borrowing in a way that allowed him to achieve accurate answers to the problems.  He understood the concept.  He’s able to do the work without mistakes.  Yet, his teacher allowed her ego to get in the way of his learning.  She decided that he can’t possibly know what he’s doing if he’s not doing it the way she teaches it.  In other words, no one else could possibly impart the knowledge for which she spent thousands to buy.   She has also begun to imply that he’s cheating because he’s able to come up with the answers so quickly when he participates in Live Lessons.  I’ve held my temper in check for quite some time now, but I feel a rumble coming on and Little Miss Insignificance is going to find out what happens when she treads in Grandma Bear’s lair too heavily.

I haven’t had much occasion to deal with Aurora’s or Ryder’s teachers.  However, Ryder was given an assignment to put together a Persuasive Essay on any topic of her choosing.  Ryder chose the topic of “gun control” since the Newtown shootings were so fresh in her mind.  It was a huge topic for a 13-year-old to tackle, but she did a very good job of covering both sides of the issue.  When she began her research, she already was leaning in a particular direction.  By the time she finished doing her research, she was totally convinced to change her support.  I was never so proud of her as I was in that moment.  She had accomplished the first step in learning to use her own reasoning and critical thinking skills to formulate her own opinion, rather than just buying into what was fashionable for the times.  She had armed herself with sound knowledge from reputable resources.  But though she received a near perfect grade, her teacher was very clear in his hints that her opinion was the wrong one.

I think that is what scares me the most when speaking of public school systems.  Our children are sent en masse to learn facts and skills, but the “educators” have taken it upon themselves to decide where the thinking process should lead them.  You wonder why there’s so much apathy?  Why people have become “sheeple” without any ability to think and reason for themselves?  How about you?  Why don’t you just stop sitting here reading what I have to say and go find out some facts for yourself?  Make sure you look in the shadows and corners where troublesome knowledge is often hidden from the sight of the voting public.  Look for the actual studies completed on any topic of choice.  Find out for yourself if you’ve been given “spun” information that serves political agenda.

I’m so proud of Ryder’s essay that I plan to put up a copy with my next post since it’s about a topic of which everyone should be well-informed.

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