Virtual School

Anyone who has read my blogs knows how I feel about the public school system. I find it refreshing to know that several states have pulled themselves into the twenty-first century. Many, including my new home here in Texas, have embraced the concept of online public school. This puts the k-12 curriculum in an easy to access online format that parents and children can navigate together at their own pace. This puts the education in the hands of the family, and helps kids realize their true potential.

In a classroom setting children feel weak, vulnerable, and stupid. At home they feel comfortable, empowered, and able. Take the hard desks, uncomfortable chairs and bullies out of the equation, and many of our students that would otherwise have fallen through the cracks will rise into great minds.

This method saves a lot of money on public education spending. Some people may be concerned about job loss in the teaching industry. What I see happening is the privatization of teaching. Instead of low paying, highly regulated government teaching jobs, there are a multitude of private agencies opening up to help children “get ahead.” Sylvan Learning Center, Cum On, Mad Science, and many more are stepping in to teach children where the public school system leaves off; often times going above and beyond the public school efforts. These institutions offer fun and rewarding teaching experiences with smaller class sizes and often better pay.

Children cannot succeed without confidence and knowledge. In my opinion, keeping our children close to home is the best way to ensure that they get just that.

Here is a list of online k-12 schools here in Texas.

UPDATE:

I find there to be a BIG difference between legitimate private educational programs like the ones mentioned above and shady charter schools that misappropriate government funds for their own greedy purposes. Our public school dollars should not be lining some crook’s pocket. Instead, it should be funding programs like the online K-12 here in Texas. Saving money, protecting our children from bullies, ensuring parents are more involved in their children’s education…how much more win do we need?

Frozen

I finally got to see Frozen yesterday. It was a refreshing change from Disney’s damsels in distress, good vs. evil dichotomies, and other cliches. What bothers me, is what I find refreshing, is exactly what some other parents seem to be complaining about. I’ve seen several posts, blogs, and articles claiming that children do not have the cognitive functions to understand the “subtle nuances” portrayed in a movie like Frozen. Without a clear hero or villain, these people claim that children will become confused, and disoriented. I beg to differ, as I often do.

First, I want people to remember their own childhoods. I may be a bit of an old fart, but I remember quite a bit of my childhood. I remember what I thought, and how I felt. I even remember my thought processes, in some instances, that brought me to certain conclusions. For example: In fifth grade I used to walk via a specific route every day. Along this route there was a girl who would walk home from another school. She appeared to be in her teens, and pregnant. I spoke to her often, and it was clear to me that she had some learning impairment. As a child, I thought that someone had probably taken advantage of her mental condition to get her pregnant. I tried to subtly inquire about her situation, though I knew it was none of my business. I wanted to get her help if she needed it, but I wanted to be sure she needed it first. Unfortunately, I was not able to find that information before I stopped seeing her walking. I remember feeling conflicted. I was a child, so someone else’s sexual experiences were none of my business, period. But, this girl did not seem like she was capable of making those kinds of decisions on her own. I was afraid to tell anyone, because what if I was wrong?

In our imaginative play we do a lot more than just create villains to fight. We used to create entire worlds, whole different times and places, and all new species of creatures. I used to wonder about everything. On long road trips I remember sitting in the car, then catching a glimpse of a child in another car, then wondering what it would be like to be that child. I would imagine riding in that car, then imagine what that child’s house would look like, based on what the car looked like. Then I’d try to imagine his/her room, and so on.

After what I was capable of as a child, the concept that children are incapable of cognitive thought is ludicrous.

Now look at real life. At what point is everything black and white? At what point, in real life, is there a clear hero and villain? I’ll tell you, hardly ever. Almost everything in life is a matter of perception. Sure, every now and then you have a cannibalistic serial killer that really can’t be painted in a positive light, but that is rare.

As parents it is our job to prepare our children for what lies ahead of them in the real world. If we shelter them from the truth, only allow them to see the world in black and white, and not let them see the subtle nuances that are there, are we really preparing them? No. What we are doing is setting them up for disappointment, and even failure.

We need to remember that not only are children capable of cognitive thought, they can decipher subtle nuances, too. Parents should already know this. How many times have you been at your breaking point–everything has just gone all wrong, nothing is getting done, your 2 year-old is pushing all of your buttons right up until that point where you’re about to lose it…that’s when that same 2 year-old does the cutest thing in the world, and balance seems to be restored to your upside-down world.

If we teach our children that there are no true “villains” in the world, but there are a lot of selfish people, and some of them are willing to do really bad things to get what they want, our children can not only look out for themselves, but have empathy for other people, even ones who are driven to do bad things. If we teach our children that heroes are not people who hurt people while trying to save others, or ones who “sacrifice” themselves for the “greater good,” or some BS like that, but someone who shows love and compassion when others don’t…in fact, they show love and compassion in the face of hate, bigotry, and persecution.

We must teach our children that there is no good vs. evil dichotomy. What is there for them, is life. Their lives are their own. They can make anything they want out of those lives, as long as we, as parents, don’t limit their ideas, their creativity, and their cognitive thinking.

Why Homeschool?

whyschool

I’ve been asked many times why I’m so against public schools. I look around me and see a society of people who are trained to accept the world as it is. So many people believe that things are the way they are, and there is nothing anyone can do about. When I ask if these people are happy with the way things are, if there is anything they’d like to change, I get responses like, “Since my voice doesn’t matter, why try?”

Public schools help to instill this kind of thinking. Children are taught to sit down, be quiet, and not to interrupt. If a child has an issue, they are often ignored until the issue becomes a burden to everyone (such as ignoring a child’s raised hand until s/he urinates on him/herself). This kind of apathy teaches children that they do not matter in the grand scheme.

The issue gets worse when children are punished for pointing out faulty data that has been presented. In these public school settings, when a teacher has been misinformed, the school is quite content to allow that misinformation to be passed on to classroom after classroom of innocent children. When one child dares to stand up and say, “That isn’t right.” Instead of thanking the child for setting the record straight, that child is reprimanded for disrespecting authority.

As a parent, what should be more important: raising a child that has been molded to be just like everyone else–who has been trained to think in a certain way, or raising a child who can think for him/herself–someone who can see past the walls that public education has set for others?

Many people become nervous when they consider the prospect of educating their own children. It is a great responsibility. The first thing for parents to remember is that it isn’t necessary to know everything to teach something. As a teacher, I can assure people that learning along the way is inevitable. The most important things necessary are parental love, and the desire for the child(ren)’s success.

Let’s keep in mind how successful homeschooling is, regardless of the parents’ background, education level, or social status:Homeschool stats Parent edhomeschool stat

I really wish people would take a good, long look around. Our economy is in the tank, our government is obviously corrupt (and we can’t play the party game here, both sides are just as dirty), and our people are completely complacent. In another day, another time, revolution would have come and gone, sweeping this current rabble into the trash, giving us a new slate to start again. Thanks to the brainwashing of public schools and churches, only a small minority of our populace is actively wanting change. Everyone else has bought into the trained crap that “the people” are meaningless. The truth is, the people, outnumber the corrupt leaders by quite a bit. One voice may seem small, but many coming together can seem apocalyptic.

Pink Floyd gives a pretty accurate depiction of what’s going on in public schools. While the system tries to mold children into obedient drones, the children are hard-pressed to cling to their hopes, dreams, and individuality.

Let’s not let the system succeed.

After writing this blog, I found this:

literal test

 

This is exactly why public schools, and standardized tests fail miserably. This child was most likely written off for not following directions. The truth is, this child followed the directions literally “to the letter.” I would imagine that the child is amazingly intelligent, yet will be lost in the system because s/he fails to fall to the sub-par limits set by standardized testing within the public school system. If freed from such a cage, a child like this could soar to incredible heights.

Non-Aggression Principle?

I recently found a website, The Art of Not Being Governed, which claims to support the “Non-Aggression Principle. As I read through many of the articles on the website, I found that I agree with the base principles of most things on this website, but there was an underlying confrontational tone that continued to rub me the wrong way. For a group that advertises non-aggression, the site was wrought with aggressive phrases and confrontational overtones.

Anyone who has read my blog knows that I advocate homeschooling. I feel that the knowledge a child acquires in a comfortable environment from familiar and trustworthy sources in a fun and relaxed way will stay with that child easier and better than any knowledge a stranger tries to force on him/her in a strange and uncomfortable, sometimes hostile environment. Regardless of my feelings toward homeschooling, I found the article addressed to teachers confrontational and unnecessary. Teachers, such as myself, do not see ourselves as better than anyone else. Nor do we demand respect from anyone. Every teacher I know chose this profession to help children. There are many children who get lost in the crowd. They do not have loving parents who would do anything to see them succeed. Those children may not get the same quality of education as a child with the loving parents who teach him/her at home, but I still feel that every child deserves some chance.

As far as anarchy goes, the group should do a little research. History will clearly define what happens to anarchists. There is no such thing as a lack of government on a large scale. That is a pipe dream that can never truly happen. If your current government somehow dissolves, there will be chaos for a while. People will panic; many will take advantage of the situation through theft, looting, murder and other crimes because there would be no one to punish them. Eventually order would start to come about in the form of a person or group of people that would be stronger than the others. This person, or group of people, would begin calling the shots, and others would fall in line. In the end, you’d have a dictatorship. Throughout history, every period of anarchy or lack of government has been immediately followed by a dictatorship. Complete freedom sounds good on paper, but unfortunately most people are sheep, so its practical applications are quite limited.

I do think that despite the confrontational nature of the site, there were some good tips:

  1. Dig up your lawn and plant a garden (and check out Grow Food Not Lawns on Facebook, while you’re at it). If you’re renting, plant a container garden.
  2. Get to know your neighbors. Divided we are weak and afraid, together we look out for each other.
  3. Learn a useful skill.
  4. Enjoy your local farmers’ market.
  5. Try bartering for goods and services.
  6. Watch and read alternative news sources. Mainstream media is an insult to journalism and a mouthpiece for the state.
  7. Find like-minded friends to discuss and debate with.
  8. Be charitable and volunteer for causes you are passionate about.
  9. Start prepping for disaster. The less dependent you are on the government, the better. Have a “bug out bag” and a plan.
  10. Consider investing in gold, bitcoins, or other alternative currencies. Or, if not invest, at least use.
  11. Learn to debate without being a jerk. Be open to new ideas.
  12. Stop letting petty shit divide you from other people. Your color, gender, sexual orientation, and religion are just ways to keep you separated. The powers that be encourage this. Better to keep people at each others throats rather than focusing on the real issues.
  13. Parent peacefully. Teach the next generation about liberty, responsibility, and self ownership. Treat them as you would another human being, because that is what they are.
  14. Homeschool.
  15. Film the police whenever you see them. Badges should not grant extra privileges. Try to resolve conflict on your own. Become familiar with your civil rights.
  16. Just like all the creatures of Earth, being free is the natural way of things. Even though the government is obnoxiously large and invasive, it only truly effects a small portion of our every day. Treat them like the bullies they are. Refuse to be intimidated. Stand up for yourself and enjoy your life!

That last one still seems a little bit confrontational to me, but I do agree with it. I’m still not sure why this site rubbed me wrong. Like I said, I agree with most of the things on it. I guess I had a pretty strong emotional reaction to the way it was presented. In my opinion, you just can’t claim to be peaceful and non-aggressive, then go out and pick a fight.

What About Freedom

I have a lot to say, and now I have a little more time to say it. People who have read my blog have probably deduced by now that I have a lot of liberal views. I believe very strongly in the concept of freedom. Perhaps that comes from my study of US history (I did get my degree in that field), or maybe I just like the idea of being free. Our forefathers came to this country to escape religious persecution. Europe was being overrun by zealots who thought that everyone should think, feel and act exactly the same way. Once they got here, they went to great pains to set up a form of government that ensured that one branch would not retain too much power. The reason for this was to stave off corruption. They did not want the government to be able to force the people to do things against their better judgement. They purposely made the Constitution an evolutionary document with the understanding that times would change, and that the document would need to change with them. These were brilliant men who held to the belief that we should be wary of government and ever vigilant in our effort to educate and protect ourselves.

I find it ironic that that a mere two centuries later most people in this country look at this government as some sort of parent figure. Instead of being wary of the freedoms we are losing to the government, most people thank the government for its protection. My question is, what, exactly, is our government protecting us against? With each new freedom the government takes from us, the crime rates in this country either stay the same or go up. So is gun control and the “war on drugs” really protecting us from anything?

My answer to that question is, NO. What does the government really achieve by stripping freedoms from its citizens? First and foremost, it gets more complacent citizens. With less freedom, the citizens feel helpless and powerless. How can a powerless, weaponless republic fight back against such a formidable foe such as a well armed government? Well, they can’t, as long as they perceive themselves as powerless. Perception is a very important tool. People are never powerless, especially when they share the same goals.

Again, perception comes into play. By telling people that something is bad, hence, illegal, people begin to believe it. It does not matter whether or not it’s true, the fact that the law says so, means that we must treat it as fact. This concept is one of the most frustrating for me, as a parent. How do you explain the difference between fact and political law to a child? Just because something is law, doesn’t make it true, but you still have to treat it like it’s true or you will go to jail. It’s a bad, bad, concept, and one that doesn’t belong in a civilized society.

Then you have the effects these things have on our society as a whole. By creating superfluous laws and filling our jails with victimless “criminals,” the government creates ghettos and “rap sheets” for people who should not have them. The number of jails that have to be built to accommodate the outrageous number of superfluous, victimless crimes is absurd. The neighborhoods that are forced to house the jails almost immediately fall into disrepair, becoming what is commonly referred to as ghettos. Then you have the people. All it takes is for a kid to get caught with a joint at school. If s/he is 17 of older, that offense can be put on his/her permanent record and follow that child to every school intake interview and job interview s/he goes to for the rest of his/her life. That one incident could ensure that the child never gets a good job or into a good college. Because of one mistake, that child could end up dealing drugs on the street because s/he had no other options. In a free society, such a thing should NEVER happen.

I find it utterly appalling to know that our laws are set up to ensure that one mistake can ruin a child’s life. How many mistakes do our politicians make every day? Everyone makes mistakes, and no one should have to suffer so severely for it. We learn from our mistakes. It’s called being human.

In the end, our freedoms should be important to us. We should not watch them be systematically stripped away. With each freedom we lose, we lose a little of ourselves. With each invasion into our privacy, we lose a little of our dignity. Every time we let someone else take from us, we lose a little of who we are. It’s important to remember who we are and where we came from.

Let the Children Lead the Way

I have been teaching science to elementary aged children for a few weeks now. The curriculum for the classes remains constant from one to the next in each week, yet each individual class tends to be very different from the others. Why is that? I mean, the subject matter we’re covering is the same, the materials I’m using are the same, often times the order in which we cover it is even the same, yet each class is different.

The only thing that changes from one class to the next are the children in the class. Each child has different interests and different question s/he wants answered. By letting the children ask their questions and contribute their knowledge on the subject at hand, each class turns out very different from the others. Though the children are learning the same material, they are learning it in a different way…their way.

Each child, each person has his/her own way of absorbing knowledge. By sparking curiosity, then letting the questions come in, the information is revealed in a way that suits the child. When a curriculum is set up in such a way to shut down the questions, and douse that spark of curiosity, the children will learn nothing, or next to it.

The key to ensuring that our children learn to the best of their ability is to let the children lead the way. Our children want to learn, all we have to do, is let them.

The Game of Learning

How, exactly, do children learn? The most effective teacher is experience. As parents, we understand that we cannot have our children experience everything we want them to learn. First, many of those things are dangerous. Second, it simply isn’t practical. How many parents have the money to take their children all over the world to help them experience everything this planet has to offer. Not only do we not have the money, there isn’t enough time in our lifetimes to cover the information that way. So what other methods do we have?

Traditional schools have gone the route of textbooks and lectures. A few colorful pictures here and there along with the droning voice of an instructor telling the children about things that could be cool, if the children were given a reason to be interested in it. From there the children are expected to remember what the teacher said, write papers, take tests and be evaluated on how well they retain the droning voice of some anonymous teacher.

Some schools try to spice things up by adding some activities, either field trips, computer content or outdoor activities to go with the droning voice, but in the end, the curriculum is still the same, and the children are still subjected to the same kinds of pressures.

Is there a better way? Of course, there always is. Did you know that video games have been proven to Improve a vast array of skills? My biggest complaint concerning the use of video games in education is the fact that these video games are advertised as “educational.” Children have been conditioned from a young age, because of how our public school system is structured, to view education negatively. They see the learning process as grueling and boring, therefore if something is labeled as “educational,” they will automatically steer away from it, or predetermine that it is of poor quality.

Imagine an RPG (role playing game) where the child chooses to be an historical figure, traveling across geographically correct terrain to achieve an historically significant goal. His/her choices throughout the game would affect the details of the story, the things history cannot know. In the process they have to solve puzzles, calculate distances, read maps, find clues, and depending on the historical figure, possible engage in epic battles. This game would teach them math, cartography, history, geography and much more, all in the course of one game.

Of course, fictional characters can use real geography and still teach children. Illusion of Gaia was a game on the Super Nintendo that had several “real world” settings. As the children were playing the game, the names that sounded familiar to them sounded that way for a reason…because they were real!

Many other games utilize in depth puzzle and strategy  aspects that promote high end critical thinking and  analysis skills. That is almost a staple in games now days. To get from one area to another you have to solve the puzzle that blocks your path. In racing, fighting and shooting games, children’s reflexes are heightened. The more they play, the quicker and more observant of their surroundings they become. In those kinds of games, if you don’t know what is going on all around you, at all times, you will be eliminated. I find it interesting to note that some kids I’ve known could keep track of their score in their heads, to avoid having to look at the scoreboard. That’s some pretty neat math on the fly while under fire.

Video games, as they are, can be wonderful tools in helping our children learn, but if the video game industry were to realize the potential of this medium, and use it to that full potential, the sky is the limit. What we could teach out children would be endless. Of course, I’m sure that’s only wishful thinking. These guys only think with their pocketbooks. They have no idea if an idea like creating a full course educational video game would make money, because they aren’t willing to take that chance. What a shame…