Sunday, March 27, 2011

Keeping Technology Under Control

It's a rainy Sunday here in Georgia.  When I looked at my "to-do" list today it included 1. Getting Skype on my computer in preparation for an on-line curriculum I'm speaking at this week (I will post details tomorrow on facebook when I get them).  2. Sending birthday greetings on line to a special friend.  3. Writing this blog post. 4.  Printing off an order to get it ready to send someone tomorrow.

Notice a trend?  Every one of those things have to do with a computer!!!

It's always a challenge, in everything we do, to seek the middle ground, to keep the balance. Doing this with technology will be one of the biggest challenge for those of you who are still in the middle of raising children in this new tech-crazy world.  Back when my children were young, all I had to manage was the amount and quality of the television they watched.  Not to sound like a dinosaur, but it seemed like even the choices of television we had back then were higher quality.  Of course, there were also things we needed to avoid. That was even true when my mother was raising me!

Towards the end of my child-raising experience, I had to face the "new" problems connected with computer games, especially Nintendo.  We simply didn't allow them in our home...until our oldest kids started to leave and go to college, and bring back such things with them.  Then it became a real challenge to balance the need to treat the young adults with respect while keeping the lines drawn clearly for the younger ones.

Nowadays, there is so much technology barraging us every day.  My grown kids text, Skype, watch television and movies, and always have a cell phone at the ready with somebody bothering them at all hours.  Somehow they manage to do it in and around being productive and moving ahead with their plans and dreams.  Still, it all seems so intrusive to me.  Meanwhile, I'm trying to find the balance to learn how to use all this technology without letting my own life get out of control. 

I know the world is changing, and I don't want to stick my head in the sand.  Without embracing some of this new technology, I won't be able to reach the younger homeschooling crowd with our message of relaxed, family-centered education.  Still, I don't want to stop reading books in favor of reading a Kindle, to fail to go outside and take walks and work on my garden in favor of sitting at this computer, or only go to online curriculum fairs where I can't see your smiling faces or be able to give you all a real hug.  Hope you all are able to maintain your balance, too!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Standardized testing?

Somebody asked me about testing this week under the comments on Chris Davis' series on "Not Homeschooling Your Children". I couldn't find the post to answer it so I figured it would become this week's blog instead.

I believe in standardized testing every year starting in the third grade.  Before that time, there is no reason to do so unless your state mandates it.  It is generally too stressful for young children and before third grade a lot of kids still have issues with reading.  The first time, in third grade, if a parent is able to give the test themselves, I recommend doing it at home.  After that first time, though, I recommend doing it in a group setting, preferably a homeschool friendly one, like at a co-op or resource center. 

There are several reasons I believe this is necessary. First, in some states, it is needed to stay legal. Second, and most important, is to learn how to take the tests.  This is a skill, one that is practiced more than any other one in the public schools, and our society has become test-happy.  Part of learning the skill is learning to take the test in an atmosphere where everyone is obsessed with whether or not you are somehow cheating; how to take it in an atmosphere where you may not be allowed to go to the bathroom when you need to; how to take it in an atmosphere where a beer truck is pulling up in front of the window and unloading during the test. (That one actually happened at our resource center once!)  This atmosphere can't be duplicated in a tutorial setting, or at the kitchen table.

That being said, it is just as important not to obsess over the results. Remember, they aren't testing your curriculum, their goals are different than yours are, their values are not the same, and the tests test a very specific type of knowledge, which does not value divergent thinking.  You will not learn anything about your children from these results that you don't already know.  If you need them to stay legal, turn them in, or file them, and forget about them.  Otherwise, file them in the circular file. Most homeschoolers will do well enough to stay legal. 

When my kids were small, I always knew that they would do poorly on the grammar and punctuation sections, because I didn't care about the minute details of writing at that age; my own goals were developing a love of reading and the overall ability to communicate.  I figured the picky things could come later, if at all.  I also knew which ones would do well on the math and which wouldn't.  I always knew that all my kids would blow away the reading comprehension and vocabulary parts of the test.  You know your kids well enough to predict everything, too. If something comes up that doesn't mesh with your own knowledge of your kids, perhaps there was something about the test itself that skewed the results.  If it doesn't seem right to you, or consistent with your common sense, do not assign it any credibility.

I never tested my kids over the content we covered during our homeschooling years because I'm not into the 'stuff it into your head and spit it out" type of education.  However, I did help them learn how to take tests, and when they got close to college entrance we did prepare for the SAT.  All of them got good test scores and wound up doing well in college.

For those of you who have asked about my booklet, "How to Teach Your Children Test-Taking Strategies", it is temporarily out of print, buried on my old computer, but I eventually intend to gather some of my old things together into some sort of three ring binder type product.  Keep bugging me...the squeaky wheel gets the grease!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jury Duty

This past week started out with me having to go for jury duty for the first time.  Lots of impressions...First thing I noticed is that whenever I told someone I had jury duty, if they were homeschoolers they said something like, "Oh, I've always wanted to do that," or "I wish my kids could go along to see the process."  Whenever I told someone outside the homeschooling community, most of the time they started giving me their recommendations for how to get out of it.  My favorite one was to say, "I'd be PERFECT for jury duty, because I can tell if someone is guilty or not by just LOOKING at them!"

Well, I didn't get picked, but it was because I had a high jury number and they didn't need me for the first trial. The second trial I probably would have been picked, but the defendent did a plea bargain and the trial didn't happen.  I was torn. Part of me was really happy to get off because my daughter is at home for a few months before moving to England, and I had work to do, too, so I didn't really want to spend a week in a courtroom.  Part of me was a little disappointed, though, because it really did look like it would be interesting.

I did find it very uncomfortable answering questions about "me" forty years ago or so....I felt like I was talking about someone other than me. It made me realize how wonderful it is to become a "new person" when we really get in touch with Jesus...It just didn't even feel like I was talking about myself when I had to start answering questions about drug use and such back in the sixties...

Anyway, that was my first foray into the jury box....and I did get a chance to write an article for Jane Boswell's "Home Educator's Family Times" magazine while waiting to be questioned....so check it out. I imagine it will take an issue or two for it to show up. It is on our new "Titus Brigade" mentoring program.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I just remembered why we homeschooled our kids...

I just spent an entire day  dealing with incompetence and illiteracy, and have come to the conclusion that we need to simply mandate homeschooling for everyone!  It started out this morning, when I had to take a test. I can't even begin to tell you how dumb it was. The entire time I was working on it, I kept asking myself, "Seriously???" 

This was an important test that had to do with real estate. I won't get more specific right now, but it should have been conducted on a very professional level.  Instead, it was full of typos, mistakes, and poorly-worded questions  There was one question that required information found on a chart, but no chart was given.  The difficult parts of the class were skipped over and instead questions were thrown in that were on information not covered in the class at all.

This certainly wasn't the first time I've run into this in the business world...but it was definitely one of the worst examples.  Our schools simply don't seem to be teaching the basics of literacy anymore, and the results of years of ineffective instruction are starting to be very observable out in the "real" world.

At least this week I didn't have to think very hard about what to talk about on my blog!  On the one hand, it made me ashamed for my second profession.  On the other hand, it made me realize how much I could be of service by becoming truly competent and honest in the field of real estate.   Now I just have to go out and buy my black polyester leisure suit and I'll be ready to roll.