Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Common Core is costing a lot more than just our dollars. It’s costing us our dignity.

The Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” funding drove a lot of states to adopt the Common Core Curriculum even before it was written. (With Pelosi’s precedent of voting to make a law in order to find out what was in it, who can blame them?) Blind greed drove them to adopt the standards even before any proof or piloting to prove their efficacy. One might wonder what the incentive was behind the plan. Here is the White House press release:

Adapts the Race to the Top Model of Com­petition to Transform Lifelong Learning. Widely viewed as leveraging more change than any other competitive education grant program in history, the Race to the Top (RTT) initiative spurred States across the Nation to bring togeth­er teachers, school leaders, and policymakers to achieve difficult yet fundamental improvements to our education system.

What is that undocumented, unprecedented, and indefinable change that the administration is so happy about? We still don’t know. What we do know, is that it’s going to cost a lot of money. Thanks to the author of my source for this article, we have specific numbers:

The CCS implementation cost in California will be $2,188 million ($2.188 billion), while the federal awards total $104 million.  When I subtract the awards from the CCS cost, I get $2,084 million ($2.1 billion).  In other words,California will need to find $2.1 billion to fund the CCS implementation.

For Illinois, the CCS cost is $799 million and the federal awards are $66 million.  This means Illinois will lose $733 million on CCS implementation.

Pennsylvania will experience a $647 million loss; Michigan will see a $569 million loss; and New Jersey will have a $564 million loss on CCS.

A lot of citizens, too, are now waking up to the prohibitive costs associated with implementing Common Core, and they are not happy. Concurrently, they are realizing this incredibly dubious installation is beginning without any consultation from the electorate.

In the majority of cases, the state education departments adopted the Common Core Standards without the knowledge and approval of the state legislatures.  Many state legislative bodies are now feeling the pressure of the citizens and are re-examining the states’ decisions.

Are we a voting public or aren’t we? Wouldn’t you like to have a say in how your tax dollars are spent? Because with implementation of this costly, untested new curriculum, they are proving to themselves and even to you that your opinion doesn’t count. Maybe the money aspect doesn’t worry you, but how much is your vote worth? With Common Core inflation, nothing, anymore.

For any proud American, that cost is truly too much.

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The greatest goal of a solid education is to give students the ability to think, reason, and discern. Learning various disciplines like algebra and writing are simply the tools for this. For instance, mathematics exposes a student to rudimentary logic, and writing is argument, stimulating development of the skills of analysis and reason. I recently attended a local forum on Common Core, hosted by our local newspaper, with representatives for both sides of the issue, and I was completely astonished to hear our Superintendent of Schools say, “I’m not sure learning long division is even all that necessary anymore. These kids will always have calculators.” Despite his title, his attitude is antithetical to the basic tenets of education.

The event was heavily attended – standing room only – by anti-Common Core activists, and there was a rowdy mood among the crowd. They felt betrayed by the unilateral implementation of the greatest overhaul of the country’s education system in, well, ever. Nobody voted on this, no parents were ever consulted, and even educators were mostly left out of the discussion. The Common Core was developed by bureaucrats – but why? And why did the states willingly adopt it, even before it was written?

The answer to that is as old as business: money. Of course, there are myriad reasons why money should not dictate our education methods, not the least of which is that nothing should dictate in a democracy.

Toward the end of forum, when they were cutting the question mics in the audience, a nervous blond woman standing in front of me walked up to the mic insisting on asking her question. The moderator tried to silence her, saying we had run out of time, but the audience encouraged him to allow her to speak – we weren’t in any hurry. “There is a video that shows Common Core implementation – telling children to choose between ‘Mommy asks me to clean my room,’ and ‘Mommy nags me to clean my room.’ The correct answer is ‘nags.’ Why are they bringing this kind of anti-parent teaching into our classrooms? And how can you assure us this won’t happen here?”

The Superintendent of Schools readily suggested we let the kids decide what seems appropriate. With horrible, telling gaffs like that, it’s no wonder the schools had not invited their parents to the forum, why most parents have never heard of CC.

When a state imposes a broad new curriculum in our schools without any input from educators or parents, no vote, no discussion, that is a totalitarian act, and parents and school boards that passively accept that infringement on their rights shouldn’t be surprised or upset when they are told their opinions are no longer necessary. The state just proved it.

As the forced implementation of this new curriculum already indicates, Common Core is the antithesis of traditional education: it aims to stifle individualism and restrict learning. Some call it behavior modification, some call it brainwashing.

Or, if you insist, “re-education.” Education, it is not.

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To home school your own kids is to invite insecurity as a constant companion.

You can never measure up to a governmental institution that has been practicing and perfecting the art and science of schooling children for over a century… Can you?

Over the recent decades, home schoolers have challenged that assumption, surprisingly successfully. In fact, many have surpassed the government standards, highlighting the general inadequacies of our learning institutions.

How did they do that? They obviously had principles they refused to compromise, but I think it also has something to do with understanding the limitations of any bureaucracy. Government simply cannot serve all children equally (they are all so unique) – that defies logic. They must adopt a “good enough” attitude (now known as “No Child Left Behind” or more recently, “Common Core”). In contrast, home schoolers can concentrate on the individual child and have much more exacting standards.

What I’ve discovered in the past year, when I enrolled my two boys (briefly) in a very qualified private school, was eye-opening, so I’ll share it here.

The school they attended used the Shurley Grammar curriculum I’ve written about. One of the issues I had with Shurley was its writing program, which is extremely repetitive and painfully intense for my active boys. The private school supplanted that program with another, less exacting plan from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). Not only that, but they didn’t complete everything in the grammar portion, either. Imagine that! They didn’t finish every task in the book! This was absolutely (sadly) mind-blowing for my obsessive, exigent self. What if they missed something? I thought. And then I realized that missing a thing or two along the way could always be caught up later, during the inevitable repetition of subject matter.

In fact, teachers almost never cover textbooks in their entirety – not even the private schools, but certainly not in public schools. I recall my mother’s discovery that the biology class at our high school only covered 17 chapters of a 56 chapter science book, to her horror. Last year I discovered that was the norm, not the exception, so I did a little research. Most curricula are purposely over-written. They are designed so individual teachers can pick and choose, and they provide extra work to keep advanced children busy. Average or slower students will never see (and never need to see) the extra stuff – what I call “busy work.”

So if our revered institutions don’t complete the ‘prescribed’ work, why was I holding myself to such a high standard? Because I’m a perfectionist, which is unhealthy – for me and my kids. I decided that just because I have high standards does not mean I must follow and complete an entire curriculum to satisfy them.

Keep your eye on the ball. The learning is the goal, not the textbook.

This year, I’ve backed off a bit. I do most of the Shurley sentences for each lesson, and about a third of the writing assignments – there will always be time for my kids to do more writing the next year, because Shurley is nothing if not repetitive, and for good reason. Children learn best through repetition. They often cannot take in an entire concept at one sitting, but need multiple exposures to complicated ideas, like how to write a particular kind of essay. They also should not be subjected to tedious busy work as a way of drilling information that will be covered many times over in the future. I admit: it’s a fine line. But at the risk of losing my student to abject boredom or frustration, I err on the side of caution: everything in moderation. We cover the basics until I see my student “gets it,” confident that there will be review in the coming days. This way, my students, the loves of my life, are not burdened with my obsessive perfectionism, agonizing to complete tomes of structured learning. I prefer for us to concentrate on enjoying the process, instead.

As for my insecurity, which goes hand-in-hand with my perfectionism, I’ve learned to deal with it. Sometimes it’s quite challenging, but I’ve found a great balance between hard-core, staunch, fulfill every single demand of an over-written schoolbook and the broad strokes that our public schools paint with every year. As long as my kids excel, enjoy the process, and can show my husband how to diagram a sentence with an object compliment adjective, well, I guess that’s actually good enough for me.

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I love the Thanksgiving holiday and what it stands for: an attitude of gratitude.

While I strive to maintain that outlook all the time, Thanksgiving offers me the opportunity to reflect on how successful I am at being grateful for everything I have in life.

This Thanksgiving is especially poignant to me: my lovely father-in-law passed away just a month ago, on my birthday. He was a very special man and a terrific grandpa to my three children and all his grandchildren, and the fact that he suffered greatly as he approached his death makes me sad. I’ve wrestled with the “why’s” of his misery over the past few weeks, as has my husband, Kevin, and of course his widow, Grandma. He had complications from an emergency hip surgery that led to him contract the dreadful staff infection that takes so many lives as it runs rampant in hospitals across the country. Lynn put on his game face and tried to overcome, but, after three and a half months of hospital misery, he succumbed. I woke on my birthday morning to a husband on his knees at my bedside, sobbing that his dad had died. Kevin is the strongest man I know, but loss of an adored father will overwhelm, as it did. In his own long battle with illness, I had never seen Kevin wracked with grief, though he certainly grieved the losses his illness dealt him. He is a fighter, and he battled through it for three years. He truly is the picture of “True Strength,” his book, but this blow crumpled him to the floor, and as I witnessed it, it leveled me, too.

“In days that follow, I discover that anger is easier to handle than grief.”
Emily Giffin, “Heart of the Matter

Lynn’s passing is a more certain and permanent void than any Kevin experienced through his own struggles, and the circumstances are distressing for us all. In his death, Lynn became a statistic, and we all railed against that final insult. This certainly was not an unwelcome distraction from the terrible finality of his loss, but to what end? Who does our anger hurt? Only ourselves, right?

Colin Powell said “Get mad, then get over it,” but Ralph Waldow Emerson put it best when he wrote, ““For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

I approached Thanksgiving week this year with all these varied, passionate emotions. And then, as the holiday grew closer and I visited with extended family and friends, I realized death is never the end, but just a part of the journey, and this is a season of thanks-giving. It is a time to celebrate the joyous memories of the man who raised my husband-to-be with love and devotion, so he would become the tremendous father that he is, and Lynn lives on in him; a chance to remember the great gift of our time with Lynn and our own children. As my 7-year-old daughter pointed out to Grandma, hand on her heart, “He’s not gone, Grandma, because I have him here in my heart.” It is an opportunity to memorialize Lynn’s wonderful presence in our lives – a gift, for which we are obliged to show our gratitude.

Thanksgiving affords us the pointed opportunity to choose what to focus on, because we should encourage gratitude to eclipse disappointment.

I am grateful for the Thanksgiving holiday’s inspiration to refocus myself on being thankful.

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