Tag Archives: Education

Protests In Front Of Wisconsin State House

Forever Parenting Stands With Wisconsin Teachers

Let’s face facts: The Governor of Wisconsin gave millions of dollars in tax breaks to the wealthy, and is now expecting teachers to pay for the resulting budget deficit by giving up their right to collective bargaining. Is this ok with you? ‘Cause it sure isn’t ok with me.

Teachers are underpaid, education is underfunded, and why? Because the largest block of people effected by this type of penny-pinching are children. Continue reading


Involved In Your Child’s Schooling? Let’s Lower The Bar

While listening to the radio after dropping the kids off at school a few weeks back, I heard a group of city and school officials for the major metropolitan area in which I live talking about parents involvement in their children’s education. They all unanimously said that the biggest factor in the success of children in school was parental involvement.

I immediately perked up and listened. I have tried to be involved with my children’s schooling since they were babies in the on-sight daycare center here at work. I joined every volunteer group the daycare had, and have sat on the board of directors (it’s a not-for-profit facility and the board handles the books) for almost as many years as my children have been enrolled.

Now that my son (and next year my daughter) are off to elementary school, I have tried to volunteer my time there as well. I am in my second year of serving on the Principal’s Advisory Council, made of up parents from each of the grades, and I have been offering my help to the computer teacher as she tries to come up with a plan for upgrading the school’s computers without breaking the budget.

Every night, I sit down with my children and go through their homework. I check every paper as they do them, and review all of the papers that come home. We read a book at night before lights out and kiss goodnight.

Just about every minute I spend with them is involved, either directly or indirectly, with helping them learn.

But you know what? The panel of officials on the radio that day set the bar of parent involvement a little lower than that. To them, they were hoping that parents would get involved by making sure their children went to school; making sure they’d eaten breakfast; packing them a lunch. If the parent would actually spend time with their child doing homework, that was a bonus, and none of them even mentioned reading at bedtime.

My point is, being involved doesn’t mean overachieving, it just means spending time, how ever much time you have. These education experts said that just having a parent who cared whether or not they were in school helped motivate these kids to be there and to learn.

So, never underestimate how very much your attention can help, but also, don’t get discouraged if you can’t be room-mom, or lunch-dad, or if you work full-time and can’t spend the time during the day at your child’s school, though you might like to. Each and every minute you spend, being involved and interested in what your children do, matters. Each and every minute.

by Rocket Science Mom

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Photo graciously provided by radioflyer007, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

School Roulette

section of roulette wheelLast night, we had back to school night for my middle school son.  I am simply astounded, amazed and thankful for everything the teachers are doing in the classroom, integrating blogs, podcasts, online assessments, and more into the classroom day in and day out.  The opportunities my son will have are ones I don’t think I would get if I sent him to private school, and I left excited for him, and frankly, wanting to go back and do it again myself.

Because I am writing a book on differentiating instruction in the classroom currently, I got home and looked at all the resources the teachers had provided us with, and then I compared it to what resources were online for other instructors in the same school, and I was surprised that there seemed to be a big difference- some teachers had little or no information about their class online, and if they did, it was basically limited to due dates and assignments only.  I came away feeling like the kids within this school are going to end up with radically different experiences depending on the teacher they have gotten.  The kids in advanced classes will get an education that makes me hopeful for American education at large.  The kids in the mainstream classes will get an education as well, but it may not be nearly as exciting and engaging on a daily basis.

I’m starting to understand in a more practical way, how a teacher, along their attitude and enthusiasm for learning, dramatically transforms an educational experience for kids.  For teachers that love their subjects and can’t wait to show the kids the new video they found over the weekend, or share a podcast or more, it’s not the technology that makes the classroom cool- it’s the technology that breaks down the walls of the classroom and makes anything possible that’s exciting.  The same can be done in an analog way, but it’s much more exciting to share something that is multimedia, or interactive than just giving kids another article to read.  But at the heart of it, it’s the enthusiasm that sparks kid’s interest and creativity.  Teachers are the gatekeepers to so much nifty and interesting stuff- they just have to let kids in and let them play.

I think it’s the sense of play, exploration and adventure that makes things exciting to kids.  When I tell my kids about the “old days”  (mid 1980’s) when their dad and I worked in labs during college, extracting and sequencing DNA in gels, now something that’s done incredibly fast with the help of computers, we can all have a good laugh.  I catch myself thinking how exciting it was then, and how much has changed in that relatively short time frame, but how still, I can tell them all the cool things we got to do and communicate how amazing it is, and how lucky they are to learn these things.  This sense of fun and story and personal engagement is at the heart all of the best learning, and we need teachers who want to do that for kids every day.

Largely, your child’s experience and thus also their opinion of subjects are held in the hands of whatever teachers they pull that year.  They might get lucky, they might not.  And I don’t think we can bottle education and serve it up online or through videos alone- kids need that mentor, that guide, that facilitator that makes the whole subject area come alive- and that’s something that’s really hard to communicate through a screen.

But it also means that teachers who hold onto their knowledge like it’s a zero-sum resource; that each effort they make, each fact they give out, somehow makes them poorer, or uses up the limited supply-these teachers give kids a fundamentally different view of education.  Maybe education is something you have to earn in their eyes.  Maybe it needs to be hard and difficult rather than a playground for them, because maybe it was hard for them.   But I can tell you, the teachers who look at school like one giant opportunity to send the electric shock of learning through their students- those teachers are worth their weight in gold, and I wish I could clone them.

I don’t know what to do or what we can do to prevent our children’s education from seeming like one giant crap shoot, dependent on which teacher they get assigned for which class.  I know it’s frustrating when you get one who isn’t engaged, just like it must be frustrating for teachers getting students who seem to care less.  But the more we can match teachers who do care, the more students who naturally will as well, and then we all will be better off.

But here’s the big secret: it’s not the school and the curriculum that matter as much as the teacher and their level of engagement- all the kids in our school will have different opinions and know different things by the end of this year, not so much based solely on the curriculum, but based on the instructor.  I am sure of that.

by Whitney Hoffman

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Photo graciously provided by Phil Roman, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Setting Up An Allowance

coin being dropped into a piggy bankTwo of our recent columnists (here and here) wrote recently about money and teaching your children how to handle it. They both inspired me to write about something we’re trying out in our household: An allowance. So far, it’s more of an experiment rather than a finished product, but it seems to be catching on.

When I was growing up, I didn’t really have an allowance. There was the occasional flirtation with an allowance as my Mom would put together a “job jar” filled with slips of paper. On each slip of paper was written a job (water the plants, pick up the toys in the TV room, etc.) and a monetary value. The deal was, my brother, sister, and I would pick out a slip of paper, do that job, then earn the money associated with it. My mother would keep a running tally, and by the end of the week, we’d get our earned allowance. We didn’t get a standard amount of money. It was usually tied to doing chores that we probably should have been doing anyway. The whole idea never really caught on. I didn’t have much of my own personal spending money until I was old enough to babysit.

As a fellow blogger here has admitted about herself, I can also be a pushover when it comes to my kids asking for things. When the kids have been good at the doctor’s office or when we’ve gone to the zoo or a family vacation trip, I usually allow them a small toy (or two, or three). We have another vacation trip coming up in a few months. Because I don’t want to deny them souvenirs, and because I don’t want to break the bank buying things, I have been trying to think of ways to solve both dilemmas.

Up until now, the hubby and I haven’t set up an allowance system for our kids. We thought that the upcoming trip was the perfect motivation.

Rather than a job jar, or a set weekly allowance, my son came up with the idea of a list of things he should do each day (homework, getting himself dressed and undressed and making sure his clothes make it to the laundry, etc) and a monetary value associated with each thing. He calculated out a per day total, then added up a per week total. He came home from his first day of second grade with his whole plan all laid out. It was perfect, except for one thing. It was far too much.

He’d put together his list with an end goal in mind of how much money he wanted to earn by the time of the trip. It was almost double what my husband felt was appropriate. I reached a middle ground by reducing his per-chore value and then adding in a couple additional ones. We ended up somewhere between what my husband was thinking was fair and what my son wanted.

So far, it’s going well. Not all of the chores are being done. My son is learning consequences and choices. If he chooses not to do one of the items, then he doesn’t earn that money. If he’s ok with that, then it is his choice. (Homework, however, isn’t one of those negotiable items.)

Writing this out, it sounds complicated, but this was a scheme thought up by the first born child of two engineers. I have a feeling that our type A personalities have played a bit of a role here. When my Mom stopped over to watch the kids for me the other day, her only comment was that she wanted to be one of my kids with an allowance like that.

In the end, I don’t think my son will do every item on the list every week, and he probably won’t earn all of the money he first thought he would, but I think that he will learn some pretty good lessons about personal responsibility and consequences. Plus, I am using it to help curb my habit of buying toys at unnecessary times. Rather than my purchasing things, he can earn his allowance to buy something.

Hopefully this idea will prove to be long lasting. I have found that so far it has been a good motivator in part because it was largely my son’s idea. Rather than talk him into a set weekly allowance, going along with his idea has given him a lot of ownership and enthusiasm.

I will report back as we are closer to our vacation with an update on how this experiment played out.

by Rocket Science Mom

Photo graciously provided by alancleaver_2000, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Poll Results: What More Can We Do For You?

It’s now been about twenty four hours since we launched our poll – here it is again, so if you haven’t expressed your opinion, here’s your chance – And if you like, click on the “View Results” link below and see where the community’s head is at. – Lastly, thanks a bunch for telling us what’s on your mind. ‘Cause without you, dearest readers, we’re just a bunch of lunatics who talk to ourselves, out loud, in public. And they have a name for that, don’t they?

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