Writing, like reading, is a key skill. Writing in particular forces students to express them precisely which leads to critical thinking and other higher order thinking skills. It also pushes them to express themselves and to have digested the basic materials and explain them.
But, the opposite is also true. There is little that is as demotivating as struggling over writing an essay that nobody except your mom is ever going to read. That can’t be a highly motivating great education. What’s the solution?
What about blogging? Invite your student to create a blog on an issue or topic that they want to. This could be ongoing or it could be for a fixed amount of time. As parents, you can also blog on your own and encourage your students to read your blog. I’ve been thinking a lot about blogs recently since I’ve been helping a new writer to create her blog, CarmensTravelTips.com, it’s about family international travel. Her latest post is about Most Scenic Breakfast Spots.
I’m pushing towards interest-driven homeschooling here in that you let the student pick the topic of the blog. And based on the situation, you might let them use it as the start of a business or ongoing hobby although, of course, it is the internet and you’ll want to think carefully before you give them too much exposure out there.
Bill in his Tempered Radical blog writes with insight and passion. This week he is writing about students asking questions and he is asking some very good questions.
I deeply agree with his point that a great education has students asking beautiful questions. I could quibble when he says that it’s only this generation where students in school feel socially inhibited and so don’t show genuine academic curiosity. From a homeschooling point of view, schools are intimidating to many.
But more importantly, I’m going to ask him the bigger question about being a “tempered” radical. Now this is a question in good faith by another person (ie me), who the truth be known, moderates his own convictions and radicalism enormously. My question is not an accusation that he should be a “committed” radical or anything else. I’m asking a genuine question about how he as a tempered radical feels about some, especially the homeschoolers, who have chosen to pursue their radical visions.
Bill is earnestly and publicly discussing the question of how education can become educational so that students are free to formulate questions and seek answers to them. He contrasts this with the current school system which discourages any question-posing by students and says instead, it is designed to train students to respond to answer high stake test questions (he has some wonderful wording about this, you should definitely read his blog. I do. I’ve subscribed for awhile).
Presumably, Bill knows about “unschooling” aka “interest driven learning” and he knows that some percentage of US students are being educated this way (It’s said that 3-4% of the K12 population is now homeschooling but we’ll all admit that these numbers are hard to verify. And of course, the unschooling segment of the homeschool population is small. I’d guess low single digits as a percentage. Still, it’s probably tens of thousands of US students).
What do you think of the radical homeschooling approach of unschooling? Obviously, homeschooling is not for everybody but is there a way to institutionalize such an approach? How much can a teacher do within the school systems to provide meaningful education to students who are programmed a certain way? What do you think about the homeschoolers and all their crazy experiments?
Kelly Burgess aka KGB
The “Mommy Bloggers” who are part of networks are frankly, a mixed bag. Some moms just join these services for freebies and their “review” is nothing more than a slight rephrasing of the company’s marketing materials. Some reviewers, on the other hand, really try out the products and share incredibly detailed and insightful reviews of their family’s experience with the product.
An example of a really great one is the review by Kelly Burgess (aka KGB) of the TOS Crew (The Old Schoolhouse Review) of her experience with Science4Us. Her Science4Us Review details her experiences with one of the modules, the one on magnets.
Kelly starts by describing the Science4Us generally and then moves to her own experience (and I quote):
Holden is in Kindergarten, so this material is right on target for him. Haylee is in 4th grade, so we used this material as a good review for her. Actually, I’ve noticed some gaps in her science knowledge in the past, like when questions about simple machines came up on her standardized testing one year, and I realized we had not explored that in depth before. So with that in mind, I thought this program would actually be great for filling in some of those gaps in past concepts for her in a fun and engaging way, and we were not disappointed!
She then explains her experience with the teacher login which prepped her for the unit. She took the kids both through the online materials and then she did the suggested hands-on activities which is particularly fun with magnets. She explains her students’ experiences for each of the days in the two week module in terms of what they were doing and learning.
Her insights are interesting both for how to understand what Science4Us offers but also, how she pays attention to her children’s educational experience and learning.
So, for reference, here’s Kelly’s online review and here are some demos of Science4Us.