kitchen table math, the sequel: momof4

Friday, July 2, 2010


It doesn't say anything good about ed school that only one basic science course is required. BTW, as first-graders in the mid-50s, my class learned parts of plants, plant nutrition, photosynthesis, heliotropism etc. Why am I not surprised that global warming is part of this curriculum? I also agree with the last comment about the inefficiency of this approach, but efficiency seems to be fighting with mastery for last place in the pantheon of ideas that concern the ed system.
I love that: efficiency fighting with mastery for last place.

In my experience it's no contest. Mastery is last and efficiency isn't even in the running.

Public schools are almost anti-efficiency at all levels: in hiring and spending as well as teaching and learning.

That's why public schools are happy to slow the progress of gifted students by substituting enrichment for acceleration.


Catherine Johnson said...

Public school motto: more is more.

Bostonian said...

My son just finished 2nd grade. My wife, schooled in another country, wants to know where the textbooks are. We never got a clear idea of what our son was supposed to be learning this year. Math we handle ourselves -- we consider EM at school to be enrichment/review. Science and social studies are taught in a "thematic" manner. In science they learned about butterflies, and in social studies about Japan. The idea, I suppose, is that by learning about partcular subjects in depth, one will infer the general principles. I wonder. I think young children should be taking "survey" classes. Using a textbook, a teacher could spend a month on countries on each continent, or a month on teach type of animal.

In English, he gets open-ended writing assignments ("If you could be another classmate, who would it be and why?") that he blows off with a sentence or two ("I would be Jim because he runs fast.") I'm not sure how children should be taught to write but doubt this way is optimal.

My son reads voraciously, and we borrow about ten books a week from the public library on various topics. Much of his learning may be coming from his independent reading.

Anonymous said...

We always got lots of packets for different things. No textbooks, either.

The math stuff is obvious in a lot of ways, but the writing deficits become clear by around middle school, which is really late to try to do anything about it.

The smartest thing I did when my son was in 2nd grade was to make sure he learned his 8 parts of speech well, along with parts of a sentence. I knew the packets coming here and there weren't going to be enough. I also knew that the teachers didn't even believe it was necessary to teach grammar.

There's a lot of good homeschooling books that have that perfect 15 minute worksheet before school, or after dinner. Those really saved us. The main thing is to be diligent about it and expect mastery (albeit on a grade school level). My son also memorized the 23 helping verbs which saved him on many a test. Simple things explicitly taught can save them a lot of pain in the future.

When my son got to middle school he aced all of his grammar tests because it was truly a review for him. Other kids really struggled. Last year in honors English, he aced them all again while some of his friends were moved out of honors due to the grammar grades.

The dumbest thing I did was let the writing drop in middle school. I thought for sure he would be writing enough. They won't teach them how to summarize or outline, but they expect coherent essays and paragraphs.

In grade school, I knew he wasn't writing enough with the open-ended journaling that they were doing, so I added the classical homeschooling techniques of narration and dictation. That gave him more practice, but I dropped the ball again when he got into middle school and it was a big mistake. It took around 6 months at the beginning of 8th grade to get him hand write a summary smoothly. He had no mechanical stamina, even though he was expected to write extended responses and essays during that time.

There is so much they don't teach them that they need to know by high school. It really is unbelievable.


momof4 said...

I second the comment about dictation. I see journaling and the kind of writing assignments as a waste of time and torture for kids who like their privacy. I agre with the scattershot approach to history and science, both of which should have a coherent pattern and start at survey level.

I recommend taking a look at Wise & Bauer's The Well-Trained Mind for an example. It's a whole curriculum, but the early chapters summarize the approach. The curriculum is divided by time, beginning in grade 1 with ancient history to 400 AD, literature of the period and biology, classification and the human body. Grade 2 covers 400 AD through the early Renaissance, its literature and earth science and astronomy. Grade 3 goes from the late Renaissance to 1850, with its literature and chemistry. Grade 4 goes from 1850 to the present, that literature and physics and computer science. Every year does grammar and composition- not journaling. This sequence is repeated three times over the 1-12 years, with incresing depth and analysis each time. The book has great sources for material, even if it's just for supplementation. I haven't seen that kind of coherence and structure in many schools.

Catherine Johnson said...

I think young children should be taking "survey" classes.

ditto that

Anonymous said...

Ditto on The Well-Trained Mind. I almost gave mine away since everyone is in high school, but something else started to annoy me about a class my son was taking and I realized that I still needed it.

Oh, the other stupid thing I did was not put up (and use) a timeline for the middle school years. I did it exactly as written in the book for grade school. It taught me more than it did my kids. I should have repeated it in the middle school years, at least.

Yes, writing-wise the Well-Trained Mind is not big on naval gazing, thank god.


Lisa said...

Our school system has solved their efficiency problem by not only slowing gifted students but seemingly requiring them to stop all forward momentum. No acceleration and no 'enrichment' either. If you're done with an assignment alphabetize folders or tutor another student.

lgm said...

Same here. When full inclusion came six years ago, enrichment and in-class ability grouping were totally cancelled in the elementary. Nothing above grade level can be offered. The old practice of going to a different class or grade to join an appropriate reading group was ended. If the student is done, s/he can read, draw, or navel gaze.