Friday, 14 June 2013

An Old School Rant

It's Friday!!!!

Which means that Baby Girl officially completes her first year of high school today . . .  eeeeek!  She only has three more years left. What am I supposed to do with that? Clearly this is one of those thoughts I have to stuff deep down into the nether regions of my subconscious and leave there. Ugh! Way to be a Friday, buzz kill, Krista!

Anyhoo . . .

Being Friday, it also means that the boys and I only have one more week of homeschooling left before we take a glorious two months off. Hallelujah! This year was a rough one since I spent three of those months laying on the couch, barely able to move and puking up a storm. It's a miracle we even survived it, but I have to say the fact that we did manage to get through it and still complete all of our work, gives me hope for next year. And yes, in case anyone has been wondering, we are going to continue homeschooling next year in spite of the obvious challenges a newborn will present to the situation. I have thought long and hard about it. Sure, it would be easier for everyone if I just gave up and sent the boys back to school (and it would make them a whole lot happier since they feel homeschooling is a lot harder than public school, where, according to them, they did not have to complete their assignments each day or do corrections. I really hope this isn't true.), but gosh darn it, I just love homeschooling so much I am not ready to let them go. To be honest, I know they love it too. In fact, yesterday, Elliot told me he learns better when the person teaching him knows him really well and loves him.  Awww! Not to mention, I have seen drastic improvements this year, and I am really excited about them. I truly believe that homeschooling is the best option for my boys, and I am looking forward to doing it with Thing 4 as well.

Yesterday, as the boys worked on their lessons, I finished our curriculum list for next year. I have learnt so much about how my boys learn, and contrary to what all the "experts" say, they do best with workbook type instruction. It's so funny because two years ago I bought this very expensive, very hands-on science curriculum and let me tell you, it has been a chore to get through it because the minute we start a lab, which is suppose to happen on a weekly basis, their minds are off and wandering. I can't seem to get them to focus on what is front of them because each thing they touch or every word I say sends them off in a million other directions. It is absolutely exhausting, and they hate it! 

When I ask them what their favourite subject is they both say language arts, which is hilarious because the program we use is from a Mennonite publishing company and it is old school. Each day we work from a text book and they diagram subjects, predicates, direct objects, etc. They learn all about commas, periods, and semi-colons, and have step-by-step lessons on how to write paragraphs. The text book is lovely, but unlike what most workbooks look like today, this one has very basic, tiny illustrations (if there are any on the page at all) and everything is black and white. Being a teacher and having graduated with my education degree within the last ten years, I know that the current trend in language arts education is whole language learning, where the student magically learns how to read and write simply by being  read to and by being exposed to lots of books in their early years, but not one of my kids ever learnt how to read that way! This trend also poo poos on direct grammar, spelling and phonics instruction, but hello! I am doing just that with two boys who struggle in both reading and writing, and I am seeing AMAZING improvements. If you talk to any parent with a child in the NB school system, these are the very skills their children are lacking. Most of our kids in middle school still can not spell or write, and some of them still can not read. It is a tragedy! Oh, and if I hear one more time that spelling is not important because we live in the age of spell-check, I will go ballistic!  And here is where I am about to make a very political and perhaps a not-so-nice statement: 

I believe whole-heartedly that this move towards whole language learning is simply based upon the fact that we live in a poor province, and our education system can not afford to buy the textbooks our children require to properly learn grammar, spelling and phonics, and has nothing to do with what is best for our children.

eeeeek! Did I just say that, and in bold?

Well, it's now out there.

The past two years have confirmed for me that education needs to get back to the basics. We need to go back to old school methods because they work. I have seen it first hand, and I have had success using these old school methods with two students who are the exact type of students the new methods are supposedly best for: active, boys with learning disabilities. Yes, our world is changing, but people haven't changed. The argument used to defend these new methods is that they better prepare children to think critically, to problem solve, and to be creative, but I say that is a bunch of bologna! You need to be able to read the books and do the math before you can use it! Children need to be given a firm foundation in language and math skills (don't even get me started on the new math), and I think, unfortunately, we are too quick to throw out the old in favour of the new because it is flashier, it is easier, and it is cheaper. Perhaps we can really learn something from our Mennonite brothers and sisters.

Anyhoo . . .

This is so not where I expected this post to go today. I had intended to write about how awesome, albeit exhausting, it is to spend my days teaching these two awesome boys of mine, and how if I didn't homeschool I would not get to spend my afternoons playing their homemade games like the one Avery made yesterday called "War of Toys":

Unlike the other games he has come up with in the past, this one was actually well thought through, and I actually enjoyed playing it. Can you imagine such creativity and ingenuity came from a boy who gasp! learns from textbooks!

Okay, that was bad. I admit it. Who knew I could be so ornery?

. . . tee hee!

Happy weekend everyone!

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