Saturday, February 18, 2012

Extracurricular Learning: School Outside of School


Good education, in my opinion, is a major key to success and happiness in life. Because I value it so highly, I seek out academically oriented extracurricular activities. Whether the children are in public school, homeschooled, or in private school, I am constantly on the look out for other classes, workshops, or activities.

Why bother having my child spend hours on regular school work and then come home to do more? I have a few reasons:
  • Learning can happen in all aspects of your life. Kids should not think of it as something that should only, or can only, happen in school.
  • What are the chances your child will find their passion or career in the classes taught in school? Even though math is needed for great technology careers, they figure out their favorite thing to do is program a computer or phone in math class.
  • People teach differently and from different perspectives. Sometimes a kid needs to see material presented in more than one way in order to understand it.
  • We prioritize what we value. If we actively make time for work, eating properly, hobbies, and learning it's because we actively want to accomplish those things.
A very popular program that requires a full day's time commitment is the Spark program at MIT on March 10th. MIT students prepare classes for students in 7th through 12th grade. The classes can be music appreciation, to math, to living on Mars, to figuring out how a toilet works. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Going to the Principal’s Office Sucks!


I scheduled a  visit with my 12 year old daughter’s middle school to talk about her lack of challenge with the school curriculum. The principal recommended a meeting with her teachers. It was intimidating. Every one of her teachers was there, including an extra student teacher, the principal, and the school psychologist and then just me and my husband.
It was hard. I had concerns but I couldn’t get them heard. The teachers had their own ideas about what they wanted and we just kept talking past each other. I was talking about Hanover only having a few minutes of homework each night and still acing her tests without studying and the teachers would say that she doesn't "show what she knows", doesn't "talk more in class", doesn't jump immediately to do extra credit work.
The math teacher only focused on the one test where Hanover got a 75% (the rest were 90 and above). The English teacher had some nice words. The science teacher never once talked about Hanover's excellent test scores, just some assignments that were missing. The history teacher complained that Hanover didn't hand in an extra credit assignment and also ignored the rest of her performance in class.
When I tried to rephrase what the teachers were saying so I could understand it better, "so you're saying that Hanover's performance in school isn't impressive enough to consider changing her assignments?", the principal stated, firmly--I felt I had been admonished like a school child--that I was being insulting to the teachers. What? It was humiliating. The teachers claimed to care but, ultimately, nothing changed.
I left the meeting thinking my daughter's performance was sub-par only to look at her school records and see that she was earning high honors in 7th grade while doing almost nothing.