Before I get started with the education topic of the day, I wanted to take another moment to thank everyone who has taken the time to read this blog. When I first started, I had a goal of having 100 people read my blog in a month. The fact is in the first week I have had 159 people read it. I understand this could mean my mom hit the site 158 times and my wife hit it once. (Ha Ha) Seriously, when people take time out of their day to read what I have to say, it is touching. If you like what you are reading, please direct other parents to this blog. The education in our state and country are not improving. I promise I will do my part to help.
For today’s topic, I want to take a broad view of education and slowly knock it down to the nuts and bolts in our homes. As a former teacher, I’ve seen how things work.
Most classrooms are far too big to have the optimal amount of education taking place. In my classrooms, I would average 24 kids. I would also be given the option of taking an extra child or two for additional pay. That created a problem. Do I take the money and have less time per child or do I refuse the extra children to focus more on who I have? Regrettably, I always took the money. I did it to provide for my family. I justified it in thinking “what’s two more kids?” Looking back on it, two more kids was a big deal. It simply meant I could not provide as much individual attention to the children already in the classroom.
The reason this story matters is simple. I am aware of a a small handful of schools that have under 24 children in a classroom. Kentucky Country Day and Highland Latin come to mind. Even when you include teacher assistants, the adult to child ratio are improved but not to the level to get the most out of your child.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-school. My son Cameron goes to a Catholic school and he is doing a great job. Regardless, “doing a great job” and doing his best are not the same thing. He is doing a great job in school because the work is too easy. I am not upset at all. In fact, I counted on it. I knew Cameron would be a challenge to teach. There are a couple of reasons Cameron doesn’t get bored to tears. The first is he is just like his mom- very social. He loves the atmosphere of school and the new friends he has made. The second reason is there are areas of education I didn’t teach at home. Art, Computer, and Spanish are three examples.
Let’s get to how this applies to your home and what you can do. My contention is you have to shift the ratios in the favor of the child. What you will find is when your child is working with you one on one, they will pick up material much quicker over time.
The reason Cameron is so bright is pretty simple. In fact, it is basic math. Most classrooms have a high student teacher ratio as I have already said. But what is the teacher student ratio when Cameron comes home? Of course, it is 1:1. As parents, we are all teachers and we decide on the curriculum every day. Most of us just don’t think about it in those terms.
When Cameron was three, I left the teaching profession to focus on my own family. Part of that focus centered on education. When I started really working with him, I did the same things many of you do. We went to the zoo, we colored, and we read books. That was a great start. The thing is though the teaching bug never left me even when I left the profession. One of my first breakout ideas happened at Wal-Greens of all places. I saw they had some educational books and I wondered if Cameron would enjoy the activities.
I structured the lessons from this book (which cost me $2.95) similar to basic lesson plans. There was a time and place to do the fun lessons. Cameron was introduced to “daddy school.” Once the book was completed, we would start to look for fun books together. This is a practice I implement to this day. For example, one of his latest assignments was learning basic multiplication. I taught the him how to do it in less than 10 minutes. He does not have his facts memorized but that was never the goal. If you asked him 4×4, he can figure it out quickly. My teaching skills weren’t the reason the skill happened quickly. The book laid it all out. It is called Master Skills (3rd grade edition) for the grand price of $6.95. On a side note, it is aligned to state and national standards. Most materials for Cameron are purchased at Barnes and Nobles. They have the best materials in my opinion.
To be at this high level didn’t happen overnight. My original goal was to work with Cameron on “daddy school” about 15 minutes a day. If you like my ideas, this is where I would start. Because I have built his mental strength over time, he can work about 45 minutes but we seldom work that long. I have no problem cutting him off mid assignment if he looks tired or is not focused. I don’t make a big deal over it either. If he’s tired, I stop and continue the assignment the next day.
I like quick hitting assignments. Get in, get out, and move on. This only works though if you are working at the child’s level- not the grade level. Although this could be one in the the same, that’s not always the case. When choosing a book, let the child see it first. There’s no shame in buying a book slightly lower than the child’s abilities to build confidence. Set goals when certain assignments are completed to have a day off from schooling with you to get ice cream. Also, don’t do an assignment because it’s the next page in the book. Feel free to skip assignments that are too difficult or too easy.
The real kicker in accelerating your child is this. Schooling doesn’t end when the regular school isn’t in attendance. Cameron and I still work on snow days, certain holidays, and the summer. We do not work on the weekends. I wouldn’t be opposed to a Saturday morning assignment but I feel he has earned that time off. Working when others are not is where you will get your real edge. Most parents won’t do this. Again, I can’t stress enough that it has to be quick assignments with rewards somewhere in the not too distant future.
I truly hope this helps. If you have more specific questions I haven’t addressed, you are free to post comments. All the best in your academic pursuits!!!