Do “perceptions” influence school achievement?

That is truly a debatable question… but I believe they do.  For most children their thoughts about something are influenced by their success or failure or even by their parent’s opinions.  Children will often think they can’t succeed in something simply because their parents didn’t.  Recently, I have been working with my son – trying to get him interested in reading for pleasure.  He reads… when he has to.  I asked him why he didn’t want to pick a favorite book and get comfy on the couch and read.  He just flat out responded with a “I hate reading.”  Wow… that broke this homeschool mom’s heart… so I asked him why.  What he told me next really made me think.

“Daddy doesn’t like to read because everytime he opens his book he falls asleep, and reading is for girls.”  Oh… my… goodness… I was shocked. I had no idea that he had been feeling this way. Yet, this proved that what he “thought” about reading affected his desire to read.  He saw my husband (really tired from working all day) fall asleep reading, and saw his sisters with their noses in books all day and assumed that reading was not for him.  We are currently working on changing this perception… but I do remember tutoring a little girl who hated math.  I asked her why she felt this way, and she told me that her mother did not like math and never did well in it, so she didn’t like it either.  After I worked with her for a while, she started enjoying much success in math.  The success brought her confidence and eventually she began to really enjoy math.  Her thoughts about math changed from hating it – to liking it.

So do our perceptions or thoughts about something affect how we achieve? What do you think??

Highschool math blues…

Does your highschool child breeze through math?  or do they struggle and need help at every turn?  I have noticed recently that many highschoolers  seem to struggle with secondary math.  Even those who were very strong in math in elementary school, often find themselves in a quandry in high school.  This very same thing happened to me.

As a child I was strong in math during elementary school, I went to Jr. High school and seemed to get most of Pre-Algebra, but the cracks really were beginning then.  Ninth grade math found me with bigger cracks and by the mid term the cracks were so big I was falling through them.  I had a terrible Algebra I teacher – he would put a few problems on the board and then sit down and tell us to work quietly.  I got NOTHING from that class.  My parents transferred me to a private school before the new year. It was amazing, but the private school was using the same book and was in the same chapter that we were at the public school.  The difference soon became obvious that I had a TOTALLY different teacher.  My new teacher spent time with us.  Each child was asked if they understood the section, and time was taken to make sure that we were able to complete the assignments. It wasn’t long before my F became an A.

Same book – same chapter.  What was the difference?

Some may say it was all the teacher – and to some degree it was. Yet, I believe it was the approach the teacher took. She presented each new concept in a straightforward manner. She explained it in as few terms as possible.  In essence, she streamlined it!  Along with her making sure we understood through almost a mastery learning approach.  It completely changed my life.  If it wasn’t for that teacher – teaching that way – I would not be where I am today.  She taught me math so well, and made such a huge difference that even then I wanted to share that experience with others who may have had the same struggle. I loved math so much after her class, that I went on to complete a Calculus course in high school, and then to minor in math in college.  Today, that is what I do – every week I tutor students who are struggling in math. Who are in the same situation I was in at the public school… and I have the opportunity to do what my great math teacher did. I guess you could say, I am “paying it forward.” I love it  – and am reminded every day of what a priviledge it is to be able to help these students.   

My recomendation for – homeschooled, private schooled, or public schooled…. pay attention to your children. Notice when they seem to be struggling, and get them the help they need.  It may take a completely different school- or it may just take some extra help.  You may just be changing their lives forever. Mine sure was…

Reading and the Butterfly…

I had forgotten just how amazing it is when a child learns to read their first words. Today, I remembered the joy I had at teaching little ones how to read! – I am so thankful that I have had the priviledge to give this priceless gift to so many little people when I taught preschool.  But today, what joy! I was able to finally give that gift to my own little preschooler.  She smoothly and effortlessly began reading her own simple sentences! It always reminds me of the caterpillar –  so ugly in its little brown cocoon. Then at a time when we least expect it – out he comes as a beautiful graceful butterfly.  I have seen this process and it is so amazing that it takes your breath away!  That is just how I felt today – watching this little person come into the beauty and grace of reading that she had been working so hard towards for the last few months. I know a few months back I posted on how frustrated I was with her.  I never thought we would make it to this point just a few short months later.  I am so thrilled and so happy – and so excited.  My heart always rejoices to tell them when they finally learn to read – that now you can read the the Word of God all by yourself!

 

This was an added blessing, for today in Bible we were studying the fruit of the Spirit, not only the ones in Galatians, but the ones listed in II Peter 1:3-9. We were going through each of these mentioned, and came to “knowledge.”  I asked all of the children what they thought Peter was saying when he included “knowledge” in this list?  One of them answered that to gain knowledge and seek knowledge was a fruit of the Spirit.  Wow!  This was an open door for me to have a little “family talk.”  Each of the children had been battling with all of the work of school and to be honest – with a bit of laziness.  So, as we wondered and studied why knowledge was listed – I was able to show them how this was all a part of our being “conformed to the image of Christ.”  Each of the fruit of the Spirit is listed to show us what those characteristics and qualities are that “should” come from a heart that belongs to the Holy Spirit.  I think they were kind of suprised that knowledge would be listed among others such as gentleness and brotherly love.  But why would our Creator have made a world full of amazing things and given each of us amazing inds –  if we weren’t supposed to study and learn and gain knowledge and understanding? I never cease to wonder at our God – and how He “hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.”

 

II Peter 1:3-9“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that perain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Ande beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

How do you like your “percentile?”

No, it’s not a fancy kind of ceramic flooring.  Really it’s a type of score used on a standardized achievement test. The percentile has a few common friends like the GE, the stanine, and the SAI.  With names like that our mini-series ought to be pretty interesting! In case you missed the last post – we at Online Education for Kids are going to start our own mini-series on testing. We hope you can join us!

Well to begin – I can’t even talk about standardized tests without voicing my opinion about them. Standardized tests can be used as a very effective tool in educating children.  Yet, to me a problem arises when over-reliance or over-emphasis is placed on this or any ONE test’s results. Keep in mind that standardized testing can be limited in their reliability. It is one test taken on ONE day or a FEW days for several hours a day.  A child’s physical or mental condition could drastically affect the score. Sick? Tired? Missed breakfast? Stressed? Test Anxiety? All of these are reasons for us to remember that it is only “one” test. In determining a child’s progress or achievement we must look at every aspect of his or her life. OK, now that I have that off my chest – just what exactly is a percentile?

A percentile is probably the most commonly used score among educators for discussing results of standardized achievement tests. The percentile is often confused with a percent grade, but it is really a different creature. The percentile means “per hundred” and is a rank measurement with the average score being 50. For example, the score 76 percentile, simply means that for the 100 students used as the “standardized” or test group – your child scored higher than 76 of them.  Or to reverse it – there are 76 students in the “norm” group that scored lower than your child.  Since the average score is 50 this means that your child is somewhat above average.  Due to the fact that standardized tests are “norm referenced” they can be compared to different tests that are also “norm referenced.” So in a sense your percentile score is portable. If your child takes another norm referenced test you can compare the scores.  Just in case you’re wondering what “norm referenced” means – test makers compare student test scores to a predetermined “norm” group of students. They used this group to “test” the test as it was being created.  It is kinda like holding up a yardstick – the same yardstick – to see how every child measures up.  The uses for this are limitless – but obviously can help the child’s parents or teacher determine where weak areas are or where the child may need a bit of review.

Hope you join us next week for the next installment of the Testing mini-series!

P.S. Here I go one more time 🙂 – Again, any test is simply a tool to give educators or parents an idea of where the child is achieving compared to that yardstick.  Under no condition should a life changing decision be made based upon one test. Protect those children – they are a wonderful work in progress.

When is Wear Brown Shoes Day?…

As a homeschool mother, I am constantly on the lookout for online teaching resources. I love teaching my children using the good old paper and pencil method, but technology is amazing and to get rave reviews from the kids… gotta have it. They would much rather have me incorporate some unbelievable websites into their daily lessons than to write a paper or do a worksheet. So, to keep the natives happy, I frequently try to find websites that correspond to our recent studies. In my search for “awesome” resources I often come across information that really stands out, and others that are interesting… but only ocassionally useful. On my most recent search, I found many websites that were definitely “keepers” and more than a few that ranked in the “interesting… but only ocasionally useful” zone. One of these was a website that told you all of the holdiays for each current date. For example, I learned that December 4th was Wear Brown Shoes Day. Interesting, but not highly useful. Yet, if I was searching for a really odd holiday (for some unknown reason) that sure would be the place to go.
My biggest question is how do we locate and find the really great websites that are truly useful? It is at times a difficult quest to complete. There are several websites that list good websites for educational purposes. This is a great place to start – someone else has already done some of the footwork for you. A few that I like to use are Homeschool.com’s top 100, Good Sites for Kids, Homeschool Top Sites, and even some blogs that review and suggest websites that are useful for homeschoolers. I hope this helps you add “awesome” technology to your homeschool day. Your kids will love you for it!

Giving thanks…

In this wonderful age of technology and speed – it is a nice change to take a moment and let it all slow down around you. Life is full of treasures and blessings – if we can only see them. Today, the children and I are writing down all of the wonderful things that make us thankful. Of course, they had many varied responses such as – my dolly, mommy and daddy, being able to homeschool, and even my hotwheels cars. I was so suprised when my daughter said she was thankful for her computer school. I never would have thought that the children would be thankful for “school.” But in reality, they should be. All I see and hear is the comlaining and grim faces. So, I am thrilled that I discovered a little secret about them – they do like school!

Take a minute this thanksgiving and ask your children what they are thankful for – you just may be suprised!

A few praise pointers…

In my days as a private school administrator, I cannot guess how many times I heard parents tell me that their child was gifted and they thought once enrolled, the child would simply need to be advanced a grade. It is funny, but most of those children were just good, healthy, “normal”, yet wonderful children. However, in the eyes of those parents they were so much more.
It is only natural for parents to feel that their proecious little one is a “child progeny.” I am personally thrilled when parents think their children are special (in a healthy way, of course). There are so many children who live life with no encouragement or praise from their parents. Parents who cherish their children and give them healthy praise are rare, and definitely give their children an edge by doing so. Many research studies support the fact that children who are encouraged are more confident and determined than other children who are not encouraged or praised.
Yet, praising children is more than just a pat on the back and the obligatory “Nice job!” Many child psychologists say we need to praise our children, but if it isn’t SPECIFIC praise then it may be harmful. That’s interesting isn’t it? So, praise and encourage your children, but identify the specific behavior that they are doing so well. It is the effort that matters most – not the innate gifts that we have such as intelligence, strength, or beauty. Isn’t it true for all of us, “It isn’t what we are given that matters, but what we do with what we have been given.” Give it a try – praise your children for the effort that they put forth, a good attitude that they displayed, or even good personal discipline that they exemplified, and that will encourage them to keep at it.
But wait – can there be too much of a good thing? These same psychologists seem to think so. I guess that would compare to chocolate… I love chocolate and could (probably) eat it all day long. Yet a complete diet of chocolate is not good for me. In the same sense praising a child too much can lead to serious problems. Research has shown that children who were excessively praised were less confident and less determined to face difficult challenges.
In our personal lives we are often very busy – yet we try to be as involved in our children’s lives and education as possible. This moment by moment influence is truly one of the core reasons why we homeschool. Yet, in the midst of all of that, it is common to lose sight of the “big picture.” Whether they are doing handwiriting, spelling, or even their online schoolwork there are always opportunites to encourage them, especially in areas that they have had struggles!
This little study into praise has made me more determined – and I encourage you – to be a proactive parent and to foster admirable qualities in my chidren. I plan on doing this by first, praising them and encouraging them; second, being there for them; third, spending quality time with them; and finally, by letting them know just how special they are to me!
online education
homeschooling

Where in the world is Tonga?

Did you know that this week is Geography Awareness Week?

Well, I sure didn’t – at least not until I had to search for some geography facts for my children. This prompted me to think about how much (or how little) focus I put on geography education for my children.  In my search I saw that there are many statistics out there underlining America’s apparent neglect of geography, which obviously supports the need for a Geography Awareness Week.

Some of the blame for America’s shortcomings in this area is due to the fact that most people think geography consists of naming the continents, countries, oceans, rivers, capitals, etc. But that is just the “tip of theiceberg.” Here is a quote that I love from iGeo:

“Geography turns out to be much more significant than many of us realize. It is much more than knowing facts and figures. Geography is about spatial patterns and processes. It is about frontiers, centers and peripheries, about tourists, terrorists and refugees, about trade of food, clothes, drugs and digital data, about population growth, El Nino, tsunamis and earthquakes. It is the fascinating story of an ever-changing world. Without geography you get lost.”

Wow! from that description it makes me feel like I am not even scratching the surface with geography. Ok – this really got my attention.  So, I began to look for some online resources that might help us put some oomph back into our geography time.

First of all, online education literally puts the world at your fingertips. (I know – corny joke…:)) What more could you want when your subject is geography? Here’s a small sample of some of the “treasures” that I found:

  1. Use Google Earth to visit any place you are currently studying.
  2. Check out Geography Awareness Week at MyWonderfulWorld.
  3. Test geography knowledge here.
  4. Check out this really cool clearinghouse for all things geography.
  5.  Play geography games at Sheppard Software.
  6. How about an online textbook written just for kids about geography!
  7.  Check out the really cool Rader’s Geography4kids.

We had such a good time looking and “playing” with each of these sites… so take a minute or two or an hour and participate in Geography Awareness Week by spending some time learning about our wonderful world!

Oh, and by the way… in case you were really wondering where Tonga is – Tonga is located east of the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific. (I just learned that in my online travels!)