A Dose of Reality

Education lends itself to ideals that may or may not be realized on a daily basis. I myself make a very detailed schedule at the beginning of each school year that quickly tanks in favor of daily survival, yet I continue to set the ideal for myself, for my kids each year hoping that this will be The Year.

Leaving the ideals to the side for now, what things actually get taught in your teaching situation? If you are not in the dominant teaching role, what do you perceive to be the daily reality of education for your own kids or for most of the kids you are familiar with?



Filed under How Kids Think

13 responses to “A Dose of Reality

  1. We start with definitions. We look at the subject, define it and define some of the terms in the definition. We then look at some relevant scripture verses and try to derive some basic principles.

    We then move into the study of the subject itself. There is a heavy emphasis on vocabulary and reasoning, but with plenty of practice for skill mastery. My goal is to foster mastery, not just memory.

  2. My two older girls, 4th grade and 1st grade, are in a small private Christian school that is a mix of inner city kids, immigrant & refugee kids, and kids that “look like them” (middle class, stable home environment, parents relatively supportive and/or involved at the school).

    For me, it is not so important *what* they learn at the school, because I know sending them there isn’t going to turn them into rocket scientists. I know they will get a basic, acceptable level of education that we supplement informally at home based on their interests and abilities.

    More important to me is this, that we as a family: (1) learn how to love God and love others, particular others who are not like us, whether the differences are due to socioeconomics, family background, personality, level of faith development; (2) learn to respect and submit to authority, and, for them, do this away from parental oversight; (3) learn to apply a proper Christian worldview to living out our daily lives.

    We’ve struggled with, well, pretty much all of these areas… but that’s good, because that’s why we have them at this school. Our whole family is learning and growing in these areas!

    Here are a few examples of how these goals are being realized:

    My 9-year-old struggles with interpersonal relationships, and we pray with and for her and talk about strategies about how to love her classmates even if they don’t seem so lovely and we ourselves don’t *feel* so lovely.

    We’ve dealt with how to submit to and respect teachers, even when the assignments are “too easy,” “too hard,” or “uninteresting.” Again, with our 9-year-old, e.g., when she was in kindergarten, she rebelled against doing those letter books… she’d been reading for two years, so I completely sympathized with her, but we worked with her on learning to submit even when the assignment is so unpalatable… and worked on finding ways she could love her not-yet-reading classmates during letter-book time.

    Re: #3, this is harder for us to monitor, with the kids away at school rather than being home with us, but I like the way the school is structured to address this: the teachers and administrators are Christians who teach and guide from a Christian worldview, and many of the students come from Christian homes; however, and this is very important to us, not all of the kids come from Christian homes… providing a ripe environment (especially at this time of the year!) for learning to apply a Christian worldview to their daily, “in the world,” lives.

    Wow, I really blathered. I’m very excited about your project and don’t know what I can contribute, but I hope this is helpful, anyway! I’m looking forward to reading what others have to say in the discussions over the next few weeks.

  3. In our teaching situation, we have a large age-range of children in each class. This tends to make it more difficult, as we either have younger children who don’t understand the material or older children who get bored. Splitting it up further, however, makes each class too small.
    Because of this dynamic, the main things that get taught are “practical” things… such as how to help someone who is younger than you, how to share, how to model good behavior for younger children, how to ask for and accept help from older children, how to learn from those around you, how to be respectful and worshipful even when you’re surrounded by distractions. The Bible stories, verses and catechisms are all a part of the lesson, but it seems like these “life lessons” are the ones we can actually SEE them learning and implementing. They seem to understand the more “abstract” Biblical concepts better when we make them concrete and relate them to the situations and difficulties they are dealing with right there in class.

  4. Sherrill

    The basics get taught. With hopes of fun things along the way.
    Bible, History, Math, literature, Latin–these never get missed. Grammar, Spelling, Typing, Art, Music are one to four times a week, depending on the week or child. I have a nine year old who is a struggling reader. He also has oral reading daily.

  5. Even though we do send our daughter to a small private school, I do have goals in mind which I know will only be partially met through her school experience. I think I have a pretty good idea of what my strengths are, and what areas I have a real “in” with her, so the ones I’m focusing on with her are 1) developing in the area of sympathy and displaying compassion 2) developing a love for reading and imagination (so we do nightly reading time, and have a lot of tea parties, etc.) 3) Growing understanding of the idea of cooperation (chores for now) 4) Greater personalization of all the info she has learned/is learning about Jesus through home, school, church. So, these are the ones I am currently most personally vested in. I volunteer in her school weekly to help out and spy – I mean monitor if some of our other educational goals are being served well.

  6. Rose Bexar

    One of the themes that came up time and again when I was taking teacher training and talking with colleagues was the importance of helping our students learn how to learn and how to think. A guy in the physics department said that he doesn’t expect all of his students to become physicists, but he does want them all to learn how to think logically in the way physics teaches one to think. And I think that same idea applies in any discipline and at any level. Even if the course isn’t Intro to Logic or Thinking and Writing, the goal ought not to be simply storing and repeating knowledge; kids need to know what to do with that knowledge and how to go about obtaining more of it. And of course, we’re called to love the Lord with all our *minds*, so one of my indirect motivations for teaching my students how to think was to help them develop their ability to let faith seek understanding.
    Daily lessons do more for smaller-order concerns, I think. One of my favorite “fun” lessons was part of the explanation unit; I came to class in character as someone from an earlier century suddenly having to adjust to modern life and asked them to explain some things to me. The kids thought it was hilarious, but in floundering around trying to explain things like football and computers, they discovered how much they take for granted about their daily lives. Sometimes my goal was to show the students how much they already knew about the task I was setting for them; sometimes it was to show them that yes, this *can* be fun; sometimes it was to show them that they’d use these skills long after they leave college.
    Because writing is communication, that also opened the door for developing virtues that affect our relationships with others–how to approach the reader with respect and humility but still have the courage of your convictions, for example, and how presenting your case the wrong way will fail to persuade your audience no matter how right you are. I have no way of knowing how much that affected them in areas other than writing, but I can hope that they grew as a result.

  7. While we do cover the core subjects, I think the greatest lessons have been those where God touched the hearts of my boys. It typically happens on the days where we’ve had strife, struggles, and frustrations galore. Yet somewhere along the way, God intervenes. I come away totally in awe of the way He takes a very difficult situation and grows not only my children, but also me. We are closer, kinder, and more aware of His presence in our lives.

  8. We don’t do an overview for the year anymore.

    We start our days with me reading aloud to the girls from some sort of chapter book (right now it is Nancy Drew) and discussing what we read about. We discuss what we encounter and think about throughout the day. For example, we may talk about vitamins and minerals, and layers of the earth while washing vegetables. My girls help me cook (reading and measuring). They have ‘play time’ when they read their books, play educational games like Scrabble, Yahtzee, Chess, and Muggins Math, draw, and many times invent.

    We read and talk about the Bible. It is very important that they not only become familiar with what the Bible says, but learn to use it as a tool for their lives.

    We really do cover everything from history and science to math and english, and of course, art. We just don’t follow a particular path to get there. We have a lot of discussions though. I predict that as they grow more knowledgeable, we will have more debate.

  9. Two separate answers for the two different teaching areas I deal with:

    HS tutoring: Although the ostensible goal is learning to write well, I’m not sure how much progress we’re making with that. What I think he is learning is how to read well, understand what he’s reading, and maybe even think about what he’s reading. That may translate into better writing down the road.

    Preschoolers: They are learning names and classifications of everything, how to make sense of the world for themselves, and from me mostly they learn attitudes–which things are delightful and which things are not. I hope I can teach them the right ones!

  10. HeatherHH

    Our oldest is 6, so we focus primarily on the basics.

    First and foremost, teaching them throughout the day to love the Lord with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength. We have a time of Bible reading, prayer, and Scripture memorization every morning with Mom, and then Bible reading, prayer, and hymn singing in the evenings with Dad. We also use teachable moments throughout the day, and read from a Christian biography every day.

    Teaching them to be hard workers and to help one another is our next priority. Each are expected to help out during the day. The 6yo mops everyday; the 6yo and 4yo helpd put away laundry, while the 2yo empties the dryer. Those 3 all help fetching needed items and picking up. There are many other things they do to help, which of course requires teaching them to do these things, even when it takes longer than doing it myself.

    Reading occurs with my 6yo and 4yo every day. The 6yo reading more and more complex stories aloud, and the 4yo still learning phonics.

    Math occurs formally with the 6-year-old everyday (10-15 minutes), and informally with all throughout the day. They help with cooking, and other things like that where they learn more informally.

    Science occurs every day with me teaching a brief 10-minute lesson, but also they learn from our family garden and chickens.

    History. Nothing much at this point, just reading from a Christian biography every day.

    Music. I have various Christian music playing at times during the day: some hymns, and some contemporary Christian music, though we’re picky. We also spend time each day learning a hymn.

    Art is informal. They have paper, colored pencils, scissors, art hole punches, glue, etc, and they just do whatever they want.

    Handwriting will begin with my 6yo sometime next month.

    The main thing I’d like to be doing that doesn’t always get done is an additional time reading short books to them, of their choice.

    But, really, with my 6yo, I spend about 1 hr in formal instruction every day, and about 30 min with the 4yo. Most of their learning is more informal, throughout the day.

  11. Fay

    I also spend HOURS pouring over curriculum, praying and scheduling out a perfect year. Reality hits about 2 days into the year. It can be frustrating. My main purpose and expectations for my children’s education is to have a desire to learn. I want them to know how to nuture that desire. As long as I can look back on our school year and know that my kids are learning continuously and know how to learn (find information using different sources), have the desire to learn and the work ethic to do it – then I consider my job well done.

  12. i think my goal is constantly changing. just when i think we can really take off in writing essays on books we read and digging deeper in history or taking a closer look at geography, it seems we need to backtrack on the basics like capitalizing the first letter of each sentence or punctuation or spelling. it can be frustrating.

    but i think in families, the real learning that takes place has to do with our experiences and how we talk about them.

  13. mama2tlc

    A few thoughts on my varied background in teaching…
    In my public university there was a big push for multiculturalism- and to them that meant acceptance of everything/everyone- there is no absolute truth.

    In my days in the suburbia christian school, Classical education was the buzzword, though as a new teacher, I was never really trained in it- and really struggled at first. Character education was very important and memorization of basics too. For example, math facts, important dates in history, grammar rules, etc. The school was very successful and children academically outpaced their peers.

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