Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We Choose Happy Over Normal

A fellow homeschool mom forwarded this article to me. It just amazes me that even when "some" people see the facts in black and white they still refuse to "see" the truth. This is long but well worth the read!

What Are They Doing in School All Day?

Some homeschoooling moms require their children to sit at the table for 45 minutes to an hour doing math. They insist the entire hour lesson of grammar be completed before moving on to science. Within weeks the kids are burned out, mom is burned out; everyone hates homeschooling.

But this is unnecessary. First, studies show that short lessons achieve far greater results in academic retention and retrieval than lengthy lessons. Second, we must conquer the lie that the kids at school are getting more of an education than our children because they are at school all day long.

We see the neighbors hop on the school bus at 7:30, returning at 2:30 each day; and we are certain that they are engaged in learning most of those hours away.

Well, several recent research studies have shown that for every 50 minute class period, only 28% of that time is spent in engaged learning. That means that for every subject in school, the students only spend about 14 minutes being taught or involved in learning activities. The rest of the time is wasted on lining up, changing classes or rooms, taking books out, putting books away, dealing with discipline issues, answering unimportant questions, handing out papers, handing out assignments, giving homework assignments, explaining what is expected, and lecturing on topics unrelated to actual academic learning.

The subjects covered in school are math, social studies, science, physical education, language arts, foreign language, health and arts. Generally, arts and physical education alternate, as do science and health. Thus, in a typical school day, the students only have 84 minutes of actual learning time, that's less than an hour and a half each day. They are gone seven hours to receive less than an hour and a half of instruction and actual learning.

Here is what one classroom teacher writes in her weblog:

As individuals, with some notable exceptions, I like every one of my 180-or-so students this year. But en masse, they make me freakin' crazy! They assume that any time there are not actual words coming from my mouth, they have permission to talk. I then spend 3 minutes getting everyone back on task, only to be interrupted by a request to sign something, a phone call, or a p.a. announcement. Actual time spent teaching is probably 3% of the class period.

Though she is guessing, if her calculations are correct, the time our neighbors spend at school equals only about nine minutes of instruction the entire day. Giving the schools the benefit of the doubt, we'll stick to the hour and a half calculated in the scientific research studies. Remember, also, these studies spanned grades K - 12.

So, do your children spend an hour and a half each day learning - either reading, writing or discussing school subjects with you? Are their minds engaged for an hour and a half throughout the entire day? If so, you are doing better than the schools across the nation.
Let's think this through further; if the school children only have fourteen minutes of instruction or learning during each subject, what if they are not paying attention during those crucial minutes? Most students are so distracted by the noises, movements and issues encountered in a typical classroom, that it is difficult to focus on the subject at hand. The fact is, as home educators, when we engage our children in any kind of learning, we are very aware of the moment they quit paying attention. The one-on-one instruction of homeschooling is far superior to a teacher lecturing a class of 25 students. So many distractions to education are immediately eliminated in the homeschool environment. If our children only spend 14 minutes on each subject, they are still more engaged, more attentive and more focused than they would be at school.
As far as academics and instruction goes, homeschooling wins hands down. Do not believe the lie that your children would be better off in school. Don't listen to those voices in your head telling you that you can't do this. You can! You can do it better than they do it in school. You are capable. Your children are capable of doing it mostly on their own! In fact, that's the second point I would like to make - if we embrace the ideal that our children should become independent learners, we release a great deal of the burden of homeschooling.

Because I've been getting inquiries about the studies I mention, here are a few references you can use to begin your research into short lessons and the Active Learning concern in public schools.

To learn more about Learning Time for Schools, read this article: Washington Post

Several paragraphs down, you'll see a reference to the study mentioned above:

"She cites a fascinating 1998 report by BetsAnn Smith of Michigan State University showing a typical school day in Chicago delivered less than 240 of the state-mandated 300 minutes of daily instruction because of start-up routines, unnecessary interruptions, test preparation and poor classroom management. A 1980 study of teacher behaviors and competencies by Charles Fisher and David Berliner found that in certain subjects, students were getting no more than four (that is not a typo) to 52 minutes a day of actual learning time."

The study on short lessons is:

Russell. I.J., Hendricson, W.D., & Herbert, R.J. (November, 1984). Effects of lecture information density on medical student achievement. Journal of Medical Education, 59, 881-889

Here is a quote from the study:

"Statistical results clearly showed that students in this study learned and retained lecture information better when the density of new material was low."
Jeannie Fulbright
http://www.jeannief/ ulbright. com/articles/ article/5406998/ 94084.htm

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