Charter Starter

At the beginning of the year, I registered my children to be in the random drawings to get into one of four charter schools near our home. While, I am interested in a better academic experience, and in choosing a better school for my child. I honestly was just enrolling into anything and everything I was willing to drive my child to.

So, the four candidates were North Star Academy, American Preparatory Academy, Channing Hall, and Summit Academy. Each of these had pros and cons, but honestly I figured that they would be better than the current public education that my children were getting, and provide a more rounded experience for my children than homeschooling. Let’s take a quick look at my thoughts on each of the schools (note that they are listed in order of proximity to our home).

North Star Academy
This was perhaps our first choice of all of the schools. Yes, it was simply because it was the school closest to our home, but I was sure that it would provide better than the public school. Also, we have neighbors who have children attending this school and that makes it easier to carpool. However, it seems that this school also offered a great curriculum and format for our family (including a non-traditional 10-month school year).

American Preparatory Academy
One of the things I liked about this school was a strong emphasis on reading. However, other aspects of the philosophy and approach had me nervous. I don’t know that I can give concrete reasons. However, it just seems to me that the approach is more of a “you’re-okay,-I’m-okay” mindset. And I want my children to understand that there are rights and wrongs in this world. I also know one of the teachers, and frankly, I am not sure she is someone I want teaching my children.

Channing Hall
The only thing that I really liked about this school was that it offers the International Baccalaureate Program. This program offers an excellent preparatory school program for secondary education. From this, I would assume that they provide a great education for elementary level as well. However, the school does appear to be a little too “private-school” like to me. But that is just a mere personal impression based on the web site.

Summit Academy
Perhaps our least favorite school for a couple of reasons. The first was that this is the farthest away from our home. Second, this school has a strong emphasis on homework. My wife is bothered by too much homework. She feels that if a teacher can’t do it in class then he probably isn’t a very good teacher. Plus, she feels that too much work can be detrimental on children; they need their play time too. During an open house visit they held back in March, we learned that this school offers a teacher and an instructor for each class. The teacher provides the primary instruction, while the instructor works more individually with each kid (in groups) to help them reach their potential. I really like the focus on working with kids at their level.

The Winner Is…
Well, I am hoping it is my daughter who is attending this school. However, the school that offered us a position at their institution is Summit Academy. Yep, as is my luck, I always get my least desired pick.

We were able to get in because they added a junior high program to their school. In relation to this addition, they also added another class for each grade. Thus, to fill the classes, our kids were selected.

When I got the phone call, I was both excited and nervous. I had committed my wife to having our kids go to a charter school if we managed to get accepted. However, I really didn’t feel right to keeping her to that commitment. So, I opened it up to each of the three kids are who school aged.

The oldest, PandaMae, has been pretty determined for a year now that she wants to home school, so she will not be going. The youngest, BO, was a question mark, but ultimately he decided that he wanted to home school again. The middle child, Miss Jo, was the only one who had any interest in public school, so she and I had a long talk. Finally, after explaining to her that they had an orchestra program and she could learn the violin. She eagerly agreed to go. Not to mention that she wasn’t keen on the idea of her assigned teacher at the public school.

So, tomorrow I get to take my daughter to her first day at a charter school. I am eager to get involved in the program and to help my daughter do her best.

Miss Jo has always had an attitude that she will do as little as she can get by with. “Just enough” is almost her motto in life. I am hoping that this more rigorous academic program will teach her to put her best foot forward and to work hard, to do more if you can, and to make it your best work. Only time will tell, but I am excited and nervous for this change.

Fabulous Farding Friday: Thomas Jefferson Education

My wife says that I am obsessive.  She thinks that when I pick something up that I am an all or nothing sort of person.  You could use the example of geocaching.  This past week has been the first time since August that I have not been geocaching in more that 48 hours. Other family obligations have made it hard to find the time. My obsession with geocaching has gone so far that I have even woken up at 4:00am and gone out a snag a cache.  I just needed to get a fix.

But I am not writing about my geocaching obsession. My latest “obsession” (for want of a better word), is Thomas Jefferson Education (or Leadership Education).  As most of my readers know, my wife and I (okay, mostly my wife) have been home schooling our children for the past year and a half.  If you have ever investigated home schooling, you know that there are many different ways that parents approach educating there children.

These approaches include unschooling, the classic model, “traditional” schooling (i.e., at a desk with a workbook), and many more.  Perhaps the biggest hurdle (at least after one makes the hurdle to actually homeschool) is to find the teaching model that is going to work best for your family.  My wife and I have been using the traditional model for all of our educating.  And it has worked fairly well.

At first we struggled with the time we needed to dedicate to this model, but eventually we discovered a way that removed some of the time burden from my wife and I, but also gave our children more freedom from the schedule class time model that we started out with.

Our children now have a check list of 40 things that they must accomplish each week.  This list includes 2 hours of silent reading (broken up into half hour segments), 4 session of reading out load, math lessons, history lessons, science and more.  Our kids usually eagerly finish up all 40 items by Friday and have an enjoyable weekend.  Sometimes they don’t and they struggle with a Saturday of school work instead of play.

This system has worked will for us over the past year and more.

But in our quest (again mostly my wife’s quest) to do the best for our children, my wife suggested that I read, A Thomas Jefferson Education for the Twenty-first Century by Oliver Van DeMille.  Being the skeptic that I am, I picked it up hesitantly and questioningly.  What whack-job homeschool theory is this?  My investigation found further evidence of the whackery of this theory in that this book is self published (George Wythe College was founded by DeMille).  And self-published in the academic world equates to this is so far out in left field that I could not find a publisher, so I published it myself.

However, as I read his ideas I found them captivating.

In a very over simplified nutshell, Thomas Jefferson Education is about reading good books with your children and then discussing them.  No, you don’t give good books to your children and then discuss what they read.  You read the book.  Your child reads the book.  Then you discuss the book with each other.  The discussion also comes in many forms, one-on-one conversations, group discussions, writing essays, critiquing essays, then rewriting essays, and more.  I have to admit. I was captivated.

I was captivated because, although I am not much of a reader, I like a good book, and I want my children to love books as much as my wife does.  This model seems to create a situation where parents model for the children reading.  But more important than that it also creates an environment where children are taught to think about what they read.  They are taught to question what they read.

I was also interested in it for one other reason.  As things go, we will probably discontinue our full-time homeschool after this academic school year.  My children have learned much over the past couple of years, and I feel that they are near their full potential for learning at this point.  I am afraid that by putting them back in school, they will drop back to where they were when we first started to consider homeschooling.

However, with this Thomas Jefferson Education model, and can encourage my children to go beyond their public school education and continue to maximize their potential as learners.  They will study good books with their parents.  They will discuss, debate, question, and ponder good books with their parents.  While at the same time attending public school and garnering from that what they couldn’t if they home schooled.

So, one final note, in conjunction with this study, I have recently read, The Chosen by Chaim Potok.  And as the Thomas Jefferson Education model encourages, I have written about it.  Please feel free to read and comment about it over at the Helaman Academy blog.

Poverty, Entitlement, and Sexual Predators

We had some friends over today.  They are conservative and hold many views similar to mine.  And the conversation turned to why we home school. (They are a home schooling parent’s too.)

I told him that we finally made the decision to home school because there was way too many problems with the school.  The first year we homeschooled, I talked with one of the 1st grade teachers, and she told me that she had at least 2 kids in her class that has sexual issues. THIS IS 1ST GRADE (6 YEAR OLDS!)

My friend asked me what I thought was the reason for such prevalence of sexual problems at this school.  “Is it poverty?” he asked.

That sent my mind a wondering.

Almost 10 years ago, I had two different jobs (at different times) that lead me to work with at least 10 different boys who were in state custody for sexual misconduct.  I learned a lot in that year, and I feel that I have a keen understanding of what makes the sexual predator tick.

First of all, I learned that children under about the age of 10 who have issues with sexually inappropriate behavior learned such behavior in only one way.  And that is because they themselves have been victims.  Thus, most likely these 2 six year olds who are acting out sexually were once victimized (most likely by someone in their home or family).

That took me to a second thing that I learned, and that was that sexual predators usually perpetrate because they believe that they have a right to do so.  They think that they are entitled to commit the offense because society (or the victim) has hurt them.

That is the one thing that sexual predators and the poor have in common.  They have a sense of entitlement.  They both feel like something is owed to them because they have been wronged some how.

I don’t point this out to say that all poor people will become sexual predators.  But more to say that our culture of entitlement is what has lead to the increase in sexual predation in our society.

We are often told that the increase in reports is because people are educated about what is wrong and they are more likely to report.  Some might even say that sexual inappropriate material in the media increases the rate of criminal activity (and I happen to think that it does to an extent).  However, I strongly feel that it probably has more to do with our cultural emphasis on entitlement that has lead to the increase in sex crimes.

Humbled Home Schooler

As many of you know, my wife and I (mostly my wife) home school our children. It is a great experience, and I love to see my children learn and grow in the process.

In order to make the home school experience effective and more enjoyable, we often have activities where other home schooled children get together and share time, talents and ideas. And because I happen to have a key to our Ward (church) building, and I happen to be the person who schedules the building for our Ward, we have had several activities for home school kids at our Ward building.

Well, that has officially come to an end. The LDS Church has now officially issued a statement (pdf file, not a Church affiliated link) declaring that their church buildings were not to be used for home school activities.

If you look carefully at the letter that was read to all congregations (I believe in the only U.S.), they offer two reasons for their decision. I can understand and accept the last reason they give: “Adherence to this policy will help avoid safety and tax liabilities for the Church.”

If this were the only reason offered, I think I wouldn’t have as hard of time with this instruction from our leaders.

However, the second reason, which is really related to the first, is what bothers me. The second reason given is that “Church facilities are dedicated for the purposes of worship, religious instruction, and other Church-related activities.” Okay, the reason itself isn’t what really bothers me.

I am bothered by the many non-church-related activities that are presently being done in church facilities. It is a common practice in the church to hold family gatherings (i.e., grandma’s 90th birthday, or mom and dad’s 50th anniversary) at the church. It is also even more common to hold Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner’s at the church building. These are NOT Church related activities. Yet, there was no mention of such activities in the letter and as best I can recall, no such letter has ever been written.

As the scheduler of my building, I was tempted to start canceling all such activities just to make it fair. However, I am trying to humble myself in this mind set, and graciously accept the counsel of my leaders. I will graciously allow such activities to continue.

P.S. If there are any gracious (or tax right-off seeking) business persons who would like to donate a large room for home school activities (as occasion would arise), I would appreciate hearing from you.

Update: Just adding a couple of links from the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV about this Home Schoolers and Church use policy.

Helaman Academy

I have mentioned before that we (my wife and I, more she than I) home school our children.

The name of our home school is Helaman Academy. It is named after the Book of Mormon prophet Helaman. He was a great military leader, and worked with many young soldiers in many of the battles that he faught. Thus, our school mascot is the stripling warrior.

We also have school flag. Hopefully, I will get the kids to explain it on the site

Anyway, As part of our homeschooling, our children are required to do a journal entry.

The journal entry doesn’t have to be about their day. It can be anything as long as they write something. We allow the children to do this on the computer. So, I thought why not have them blog.

Hence, the Helaman Academy Blog Site.

I invite all my readers to check it out. I also invite them to encourage my children to write more, by commenting about what they write. But please remember that they are still novice writers.

My Children as News Anchors

As promised, here is the picture of my children acting as anchors for the local television news station.

Children Anchor for Local TV News

KUTV 2 News has had what they call an Open House for the past couple of years. Last year I wanted to go, but decided that it would just be too crowded to even bother.

However, this year, when they announced that they were going to have another Open House. I knew that we had to go.

We are a home schooling family. As part of the school, we like to have a weekly field trip. We have gone to a couple of museums, a gymnastics meet, a zoo, an aviary, a movie, and a lot more. So, what could be more educational of a field trip than a trip to a TV news station.

We went early on Friday. I even sacrificed my normal bedtime (I work graveyards). We went in the morning on a weekday, because we figured that the lines would be shorter. And they were. We got there just as the lines had thinned, and by the time we left, the lines were lengthening.

The kids were able to experiment with the “blue screen” (formerly the “green screen”) that the weather forecaster uses. I was very intrigued (I wanted to me a weatherman when I was a kid).

The kids were able to sit in the same seats as Mark Koelbel, Michelle King, and Sterling Poulson at the anchor desk.  I will post the pictures, when I get around to downloading them off the camera.

We saw where they edit tapes, make graphics, and various other work gets done. It was really quite entertaining and educational. If you can get there next year (assuming they do it again), I would highly recommend going.