In a previous post I wrote about getting rid of homework. We need to seriously consider getting rid of testing, as well. Especially for younger children. Here I attached a link to a recent post by one of my favorite education bloggers, Teacher Tom. In his post he discusses the history and the ramifications of standardized testing in public schools. It does not look like the practice of high-stakes testing is going away any time soon, despite the fact that good teachers are leaving the profession in throngs.
If you are a parent concerned about the effects of high-stakes testing on your child, the lack of real learning and the driving away of your child’s natural passion for learning, and reality that great teachers are leaving the profession, where can you turn? This is where budgeting for private options for your child’s education becomes a real consideration.
As a former public school teacher, I was faced with the same realities of the demands for high-stakes testing, and simply could not continue in the public schools. But, at heart I am still a teacher, and passionate about teaching kids. I did leave the public schools, but didn’t leave the teaching profession, I just changed my path. I became certified in Montessori teaching and still employ these methods today. In Montessori education, there is no formal or standardized testing. Children are guided and observed in their work (at all ages and stages of development), and evaluated according to their accomplishments on real-time tasks. They aren’t evaluated according to any specific time table, or against any kind of standard of performance of their peers. This keeps the stress out of learning, and keeps the joy of learning alive.
My teaching profession continued on the Montessori path, but there are many alternatives to public school available that a family must research before choosing the right one for your child. You have to look at the educational philosophy behind the methods used at any private institution, and find one that matches your own; one that you can support in your home life, and one that you can be consistent with in your relationship with the school and your child’s teachers. Don’t stop looking at simply price or location. An education of convenience won’t solve the problem of meeting the demands for your child’s best educational (and complete) development.
This is a link to an article by teacher and blogger from the website educationrethink.com, John Spencer. The article not only gives great reasons to eliminate a homework requirement from childhood, education it also gives some great alternatives to homework.
Many alternatives to homework are actually touched upon in the section where he lists why homework should be eliminated. It’s true that there is inequality, but unless parents (or other adults) get involved with their children’s education and dedicate themselves to providing opportunities to learn instead of homework, how are children going to spend their time actively learning?
What purpose does homework serve? Presumably, homework is about practicing a skill previously presented during the class. But, if a child has the skill mastered, homework is just busy work with no purpose. On the other hand, if the child does not have the skill mastered, mastery won’t likely happen without a different approach to learning the material or concept. So, insistence upon hours of daily homework must be serving some other purpose. It could be serving the purpose to give teachers something to grade. It could give parents a reason for their child/ren to be occupied after school while they are doing their own chores. Either way, homework has the potential to cause a rift in family relationships by creating distance, and causing stress between parent and child when homework is not completed.
It’s tough to go against something that has become a tradition and such a heavy component of ensuring learning, but it’s time to take a deeper look at the purpose and actual results of assigning homework. We need to eliminate the unintentional results, and match outcomes of “homework” with actual learning.
In keeping with Montessori practices, children at my school will experience writing before reading. Many children get experience at home reading and learning print handwriting, and if interest lies with reading and writing in print, I would not discourage that. However, when it comes to learning writing, children who are not already writing will be introduced to cursive first.
I believe there are many benefits to starting with cursive first, before print. First, the movements of cursive handwriting more closely imitate the developmental movements of the child. Movements required to create cursive letters closely resemble movements of scribbling which the child does prior to creating symbols that convey meaning. It is more of a struggle for the child to learn cursive writing later in life when the ease of executing these natural movements are lost.
Children have an easier time with writing and reading when the letters of a word are connected together. Cursive style writing allows the child to write continuously without having to pick up the pencil and start again in order to write each letter in a word. In addition, letters that are connected together help children to know where individual words begin and end, and encourage children to begin reading back what has been written.
Cursive writing offers more distinction among letters such as “b”, “d” and “p” so that reversals of letters is much less likely to occur. Spacing and positioning of letters while writing is better understood through cursive writing.
Through songs and other experiences prior to attending school, most children have the alphabet in the memory and say the name of the printed letter rather than its sound. In this way, cursive offers a new system for the child, whereby the symbols are learned according to the sounds they make. Lower case symbols are used exclusively at first, in order to isolate one difficulty at a time. Over time, upper case cursive letters may be introduced. Because print is in the child’s experience in the form of books and many other places in the child’s environment outside of the classroom, children who learn cursive early tend to have little difficulty learning to recognize and write print letters.
Lastly, beautiful cursive handwriting can be an outlet to allow the child to express his or her personality.
Of course children should not be discouraged to write in print, and learn keyboarding skills as well, in order to adapt to modern communication methods. But the developmental benefits should not be overlooked when deciding on a writing curriculum.