Substantive Education

September 15, 2009

Seperating Molecules

IMG_1234Today my Physical Science students and I were discussing atoms and molecules.  The point of the lessons was not simply that a molecule is a combination of different atoms, but really understanding that these combinations then make up unique substances with characteristics of their own.  We started with water, a great starting point because kids are familiar with it, and are most often familiar with the chemical equation for water..H2O. They can observe that water is different than oxygen or hydrogen and has it’s IMG_1237own unique characteristics.

We explored these concepts with a simple experiment.  (This experiment does use electricity, so use commonsense safety precautions.) We took two copper wires with their ends exposed and attached one end of each wire to the top of a 9 Volt battery, using electrical tape to secure it.  Do not let the wires touch each other, and do not use a stronger battery.  We then put the other  end of each wire into a glass with a solution of water and baking soda.  As soon as the wires were immersed we were able to observe the breaking down of water molecules into their atoms of hydrogen and oxygen.  As the students watched, the gases bubbled away from the ends of the wire and  we were able to discuss the concepts involved.  So, in this first phase we observed a molecule breaking down into atoms.

IMG_1238After a few minutes of observation the students began to observe another change.  The end of one of the wires was turning a bluish green.  Baking soda contains carbon atoms and when you combine hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and copper (from the wires) you get hydroxycarbonate.  Hydroxycarbonate is that bluish green substance that we find on the Statue of Liberty which is made of copper.  In this phase of the experiment  we can watch as new molecules are formed.

Most science concepts can be taught with common household items…this one came from our textbook, love Dr. Wile, but there are experiments for just about everything online.


September 14, 2009


Filed under: Homeschooling — kbagdanov @ 6:07 am
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What about Socialization?

It has always been interesting to me that the big objection to homeschooling is that children will not be adequately socialized. Again this seems to come back to the stereotypes that people have of homeschoolers.
From a common sense stand point this argument has always struck me as odd. Children are not born with social skills, so how do we expect other, also unsocialized children, to teach our children social skills. What they learn is how to survive, to get their way, or to bully. They have to be taught to be polite, to be kind, and to share, all skills best learned from the adults in their lives, not from other children.

I’ve, also heard that children need to be in school to learn to deal with the ‘real’ world. What about school is real? It is a totally artificial situation which will never be duplicated again once a child graduates. Where in your adult life are you grouped with 30 other individuals who are exactly the same age as you, in a completely structured environment?

For parents concerned about this issue, there are a multitude of choices that are far superior to the option of institutionalizing your children for 13 years. There are church groups, school groups, park days, and sports activities. If your child is dramatic you can join a theatre group, if they want to do karate, they can take a class. My boys were with other children almost every day of their childhood at some activity or another.

Most importantly, children with a strong sense of self, or identity generally socialize easily, both with other children and with adults. I think the advantages that the homeschool child has in terms of identity is probably one of homeschoolings greatest advantages.

For those of us who have come up through the public school system, we understand how strongly our identity was influenced by our school relationships. Years after high school students who were in the ‘nerd’ group are still uncomfortable around the ‘popular’ kids. The insecurities picked up on the playground continue to play a role into adulthood. It takes work to leave those insecurities behind because they became a part of us when we were too young to evaluate whether or not they were true or valid.

Children who are homeschooled are somewhat baffled by this, they have never had to survive in the typical school situation and cannot appreciate the pressures put on their friends to ‘fit in’. Without this pressure our children are free to develop as individuals and don’t view themselves in the same way that their counterparts in school do. I didn’t fully appreciate this advantage to homeschooling until my children were grown, but watching them now, seeing how this freedom has allowed them to develop self-confidence and the ability to relate to many different people…I think it’s become one of the biggest advantages I see.

Since this is one of those topics that seems to concern everyone, it is not surprising that research has been done. Now that a generation of homeschool students have come of age and are adults, surveys have been taken to see if the socializing aspects of homeschooling have been successful. (Again, the details of this study are available at HSLDA commissioned the largest research survey done to date of those who have been home educated. The study was conducted by Dr. Brian Ray and surveyed over 7,300 adults who were homeschooled. Over 5,000 of these had been home educated for at least 7 years. Here are some of the results from this study.

Over 74% of home educated adults between the ages of 18 and 24 had gone on to take college level courses compared to 46% of their public school counterparts.

71% of homeschool adults were found to participate in ongoing community service activities…whether this be coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school or working with a church…compared to 37% of adults of similar ages. 88% of homeschooled adults were members of organizations like community groups, unions, professional organizations, and churches, compared to 50% of U.S. Adults.

Homeschoolers also tend to be more politically minded and involved.

Only 4.2% of the homeschool graduates surveyed consider politics and government too complicated to understand, compared to 35% of U.S. adults. This may account for why homeschool graduates work for candidates, contribute to campaigns, and vote in much higher percentages than the general population of the United States. For example, 76% of homeschool graduates surveyed between the ages of 18–24 voted within the last five years, compared to only 29% of the relevant U.S. population. The numbers of homeschool graduates who vote are even greater in the older age brackets, with voting levels not falling below 95%, compared to a high of 53% for the corresponding U.S. Populace.”

The study also had some other interesting statistics that I share, well, because I found them interesting. 90% of the homeschoolers surveyed had used the public library in the past year as compared to 56% of the general population. 98% of homeschooled adults had read a book in the past 6 months, as compared to 69% of the general population. 91% of homeschoolers believed that a citizen should be able to make a speech against the church and religion as opposed to 88% of the general population.

So there you have it, socialization… no problem. It appears that as adults homeschooled children go on to get further education, are involved citizens, and continue to be active in community life, as well as using the public library and defending the right to free speech.

September 2, 2009

Are Parents Really Qualified to Teach their Children?

As we start off the year I thought it worth going over some of the most recent test results on homeschooling as well as answering some of the ‘most asked’ questions. So to start us off….

Are parents really qualified to teach their children?

Yes, although I understand if you have your doubts. We have been taught to think that we need a special credential to teach our children and that if we teach something in the wrong order our children will be permanently damaged. As you will see in a minute, the research suggests that not only are parents qualified, but that they do a much better job than the majority of schools.

The reasons should be obvious…who is more concerned and tuned in to a child than his parents? Who knows his/her strengths and weaknesses better? Who is more interested in seeing that child succeed? What school can offer the individualized help that a parent can offer? Just the one on one tutoring nature of homeschooling gives it many advantages over a classroom situation.

Added to the fact that parents have far smaller ‘classes’ to teach, curriculum writers have realized that homeschoolers are a big market and have written curriculums with the parent/educator in mind. You don’t need a credential to use these materials, most come with step by step instructions. Understanding that parents will be doing the teaching, curriculum writers have taken that into account and made their products usable for families.

In addition, many homeschool parents, frustrated with what is out there in terms of curriculum, have written and marketed their own, and it is excellent. Unlike your local school, where one curriculum fits all, parents are free to choose from the hundreds of quality programs that are out there, the one that will fit their child the best.

For a multitude of reasons, homeschooling has proven itself successful…but don’t just take my word for it. Let’s look at some of the research that has been done.

Studies have been conducted by Universities, State boards of education, and various Education Research organizations. There have been studies done on both academic achievement, and the all important socialization issue.

Here are the results from the most recently published research project. The following is taken from the HSLDA website. You can go to the site to view even more details.

Drawing from 15 independent testing services, the Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics included 11,739 homeschooled students from all 50 states who took three well-known tests—California Achievement Test, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, and Stanford Achievement Test for the 2007–08 academic year. The Progress Report is the most comprehensive homeschool academic study ever completed.

The Results

Overall the study showed significant advances in homeschool academic achievement as well as revealing that issues such as student gender, parents’ education level, and family income had little bearing on the results of homeschooled students.

National Average Percentile Scores
Subtest Homeschool Public School
Reading 89 50
Language 84 50
Math 84 50
Science 86 50
Social Studies 84 50
Corea 88 50
Compositeb 86 50

a. Core is a combination of Reading, Language, and Math.
b. Composite is a combination of all subtests that the student took on the test.

There was little difference between the results of homeschooled boys and girls on core scores.

Boys—87th percentile
Girls—88th percentile

Household income had little impact on the results of homeschooled students.

$34,999 or less—85th percentile
$35,000–$49,999—86th percentile
$50,000–$69,999—86th percentile
$70,000 or more—89th percentile

The education level of the parents made a noticeable difference, but the homeschooled children of non-college educated parents still scored in the 83rd percentile, which is well above the national average.

Neither parent has a college degree—83rd percentile
One parent has a college degree—86th percentile
Both parents have a college degree—90th percentile

Whether either parent was a certified teacher did not matter.

Certified (i.e., either parent ever certified)—87th percentile
Not certified (i.e., neither parent ever certified)—88th percentile

Parental spending on home education made little difference.

Spent $600 or more on the student—89th percentile
Spent under $600 on the student—86th percentile

The extent of government regulation on homeschoolers did not affect the results.

Low state regulation—87th percentile
Medium state regulation—88th percentile
High state regulation—87th percentile

In short, the results found in the new study are consistent with 25 years of research, which show that as a group homeschoolers consistently perform above average academically. The Progress Report also shows that, even as the numbers and diversity of homeschoolers have grown tremendously over the past 10 years, homeschoolers have actually increased the already sizeable gap in academic achievement between themselves and their public school counterparts-moving from about 30 percentile points higher in the Rudner study (1998) to 37 percentile points higher in the Progress Report (2009).

As mentioned earlier, the achievement gaps that are well-documented in public school between boys and girls, parents with lower incomes, and parents with lower levels of education are not found among homeschoolers. While it is not possible to draw a definitive conclusion, it does appear from all the existing research that homeschooling equalizes every student upwards. Homeschoolers are actually achieving every day what the public schools claim are their goals—to narrow achievement gaps and to educate each child to a high level. (Emphasis – mine)

Of course, an education movement which consistently shows that children can be educated to a standard significantly above the average public school student at a fraction of the cost—the average spent by participants in the Progress Report was about $500 per child per year as opposed to the public school average of nearly $10,000 per child per year—will inevitably draw attention from the K-12 public education industry. “

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