A Simple Lesson in Home Learning
Full Disclosure: I possess three degrees in Education, including a Ph.D. But it doesn’t take degrees in education, or any field for that matter, to know the difference between right and wrong. Now that I am homeschooling two elementary-school-aged family members (who are not my children) as their schools and surrounding districts have chosen to be locked down for no health-related reason, I have had a chance to see inside their Central-Ohio elementary school dynamic and watch their teachers in action, within an online environment. With just one week, I have witnessed the full-blown absence of formal instruction and the dumbing down of academic content.
While I fully understand that things may be different if class were in full session, I also know that many vigilant parents are witnessing their children’s teachers and their levels of instruction, in particular within an online environment, for the very first time. With this point aside, what I have witnessed is appalling, embarrassing, and it demonstrates a total lack of rigor that education at any level should possess. Teaching within an online environment is not an excuse for a lack of organization or rigorous direction. However, many educators may likely blame these current “health-related” circumstances as an excuse for their lack of organization. “We didn’t choose this,” etc. etc. etc.
Within the first week of school, in particular within the elementary level of education, I have witnessed my two elementary-school-aged family members participate in computer programs titled “Lexia and DeamBox Learning.” Both of these computer programs are click-based, Common Core programs where the answer is ultimately provided without much effort on the part of the student. This of course raises the questions; What exactly is the student actually learning? Is this alleged learning organized for the student so he can see what he is trying to ultimately accomplish? The answers are no. The learning is unorganized, haphazard, and void of direction. My young family members only requirement, thus far within their district, is to spend an average of 20 minutes on each computer program so the teacher can see online that this specified amount of time has been spent clicking.
Secondly, both of my young elementary-aged family members are required to spend 30 minuets, every day of the week, talking to their teachers online over Google Meet. Roughly four other students also attend the meeting, where the students are asked to discuss their emotional goals, discuss the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” and draw monsters. Yes, that’s right. They have spent the first week of school, discussing “social and emotional learning propaganda” and drawing monsters. This, by the way, is first and fourth grade. Frankly, I don’t see this getting any better. Therefore, as one might expect, I have daily expectations for my young family members and the work they do for me is rigorous, timely, organized, and both within and above their grade level.
For example, the youngest family member is in First Grade. He is now reading The Original McGuffey’s Reader Series for the first time. He is learning to read on his own, spell and comprehend. He is also now engaging in math problems with addition and subtraction worksheets that are organized based on progressive difficulty, while being void of Common Core propaganda. Long addition and long subtraction, with numbers stacked on top of one another, carrying, borrowing etc. He is also learning about the American Flag, its history and what the colors of the flag represent. I also instill self-discovery and critical thinking into his lessons, requiring him to ask themselves “who, what, where, when, why and how,” while also teaching him to look up questions and answers on his own.
Regarding my second family member, who is in the fourth grade, I am having him read the book 50 Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin. He is also engaging in math, at and above his grade level, while learning about the life cycle, the water cycle, and two to three-digit multiplication. While they have been given a packet with math-related word problems from his teacher (and its already completed), I am adding to it by simply getting back to the basics, and teaching him to look up how to discover the process of a particular math problem, so ultimately, he can teach himself. This process should not be limited to math, but should also include how to format sentences and spell correctly. Unfortunately, this young family member was unaware of anything related to geography. He didn’t know the states, the countries, or the continents, nor what those words meant. Now, after one week with me, he knows. Both of them also now know the names of the first five presidents of the United States, and they are showing a true interest in learning more about them and our country.
As supplemental instruction during off-time, we play Monopoly, Scrabble, and exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. The two games promote reading, spelling, addition and subtraction, among other things, while exercise promotes a lifelong endeavor of self-improvement and well-being. They fill out a checklist on a calendar when tasks are completed and they keep an agenda of what they do each day. They manage their time, and are not afraid to learning something new. All of this has taken place within the first five days of elementary school, per my direction. We also utilize the “180 Days of (insert subject matter topic)” workbooks for the appropriate grade level as a standard instructional foundation (they can be purchased on Amazon).
In summary, what I have witnessed just within the first week of “online home learning” at the elementary level, is embarrassing -- for both the educators and the schools themselves. This school district and many others, rely on the propaganda that is the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” indoctrination. This, too, is a waste of what should be instructional time dedicated to organization and formal instruction on subject matter content. Instead these students have been learning in the first week about how to manage their emotions, draw monsters, click on programs and tell people what they like and what they did during the summer. While some may find this level on introductory instruction normal, I assure you there are better and more mature options.
There are certainly schools and districts that have raised the bar of instruction, even during the first week. However, within this major school district in Central Ohio, I assure you, the first week of online home learning has shown that the bar is set very low, and clicking on Common Core computer programs is neither teaching nor learning. While in many states the school year is still young; focus, direction and rigor can start anytime and they should start immediately. In the words of Thomas Sowell: “People who have time on their hands will inevitably waste the time of people who have work to do.”
Dr. Sean M. Brooks is the author of six books, including; Violence Among Students and School Staff, Purposeful Deception, and most recently, Discourses on Education.