Way back when, I mean way back, when I was hoping to someday use my new principal's certificate in the Mesa Public Schools, I was attending my last of six classes the district offered to aspiring wannabe principals like me.
This last class was being taught by the assistant superintendent. One of the many topics he covered was the efficacy of the Apple computer labs the district had purchased for each of the thirty-nine elementary schools. After five years and an investment in the millions, the district test scores had not risen, in fact, he said, the scores had dipped ever so slightly.
He did not blame the computer labs for the lack of growth in the district test scores. He did comment though on how after all that investment in technology the district did not receive a rise in student skills as reflected in their test scores.
Now to the present . An article written in the Wall Street Journal by Betsy Morris and Tawnell D. Hobbs, titled, "Schools Pushed for Tech in Every Classroom. Now Parents are Pushing Back", discusses how some parents of children in public schools are questioning how much all of this technology is really helping their students learn.
Research from the RandCorp. and other unnamed sources "say there is no clear evidenceshowing which new tech-related eduction offerings or approaches work in schools."
The article mentions how parents are asking for proof technology is helping their children.
Of course there is the quote from a group supporting technology in schools. "We are moving into a time of exponential change," said Kieth Kruger, CEO of Consortium for School Networking.
Here at New Park Street Christian Academy, we use computers in order to teach your child over the internet. Keyboarding skills are taught to all fourth grade students and first year students in older grades. After one year of keyboarding skills, students spend time mastering Word and Excel, usually a semester at a time. Beginning coding is taught the third year. computers are not used to teach core academics.
Saxon Math with pencil and paper, solid math manipulatives-base ten blocks and fact cards. Reading uses real books. Writing is taught with pencil and paper. The final copy is typed on Word.
Students prefer to use paper and pencil to do serious learning. No contest. All prefer paper and pencil.
Computers have a place in educating our children, but not as teachers.
Relationships, relationships, relationships. Just as the old real estate adage of location, location, location is true so is the idea of the importance of relationships in a child's education or for that matter in anyone's education.
In a good private Christian school, you will have a much better chance of finding not just one person, but most probably many people who will get to know your child for the unique creation made in the image of God that he is.
In a good private Christian school, you will have a very good opportunity to know the people who are instructing your child. Probably not best buds, but teachers you will know well enough to trust with that person who means the most to you, outside of your spouse.
And in a good private Christian school, you will know that the importance of having a close intimate relationship with the creator of the universe, the Savior permeates everything the school is about.
The intertwining of the relationships between the Christian school staff, your family and the Saviour is as special as it is unique. The opportunity and support you have of people of faith praying for you and your children as well as being of a similar life philosophy is not something to be taken lightly.
At New Park Street Christian Academy, you also have the benefit of an academic education second to none. And instruction always straight from the Bible.
Have a blessed day!
I know when I have rejected even one of my three basic rules of training a child. The child I am training is frustrated. I am frustrated. And their is no one to blame but myself. I am the adult the child is relying on to train them.
It's true! My own children have asked that I exercise my responsibility to provide boundaries as well as encouragement. The students I have worked with in my special education classes have gone after their parents for not being a parent and enforcing boundaries they knew they needed. Aaah, kids. What can you do with them? Why train them of course!
RULE NUMBER ONE - REMEMBER, YOU HAVE A LIFETIME VIEW
A parent has a lot of good advantages available to them as chief trainer of their children. Life experiences is one of them. You need to use those life experiences to help you train them.
Teaching in a multigrade special education class, the older students have at times asked why a younger student behaves the way he does. Having had most of my students for two or more years, I have the opportunity to remind them that they had similar immature behaviors when I first met them. The point being, life usually matures us whether we plan to or not.
Our maturity as adults allows us to guide our children or students towards a safer life with better choices. We know from our life experiences, our mistakes and successes, what will probably happen if you do or don't do this or that.
RULE NUMBER TWO - CHILREN ARE A DIRECT REFLECTION OF YOU
That is as true a statement as I can make. Having the privilage of teaching and being the administrator to families and their children as they went through my schools for eighteen years, I was able to observe the results of the many parenting styles.
The expectations and styles varied. Some parents had clear expectaations, some had none. There were parents who hugged a lot and there were parents who never hugged at all. Positive parents, negative parents, yelling parents, just-a-look parents, involved parents, never saw parents. Each parent is as unique in their training as their students are unique.
The key component to how a student was going to turn out were the parents themselves. What made a parent essentially what they were. The boys turned out like their fathers. And the girls like their mothers.
If the dad was a hard worker or quiet or honest or fair, the son probably was going to reflect those virtues. If he was angry, dishonest, loud or prideful, his son was heading down the same road.
Girls followed similar paths as their mothers. If the mother was a gossip, focused on her looks, lazy or angry, her daughter reflected those traits more noticably because she had not learned to hide them as well yet. But if her mother put others first, reflected God's love to her family and friends, and worked hard, her daughter was likely on the same path.
THERE WILL PROBABLY BE NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD WHO LOOKS OUT FOR YOUR CHILD LIKE YOU DO
If you are really blessed, then maybe someone for a short time in your child's life will look out for your child close to something like what you do. Maybe a teacher, a coach or even a relative will walk the extra mile for him or her. But for the long term of your child's life, you are it.
Think about it. In this short time on earth, you have been given the opportunity to be a parent. Don't waste a day. You can be their advocate or you can just let those precious day flit by.
It doesn't mean you have to be everything to your child. Tiger Woods, his dad, began training him to golf at an earl age. When Tiger surpassed his father's skills, his father hired teachers more skills than he to continue his training.
The basic rules all focus on three things: Your long term view as in the role as your child's trainer. Second, your life is an impotrtant part of training your child. And last, no one cares about your child in the long term like you do.
In my second school, Bios, we had a new student enter our school her first year as a ninth grade student. Her academic skills were minimal. Her behavior was disrespectful and negative towards school. Math, reading, and writing skills were all below a public school first grade student. By the time she graduated in four years she was reading at close to an eighth grade vocabulary and was able to go to a community college without any special labels or assistance.
I do not write this to you to brag about my instructional methods, her grandparents support or the amazing teachers I had to support her in her accomplishments. I tell you this to begin my conversation with you on why kindergarten is not necessary as well as the fallacy we need twelve years after kindergarten to complete our children's education.
First, students at the typical age of kindergarten should be playing at this age, preferably at home, but not spending time learning the alphabet or counting to one hundred. What a waste of time! Students can quickly learn those skills at the age of seven without slowing down their long term educational progress. Finland begins their basic education at the age of seven. Their education is rated first by the UN Education Index.
The early start date for school hurts those students who are still very active physically. I have watched throughout my forty years in education, kindergarten students labeled something because the student has trouble sitting in a chair or has not learned how to be appropriate around other students. It use to be mostly boys who began their first years in school being labeled a behavior problem or something worse like being held back a year, but more and more girls are being treated the same way.
Play provides an amazing learning time for children to express themselves, to learn through experimentation during play, learn new vocabulary as they work their imagination and it allows children spontaneity as they move to something else that interests them on their own initiative.
Second, all the reading skills taught in kindergarten (and first grade) can be taught much quicker in second grade with quicker progress. Of course that is true with all students as they age.
When I first have students arrive in my special education class for the first time, all have a view that they are poor at school and will always be behind the other students in their academic skills. What usually happens is that once I am able to show them they can learn, then it is just a matter of time to not only catch the student up to the state's expectations but to work towards surpassing those expectations. For most students, their lack of progress in school was because of poor teachers, poor parents, or a poor system of instruction or some combination of the three.
The older the student's age is, the quicker the student moves through the lower grades expectations. Basic phonics skills are learned at a faster pace by the older students than younger students even with the same prior skills.
My third point is that from my experience with my two K-12 private schools, students should have completed their general studies by the time they are finished with the tenth grade.
Students should have the option to choose a vocational track or an academic track. Our students who chose a vocational track their last year were ready to move into training or good paying jobs when they graduated.
It does not take thirteen years to provide our students the necessary skills to write independently, to master skills through geometry and algebra, and to read well enough to progress through the rest of their lives. That it does is not the fault of the students. Our archaic instructional methods and school structures need to change.
In my second private school I started, Bios Christian Academy, another teacher and I would apply our interpretation of the Oxford method of instruction to those high school students who had mastered our advanced studies in math, science or writing.
Advanced studies means different things at different schools. For us, it would mean a student had finished calculus, at least one advanced science or shown consistent advanced skills writing.
Our regular students would have been considered advanced at most, if not all, Arizona high schools. The few high school students who left to go to a public or charter school either entered at the top of their class in skills or were told their skills were too high and they should go straight to college. And these were our underclassmen and lower skilled students.
While there is no set definition to the Oxford Method of Instruction and from my research, not all instruction at Oxford uses the Oxford Method, it essentially allows a student to have a personalized education individually or with a small group and the instructor.
Oxford is a research university in Oxford , England. It has been around maybe as early as 1096. Is is an interesting university, made up of 39 constituent colleges, all of which are self-governing institutions within the university. There is no main campus, with the college buildings scattered throughout Oxford.
The Oxford Method essentially is a process where a student is assigned or chooses a project to work on. The tutor for the individual or small group is an expert in their field. Here is a quote from an Oxford student. " Each week I was required to complete one ot two several thousand word essays, ticking off sources from a reading list as I went by. I was encouraged to read beyond the facts, to make my own assumptions and to prove and disprove theories. Another shock for me that now - for the first time - my opinion actually mattered. Rather than simply regurgitating the textbook, tutors were asking me what I thought." Adam
In the Oxford Method of instruction, the exchange of ideas is relied on with students having to present and defend their opinions. How did this educational approach apply to my last school? With students who had advanced skills, we would usually assign them to a teacher who had skills in that area they wanted to work towards more personalized skills.
But sometimes we would assign a teacher who had little knowledge in the student's area of interest. We found that the student would have to have a more thorough knowlege of their subject in order to convince the teacher who was not in their area of study.
Other times we brought in outside experts to hold the student accountable for his goals.
An example of us using the Oxford Method, our interpretation, was when a senior wanted to begin developing a professional writing career. He had to present a plan of how he was going to pursue writing for different publications, how we would grade him, and scheduled times to meet with his instructor. He was very successful in this endeavor, eventually writing a blog for a tech compnay in New York City.
Another student wanted to explore a career in physical therapy. She found a physical therapist who developed a plan for her to serve half of each school day at her clinic with goals and grading examples built in.
My last example is a student wanted to create a guide to eating as a vegetarian. Again, a plan was developed along with a timeline for when each segment of her presentation needed to be completed.
How does all this apply to students at New Park Street Christian Academy? Our students will be diligently developing the basic skills that will allow them to be able to move onto more advanced skills that move them into being able to apply their advanced skills into practical applications.
All the students involved with the Oxford Method had to have a solid grounding in knowledge for them to apply that knowledge. Hard work and diligence were needed to attain the opportunity to apply their skills let alone to think about a project to use their skills.
This week I will be posting my first video on my first Youtube Channel, Making It Hard to be Ignorant. The channel is dedicated to serving those families who home school and/or tutor their students/children at home. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and friends. Anyone who helps someone else trying to learn .
My goal is to share my experiences and expertise with you. And you, the person who is responsible for teaching this student you probably care about, can do whatever you want with the information. Use some of it, all of it or none of it. At the least, it will confirm what you are doing is the best route. Or maybe I can help you can see there is a different way.
Who am I? Tim Ihms, an educator of over 40 years. I have taught in three states, regular education and special education, kindergarten through twelfth, the living and soon to be not, private and public. I have current certificates in Arizona for three different areas of special education, K-8 regular ed and principal. My Masters degree is from University of Northern Colorado in special education.
I have begun two private K-12 schools where I was also the principal. One school grew to 530 students and the other 230. Both were accredited and excelled at academics. At the second school, 66% of my graduates exceeded all three sections of the Arizona test, the AIMs.
I am passionate about each of my students instruction. I know after 40 years in education, all students can learn. Not all teachers can teach.
The channel will discuss math, writing, grammar, reading and I expect more.
My schedule is to produce a new episode every two weeks the first year and then once a month after that.
I look forward to supporting all who watch the videos in their instruction. And I am hoping for lots of questions.
Please give Making It Hard to be Ignorant a look.
Below, you will have the opportunity to watch me working with a student named Evan. He has already spent time with me on previous days completing the process of writing a three paragraph letter for the first time. He was very successful. He is now beginning his sixth math lesson with me in the Saxon Intermediate 4 book.
I would like you to notice how comfortable he is with the process of instruction. Evan began his math at a level where he knew most everything from the first lesson but also had one or two new skills he learned and was excited about.
I did not show him performing the complete lesson because the next step is for him to complete the thirty practice problems that review the skills learned in the previous five lessons as well as today's. He was close to completing two lessons a day in the math period before this lesson. It is also boring to watch.
The goals I had with Evan were to understand what a fact family was and the meaning of the word difference. He was to successfully show understanding in his practice. He accomplished both.
The white board behind me provides a means of using visuals for instruction support.
The instructional method used is what I will be doing exactly the same with New Park Street Christian Academy, except with up to 14 more students on line. Any questions, please contact me.
"Through hard work, perseverance and a faith in God, you can live your dreams."
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
Colassians 3:23-24 (NIV)
Geoff Colvin in his book, Talent is Overrated, spends some time writing about the misconception of "Divine Myth", the idea that talented and skilled individuals are just born that way. He uses the examples of Mozart and Tiger Woods to make his point. Both men are often called "naturals" or "child prodigys". Nothing could be farther from the truth to describe the reasons for both men's successes and talents.
He describes both men as having fathers who were very skilled as teachers in their respective areas. Mozart's father, Leopold, was a famous composer who wrote an influential book on violin instruction. Tiger's dad, Earl, was somone who loved teaching. He developed techniques for Tiger for gripping the club at two years of age.
Both fathers used talented and professional teachers when their son's learning outgrew their skills. Mozart studied under Johann Christian Bach while Tiger was under the instruction of professional teachers after the age of four.
Both Mozart and Tiger worked hard for their accomlishments. Neither Tiger or his father ever hinted that Tiger had a gift for golf. Both Tiger and his dad gave the same reason always for Tiger's success, hard work.
At New Park Street Christian Academy, hard work is a habit developed in our students through our instructional process. Students gradually or quickly learn the benefits to working hard through being successful in their daily work.
One way hard work is rewarded is by the immediate feedback given to students for the work expected. Whatever the task, a student receives immediate feedback in the form of encouragement, correction, and/or praise.
Another way hard work is encouraged is through providing an assignment that is a manageable size. Long assignments tend to cause students to quickly work to finish it or worse just give up at seeing all that has to be done. Assignments of smaller length are also more easily focused on what is needed to complete the assignment.
An example from writing would be the difference in being told to write a 1000 word essay as compared to a manageable sized assignment of write a paragraph of 4-6 sentences, that eventually will be a 1000 word essay made up of many paragraphs. The smaller focus and an opportunity for quicker feedback for the student works.
Of course when a student over time develops his writing skills, a writing assignment of a paragraph would be quite boring. That student may be given a much longer assignment with greater expectations for what a paragraph looks like. The opportunities created with individualized student expectations are very exciting for me as a teacher.
Hard work is also encouraged through the concept of deliberate practice that permeates instruction at New Park Street Christian Academy. Deliberate practice is easily accomplished because of the daily instruction practiced here.
Unlike the daily instruction in a typical school, the math lesson expectations, and practice of any student in the school will look different than the other students. A sixth grade student could be working through basic math concepts while a fifth grade student may be quickly progressing through pre-algebra skills. Each student's new daily goals predetermined by his/her accomplishments from the day before.
Work is rewarded at New Park Street Christian Academy through shorter, focused assignments individualized for each student. It is a beautiful thing to observe, students becoming confident and skilled learners.
Over twenty years ago, and after my first private school had been up and running for a few years, I introduced Latin for my seventh and eighth-grade students. I knew the other surrounding Christian schools taught Latin to their junior high students and I thought if it was good enough for their students then why not mine. Latin is a base for many of our words as well as many other languages.
After one year, I was having second and third thoughts about my following the herd decision. I knew Latin formed the base for many English words, but the time and effort being put into learning Latin seemed out of proportion to supporting our student’s education. About this time I found a curriculum where I did not have to teach Latin in such detail. The more I looked at it and how we as a school would incorporate it into our unique personalized education model, the more I liked it for its potential for my future high school students.
The program is English from the Roots Up (ERU) by Joegil Lundquist and published by Literacy Unlimited.
ERU provides a simple way for students in second through twelfth grades to memorize Latin and Greek words that form a basis for many of our words in English. The program consists of two volumes, one and two, each volume containing 100 Latin and Greek words. While students in the earlier grades are able to successfully learn the words in this program, from my experience, it is best used in the grades of ten, eleven and twelve.
To use ERU, my students would outline 3x5 cards in red for Latin words and green for Greek words. Within the colored outline, each student would write the word to be learned. On the back of the card, each student would write the definition of the word at the top and three of the five words derived from the new word on the card. Each student had the assignment of memorizing the word, its meaning and the three derivative words they chose.
After four words were memorized, students would review the previous words memorized and one derivative every other assignment time.
The ERU program allowed me to provide an instructional method with an emphasis on student learning where the student has to prove to his teacher he has learned the material or met the goal through his work and his learning, not a teacher’s instruction.
Sometimes students would have trouble reviewing all the words. At that point, I would have them go back to where the student was successful in memorizing the words. Usually back to thirty words or so.
Students would eventually memorize the 100 Latin and Greek words, the definitions, and an English word derived from the Latin or Greek base.
There are many teachers who do not expect their students to memorize, saying it creates students who do not like learning. And even some teachers who say most students cannot memorize. But of course, that is not true. Just like anything else, memorizing is a skill to be taught and used.
Memorization of basic facts and information allows students to develop building blocks for future learning. The early years of education should be spent on rote learning required for advanced skills. Too often in Arizona, students are still working on basic skills in math, reading, and writing in the later grades because of inadequate instruction in the earlier grades.
The skills learned in English from the Roots Up were consistently cited by our graduates as being very helpful in their college classes.
English from the Roots Upis an excellent support for students to help them on the path to understanding and using the English language.
In Education Week , the June 18, 2019 edition, here is an excerpt Douglas W. Green wrote titled Why Do We Design Failure in Our Schools?
If a student masters less than 65 percent of the required material, why can't we just say, "You haven't finished yet." The closer one is to this magic number, in theory, the less time it should take to finish the race. They may even continue upwards from just passing. This doesn't happen in most schools, and why is that? Certainly, the fact that it's easier to roll out one-size-fits-all instruction than an individualized version has something to do with it.
It is an excellent article with good discussions on why student's should not be held back and the positive aspects of a flexible system of instruction. But my focus today is on another point of his article, a form of individualized instruction. Here is what he wrote about an innovative school program.
In addition to the online versions, a typical in-school effort features 10 to 20 students in a room each working on their own material at their own pace with one teacher circulating to help. Students all have laptops and software to direct their learning. If more than one student is working on the same content, they can work in groups and even do projects. The teachers who take this on usually prefer it to the old stand and deliver routine from their previous years.
New Park Street Christian Academy is something like his innovative school model, but better. There is one teacher and there are up to 15 students. Students do work at their own pace separate from the other student expectations. And students do work in small groups for science projects. But the similarities end there.
At New Park Street Christian Academy, the teacher sets the instructional pace based on each student's previous accomplishments , not from a computer or software telling the student what to do next. This makes a major difference in the quality of a student's learning and in the skills progress a student makes.
A software program cannot tell from a student's posture and work habits that a lesson is too easy or too difficult. It can't see a student staring at a problem and differentiate a lack of understanding or laziness. The computer is unable to hear in the student's explanation of an important skill whether he has understanding or just reciting facts. A great or even a good teacher is able to discern all of the above within five seconds or less.
Why? Because a great teacher even a good one will know her students. Her instructional time in an individualized education environment like for instance, New Park Street Christian Academy, is spent every minute instructing, assessing, encouraging, holding accountable each and every student. And when she has a minute, she talks to students she has not seen recently. In this ultimate instructional environment for the teacher, you get to know your students really well.
My individualized approach is very successful. So why doesn't every one do something similar? It is as Dr. Green said, in one sense, it is easier to use a one-size-fits-all model. One size doesn't fit anyone. It is just that some students have the confidence to get by in most any model used, including the one-size-fits-all.
My individualized instructional model used at New Park Street Christian Academy allows myself and any future teachers to teach students who have been chronically behind. Ninety-five percent of the students who do not have a physical reason for being confident learners, should be confident learners. My model takes a student from what they do know and provides instruction forward from there.
This model allows so many students who are bored out of their gourds in the one size fits all model to succeed everyday at a pace set by me and not a pace set by the rest of the class or a teachers with a lack of instructional skills. I wish I could tell you about all of the eventually successful, brilliant students I have instructed over the years, who either were behavior problems at school or they just hated going to school because the stand and deliver, one size fits all model was so boring.
A note on labels. I don't label. We have no gifted and no special education. Gifted students should work hard and achieve more. And that is what they do at New Park Street Christian Academy.
Special education students, formerly, have to see they can learn first. Then when that happens, they also work harder to achieve more. I will be writing a blog soon on hard work and success soon.
All students at New Park Street Christian Academy have the opportunity to continue passed grade level expectations when the expectations are met. The sky has always been the limit at my schools. That is why I eventually will hire teachers smarter and more skilled than me in certain subjects.
Why an individualized education? It works. For over thirty years it has worked in allowing students to learn well beyond the expectations of a typical school.
I am Tim Ihms, the founder, head master, instructor, book keeper, and part time custodian at New Park Street Christian Academy. The blogs on this page are written for the parents of New Park Street students and for those who may be interested in sending their child to the school some day.