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.
At New Park Street Christian School, I often use curriculums developed by individuals out of frustration with what was available in the curriculum world. These curriculums were not developed by committees. Instead, through hard work and sacrifice, the authors were able to provide a product designed to better assist students in the learning of the particular subject.
Saxon math is one of those curriculums developed with much work and devotion.
What makes Saxon so different? There is no one part of the Saxon system that makes it or breaks it. It is the system as a whole that works together to consistently create confident and skilled math students with few exceptions.
The student begins each lesson with mental math, where the student mentally solves 8-10 problems he tells his teachers the answers to. Next, the student reads from the book the new skill to be learned. From this reading, the student will have to explain to the teacher his understanding of the material while referencing the examples. Then once the student shows his teacher understanding, 8-12 practice problems are provided to show if the student has a good understanding of the new skill.
After the practice problems have shown the student has a good understanding of the new skill, there are 30 problems that review the previous skills learned. These 30 problems will include 2-4 problems from the day’s new lesson. For our purposes, if a student missed more than four problems the thirty problems had to be repeated. The tests occur usually every five lessons and cover all earlier learned skills up to the five previous lessons. Our students would have to repeat the previous five lessons if more than four of the twenty test questions were missed.
Way, way back in my twelfth year of teaching in the public schools, I was granted my request of beginning a multi-grade classroom in the large public school district I worked for at the time. This allowed me to teach a multi-grade class of fourth through sixth-grade students with special education students integrated into the class. Wanting to individualize the math program and not being convinced the math program the district was using was the best to individualize with, I found copies of two other math publishers in district storage. I spent the summer picking and choosing the best each book had to offer in teaching the different concepts of math to be taught that year for each grade. Then I created a checklist for the year for students to progress through.
Everything was charted out by concept, page and book. Reviews and tests were added. Each student would bring one of the three math books with their check-sheet that had what the student had to read from the book and prove to me he understood the concept. Then the student would perform practice problems on the new concept. Once it was shown the concept was understood, then problems from another book would be used to review past material learned. If a student did not pass the test over the material taught at 80% or better, then the previous lessons would be completed again.
I worked this way with my students, all 30 of them, for one year. Then towards the end of the year, a colleague heard what I was doing with the different textbooks. He asked if I heard about a math program called Saxon math. He heard it was similar to what I was doing, but with only one textbook.
Later, I left the multi-grade position to begin my own private school. That school was very different; individualized instruction, no lecture, integrated non-labeled special education, multi-grade, with basic Christianity taught. And Saxon Math was used in grades four through twelve. The rest, as they say, is history.
Our small private school of fourth through eighth-grade students would consistently take 12% to 18% of the awards given at the yearly regional math competition representing approximately 30,000 students in the Rocky Mountain region. Our last five years, the high school students earned regional awards for Algebra 1 and usually one other area of math. The school math ACT scores were an average of 26 or more for each of those years.
And no, we did not have attending the best and the brightest dwelling in the Valley of the Sun. We quickly had a wait list of families who had already been through the public and charter schools and felt their kids needed more. Kids who were not successful and who had parents desperate for help.
Though a lot of our success in math goes to the students’ hard work, the teachers’ persistence, the parent’s support, and the individualized daily instruction, Saxon math provided the keystone to our success.
Saxon Math was developed by John Saxon. He has been called the ‘George Patton’ of the math wars. Who knew there were math wars? He rejected the direction modern math was going. With $80,000 raised from savings, a mortgage, and other sources, he developed his first textbook, Algebra 1, in 1981. From there he developed math books from Calculus to fourth grade.
John Saxon developed his unique textbooks because he believed the new math programs of his time would greatly hurt American math education. In his unique books, he believed breaking instruction down into smaller parts would make the math concepts easier to understand.
The four reasons I like Saxon Math are:
1) It provides a great system of review of the previous skills learned. The present systems used in most schools of teach and move on is not nearly as effective.
2) The text is easy enough for most students to read and understand. From the lesson reading, my students have to prove to the teacher their understanding.
3) The mental math aspect supports the student’s basic skills and confidence in performing math.
4) The tests are close enough to each other to provide a good system of accountability for learning.
5) For the past twenty-nine years, Saxon math has been a great support in teaching my students from third through twelfth grades.
There are parts of Saxon I do not use. I have found over time that some sections only slowed down my students' math progress or I could better support my students using a different method. I will address those section exceptions in future blogs.
Saxon Math provides a sound and proven curriculum for the students of New Park Street Christian Academy, used with the individualized instructional methods, gives my students excellent opportunities to succeed in improving their math skills.
New Park Street Christian Academy is now a proud member of ACSI, the Association of Christian Schools International. The official ACSI standard is on our first page.
This is the third school I have enjoyed membership with ACSI. I have had two schools before New Park Street Christian Academy I started and managed with many other great people that God blessed me with. Both schools belonged to the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). It is a great national organization whose mission is to support Christian schools through activities and other ways. ACSI had regional academic competitions we looked forward to participating in.
Here is some information from the ACSI web site about their organization.
At ACSI, we serve almost 3,000 member-schools in the United States, over 20,000 member schools internationally, and help more than 5.5 million students worldwide connect to Christian education. We have offices throughout the United States and the world.
ACSI Membership connects your school with a community of Christian educators, along with tools, services, and professional development opportunities.
ACSI has been a lot of support to my schools in the past. Support that helped those schools exhibit their uniqueness to the Christian community. Nationwide math, spelling and georaphy competitions, legal services, and accreditation were some of the many supports provided to help us serve our community.
But ASCI has always been much more for me than their support for the school. It has always been an important support for me personally. The Rocky Mountain Region is based in Tucson. And it has always had very good leadership, including now, with Jerry Bowen at the helm.
The support of the regional leadership and the opportunity of being able to meet and discuss the managing of a school with other principals of Christian schools in an invalauable encouragement.
ACSI membership also provides some additional credibility for this new school commitment I am beginning.
Accreditation is a wonderful service provided by ACSI. In my past two schools, I used both accreditation from ACSI and the secular North Central or as it is now called, Advanced Ed, to provide appraisal of my schools. Neither group provides a better service than the other that I can see. I used the two services because I thought at the time it would provide more credibility. Looking back, I don't think it made a difference in my two schools credibility to have both services accredited the schools.
Here is what ACSI says about their accreditation.
Accreditation with ACSI engages schools in a vigorous, holistic process of organizational appraisal and improvement that engages every school constituent. Our program is a highly regarded Christian program for member schools. We have partnerships with all of the U.S. regional accreditation agencies and offer joint accreditation with numerous accrediting organizations.
When New Park Street Christian Academy begins to have a few students, we will contact ACSI for permission to begin the process. It is always worthwhile and for me a joy to present what my student's are doing.
While there are many fine Christian school associations to belong to, ACSI has met the needs of my previous schools and I expect they will do that again. I am proud to be a member school.
I have added Home School Support for students in the grades of fourth, fifth, and sixth in the subjects of math and/or writing/grammar to the educational options at New Park Street Christian Academy.
Home School Support is an integral part of New Park Street Christian Academy as it has been in my two previous schools. The idea of supporting home schooling families fits right in with the school's mission of supporting our families through individualizing the expectations and goals for each student. That is what homeschool families do naturally already!
This method of supporting home school families is even more conducive in its support than my previous schools because the home school family's child is at home while being taught by me allowing the family to listen to what is being taught and how. The family is able to listen and maybe use my teaching methods to help clarify the families methods to better teach the rest of the children in their house.
Home School Support at New Park Street Christian Academy gives the home schooled students the opportunity to learn with other students around their age. There is something to be said for the influence of positive peer influence on a student's effort.
My experience has shown me that in a positive and encouraging learning environment like at New Park Street Christian Academy, students eventually become motivated by the successes they make as well as observing the successes of others.
Just like in a home school environment, each and every student at New Park Street Christian Academy has individual goals built on the previous day's successes. My students are all working to meet my expectations as far as the quality of work and accuracy. And for each of those students, my expectations are different for the quality of work and accuracy.
My hope is to have all my students be confident learners. I want them to know they have a strong base of skills to build on each day.
For all of my students, I expect them to work hard while they are with me. They have to be respectful to me and encouraging to the other students.
The instruction is individualized as I have said before. I could have one student as a sixth grade student working on memorizing his addition facts while a fifth student in the same math class is working on concepts from a traditionally seventh grade math book and the rest of the math class is somewhere in between working towards meeting their individual goals.
It is usually motivating for students to know that each day their success in class is dependent on the quality of learning from the day before.
The Home School Support is a part of New Park Street Christian Academy for a selfish reason also. While most of the home school families attending my support programs in my two previous schools happily continued providing the majority of their children's education at home, some decided to enroll their kids into the full time program. A great opportunity for the academy and the home schooled student.
If you have any questions, please call or email.
This blog is going to be so boring if you just want your child to attend New Park Street Christian Academy and have the thought that as long as he/she is learning and the learning method is not dangerous, you don't really care to hear about our methods. But if you want to know how we teach and why I think our methods are so effective, then please read on. You might even find it exciting.
Some form of the Ihms instructional method has been used for over twenty-five years in schools, public and private. The Ihms method continues to be used by many former teachers from my previous schools who continue teaching. Once you have used the Ihms method to teach or you have had the method used to teach you, it can be difficult to return to teaching or learning in a traditional method.
Here are the key components of the method.
- All students are able to learn meaningful skills important for them.
- It is the teacher's lack of skills or knowledge, not the student's, if learning does not occur, as a general rule.
- A good teacher/student/parent instructional relationship supports learning.
- Each student has a unique instructional path to learning new skills.
- A great teacher believes in his/her students.
Here are some general rules of what I believe is harmful in instruction.
- Group instruction in general is ineffective for learning.
- Auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning are ineffective and not supported by independent research.
- Computer learning is as ineffective as group instruction.
The Ihms method begins teaching from where the student is comfortable learning. And this starting point is unique for each student. I know that every student at New Park Street Christian Academy has different educational and life experiences. It would be wrong on my part as the instructor to ignore this fact.
That is why every student attending New Park Street Christian Academy is given a series of placement tests. This information provides me data to begin the students at a place in their studies where they are comfortable.
For example, in a writing assignment, because of each student's different writing skills, one student may begin working on a friendly letter by writing one sentence at a time while another student may be writing his friendly letter a paragraph at a time. Both students are working on the same goal, writing a friendly letter to be sent out. Both students are working towards meeting the goal through different paths.
This is true for the instruction in math, writing, grammar, literature, geography, and keyboarding. Bible is a group activity and science is working in pairs or small groups.
The learning at different paths of instruction for each student is based on the previous days work that usually the student has mastered. The next days instruction and learning goals are based on the student's successes. If the learning was not successful from the previous lesson, I will take the time to help the student understand the goal the goal the next day before moving on.
The instructional time in the classroom is student centered, not teacher centered, at New Park Street Christian Academy. Each assignment is an opportunity for the student to prove to the teacher the concept is understood and/or mastered. The assignments, tests, and teacher questions are designed for the student to prove his skills.
A teacher centered instructional time is where the teacher tries to prove to the student the information to learn. The teacher centered instruction begins where the group left off the day before, whether all or any had a good understanding or even a mastery of the skill in order to progress to the next step.
Assignments for the new students to New Park Street Christian Academy are at times varied. Experienced students at the academy develop over time a consistent work ethic that most new students do not have.
For over twenty-five years, students using the Ihms method of instruction develop a work ethic that brings consistent success in their studies.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
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.