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Category Archives: Educating our kids

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The signs are everywhere.  Houses and yards are adorned with twinkling lights and plastic snowmen.  Stores festively display Christmas decorations and the latest must-have items of the season.  Our mailboxes are bursting forth with invitations to gift exchanges, tasting parties, and other holiday festivities. At long last that magical season is upon us.  But wait! It’s mid-November I still have fall leaves in my yard and a pumpkin on my porch.  I haven’t even planned our Thanksgiving meal yet?   How did it get to be the Christmas season already?

That’s easy.  The retailing powers decided long ago that the more shopping days there are in the Christmas (or as it in now known, holiday) season, the more people will shop.  The lines that begin forming outside some large chain stores before the pumpkin pie is even off the Thanksgiving table, prove that the retailers are right.

Since the holiday season is the time when manufacturers and retailers do their best business, they have a vested interest in dictating exactly how we observe the moment in history when God became man.  They want us to prepare for Holiest events in human history by shopping and shopping and shopping and shopping and shopping! However, to truly prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the Lord, maybe we should consider how people used to do this before they had the benefit of Wal Mart to help them.

Actually, we first need to get our minds around the concept of preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of the Lord. There has been a lot of hubbub in recent years about The War on Christmas, but actually the war has been on Advent.  Our retailers don’t give two hoots about what we do December 25.  They care about all the shopping days before it is actually Christmas.  You see, what is now known as the Christmas season (the time somewhere between Halloween and the opening of the last gift) is actually called Advent.

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Traditionally Advent was a time of preparations.  Christians prepared themselves for Christ’s coming both as a baby in a manger and for His second coming at the end of time.  Parties, gorging on fudge, shopping and Hallmark movies are not actually longstanding Christian customs.  On the contrary, to prepare for the coming of Christ, Christians traditionally spent the days before Christmas in somber reflection.  Advent is a time to reflect on one’s shortcomings and to cleanse oneself in preparation for Christ’s arrival both spiritually in our hearts at Christmas and literally at the end of time.

But I live in the real (and increasing secular) world and I know that it is often unrealistic to cut out all the Christmas fun and  goodies until December 25th. There are class parties and office parties, family obligations and family expectations. Still, simply being aware that preparing for Christmas means more than wearing a Keep Christ in Christmas button to the mall is a start. So how can we observe Advent and truly prepare for the coming of the Lord in this hectic, consumer-driven season?

Shop early. One simple alternative is to spending Advent at the mall, is to shop before Advent begins. This takes some organization and forethought, but it keeps Advent simple and relatively stress-free.

Shop with companies that reflect Christian values.   SERRV, a nonprofit organization operated by Catholic Relief Services, offers beautiful handmade, fair trade gifts produced by families who struggle to earn a just wage. This article offers different perspectives on Christian consumerism and some suggestions for shopping too.

Shop local. Buying from a small mom and pop store helps support a family directly in a way that shopping the big chain stores does not. Not only that, these experiences are often more relaxing and more pleasant than negotiating a crowded mall. Shopping and chatting with friends and neighbors builds a sense of community that helps keep to get us in the Christmas spirit.

Buy an Advent Calendar.  A Christian one.  This charming tradition helps children focus on get excited about what (or who) is to come by daily drawing their attention back to the meaning of the season. Advent calendars can be even more powerful when paired with prayer.

Build a Spiritual Crib. This short daily devotion that is a great way to help kids prepare their hearts for the Baby Jesus.

Decorate in keeping with the season. Trim the tree and the mantel with purple ribbon, the liturgical color of Advent. Add red and green on Christmas Eve to signal the change from Advent to Christmas. Buy of make Christian ornaments for you tree like these or or these.  Pinterest is full of them.  Also consider getting or making a Jesse Tree.

Celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas. When my children were small, we would put their shoes in front of the hearth on the night of December 5th. The next day they would be filled with candy. Occasionally Saint Nicholas would leave a present like a new nativity set or some Christmas decorations. He always left a note encouraging the kids to keep preparing for the Baby Jesus through prayer and good behavior.
Light an Advent wreath. An Advent wreath and the prayers that accompany it are a visual and spiritual reminder that the Light of the World is coming to banish the darkness.
Of course the most important thing we can do to prepare for Jesus’s coming is to pray. Advent is a time to do this in a specific and beautiful way. My prayer is that my family and other Christian families will not get so caught up in the Christmas trappings that we fail to remember the One we celebrate on December 25 and every other day of the year.

ADVENT RESOURCES

Focus on the Family

Baby Steps for Celebrating Advent

Super Simple Ways to Celebrate Advent

Advent resources especially for Protestants

 

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A couple of weeks ago the entire world celebrated Banned Books Week.  Okay maybe not the entire world, but a lot of librarians and English teachers did. Banned Books Week usually involves such activities as handing out bookmarks and challenging students to select and read a book from a list of commonly banned books.  And for the most part, that’s a good thing.  There are a lot of books on these lists that I have either bought for my children, read to them, or that I hope they will read one day.  I have wonderful memories of crying, no sobbing, with my kids when we read Bridge to Terabithia and Charlott’s Web.  In my English classes, I have taught Huckleberry FinnTo Kill a Mocking Bird,  and Lord of the Flies.   The Giver and Harry Potter are among my children’s favorite books.  And, while certainly not my favorite, my eldest daughter has read nearly all of  John Green ‘s books.

The fact is, it’s hard to imagine why many of these books were ever banned.  It’s just crazy.  But the crazy thing about the Banned Books Week movement is that proponents of the movement would have us believe that school libraries should be allowed to  provide young people with literally any book out there without having to justify the appropriateness of the book.  Any attempt to use discernment or determine age appropriateness is decried as censorship.  And those who call into question a librarian’s choices are considered a threat to intellectual freedom.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not advocating government censorship or that books be banned from public libraries.  But as a mother and a tax payer, I would like to think that when I send my children to school, they will not happen across books in the school library that include passages like this one from Cristina Garcia’s novel, Dreaming in Cuban (which is actually a Common Core recommended text for 10th graders).

“Hugo and Felicia stripped in their room, dissolving easily into one another, and made love against the whitewashed walls. Hugo bit Felicia’s breast and left purplish bands of bruises on her upper thighs. He knelt before her in the tub and massaged black Spanish soap between her legs. He entered her repeatedly from behind.

“Felicia learned what pleased him. She tied his arms above his head with their underclothing and slapping him sharply when he asked.

“‘You’re my bitch,’” Hugo said, groaning.

According to the good folks at the American Library Association, any attempt to restrict this novel, or anything libraries choose to make available to children, is a violation of the First Amendment.  The ALA lists Fifty Shades of Grey as one of the most commonly challenged books of 2013, but according to the ALA, a child’s right to read this book should be protected.  This is apparently more important than protecting children from pornography.

Fear Monger Much?

Fear Monger Much?

I realize that censorship is a slippery slope.  At least that’s what the Banned Books people want us to fear.  If we ban Fifty Shades of Grey, what’s to stop us from banning every book with any sexual content whatsoever?  Censorship is such a loaded word.  It implies a secret plot to restrict ideas or knowledge or a Big Brother-like control over information.  But what we are really talking about is limits.  And don’t schools limit kids already?   Students are not allowed to curse in school.  They cannot make racially insensitive statements.  They aren’t allowed to watch sexually explicit films in class – even those based on a classic novel.  When, where, and how they can pray is restricted.  And most schools have some form of a dress code in place.  All of these rules restrict (censor) students’ freedom of expression is some way. Can you imagine a high school or middle school where kids were allowed to express themselves absolutely any way they wanted too?

Still, the slippery slope concerns are valid.  Obviously book banning can get out of hand. Many books that are now considered classroom and childhood staples have at one time been challenged.  Yet, should we really advocate, indeed celebrate, the notion that our children can potentially have access to books with virtually any content with no adult discernment as to the appropriateness of those books?

Where things get tricky is when people challenge books based on their own personal beliefs.  Just because some people don’t believe that children should read books about witches and wizards, doesn’t mean the library should ban all Harry Potter books.  Some people might feel that children should not read books that encourage them to challenge authority.  That does not mean we need to ban Animal Farm.  I get it.  Discerning books is a delicate matter because what seems like a harmless story to one family might be considered gravely sinful by another.

Still, even with all the challenges involved with book restrictions, can’t we at least strive for some standard of decency?  That’s all I’m asking for.  A standard of decency.   Can’t we at least agree that there are some things a child or young teenager should not be exposed to?  Even the film industry does that much.  How about this? If the contents of a book would warrant an R rating as film, then maybe it should not be made available to 14 year olds.  It’s radical, I know.

It might not be easy.  Sometimes we might ere too much on the side of caution.  But the alternative is no standard of decency.  To me, that is a much more frightening prospect than the notion that my children’s freedom will somehow be violated because their public school denied them access to porn.

Really?

Really?

Disclaimer:  This is in no way a condemnation of librarians.  My own children’s schools are staffed by thinking, sensitive librarians who seek to provide our kids with the best possible age-appropriate literature.  We are grateful to have them.  

Image credits in order of appearance…

http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/

http://brkteenlib.tumblr.com/


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Recently I came across this article by Anthony Esolen in Crisis magazine.  I was impressed with the author’s impassioned explanation of why we read to children. He shares with us a letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows, in which Roosevelt thanks Grahame for his delightful book.   And that is the point.  The book is a delight to the Roosevelt children and even to the president himself – which is, of course, exactly what a book should be.   When my children were small, I sought out books that would be a pleasure to read, not only for them, but for me as well. That weeded out a lot of what early 20th century educator, Charlotte Mason called twaddle.   However, we were left with a treasury of wonderful works of beautiful literature. Fortunately,  the list of  Common Core Exemplar Texts contains some of these great works (for the paltry 30% of fictional reading the standard allows).

Unfortunately, the CC approach to reading will likely make reading these great literary works a soul-sucking drudgery.   Take for example the 3rd grade standards. They seem fairly simple and age-appropriate.  Children are expected to recount stories and key detail of stories from a variety of genres and cultures.  Among other things, they are expected to articulate the central idea or moral of a work and to describe characters and their actions.   All of this sounds like it could be achieved by an engaging reading followed by a lively discussion and maybe some fun activities.  But nooooooo. Here’s an exerpt from the website Achieve the Core.  This is the objective for a 3rd grade (3rd grade!!!) lesson on Grimm’s The Fisherman and his Wife.  

Learning Objective:  The goal of this five-day exemplar is to explicitly model the process of searching for and interpreting intra-textual connections. In this lesson sequence, the teacher poses an analytic focusing question and then guides students in gathering and interpreting evidence from the text in order to come to a deeper understanding of the story. Simple word play and art activities give students practice in closely attending to language and word choice, and in visualizing and recording their interpretations. Discussion and a short writing exercise help students to synthesize what they have learned. 

How’s that for psuedo-sophisticated language!  But wait!  There’s more!  After five days of reading and re-reading the story and picking it apart to make intra-textual connections,  students are asked to complete a writing assignment.

Writing Task: As a culminating activity, students synthesize their findings in an opinion paragraph, using specific references to the text. In this lesson, writing helps the children to organize and make sense of their thinking. For most third graders, writing is a relatively new tool for processing thought and one they will need to learn to use. Therefore, this task is highly guided and instructional, providing a model that can be used more independently on subsequent writing tasks.

Fun huh?  I’m not suggesting that school children not be held in some way accountable for what they’ve read.  But since 70% of their reading is what the CC calls “informational texts,” one would hope that what little fiction they are allowed not be ruined over-intellectualization and joy-killing assignments.

As Esolen so brilliantly points out, the whole point of reading should be for pleasure.  When we rob children of that pleasure, we kill their love of reading.  And when we kill their love of reading, any further attempts to encourage what Common Core calls a “close reading” will be fruitless.  By high school, their eyes will glaze over, and they will see very little point in Shakespeare, Austen, Keats, or any of it.  I know this because I see it now.  Of course the current group of high school students wasn’t raised on Common Core, but they were No Child Left Behind kids.  And where NCLB perhaps watered down their readings, the CCS hyper-intelleculizes them.  Different standards, different vocabulary, different texts, but in the end, both NCLB and the CCS have the same goal – to create good test takers.  The best way to insure children will score well on the test is to train them to get the right answer.  Sadly, this training often comes at the expense of a greater outcome – a love of stories.

So in a perfect, untested, non data-driven world, what would else could children gain from stories besides pleasure?  Well, nothing if pleasure is lost, but children, and people in general, who love books are graced with a world of gifts.

A LOVE OF LANGUAGE

Children who read The Jabberwocky  or hear a heartfelt reading of it might not be able to tell you what a stanza is or identify the rhyme scheme, but they know that it is fun to say jubjub bird.  They will shout, “Calhooh Callay Frabjous the day!”  They will experience the joy of nonsense and the fun of things that mean nothing but sound funny.  In time, when they write they will naturally want to use language  that captures the imagination and delights the senses. And they will know how.

On the other hand children who study The Jabberwocky are apt to say things like, “This is stupid.”  “This doesn’t even make sense.”  “What’s the point of this, anyway?”  How sad.

KNOWLEDGE

I never set out to teach my children about bull fighting in Madrid or about the life on the Yangtze River, but thanks to Ferdinand and Ping, they not only learned about these things, they wanted to know more about them.   Johnny Tremain introduced them to our founding fathers, and Laura and Mary showed them what it was like to live off the land.   Funny, we never did a single worksheet or critiqued a single passage.

IMMAGINATION

Fairies.  Knights.  Dragon.  Talking pigs.  Little boys who never grow up.  Little girls who grow to be the size of a house.   Flying monkeys. Giants.  Castles. Worlds of Ice.  Wicked queens.  Christmas Ghosts.  Is there really anything Common Core could or should add to these wonders to make books any sweeter?  Of course not.

ATTENTION SPAN

I haven’t gathered any data to prove it, but I think I could walk into any 1st grade classroom at story time, and tell you, with a startling degree of accuracy,  which children have been read to since birth and which have not.  I could do it again in 10th grade.

FRIENDS

Anyone who has ever been sucked into a story knows what it is to cheer with our heroes’ victories and cry at their defeats.  I earnestly hope our school children aren’t so busy picking apart the “texts” that they don’t have time to make friends with the characters.

I have always read to my children and will continue to do so as long as they’ll let me.  I won’t test them or require them to defend their opinions of a story in writing (although there is certainly a place for that in the upper grades).  I will simply laugh with them and cry with them and wonder with them and pray that all children are given this same great pleasure in life  – the pleasure of reading for the sheer joy of it.

Linked at Mostly Homemade MondaysThe MaMade Blog HopPretty, Happy, Funny, Real


Welcome to Common Core Monday where each week we will take a look at a work of literature found in the  Common Core Standards list of exemplar texts.  Many of the works found on the list are beloved treasures from classic literature.  Others, such as Cristina Garcia’s  Dreaming in Cuban and Sherman Alexi’s  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, raise serious questions about what kids are reading.

TITLE:  Eleven

AUTHOR:  Sandra Cisneros

GENRE: Short story

GRADE LEVEL RECOMMENDED: 6-8

Eleven is the kind of story that makes you remember exactly what it is like to be in the 5th grade – on your worst day in the 5th grade.  It’s Rachel’s birthday, but she doesn’t feel eleven.  She knows that inside she is still 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, ,3, 2, and 1… Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is.

So, on her birthday when her teacher, Mrs. Price, insists that, not only does Rachel own, but that she must also wear a ratty old sweater found in the coat closet, Rachel feels 3.  And she cries in front of everyone like she is 3.  Her birthday is ruined.

That’s it really.  That is the basic plot of Eleven.  It is a very simple yet very powerful story. It is powerful because Cisneros takes her readers back in time – back to a time when being forced to wear an ugly sweater in front of your entire class was unbearably humiliating.  It is powerful because, through Mrs. Price, we see the devastating impact a seemingly meaningless and careless error can have on a child.  Eleven is powerful because through Rachel, in only three short pages,  we see that we are all eleven – at least sometimes.

My own daughters were not required to read Eleven in school, so I required it at home.  Kids need stories like this one for two reasons.  1.  It shows them that they arent’ the only ones who have felt 3 even when they were much older.  2. Eleven teaches empathy. We are allowed to glimpse inside someone else’s humiliation.  We ache for Rachel.

Sometimes now when I look back on things that mortified me in middle school, I can laugh.  The melodrama of it all is so funny. But every time I read Eleven, I cry.  I cry even though I am 44.  Because deep down I guess I’m also 43, 42, 41, 40,… well, you get the idea.

Note:  To read Eleven, simply Google a free PDF copy of the story.  You’ll be glad you did.

From the YouTube video of the story

From the YouTube video of the story

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Here’s what we are talking about over at Charming Farming. It’s not a book post, but it’s something to think about in the days and weeks to come.

LC Hanby Hudgens, writer

The signs are everywhere.  Houses and yards are adorned with twinkling lights and plastic snowmen.  Stores festively display Christmas decorations and the latest must-have items of the season.  Our mailboxes are bursting forth with invitations to gift exchanges, tasting parties, and other holiday festivities. At long last that magical season is upon us.  But wait! It’s mid-November I still have fall leaves in my yard and a pumpkin on my porch.  I haven’t even planned our Thanksgiving meal yet?   How did it get to be the Christmas season already?

That’s easy.  The retailing powers that be have decided long age that the more shopping days there are in the Christmas (or as it in now known, holiday) season, the more people will shop.  The lines that begin forming outside some large chain stores before the pumpkin pie is even off the Thanksgiving table, prove that the retailers are…

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Recently my younger son was involved in what I thought was a minor incident at school. I don’t mind my child being punished, and I know school teachers, principals, and playground attendants aren’t perfect. I’m a teacher. We are human. Sometimes we come down too hard on a kid, or we let things go we shouldn’t have. So, what bother’s me about what happened with my child is not really that he got in big trouble over a small thing. That happens.  What bothers me is what this incident says about society as a whole – because I know schools everywhere are cracking down on recess. I blogged about the whole thing over at Charming Farming, my hobby farm blog.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on recess, rough housing, raising boys, and our societies attempt to tame it all.

Read my blog post about it here.


If you are a parent, you have likely heard of the Common Core Standards, especially if you live in one of the 46 states that have adopted these new national standards. But if you are like most parents, you probably know very little about CCS or how these will affect your children.  As an English teacher and literature lover, I was thrilled when first introduced to the CCS, mainly because I liked what I saw (for the most part) on the list of exemplar texts.  As time has passed, and I’ve seen the Common Core implemented in my school and my children’s schools, my initial joy has faded.  In fact, I have some serious concerns about these standards and how they were developed and implemented.  I cannot say that I am opposed to the CCS, but I do have reservations.  I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons about these standards, so that you can judge for yourself.  This is by no means an exhaustive list.  My research has been minimal and much of this is just my opinion.  Still, I hope this will at least serve as a starting point to help you understand a bit more about this massive shift in the American education system.

But first, let me explain what the Common Core is.  Up until recently, each state was responsible for developing it’s own set of standards for what constituted a sound education in that state.  With the new Common Core, those standards will no longer vary but be nationalized.  Adoption of the CCS is technically voluntary, but not really (more about that below).  The Common Core is not a curriculum per se.  Rather it is a set of standards that tells us what a well-educated person should have studied, mastered, read, or written.  Text book companies and testing companies have scrambled to rewrite their materials to be sure they are common core aligned.  Individual states and schools are free to choose any curriculum or texts aligned with the Common Core Standards.  However, CC does not rely heavily on text books.  Also, the Common Core does not mandate a specific list of books.  Rather there is a list of CC exemplar texts for each grade level.  This list is meant to serve as a guide for teachers as to the types of books that meet the rigorous standards of the Common Core.  However, I think it is safe to assume that a lot of school districts will default to the exemplar texts list rather than choosing literature based on the specific needs and interests of their community.

PROS

1. Standards are national.  It is hard to argue with the idea that a uniform set of standards is a good idea.  This means that the expectations for children in New York will be the same as those in Arkansas.  The Common Core creates a more level playing field.

2. This level playing field is good for kids who move frequently.  Again, states have some flexibility as to what they teach, but generally speaking the concepts will not vary.  So, if a third grader moves from California to Maine in the middle of the school year, he may or may not have read the same books as his new classmates (good chance he will have), but he will have studied the same general set of skills.

3.  The level playing field is good for standardized testing.  It just makes sense that if the test scores of students in Kentucky are going to be compared to those of students in Arizona, that those children should go into the test with the same base of knowledge.

4. CCS is heavy on classic literature.  Sort of.   Common Core places a huge emphasis on nonfiction and informative texts, however many of the exemplar texts are classics. Yay!

5. The Common Core encourages critical thinking.  Well, that’s the idea anyway.  Under these new standards, students will spend less time memorizing and engaging in the “choke and puke” method of learning (choke down the information and puke it up for the test).  Instead, they will be engaging in learning that more closely resembles “real world” situations. There will be a greater emphasis on problem solving, creating, and even working cooperatively with others to reach goals.  All of these skills are considered important skills for 21st century employment.

6.  Under the CCS student evaluations will be more varied. To be sure the Common Core will not put an end to standardized testing.  In fact in some states, like my home state of Arkansas, testing is going to get considerably more intense. However, teachers in every CC state will be expected to evaluate students using method other than testing – writing assessments, portfolios, projects, and presentations.

7.  The CCS emphasize the use of primary documents.  This means that rather than reading everything out of a text book, students will read the actual documents written by founding fathers, great men and women of history, scientists, great thinkers, and scholars.

CONS

1.  Adoption of the Common Core is not voluntary – not really. Why is this a big deal?  The United States has always left control of public schools primarily to the states and to local school districts. This is to ensure that those who pay the bulk of the taxes that support the school retain control over their schools.  In other words, the best interest of the community and the state should be served first.  In fact, federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from intrusive control over public education.  So while adoption of the Common Core is not mandatory, only schools who do adopt the standards will be eligible for their share of 4.35 billion dollars of Race to the Top Funding.   In her letter to the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the U.S., Phyllis Shlafly reports that schools were also warned that by not adopting the new standards, they would lose Title I funding.  In other words, it seems as though the federal government has found a way to skirt around federal prohibitions on federal mandates for public education by resorting to old fashion bribery.

2. The Common Core Standards are the product of big corporations.  This is not to say that educators and education experts had no role in the creations of the standards, but in her blog post Why I Cannot Support the Common Core Standards, Diane Ravitch, educational policy analyst and New York University Research Professor said,  They [the standards] were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. There was minimal public engagement in the development of the Common Core. Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states.  Personally, I am uncomfortable with the Gates Foundation’s heavy hand in my children’s education.  But there is more heavy handedness…

3.  The primary architect of the CCS, David Coleman, is now the head of The College Board.  This is the organization responsible the SAT, the AP program, and the PSAT.  In other words, one man has immense control over the education our children grades K-college.  Check out his ideas and associations by clicking above to see if you are okay with that.

4.  The Standards have been implemented nearly all across the nation with no field testing. In other words, these standards have been adopted without any idea of how they will affect students or teachers.  They might be successful, but we don’t really have anyway of knowing.

5.  Seventy percent of all student reading will be non-fiction.  How sad.  It might be tempting to think that no one cares about poetry and literature except nerdy English teachers, but good literature teaches lessons and starts conversations about life, love, death, hope, belonging, sin, faith, hate, and so much more in a way that most non-fiction, especially the technical writing being pushed by Common Core, cannot.   A good education should teach students to recognize truth and beauty and give them the tools to choose what is true and beautiful.  Education is about so much more than career training.  That has been true throughout the history of the world.  Great minds are formed by great books not by technical manuals.  Unfortunately, the CC seems to be more about training students for careers rather than educating  them in the truest sense.

6. Like No Child Left Behind, The Common Core ignores the developmental age of children.  One of the main purposes of the CCS is to make US students globally competitive.  That sounds great, but at what cost?  Traditionally American education has been geared toward and even respected the developmental age of children.  Most of us attended kindergartens and primary schools that had play centers and three recesses a day.  We memorized our state capitols and the list of US presidents.  We did these things because both play and memorization are pleasurable and beneficial for young children.   They form the mind in a way that makes later critical thinking possible.  They are appropriate and they create hooks on which to hang later knowledge.  But now there is no time for play or silly rote memorization.  With the CCS emphasis on critical thinking, students are being expected to engage in much more rigorous learning at a much younger age.  They are expected to do what is not developmentally appropriate.  It is sad, and it is costing our children some precious years.  Even sadder, I don’t think it works.  When appropriate developmental steps are skipped, it makes later learning harder.  To create critical thinkers in high school, we must have creative players in grade school.  Play teaches thinking.

And it isn’t just elementary age children who are suffering through developmentally inappropriate work. This 7th grade teacher explains to her students that she opposes Common Core, in part because it asks her students to do things that are at a high school level.

7.  According to this website, the CC does not allow for modifications.  If this is true, it’s news to me and to every other teacher I know.  We are constantly reminded of the importance of modifying for students with special needs. If the new standards do not allow for such modifications, there is no doubt a number of students will suffer.

8.  There are significant privacy concerns with the Common Core Standards.  Seriously, this is worth looking in to.

9.  The Common Core ignores the dignity of certain careers.  I might be wrong about this, but the vibe of the Common Core seems to be all about college.  Vocational classes are expected to have their students do more writing, as if learning to weld or fix a car isn’t good enough on it’s own.  It’s not like kids aren’t writing in other classes.  But now their vocational classes must be intellectualized to have value.

Whew!  I’m sorry.  I know that is a lot of information.  My goal was to simply list some pros and cons of the Common Core, but that’s not as easy as it sounds.  This is a complex issue with a multitude of implications for our children and for the future of our country.  I don’t have it all figured out, but I am trying to stay informed. Below are some helpful links:

Privacy and the Common Core

Pros and Cons of the Common Core Standards

The Washington Post lists pros and cons

More pros and cons

Teachers Against Common Core

Catholic Scholars Blast Common Core

A Guided Exploration on Common Core

Common Core Sexualized American Education

nsp-1606-300x300 Photo fromNational School Products Blog

Linked at The Catholic Blogger Network

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And at Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity

And The Prairie Homestead Barn Hop

And Powerful Mothering

And From the Farm Blog Hop