Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Protecting the Children? Part II: Education

You hear people say “let children be children”; however, we have carried that to a devastating extreme. Actually the whole arena of child rearing is in shambles.

Many of you are so damn concerned about your preschoolers getting as early a start as possible; you drive yourselves and your kids nuts. If there ever was a time to let a kid be a kid it is up to the age of 5. A few hours of kindergarten a day is ok for the year before age six, mainly for learning social skills.

Starting first grade at six is fine, but here is where the education system falls apart.

We live in Baltimore County, Maryland, historically one of the best school systems in the country. My son graduated in 1986 and my daughter in 1996. I thought things were bad then, but OMG now.

My wife’s son is eleven years old and would have been in sixth grade this year. He attended a federally designated Blue Ribbon School. We had to drive him to and from there every school day for two years. Little did we know it was such a waste of time.

He was having some problems in math so we hired a very strong tutor. Within a few months of two hours a week he progressed from a year behind to a year ahead of his class.

Knowing what school he would have attended this year, we decided to home-school him. It was a very difficult decision.

He attends a special math class with nine other students. There he also works on critical thinking and how to take tests. In less than one school year, he is now beginning Algebra II which is usually taught in ninth or tenth grade. Tonight was his last class of this school year. He was tested on work from Algebra II which they had not studied and got 3 out of 10 right: not bad.

He has a teacher for writing and reading comprehension and is functioning at a ninth grade level and is acing sample SAT tests. He will be taking the SATs this fall for a special program at Johns Hopkins University.

His mother and I work with him on the remaining subjects. By teaching him prefixes, suffixes and root words, he makes perfect or near perfect scores on sixth grade spelling pretests (plus meanings), that is testing before he actually studies the words.

He IS NOT a genius by any stretch of the imagination, and does not kill himself working. He spends about five hours a day six days a week studying.

Now here is the kicker. He and his mother were Russians living in Latvia until 2000. He came here in July of 2002 knowing two words of English, “Yep” and “No”. We believed everything the schools told us including retaining him for a second time in second grade.

I now know that what is taught in Grades 1 to 5 could easily be done in two years, but so much time is wasted in schools for one thing or another. Grades 6-8 are so repetitive one year would suffice. Grade 9–12 could be taught in no more than two to three years.

You may question this if you like, but the bottom line is that even with twelve years of our present eduction, the two largest classes in any college the freshman year are remedial math and English, middle school level.

Everyone said to us, what about his social life? It has never been better. He was and still is a competing ballroom dancer. He plays organized sporting activities three to six hours a week and is with a friend every weekend. He has more time for these things, since he doesn’t have to waste so much time at school.

On top of all that, he has one to two hours a day of chores and other duties. This was the most difficult part to get going, but now he is working well in that area also. It is all tied together.

Let me reiterate: he is not a Genius and probably wouldn’t have qualified last year for a GT program. He is now light years ahead of all that. Almost any child out there could accomplish comparable work, if allowed.

Even though the public schools are such a disaster, most private schools are not any better.

Depriving our children of a good education, making their road in life even more difficult, is criminal. This is another example of the weakness of government involvement, and of the influence of teacher unions and lawyers. But that is a topic for further discussion later.

We have to protect the children from a myriad of things in life, but how can you guard them from incompetence and neglect.

Next time, why don’t we allow our kids to grow up?

The future is today,

The Hammer


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