Monthly Archives: August 2009

home school judge rules student back in school because of her faith

Yesterday I was contacted by a friend who told me that I had drawn the completely wrong conclusion about the issues in the New Hampshire case.  I was told that it’s not about religion it is about the father’s wishes.  Tonight I have been in debate after debate.  I am going to cut and paste some quotes related to this case.  I’m not going to comment, I’ll just leave it to you to decide if this is about the child’s faith or not.


It is not the proper role of the court to insist that Amanda be “exposed to different points of view” if the primary residential parent has determined that it is in Amanda’s best interest not to be exposed to secular influences that would undermine Amanda’s faith, schooling, social development, etc. The Court is not permitted to demonstrate hostility toward religion, and particularly the faith of Amanda and Mother, by removing Amanda from the home and thrusting her into an environment that the custodial parent deems detrimental to Amanda. 


The Court’s ruling acknowledges that it applied a lesser preponderance standard and a “best interests” standard to conclude that the parenting plan be modified and to order Amanda to attend public school.





In addition, the Court created,


sponte sua, its own definition of what the purpose of education is: “…the Court is guided by the premise that education is by its nature an exploration and examination of new things, and by the premise that a child requires academic, social, cultural, and physical interaction with a variety of experiences, people, concepts, and surroundings in order to grow to an adult who can make intelligent decisions about how to achieve


Second, the Court’s own Order admits that the child is well-socialized.


“… the evidence support a finding that Amanda is generally likeable and well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level.”


The Court correctly noted

“its obligation not to consider the specific tenets of any religious system unless there is evidence that those tenets have been applied in such a way as to cause actual harm to the child.” added.) a productive and satisfying life.”

“its obligation not to consider the specific tenets of any religious system unless there is evidence that those tenets have been applied in such a way as to cause actual harm to the child.”

added.) a productive and satisfying life.”





Even if the Court could articulate some legally cognizable concerns regarding the religious upbringing of Amanda and the lack of “exposure to other views”, one would assume the Court is not expecting the public school system to be the source of other religious views.




It is a fundamental right of a parent to raise their child according the holdings of the parent’s religion and beliefs. To be compelled otherwise by Court orders puts the Courts (the “State”) in the business of determining children’s religious upbringing.

This is unconstitutional.


As Mother testified at trial, the GAL literally crossed people off the list if they were Christians. The GAL did not deny doing so.



Mother gave the GAL some research concerning homeschooling and asked if the GAL had read it. The GAL refused to read it or even consider it because, as she said,

I don’t’ want to hear it. It’s all Christian based.

I don’t’ want to hear it. It’s all Christian based.






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Lawyer for New Hampshire home school student files brilliant motion

Yesterday I outlined a recent court decision in the state of New Hampshire the has forced a Christian home school child to attend a public school solely on the basis of her religious convictions.  The child’s Attorney at Law John Anthony Simmons has filed a brilliant motion asking the court to reconsider it’s ruling. The motion filed by Attorney Simmons can be found in it’s entirety here.  Just read it with the lights on in your house.  It is a nightmare.

In this case the mother has had custodial custody of the ten year old child most of the child’s life.  During that time the mother has chosen to home school her  daughter from the first grade.  There is clear evidence that the child is thriving in the home school environment.  The father is bringing up the common myth that home school children are less appropriately socialized than those in public school.  The child is academically advanced and  is “generally likeable and well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising and intellectually at or superior to grade level.”   The child’s father brought up the same issue in 2006 but lost in court. 

The mother has gone as far as enrolling the child in three public school courses as a means of enriching the child’s education in an attempt to be considerate of the fathers wishes. 

The court itself stated that there would be only one reason to make such a decision.  That would be if there was evidence of harm being done to the child through the mothers actions.  The just isn’t any evidence that the mother is unfit.  The court then is without justification for it’s decision. 

The fact that the father brought up the issue in 2006 and lost causes the court to be actually unable to take up the matter of home schooling under the principle of Issue Preclusion.  Attorney Simmons correctly brings to consideration the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.  Under those amendments the mother has the right to make decisions regarding the schooling and religious training of her child. 

The court in suggesting that the child should be exposed to other points of view demonstrates a certain hostility to religion not permitted to the court.  Most certainly the court is prohibited from demonstrating hostility to the religious views of the mother and daughter under the United States Constitution.  The court does not find that there is any harm being done do the child through the mother’s efforts on the child’s behalf.  That does not allow the court to modify the present parenting aggreement that stands related to the child.  Simply put the court simply stepped outside it’s constitutional bounds in arbitrarily modifying the binding parental agreement. 

Attorney Simmons rightly contends that the court created its own definition of education out of whole cloth:


“…the Court is guided by the premise that education is by its nature an exploration and examination of new things, and by the premise that a child requires academic, social, cultural, and physical interaction with a variety of experiences, people, concepts, and surroundings in order to grow to an adult who can make intelligent decisions about how to achieve a productive and satisfying life.”

The court also simply throws out the state of New Hampshire code regarding what comprises a home school.  I have personally been in the courtroom here in Texas when a judge simply threw aside state statutes regarding Texas Home School Law at his whim.  It happens.  New Hampshire law states:

 “Instruction shall be deemed home education if it consists of instruction in science, mathematics, language, government, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, the history of the constitutions of New Hampshire and the United States, and an exposure to and appreciation of art and music. Home education shall be provided by a parent for his own child, unless the provider is as otherwise agreed upon by the appropriate parties…..”The mother in this case is meeting and exceeding the requirements of New Hampshire law.  In fact, according to the motion the father does not contest this idea.  His whole problem is with his opinion that the child is not being properly socialized.  The court itself already admitted that the child is well socialized before it made it’s ruling.  The fact that the mother has attempted to address the fathers concern isn’t being contested in this case.  Yet the court has seen fit to remove the child from her home school environment and so place her in a public school environment.  There is also no evidence provided by the court in why the public school would be a better environment for the socialization of the child.  The court also did not offer any other alternative other than removing the child from a wholesome environment to one that at the very least has no evidence to support it’s superiority. 


The court seems to have adopted a bias against the religious beliefs of the mother and daughter. 

.it would be remarkable if a ten year old child who spends her school “ . .time with her mother and the vast majority of all her other time with her mother would seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view. Amanda’s vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to the counselors suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other points of view.”

What the court has done at this point is jump to the conclusion that because the child has a Christian viewpoint there is a problem that must be solved.  No other conclusion can be reached.  The court has a problem with the fact that the child is a Christian.  Can anyone in their wildest dreams imagine what would happen if this child were to be translated into a male Muslim child ordered to be removed from his Muslim school because the court felt that being a Muslim is a problem that requires a solution.  The resulting outrage would be unimaginable. 

The childs father, in fact, took her to church until she was aged seven years.  At that time he stopped because as he testified it was having an “effect on her and she had started believing this stuff.”  So, the mothers actions are completely consistent with the fathers previous actions with his daughter.  

The mother also testified under oath that the daughter has been exposed to other religious traditions including evolution and creation information.   The mother, however, has a constitutional right to rear her child in her religions tradition as the custodial parent.

The state of New Hampshire representative interviewing the mother has shown an outrageous bias against Christianity.  The representative refused to interview the individuals supplied as references to her.  And the representative actually crossed off references if they were Christians according to the Attorney’s motion to the court.

When the mother supplied the state representative with research about home schooling the person actually said according to the motion I don’t want to hear it.  It’s all Christian based.   This flagrant hostility toward Christianity should not be tolerated by the court as the court deems itself to operate under the United States Constitution.  That statement is outrageous beyond all tolerance.  Then the court actually agreed with it seemingly taking sides against the mother and daughters Christian belief system.  I find it almost impossible to draw any other conclusion.  The state representative then told the mother “if I want her in school then she will be in school”. 

No where in the United States of America should such an attitude on the part of public representative be tolerated.  That statement shows a bias against Christianity on the part of the state as this is the states representative that is without any doubt what so ever.  This kind of bias and outright hostility should have been thown to the gutter by the court.  Yet the court accepted it. 

As a result of these arguments Attorney Simmons has correctly filed a motion to stay the order of the court.  I congratulate him on his fine work on the behalf of this client.  This attorney obviously elegantly understands the constitution of the United States.  The court however seems to know little to nothing about it. 

I am going to continue to watch this case as it moves forward.  This has the potential to be a watershed case in the rights of parents to determine the education, socialization track, and religious training of their own children in opposition to the opinion of the state. 

This case should also be of great concern any parent of any child, any caregiver, any child advocate or anyone interested in the welfare of children in the United States of America.  The statists of our country want to control our every move.  They want government to have the last say in most aspects of our lives but particularly in how our children are raised and socialized.  The statist philosophy is that they children should be raised to be compliant citizens of the country who are easy to manage.  Modern education was established by the large industrialists of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as a way to gain a compliant easily manageable workforce. 

The decision of this court follows that exact path.  The state knows best what to do with our children.  If you are in any way concerned with the fate of the children in the United States get on the train now. In fact, run because the statist train has already pulled out of the station. 



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Home school student sent to school for religious beliefs

My last post seemed to be a bit prophetic concerning the legal system, school bias against homeschooling and coertion.  Today I came across this remarkable headline “New Hampshire Court orders Home School Child into Government Run School”.  More shocking to me was this statement “her religious beliefs are a bit too sincerely held and must be sifted, tested by, and mixed among other worldviews”.  Then we have this remarkable statement:

In the process of renegotiating the terms of a parenting plan for the girl, the guardian ad litem involved in the case concluded, according to the court order, that the girl “appeared to reflect her mother’s rigidity on questions of faith” and that the girl’s interests “would be best served by exposure to a public school setting” and “different points of view at a time when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief…in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”

The child is from a family in which the parents are divorced.   This came in the process of renegotiating the terms of the divorce related to the child.  But, this event which has not made national news coverage should be frightening to all parents not just home schooling parents.  You should be frightened by this because this is exactly what many statists believe about parental rights.  There aren’t any parental rights. 

In this event an entity of the government has essentially said that a child’s right to freedom of religion has been trumped by the social concerns of liberal society that wants every child exposed to as many world views as possible.  Also, the government holds that every world view is equivalent to every other world view.  This is right out of the United Nations Rights of the Child treaty that argues that children have the right to defy their parents in selecting the view of God and religious practices as children.  Their parents have no rights in teaching their children their religious views that are part of their family and their heritage. 

This court has gone too far.  The court even admits that the child is doing extremely well in her home schooled environment. 

Although the marital master making recommendations to the court agreed the child is “well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level” and that “it is clear that the home schooling…has more than kept up with the academic requirements of the…public school system,” he nonetheless proposed that the Christian girl be ordered into a government-run school after considering “the impact of [her religious] beliefs on her interaction with others.”  The court approved the order.

So here we have a child who is well-adjusted, academically successful, on grade level and in every other way appears to be a healthy well developed child.  But, that isn’t enough for the state.  In this case a “marital master” – a person – has unilaterally decided that this child’s constitutional right to freedom to practice her religious beliefs is trumped by the statist philosophy that children should be exposed to every belief system in order to be able to make a choice.  The marital master has unilaterally decided that they child living in a world where everything that happens is instantly broadcast to everyone has not been exposed to enough alternate viewpoints.  So, the conclusion was reached that the only way for this child to be acceptably socialized in the government viewpoint was for the child to be placed in a government school. 

Are you disturbed yet? 

Then lets look a little further into the opinion of the marital master:

Marital Master Michael Garner reasoned that the girl’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view” and then recommended that the girl be ordered to enroll in a government school instead of being home-schooled.  Judge Lucinda V. Sadler approved the recommendation and issued the order on July 14.

Still believe the government thinks our children belong to you?  Mr. Garners reasoning goes something like this.  The child made a vigorous argument defending her beliefs.  So, rather than conclude that the child has thought out her belief system in a rigorous way, he makes the startling conclusion that the child must not have been “exposed” to enough varying religious, cultural or social systems and philosophies.  Using the same reasoning I can say to you that your argument to me that there is a God simply says that you are an uninformed dolt.  So obviously you must be “exposed” to the state’s idea of whether or not there is a God.  I could also say to you that your argument that you have an inherant God given right to raise your child is held only because you have been in an insular environment in which you were not exposed to enough other statist ideas about who really should be in charge of raising your child. 

Frightened yet.  We live in political times in which many, many people believe in the supremacy of the state in making decisions about almost every aspect of your life.  We live in times when the government is gaining more and more power to tell you, an American citizen, a free agent, that you are, in fact, not wise enough to raise your own child.  In my opinion this decision is a landmark legal decision that every parent, home schooler or not, should be absolutely horrified to see. 

There is no legal basis for the court’s decision.  This is a decision made on the basis of the recommendation of a New Hampshire state beaurocrat.  The court’s decision was apparently made on the basis of the opinion of one person who has a particular world view.  Even the New Hampshire Supreme Court holds that home schooling is an inherant part of the American experience.

“The New Hampshire Supreme Court itself has specifically declared, ‘Home education is an enduring American tradition and right…,’” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson.  “There is clearly and without question no legitimate legal basis for the court’s decision, and we trust it will reconsider its conclusions.”

These are perilous times.  These are times when every home schooling family and every family who believes that parents have a God-given right to raise your children in the faith traditions of their family.  Remain vigilant, remain alarmed, and be alert to any abuse of someone else’s rights.  They may be coming for you next.  You must get up every morning and think how can I advance the cause that I believe in. 


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Homeschool law, judges, administrators and bias

You have days like this from time to time.  Sitting with several people eating lunch today, I over heard a conversation between a school administrator and a former school administrator now retired.  The school administrator was talking about a kid who had just withdrawn to home school.  This person made a derogatory remark about homeschooling in general because he suspected, perhaps rightly, that the parents would not do enough to home school their child correctly.  The phrase he used was something like it’s a load of garbage.  The retired administrator jumped into the conversation.

“I’d file on em”, he said.  “Even if they were homeschooling, I’d file on em”.  So this gentleman would file on home schooling parents who are operating within school law for taking their child out of school.  A direct violation of home school law in the state of Texas.  Of course, he doesn’t care because of his bias against home schooling.  To him home schooling is as he said “Judge Judy School”  meaning that all the kids will do is watch television.  I was grossly offended by the general ignorance of this statement and the general disregard for the law.  But it isn’t uncommon.  Many, many school administrators feel this way. 

On another front. A few months ago I accompanied a young man into court in an attempt to add support to his cause.   This boy had started home schooling.  His parent had fulfilled all the requirements of the state of Texas.  During the hearing the judges administrative assistant told all of us who were with the young man that this particular judge did not allow home schooling in his court.  So, this judge, who has a strong reputation of backing schools, simply through out state law.  By his personal policy he overturned the entire Texas State legislature with one sweep of his all powerful hand. 

You get the point.  Here is my advice as a home school consultant.  Never enter into a meeting with a school administrator without having the law in your hand so that you can physically point out the law to the administrator.  Otherwise you are likely to be at the mercy of the whim of a person who does not know the law or just doesn’t care.  If you are dealing with a court I cannot advise you strongly enough to visit the court with a lawyer who understands and is sympathetic to home school law.  Remember that judges have all the cards.  If you are in the hands of an ignorant judge or, worse, one who just doesn’t care about the law you have to have a lawyer.  Otherwise, you roll the dice. 

The bias in the organizational makeup of schools is natural and expected.  Any entity has an imperative to protect itself.  That is to be expected.  So wisdom would dictate to go into any situation with that assumption firmly in your mind. 

Home schooling and independent learning is becoming more and more accepted.  In fact, in some states the number of home schooled kids are close to overtaking the number of kids still in the public system. 

The principle at work here that must be defended is to maintain our rights as parents against the claims of the state on our children.  Laws are being proposed all the time that would eat away at parental rights to raise your children as you see fit.  Also important in this process is to firmly address the myth that home schooling can be a form of child abuse.  I do have one caveat.  Home schoolers must not defend parents who are conducting sham home schools.  The attitude of the administrators and the judge does have some grounding in reality.  There are parents who put out minimal effort to be sure their children receive a first class education.  The universal fact is that the one case of abuse on the part of a home schooler is the one that will get the media coverage.  We who believe in this movement must, absolutely must, see to it that somehow the best examples are publicized.  For every example of a family who barricade themselves away while failing to educate their children we must present a dozen examples of families that do the job really well.

When I first heard the exchange I am reporting I immediately became angry.  But, having acquired a fair set of battle scars in the past few years I kept my mouth shut realizing that they are also working from a perspective that really is looking out for the kids.  They just don’t understand what the benefits are as well as how effective home schooling is.  They have also seen the abuses that do occur. 

If we are to maintain our right to educate our children in our own chosen way, we must bring to the front examples of success to counter act the obvious failures.  We have all seen the abuses.  These are the cases that get the media coverage as well as gaining mythical status. 

But in the meantime go into situations involving school administrations and courts armed to the teeth with knowledge and a competent lawyer who understands home school law. 

If you have not done so already join HSLDA.  The Home School Legal Defense Association is the flagship of the home school line of defense.  Here is the stated mission of the HSLDA from their website:

To preserve and advance the fundamental, God-given, constitutional right of parents and others legally responsible for their children to direct their education. In so doing, we rely on two fundamental freedoms—parental rights and religious freedom. We advocate for these freedoms in the courtrooms, before government officials, and in the public arena. Additionally, we assist other educational organizations in similar activities, where possible and appropriate.

Since 1983, Home School Legal Defense Association’s primary goal has remained the same—to bring together a large number of homeschooling families so that each can have a low-cost method of obtaining quality legal defense. HSLDA gives families the freedom to home school without facing legal threats alone. Through many families sticking together, we have been able to keep the cost of a year’s membership close to the rate that you would have to pay for an hour of an attorney’s time almost anywhere else.

After a family joins HSLDA, there are no further charges of any kind for defending them in court. HSLDA pays in full all attorney fees, expert witness costs, travel expenses, and all other court costs permissible by state law for us to pay.

The vast majority of contacts member families face are successfully resolved through our early intervention without any court action. Many times, HSLDA attorneys call or write letters on behalf of members contacted by local officials. For those who wind up in court, HSLDA provides full representation at every stage of legal proceedings.

HSLDA’s board of directors also operates the Home School Foundation—a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that supports HSLDA, other like-minded organizations, and special programs such as the Special Needs Children’s Fund.

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home school, photography and cooking

Today I want to get practical again for a bit.  So many of you are starting home school classes today.  You are looking for curriculum for your home school classroom.  As a photographer I tend to think of things visually.  So here is a neat little project for any age kid really.  This can be done as easily by a small child as an older child.  The difference in execution is the degree of supervision needed.

What I am proposing is a lesson on sequencing using a digital camera and a favorite recipe.  First pick out a favorite family recipe.  Have the child start a series of notes in his notebook.   Title a page something like project steps. 

You will need the recipe, the materials needed to cook the recipe, an oven, stove, or microwave as called for in the recipe, a digital camera, and a notebook.  You will also need a computer because there is a writing or presentation component to this program. 

Gather the materials that are called for in the recipe.  Have your child take a photograph of each component of the recipe.  Get in close and fill the frame with the ingredient.  Then carefully read the steps in the recipe.  I would have the child write down steps that are going to be completed in the notebook. 

Then begin cooking.  Take a photograph of each step in the recipe.  You may have to assist while the child’s hands are busy stirring, slicing or dicing.  Take a couple of pictures of each step.  Take pictures of everything.  Take a picture of putting in an ingredient, stirring, pouring, or putting in the oven.  Remember to have the child do as much of the photography as possible. 

Then finally take a picture of the magnificent finished product. 

Now comes the really important part.  Have your child start the computer.  Download the pictures to a file labeled with the name of the recipe.  Open a program of your choice.  I would use PowerPoint or perhaps the free presentation program in Google Docs or Open Office.  Title the first slide or page.  If you are using a presentation program select a suitable background. 

Then go to the file containing the pictures to arrange the pictures in the order you are going to use them.  Have the student move the pictures about until they are in the desired order in the file.  Then select the first picture.  Copy the picture to the document.  

Now the child will write a full explanation of what is going on in the picture.   The first picture should be of the ingredients.  Say you are using Bell Peppers of some type in the recipe.  This is the time to look up “Bell Peppers” in some reliable reference source explaining what a Bell Pepper is as well as what kind of dishes in which it will be found.  Write a short piece about the ingredient, where it came from;  what it is used for; how it is being prepared for this recipe including any details needed for the specific recipe.

Continue the process  until each one of the ingredients has been introduced.  Then proceed to show each one of the steps in the recipe.  Stop and each step so it can be photographed.  Download the pictures to the computer.  Continue the process of inserting pictures along with accompaning text until you are done. 

Do this with enough recipes and you will have a publishable cookbook. 

But what is so important about sequencing other than doing a rewarding and fun activity.   Being able to process events in a serial order is important in the development higher cognitive processes. 

The act of explaining a set of actions leading to a conclusion reveals much about the maturity of a child’s thinking.  Simply observing how you child puts together this or any other like project will reveal to you how your child perceives ordered steps.  The photography is a means to an end.  The end here is to understand what your child is thinking.  This kind of activity is a way to see your child’s metacognitive skills in action.  Metacognition is thought of as “knowing about knowing”.  Watching your child put together this project will let you see into the way they think.  You will be able to understand if there are any logical gaps in your child’s processing of stepwise processes.  Activities that cause the child to consider thier own thinking cause the child to become better at thinking.   They will realize mistakes in their thinking in ways that cannot be realized in any other way. 

Reading perception can be analyzed.  As your child reads a recipe listen carefully to the the child’s self talk as they go about the process.  People often talk to themselves at an almost unconcious level when they are doing process skills if they are left alone.  Just listen.  By listening to the way in which your child handles the process of mental organization you will know what to focus on in the next teaching activity.  You will find out very, very quickly if your child is reading at a level that allows them to process complicated data. 

Goal directed planning is one of the single most important skills any person can have to succeed at life.  We all have to put together plans that include many steps.  We do this all the time without really thinking about it.  But some people are better at planning than others because they are able to mentally devise plans with multiple steps efficiently.  These are the people who have developed higher level metacognitive skills than others.  Activities like the one I have described are important in order for a child to be able to develop the ability to sequence complex plans leading to a complex conclusion.

Mathematical thinking is so often characterized by an ability to think in a logical order.  The same kind of thing can be accomplished by breaking down math problems step by step.  The video camera is a perfect hook to get kids to utilize higher level metacognitive skills. 

All of problem solving boils down to the ability to see the steps in a process.  One must be able to visualize the steps that brought a situation to it’s present state.  Also, one must be able to think through a proposed series of steps in order to determine if a particular plan will be successful.  While the project may seem deceptively simple, even a bit contrived, it yields extremely high levels of success in developing the ability to sequence a logical series of steps leading to the fruition of a process. 

Would that our politicians had such skills.   Following this kind of systematic project development will put your child miles ahead of children who do the bare minimum that can be done in group situations. 







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Home school, virtual schools, learning communities and success in education

I am happy to give an educational endeavor a plug when something right happens.  In todays’ Houston Chronicle there is an encouraging article.  The article is titled “A New Way to Learn”.  The story tells us about the Houston Independent School Districts Virtual School.   The article features a family with three children.  There are many others.  The virtual school is run by both the Houston Independent School District along with Connections Academy.  The following is the statement from Connections Academy from their website.  This is a new step in public education.  As I have said before the American public school is dead, it just doesn’t know it yet.  This is an admission that educating a child at home has advantages that cannot be duplicated in the public school.  My opinion.  I give full credit to HISD and other districts for recognizing the situation in which many public schools exist.   

Connections Academy provides a new form of free public school that students attend from home or another location outside a traditional classroom. This is a unique program that combines the strong parental involvement of home schooling, expertise and accountability, and a flexible learning environment. Connections Academy provides all the tools and support students need to learn in the non-classroom setting. We currently operate schools in many states.

Connections Academy does not charge tuition.  I should insert my disclamer here.  I have no connection of any sort to either HISD or Connections Academy.  I simply see this as a real move forward by a credible public school system that is trying to provide a viable alternative for students.  The school as it exists in Houston is called Texas Connections Academy. 

TCA is expected to serve 1000 students in grades 3 through 8.  The school is drawing students from other cities around the state.  The family featured in this article became very unhappy with what is happening in the schools their children attend.  One of the childrens teachers told the child he “wouldn’t amount to anything”.  Another child was forced to clean up urine in a school restroom.  I can vouch personally for the statement having heard classroom teachers say this many times about certain kids.  I’ve never seen a kid made to clean up human waste.  But, honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me. 

HISD is making money off this deal. 

HISD charter school coordinator LaMyrle Ituah said the district earns $7,826 a year from the state for each Connections Academy student — as long as the child completes the required courses and passes the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. HISD pays Connections Academy a smaller fee, $6,500 per child.

However, I don’t really have a problem with that in itself.  I hope the district will use the profit for student services, materials and other useful items. 

Here is what is important to me.  The children involved in this program will not be socialized to the standards of the public school.  They will not have to endure a bus ride with the menu of problems that exist on school buses.  Nor will they be at the hands of the individuals who do, in fact, tell kids that they are not going to amount to anything.  There are many, many fine teachers in the schools but I have personally observed some who have problems with kids.  They will be in the safety and comfort of their own homes where they will be able to get food, water and go to the restroom when they need to do so.  They will not be subjected to the many small humiliations that are found in the day to day workings of a public institution.  They will not be exposed to the lack of sanitation that exists in many school bathrooms and other facilities.  Nor will they come into contact with the infections that exist when thousands of people are confined in a small enclosed place.  Nor will they be exposed to the availability of drugs, the possibility of exposure to weapons or any of the myriad of other social ills that exist in our culture and our schools. 

This program will give so many students an opportunity to learn in peace, out of the way of the negative socialization, and other myriad problems that occur everyday in schools. 

Here is more evidence.  The New York Times has just published report published by SRI International that concludes that:

“On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

What an earth shaking fact.  Home schooling families have long contended that students do better in individual, family settings.  While most of the individuals studied were in adult programs the results are still fascinating in the implications for home schools where students can be out of the “village”.  The study found that students in virtual schools performed 9 percentage points better than students in face to face instruction.  My eyebrows raised when I read that the results are being reported by the Department of Education.

“The study’s major significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing — it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction,” said Barbara Means, the study’s lead author and an educational psychologist at SRI International.

This indicates that online virtual schools or individual programs like home schools can provide a better fit for individual kids than classroom instruction.  The biggest growth presently is in various continuing education programs.  But, the implications for the education of children and young people are enormous.  The rapid growth of the use of computers and social networking systems will continue to aid students in helping each other. Learning communities are going to be formed between students that will allow students to give each other the real individual help needed to make rapid gains. 

This trend does anything but isolate kids.  Be ready for that criticism.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  All these programs will include forums, chat rooms, email and other means for students and teachers to communicate with each other in ways we do not yet imagine.  This is a band wagon I strongly encourage parents and students to jump on. 




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digital photography, home school, and learning

Parents are always concerned about how to motivate kids with new and unique ways to encourage learning.  The way to their hearts if often through their technology or technology in general.  Digital photography whether it is with a digital phone or a digital camera is a way to get them hooked into a subject using technology.  There is nothing that can’t be made more interesting through the use of photography. 

Our children are certainly members of the technology generation.  The first time I truly felt old was the day I took a phonograph record to school when we were working on sound.  I was really surprised to realize that there were children in the room who had not seen a photograph record.  After I thought about it a while I realized that my seventh graders have always had compact discs.  They have never lived without cell phones.  Most have never had to “dial” a telephone.  Instead they push buttons.  In some cases they simply tell the phone to “call mom”. 

The digital camera provides another way to encourage kids to process information.  Let’s say you are working on sequencing steps in a process.  In the old days you might have the kids list the steps in some process like baking a cake.  That’s ok.  It might even interest some kids.  But the truth is that writing the steps down just might pose a problem with motivation.  But more important a pencil and paper project might not provide the deep processing that we all need in order to completely learn what we need to know. 

You do the same things.  Have the kids carefully read the recipe.  Then gather the materials.  Get everything lined out to do the recipe.  Now is where the process will change radically.  Instead of writing down the steps or recording on paper what is done the child will photograph each step.  An important thing is to encourage your child to set up the lesson just as if he or she were photographing it for Food Network. 

Your child will be motivated, by the technology, to think very carefully about what must come first, second, third and so on.  If it were me I would have the child plan the steps on a computer rather than on paper.  This will allow the child to cut and paste later as they get ready to present their “sequencing” exercise. 

Have the child set up the first step.  You might be the “assistant photographer”.  Perhaps the child would rather use a tripod and use the the cameras time delay system to maintain complete control.  Set up and take the first photograph.  Continue this process until the child is finished with the cake right down to icing it, cutting it and serving it. 

Download the pictures into the computer.  Then use some kind of presentation program such as PowerPoint or the Google Docs application to design a step by step presentation.  The student will then type steps to explain the slides with photographs or perhaps make a movie using an application like Movie Maker which is found with windows. 

Lets say that you are working on a science project involving leaf types.  Often kids are asked to draw the shapes, label them, make cards to drill the types of leaves and try to learn in that way.  Good enough.  But there is a better way.  Make a list of the various leaf types.  Check a guidebook for your area out of the library.  Then take the camera to a local public park to photograph all the leaf types that can be found.  Photograph everything.  Photography even avoids touching the infamous poison ivy or poison oak but still getting examples of their leaf types.  Bring home your samples in digital form.  Down load them to the computer.  Your budding scientist will then use a presentation program or perhaps a word processing program to create a booklet of leaf forms as the completion of the assignment. 

Today I tweeted a hint to encourage parents who were trying to teach their children angles to take your child out with a camera to photograph as many acute, obtuse and right angles as they can find.  These can be presented in any way imaginable. 

Collect pictures of various types of animals at the zoo.  Perhaps the student is working to learn the different phyla of animals.  Off to the zoo you go with the camera to photograph animals you would never have a chance to see in any other way. 

There is no limit to what can be done with a digital camera and imagination.  Any subject—-I repeat —- any subject can be aided with the use of digital photography as a way to motivate you child with a subject. 

In the near future, I will be working with projects involving digital video.  Video may actually be more appealing to your child.  Anything you can do with a camera, you can do with a digital video camera.  You can for instance compile a tour of the historical sites around your city.   Any child could take that recipe idea making a Food Network style show.  Any process can be demonstrated from the steps of a recipe to how to assemble any kind of craft project.  Want to get a child hooked on writing?  Have the child write a script for a digital video program on some subject of interest to the child. 

A few years ago a brilliant teacher had students in the Appalachian Mountains collect information on the “old ways” of their grandparents.  They interviewed each of the elders.  Then they took the interview material to school. There they wrote books that were actually published. 

Can you imagine what you could do with your family history if you had your child do a genealogy project, or grandmothers recipes, or grandfathers hobbies.  Can you imagine how valuable it will be to you to have video taped interviews with all the elders in the family.  Trust me on this nothing will be more valuable in the future as a video record of what has gone before in your family tree.  You will one day be glad you had your child do the project. 

Look for more on this subject in the coming days.  I have also written a small booklet on this subject —  teaching with digital photography —  which will be available here on this site soon.

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Filed under home school, independent learning, nontraditional learning, photography, video