Tag Archives: ADHD

Reform is no use any more!

8 Jun

There has been a lot of talk about reforming the education system for years. Holt talks about it in books 40 years ago! It’s an ongoing discussion. But it doesn’t work. You can’t patch up something that is broken beyond repair. Why do we expect radical improvements with such little effort or change? Why do we continue to accept such mediocre results from public schools?

Sir Ken Robinson, a visionary cultural leader, who led the British government’s 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning. Sir Ken Robinson talks about an educational REVOLUTION on this TED video. He compares the current public school system to fast food. Both are destructive to our health and welfare.

(Watch the video here if the above video doesn’t work)

I love how he talks about diversity of talent and how crucial this diversity of talent is to our world and our personal selves! Education that is tailored specifically to individual needs is the revolution we need!

I talked with a lady this weekend about her son. He just failed kindergarten and his teacher convinced them to put the poor boy on ritalin. The mom is so worried because he’s crying all the time for no reason. But she’s afraid he needs it so that he can do better in school! I’m not going to get into the dangers of these types of drugs. (I talk about it here.) Good grief! This teacher doesn’t care about the permanent harm these drugs will do to the child. Her main focus is classroom management – how to keep the classroom under her control.

These kinds of practices (one of many in the public schools) stifle creativity, destroy health and well being, and creates cookie cutter people instead of bright, shining, inspiring individuals.

Now, I know personally that unschooling works and fulfills this need. However many people can’t or won’t home school their kids. The philosophy and mandate of Pomegranate Gardens is centered on the individual student. But many people are not willing to take what they see as a gamble on their child’s future. They would rather stick with what they know, even though they know it doesn’t work.

“Everyday, everywhere, our children spread their dreams at our feet. And we should tread softly.”

My love/hate relationship with parenting forums

7 Apr

I’ve been spending a little bit of time at Circle of Moms lately. I don’t normally spend a lot of time on forums for several reasons, but it was linked to my Face Book account and several friends had sent me a link. So I checked it out.

Love Me

It’s got a cool layout, and is pretty easy to move around. This is important to me because I easily get lost in forums and that pisses me off and makes me not want to come back. Everything was relatively easy to set up.

Love Me Not

But hanging out in forums is such a time sucker! You can easily spend hours there chattering mindlessly or endlessly clicking on this and that. Then, before you know it, the day is gone and the “to do” list hasn’t even been touched.

Love Me

But hanging out with other people in similar situations is stimulating and encouraging. I get the chance to meet knew people with common goals and ideas and share thoughts with them. I was just telling my grandma the other day how great the computer was because I get to have friends on the other side of the planet and it’s easy to communicate with them!

Love Me Not

But sometimes the conversation turns to drivel. I’ve noticed this happens a lot on parenting forums. The endless nagging and complaining. It can take a lot of effort sometimes to wade through the muck to find one good friend. I enjoy conversation, but I really don’t think life is THAT complicated.

And I don’t enjoy hearing the same complaints (and suggestions) over and over and over again. Do some three year olds like to assert their independence. You betcha! Do they need to be medicated because they have ADHD. No way! (in fact, I don’t believe ADHD is as widespread as it appears. So we need to quit using that as an excuse.)

You really want to succeed as a parent – provide love and support when they ask for it; back off and let them live their own life when they can; teach them the tools they need when they need it; and RELAX and let life happen. Life is a blessing to us all.

Love Me

All in all though. I like the opportunity to meet new people. Especially since there are so few UNSCHOOLING, ALL NATURAL/ORGANIC/WHOLE FOOD EATING, ORGANIC CHURCH MEETING, BREASTFEEDING ADVOCATES and FREEDOM LOVING (all rolled into one) people out there.

Shucks, I think we’re the only home schooling family in my little bitty town. And nobody around here knows about raw milk and grassfed beef. Some days I feel like I’m constantly on my soap box. Finding a group of like-minded people online gives me the opportunity to learn from someone else’s experience instead of always being the teacher.

John Holt – A man WAY before his time

31 Mar

Not so new views on children, childhood, schools, and education.

I’ve been reading a slew of books written by John Holt. What I found most interesting was the dates these books were published. Every book so far has been published before the 80’s. Yet everything he writes about has virtually remained unchanged. The system is still not working for most people. Children are still being forced to submit to the wiles and whims of a system that doesn’t understand them (or rather, doesn’t care to understand them because they know better.)

“At first I did not question the compulsory nature of schooling. But by 1968 or so I had come to feel strongly that the kinds of changes I wanted to see in schools, above all in the ways teachers related to students, could not happen as long as schools were compulsory.

From many such experiences I began to see, in the early ’70s, slowly and reluctantly, but ever more surely, that the movement for school reform was mostly a fad and an illusion. Very few people, inside the schools or out, were willing to support or even tolerate giving more freedom, choice, and self-direction to children. Of the very few who were, most were doing so not because they believed that children really wanted and could be trusted to find out about the world, but because they thought that giving children some of the appearances of freedom (allowing them to wear old clothes, run around, shout, write on the wall, etc.) was a clever way of getting them to do what the school had wanted all along–to learn those school subjects, get into a good college, etc. Freedom was not a serious way of living and working, but only a trick, a “motivational device.” When it did not quickly bring the wanted results, the educators gave it up without a thought and without regret.” ~John Holt, Teach Your Own

As I am reading these books, my first thought is amazement that I never heard of this man while I was going through my teacher training. Then I stop myself and almost laugh at the ridiculousness of this thought. Why in the world would any education certification program discuss the writings, experiences, and research of a man who spent a lifetime working in the education system to find out that it was all irreparably broken? If we had talked about these writings while I was in college studying to be a teacher I would have never gone on with the program. As it was, I experienced almost everything he discussed and left public school education without a backward glance.

The system is broken.

I’m in the middle of Teach Your Own right now. It is basically a primer and an encouragement for taking that first leap into unschooling/home schooling. Right there in the introduction he tells the story of a woman at the beginning stages of trying to plan an alternative school for her children and her community. I am not kidding… it was like reading my story in a book written 50 years before my time! The story was exactly the same.

“She and a friend had decided that they couldn’t stand what the local schools were doing to children, and that the only thing to do was start their own. For many months they had been looking for parents, for space, for money, and had made almost no progress at all.”

That’s the story of Pomegranate Gardens! UNBELIEVABLE! And he gave her the advice that, luckily, my husband and I figured out all on our own… don’t got through the mess of trying to meet regulations,  find willing parents and students, and money, and buildings. It’s just not going to happen. Just teach them at home.

In a way it is sad though. The world needs a school like Pomegranate Gardens. And you know what… when the world is ready for it, I’ll be here ready to welcome them. But most people are not willing to gamble their child’s future like this. Even though they know deep down that the school system is failing, that their children are suffering, that the whole thing is just so broken and wrong. It doesn’t matter. Maybe they think their children need to be ready for the harsh realities of life. Maybe they think children need to suck it up and learn to do pointless and menial work, because that’s what life is. Maybe, I don’t know. But it seems to me to be a vicious and never-ending cycle of despair.

A lack of meaningful work

No, I’m not talking about your job. But maybe I am. Maybe if you had had an opportunity as a child to find what was important to you, you would be living a totally different life. Who knows. How different would our world be if we were all doing work we loved and felt was important?

When we are talking about schooling though, we often hear about the troublemakers. Those kids (and they are growing in number) who cause problems and angst in the classrooms for teachers and students. But these are not stupid kids. These are kids who find school to be meaningless and irksome. In one of his books, Holt talks about a group of kids in an after school program. The lady running the programs talks about how these three boys are the hardest working, strongest, most diligent, most reliable children of the group as long as they are given work that they can view as important. If they feel they are being shunted out of the way with simple busy work, then they revert to the troublesome bothersome boys that everyone expects them to be.

Holt quotes Dean Paul Roberts of Denver at the first graduation of the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (I’ve heard this quote attributed to JFK too, who knows, maybe JFK was quoting Roberts).

“To a group of students that included some very unhappy, mixed-up, and self-hating young people, he said: (1) accept yourself, (2) forget yourself, (3) find something to do and to care about that is more important to you than you are…. In telling the students to accept and then forget themselves Dean Roberts was saying something that they, preoccupied, obsessed as they were by how they looked to others, and usualy how bad they looked, had to take seriously. For he was one of the homeliest people any of us had ever seen…. Of course, to accept and forget oneself is not easy to do even when one tries, which is why the other part of his advice is so vital–to find something to do, to care about, to throw yourself into, that is more important than you are.” ~Escape from Childhood

I wanted to make a change – not be changed by the system.

If only schools really prepared us for this. Prepared us for a life full of meaning and satisfaction. This is not too much to ask for. Holt gave up on reforming the education system in the 70s. I became a teacher at the turn of the century hoping to change the world. Mentor teachers smiled condescendingly on me saying “I used to be idealistic too”. I lasted three years.

I watched “A Law Abiding Citizen” not too long ago which talks about the same thing, only with the justice system instead of the education system. Jamie Fox’s character is a lawyer and near the end of the movie he is talking about his career and his choices and says that he became a lawyer to change the system. But then as time went on he made one compromise, then another deal, and then another compromise, and before he knew what happened, instead of changing the system, the system had changed him.

But it’s never too late to stop that train. Make a change right now. I am home schooling my kids right now. It’s great. I don’t have to perpetuate the cycle anymore.

Is school lunch good for your kid?

16 Mar

Kids spend most of their day at school. They often eat both breakfast and lunch. My first year teaching I had to supervise the breakfast routine. I was totally appalled. Sitting on the desk at the front of the room was a cooler full of fruit DRINK (not juice, but an artificially flavored and sweetened drink) and a box of fruit rollups. The school was so proud of it’s breakfast program because they were helping to feed these poor kids who often had to come to school hungry because they came from families to poor to buy food.

I don’t know about you, but a fruit rollup and sugar drink doesn’t help me think through the day. I’ve talked before about the effects of diet on learning. But until we are ready to make some real changes we are going to continue to have obesity problems, behavior problems, health problems, and more.

I remember as a child my first year back in the country. My brother and I had our lunch boxes in hand (I had the metal Snoopy lunch box. How cool is that!) But we got to school and we were two out of a handful of kids who packed our own lunch. In the entire school! How embarrassing. We were like the lunch outcasts. We sooooo wanted to buy our lunches just like everyone else. We begged… and begged… to get to buy our lunch. But our parents couldn’t afford it.

Then the next year, our parents found out they qualified for the free lunch program. YES! We got our wish. We got to buy our lunch just like everyone else. There I was, a little girl, holding my tray waiting in line for this delectable mystery. It just had to be so good.

Boy, what a disappointment. I went home and BEGGED to be able to take my own lunch to school the next day. No luck. My parents didn’t budget for packing lunch because we were getting free lunch at school.

That was the last and only year we bought our school lunch. As I got older I started making my own lunch – and boy, were they good. I often had to make extra to share with my friends. They all had lunch envy.

Ann Cooper is known as the “Renegade Lunch Lady”. She is working out in Berkley, California and has implemented fresh, locally grown, and organic foods for the lunch program. And it is making a big difference.

Now, keep in mind that she is working within the system. She is working on changing how public schools feed children. That is why she  advocates for government spending and oversight in this arena. If you are going to depend on the government to educate and feed your child, you better make darn sure that they are doing it right.

My personal opinion is that the whole public school system should be scrapped. But that is not going to happen anytime in the near future – for many reasons. Be that as it may, public schools are a large part of most family’s lives. And as such, you, as a parent need to be aware of the costs (not just in dollars, but health, academics, and life) of school lunches.

Change in eating habits makes learning environments more effective

17 Jun

I just came across an article of a charter school in Wisconsin that recently participated in an experiment. Central Alternative High School in Appleton, Wisconsin is a charter school for students with behavioral issues. Like most alternative schools, Central Alternative was plagued with problems. Then, in 1997 Natural Ovens of Manitowoc, WI initiated a five-year project to bring healthy food into area schools. The goal was to show that fresh, nutritious food can make a real difference in the student’s behavior, learning and health. And what a difference it has made. Grades have improved, truancy and arguments have drastically decreased. Students are more focused on learning and staying healthy. They have recognized the relationship between good health and the ability to function and learn. All of this was made possible by simply changing the lunch program and eliminating the availability of junk food on the school premises. There are no more vending machines or soda machines. And the school cafeteria provides homemade foods made from old fashioned recipes with all natural ingredients and whole grains. Essentially, they eliminated chemical laden over processed foods the are in most people’s diet.

This is so groundbreaking, not because the idea is new, but because most schools throughout the nation insist on installing soda machines to increase revenue and serving low grade cafeteria crap to students. Remember ages ago when the lunch ladies actually made the food. Those days are long gone. Now all lunches are outsourced to companies that bring in their prepackaged junk and serve it to the kids. My first year teaching was at a high needs school in north county Missouri. Their “nutritious” breakfast was a package of fruit rollups and an orange-flavored drink (NOT 100% juice, but, essentially, a non carbonated soft drink). Yeah, I was totally appalled.

I sincerely believe that diet is the basis for health. Without a good diet, nothing else really matters. And this program just goes to prove how important it is.

If you are interested in reading the case study you can do so here.

A New Kind of School

27 Mar

My husband and I are about to realize a life-long dream.  Our school is almost ready to open (scheduled for fall 2009 if all goes according to plan).  Yay!  This is a culmination of everything we have been working on since we started training to be teachers.  It’s a totally different kind of school.

It’s essentially based on the principle that each student is an individual with different needs and interests and that learning can easily take place once you focus on those individual needs and interests.  It’s really IEPs the way they are supposed to be.

I always used to get frustrated when dealing with IEPs at public school because I never really understood how it was helping the student.  “Johnny has problems with spelling so teachers will not penalized him in grading for spelling errors.”  Now come on….  How does that help Johnny overcome his difficulty with spelling?  IEPs have just become an excuse to not perform at an acceptable level and helps the schools pass students who are not ready to graduate.

IEPs are used by the school to excuse all kinds of learning lapses.  Grammar, mathematics, dates, spelling, reading comprehension.  Instead of using it as a tool to help the students overcome their difficulties, they are used as an excuse.

And don’t get me started on ADHD.  Yes, there are some (very few) children that have a serious medical issue that require the use of such hard core drugs like Aderall and Ridalin.  But the majority of the children on these drugs are just bored in class.  If you had to sit still in a stuffy classroom waiting for the teacher to handle the classroom management only to get started on some dull rote skill work with no understanding of how it fits into real life, you would be fidgety and bothersome too.

But our school is going to change all that.  A custom-fit education for everyone.

Everything is almost ready.  We’ve even been to the bank and they want to work with us.  We’ve just got to finalize some paperwork and come up with a major down payment.  Sigh.  It always comes down to money.  But I am confident that the money will come…  simply because this school needs to be a reality.

You can read more about the school if you are interested at Pomegranate Gardens School