Friday, August 31, 2012

How to Find Homeschool Resources for Your Child

Learning by Doing
Learning by Doing (Photo credit: BrianCSmith)
by Shawn I Moon

As any homeschooling parent will tell you, finding the best resources to educate your child is the biggest challenge that these parents face.

Finding the right curriculum, the right textbooks, the best tutors, and locating experiential learning opportunities (hands-on education, field trips, etc.) is enormously time consuming.

And so often you keep wondering if there aren't wonderful resources out there that you simply didn't find.

Where to start?

Most parents begin with the major websites for homeschoolers. These easy to find sites offer prepackaged curriculum based on certain educators, or learning philosophies. Many of these are wonderful, but following a prepackaged curriculum goes against many parents' goal of creating a customized education for their child.

For many parents, that was their initial motivation for beginning to homeschool in the first place. The cookie-cutter curriculum of their local public schools simply didn't work for their child. And beyond wanting to customize their child's education, many parents have begun to learn the power and effectiveness of "experiential learning."

The 3 key benefits of experiential learning.

A Chinese proverb states: "Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand." Experiential learning is involving the student, hands-on, in the education process. Very simply, it is learning from experience. Students touch, feel, move and do as they learn (scientists call it "kinaesthetic imprinting").

By using this technique, students gain whole body learning of a subject in physical, mental, and behavioral dimensions. The reason that more and more homeschool parents are seeking out experiential learning opportunities for their children, is that it is simply THE most powerful way to educate your child. Period.

1. It keeps the child engaged longer

Keeping children engaged in the learning process can be a bit of a challenge. And if your child is ADD or ADHD, then it is an enormous challenge. Children simply are not designed to sit in one place for prolonged periods of time (neither are adults, but that is another topic).

So it often takes the child a lot of concentration just to sit with their studies, let alone focus on what they are studying. However, if you involve a child physically in the learning process, they can easily stay with it for hours on end, without become distracted or bored.

This means that they are more focused, so they are taking in information better, and they are getting more hours of education than through traditional learning methods (like reading, listening to a lecture, or computer programs). Both of these points are a huge win for parents.

2. It puts information into long-term memory

Initial learning and memorization occurs in the "front brain" or the cerebral cortex. This is where thought and reason reside. This is also the home of short-term memory. Long-term memory resides in the cerebellum (also called the "mammalian brain"). For a child, or anyone for that matter, to move information from their short-term memory to their long-term memory there are two basic methods.

One is the more traditional method of: repetition. This method is slower and more labor intensive, and it also requires more patience on the part of the child. The reason this is the traditional method, is that it was the first method that scientists discovered, many years ago.

Recently, scientists have found a second, and faster, way to move information from short-term to long-term memory, and that involves adding emotions. When a memory is accompanied by a strong emotion, it creates a stronger imprint on the brain and is more likely to be stored in the long-term memory.

An unpleasant example of this is walking into work one day, and your boss calling you into his office and telling you that you are being downsized. The strong emotion of shock imprints all the details of that morning into your brain. For years to come you will remember what you did that morning before work, what you wore, what the weather was like, what your boss was wearing, etc.

Back to a more pleasant reality, this same mechanism works for education. No, you certainly don't have to scare your children to elicit strong emotions, but more pleasant emotions such as fun, happiness, curiosity, and excitement will take what they are learning and put it in their long-term memory. Again, this is whole body learning: mental, physical, and behavioral. And it works so well, corporate trainers have started using it to train employees. It's not just for kids.

3. It is simply the fastest way to learn

As stated above, there are two methods to put information into our long-term memories. Repetition and memories paired with emotion. This is another reason that experiential learning is so powerful. Instead of spending hours repeating something over and over again (remember practicing your scales for your piano lessons? Or learning your multiplication tables?) we can learn it once (with emotions) and it will stick.

This may sound too good to be true, but that is simply because the old way of repetition is still so widely used. It's the public school way of learning. And so we've become conditioned to believe that it has to take a long time to learn something, but it doesn't.

By learning in this way your child will have a more positive experience with learning (it will be fun), and they will be able to cover more information because they won't be re-learning the same thing over and over. It's a win-win for your child!

Choosing subjects where you can begin using Experiential Learning

Now that you have become aware of the concept and benefits of experiential learning, you probably want to know how you can start using it with your children. It naturally applies better to some subjects than to others. Math, for example, is a one of the more difficult subject to use experiential learning, though not impossible.

History can be taught experientially by visiting historic sites, especially ones with period actors reliving life during that time. And if your time and budget allows, travelling overseas to Florence, Vienna, Cairo, etc. would imprint powerful, lasting images and knowledge on your children.

Also visiting touring exhibits like The Dead Sea Scrolls, or Ramses II is a wonderful teaching experience. The downside to this is that a lot of travel is often required, and it can be expensive.

A subject that many people don't realize can best be learned experientially is: foreign languages. It's also a subject that many parents neglect because they don't know how to teach it themselves, and they don't know that there are resources out there to help them.

But foreign language is vitally important in giving your child a well-rounded education, as evidenced by the fact that all major colleges and universities require students to study foreign languages in order to earn a degree. Colleges also look favorably on students who have had foreign language experience prior to applying for college.

How to begin using Experiential Learning

If parents consider foreign language education for their children, they often turn to computer programs. These can be a good place to start your child's education. Children can learn basic vocabulary and some frequent phrases with these programs; however, experiential learning is key if they are to learn to truly speak the language and be able to remember it for years to come.

There are also a large number of overseas language immersion trips that are available. During these trips, students travel to a foreign country and stay for several months literally being immersed in the language and the culture. These are immensely productive and are wonderful experiential learning opportunities.

However, they can be rather expensive, and for your child to gain the most benefit from these trips, they need a firm foundation in the language of the country they will be visiting. Otherwise, they will struggle and the experience will not be as positive as it could be.

An experiential learning tool that many parents have not yet discovered are: online tutors. This literally is the way of the future. Thanks to the easy and affordability of video teleconferencing, your child can now connect to tutors across the country or across the world.

You can video conference (Skype) with a teacher in Europe for around 2 cents per minute. You are no longer limited to settling for the best (or only) tutor within 20 miles of your home. You can now easily find and give your child the best tutors in the world, literally.

And what better way to take advantage of amazing international tutors than to have a native speaker teach your child French, Italian, or any language you can imagine. And it's an actual video conference, so you child can see and talk to the teacher. It's not just a phone call.

Experiential learning is an amazing tool to use in advancing your child's education. The will learn faster, remember better, and have more fun than you ever thought possible. Keep your eyes on open for opportunities where your child can experience math, science, history, and foreign languages. And look for places where you can supplement their education with online tutors! You can find language teachers, math tutors, and even musical instrument and voice teachers.

Shawn Moon invites you to visit his website where you can view teacher profiles and find the perfect foreign language teacher for your son or daughter. If you have a question or a special request you can email me directly on the Contact Us page.

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University Subsidies: Do Graduate Winners Need Another Prize?

Higher education -- Remember young man, your f...
The balancing act! marsmet471
Ok readers,

The article below is highly controversial - what are your views? Is this just more neo-liberal, managerialist dribble, or is it the basis of sound policy? Your comments are very welcome!

Dr Robert Muller.

by Andrew Norton, Program Director, Higher Education at Grattan Institute, The Conversation:

After releasing my report, Graduate Winners: Assessing the public and private benefits of higher education, the question I have most been asked is: if university fees go up, will students still come?

It’s a good question. The federal government currently spends around $6 billion a year on the assumption that the answer is “no”. But if the answer is “yes”, that is $6 billion that could be better spent on something else. Like current policy, Graduate Winners assumes that it is higher education’s private benefits that draw students to higher education.

While students are attracted to courses and careers that involve helping others, we probably would not have 1.2 million higher education students in Australia without significant private benefits. Potential private benefits include access to better jobs, higher incomes, and interest in the subject matter.

The difference between my report and current policy is that we think these private benefits on their own will usually attract students to higher education. Current policy assumes that we need to add to these private benefits by offering a tuition subsidy as well.

Using the 2006 census, Graduate Winners estimates the lifetime incomes of people with a range of bachelor degrees. From this we deducted what a middle-earning person with a year 12 education would receive and income tax. And from this we took out the original cost to the student of their higher education, including time spent out of the workforce, student contributions (HECS), and other education costs. The resulting numbers give us net private financial benefits.

These ranged from very high, in the case of medical and law graduates, to quite low, in the case of graduates in the humanities and performing arts. Because incomes vary a lot within as well as between disciplines, we also calculated a “break-even point” how well a graduate needs to do within his or her field before recovering costs and coming out ahead of someone with year 12 education.

The most common breakeven point is around the 30th percentile. That is, 70 out of 100 graduates in many disciplines do better than someone with year 12. The breakeven point is much lower if we only count people working full-time.

97 out of 100 graduates with a medical degree in 2006 were financially ahead of someone with year 12 only. In the humanities, 75 out of 100 graduates were better off. While that is obviously much more risky than medicine, it is still good odds for a degree that does not lead to any specific career.

The report also investigates what effect tuition charges on net private financial benefits. That is, if prospective students had a general idea of what they might earn in future, what impact should tuition charges have?

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Harvard Investigates "Unprecedented" Academic Dishonesty Case: Nearly Half of More Than 250 Students in "Introduction to Congress" are Under Investigation

Cambridge - Harvard Square: Harvard University...
Cambridge - Harvard Square: Harvard University - Memorial Hall (Photo credit: wallyg)
by Rebecca D. Robbins, Crimson Staff Writer, The Harvard Crimson:

Harvard College’s disciplinary board is investigating nearly half of the 279 students who enrolled in Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress” last spring for allegedly plagiarizing answers or inappropriately collaborating on the class’ final take-home exam.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris said the magnitude of the case was “unprecedented in anyone’s living memory.”

Harris declined to name the course, but several students familiar with the investigation confirmed that Professor Matthew B. Platt's spring government lecture course was the class in question.

The professor of the course brought the case to the Administrative Board in May after noticing similarities in 10 to 20 exams, Harris said. During the summer, the Ad Board conducted a review of all final exams submitted for the course and found about 125 of them to be suspicious.

Platt declined The Crimson’s request for comment.

If found guilty of academic dishonesty, students could be required to withdraw from the College for a year, among other possible sanctions.

The final examination in “Introduction to Congress,” which included three multi-part short answer questions, a bonus short answer question, and an essay question, came with the instruction: “The exam is completely open book, open note, open internet, etc. However, in all other regards, this should fall under similar guidelines that apply to in-class exams. More specifically, students may not discuss the exam with others - this includes resident tutors, writing centers, etc.”

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith sent an email to all faculty members about the case, and Harris also sent a message to the student body and their parents on Thursday. That letter said that all students who are under investigation have been contacted.

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Banning Cartwheels: School Litigation Fears are Unfounded

Child play
Child play (Photo credit: i-on)
by Professor Prue Vines, Professor, Law Faculty at University of New South Wales, The Conversation:

A few schools have hit the headlines recently for banning traditional playground activities like cartwheels, handstands, ball games and even high fives.

Parents are rightly objecting to the bans, and pointing to the increasingly litigious society we live in. They say the schools are fearful of being sued, and even more fearful they might be sued successfully. But are schools' fears well-founded?

No lawyer could ever give a 100% guarantee of not being sued. But the perceptions that we live in an increasingly litigious society have no foundation in reality.

Harder than you might think

For the past ten years, since tort reforms came into force, rates of litigation have dropped in all Australian jurisdictions. Even before the reforms, litigation rates were steady rather than increasing, and had been so for some years.

To add to the confusion the tort reform legislation - called different names in different jurisdictions - added significantly to the difficulty of suing for personal injury.

In NSW in particular, suing schools became much more difficult especially when a recreational activity was involved that is not compulsory - like running, jumping and doing a headstand in the playground. Under the Act, it’s very easy to give a warning which exempts the school from liability. If this provision doesn’t apply there are other sections which make it harder to sue.

Tour of duty

The big problem for schools has traditionally been the rule that schools owe a non-delegable duty to their students to see that reasonable care is taken, which may (but probably does not) import a higher standard of care. Even this has been affected in NSW and Victoria by the new rule that non-delegable duty has to be treated like vicarious liability.

Vicarious liability arises when an employee (or other agent) does something wrong which is connected to their work. In such cases the employer would have to pay their damages - that is they are vicariously liable for their employee.

In the other jurisdictions the difficulties are not quite so great, but the tort reform process significantly reduced the ability of plaintiffs to sue in all jurisdictions.

It is worth repeating that even before these reforms had come into play the rates of litigation were steady and success for plaintiffs had been reduced for some time. This was because the High Court had decided that what is “reasonable” should be given greater scope.

Negligence is established when the defendant did not act like a “reasonable person” in the circumstances. The courts have often rejected liability in cases where students have been injured in the playground - recognising that it is impossible to watch every child every moment.

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Study Now Pay Later: Adelaide Enrolment Centre for VET Diploma and Certificate Courses Right Around Australia

Study Now, Pay Later - Adelaide Enrolment Centre Glenalta Mitcham Area image 1 by Dr Robert Muller, and

Why Learn offers you VET FEE-HELP funded courses provided by Australia’s leading colleges.

These courses are TAFE equivalent and higher and come with the added benefit of much greater flexibility.

VET FEE-HELP funded courses let you choose from dozens of exciting diplomas and advanced diplomas with all upfront tuition costs fully funded by the Australian Government. It lets you study now and pay later!

  • No upfront tuition costs for eligible applicants on any VET FEE-HELP approved course
  • The Australian Government will loan any eligible student up to $89,706 to cover tuition costs on approved courses
  • You graduate without having to pay any fees. Repayments only start when you earn over $47,000 pa
  • Diploma level courses can be completed in as little as six months with strong pathways to employment
  • Small classes with self-paced study and close trainer support to ensure you succeed
  • Any Australian citizen (living anywhere on the planet!) or holder of a Humanitarian visa can apply
  • You may also qualify for Education Entry Assistance from Centrelink to assist in paying for text books etc.
  • Courses in business, counselling, alternative therapies, graphic design, management, nursing and many more!

To apply contact Dr Robert Muller on 0433 354 383 or go to: and tell them that Dr Robert Muller sent you!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Should Be on the Tombstone of Gifted Education? Part 5: Writing the Tombstone

Strive to excel
Strive to excel (Photo credit: pugaipadangal)
by Louis R LaMont

In Part 4, the focus was on extracurricular activities and their lack of use in gifted education today.

While all students would benefit from the extension of knowledge into social issues, gifted students are those that are most likely to attain positions of influence and their ability to solve social issues should be at the heart of their educational plans.

These experiences could take several forms from shadowing doctors or engineers, conducting research in any number of areas, reporting that research to the professional community, or aiding in the design of urban planning or alternative methods of planning.

Any experience that forces gifted children to incorporate learned knowledge and integrate this knowledge into their moral structure solves the issue of whether or not the knowledge learned is truly understood and can be utilized effectively.

As the facts in Part's 1-4 are examined, it is not hard to figure out why gifted education programs are not being funded or being closed completely. The education of gifted students actually requires more time and resources than the traditional student.

If those resources and money were spent on the traditional school, many more students could have their test scores raised and their political clout (test scores) would remain intact. Not only are resources an issue in teaching the gifted, the administrator's attitudes toward them also is changed by these very same test scores. It is assumed that the gifted will do well on their own so they are left to their own devices to prepare for state tests.

Identification of the gifted student also raises issues in housing these students, how districts will pay for their education, and what types of special curriculum will be used to train these students. Since most districts house gifted students in a single facility rather than providing each school an individual program, many students go unidentified as gifted. This limits the resources that are spent trying to educate these students.

Identification of the gifted also raises issues involving just how far a district curriculum or teaching resources will go to be sure the student is educated. Extended experiences are required to be sure that knowledge is processed and incorporated into the student's foundation of understanding.

So, what should go on the tombstone of gifted education? Gifted education is not dead yet but with the overreliance on state testing the allocation of resources into its preparation, gifted education has one foot in the grave and a headstone should be carved in anticipation of the end. In preparation, I suggest the headstone read as such:

Here Lies Gifted Education
Shot in the Back by State Testing
Mourned by Everyone, Missed by None

The Prairie Science Academy exists to seek out students who are highly motivated to begin a career in the sciences and provide a series of accelerated educational experiences. Our graduates finish the PSA program with a two-year head start on all public school graduates with the same goals.

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What Should Be on the Tombstone of Gifted Education? Part 4 - The Use of Extracurricular Activities

English: Knowledge Path
Knowledge Path (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Louis R LaMont

In Part 3, the use of assignments with the gifted and talented was discussed in terms of the level of assignment provided to them versus that of the standard curriculum.

Most of the assignments provided in the curriculum are geared toward a basic level of thinking and reasoning.

Skills such as absorbing knowledge, comprehending information, and the application of concepts dominate schools today.

Gifted students require a more sophisticated technique of structuring assignments that would allow them to create knowledge and analyze information to synthesize solutions to problems.

One remaining issue with the gifted and talented curriculum is one that is rarely discussed at all in discussion of any level of student at the public or college level. All students require the use of problems to solve with the knowledge they are taught.

In the standard curriculum, the use of knowledge stops with simple academic application. A student might solve a genetics problem by simply crossing two animals together on paper and predict the outcome. However, is the student exposed to the effects of this knowledge and skill on society?

Since the standard student is not brought to this level of thinking, their skills in using genetics knowledge will stop with the teacher's assignment sheet. The gifted student must be allowed to develop their skills in the solving of problems of society. This could take the form of research into a medical problem based on genetics.

Gifted students could shadow researchers and doctors that would allow them to apply the knowledge learned in class to real issues. Students would be given a simple problem to solve in the overall issue being researched. This is just one example of the type of outside use of learned knowledge that gifted students could explore.

Another method that could be used by gifted students to explore a broader range of issues is to allow them to write about their experiences. This type of writing goes beyond the simple regurgitation essay citing facts and figures about a topic.

The writing of professional experiences allows students to be able to experience what true professionals experience about their research work and, most importantly, tie together the knowledge learned from their shadowing experiences and incorporate it into their sense of purpose and into their moral structure. At the end of their experiences, the entire experience will cement itself and never be forgotten by the student.

Unfortunately, neither secondary nor college students have these types of experiences in school. At the secondary level, the district curriculum is undemanding and stops short of providing extended experiences that allow students at any level to integrate the taught knowledge into their lives in any meaningful way.

For the gifted student, this lack of extended experience further threatens their ability to maximize their potential in high school so they can gain the most from their college experiences. Students at the college level should have the same kinds of experiences, but often their educational experiences are not much more in-depth than those found in high school.

Coming in Part 5: Writing the Tombstone.

The Prairie Science Academy exists to seek out students who are highly motivated to begin a career in the sciences and provide a series of accelerated educational experiences. Our graduates finish the PSA program with a two-year head start on all public school graduates with the same goals.

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What Should Be on the Tombstone of Gifted Education? Part 3: Classroom Activities for Gifted Student

Teacher talking to student at LSI
Teacher talking to student at LSI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Louis R LaMont

In Part 2 of the series, the distribution of gifted programs in school districts was analyzed in terms of the allocation of this resource within a school district.

In the vast majority of school districts, gifted students are segregated in dedicated facilities in which they have to apply for entry.

While this method has advantages for both children and adults in the c=school setting, the major disadvantage is that students who are truly gifted or highly motivated are filtered out by a variety of statistical factors such as test scores, grades, and age.

Not only are statistical factors used but having a dedicated facility opens up the possibility of filtering based on human factors such as race, culture, and gender issues. The best option is to have gifted programs in each school so that many more students who are capable will have the access they need to gifted resources.

One of the worsening factors of modern gifted education is the level and quality of classroom activities available for these students. The modern classroom is not geared toward gifted students but rather to the middle student who is perched on the edge of passing the state test. The second priority in the classroom is the lowest student who contributes to the failing rate of state tests. It is assumed that gifted students will pass state exams so they are at the bottom of the school's priorities.

For those teachers that are allowed to design their own materials, this forces them into a teaching mode that focuses on the middle and low-level students and to virtually ignore gifted or highly motivated students. Since most school districts force teachers to use their materials, the district itself sets the stage for ignoring the needs of the gifted student.

In terms of the individual classroom assignment, gifted students require a higher quality set of goals and objectives to meet. Most assignments are geared toward a lower quality set of objectives which hinge of meeting goals based on lower-level thinking skills.

The majority of students are operating at the knowledge, comprehension, and application levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. This forces the assignment created by the teacher or district to be based on simple modes of vocabulary mastery and simple application to prescribed situations. Once this is done, the students and teachers move on to the next assignment.

The gifted child, who is in need of further learning at higher levels, is left with an experience that only marginally stimulates their higher potential.

The assignments that are provided to gifted children are not properly designed for their educational needs. They are designed for students who are working at much lower levels on a daily basis.

Gifted students require assignment and activities that stimulate their natural abilities to a much higher level of thinking. This is not to say that lower level assignments do not have value to the gifted student, but if the teacher stops at this point, then the gifted child to left with unfulfilled potential.

Coming up: Part 4 - The Use of Extracurricular Activities as a Method of Fulfilling Potential.

The Prairie Science Academy exists to seek out students who are highly motivated to begin a career in the sciences and provide a series of accelerated educational experiences. Our graduates finish the PSA program with a two-year head start on all public school graduates with the same goals.

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What Should Be on the Tombstone of Gifted Education? Part 2: Separate Gifted Program in All Schools

A Gifted Man
A Gifted Man (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Louis R LaMont

What Should be on the Tombstone of Gifted Education? A 5-part Series on Gifted & Talented Education

Part 2: Why There Needs to be a Separate "Gifted" Program in All Schools

From Part 1, we have seen background information provided that set the stage for why gifted education is about to be dead and buried in the educational system. The greatest factor working against gifted students was the infiltration of the programs by students who do not need to be there.

These mediocre and unmotivated students distract teachers and their resources away from the truly gifted kids. As a result, the learning experiences and the goals of the gifted child are decidedly reduced in effectiveness and efficiency. This leads to gifted students trying to advance their own education without the teacher's assistance.

Another factor working against modern gifted education is that the programs designed to educate gifted children are being closed in favor of transferring these funds into state testing preparation materials or other such programs.

During my own years in the classroom in preparation for state testing, the primary focus has always been on the lower level student and the so-called "bubble student" who is only a few points away from passing. Ninety percent of the test prep resources are geared for these children and all of the activities are designed to review or teach the at-risk kids.

The gifted child who is going to pass these tests regardless is purposefully left out of the test review process. For three to four weeks during the test review, the gifted child is left out of the educational process and expected to simply fend for themselves.

Since educational testing is the key to success in schools today, there is no real need to have a dedicated gifted program. It is this type of thinking that has eliminated gifted programs all over the country.

However, rather than abandon the gifted child, the gifted program should be expanded and made available to each and every school in every district. By doing this, the school could make arrangements to provide the gifted children the advanced instruction that they require while at the same time working with the middle and lower level students who require more of a dedicated test prep environment.

In terms of test prep, it is the gifted child that raises the "commended rates" of test scores. By establishing special test prep for gifted students, the school could increase every testing category and radically improve their political position in the state.

The distribution of gifted program facilities is generally done by making a single facility within the district a "gifted" school. In very large districts, a magnet school is designed to bring students from all over the district.

Having a central location has the advantage of isolating the instruction of the gifted group but it is extremely competitive and several gifted students are rejected. A more effective method of gifted student distribution is to have an in-house gifted program in each school that can potentially reach many more students. This would also have the advantage of allowing teachers to create more varied gifted programs and curriculum that would widen the activities within the district.

Coming in Part 3: Worsening Classroom Activities for the Gifted Student

The Prairie Science Academy exists to seek out students who are highly motivated to begin a career in the sciences and provide a series of accelerated educational experiences. Our graduates finish the PSA program with a two-year head start on all public school graduates with the same goals.

If you or your child is interested in an accelerated education, please fell free to visit our web site at and see the consulting and educational services we can provide to your child.
Louis La Mont, Executive Director & Lead Instructor

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What Should Be on the Tombstone of Gifted Education: Part 1 - Invasion of the "Gifted" Snatchers

Betonwerksteinskulptur "Lehrer-Student&qu...
Sculpture: "Teacher-Student" by Reinhard Schmidt in Rostock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Louis R LaMont

Every one of us in the pre-retirement set remembers what it was like in school.

It was a tiny little microcosm of fragmented social groups. Some groups were popular while others banded together to rebel against the popular crowd.

Even inside these groups, further stratification was based on who was interested in school work and who wasn't.

Not that academic success mattered within the group, you were still accepted as a member and given the status you thought you deserved.

As we graduated, we drifted from high school groups into college or social groupings and tried our best maintain our status as long as we could.

Generally, most of us were successful in life in one way or another and we gave birth to the next generation that would run through the gauntlet until it was repopulated again.

Each generation that has lived through public education has seen fit to allow the cream to rise to the top and take their place as leaders of the perpetuation of the American social and political ideal. The gifted students were given unique and surplus resources to allow them to develop their talents so that they may graduate high school and take their place among their peers at the college honors table.

From this table of Phi Beta Kappans and research assistants, it was assumed that the gifted student would maintain their grades and the quality of work necessary to move them into graduate school where they would achieve their academic credential. This would catapult them into the elite of medicine, law, politics, sciences, etc. Here are our leaders! They achieved their goals from the blood, sweat, and tears of their high school teachers.

Let us fast-forward to the 21st century where the number of gifted students has shot up in number like they were on academic steroids. Today's gifted student is not that different than they were in the 20th century. However, their number and membership has been invaded by the greatest disease that the early 21st century has produced: Equality with a side dose of fairness!

If you walk into my employer's high school as it begins just after Labor Day, you will see a sea of students that have labels attached to them. Some of those labels will say "504", others will say "SPED", and quite a few will say "Gifted". Many of these gifted kids will have had the gifted label pasted on them from the early elementary days and will have carried this with them ever since.

However, once you begin working with these kids, the "g" and "I" begin to loosen from the gifted tag. They whine, cry, and complain about how hard your class is and start opening their Ipods while you are trying to teach them. Wait a minute! Are these the same kids that have been gifted the entire time?

What happened to their ability to step up on their own and take those extra assignments and research work to build up their futures? You begin to wonder if the really earned those grades or were they simply passed on to you from the previous teacher to get out of their hair.

Yes, in the name of equality and fairness, the gifted class of students has been invaded by the formerly mediocre students who were once content to sit in regular classes and do their nails and discuss the series of plays from Friday night's football game.

As I sit and work with gifted classes these days, I see the cream of the crop (they are always there) working away to achieve their future goals. But, now they must sit in the same classes with the popular set whose parents insisted that they be labeled as gifted and take the higher level classes.

Rather than the teacher of the gifted spending quality time educating them to achieve those awe-inspiring goals, the gifted teacher must now spend that resource on those students who do not need to be in the gifted class. Equality has suggested that there should be no class of students above another. Fairness suggests that it is not right to punish those poor mediocre students for doing their nails in class. They should be given the right to be gifted.

Coming up in Part 2: Why There Needs to be a Separate "Gifted" program in All Schools.

The Prairie Science Academy exists to seek out students who are highly motivated to begin a career in the sciences and provide a series of accelerated educational experiences. Our graduates finish the PSA program with a two-year head start on all public school graduates with the same goals.

If you or your child is interested in an accelerated education, please fell free to visit our web site at and see the consulting and educational services we can provide to your child.
Louis La Mont, Executive Director & Lead Instructor

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The Rebirth of Recess: How Do You Introduce Recess to Kids Who Have Never Left the Classroom?

students enjoying lunch during recess hour
Students enjoying lunch during recess hour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every schoolchild who’s ever squirmed in his seat, anxious for recess to arrive, can sympathize with students in Chicago.

This year, many public schools in that city are scheduled to have recess for the first time in three decades. Chicago’s long recess drought isn’t unusual. Even before No Child Left Behind, recess was an endangered species.

Since NCLB, every minute of the school day has been scrutinized for its instructional value - and recess, a break from instruction, often didn’t survive the scrutiny. It was, by definition, a waste of time.

But while administrators were trying to get rid of recess, academics were studying it - that is, they were studying the time when children weren’t studying. The new science of recess says that recess isn’t a waste of time at all.

“Having recess is much, much, much better than not having recess,” says Anthony Pellegrini, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota who’s written extensively on the subject. “That’s unequivocal, I feel. That’s a no-brainer.”

That’s good news for children in Chicago squirming in their seats. But what does recess look like when no schoolchild has ever had it before?

It’s an ironic turn of events: For years, schools have been getting rid of recess to spend more time on math and reading. It is notoriously hard to get reliable numbers on recess - recess policies vary from year to year, school to school, even classroom to classroom - but numerous surveys have found recess time declining.

That’s especially true in poorer school districts, where test scores are frequently low and principals panicked. The numbers show a clear trend: The more minority students a school has, and the lower the income level of their parents, the less time allotted for recess - nearly half of poor children go all day without it.

They don’t even have anywhere to have it: In Chicago, nearly 100 elementary and middle schools have no playgrounds at all (the American Association of Pediatrics recently issued an impassioned statement on the “play deprivation” experienced by children in poverty).

The arguments against recess are simple and no-nonsense, especially for these schools: What - you want the kids to play kickball when they’re failing math? When the Atlanta public schools got rid of recess, its superintendent famously said, “We are intent on improving academic performance. You don't do that by having kids hanging on the monkey bars."

These arguments work, Pellegrini says, “because attacking recess has got this sort of intuitive feel: If you give kids more time doing something, they’ll do better in school. When in fact the opposite is probably the case.”

Repeated studies have shown that when recess is delayed, children pay less and less attention. They are more focused on days when they have recess. A major study in Pediatrics found that children with more than 15 minutes of recess a day were far better behaved in class than children who had shorter recess breaks or none at all.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Benefits Of Learning Languages At Primary School

Foreign Language Bookshop neon sign
Foreign Language Bookshop neon sign (Photo credit: avlxyz)
by Hannah McCarthy

There has a been a renewed drive in recent years to see foreign languages being taught at primary school level, with ministers and educational professionals arguing for the need to expand provision.

This is because learning another language at an early age is seen to bestow a wide range of benefits to young learners, in terms of their cognitive development and cultural awareness, while foreign language proficiency is seen as an increasingly valuable professional skill later in life.

But with many teachers, parents and pupils apprehensive about the challenge of learning a another language so young, what are the specific benefits that have been identified by those who believe passionately in its utility?

For a start, it's a widely recognised fact that children learn languages more effectively than adults and older children, having a greater capacity to absorb new vocabulary and grammatical concepts.

They're also perceived to be more receptive to language learning and possess a natural enthusiasm that older kids with entrenched habits and preferences lack. The primary school environment is also seen as uniquely suited to the process of foreign language teaching.

Because primary school teachers have responsibility for a single class all year round, they are able to integrate an additional language teaching with the teaching of other subjects, helping to shape an holistic approach to language learning.

While it's acknowledged that many teachers presently lack the necessary proficiency to pursue such an integrated approach, it doesn't change the fact that primary education offers a uniquely supportive environment for the young language learner.

In terms of cognitive development, learning a second language has been reported to help children inhibit the recall of irrelevant information while boosting the focus with which they approach their learning.

Furthermore, some studies have suggested that laying the foundations of language learning at an early age leads to more effective learning at secondary level, meaning greater proficiency and comfort with the language.

While the evidence for this effect isn't conclusive, it is true that introducing additional languages at an early age increases the child's comfort and confidence with a second language, which can help to overcome some of the apprehension experienced further down the line.

Finally, language learning is valuable for its contribution to cultural awareness. Learning another language acts as a gateway to a new culture, helping to broaden horizons and improve children's receptivity to new ideas and values. This kind of early cross-cultural understanding is an important attribute in today's globalised world.

Proficiency in a foreign language is also a valuable skill that can improve job prospects in later life, meaning an early start could be exactly the right move to give children a helping hand on their path to future success.

In conclusion, it's difficult to make a case against the teaching of foreign languages in primary schools. The educational, cultural and economic benefits are such that kids will gain immeasurably from early contact with a different way of speaking. While wider provision poses some challenges, the possible gains make this a goal worth pursuing.

Hannah McCarthy works for Education City, a leading supplier of eLearning software for schools and families in the UK. Education City offers comprehensive curriculum-based primary teaching resources, which includes French, Spanish and German in its Modern Foreign Languages module.

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Speaking Multiple Languages Impacts Well on Child Development

Montage of languages. Prototype header for the...
Montage of languages. Prototype header for the language portal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Brandon Schwartz

Researchers at the University of California Berkeley and Bard College have recently taken a deeper look at how language impacts on the psychological development in children.

In the July issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, Stephen Chen and Qing Zhou from Berkeley and Morgan Kennedy from Bard draw on psychology and linguistics to understand how using different languages to express emotions can impact positively on children's emotional development.

In particular, the research argues that which particular language parents use to express emotions and ideas can impact on a child's emotional understanding, experience, and regulation. Chen claims that the research was motivated by an increasing interest in emotion-related language shifts within the family and how people understand the interactions.

Language is a vehicle with which speakers discuss or conceal their thoughts and feelings. The interactions that parents have with their children about their emotions contribute to a child's emotional development by demonstrating a model of how emotions should be articulated.

Parental discussion of emotion shows children how they should regulate and classify their own emotions in different contexts.

The linguistic research suggests that bilingual individuals experience emotions differently depending on which language they use to describe them. For instance, a native Finnish speaker may choose to tell their children that they love them in English because it's rare to explicitly express emotions in Finnish.

As a result, language choice provides a cue to children about what emotional state their parents are in. Parents can elicit a greater emotional response from children by shifting to a different language, just as children can infer a particular emotional state just based on language choice.

The research draws the conclusion that a child's emotional competence is largely determined by what words are spoken around them and, by extension, in what language. Multilingual families ought to be aware of how language selection within particular contexts will impact their children's emotional growth.

This field of research is likely to receive a lot of attention. Multilingual families are becoming more common and family counselors will be forced to deal with the new and changing dynamics. One area where attention might be shown is that of family intervention by external sources.

By understanding how language impacts on the emotional responses made by different family members, counselors and social workers can better adapt settings (and even their language choice) to promote responses that they feel are positive.

Children ultimately learn from their parents and providing a consistent, positive linguistic environment will be a key to their development.

Brandon Schwartz is the owner of, a linguistic resource website. Of particular interest are his coverage of the Finnish language (mentioned in this article) and the Galician language.

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What Factors Should You Keep In Mind When Attempting The Listening Section Of The TOEIC Test?

第170回TOEIC公開テスト結果 (Photo credit: takako tominaga)
by Sonali D Senara

The listening section of the TOEIC test is an important aspect that can add significant points to your overall TOEIC score.

For non-native speakers of English, the listening section seems to be especially challenging, and they often worry about taking these types of questions since the sentences are spoken very quickly.

In the TOEIC test, there are many kinds of questions in the listening section such as Photographs based questions, Questions and Responses, Short Conversations and Short Talks. Here are some tips that will support you to complete the listening section of the test successfully.

Do not get distracted by the environment

Most likely, you will have to take the TOEIC test in a big hall with many candidates. In this situation, it is important that you maintain your concentration and not let other things in the exam hall distract you. Take a deep breath, be calm, and listen attentively to the questions because you will hear a question only one time.

Expect to hear English conversations in different accents

In the new TOEIC test, the speakers come from various English speaking countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and South Africa. Although the English accents of these speakers might be different, try to focus on the vocabulary rather than their voice tones.

Try to grasp the key information

In the short conversations and short talks, try to be attentive to the most important factors such as: Who is speaking? What is the purpose? Where is the conversation taking place? And what will they do next? Thereafter, listen to the question, and select the most suitable answer.

Understand the relationship between the two speakers

Usually, in the short conversations part in the TOEIC test, you will hear two people talking with each other. Initially, try to grasp whether they are a superior and subordinate, husband and wife, co-workers in a company, or business executives of two different companies. This will enable you to gain a better insight to the nature of the conversation and to select the correct answer.

Identify where the conversation or short talk is being performed

In the TOEIC test, you should expect to hear many conversations in different work environments, such as a sales company, factory, bank or travel agency. When you hear the talks, it would be helpful to analyze where the conversation is taking place from key words.

For example, words like "foreign travel", "ticket reservation" or "flight departure time" can be related to a travel agency or airport. After acquiring this information, you will be able to select the most suitable answer for the questions.

Of course, before taking the listening section of the TOEIC test, it is recommended to listen to English conversation CDs and attempt many practice tests under time restrictions. At the test, even if you were unable to grasp the sense of one listening question, do not worry about it.

Try to concentrate more and attempt the next question positively. Practicing many TOEIC sample questions can help you to be more familiar with the type of questions in the listening section.

Please visit in order to practice more TOEIC tests.

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Vice-Chancellor: La Trobe Protestors Abused Freedom of Speech

English: Moat with George Singer Building in t...
Moat with George Singer Building in the background, at La Trobe University Bundoora (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Professor John Dewar, Vice-Chancellor at La Trobe University, The Conversation:

On Sunday, La Trobe University held its most successful Open Day ever, with more than 19,000 visitors.

But the day was disrupted by student protests against recently announced changes to our Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

We knew in advance that students intended to use the Melbourne event to stage a protest.

But because of the importance of Open Day to the university’s recruitment of future students, and thus to the future job security of our staff, we had asked students to let us know in advance of their plans to stage protests.

We felt that this was the best way to strike a balance between preserving free speech, while allowing the university to go about its business on one of the most important days of the year.

The Student Union informed us in advance of their plans to stage a protest on a central part of the campus.

However, a small minority of students, who were joined by others from outside the university, chose to protest by roaming freely around the campus, invading buildings, entrapping me and making many staff and visitors to our campus feel under threat.

These students' behaviour was an abuse of the freedom of speech we had sought to preserve.

Your comments on Professor Dewar's point of view are most welcome. It would also be good to hear from the protestors and academics - feel free to participate.

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Six Steps the Government Needs to Take on Gonski

SA Greens Senators give a Gonski
SA Greens Senators give a Gonski (Photo credit: Greens MPs)
by Kevin Gould, Researcher in Economics of Education at Central Queensland University, The Conversation:

It’s been six long months since the Gonski panel made its recommendations on schools funding, but in the next few weeks the federal government will finally respond and release the details of its school funding plan.

Much of the commentary so far has focused on the increased funding to schools but there’s much more to the reforms. If handled right they could mean a great deal for educational outcomes in Australia.

So what should the government decide?

I suggest the following six strategies to form part of the government’s plan to help improve student performance.

1. Set clear performance goals

The Gonski panel was ambiguous on this, with its recommendation for funding based on a minimum NAPLAN performance. The government should make it clear that its responsibility is to ensure that all students obtain a minimum education that enables them to effectively participate in employment, further study and leisure over their lifetime.

Performance objectives for schools and school sectors should not only include minimum NAPLAN performance, but also minimum year 12 graduation rates - an issue overlooked by the Gonski panel.

2. Treat senior secondary separately

Senior secondary provision was ignored by the Gonski panel, even though this is the bridge between a common general curriculum and employment or further study. It is also an area of schooling which is more complex because of its association with vocational education and training (VET).

Senior secondary schools need to be treated differently because of this complexity. Indeed, providers of VET Certificate III courses should be included in considerations and their students receive similar funding, given the suggested equivalence of Certificate III and year 12 certificates.

And, as senior secondary qualifications are vital for future opportunities, every student’s progress through the senior secondary programs should be monitored. Those falling through the cracks can be quickly identified and provided with support and second chances to graduate.

3. Endorse local decision making

The Gonski panel recommended that all decisions be made as close to the local level as possible, also known as the principle of subsidiarity. This principle, in effect, means the federal government coordinates the funding to the states, who in turn coordinate the funding of school sectors and their schools.

Such a process ensures that there is maximum local participation of those close to the action in the decision making. Canberra should not be dealing directly with individual schools.

Similarly, states with large public systems should split these into autonomous regions whose funding is coordinated by a state body dealing with all school sectors.

The principle of subsidiarity should be fully endorsed by the government.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Working With Delight-Directed Passions in Your Homeschooled Student

English: Students learning about snow, in the ...
Students learning about snow, in the the snow! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Armond K Joseph

In a recent US News and World Report article, the author talked about how important it is to colleges that applicants show some kind of passion in their activities or interests - this passion is what sets successful students apart.

What colleges call passion is often referred to by homeschoolers as delight-directed learning or specialization.

Parents may often feel like these activities are frustrating, boring, or annoying (would you PLEASE stop playing that piano!!!), but clearly colleges value such activities.

Why?!! Delight-directed learning involves nurturing the love of learning that's important for children, so that they become lifelong learners who are able to adapt to any situation. The more the world changes, the more we need lifelong learners to make sense of it all.

If you're a parent who finds the delight-directed learning of your child kind of frustrating, take heart!

Although at times it may feel like your student is not doing any 'real' school at all, often when you put their transcript together you'll realize that not only did they cover their core classes, but also three other classes in music alone because of their delight-directed learning.

Delight certainly can be annoying - but the good news is that the annoyance you feel can be a way to identify delight-directed learning in your children. If you're struggling to see where their passion and interest is, ask yourself what your children are doing that annoys you.

What is it they do every day when they should be doing school? Usually, it is that very thing that annoys you that is also your child's delight-directed learning. Capitalize on it!

Delight-directed learning can give you inspiration for your core classes, and can help you fill your student's high school transcript with some electives. It gives colleges exactly what they want, the passion they want to see from teenagers. Passion means their interest lasts for years - preferably all four years of high school or at least a couple of years.

Delight-directed learning has lots of side benefits: it can improve cooperation with your teenagers, so you're not always trying to force them to study things they're not interested in. It can reduce burnout if your student is more involved in what they do - if they're more tuned in to what it is they're learning, then they become less burned out and they need fewer breaks.

It can also make that learning more meaningful to them, because learning seems to make more sense when you apply it to something that you actually care about. Work with it, and you'll wind up with an interesting student that colleges will pay to have attended their school!

Pay a visit to The HomeScholar, the educational website where you can get enough details about homeschooling that may helps you to understand more about your children's education and learning. To know more detailed information on homeschool testing, you can visit here at

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Coursera: Free Education

Free Education for Everyone
Free Education for Everyone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Free education was once a laughable unreality. How do you get people to teach for free? If you can’t pay T.A.s how do you maintain constant grading with expanding class sizes?

In this inspirational Ted Talk Daphne Koller illustrates the possibility of free, high quality education for everyone in the world.

Here are the top 5 main characteristics of the free online education platform, Coursera:
  • You get what you put into it. Every student has to engage with the material to move on through the course - unlike in a physical classroom when you have the option to listen absentmindedly (interacting WITH the student is far better than lecturing AT them).
  • Technology speeds things up. The platform uses advanced technology to grade homework of all kinds; including math, models, and short answer questions. This takes the T.A. out of the equation, allowing for expedited and abundant grading.
  • Global reach. Hosting courses online provide universal access to high quality education.
  • High quality education. Classes that are offered come from various prestigious universities like Rice, UW, Duke, Stanford, Penn, and Princeton.
  • Certificates offer credibility. Upon completion of courses on Coursera, certificates are awarded to students who pass. Certificates can be exchanged for credits at some colleges and universities.
Near the end of her Talk, Koller  reminds us that “We can’t afford an individual human tutor for everyone, but maybe we can afford to provide every student a smart phone or computer.” When everyone has access to the internet, they have access to free education. And what could be possible in a world full of educated people all over the planet?
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Online Courses Offer Convenience, But Require Discipline

Mesa Distance Learning Program
Mesa Distance Learning Program (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Jeremy P Stanfords

In the digital age, many college students and even adults find themselves taking college courses online via distance learning.

With the click of a mouse, students can watch classes that students on-campus attend, and get the same lesson from the comfort of their own home, or on the go.

Modern technology gives distance learning many benefits. However, there are still some disadvantages that present themselves as well.



With a PC, you can easily watch online courses from the comfort of your own home. However, if you have a laptop, tablet, or even a smartphone, you may also learn while at the coffee shop or even the gym. Those watching on the go or on campus may watch the lecture live, or at a later time, oftentimes checking in and making their presence known.

During a live session, many online interfaces include a chat window that allows communication with fellow distance learners and the professor. This creates an interactive discussion and conversation, even from another city, state, or country. Many times, online students share their own personal experiences as if they were in the classroom live. After the class ends, you may still send messages to the professor, which usually counts for attendance and participation.

While many watch the courses live, others may have to work or fulfill parental duties. Distance learning allows those students to watch on their own time, set to their own schedule. This way, they are never "late" or marked as absent, as long as they view the class and still offer input. Many professors note attendance and participation based on whether a student responds, whether the class is live or not. However, too much convenience could also lead to one disadvantage.


Easy to Fall Behind
Not having the same consistent schedule as a student taking a course on campus, you must discipline yourself to not only watch the class within a given timeframe, but also complete assignments in a timely manner. Without the proper discipline, one can easily fall behind quickly, and risk failing the course.

This is not nearly as much of a disadvantage, but there is often a several second delay with online courses. Therefore, a student may offer input or answer a question after the professor has addressed the point. Usually, the teacher still takes that factor into consideration. Weather can also cause a delay or outage of its own. Due to distance learning's reliance on satellite technology, any inclement weather can throw the course off track. However, the benefit of being able to watch at a later time minimizes this disadvantage.

Author writes about a variety of topics. If you would like more information about distance learning, visit

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