Feature Article – The Problem with Homeschooling by Marlin Detweiler
Educational Helps – by Laurie Detweiler
The Problem with Homeschooling
The title is not intended to suggest this article will be a critical rant about an educational approach. After all, a very large percentage of our business comes from the homeschooling community, and I am not one to bite the hand that feeds me. Rather, it is intended to recognize that, like every endeavor, there are strengths and weaknesses that can be addressed in order to help or improve things.
One strategy is to look for weaknesses and then look for ways to shore them up—even, sometimes, turning them into strengths. That is the approach taken here. It’s the weakest link theory. That is, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Here at Veritas Press we have observed several links that we think are worth serious consideration in order to have them be strengthened. We have now interacted with tens of thousands maybe even hundreds of thousands of homeschooling folks, and we see some common themes—some of which seem problematic.
This article will focus on one of these weaknesses. It’s not necessarily the most important or significant one, but to us it is one of the most glaring.
I was very fortunate. Not only was I raised by a father who used math every day—he was an accountant—but he found it enjoyable and passed that joy on to me. Furthermore, the public school I attended had an incredible math department in grades 7 to 12. There were four math teachers, and I thought so highly of the teachers that three of them are currently doing work for Veritas Press. One of them has been intimately involved in our online school, helping to make sure that students are prepared for the math course for which they have registered. He has observed that there is a very high percentage of students who fail the entrance test for the course they register for. Calls to parents of these students have followed several themes.
There is no way to say this kindly. There are a number of math curricula in the marketplace that are, frankly, inadequate. At Veritas Press we find that parents sometimes make poor judgments about math curriculum and fall prey to using something because it is easy to use or can be completed by the student with little or no oversight, let alone teaching by the parents. It is not the case that because something has become popular, it is good. Nor is it the case that because the student may be doing well according to the standards of a particular math curriculum, that he is doing well by an independent and objective standard such as the Stanford tests.
Math is a discipline that comes quite easily for some gifted students. Given the chance, these students can routinely finish Calculus II in high school. But these are the gifted students—the top echelon.
It is our opinion that around 80% of the population, given a good base beginning as early as kindergarten, can complete Calculus in 12th grade. Without a good base the standard is a bit lower. But we must realize that math, maybe more than most other disciplines, is something that requires long, hard work. You can’t do math in half the time than what was given to it commonly in past settings. Anyone who says you can is either basing his thinking on the extremely gifted students or not understanding what effort is required for mastery in this discipline. There are no short cuts. Hard work is a necessary ingredient.
Underestimating Math’s Importance
Parents will sometimes simply say that math doesn’t matter. After all, is math really important, is it practical? Absolutely, it is.
Math’s importance at a very basic practical level includes understanding measurements for cooking. At a more sophisticated level is the math of finance. With the advent of financial calculators and a bit of proficiency at the Algebra II level, one can easily evaluate whether it would be cost effective to refinance a mortgage on a home, know if a car loan is reasonable, make buy-sell decisions for various assets, etc. The list is limitless.
And, speaking of limits, the student who has succeeded at Calculus will have an understanding of limits, and when you approach them mathematically, that will open up new ways of thinking, reasoning, and deducing. It will give them advantages that are the reason this whole education thing is so important in the first place.
I realize that math is something that many of us dislike. But there are lots of things that are good for us that many of us dislike, and we must simply accept that fact. A list might include vegetables, exercise, and going to bed at a reasonable hour. Yet we learn that personal discipline in these matters is important. Paul talks about the athlete who disciplines himself that he might win the prize. Sometimes we have to or should do things we don’t like—and that includes math. Be assured, we will all be the better for it. And from our own experience with thousands of students, we can attest that even students who have had a less than rigorous foundation in math can make up lost ground.
In keeping with the season, my daughter-in-law, Lexi, has collected a number of ideas for making homemade Christmas gifts with your children. Click here to see all her ideas, then click each idea to visit the web page that contains pictures and instructions for making them.
Free Travel Chess Set
The holidays are upon us and for many of us that means travel to spend time with loved ones. Here's a great idea which will keep children occupied in transit and can be shared with friends and relatives at your destination. With any order in December, we'll send you a free travel chess set, if you ask, while supplies last. (One set per family.) If you place your order by phone, simply ask us to add it to your order. When placing an order online, type “Chess” in the Special Instructions box during checkout.
Free Shipping, Free Drop-Shipping, and Free Gift Wrap
Merry Christmas! Books make great Christmas gifts. You may have any order in December shipped free (Continental US only). You may also have any order gift-wrapped. And you may have any order sent to an address of your choosing. All you need do is ask. When placing an order online, make your request for free shipping and/or gift-wrapping in the Special Instructions box during checkout. We’ll delete the shipping charge when we process your order. Our web site makes it easy to place a gift order. . . . But we love hearing from you, too, so call us at 800-922-5082 and just ask for the Free Shipping, Free Drop-Shipping and/or Free Gift Wrap.
Q. This is not really a question, but more of a suggestion for other homeschoolers and teachers. After homeschooling for seven years, I found myself struggling with some of my methods for classical Christian education. I looked over on my bookshelf and saw Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson. I decided to reread this, hoping it would motivate me like it had the first time. It did! Now I have decided to reread it every year. Hope this helps other people.
A. What a great suggestion! We need to be reminded of why we are doing what we’re doing. The other thing that is great is that it helps you to see new things that you were not thinking about implementing. To that same end, look for the upcoming release of an exciting new video project we have in progress. We hope it will be used to encourage you and help others better understand this educational pursuit in which we are engaged. Thanks!
Q. I know I can’t fight it; my children will need to learn to type correctly soon. What do you recommend?
A. Many homeschooling families have found great success with Mavis Beacon products or with a simple program called Type-it. The point is to have your children comfortable with a keyboard, because you are right; this is a skill we all need in the modern world.
Please submit any questions you’d like answered here to email@example.com.
Summer Reading Contest Gift Certificates
If your child won a gift certificate for the Summer Reading Contest, we want to remind you that December is the last month to redeem it. So give us a call or order online and provide the certificate number in the Special Instructions box during checkout. We’ll then apply the discount when processing your order.
Opening of a New Position at Veritas Press
We are looking to hire a Vice President of Marketing and Development to work from our home office in Lancaster, Pa. In addition to being a mature Christian, the ideal candidate will have considerable experience in contemporary forms of marketing, be an effective fund raiser, possess a love for classical Christian education, and be knowledgeable about Veritas Press. Résumés should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phaedrus Latin Composition Contest
Year three of the Phaedrus Latin Composition Contest is underway. In addition to $1000 in cash prizes, the contest now offers college-bound participants $5000 in scholarships to New Saint Andrews College. The five $1000 scholarships will be awarded to the top five participating seniors who place among the finalists this year. The contest is open to Latin students in middle school and high school. Students submit a 100-to-200-word original fable in Latin, along with an English translation of the submitted piece (by Feb. 1st). Compositions will be judged based on the student's ability to accurately use Latin vocabulary and forms of speech, the student's creativity in subject matter and writing style. The Phaedrus Latin Composition Contest allows willing teachers to take part in the nationwide judging. Getting started is easy: Click here to find out more and to sign up!
New Course Offerings for Second Semester
SAT Prep Course Coming in Spring Semester
Veritas Press is delighted to announce a semester-long course which will help your child prepare to take the SAT test. Taught by veteran teacher Cynthia Jackson, the SAT Reasoning Test is a measure of the critical thinking skills students need for academic success in college. The test is just one factor colleges look at when they consider student applications. The SAT Test Preparation course is a comprehensive review of the skills and techniques required to get the best performance results for this college entrance requirement. This course is ideally suited to upper secondary level students. The course begins January 24, 2012. Read more details and register here.
Coming Soon! Math Help Evening Course
Another new offering coming in the second semester is a math help course. This course will provide help for students in Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, and Geometry courses with their homework, test reviews, as well as post-test corrections. It is intended for students who would otherwise benefit from having a tutor or some other outside help beyond what can be offered in the regular class. The instructor will follow the syllabi of the Scholars’ Academy teachers, preparing students to deal with potentially troublesome concepts covered during the regular classes. Meeting Monday through Thursday evenings for forty-five minutes from 7:45—8:30 PM ET, the class will be limited to 20 students from these courses, so all will benefit from help on new concepts as well as review of old material. Questions will be answered on a rotational basis going from Pre-Algebra to Geometry. The goal is that all questions will be answered in the time limit per evening. This is a non-graded, non-credit course where attendance is on an as-needed basis. Click here to browse details and register.
Teaching and Consultant Openings with Veritas Press Scholars Academy
Receiving résumés for Online Teachers and Diploma Consultants!—We have needs for experienced teachers for the 2012 academic year. Teachers can work from home, the beach, or anywhere high-speed internet is available. Send teacher résumé to Bruce Etter.
Diploma consultants are educators who assist parents with their curricular planning in pursuit of a Veritas Press Scholars high school diploma and/or yearly certification for their grammar level children. Like online teachers, diploma consultants can work remotely. Send consultant résumés to Deb Nissley.
Visit us on the web at VeritasPress.com or call us at 1-800-922-5082.
Browse the Veritas Press virtual catalog online!