Schools and Students Might Benefit from Repealing Grade Level Segregation
by Lyn Lomasi, Write W.A.V.E. Media Staff
Many schools are structured in a way that separates students by grade level, but is it time for a change? Categorizing children in this manner may be detrimental to their social as well as academic development. Studies have shown that children who attend multi-age classrooms, those that teach a variety of ages in the same classroom, learn more efficiently and are also more prepared for dealing with the outside world.
The Multi-Age Classroom or Mixed-Aged Grouping
A multi-age classroom is one in which children of different ages are grouped together and are also taught together across the curriculum. These children are not given separate work or assigned separate seating, due to their ages, but are encouraged to work together to complete the assignments and projects. This type of instruction has shown to create children who work well together and blend well socially in society.
Multi-Age Grouping and Social Skills
When children learn to work together with all age groups, rather than to separate into age-related categories, this prepares them for the outside world. In the outside world, people are not separated by age. When you go to the gym or to the store, you will come across people of all ages. At a park where children enjoy socializing, the other child won't always be the same age as your child. At the library, museum, or zoo there are children and adults of all ages. When your child grows up and goes to work, the people he or she works with will not likely be all one age. Not only that, but at work, the position you are given does not factor in your age. It is based upon your experience, just as is the model of the mixed-age classroom.
Schools that use multi-age grouping methods have been proven to be more effective in developing vital social and academic skills. Much of this may be due to the fact that when children are grouped together, they are welcomed to advance at their own individual level, not a level they are required to be in, due to age. This allows children to advance when they need to and also to get more practice when needed. This model generally allows for children to go beyond their grade level in one subject if they know the facts as well as to gain more practice in weaker areas.
Choosing Mixed-Aged Grouping to Help People Work Together
If a child does not learn how to interact with people of all ages, this can cause differences in many aspects of life. Another factor that can cause these differences is when children are disciplined for working together or talking to each other. While there is formal time where children do work quietly, in a multi-group classroom, you will usually see children discussing things together and helping each other solve problems. It's amazing how much one child can help another. Not only can they explain the way they do things, but by nature, children look up to each other, and like to please each other. This quality is what brings this process together. When children want to please each other, they will work harder to do so, which is great for their academic achievement.
"Traditional" Classrooms Used Mixed-Age Learning Methods
If you think back to when the traditional schoolhouses were run, you will recollect from studies that these were run with multi-age grouping. After some point in time, schools slowly began to conform to the rules that we know today. While there are times that children work together in a traditional school setting, the time spent doing this is usually limited to certain projects and certain times. Even worse, the time spent with children of other ages may only be done during recess or if it is done at other times, it is on a strict and limited schedule.
How to Implement Multi-Age Learning
There are a variety of ways to give your child an education that involves multi-age learning. There are private schools who implement this structure as well as many early learning centers or daycare centers. The most common of these is probably the in-home childcare center. This is a home in which the person who lives in the home provides childcare services. Since these services are inside of a home, it is more difficult to separate the children, so by default, most of these types of centers are run with the multi-age factor. However, it is still important to check with the caregiver to learn his or her policy on this. The smaller children might still be kept separate from the larger children for a variety of reasons. Some people feel that smaller and larger children should be kept separate for safety. Others feel that if they are nurtured and supervised correctly, there is no need for separation. Keep in mind that many schools and centers that offer multi-age grouping often will be on the higher end of pricing, but they are also often on the higher end of quality as well.
If you would rather not send your child to an expensive school, another growing option is homeschooling. Homeschooling is almost always centered around multi-age grouping. If a homeschooled child has siblings that automatically defaults the multi-age factor. Also, many homeschooled children enjoy learning with others, rather than staying at home, so many parents will combine resources and share tutoring duties. Usually, the children learning together will be of different ages because not all parents will have only one child and rather than spend the whole day going over one level at a time, homeschool can be structured to fit all age and grade levels. The children of lower grade levels may be working on addition at the same time that others are working on multiplication because the parents can go over each lesson one at a time. Then, when instructions are finished, the children can work together to figure out the problems.
How is a Child Tested for Skills in a Multi-Age Setting?
You may be wondering how the parents and teachers will know if a child is grasping the concepts or just getting the answers from the peers. Well, just as in regular school settings, the children must still take tests for assessment. During testing time, the children will not be allowed to talk to each other. This is the main quiet time in many of these types of schools and homeschools. It is still important that the teachers and parents know where the child stands in grasping their skills. They have just decided to think outside the box and try a proven method that is often overlooked.
Can "Free" Schooling or Unschooling Help My Child Succeed in Life? by Lyn Lomasi
Should All Schools Go Back to Mixing Age Groups? by Lyn Lomasi
Critical Issue: Enhance Learning Through Multiage Grouping by NCREL
Multi-Age as a Class Placement Approach by Seattle Schools
Children's Social Behavior In Relation To Mixed-Age Or Same-Age Classrooms by Early Childhood Research & Practice
How to Keep Homeschooled Tweens Active
Physical education is an integral part of the whole picture. Don't put it on the back burner when it comes to academics. In fact, physical activities may help boost student performance in other areas. Keep this in mind when developing your homeschooled tween's daily schedule and curriculum. This is one of the first things I learned when we started homeschooling years ago. Not only is keeping homeschooled tweens active a good idea for academic purposes, but it also helps encourage a healthy lifestyle overall. It also helps them expend any pent up energy and frustration, which can be a good thing for the whole family.
Exercise with your tween every day. This is extremely important in encouraging an active lifestyle. Whether it's family yoga, nature walks, bike riding, skating, playing basketball in the yard, or a workout routine, the family should include some form of exercise in the daily routine. It's easier for the tween to feel encouraged to participate when it is a part of the normal daily activities. Try to make it happen at around the same time every day. Switch up different activities for a more rounded physical education experience.
Get your homeschooled tween involved in athletics. Sports programs are available in most areas. These can be found with private leagues, organizations like the YMCA, and even with area schools. Homeschooled tweens have an advantage in that they can sometimes join either homeschool leagues or those with area schools if permitted. Churches can also have sports and recreational teams and programs. Not all areas will have leagues specifically for homeschoolers. But usually those with neighborhood organizations are all inclusive.
Take field trips often. Get out and enjoy your area and those surrounding it. Base the field trips on current lessons, as well as other things. The zoo, library, and museum are some of the obvious destinations. But also try nature reserves, wildlife reservations, railroads, the airport, historical buildings, monuments, and anything else interesting. If you're inventive and open-minded, you can find a field trip destination for every lesson every day if you want to. You may not choose to have daily field trips. But be sure your homeschooled tween does get out often and see the world - or at least the neighborhood.
Enroll your tween in dance classes. Many tweens love to dance. So this is a good way to get your homeschooled tween to enjoy being active. It also provides an extra way to get some social interaction. Even if dance is not really your tween's best talent, the classes may still be enjoyable. Let your tween choose the style. From ballet, to jazz, to modern, to hip-hop and more, any tween who is interested can find their style. If your tween is up to it, let him rotate between various styles for an even more interesting and rounded experience.
Encourage stretch breaks in between assignments. This is one of the easiest ways to keep your homeschooled tween active during the day. Make it a routine thing to get up and move around in between lessons. Movements may include dancing, stretching, jumping jacks, or other random actions. As long as your tween gets up and flexes, it's good. Try to make it fun so there isn't any protesting. The actual movement doesn't matter as much as the fact that your tween is not sitting in one place all day long.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
by Charlene Little, Contributing Writer
got hurt or is in danger of being hurt, do not go in yelling and screaming because they are going to brush you off as a complete nut and you will not get anywhere. However, if there is a child hurt for no reason, or a child that is afraid of being hurt and there is no action being taken, by all means go in screaming in a bullhorn, I sure would. If you didn't have problems working out problems with your school, you probably would be reading this. I myself have dealt with schools that refuse to yield, even when it comes to quality of education and child safety. Currently, my niece attends a school that is unyielding regardless of what the problem is. They make paying for school lunches difficult, but there is a way to solve the problem. EVERYONE has a boss. Keep notes of names of people you spoke to, what you spoke to them about, and what their resolution to the problem was. It also helps to keep track of phone numbers in case you have to contact that person directly again.
Chain of Command
If you have worked your way from the teacher, to the counselor, to the assistant principal, and up to the principal and still are not getting anywhere, try the school board. If you work your way all the way to the superintendent and still not resolution, let them know that you don't agree with their decision especially if this problem affects more than one child or more than one family.
Don't give up. There are so many other things that you can do. If this problem affects more than one child or more than one family, find out when the next school board meeting is. These meetings are open to the public and you are allowed to attend. When it is asked if anyone else has a problem that they would like addressed, address your problem. You will have to speak in front of people, but hey, you have everyone together in that room that has the power to make a decision. This is the best time to make yourself heard. After you address your concern, ask if anyone in the room has recommendations for the solution. Everything that is said in that room goes down in the meeting minutes. This means that whatever they agree to in that meeting has to happen. Talk about pressure to fix a problem.
Still No Resolution?
Call your state school board. They tend to pressure local school boards into a quiet resolution. Typically, pressure from what you have done before and the pressure that they can put on the school, tends to work. Work your way up the ladder here the same as you did with your local school board.
If all else fails, contact the federal Department of Education. If you get this high and still have no resolution, contact an attorney too. Make sure that you look up an education attorney. These are people who take pride in the ability to stick it to the school system when they are out of line. This shows the school system that you are not joking and you are willing to take this to court. Typically they will give in after the initial letter from your attorney. Remember, school systems run on a very tight budget; they really cannot afford to pay their attorney unless they have to. Sometimes, just the thought of forking out all of that cash makes the cringe enough to cave.
Originally Published on Yahoo! Voices
About the Author
Charlene Little is the mother of four wonderful boys and an active volunteer in her community. She owns a series of websites entitled Blog4UrMoney. She loves sharing information with people around the internet and is a regular contributor to Write W.A.V.E Media
Is Homework Reducing Learning and Play Time for Kids? Should Homework Be Eliminated? Pros and Cons
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
The subject of homework has long been a debate among parents and teachers. Some teachers believe it is essential, while some find other ways to add to the curriculum. There are parents like myself who feel it takes up valuable time. This time could otherwise be spent reading, playing, or learning in other ways. As a mom, homeschool teacher, and former public school parent, I've seen it from more than one side. I've also done research over the years, as well as asked opinions of teachers. My research and opinions below are accompanied by recent conversations with three teachers.
Homework vs Study Time
Besides what is being taught in class, kids may need or desire to do extra research on their own. They also may want to read unassigned books for the pure enjoyment of reading. However, when homework takes up a substantial amount of time, this may not be possible. The student may tire or run out of time before extracurricular activities or bedtime. Children should be free to explore and learn as much as possible and too much homework may hinder that process. My personal thought is that study time needs to be reevaluated and should be done freely versus being assigned. I expressed some of my thoughts on how to do that in another writeup: "Should Current Homework and Study Methods be Reevaluated?"
Ann W, a teacher and parent, shared the following with me:
"There are several negative effects of traditional homework assignments, especially upon elementary school children. In my experience as a parent and former public school teacher, I've seen both sides to the issue. If homework lacks substance or too much is assigned, children become increasingly frustrated and may develop a bad attitude toward school. In our own experience, homework took four hours of time to complete. Not only did this take away from our family time together, it also reduced the amount of time our child was able to devote to individual reading.
"Down time and actually having the time to read for pleasure can refresh and prepare a student for further learning. Excessive homework, such as writing 20 spelling words 25 times each by a child who can spell all the words correctly and has a fine motor disability, creates a stressful atmosphere and is a waste of precious time. That is just one of the reasons, among many, that we eventually chose to home school our daughter."
Benefits or Drawbacks?
This is the area where it seems the answer varies depending on who you ask. Not all teachers agree and not all parents agree. According to an article on Scholastic.com, there is not credible evidence to suggest that there is a tangible benefit from homework. In fact, in that same article, there is evidence of a no-homework policy working well for students. The argument given by one teacher is that homework is essentially the same as if an adult went to work and then came home and kept working for several more hours. Some may in fact do this, but why put so much pressure on anyone, especially children?
Then, there are those who argue there are indeed benefits. For instance, Sandra Peterson, a teacher, tutor, and home educator shared this with me:
"Especially in the subject of math, homework is, in my opinion, essential. Homework is one of the best day-to-day assessment tools a teacher can utilize. Daily homework can alert a teacher to comprehension problems early enough that the lesson can be re-taught. This is important in math since one concept builds upon another. If the student does not understand how to find factors, they may not understand how to reduce fractions or make equivalent fractions from two fractions with unlike denominators. Many students learn best by practicing skills in a lesson or by summarizing what they have learned in an essay. Not that homework is rote learning, but homework can provide one more opportunity to cement those concepts in the brain. Homework can also be utilized to allow the student to express his individuality, especially in the creative writing portion of the language arts curriculum."
When Can Kids be Kids?
Another argument against homework is that often kids are spending so much time on it, there is no time left for anything else. What about extracurricular activities? What about family time or just regular kid time? When my kids were in traditional school, by the time my oldest was finished with homework, she had no time to do anything but eat dinner and prepare for bed. Yes, learning is extremely important. But so is downtime, fun time, and fitness. All have benefits and all are necessary. If children are spending all their time on homework, where is the time for any of this?
High school teacher Amanda Herron told me what works for her students:
"I teach on a block schedule, instead of traditional, which means our students have four classes a day (instead of eight) and stay in one class for 90 minutes (instead of 55). I rarely, if ever, give homework because I feel that as an effective teacher I should cover what I need to in 90 minutes. Research does back up that daily practice of concepts helps with memory retention, but I feel that in 90 minutes my lessons should teach the concept and offer practice time. By doing traditional 'homework' assignments in class, the students have peer coaches and teachers to ask questions and get help. Especially at the high school level, few parents can help on homework assignments. Also, our students have such full, high-stress lives. At my school, we have a high teen parent rate, added to the necessity of after-school jobs for essentials like gas (and unfortunately for some of my students, family groceries due to the high-unemployment in our area). Colleges are looking for sports, extra-curriculars and community service. If every teacher assigns an additional 45 minutes of homework, our students (with only four teachers) would need an extra three hours in their schedules.
"The average schedule for one of my students:
7:00 a.m. ~ Bus stop.
7:40 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. ~ School day
3:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. ~ Sports (football, basketball, etc)
5:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. ~ after school job or baby sit children/siblings until parents get home from later-shift jobs
"There is no time in my students schedules for homework every night. They would not be finished until after 1:00a.m. At schools with traditional schedules (more classes meeting in a day) that could go longer. So, I'm not a fan. I get a better result from my students by keeping practice and project times in class and I have no problem doing this and still covering my state-mandated standards."
What is Being Taught in Class?
A final question that I struggle with often: "What's being taught in class?" If a child is learning for hours throughout the day, why is it necessary to then come home and repeat the process? Haven't they been learning all day already? As someone who has had children in public school and has educated them at home, I have seen things as both a parent and teacher. Whenever we are homeschooling, I have found the children complete more lessons in less time than when they attended traditional school. That's why I struggle so much in understanding why it's necessary to repeat lessons during a time that should be family time.
Because of homeschooling, the performance of most of my kids has increased. They sometimes complete two grade levels per subject every school year. This is without having extra work to complete at the end of the day. Because of this, I'm left to wonder why traditional schools need to assign extra work outside of class. Shouldn't the length of their school days compensate for that? I have the utmost respect for educators and believe most do have the students' best interests in mind. It's just something I have yet to understand, based on research and personal experience.
*Thanks to Amanda Herron, Sandra Peterson, and Ann W for your opinions.
**I originally published this content via Yahoo Contributor Network
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