A few weeks ago, Psych Mom, the mother of a second grader in Halifax, Nova Scotia, wrote about why she wasn’t going to make her daughter do any upcoming creative projects and how she was trying to reduce her daughter’s homework load.
She provides an update: “Update on the reading homework my 7 year old was assigned a week before March Break. 4 days before the homework was due, and it wasn’t done, I wrote a long letter to the teacher explaining that my daughter was much more interested in another book and that she was enthusiastic about answering questions I had designed (still trying to get to a little more depth out of the story). The teacher gave me feedback today and was right on board with everything and very encouraging. It has worked out beautifully, and gives me confidence to keep speaking up.”
2 thoughts on “Moms (and Dads) on a Mission–More from Halifax, Nova Scotia”
As a student who came of age during the early 90’s I was never a very good student. I never rebelled or anything like that, I just found myself bored with the whole thing. I would often simply not do my homework, and I typically just managed to scrape by. I felt there was always something wrong with the process of school in general and “homework” was one of the more time-wasting aspects of the whole process. At the time I didn’t have a voice about this, I wasn’t quite sure how I was able to express my disdain with everything because I simply wasn’t allowed. The opinion of a minor is no opinion at all. We have no say in our upbringing, how could we? We don’t know anything.
Today I’ve only recently had my first kid so I know I’ll be facing many of the same challenged my own parents faced when I was a child. Of course today is a different time, living in the age of the internet. And yet I can see that “schooling” has not changed much, it’s still stuck in the 20th century… — nay! the 19th century!
I got in to an argument with someone recently about spelling and penmanship, two things that I recall being “taught” quite heavily throughout my school days. Today I’m sure they are just as “important” lessons wasting the time of today’s youth. But is it necessary?
Me personally, I’ve never had very good handwriting, Really, I don’t know many who do have very good handwriting. I don’t know anyone who writes in cursive, save for my mother. We’ve gone steadfast in to the digital age and for the most part for every 1 word I wrote down with my hand I type about 1000 words, and that’s no exaggeration (If anything it might be a conservative estimate). Without a doubt the skill of typing is simply more important these days than the skill of penmanship. I have no doubt my own son will be a typist before he is a hand-writer.
I just asked my good-friend’s 10 year old daughter, who I talk to on IM sometimes (and I can tell she’s a fast typist). I asked her if she ever took any lessons in school to learn how to type. She replied that she hadn’t. I asked her if she taken any lessons in how to write cursive. She replied that she had (and that it was stupid!). I honestly figured that they would have dumped cursive by now, but nope! I’m a little glad that they hadn’t taught any lessons in typing because it’s apparently something that pretty anyone who’s interested in it can self-teach. If they had taught it to her I wonder if she would have concluded that it too was stupid!
Interestingly the *only* people I know who *do* have good handwriting (other than my mum.) Are my friends who happen to be graffiti writers and who develop handstyles which are as disciplined, if not more, than classical cursive styles. But, like typing, this is a self-taught skill, I’m pretty sure there’s not a school in the country that is teaching the esoteric skill of the graffiti hand-style.
So how about spelling? It too is a skill that has changed with the digital age. This post has had several spelling errors in it, but the post as you are reading it does not. That I was able to correct it had nothing to do with vocabulary lessons I had in school. Of course you know how I corrected it. The ubiquitous red line under the word has without a doubt diluted the need to know how to spell every single word in the dictionary without fail. Now of course that might sound like a crutch, but in my opinion my spelling has gotten better over the years because of it. As time goes on I misspell words less and less because every time I correct a misspelling instantly I’m teaching myself about my shortcomings in the skill. Typing out a long post like this I can see also that those shortcomings aren’t random, there are certain kinds of words that I tend to spell more often than others. Being able to see that, IMO, is a much more useful lessong than all the elementary vocab tests put together.
Livining in the digital age should be causing some HUGE changes in our schools, on the level of change seen brought about in Europe with the introduction of the printing press. But so far I can’t tell much difference from the schools of today from the schools I was stuck in in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s like we are sending our kids in to a time machine every day, and I fear for the damage we are causing them.
I need to clear up the idea that “schooling” is in a time warp. Cursive writing was “dumped” a while ago in the Nova Scotia English Language Arts Curriculum -it is no longer an outcome, but still is often taught in elementary school because some teachers still feel it is important and often children are interested in learning this skill – it is at the discretion of the teacher. Although keyboarding skills is not specifically an outcome, technology skills are. I agree that keyboarding skills are more important in today’s technological society.
I have taught for over 13 years, teaching from grade 2 to adult learners. I have taught many students who have difficulties in literacy skills. Basic spelling skills are important – but spelling instruction needs to be related to the writing of our students. There needs to be a “connection” to real life writing. Spellcheck is great, but if, and only if, the basics are there.
For the record, I was an OK student, but not outstanding while in public schools – I understand the frustrations you had while in school. Now that I am “on the other side”, I have seen Nova Scotia work extremely hard on improving the educational programming they are offering. School boards have been working diligently to offer and mandate professional development for teachers, and in my 13 years, I have seen massive attention and improvement in the delivery of education in this province. I am proud of the progress the Department of Education and the Chignecto Central Regional School Board has made. By the time SMPs child goes to school, they will have even made more progress – feel confident that SMPs child will receive a better education than we did. Another tip – stay involved – you will know your child better than his or her teachers and your support will be appreciated!!!!