Friday February 28, 2014
What? You didn't know that homeschooling is illegal? It is -- in Germany. So if you don't live in Germany, why should you care? You should care for a number of reasons. For one thing, you should care about the Romeike family, who left Germany and came to America in 2008 in order to have the freedom to homeschool their children. They asked for asylum in 2010, and an immigration judge granted it on human rights grounds. But the federal government appealed that decision.
Why did the federal government appeal the decision? Because the US Justice Department does not see practice of religion and educating your children as you see fit is a basic human right. That was the rationale for granting asylum to begin with. The Romeikes want to be able to teach their children as they see fit, including teaching them their Christian values.
Another reason to care about this case is that it seems to be telling us what the US federal government thinks about parental rights. Your right to homeschool your child is not a basic human right. Many people don't think that parents should be homeschooling, but so far it's not illegal. But it is rather chilling to think that our government doesn't believe was have that right.
What worse is that if the Romeikes are deported back to Germany, they will be fined. (They already owe the German government thousands of dollars in fines for homeschooling before they came to America.) They can also be imprisoned and have their seven children taken away from them. This is not an idle threat as German homeschoolers have been fined and imprisoned, and have lost their children.
The case was accepted last year by the Supreme Court and the Court is expected to rule on the case soon.
What do you think? Should the court rule in favor of the Romeikes?
Thursday February 27, 2014
Some companies have made millions from products and programs that claim to turn babies into geniuses. This is the nurture side of the nature/nurture argument. That side claims that children are basically little blank slates waited to be nurtured into brilliance.
Few people today believe - or claim to believe - that children are blank slates. Most everyone understands that nature and nurture interact to make a person who he is. And yet hopeful parents spend money and time on flash cards, CDs, and other products teaching their child to read. A new study tells us what I've been saying for a long time. Those products simply cannot teach babies to read.
A child's brain has to be developed sufficiently in order for that child to be able to learn to read. No amount of practice with flash cards is going to change that. Children can become ready at different ages - that's where nature comes in - but the brain simply isn't developed enough at three-months old to enable a baby to learn to read. Learning to read actually takes place in stages.
Part of what is needed for reading is memory, both short-term and long-term. Without memory, there is no way the brain can process everything it needs to process in order for a child to read. A baby may recognize a shape or pattern, but that is very far from reading. And flash cards aren't going to help the brain develop memory.
Most children reach the necessary stage of memory development at around age six. You may understand at this point how the excellent memories of many gifted children make it possible for them to read at young ages. This is one way we know that gifted children cannot be created through products and programs. But you may also understand now why elementary school teachers often refuse to believe that any child before the age of six can read.
So anyone hoping to turn their baby into a genius by using these flashcards and other products is likely going to be disappointed.
Tuesday February 18, 2014
It's probably not news to you that February is Black History Month. Why do we need a month devoted to this history of Black Americans? After all, we know the contributions made to America by people like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers and many other famous Black Americans.
But what do you know about Anthony Johnson? Or Edward Bouchet? Bessie Coleman? How about Lewis Latimer? Most people aren't so familiar with those Black Americans and yet they contributed a great deal to the country. Learning about lesser known Black Americans in our history is a wonderful activity for you and your children. You can also spend some time with your child looking over the many resources for Black History Month.
If you are homeschooling your child, you can create a lesson based on the history of Blacks in America. But even if you aren't homeschooling, you can be sure that your child has a good understanding of the contributions Black Americans have made to the country.
Monday February 17, 2014
According to India's Governor M K Narayanan, a nation's growth is determined in large part by the way it nurtures its "intellectual capital." While I don't always like calling gifted children "capital," I do understand Narayanan's point. A country can't expect to grow and compete globally if it does not accommodate the academic needs of gifted children.
What I find especially interesting is this comment from Narayanan: "We have failed our gifted children by not setting up special schools for them on the lines of magnet schools in the West."
Why is that interesting? Because it comes at a time when in America, many people are pushing to make everyone "equal" in schools. Providing special academic services for gifted children is considered by many to be treating them as if they were "better" than other children and to be taking away opportunities for children who "really" need special services. After all, these people believe, gifted children will do just fine by themselves.
While some gifted children might do okay if left alone, not all of them will. Gifted children need specialized instruction to have a better chance at reaching their potential. Providing appropriate academic services for gifted children is not elitist as many people claim. It is simply providing them with the kind of services that is suited to their learning styles and abilities.
I'd like to hear more government officials here - in all levels of government - speak as Governor Narayanan did. I would lilke them to recognize the benefits of nurturing gifted children, if not for the children themselves, then for the country.
You can read more about what Governor Narayanan said in the article "Governor moans neglect of gifted minds" in The Times of India.