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?
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.
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.
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.
Perhaps this is a good time to take a different look at the sun. The Huffington Post has posted an article called Haunting NASA Video Shows Just How Beautiful Our Sun Really Is. It discusses a video created from footage captured by Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory. But better than that, it includes the almost 4-minute video, as well as a photo slide show explaining solar flares.
I remember as a young child in elementary school back in the 1950's watching black and white short science films at the museum showing solar flares captured with a chronograph. The sun was covered and so looked like a big black circle, and the flares shot up in gray-scale majesty around the black sun. I was fascinated. THAT was happening on the sun? Amazing.
If I had seen these beautiful clips of the sun close up and in color, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have been far more likely to study science and maybe even have become an astronomer. If your child is fascinated by space and the solar system, be sure to show him this video. You might also want to buy one or more books about the sun. They don't have videos, of course, but they have some beautiful photos and plenty of information about the sun. And if your child really loves space, perhaps some books about the moon would be good too!
When one twin turns out to be gifted, the other twin, even if raised by different parents in a different home in a different area, will also be gifted. That means that it's not likely that it's parenting or environment that makes a child gifted.
While twin studies provide strong evidence for the heritability of intelligence, many people still insisted that environment determines intelligence. With the discovery of a gene linked to intelligence, we now have proof that intelligence is inherited.
Of course, this discovery doesn't mean that the environment plays no role at all in intelligence. But it does seem to confirm the idea of intelligence as a rubber band.
While it's no fun to shovel the snow or drive around it, it is fun to play in! When I was little my brothers and I would go outside and build snowmen. Then we'd come inside where our mother had hot chocolate waiting for us.
If it's not too cold, send the kids out (or go out with them) to make some snowmen. Better yet, encourage them to use their imaginations. Ask them to make unusual snowmen. They don't have to make snowmen quite as "unique" and "creative as Calvin's snowmen, but they they can be something other than the typical snowmen we all know and love.
If your child creates an unusual snowman (or dog or cat or alien), take a picture of it and send it to me at email@example.com. I'll put the picture in the snow creature gallery.
And don't forget the hot chocolate when the kids come inside!
According to Mary McDonald, the principal of PS139 where the program is being cut, "Our Kindergarten classes will be heterogeneously grouped to reflect the diversity of our student body and the community we live in."
Really? Diversity is more important than meeting the academic needs of gifted children? Of course McDonald doesn't think their needs won't be met. She says:
"At PS 139, we believe that all children can learn and achieve high standards. We also know that we want all children at PS 139 to have equal access to high quality, challenging curriculum, and to have ample opportunities to master complex material and build academic and personal self-confidence. We also want our classes to reflect the diversity of our community. We believe we can have both: classrooms characterized by rigor and diversity."When I read that, I couldn't help but think that McDonald doesn't have a good understanding of gifted children or what it means to meet their needs. If children in other classrooms don't have access to "high quality, challenging curriculum" or have "ample opportunities to master complex material" or to "build academic and personal self-confidence," then change the curriculum for those classrooms. Why are gifted children needed in the classrooms in order to provide those opportunities for other children?
It seems to me that once again, gifted children are being sacrificed for some imaginary "greater good," in this case diversity.
What do you think? Participate in the poll and let us know! Want to sound off too? Add your voice by posting a comment.
Poll: Should creating diversity in classrooms trump meeting the needs of Gifted Children?View Results
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The principal wouldn't allow it. I definitely wish I had more choices back then. Technically, I did. I could have sent him to a private school. But that would have been expensive and as a single parent, I couldn't afford it. But if I had had a choice of which public school I would have been able to send my son to, we might not have had such a dreadful and harmful year.