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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Application Response

Following is the rather lengthy reply I received via email yesterday. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Good afternoon L and thank you for your application to home educate
your child. There are some questions that I would like to ask you as I
process your application further so that I can get a deeper
understanding of the educational plans you have for Elle. I note your
desire to follow the classical philosophy and am encouraged that you
have started your research on providing a high quality education to
Elle.

STARTED? Excuse me while my head explodes...

There are several areas I am concerned about in the program as it
stands:

* Lack of detail about the tailoring of the program: how is it
adapted to Elle's specific needs Aside from the fact that it was created for her?
* The generalised nature of your submission and lack of specific
details in the program I fulfilled my legal obligation.
* A lack of short and long term goals for Elle's education Again, only what I was required by law to provide.
* A total lack of information about assessment methodology: how
you will know Elle is learning and is able to use that knowledge Don't make me repeat myself...
* The learning environment Okay, lady, you're getting on my nerves.

It may seem overwhelming at first, but I would rather you have a
thorough grasp on what I am trying to explain :-). Yep, that's an emoticon there. Should have been a winker though, because all her explaining is not helping one single bit. Have a read through,
make some notes and give me a call or email when you are ready. Oh, I will. Just you wait.Let's
start from the top: Yes, let's.

Tailoring
One of the benefits of home education is the ability to 'cherry pick'
the best of education from around the world for your children. However,
one needs to be particularly mindful of and sensitive to local content (Local content? What? Nowhere does the law specify any particular course of study)
and context. It is in this area that the work of the teacher or
facilitator is amplified: changing and adapting curricula to match local
conditions (Local conditions? I'm thinking she means we need to go skiing) and the child's needs prior to it being taught or explored. Oh, it's eduspeak.
Similarly, while the appeal of a 'pre-packaged' curriculum is obvious (To whom? Is she speaking directly to me or just blathering on in a general sort of way?),
the best interests of the children's education must outweigh this.
There are many rich and varied curriculum choices at very little or no
cost available to you L and I encourage you to explore them all. Gee! Thanks!

Level of Detail/Quantity
We are often asked 'How detailed do you want the program?' What we look
for in terms of detail and quantity is this:
* We look at your program as a whole and consider such things as:
Is there a wide range of subjects? Um, like driver's and sex ed, and indigenous and environmental studies? No doubt the concept of quality vs. quantity is lost on her. Is there a variety of learning
opportunities? Is knowledge and understanding being developed in a
variety of ways and not only through 'book work'? Is the work chosen
appropriate for the child? All of our considerations focus around the
features of a 'high quality' education. Yeah, mine too.
* We require a program for a whole year that gives us in depth
details about the learning goals and learning opportunities you will
create for your child.
* The more information you provide us means that we can understand
your intent more easily. Some parents are able to express the essence
of a program in 3-5 pages while others take a more wordy approach. Brevity is the soul of wit, but if you want quantity, I'll give you quantity.
* There is not a great deal of value in photocopying reams of
pages out of the textbooks you intend to use because we are usually
aware of these resources if you just mention the title. Except for mistaking The Story of the World for a packaged curriculum. Not to mention
that it is an expensive exercise for you to post this to us.
* We look for evidence that you have a wide variety of both text
and other resources available to you. Access to a variety of resources
can allow children to 'engage' with a topic. Not everyone likes paper
and pen or 'wordy' ways of learning. But let's not forget some do. And enough with the quotation marks already. Don't forget to incorporate some
of the different learning styles in your choices of resources - visual,
movement, music, verbal, auditory, nature, logical, interpersonal, and
intrapersonal. Please ask if you would like further details on these. Not asking.
* If you are using a packaged curriculum, we need to see that you
have tailored the program to your child's needs. There is no 'one size
fits all' in education and you need to show us how you are using and
adding to that shrink wrapped program to make it your own.
* Lastly, we look to see that there is a progression of work:
something to go on with. Saying that they will 'move on to higher
level' books is a good start but you need to outline what these are, how
you will know if the child is ready, how you will ensure they have fully
engaged with the original material through deep as opposed to just
surface, exploration. Mastery, period.

Learning Goals
Writing learning goals is an important starting component of your
program writing and we encourage you to include your child in the
development of these goals. You know your child well enough to know
their strengths areas and areas where they need further work. If you
can make the goals explicit then when it comes time to report on their
progress, you will know exactly how far they have come and what still
needs to be addressed in the future. If you are having trouble getting
started, begin with a 'brainstorm' of everything you would like your
child to achieve (or become) long term or big picture. Then break these
down one at a time and work backwards till you have some smaller steps
and strategies. At the end of the study period, you will be then able to
relate your achievements back to the original goal. What we look for
are specific goals for example: 'xxx will finish his language arts text
book during this year and be able to write a two page short story on a
topic of his choice using appropriate punctuation''; 'After studying
'Current Affairs' xxx will be able to hold a conversation on a topic of
interest including background/history of the issue'. This way, if you
get to the end of the year and xxx hasn't finished the book or can't
hold the conversation, you will know you need to focus on something
specific for the following year (identifying learning gaps). I'm surprised she admits learning gaps exist. Goal
setting will help you with your forward planning too in that your report
on the year will identify strengths and weaknesses which will then allow
you to identify focussed learning areas for the following period. Each
child's learning goals are fluid to a certain extent and this can be
reflected in the annual report. Goals and learning journeys are never
used for comparison with others. If you would like more specific
examples or assistance, please ask. Still not asking.

Assessment / reporting / record keeping
How are you planning to assess whether your child is progressing in her
program? You will need to report back to us in the tenth month of
registration with an assessment of overall learning progress. Tests,
quizzes, assignments, portfolios, work samples, reading logs, learning
journal and diaries are all ways to see tangible progress of learning (I
am sending an excellent list of assessment gathering ideas that may suit
the learning activities you have planned). We highly recommend keeping
occasional samples of their work (from the beginning, middle and end of
the learning period), (that's what refrigerators are for) learning diaries/journals, annotated reading logs
(a learner could be responsible for this by making a few notes about
each book - why or why it wasn't enjoyable, whether the level was too
easy, hard or just right, would they recommend it to another child and
why? Sorry, none of this happy, crappy, feel-good, self-centered nonsense for me; a list of books on my Excel spreadsheet works just fine. Just a few words is a good way to 'reflect' on the reading that
has happened and gives you something to reflect back on when you are
writing your report. This will also help you to monitor if there are
gaps in the learning and help to write the next program. Gaps! Gaps, again.

We are recommending to parents that we are not so much interested in the
'content' (except in the case of local content) of their children's learning as this will vary for every
family. We are saying to parents that we are more interested in their
reflections and self evaluations on the learning. This is why we are
asking them to establish vital learning goals. I imagine parents would
find it very difficult to reflect on how everything went if they had no
idea where they were heading. Hindsight is 20/20. We are recommending that parents (in
conjunction with their children) set their explicit learning goals (and
these are fluid of course over the year). Then it is a matter of
keeping records (the learning diary, reading log etc) and work samples
(from the beginning, middle and end of the period to demonstrate
progress) and compiling these into a report.

Learning Environment
Could you please provide some information on the place in which Elle
will do her 'work'? Does she have a quiet, dedicated learning space
where current projects can be left undisturbed? Does she have access to
the computer for learning? She probably wouldn't appreciate hearing the world is our oyster.

L, I hope this helps you get a grasp on what it is we are trying to
help you achieve with your programming. Don't think of it as work for
us but rather as work for you that will build a strong basis from which
you can work. I have plenty of resources and planning tools that can
assist you and all you need to do is ask. ::Sound of crickets chirping:: I will be in the office for
the rest of the week and look forward to hearing from you.

Jorge suspects this was a form letter somewhat tailored to my initial application. She clearly has no idea what a classical education is about, in spite of the twenty-two professional letters following her name. Hear from me she did. Twenty pages worth. (Including eleven scope and sequence pages from Saxon and the entire Table of Contents from The Story of the World which took up three whole pages.

Passive-aggressive? Just a touch.

3 comments:

KathyJo said...

"There is no 'one size fits all' in education..."

And yet, they have no problems with that concept in the public school system. :P

If you managed to respond to this load of crap with anything other than, "F--- off," I am in awe of you.

KathyJo said...

"You know your child well enough to know their strengths areas and areas where they need further work."

Gee, someone should work on THEIR subject-verb agreement... (Yeah, I'm fairly snotty about stuff like that from people who try to tell us how to educate our children...)

Oh, what a PITA.

KathyJo said...

Oy! Noun-pronoun agreement, which is what I get for being snotty. :D