Homeschooling, common core, and how it all fits together

First of all a disclaimer: I think that Common Core is one of the most misunderstood concepts in education right now. I think there are lots of rumors and lots of “facts” about Common Core that aren’t fact and have no facts to back the claims up. I’ve recently heard many myths about homeschooling and common core, which is a whole different issue altogether.

Here are a few “facts” that I’ve heard about personally:

  • Children have to know their alphabet, numbers, and how to read BEFORE they go into Kindergarten.
  • Children are being taught to do math differently than it’s always been done.
  • Even though a parent is homeschooling, they’re still required to follow common core standards.
  • The Kindergarten Language Arts standards require too much of students

Well, I can tell you from my experience with the public school system that no public school EVER has required that children know their ABC’s, numbers AND be able to read before starting Kindergarten. This is something that a woman told me at my yard sale a few weekends ago. Yes, kids should mostly know their ABC’s and numbers, but as most Kindergarten teachers will tell you, they’re lucky if some kids can even sing the ABC song. With many children growing up in daycare and going to preschool this isn’t as bad as it used to be, but the fact is that some parents think it is solely the school’s responsibility to educate their children — they do nothing to lend a hand. Some parents don’t think to go over letters, numbers, shapes and colors.

As more and more people are finding out, Kindergarten is not what it used to be; Pre-K is what Kindergarten used to be. Kids are learning things earlier and earlier and you know what? That’s not a bad thing. Anyone who knows anything about how the brain works knows that children learn things easier when they’re younger. Do you know that it makes more sense to teach a second language in elementary school than it does to teach it in high school? Why? Because children pick up the changes in the languages quicker and the younger they learn it the more fluent they will be.

So on to the math thing…

The truth is the middle of that statement. Yes, children are being taught how to do math differently. They are being taught several ways to solve a problem, but they are able to solve the problem anyway they like. Of course, this kind of varies depending on the teacher, but from my understanding of the common core website the standards are meant to show students different ways of doing problems, not dictating how they solve it. The main concept is that students start solving problems, not just memorizing facts. Students are supposed to know that 3+3 is 6, not because they memorized a fact, but because they actually worked it out and solved it. They are supposed to understand the concept of 3 red apples and 3 green apples is a total of 6 apples.

For example, today Josiah started working on word problems in math today. He had to solve it in two different ways. The first way was that he actually had to draw a 20140512_184842picture and then the second way was to solve it using a number line. One of the problems went like this: “4 frogs jumped into a pond. A little while later, 2 more frogs jumped into the pond. How many frogs were in the pond?” So Josiah had to draw four frogs and then draw two frogs and counted up how many frogs he had. This showed him the physical numbers involved. However, Josiah was very distracted by drawing the frogs and was more worried about how good the frogs looked than solving the problem. He didn’t like doing it this way (honestly he’d solved it in his head when I read it to him). The next way he had to do it was write it out on a number line. So he drew his little “jumps” to four to show four frogs and then drew two more jumps to show the other two frogs, which brought him to six. Once he did that he had to write out the actual problem of 4 + 2= 6.

I hated doing number lines in school, but Josiah likes it. He also likes to count his fingers — this is the same concept as drawing it out because he’s seeing the physical correlation between the number and the quantity, but it’s less distracting. I’ve showed him how to do an addition problem three different ways and now he’s choosing and using the one or two ways that he likes.

OK, so on to homeschooling…

Common Core is primarily a list of standards and gives a new perspective on math — basically math builds on itself year after year so if you don’t pass Kindergarten math you can’t do 1st grade math well. The thing is, at least in Arkansas, homeschooled children DO NOT have to follow Common Core. Now, here’s the thing: The standards basically say what the student should know by the end of each grade. Honestly, Josiah has already surpassed many of his “requirements” for Kindergarten. He’s doing Social Studies and Science — neither of which are required subjects in Kindergarten. Not to mention the life skills and extra curricular things he’s learning. As far as teaching Josiah specific ways to do things, like in math, no I don’t have to follow those guidelines. I do not have to require that Josiah draw me a picture in order to solve a word problem. He only has to know how to solve it and explain how he solved it (and get the right answer). How do I know this? Well, I’ve already submitted my letter of intent to our local school district and on that letter of intent I had to tell them what curriculum I was using and I told them we weren’t using a set curriculum I was designing it myself. And you know what? They approved it. I’m not required to teach certain things a certain way.

Here’s the kicker though, a few of the homeschooling curriculums I’ve looked at state on the website that they’ve been following the Common Core model for years. YEARS! Common Core isn’t a new thing. This model and progression of requirements has been around for years, it’s just now within the past few years been adopted by different states as the model. So for those homeschooling parents that are worried about Common Core, chances are you’ve been following the model all along. Who knew?

A particular curriculum following Common Core is not necessarily a good or bad thing. A lot of good curriculums exceed Common Core’s requirements and some of them just do it a little bit differently. Curriculums are designed to meet the needs of particular students. Many Christian curriculums, like Apologia Science don’t follow Common Core guidelines because it is a Christian curriculum and therefore the science is taught quite a bit differently.

Kindergarten Language Arts…

I’ve heard quite a few people complain about how Kindergarteners are being required too much when it comes to Language Arts. There are public school teachers that are saying this.

*Here is where I insert the fact that my Bachelor’s Degree is in Writing and part of that was learning how to teach writing to children and develop curriculum. Before my major was writing it was education.*

The thing is, they are being expected to know more, but that’s because they are capable of it. They are learning writing in Kindergarten now. Josiah recently developed characters, a setting, story plot (with a problem and solution), and wrote his own story (I’ll post about that in depth soon). Since he can’t really read yet (aside from some three letter words) he drew the pictures, told the story, and I wrote it down for him. Even though I wrote it for him, it was still his story. Another type of writing he learned about recently was informative writing. We are working on creating directions and writing out processes for people to follow. The other day he drew (while I wrote) the three steps to making chocolate milk. It may seem silly, but this is informative writing. Hey, he’s already learning about it watching Special Agent Oso — you know, three special steps?

Teaching young children how to write isn’t impossible. They can grasp the concepts. Actually, it’s much harder to teach it to them later on. Do you realize that college professors in Freshmen English 1 are having to teach students about characters, plot, and informative writing? This is why standards are changing. Students are being ripped off with their educations. There are things that students should know by the time they graduate high school that is having to be retaught to them in college.

If you have more questions about common core, visit their website and it gives a lot of good information. One of the great things on their website is it gives a list of things the students are supposed to know in math and Language Arts by the end of each grade. This is extremely helpful for people like me who are developing their own curriculum.

Just like drawing pictures to solve problems doesn’t work for Josiah, there are going to be things that doesn’t work well for your child. If they are in public school, discuss it with the teacher, find them a tutor, or help them at home — be involved. If you’re homeschooling, don’t just accept the curriculum as-is, modify it to meet the needs of your child.

Like anything else, don’t take what you see on some random person’s blog or on a Facebook post as the final word. Research it. That’s why I posted the link to the official Common Core site. I will never intentionally provide false or dramatized information, but some people will. Always double check and research it for yourself and make an educated decision on the topic.




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