A Teacher Talks

This is a guest post by Kelli Karanovich. When Kelli told me that she used to teach school and is now deeply involved in the world of homeschooling, I was immediately interested in hearing her story. I mean, when I was growing up, people were constantly asking me if my mom had been a school teacher before she decided to be a homeschooling parent. My mom doesn’t even have a degree in education. I know. It’s a little shocking. But let’s hear what someone who does has to say about education, both inside and outside of school. This is Kelli:

I’ve worked in the public school system and the private school system as both a teacher and an adviser. I’ve worked in classrooms built of brick and mortar and in a 100% online environment. Today I’m self-employed as a homeschool consultant. My varied experience has provided me with several insights about education in America, from a teacher’s perspective, and I feel drawn to add these to the remarkable conversation taking place on Kate’s blog.

1. Public school is a great idea which rarely works as planned–A) because attendance is compulsory and B) because its driving principle of one-size-fits-all, standards-based learning will always leave some children behind.

2. There are some extraordinarily progressive teachers working within the public school system who manage to transform classrooms by meeting and then exuberantly transcending the limitations normally placed on this environment.  However, these teachers usually only hang around for 2-5 years.  After that, they leave to start private learning centers or to teach at the college level.  Many reasons are given to explain these changes, but the most compelling is that no one has the energy available to give so much to a typical public school classroom without severely jeopardizing their family life and personal health.

3. There are teachers who survive public school for decades and manage to provide a pleasant learning experience for many students. However, this experience is still limited in a way that will ultimately either bore or create a false sense of superiority in students who hunger for the kind of lessons which challenge them to evolve personally in ways which will ultimately lead to global enlightenment.

4. Private schools are usually more likely than public schools to seriously consider the term “global enlightenment” when choosing a curriculum structure.

5. However, private schools are increasingly dependent upon tuition alone to keep them in business, and sometimes the need to retain students makes pleasing parents more important than providing an authentic learning experience for their children.

6. Personalized education, such as that available online, provides a great opportunity for a student to create a learning experience that is both thought-provoking and directly applicable to his or her private life. However, personalized education also provides a great opportunity for students and families to become so involved in “customizing” courses that the students are required to learn little more than what they already know.

7. The success of homeschooling depends greatly on the enthusiasm, knowledge and focus of the parents creating the experience.  As with personalized online education, it has great potential–both for opening minds and for closing them.

Regardless of the program a family selects, community involvement is paramount to a child’s learning.  Get outside.  Volunteer to help others.  Create art.  Exercise.  Explore your connection to the Divine, however you perceive it.  Push the boundaries of what is ordinary. It’s these moments that create a child’s education and that allow learning to continue into adulthood.

Kelli Karanovich is a trained journalist, certified teacher and married mother of 3. Via her company Homegrown Learning, she helps homeschooling families nationwide create a well-balanced curriculum and offers a variety of super-cool extracurricular programs to all students. To learn more and request her services, visit http://www.HomegrownLearning.orghttp://www.MamaKelli.comand http://www.raspberryrelief.blogspot.com. You may also send e-mail tokelli@homegrownlearning.org

7 comments to A Teacher Talks

  • I find point #6 particularly salient. I hear about so many homeschooled kids who do nothing but write stories, play guitar and make art, and wonder if they ever spent enough time on math and science to even discover if they liked them or not! Getting to more deeply explore what one loves is terrific, and I’m all for artistic pursuits, but ideall each student should a broad enough experience to see all there is out there to enjoy!

  • Val

    I agree, you don’t want to shortchange a kid in math.

    If you’re not good at it, find someone who is to help them.

    Our issue has been dyslexic kids–that’s what brought us to homeschool in the first place.

    But they’re adept at math with the least encouraging, and that’s important.

    Others writing comes easily to.

    It’s good to know your kids’ strengths, and also the things they struggle with, and to help them strategize as they move forward. Observe a lot. Give them tools. love, Val

  • Joanne

    Interesting post, Kelli.
    Siggi,I have the qualms most parents seem to have about Math so I expect my boys to work through a Math program. However, an interest in Science is evident very early in life. Science is everywhere (as is Math, I suppose!) My eldest was fascinated by the earth sciences (geology, rocks, volcanoes, earthquakes), planetary science (he wore out a VHS copy of the BBC series ‘The Planets’), physics and biology from when he was a toddler. Its hard for children NOT to be exposed to science enough to see if they like it- they’d have to live a very sheltered life indeed!

  • I’d argue it’s hard for kids not to be exposed to math, either. I don’t see the need to forcibly introduce that one subject, which would almost certainly result in my kids deciding that math sucked. Why is math considered any more important than creativity, physicality, reading or history? It’s just a tool, ultimately. The kids get into a situation where they need it, they learn it, they see the point. Math doesn’t get this aura of mystery about it.

    This relates to the entire post, which I enjoyed by the way. I think too many teachers are unable to do what they feel is best because of administrative restrictions, poor working conditions, etc. Ultimately, schools are all institutions, and institutions rarely have the best interests of their inmates at the forefront, despite the lip service they may pay to the public. It’s about shuffling kids through the system, being efficient, being able to measure such efficiency, and being cost-effective. I don’t think this is good enough.

  • I have a huge math phobia so, in a desperate attempt to make it so my older daughters suffered from no such phobia, I forced them to do a math curriculum. Lo and behold, they hate math and avoid it whenever possible, just like me. Live and learn. My youngest daughter is benefiting from that lesson in that we are truly unschooling math. She has no fear when it comes to numbers and math problems that come up every single day. She will attack and figure out anything instead of having an alarm that goes off in her brain that says, “MATH PROBLEM! I hate math so I must panic now and shut down. The end. Does not compute.” That’s what happens to me and that’s what happens to my older girls. Such a waste.

  • Thanks, everyone, for your positive feedback! I’m so happy to participate in this blog. :-)I think FreeLearners is “spot-on” in stating, “Ultimately, schools are all institutions, and institutions rarely have the best interests of their inmates at the forefront, despite the lip service they may pay to the public. It’s about shuffling kids through the system, being efficient, being able to measure such efficiency, and being cost-effective.” This is EXACTLY what I’ve observed, especially when public schools are concerned. Children are literarlly individuals, and I believe that individualized instruction is best. Socializing children in a group setting is wonderful & necessary as well. However, this setting can vary (rec sports, dance classes, art collectives, environmental organizations, spiritual centers, etc.), again, according to the individual interests & needs of each child. The inspiration behind my consulting services with Homegrown Learning is to empower & direct parents as they create an individualized, balanced curriculum for their children.

  • Thanks for sharing your ideas. I don’t have the time I’d love to respond and share enthusiasm for your insights, so I’ll be choosy and respond to one I somewhat disagree with.

    In terms of #6, if they’re “learning only what they already know,” they’re learning nothing at all (obviously). I’d find it surprising for a student to explore a small handful of topics for years and years and never learn anything. I do grant your point that “individualized education” should not simply be a “bunch of stuff” the student “loves.” That said, if any curriculum or instruction is not within the students ZPD, and they’re given no scaffolds, boundaries, models, goals, or templates to promote cognitive development, that’s definitely a bad thing.

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