Basically a better curriculum, more time spent actually learning, and low student-to-teacher ratio.
If I could make three improvements to the current curriculum used in public schools (currently allowed by law), it would be to teach all children in Kindergarten to read using the SRA DISTAR reading method, daily timed math drills and the teaching of chess throughout elementary school. Currently, many Kindergartners in this country don't even learn the entire alphabet during the school year. And it is only a selected few students in each first grade class that meet with a special reading teacher to learn how to read. What about the rest of the kids? Alaska uses the phonetically based SRA Distar method and has 100% literacy. Because of SRA's proven success even with disadvantaged children, the Seattle school districts have all recently changed to the SRA curriculum. My children, and many others I've known have learned to read using this phonetic method with amazing results. While the other six year olds were still learning their alphabet, my son was reading 300 page novels. If public schools actually had an effective curriculum for their PRE-K, and Kindergarten students, they could all be excelling. If children do not read well, they will never do well in school. And nothing replaces timed math drills to solidify basic math concepts in a child's mind and gives them total proficiency in mathematical calculations. My son took the second grade California Achievement Test at the end of what would have been his Kindergarten year if attending public school. He finished all the math sections in less than 1/3 of the allotted time, with 100% accuracy, and never had to use scratch paper. I don't think he's a genius, I think it is because he has done a 2-4 minute math drill (Calculadders, published by PROVIDENCE PROJECT) of increasing difficulty every school day since he was four years old.
Playing CHESS has also been proven to raise both reading and math scores, while teaching critical and abstract thinking; developing logic, planning and analysis skills; improving concentration and self-image, and teaching good sportsmanship. What else can do all that and be so much fun? The New York City public schools have long recognized the value of chess, and new schools, such as the prestigious Princeton Charter School, have seen it necessary to hire a full-time chess teacher so that all their students would benefit from chess. Most school districts and home schooling parents don't understand the value of playing chess, and their students are missing out accordingly. All children would not attain the same levels with these curriculum improvements, but I think the difference would still be astonishing.
It is also a shame that most schools have become full time baby-sitters instead of institutions of learning. It seems that kids can't just learn, they have to be entertained. What a drain that must be on teachers. Some subjects can not be all "fun" and have a cute song to go with it. Kids can learn that learning itself is fun. And the actual time spent learning in the public schools is so low. You have recesses and lunch, transition time between each subject, and most of it is just time fillers instead of quality learning time. Homeschoolers kind of have the same motto as the Army, "We do more before 9:00 am, than most people (public school kids) do all day." .When homeschoolers are done with their "school work" they have time to develop and pursue their own interests.
And nothing can replace the one-on-one instruction that homeschoolers receive. For example, is your child's Kindergarten teacher sitting with them and helping them as they form each letter of the alphabet correctly? Was your child one of the only two students selected to meet with the first grade reading teacher? The best a public school could do would be to divide the students into group of 4-6, and have them rotate from subject to subject, almost like high school, so that all the students would get the benefit of small classroom instruction. But they would probably say that they can't afford that many teacher's aides. The early years of education are so important, that if I was going to spend my education dollars anywhere, it would be there. Does it really matter how many high school elective courses you offer if the high schoolers can't even read or make change for a dollar? If kids aren't doing well by the end of first grade, then the battle is already lost. Is it really any wonder why the majority of New Jersey fourth graders can't pass a proficiency test?
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