31 July 2008

Why Text Books review so much of last year

While Lana and I were loitering around hospital with Martin, we spent time with other patients and their parents in the children's ward.  One such lad who was recovering from a tonsillectomy was enjoyable company.  His mother wanted to make sure he didn't miss any of his schooling so had arranged to pick up his school books and find out to what page he was required to finish.
She was told that the rest of the class was up to page 34 of the Maths book.  The schools have just returned for Term 3 (out of 4) so we would have thought the class would be about half way through the book.  But the book has around 180 pages!
"Oh, we never finish the books," answered the lad, as if this was common knowledge.
Thinking back to our school days I remember we never finished our text books either.  No wonder the first 25% to 33% of each year's books review the prior year.  This is probably because the students didn't actually cover the topics being "reviewed"! 
Meanwhile, most homeschool parents stress over completing each of the school books.  We get the book, look at the total number of lessons or pages, divide by the number of school weeks and then proceed to do that much per week. As the end of the year draws near, the children see the book is nearing completion and wonder things like, "Hey, there are only 4 lessons to go.  I'll just do them now and I can put the book away!"
We explained this to the boy's mother and she agreed it all made sense to her.
Also, one of the boy's assignments was to write an essay on "How do you feel about ANZAC day?"
"What's ANZAC day?" he asked.
In Australia this is a sad indictment of the school and the parents.  It is comparable to a US student asking, "What's Memorial Day?" Why would the school give an assignment about a subject if it hasn't even been discussed or taught at school first?  And even then, what type of stupid assignment asks how you "feel" about the topic?  How can you be marked wrong?
So we once more find additional reasons to homeschool.


Anonymous said...

hello there :)

i agree with the lack of knowledge about anzac day in an aussie boy 11 years old being very, very sad.
but as for the assignment being stupid, i'll have to disagree.
contrary to popular opinion, education is not all about being right or wrong. its also about teaching children to express themselves, and asking a kid to write about how they feel about something is a good way to encourage them to develop their opinions and the ability to express cleary what they think about something and why.
such an assignment would also involve the teacher checking grammar and spelling, and finding out what the child still needs to work on.
just for the record, im a big supporter of homeschooling, i just happen to disagree that the assignment you mentioned was stupid.

genevieve :)

DavidofOz said...

Genevieve, looking back I think you may be correct - perhaps "stupid" was a bit strong.
Considering the topic of the assignment had not been covered in any depth, asking one's feelings on a topic with which one has no knowledge doesn't seem of great worth. It's a bit like asking "How do you feel about the price of fish in Upper Mongolia?" Without any context or knowledge one's opinion on the topic, no matter how grammatically or linguistically accurate, doesn't actually address the topic at hand.
If the teacher actually wanted to check grammar and spelling, why not give an assignment on something to which the child can actually give an opinion?
This type of assignment just encourages everyone to have an opinion on everything - both known and unknown, which does not lead to enlightenment or further consideration of the topic. It is quite OK to have no opinion about a topic due to lack of knowledge.
However, if the student wrote, "I don't have any feelings towards ANZAC day as I do not know what it is." I suspect the marks may be a bit low.
I think I should have explained my criticism of the assignment in more detail. Thanks for the comment Genevieve.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this to the Carnival of Homeschooling. :D

(The Homeschool Cafe)

Contessa Kris said...

I've discussed this at length with other homeschool moms and it differs depending on the family. I always think we should finish the books but have friends that follow what the schools usually go of 3/4 of the book finished. I feel like we're missing stuff when we do that! lol
I've added your blog to my homeschool's blogroll and would love to trade links if you like. I'll be back to read again.