Friday, April 18, 2014

Quote About the SAT and College Readiness

From the book "SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps" by Shaan Patel of

The Big Myth

I have one serious issue with the College Board. The company claims that your performance on the SAT is directly related to your readiness for college: If you do well on the SAT, then you are academically prepared for college. In my view, and in the opinion of many others who have studied the test, this claim is false. 

Your performance on the SAT only measures how well you take the SAT. That's it! Your SAT score is no an indication of how smart you are. If your current SAT score is low, don't be discouraged. The SAT tests very specific subject matter, most of which you are not explicity taught in high school anyway. Nevertheless, the College Board maintains that the SAT is an excelent indicator of what you have learned in high school. They say, "[The SAT] tests your skills in reading, writing, and mathematics -- the same subjects you're learning in high school," "[The SAT] measures what you already know," and "If you take rigorous, challenging courses in high school, you'll be ready for the test." Nothing could be further from the truth.

A tough high school course load does not guarantee a good score on the SAT. The truth is, you can diligently train for the SAT, and you will find that most of what I will teach you in this book has not been taught to you in high school."

Emphasis is mine.

This is about the current SAT; the book was published in 2012.

I note that it does not seem that the edits to the SAT which are being written right now and are due to roll out in spring of 2016 are not in reaction to making it a more accurate indicator of what you know or your college readiness but is an attempt to fashion it after the ACT's style which is gaining more and more usage due to it's more straightforward question asking style and seemingly less trickiness. It seemed to me from what I read, that the goal is to stop losing money due to students switching to the ACT by making the SAT more like the ACT.

This author was a public school student who trained using his own methods and wound up with a 2400 score on the SAT. He wrote the book to explain his process, for others who want to train by themselves at home to help raise their SAT score.

A friend recommended this to me and I have just started reading it. I am not sure how this will help our family because so far my older son is not engaged in the SAT prep process and I understand that the motivation and desire must come from within the student. As an external influence a parent cannot make their teen do well, they must buy in, prep, study and practice. The parent cannot do the work for them.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Our Life and Education Priority List For Our Kids

Last night in a conversation with my husband, my younger son admitted to completely slacking off and not performing with his homeschool studies facilitated by me but asserts that he knows he's capable and would perform for a teacher in a class if he were in a school. So long as the work was of rigor and not stupid dumbed-down busywork.

Here we go again with the puberty - teenage developmental phase of wanting to separate from mother and both parents by seeking an identity of their own and living with more separation and independence.

And this is why we are again considering use of school, but this time, private school.


Our goals for our sons are:

To be physically and mentally healthy and well

To have good character and a value system, to be a good citizen, to be an asset to our society, to have an active role in the community

To be educated, to learn not just "do school" or grade-strive, to be able to think critically and logically, to be an independent thinker who can express themselves clearly

To be prepared for the next chapter after high school graduation that allows them to pursue the career of their desire, whatever that is: college or something else


If the above can be delivered by homeschooling, then homeschooling is a success.

If the use of school is what it takes to achieve those goals, then school will be used.

Parents may agree on the same goals but may find different paths to achieve those goals. Some kids achieve all of the above by attending public school or private school. Homeschooling is not the one right way. For other kids, homeschooling is the only way that these goals are accomplished.

We are not in competition with each other. I respect your family's choices, if the outcome is a good one. I don't respect bad choices made with poor results and accepting a bad situation though, if there are options available, I'd prefer to see parents choose the option that helps the child achieve the above goals. I understand that other families may have different goals or dreams for their children, but I have a hard time thinking that anyone would find fault with our family's priority list. I know some put grades above learning, or grades above good mental health or grades above physical wellness, I don't agree with that mindset.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

College Accommodations for Learning Disbilities

This is my response to a mother who asked for advice. She said her daughter has multiple learning disabilities and would qualify for accommodations at college but her daughter refuses to. The student wants to be normal and doesn't want to be treated differently. There was a harsh reply from someone who seemed to have no experience parenting a child with a learning disability. 


I am in the same situation so I understand. Those not dealing with it may not get it and some wind up sounding judgemental.

My son had testing. He jumped through the process with the community college for dual credit courses for accommodations with the disability office. They require hoop jumping every single semester with the disabilities office to receive a new letter stating the approval of accommodations. Then he has to meet face to face with the prof to produce the letter from and negotiate on his own behalf. (I, the parent, have no involvement with this process.)

My son hates being different. He refuses to use the accommodations! His include using Live Scribe pen, an audio recorder device, and a special grid notebook for the recording's documentation. He refuses to use the laptop for note taking. He also gets to turn in assignments late if he forgets a deadline. He does use that one when he remembers to ask.

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

My son said last week he would rather take a C or B than use his accommodations and get an A.

He, like some others, thinks accommodations are like cheating! I disagree! But tell him that!

He is having trouble studying due to his reading disability (reading the textbook) and the dysgraphia note taking by hand issue means he cannot hear the lecture while writing notes to study later. He is not taking written notes. So he's not learning all the material.

This is how some learning disabled kids think.

He managed two As so far. B- at present in US Government. (Update: he had it down to a C- and has made some changes and is back to a B-). He is 16, which may be part of the problem, being a strong-willed teen.

We say, "they have to own it" but some who preach it don't like the way our kids choose to do things when they do own it.

It is not our process to control.

Since my son is a minor and legally I am responsible for his education I am forcing him to get the accommodation at the community college and deal with  the prof to set it up. Then if he chooses to not use it, I am not happy but that's his choice. I am trying to guide him to actually learn (primary) and to get decent grades (secondary priority).

This attitude of hating being different and hating feeling defective is common according to our learning disability advisors and tutors, and according to his health care providers.

P.S. The negative words (defective, different) are his not mine. I would never say that a person with an LD is defective, but that is how my son thinks, and some others who have LDs feel the same way about themselves. If you don't believe me watch some documentaries about LDs and hear what kids and adults share about their feelings about themselves.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Son Was Admitted To a Summer Program

An update to this post: Pondering College Summer Programs: my older son was accepted. He will fly away on his own to another state to take a three week college course for 3 college credits while living in the campus dorms.

Our hope is that he will get a sense for what aerospace engineering is like and he can see if it's something he really wants to pursue.

Last week after talking face to face with the admissions officer for the third time, my son stated he is now considering a different major at that same college. My response was it is alright to change your mind now and it's also alright to change majors after you are enrolled at college, that 70% of college students change their majors.

This three week stay will also give my son an idea if he wants to go to that college at that campus and maybe also if he's open to other colleges in that state.

He's really excited about attending the summer program.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Considering College Options

My older son, a junior, wanted more information about right fits and possible majors for college. I ordered these two books published by the College Board. When they arrived I weighed them because I couldn't believe they were so heavy. Ten pounds of options.

Son took them to his bedroom and placed them on his new big bookcase. He has been looking them over on and off for two months. I'll take that as a good sign that he is taking more control of his future.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Reputation of Homeschooling Affects Homeschooled Kids

We may not like it but since we homeschoolers are such a small minority that what we do forms public opinion of all homeschoolers.

When I enrolled my eighth grader into public school I knew I was being judged on past experiences the staff had with homeschoolers. I felt confident in my son's academic ability and his social behavior to not have anything to be ashamed of. I felt my son would be a good example that homeschooled kids have positive qualities of character and that they are academically competent.

I realized when I pulled him out after just two days that I was also giving another impression of homeschoolers, one that was not positive, probably. I withdrew him via letter as the state law mandates. I did not say why I removed him so they have no clue what the reason is. It could be any number of things. They have no idea.

Too bad the schools do not allow a shadow day. It's what I wanted and they refused saying it would violate HIPAA law. Baloney, I say. A shadow day or two would have shown my son that school was not all that he thought it would be. However if I never enrolled him I would not have known reasons why I reject that public school. I have  more reasons now than before to keep homeschooling. That is, if he will actually do homeschooling and actually learn things.

I phoned a private school to inquire about admissions and the school after hearing complimentary things from a parent of a new student and also speaking to the student to hear his impressions and his happiness with the school. The headmaster has negative opinions of homeschoolers as she said that they have admitted them in the past and they withdrew after one or two years. She cited the "mothers did not want to let go of control".

I am annoyed that my son's possible admission or denial of admission to a private school could be due to past homeschooler's behavior. I would remind you that so far since moving to Texas I have not been able to find homeschoolers of like mind. It annoys me to no end that I am being judged based on others who act and live quite differently than I, and whose educational philosophies are not shared by me. My mind has been reeling about this since the conversation took place a week ago.

I can't wait for the tour of the private school. Perhaps I should take my husband with me so he can get an impression of the administration and the school and also so they can size our family up more realistically. I don't know. I am considering sending my younger son to high school of some kind in the fall.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Need More Hands-On Projects In Schools Like FIRST Robotics

In the last month I spent two weekends at FIRST Robotics competitions. Watching this team is inspiring. I don't just mean gameplay and the robot moving on the field. I sit in the stands where the team members who are not working in the pit or are not driving the robot sit and work. The scouting team is there watching every match and taking detailed notes. The media team is there taking video of each match and moving files to the laptop so the scouting team can watch them after dinner if they need to discuss or double check something in the notes. I see the team interact when they're together for ceremonies. I'm impressed.

Although donations from the private sector fund a large majority of the expenses for this expensive competition, the school's buy-in is critical. First and foremost the team needs space in the building in order to meet and store equipment. Before this school was built, this team rented space in an outdoor storage unit and worked out of that unit. (A friend's Irish Dance team in this town also did the same back then!)

Because this is a school team there are liability issues and a school staff member must be present at every team meeting. FIRST encourages the use of mentors from the community but there must be a school employee present. The school district's liability insurance protects the students while in transit on busses.

The school district cut $12 million from the budget last year. Thank goodness the STEM magnet school headmaster chose to not cut programs such as this one. She told me she realizes the importance of such projects.

It is hard to explain to someone the importance of these projects unless they have seen it in action. This team is not just about building a robot and using a remote control to do a task. There is engineering design work, use of CAD software, there is programming for the autonomous portion. There is a media team that takes photos and videos for historical documentation, crafts storyline and creates videos. For the Chairman's Award, some members do an oral presentation, write essays, and more. As the mission of FIRST explains a goal is to encourage the areas of STEM so there is community outreach such as creating and running summer camps for younger children, attending expos to demonstrate the robot to children, and helping new teams for JFLL and FLL begin. The team mentors other teams to help them get started. They also help each other such as practicing for upcoming matches together. Imagine helping your competitor? That's what happens in FIRST. At competitions the teams help each other repair robots, give needed parts, and other things, which seems to go against the competitive spirt but it's part of gracious professionalism and cooperation.

As a person who has worked in corporate America for a company with a strong team philosophy, I see so many things happening with FRC that happen in real life on the job. Since we do not have an apprentice based model in America for teens this is the next best thing to it.

I am grateful that this STEM magnet school has open enrollment so kids in other schools can join the team. It's a shame though that there is not a team in almost every school. Why is only this STEM school providing this opportunity? This is a town with a median income of $85K. We're not people living in poverty. And anyway, what about those kids living in poverty? Should they not all have a chance to do this kind of work?

I don't understand the mindset behind not encouraging more of this type of hands on project based learning and doing. The lead mentor said it himself, these kids learn more doing FRC than they learn in an AP science class. This is real engineering, real science. There's a challenge put forth, they brainstorm. They try things. Stuff breaks, they figure a fix, they try it, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't work. It can be stressful at a competition, the kids learn to process this.

It's amazing seeing these high performing kids in action. At present the STEM school rejects 3 of 4 qualified applicants (after pre-screening testing) due to limitations with staff and space. Really the school needs to quadruple in size, or expand even larger. We have all these STEM interested kids and no way to challenge their potential. The school requires one competitive team activity be done per year, and some pick FRC, even though it's the most time intensive one on the list. As I watched them in action I could see great leadership qualities in some. They can lead, they are intelligent, and they can work on a team. It's amazing to see teens being given a chance to do something difficult and to see them rise to the challenge. As I bask in the glow of being happy for them, and happy for my son, I think then to who does not have access.

The first problem is that the STEM school with its pre-screening winds up screening out some true gifted intelligence level students who suffer from learning disabilities. I do not honestly know if my son could have passed to get into the school, he did not try, because we moved here too late. The headmaster would not let him try for admissions starting in grade ten, when I spoke to her back then. One may argue that hands on work like this is even more important for LD kids. ADHD kids, even the hyper ones, may thrive with their ability to hyperfocus on a project that is of their interest, while they  may not have high enough grades due to missing deadlines on homework or trouble with taking written tests not truly reflecting their knowledge. In a robotics lab, a slow reader or a bad memorizer or a poor speller does not matter, those things are not needed or revealed through their hands on work.

The second problem is there are just not enough teams and opportunities. One may argue that this team is successful just because it's rare. The kids who wind up on the team and who are willing to put in that much work are the ones who really want to be there and who are thriving there. Those who are disinterested or who have a problem or two happen may quit or choose to not join. But just imagine if more of these teams existed? I choose to think that more good things would come of having more teams. You may argue that a team in every school would just create more mediocre experiences.

A third important thing to mention is the environment. When students are kept busy and interacting with highly performing academic students they have no time to be bored, no time to think that drugging or drinking is what they should be doing. These kids are busy, in a good way. Being at the competitions and seeing other kids performing well and acting kind with the FIRST "gracious professionalism" is a good influence. Talking to college reps at University Row at competitions and speaking with industry reps from the private sector at their booths is also enlightening. It shows these kids what happens after school, that they are desired by these colleges and that those employers value their FIRST participation. It shows kids there are open doors and options.

I don't know what the answer is about how to get more hands on work into schools. Homeschoolers also miss out sometimes, as this expensive (about $35K per year) activity is not something a group of parents can just whip up and run on a whim. I wish homeschoolers everywhere could have access to FRC teams. Back to the schools, the government created lists and rubrics for what should be learned does not contain so many of the things that participation in this team provides yet there is so much good being learned and experienced here which should be on those educational standards lists!