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to-allow-technology-or-not

I used to be one of those mom’s that said no tablets for my kids or limiting the amount of time on them, but I changed my perspective. 
Here’s why…. 
Our economy, our culture, and our world is changing. 
Have you noticed how brick and mortar stores are closing? 
Did you know there are kids/young adults making 6-7 figures online creating videos, podcasts, becoming influential marketers on Insta/Snapchat, becoming YouTube famous or even playing VIDEO GAMES online while getting paid? 
Did you know mom’s are creating 6-7 figures from blogging about their passions? 
Or how about regular people with or without college education also clearing 6-7 figures via network marketing from social media? 
Technology is HERE to stay and it’s just the beginning. Our world is not what it was when our parents and grandparents were growing up. Hell its not even like it was when we were growing up. It’s different! 
I could continue to keep technology out of my kids hands OR I could embrace it and be their guide to understanding how to use technology as a tool. I could allow them to post things online without my guidance or I could guide them how to positively navigate on this wide open digital playground. 
This is their “career” training and it’s up to me to guide them. Lord knows our school system is NOT embracing this world. Most continue to fight it and continue educating likes it the 1800’s preparing our kids for factory work and college (which in my opinion is useless unless they inspire to be in a field that needs specific training like doctors). 
What I have found is that by letting go of the limits, the kids aren’t so obsessed with it. They are learning to balance their time between outside, using it to learn via YouTube and for play or using it as escapism. I’m not having to dictate this balance to them. (Obviously with the little one, I still do more of the dictating as we navigate through our daily schedule.)

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beforekindergarten

What your child REALLY needs before Kindergarten?
Schools out for the summer for the older ones and I bet many parents who are gearing up to send their kids to school for the first time are wondering what can we do to get them ready for Kindergarten. 
Alright, I’ve been doing lots of reading about this topic and every article I seemed to find said the same things. What I was finding was literally breaking my heart. So this is what I believe every child REALLY needs before Kindergarten. Don’t worry, I already know the Kindergarten teachers probably won’t agree with me and well, I don’t really care. ūüėė
1. PLAY 

  

      We are talking about babies still in the grand scheme of things. 3, 4, and 5 year olds are still so little. They need less worksheets, less flashcards, and more PLAY. I’m talking FREE, unstructured play. Let them move, explore, try new things, fail and learn. Play is how they learn. 
2. READ
   And by read, I don’t mean working on getting your little one to read by doing flashcards, memorizing words, or anything that makes your child sit and do worksheets unless of course your child actually likes doing those things. 
   No, what I am talking about is reading to your child. Read every chance you can get. Read lots of different materials like books, blogs, newspapers, magazines, signs, hell you can even read Facebook statuses ( appropriate ones of course ūüėā) or put the tv on mute and read the sub titles of their favorite show. Just read to them.
3. Get them OUTSIDE

  

    Go outside as much as possible. Let them run, scream, climb,and be able to feel the warmth of the sun, the breeze in their hair and the grass on their feet. Time outside will increase their ability to focus and all that fresh air will help them sleep better. 
4. Spend QUALITY time with them 
    Put the phones down, turn off the TV, leave work at work, and truly engage with your kids. Build that connection with them. 
5. Build Social Skills 
    Allow your child opportunities to safely and positively engage with new people of all ages. Get them involved with play groups, workshops at local museums/zoos, volunteer together, visit assisted living/nursing homes, etc. Get them around people of all different walks of life. This can help them to build social skills along with teach them empathy.
These are just a few things your kiddo needs before Kindergarten or school in general. So dear mama… relax. Your child will do amazing. ‚̧ԳŹ

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mstep-testing-parents-guide

It’s beginning to look a lot like testing season here in Michigan. State-testing begins next month for Michigan’s public school students. This a parent’s guide to M-STEP testing from a teacher’s perspective.

A Parent's Guide to M-Step Testing Title picture
What is the M-STEP?

The M-STEP tests are our yearly state-wide assessment in Michigan that measures how well a child has mastered the common core standards at their grade level. Essentially, the M-STEP is the old MEAP tests you may remember taking if you were in the public system in Michigan.

When does M-STEP testing begin?

Children in grades 3-11 will be given some form of a state assessment. The window for M-STEP testing begins in April and ends in June. The state dictates when each test will be given for each subject and for each grade level. Essentially, tying up a schools technology for the remainder of the school year.

What subjects are covered? 

It truly depends on the child’s grade level. Children are “required” to be tested over English-Language Arts which covers Reading, writing, listening, and research. In grades 5 and 8, there are two parts to the test. There is the computer test and a performance task. Grades 3,4,6, and 7 have just the computer test.

This test is a computer adaptive* test given at grade level. It’s key that you as parents understand this test is NOT given at your child’s individual reading level, but at their grade level. So if your child struggles with reading, this test will be an extra challenge for them. There is ZERO assistance from the teacher. They cannot help the child in anyway. No reading words, very limited help on student questions, and no defining words they don’t understand. Yes, accommodations can be given if they have a 504 Plan OR an IEP, but I will explain more about those later.

*A computer adaptive test will adapt to each individual child’s level. For example, if a child gets so many right, the questions will get harder and the opposite happens if they miss them. The test questions will get easier. Please don’t miss understand this though… the test questions regardless of level will still ONLY remain inside the child’s GRADE level. It will not adapt beyond grade level for children who excel and it will not come down grade levels for children who may be working below their grade level. It still is NOT a true representation of a child’s knowledge.

Children are also tested over math in grades 3-8 and it also is a Computer Adaptive test. It also contains a performance task on the computer which means children are asked to preform a question in order to show what they know. For example: children could be given a number problem and then they need to drag the correct number from a number box and insert it into the problem.

Science tests which are simply online multiple choice questions are given 4th and 7th grades. Social studies are also online multiple choice questions are given in 5th and 8th grades.

Who takes the M-Step?

M-STEP testing is required for students in grades 3-8th grades in public and public charter schools take the tests every spring. Non-public schools can elect to take the M-Step test, so this includes any private schools. Homeschool parents can also elect to take the test, but I’m honestly not sure why you would. I gathered this info from here.

What about High School students?

9th and 10th grade students take the P-Stats and 11th grade students take the MME which includes the SAT and M-STEP math and English Language Arts. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of info on these tests because I have no previous experience at the high school level.

What about Test Results?

First let’s begin by who scores the tests. Well, that seems to be a mystery at least to me. Michigan’s Department of Education’s website offers no links and after a quick google search the only info I seem to be finding is info about how schools preformed on the test. Hmmmm… interesting?

Is it the computer scores the test? If so, who is in charge of double checking the computer is scoring accurately? If not, then who? I know some test companies hire people specifically to score tests because I’ve actually personally have applied for these type of jobs since being home as well as have seen the ad on job search websites. If you have found info on this, drop the link in comments. Personally, as a parent I’d like to do more research on this. As a teacher, we were never actually told, but I do remember having to tell my students to remember they don’t who would be scoring their writing, so be detailed as possible.

When does test scores get released? 

The scores are released much faster now due to the online component. However, they are still released at the END of the year, so how is this really helpful for teachers. In my opinion, it’s not. The teachers won’t be able to adjust their teaching to help each individual student or group them because the year will be over.

What does the test results mean to parents?

Well, let’s look at test scores first. The children are scored on 4 levels. Not Proficient is the lowest score and this means the child is not performing near grade level. Think of this as a D grade. The next level is a Partially Proficient and this would be like a C grade. This means the child is slightly below grade level. The next level is Proficient, so this would be like a A. The child is mastering grade level content.Finally, the last level is advanced and this means the child is excelling past grade level content.

The thing about M-STEP testing results is neither the teachers nor the parents receive the exact questions they missed, so they can help the children with the concepts they missing. This also means we don’t know which ones they preform well on, so we can challenge them more in this area. The only thing both parents and the schools receive are info on the numbers. In fact, if your child takes the test you can be expecting a piece of paper printed with 4 different colors. Yup, in a world where budgets are tight the school will print out one test result paper on color for each parent. This seems like a crazy waste to me… but that’s my opinion.

Test Results for the parent's guide to Mstep testing
How to read test scores from the MDE

What If My Child Has Special Needs?

The M-STEP testing does allow for accommodations such as the computer reading some testing items, multiple day testing, testing in special ed setting, testing in small groups, and many others. This should be outlined in your child’s IEP.

There is also a different version of the test for those who children who are functioning much lower than grade level. This test is called the MI-Access.

However, I would just opt out my child from M-STEP testing altogether.

Can I opt my child out of testing?

YES and YES at least in Michigan! In fact, I highly encourage you to consider opting your child out, but first check with your state and district requirements. We have chosen to opt out our oldest. The process was very simple. Check out our blog on the process here.

The opt-out form for state testing
My best advice to you as a parent is educate yourself about state testing through your own research. Then consider what is best for your child. It’s our job as parents to stay informed and advocate for them.

I would love to hear what other questions you have or what other info I should add to our parent’s guide to M-STEP testing?

Resources:

http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,4615,7-140-22709_70117—,00.html

A parent's guide to m-step testing title picture

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Over the past 4 years, my views on education have really changed. During this 4 year span, I began expanding my world view by reading books and watching Ted Talks by some of my newly found mentors. The first of those people I discovered was Gary Vaynerchuk.

*This post contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a small commission to help support my blog when you order from my link. 



If you are unfamiliar with Gary Vaynerchuk, Gary is an influential entrepreneur who understands how to use the internet to market and build businesses. Gary Vee as he is known has written books on marketing with social media, speaks as a key note speaker, and runs successful businesses.

So how did Gary Vaynerchuk help shape my view on education?

Gary has spoken candidly about being a young entrepreneur and how school wasn’t a good fit for him. Check out his video on his up bringing here.

This really made me think about my students and how many of them were just like Gary. They struggled with grades, but yet had so many strengths in other ways. Yet, we, as in the school system, often looked down upon them because they had missing assignments, failing or almost failing grades, and often seemed like their were unmotivated by the work…. which they most likely were because it didn’t appeal to their interests or strengths.

Gary Vaynerchuk hosts a Q and A show called #AskGaryVee where he takes questions from viewers via social media or call ins. (Seriously, if you are at all interested in starting your own business or want to know more about how to build your current business, then I recommend you check out his show here.) I decided to ask Gary a question about how we as teachers could create a thank you type economy in our schools despite curriculums and government mandates. My question actually made it on his show… #74 at 4:03. Check it out below to hear Gary’s response. I remember I was so geeked to make his show.

 

Not only did my question make his #Askgaryvee Show, but my question also made his book,¬†#AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s View on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness. The book is comprised of questions that were asked on his show. I found this book even more useful than his other books. You can check it out here.

Here’s another #AskGaryVee episode where another teacher asks about education.

 

Check him out….

Gary Vaynerchuk’s view on life, business and self-awareness continue to teach and inspire me. If you haven’t heard of him yet, I strongly urge you to check out his YouTube here along with his website here.

Oh and if you are serious about doing that thing you love and creating your own business, then I also recommend Gary’s other books.

Crush it: Get your own copy here.

Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Get your own copy here.

Thank You Economy. Get your own copy here.

***Gary, if by chance you are reading this, I took your advice to heart. I left public school teaching and I started this blog and social media accounts about documenting my journey with my kiddos as we begin using ¬†natural learning and self-awareness to help them discover their passions and life purposes. My goal is to inspire them to become problem solvers and build careers around their passions and strengths. I’m creating my content on how to use natural learning to support all children in and outside of the system by offering my expertise in the area of education and sharing what I do with my children. Thank you for your advice. Much Love!

Gary Vee Books:
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privatization-betsy-devos

Privatization means something  different to many. It means something different to the superintendent/school board who hire them to replace a service, the company who earns profits from the service, the people who are employed by the company and to the children and staff who interact with the company employees on a daily basis. The people who it should really mean the most to are the parents and tax payers of the school district. 

Privatization in the public schools

Here in Michigan, the privatization movement started to really take shape about 6 years ago. I was beginning my 2nd year of teaching in a new district when I first heard about the concept. The district had made the switch from school employed custodial staff to a privatized staff.

Along with district privitazing custodial staff, the RESD which oversees the entire county had privatized bussing. They weren’t alone, the district where I lived also hired out to a company to handle their bussing needs. It actually was the same company. 

So why do districts use privatization?

It comes down to simple math really. It’s more efficient or in other words it is cheaper. When the school hires employees directly, they pay higher wages, pay insurance benefits and offer a form of retirement most of the time. By replacing all the costs (aka as replacing the employee) with one lump sum to a company, they cut costs from their budget. 

Cutting costs in the public schools is super important. Why? Because funding from the government and student population have drastically decreased over the years. This is forcing school boards and superintendents to find ways to cut costs.

Benefits of Privatization?

Other than saving the district money, I don’t see any other benefits. I’m pretty sure the district could find other ways to help offset the costs starting with superintendent and assistant superintendent salaries. However, that’s a discussion for some other time. 

Privatization hurts morale of the staff and the community. The school system used to be a respected place to work that paid middle class wages, offered insurance and some form of retirement. Now those jobs have been replaced by low (minimum wage/poverty level) wages and may or may not offer insurance or retirement. This creates high turnover and even could lead to possible safety issues which both affect our children. 

Other issues? 

When I was in system, we found that the custodial staff was limited more on what they could do to help us vs. when they were school employees. I saw two amazing people lose their jobs simply for going above and beyond for helping the teaching staff. The company didn’t want them interacting with kids or helping us clean up after our popcorn sales. 

Wait? Did I just say they aren’t allowed to interact with the kids? Yup, I sure did. I would love to see the big wigs at the company be in the cafeteria with our little 5 year old kindergarteners asking them to help open milks or clean up their spills constantly just go on about their cleaning and ignore them.

They are often given unrealistic expectations with unrealistic time frames. This can create issues in the building that affects children. Classrooms might not be cleaned as well as they should be or even sanitized properly. The custodial staff who may want to do a good job feel pressure and stress from their bosses to fit it all in and won’t be allowed overtime to do an adequate job. The overtime which is an added expense for the company will not only ensure cleanliness in the classrooms, but also provide extra money for the low paid workers that truly could benefit their families. 

One last issue I want to address is what happens when the company continues to raise their rates? The district is either forced to pay more or replace the company with a new one. This means people without jobs, new employees around our children, and new expectations around the building. 

Not to mention, some companies provide different services which could create added expenses. For example when the district I mentioned earlier switched over to outsourcing, the district  didn’t realize the company didn’t cover plowing which the previous school employeed staff did. This meant the district had to scramble in December to find a separate plowing company to plow. Another added cost to the district. 

What does this have to do with DeVos?

Well, she and her other supporters of private/charter schools including our very own governor have been working tirelessly for years to defund and increase mandates that will allow our public schools to fail. These very mandates are an enormous reason why I couldn’t stay in public ed and at this point won’t be sending my children to public school.  These funding cuts along with declining populations and ever slow changing school systems have allowed for privatization of many important people to our schools. 

Where are we heading? 

Personally, I see a lot more outsourcing in the education world. Companies such as Edustaff here in Michigan have already taken over custodial staff and substitutes. I foresee more districts to follow the outsourcing path if they haven’t already. 

But what is really scary to me is I am thinking these companies will eventually take over our public school teachers. They will employee teachers at lower pay and maybe offer some form of benefits like 401K and a less than stellar insurance plan. 

Why do I think this? 

1. More profits for the company and it saves districts money. It’s a win/win for both the company and districts. 

2. During the Detroit Public Schools crisis, the government attempted to allow non-certified teachers to be allowed to teach in the schools. Systematically, the government is known for trying things in more poverish areas like Detroit to test their ideas before taking it mainstream. If companies take over teaching staffs, this very well could be part of what happens. After all, the districts already use scripted programs which make lesson planning and “teaching” a lot less complicated.

3. We are currently under a teaching shortage, so this maybe a way for them to combat the shortage. This could be especially true if they ever are allowed to hire non-certified teachers for the positions. 

In conclusion, outsourcing is bad for our schools, our community and even worse for our children. I’m sure districts could find ways to help offset costs by simply starting from the top down and finding ways to be more frugal (i.e. Doing away with all the useless busy worksheets or consumable workbooks that waste paper, energy to copy and money or finding ways to become more eco-friendly to save costs). We need our school leaders to start thinking outside of the box to save the public schools because EVERY child deserves the best education. 

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technology-meets-play

There are some educators, parents, and bloggers who feel technology is harmful for our kids and they should only have access to open-ended toys. I, however, believe that our children need a realistic harmony of both technology and open-ended play.

Technology and play balance is beneficial

Here’s why….

Today’s economy is much different than it was 20 years ago and it will be drastically different 20 years from now. Technology is changing almost every aspect of our lives and it will continue to do so. In fact, 65% of our children will land jobs that have yet to be created (success performance resolutions).

While open-ended play is amazing and I’m a huge advocate for free play and kid-powered toys, I think we are doing a disservice to our children if we don’t teach them how to use technology. Technology will ultimately be apart of their life forever.

Technology as a Tool

I’m not advocating for screens to be used simply as a means of distraction, escapism, or as a “babysitter”. What I am advocating for is a healthy balance of technology as a tool. Technology is a great way to help them create, locate information, think critically about information, learn to do something new, solve a problem, and/or find their voice.

Don’t Forget The Play

I am a strong advocate for children to have time to be children and just play. There are so many benefits of children playing freely especially when that time occurs outside in nature. Children learn to create, use their imaginations, develop crucial skills like fine motor, problem solving, and collaboration skills just from unstructured, free play.

It’s worth mentioning that I’m not talking about adult-led play or play opportunities that have to meet certain objectives. Adults can invite children to join them in what I call explorations like Play Dough, painting, or other similar explorations. The key is keeping it child-led and allowing them to create their own play within the exploration. The main thing is keeping the play unstructured. This will help encourage kids to use their own imaginations.

When Technology and Play Come Together

When both play and technology come to together in harmony for a well-rounded balance, it can really boost children’s skills and passions. It gives them even more opportunities with different mediums to create, helps them develop problem solving skills, collaborate with other children both in person and from around the world which means even more access to children who are different from them, and boosts communication skills along with language/vocabulary. Children are also preparing themselves for a successful career. They are also learning how to be a contributing citizen.

When technology and open-ended play are in balance with one another, children benefit greatly. We as parents need to lead by example by finding a healthy balance between technology and play. We also may need to assist them to create a harmony in the beginning. This will keep from one out weighing the other. However, if I had to choose between the two of them, I would lean with more play.

Technology and play is beneficial for kids
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studentengagement

Is it about true student engagement or compliance?

I know I’m going to catch some flack here from fellow teachers, but I’m going to be brutally honest with you anyways about what’s truly being measured in today’s classrooms. Is it student engagement or is it compliance? This is solely my opinion on how things are operating in the public schools and by no means am I undermining our fabulous teachers in the classrooms. This is more about the system and what they are told they have to do by administrators, superintendents, publishing companies, and government mandates.

Today, many school districts use set curriculums with many of them being scripted. In other words, everyone on the same page at the same time. Each child no matter their reading level or interest is reading the same exact story and the teacher  reads from the script in the teacher’s manual which also provides the day’s lesson plans. Heck it even lays out the entire unit and tells the teacher exactly what and how to teach.  How exciting right?

Did I mention these programs come equipped with worksheets too?

As a teacher this drove me batty and I HATED it, but I began to notice things happening in the classroom and in our trainings for the new “amazing” curriculum that was going to boost our lagging M-STEP scores. Well this was the line given by the publishing company that our district bought hook, line, and sinker.

In my short 7 year career as a teacher, all I heard about was student engagement. Mainly how to improve student engagement in the classroom. However, I began to notice we were actually doing the complete opposite in the classroom.

We weren’t actually looking for our students to be engaged, but rather looking for compliance from our students. We weren’t suppose to care whether or not they are ready for the lesson developmentally or even whether or not they found the lesson to be of interest to them. I was giving “Blue” or Responsible Thinking sheets out to students who weren’t completing their work during classtime. Students were choosing to not do their packets of worksheets which created a large number of students with missing assignments and failing grades. Heck we even tried to bribe, oops I mean reward, students with field trips and fun days for both No Failing grades and No Missing Assignments. Even this didn’t help to improve our student engagement.

What? Wait a minute here. How can “Blue” sheets and fancy rewards increase student engagement? Isn’t this actually used to get kiddos to comply with doing their work instead of them using their internal desire to learn aka be engaged with the lesson?

See to me, it’s more like we were measuring student compliance rather than truly finding ways to engage our students. Shouldn’t we be helping our students discover their passions, discover their purposes, uncover problems they want to solve and help guide them to finding answers, enrich their lives with truly meaningful information and not just basic info they can Google on their phone in seconds then expect them to memorize and regurgitate for the upcoming multiple choice test?

What’s really expected of teachers? 

But we’re not…. we are expected to do the dog and pony show, create a stellar attention getter for each of our lessons, create behavior plans for those who don’t comply repeatedly, use fear of getting into trouble, grades- both rewarded for A’s and fear of failing grades, fun days and field trips for rewards, question if a child has ADHD or needs medication simply because they are off task during the lesson, or have a child looked at for special education if a child isn’t engaged with lessons.

*Yes, some children do have ADHD, some need meds, and some need special ed services. I’m not going to debate any of these issues. My problem lies with using these as an excuse for noncompliance without first looking at the curriculum and whether or not the child finds it important to them. Is it of interest to them? If not, then the lack of engagement might be the curriculums fault. *Insert Gasp

How is it we don’t look at this first? Rather we blame the child like it’s their fault. I challenge you to find a topic you find boring and then be “engaged” with it 100% while someone lectures you on it. No day dreaming, no doodling, absolutely 100% engaged with the lesson the entire time. Never mind the fact that you maybe hungry, got into a fight with your best friend or any other experience that might interfere with your engagement.

Again, I’m not here to slam teachers. I worked with some pretty fabulous teachers in my career. It IS the system that I don’t agree with, not them. The education of our children is the most important thing in the world, but our current system is failing many of our precious children. I couldn’t change the system from inside. It is just too big and way too messy. So now I want to educate parents on other, more supportive ways they can guide their children to be life long learners beyond the preschool- 12th grade system.

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natural-learning-with-toy-trucks

Natural Learning to me is simply when children, or adults even, use their interests to learn. Our little Scout loves toy trucks. She loves to push them across the floor while saying vroom vroom. She also loves sitting or attempting to sit in her large Mega Block CAT dump truck.

*This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links mean I may earn a small commission which helps support my blog when you purchase from my link. There is no added cost to you.

Scout is naturally drawn to her trucks, so this makes natural learning opportunities widely available.

A girl playing with her toy trucks in the window
We love our set of 5 Plan trucks that include a mni garbage truck, mini roller, bulldozer, mini excavator and mini fire engine. These mini trucks are made out of wood and offer many different learning opportunities. Not to mention are non-toxic and the company cares about the environment by using environmentally friendly practices according to their Amazon description.

These trucks offer hours of play and really keep her attention because she loves trucks. When she’s busy playing with her toy trucks, mommy and daddy can sneak in some learning opportunities. Get your own Plan mini trucks here.

Plan Toy Trucks being used for play
Here’s some ways we use the trucks to develop skills with her toy trucks….

1. When she pushes them around the house, she’s building her gross motor skills or developing her large muscles. She really cruises around the house with these.

2. When she pushes them side to side, picks them up, or pushes the buttons to make them work, she’s developing her fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are the development of small muscles. This development will help her with her writing skills later on.

A girl playing with her toy trucks
3. They offer language building opportunities when we sit and play with her. When we call the trucks by the name, she’s hearing new vocabulary words. We can describe the trucks while playing which helps build her color identification skills and other descriptive language skills.

4. The toy trucks offer plenty of imagination play. Scout can use them any way she wants too. Pretending to be on a construction site, building a house with her blocks, racing them around the track, or digging in the dirt.

A girl playing with her toy trucks and Mega Block farmer
5. One of the most important skills for her and all toddlers to work on is problem solving. Scout can work her problem skills through using the toy trucks and learning what each button or feature does. For example, the bulldozer has a button that lifts the “blade”. She also builds her problem solving skills by simple playing with them. Some times she gets them stuck on something, “debris” has fallen into her road (aka toys that have been left on the floor), or any other situation her toy trucks put her in.

A girl playing with her toy trucks
How does your child use toy trucks for play?


5 Ways Natural Learning Can Be Supported by Toy Trucks


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more information. 
Other Plan Toys

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betsydevossecofed

*This is strictly my view on Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education. My view has been shaped as a former public ed teacher and as a mom and natural learning advocate.

Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education

Our Public Schools Need a Change

I know it may seem like I have something against public schools, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I am a huge advocate for the best education for ALL children. I am against the current approach in the system, but not the schools themselves.

Personally, I feel our public schools need to be completely overhauled. We need to focus on the true needs of 21st century children who are being raised on the cusps of this new technology era and stop educating them like it’s the beginning of the industrial revolution…. because it’s not.

If we truly want our children to compete in the current global market, then Betsy Devos is not the answer to our prayers. In fact, she is the scary monster in our nightmares.

We need a leader who understands this new revolution and how to improve our public schools, so every child has the guarantee of being educated as a human being with strengths, interests, and life purposes instead of cogs on an assembly line. Children deserve to be viewed as an individual and not just as a data number or profits to companies itching to roll in the dough with Betsy DeVos’s plans.

What We Need

We need less of everyone on the same page at the same time and more natural learning, creativity, and discovering of life’s purposes. We need to stop this career/college readiness focus and start asking our children what problems in the world they want to solve and then begin the conversations of careers and college. Our children deserve the end of the one size fits all mentality and more realizations that ALL children are different. This means everyone from politicians to teachers acknowledge and respect that some children will need to go to college in order to  fulfill their life purposes, some will become entrepreneurs creating businesses around their life purposes, and others will be 9-5 workers, laborers, etc. Each career as equally as important to the college required career. We need to see that success needs to be valued differently.

Betsy DeVos is not going to bring about the change that we need to see for our children, grandchildren or future children. We need the education publishing companies and their lobbyists out of public schools. We need more creativity for our children and to allow teachers to do what they do best… Mentor and inspire our children to be life long learners all while guiding them to find their life purposes.

Remember this not only affects public schools, but universities as well. I just hope the changes she makes over the course of her new position won’t dramatically effect future generations for a long time, should she be confirmed by the Senate. 

Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education

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assess-natural-learners

Are you looking for some ways to assess natural learners?

3 Ways to Assess Natural Learners
When most people hear the word assessment, they automatically think of testing. Whether that’s the standardized state testing or those lovely multiple choice tests that most of us who are products of the public school system so fondly remember.
But we don’t have to use a test to assess our natural learners…

In fact, the teacher in me HIGHLY recommends avoiding a multiple choice or any test of any kind to assess natural learners.

So what does the word assessment mean? 

“Educational assessment, the process of documenting knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs” -Wikipedia

Testing is one of the ways to assess natural learners. It is a way of documenting your child’s knowledge.

However, there are far better ways to assess natural learners.

So what are the “Best Practice” assessment approaches?¬†

*Best Practice is a term that is constantly used in the public education world. Googles definition says:

best prac·tice
noun

commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective

1. Projects!

     Yes, simple projects are a great way for children to show you what the know. Naturally, the children should be able to decide what kind of project to do and how they want to create it. This will take some openness or trust on your part as their parent.

Many teachers use projects in their classrooms, but MOST (notice I said most, not all teachers) tell the children what they must create and what topic they must create it on. They have rubrics designed to grade the project which tend to dictate how the project should be done in the eyes of the teacher. Occasionally, you will come across teachers who truly embrace differentiated instruction and will allow children to take total control of their project, but again the topic is usually dictated. Schools that really embrace individualized learning will encourage students to relate projects after researching topics of their own choice.

Here are some project ideas….

  • models
  • Paintings/drawing
  • Write songs
  • Create a video
  • Write a blog post/article
  • Create a podcast on the subject
  • Create a skit/play

-The list is truly endless when children use their passions and imaginations. This is just a few ideas to give children if they aren’t sure where to begin.

Basically anything your natural learner completes from an art piece to videos can be used as an assessment. Be sure to hang up examples of your children’s work in your learning environment.

2. Notes

Anecdotal notes are perfect for assessing your natural learners. Anecdotal notes are…

“Anecdotal notes are used to record specific observations of individual student behaviours, skills and attitudes as they relate to the outcomes in the program of studies. Such notes provide cumulative information on student learning and direction for further instruction.” – Learn Alberta

Anecdotal notes are simply notes you take about your natural learner. Things to include are things you noticed about their behaviors toward their chosen subject or exploration invitation*, their attitudes towards learning about the topic, or their skills they are learning or have mastered. These will help you track what to continue in their learning journey, what to stop learning about, and where they are with skill development. It’s also a great way to keep documentation of learning if you need it for homeschooling state requirements or for your own records.

Notes can simply be recorded into a journal if you prefer paper/pencil or you can use technology like tablets, laptops, or even your smart phone.

*Exploration Invitations are simply things I do to expose my children to new topics, play, or interests. For example, planning a trip to a new museum or setting up a play dough, paint, or life skill “center”. I dislike the word center because it reminds me of centers that I used in teaching which often were adult-led/worksheet centers. My explorations now are so much more child-led and designed to expose the kids to new possible interests. If it’s something they enjoy, we will do it again and if it’s not, we simple move on to the next thing.

3. Pictures

Pictures are an amazing way to showcase and document their learning. I use this one a lot with my kids. Whenever we are doing something, I snap a picture or two. These can be put into a portfolio* or displayed around your learning environment. It’s an easy way to document the whole learning process of your child. Plus they usually love having their picture taken.

*Portfolios are simply a way to collect your pictures to document growth of skills and learning. They don’t have to be fancy unless you want them to be. A simple hanging folder system , binder or even a scrap book can work wonderfully. It’s all about what works best for you and your child.

Pictures can be used as ways to assess natural learners.
Scout has mastered building a 4 piece tower.

 

Assessing your natural learner doesn’t have to be done by testing them. There are several other options that can give you even more knowledge of their skills and provide documentation.

What ways do you assess your natural learner?

3 Ways to Assess Natural Learners

 

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