Lesson Planning: Digital vs. Paper

Author’s Note: I am an independent contractor who does work for Well Planned Gal. I was not hired to or asked to write a blog post about planning with their products on my blog, nor am I receiving any kind of compensation in exchange for doing so. I have been using their paper planners for the past 9 years, and talk about them in this post because that’s what I still use today for my own homeschool planning.

I’ve been up to my eyeballs in lesson planning this month. New Book Day for us is on September 2nd, so after finishing up final grades and sending off reports back in July, I jumped right into making sure that I was ready for the upcoming academic year. Well, as ready as I can be!

I’ve been using the Well Planned Day paper planners since Munchkin was in first grade. I still am too attached to my paper planners to give them up completely! A few years ago though, I added the My Well Planned Day online planner to my planner line-up. While having a nice paper planner on my desk for day-to day reference is still my preference, I’ve been surprised by just how helpful the online planner has been, and can’t imagine not using it at this point.

My Well Planned Day does require some extra time and effort to set up before the beginning of the school year. There are some lesson plan add-on options that will let you “plug in” pre-planned assignments so that you don’t have to type in anything. These are wonderful, but they aren’t an option for every course that I use. For the ones that don’t have an add-on option, I create the course and then add assignments myself. This does take a fair amount of time for a full year of assignments. In the past, I’d avoided planning out a whole year at a time on paper because inevitably, something happens that requires shifting things around. If you’ve written out a year at a time, then it really is a headache to try and update the paper planner. With the online planner though, I can move things around with just a click or two of my mouse! I can also see when our projected finish date is for every course we’re working on. That’s a huge help for staying on track through the year. I can enter grades for assignments right in the online planner, and things like grade reports, attendance reports, and even a high school transcript are generated for me. This is a wonderful feature when I’m getting semester reports put together. The student log in option has been perfect for one of my boys. He much prefers digital planners, so being able to log into the website on his mobile device and check off his assignments is perfect for him. (He can only see his assignments and check them off as completed though. He can’t add grades or delete assignments from the student log in!)

So, why do I still use the Well Planned Day paper planner if the online planner has all those helpful features? There’s something about me that still loves paper, pen, and beautiful planners. Since we do a year-round school schedule, we take every seventh week off. I transfer lesson plans to my paper planner in six week blocks. That way I’m set for the block of classes between breaks, but if something changes our schedule, there’s not too much to shift around. I personally prefer having a paper plan to refer to throughout the day, rather than needing to log into my planner account. You can print assignment lists and teacher lists from the online planner, but the paper planners are spiral bound and truly beautiful.

If I had to pick just one, I’d probably switch to the online My Well Planned Day. For now, I’ll keep using both! But what if you don’t want to use both? How do you decide which is a better fit for you?

Pick the paper Well Planned Day if:

  • You would rather plan with paper and pen
  • You want to record what you’re doing as you go along instead of planning everything out ahead of time
  • A physical planner that’s beautifully designed helps you stick with planning and record keeping better than a digital planner
  • You don’t mind calculating semester grades yourself as long as you have pages to keep track of the grades and attendance for each semester
  • You’ve tried digtial planners and calendars and they just aren’t a good fit for you
  • You don’t want to enter a year’s worth of assignments up front

Pick the My Well Planned Day online planner if:

  • You are comfortable using digital calendar and planner tools
  • You want to plan your whole year ahead of time, but still maintain the flexibility of updating and changing plans as needed
  • You want a planner that will calculate attendance, grades, and even generate a high school transcript for you
  • You want your students to be able to log in and check their own assignment list
  • You want a paper sheet to refer to each week, but you don’t mind printing off a weekly assignment list to hang up or put in a 3-ring binder
  • You don’t mind investing the time to enter a year’s worth of assignments at the start if it means saving time while still being able to be flexible later on

If you still aren’t sure which planner is a better fit for you, head on over to Well Planned Gal and check out the options. There’s a Peek Inside button under the description for all of the paper planners that shows you an online preview that you can “flip through” to get a good idea of the page layouts. You can also sign up for a free 30-day trial of the online planner. You don’t have to enter a credit card, so there’s no sneaky auto-renewal at the end of the trial!

If you have a question about how I use either of the planners, leave a comment, or use the contact form to send me a message. I’ve been using these planners for years, and I’m always happy to answer questions about them!

What about you? Do you prefer paper planners and calendars, or are you a digital planner?

Book Review: 30 Days to Understanding the Bible

Because the FTC has nothing better to do than make life difficult for us bloggers, I’m required to disclose the following at the beginning of this post: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation, and the opinions expressed, whether positive or negative are completely my own. Personally, I’m waiting for sponsorship disclaimers from all of the politicians in DC, but I’ll probably be waiting a long time…

30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders caught my eye for a couple of reasons. First, I liked the idea of brushing up some of the basics that I’ve learned over the years in a way that put the bits and pieces together into a well-ordered overview. Second, I thought this could be a great resource to use with some of my older kids in their studies.

30 Days to Understanding the Bible is part book, and part workbook. I’m not typically one who writes in books very often, but this is one book where you really should do the exercises and the self test at the end of each chapter. Because of this, if you’re using the book as part of a group study or homeschool class, you’ll ideally need a separate book for every participant. (I preferred FriXion pens for the exercises because they are erasable and didn’t bleed through the pages.)

The chapters are short, and you really can go through them in about 15 minutes on your own. If you’re going through the chapter as part of a group though, there’s easily enough material to discuss in a chapter to make a longer session though! In addition to the 30 chapters, there is a section with extra information, teaching helps, and several bonus chapters. (The one comparing the four gospels is interesting!)

Starting out with a list of the books of the Bible and what genres they can be grouped into, 30 Days to Understanding the Bible truly does start with basics and build from there. Even though I’d memorized the books of the Bible and knew the key events and people of the different time periods, I appreciated seeing those things brought together in this manner. I’m also glad that he included geography as part of the book. It’s never been my strongest suit, and going through it in this book finally gave me a better grasp of exactly where things happened.

Whether you’re completely unfamiliar with the basics of the Bible, or you’ve been in Sunday School all of your life, 30 Days to Understanding the Bible is worth going through. I definitely plan to add it to our curriculum plan for homeschooling!

When to Ditch the Curriculum

No matter how long you’ve been homeschooling, picking curriculum can be tricky. The problem with having so many options for curriculum now, is that there are so many options! How do you pick one, and how do you know when to ditch one? You can do your best to read reviews, get advice, and preview curriculum online, but even doing all of that doesn’t guarantee you’ll end up with something that fits.

If a curriculum, no matter how popular, takes a child who previously loved a subject and makes them hate it, then it’s time to seriously consider switching. I started out teaching my oldest to read with a popular phonics curriculum, and it brought both of us to tears on many occasions. It was when my daughter finally declared, “I HATE reading!” that I woke up enough to set the stupid curriculum aside and just go back to reading aloud to her for a few months before trying something different. I now joke that I’m the only homeschool mom who doesn’t like X curriculum! I could add a few others to the list too though. There’s a popular science curriculum that I just can’t make myself like. Two years of it has taken my Munchkin from a girl who wanted to be a chemist, to a girl who doesn’t like science very much. That’s how I knew for certain that I needed to shop for something different to use this fall.

Sometimes, you’ll carefully research, order a curriculum, and then once you have it in hand… there’s a sinking feeling that you’ve made a mistake. That happened to me with the history curriculum I picked out for Munchkin’s Freshman year of High School. I had such a hard time choosing one, but I finally settled on one and ordered it. When it arrived, I was underwhelmed. I set my doubts aside and started planning for the fall. The more I planned and read, the less I liked the textbook. I pushed through and made copies of the worksheets and tests. The more I saw of this curriculum, the more I didn’t like it. At. All. Too many times the text seemed more concerned with pushing their opinion on the reader, rather than actually talking about history. The daily reading assignments were far too short for a high school level course, and there were no projects or writing assignments at any point in the year. The tests… well, there were a lot of reasons why I didn’t like the tests. The thing is, I spent the money and bought the curriculum. I didn’t want to waste the money, so I kept pushing forward. After talking to my husband and trying to envision using the curriculum for a year, I decided to find something better. Yep, it still irks me that I spent that money on a curriculum that I’ll likely never use, but my daughter is going to end up with a much more robust year of history because I chose to pick something different. I can’t bring myself to regret that! I’d rather “waste” a few dollars and have Munchkin keep loving history, than stick with something that’s going to make her start hating the subject altogether. Know when to listen to your gut feeling about a curriculum! You know your kid and you know yourself, and it’s better to pick something else before the start of school than to get part way through the year and have to make a switch.

I could have made the history curriculum that I ordered work. I could have added in supplemental reading, created writing assignments throughout the year, and written new tests to go with the text. It would have been a significant time investment and I still would have had a course that I wasn’t fully happy with. I honestly considered that option and even started making a list of documentaries, books, and other resources that I could add into the course. I looked at a few of the chapters and tests and tried mentally writing up a new test. If we had already started the year, then I may have done just that. Discovering the issues with the curriculum this summer, before we started school, gave me the option to find something better though. (This is one reason why pre-reading the curriculum that you ordered is a good idea!)

There are times when a mid-year switch is unavoidable. When Munchkin was in 6th grade, the math curriculum that I’d used since she was in 1st grade just wasn’t working anymore. Six weeks into the year, my husband and I agreed that it was time to switch. That’s the only time so far that we pulled a mid-year swap in curriculum, but I don’t regret it for a moment. There was a lot of discussion put into that decision, and we told our daughter that she’d have to put in a fair amount of effort to make sure she finished the new math curriculum in the time left. I can’t tell you the relief it was to her and to me, when we made the decision to switch. In that case, it’s not that the curriculum we had used was “bad”, it just required a lot more hands-on teaching time that I could devote at that point. That coupled with the lack of adequate review in that level just made it something that no longer fit our needs. Jumping to a new curriculum mid-year is definitely not my first choice, but in some cases, it’s the best one.

While there are circumstances that warrant a mid-year change, it should be the exception and not the rule. First, take a look at the reasons why something isn’t working well, and see if there’s a way for you to modify part of it and make it work for the rest of the year. If you’re not making a habit of curriculum hopscotch and you honestly can’t make a curriculum fit with your family’s needs, then make the switch and don’t feel guilty. If you discover serious problems with a curriculum before your academic year starts, then so much the better!

Teens and Work

To work, or not to work? That’s a question that everyone has an opinion on! When it comes to whether or not teens should get a job, the options are as diverse as the opinions. Just as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to homeschooling, neither is there an answer to this question that’s a perfect fit for every family and teen.

 

When navigating the question or working during the teen years, the best place to start is by having a conversation with your teen. Discuss their goals, dreams, and their plans for the years after high school graduation. All of this will help you both zero in on which options will best support those plans.

 

Also important is helping your teen understand their strengths, weaknesses, skills, and how those relate to the best kind of work for them to pursue. Someone who is outgoing and good with people may shine in sales, while a more reserved, quiet person would bloom in a more behind-the-scenes job. Ambitious teens whose “stubborn streak” gives them the perseverance to keep working hard through difficult circumstances just might be the next successful entrepreneur. One with a real talent for music and a desire to make a career out of their passion could be best served by signing up for extra music classes instead of that part-time job. Share your own observations with your teen, and help them look at themselves and their abilities objectively.

 

With so many options to explore, your teen is bound to find one that works for them.

 

Traditional Job

There’s something to be said for a job that allows you to “punch a time card” and collect a steady paycheck. Learning to be on time for your shift, accepting direction, and receiving feedback about your work gracefully are all benefits of working in a traditional job situation. If your teen works best when following instructions and receiving guidance from someone else, then a traditional job with a manager directing them and setting their work schedule is a good option.

 

Advantages:

  • A job provides steady hours, usually with a schedule set ahead of time.
  • A consistent paycheck allows teens to save up for a car, college, travel, etc.
  • Opportunities for advancement are available based on performance and hard work.
  • A teen is able to explore a particular industry further before committing to further training or education.
  • Companies may offer full or partial reimbursement for college courses taken by employees.

 

Disadvantages

  • Schedule may not be flexible, thus limiting the ability to participate in other activities.
  • Minimum hours required by their employer may not leave enough time for their studies.
  • Transportation to or from work may be problematic if your teen does not have their own car, or access to public transportation.

 

Odd Jobs

How many of us gained our first work experience by babysitting or mowing lawns? There’s always someone who’s willing to pay for services such as this, and picking up odd jobs allows a young person to work as many or as few hours as will fit into their schedule. If your teen works best independently and has developed strong time-management and scheduling skills, then odd jobs may be the perfect fit.

Advantages

  • Odd jobs provide flexibility in scheduling, allowing a teen to work more or less based on their needs.
  • This type of work allows a teen to translate skills they already have into a profitable work opportunity.
  • Teens can gain experience in scheduling and negotiating rates with clients.

 

Disadvantages

  • Unpredictable income makes it more difficult to budget spending and saving.
  • Availability of work is dependent upon word of mouth referrals or advertising.
  • One unsatisfied client can negatively impact a teen’s ability to pick up more odd jobs.

 

Family Business

A family business offers a rare opportunity to gain experience in multiple aspects of an industry. In a given week, a teen might be working in accounting, management, customer service, and more! If your teen has an interest in areas of your business, and they work well with family, this could be a good option.

 

Advantages

  • This option provides more flexibility in scheduling than a traditional job, while maintaining the accountability of working scheduled hours.
  • Teens have opportunities to learn and explore various aspects of business without switching jobs.
  • This option provides good preparation for a teen whose career goal is to take over the family business one day.

 

Disadvantages

  • Pay may not be as high as an outside job.
  • Working with the people who you already see all day, every day may cause extra friction in family relationships.

 

Starting a Business

This option has a lot in common with picking up odd jobs, but would include sales, manufacturing, and other options that don’t quite fit in the odd jobs category. For teens with an eye on entrepreneurship, this is an excellent way to test the waters before they have to rely on their income to pay the rent! If your teen is disciplined, organized, and has the perseverance to not give up when the going gets tough, they may be an excellent business owner. It’s not a good fit for teens who need a lot of direction and tend to procrastinate.

Advantages

  • Anything from jewelry-making to raising chickens can be turned into a business venture.
  • A teen gains valuable, real-world business experience.
  • Local business associations may offer mentoring programs or scholarships for young

business owners.

 

Disadvantages

  • Typically, capital must first be invested to get a business up and running.
  • There’s risk involved, and a business may not make a profit, or even recoup the initial investment.
  • The time required to run a successful business may not leave adequate time for required studies.

 

Temporary Job

Holidays and summer months frequently provide temporary job openings. If your teen wants to earn some extra money and gain job experience, but can’t commit to a regular part-time job schedule, then a seasonal job might be just right for them.

Advantages

  • A temp job allows for trying out various types of jobs over the course of the teen years because each employment period is short-term.
  • Temporary openings may lead to a long-term job in the future if an employer is impressed by a teen’s work.
  • A fairly predictable income amount allows for saving towards a particular expense.

 

Disadvantages

  • Scheduling for seasonal employees tends to be the least flexible. If employment is over the holidays, this may mean a teen won’t be able to participate in family plans for the holiday.
  • As it is short-term, a temporary job may not be sufficient to cover expenses if your teen’s goal is something along the lines of purchasing and maintaining a car.

 

Volunteer Work

This is one of the options that won’t earn your teen a paycheck, but that doesn’t mean there are no benefits! If your teen is passionate about a particular cause or industry that they can’t find part-time employment in, then a volunteer position might be their best option.

Advantages

  • Volunteer work looks good on college applications, scholarship applications, and even a resume!
  • Teens can gain experience and make contacts in the field they desire to have a career in.
  • Some organizations may place priority on applicants who are volunteers when hiring paid positions.

 

Disadvantages

  • There’s no paycheck attached to volunteer work. This is problematic if your teen needs an income or wants to save for college.
  • Some volunteer positions require a sizable time commitment that may interfere with studies. It may be tempting to justify letting education suffer because the volunteer work is helping others.

 

Academic Focus

There are valid reasons to eschew working or volunteering in favor of keeping a focus on academics during the teen years. If your teen struggles with health issues or learning disabilities, then concentrating on their education without the distraction of a job may be best for their health and their future. If a teen’s plans for college are dependent on receiving large scholarships, then it may make more sense for them to focus solely on academics.

Advantages

  • A focus on academics can result in less stress due to overscheduling.
  • Teens have the ability to focus on music classes, sports, or other interests.
  • Dual enrollment courses require a significant time commitment that does not always fit well with a side job.
  • Better grades and test scores increases opportunities for scholarships.
  • More time may be spent applying for scholarships and studying to improve SAT or ACT scores.

 

Disadvantages

  • An academics-only focus doesn’t allow for saving towards a car or college tuition.
  • It may be more difficult to find a job in college or after college due to lack of previous work experience.

 

Your Decision

Look at all of the options, and help your teen brainstorm how each one might benefit them. Keep in mind that what works for one teen may not work for their sibling. A combination of more than one of the options listed here could be ideal for your teen, or maybe even something that’s not on the list. Don’t be afraid to let them explore various ideas, and maybe even fail at something! There’s nothing that says you can’t change course mid-way through the teen years if it turns out one option isn’t working, or if your family’s circumstances change.

The teen years are full of change. You get to see your child take their first steps towards launching into their own career and becoming more independent. Whichever path your teen chooses, your guidance and encouragement are still needed in these decisions – even if that looks a little different than it did when they were younger. Enjoy the journey!

 

Start TODAY!

We start the school year off with shiny, new curriculum, perfectly organized planners, and the determination that this is the year when everything will go smoothly and according to plan! By the time January rolls around, life has happened. The new grammar workbook doesn’t work for your 4th grader, algebra is giving your freshman and run for their money, the toddler has caught every stomach bug and cold known to man, and you haven’t even looked at the planner in the last few weeks…

This is where it’s tempting to just chuck the planner and call whatever happens to get done good enough. Truthfully, most of us do better with at least some kind of structure to work with. How do you achieve that though when you are so far off track?

I’m going to give you four strategies that have been invaluable to me over the years.

1. Figure out where to start today.

Don’t worry about “catching up”. Figure out what point you’re starting out at right now. Decide what’s a reasonable amount to get accomplished today, write it in your planner, and then do that. Keep your goals manageable. Now is not the time to try and jam eight spelling tests into one day. Do the same thing tomorrow. Progress does add up, as long as we’re consistent about making progress! Keep your planner or to-do list on your desk, table, countertop – anywhere that you’ll see it often and be reminded to work on the next thing on the list.

2. Decide where to go tomorrow.

You’ve checked off your tasks for today, now you need to figure out where you’re going tomorrow and beyond. Sit down and determine what truly needs to be finished by the end of the year. Again, don’t try to cram in a bunch of assignments right now so that you can be “caught up,” but figure out how much you need to do each week, then break that up into daily assignments. Write out your lesson plans accordingly. Don’t forget to look at your family calendar and plan around any events, appointments, and the like. Add in a few buffer days, too, so that when something unexpected comes up, you aren’t completely thrown off schedule. Two tools that help me adapt and adjust are using the online My Well Planned Day planner and using erasable pens when I work in my paper planner. My Well Planned Day makes it easy to adjust our lesson plan schedule as needed, and writing plans in my paper planner using erasable pens means that I can adjust there too without my planner looking messy.

3. Take a quick look at yesterday.

I know that I’ve been telling you to focus on today and plan forward from there. We do need to take a tiny peek backwards, though, to get our record keeping up to date. Basic academic records are important whether or not you’re required to report attendance and grade transcripts to an umbrella school, organization, etc. These records will give you a picture of how your child is progressing and areas where they may need some more help. If your curriculum includes tests, writing assignments, or any sort of graded project, you’ll want to record all of the grades for those. If your curriculum doesn’t include those, then just make some notes about what your student has learned and how they are doing. Don’t overcomplicate it! Just get the grades and notes written down.

4. Make regular planning appointments with yourself.

Schedule a weekly record keeping appointment and a monthly evaluation and planning session. Keeping your records up to date every week is far more manageable than trying to do it only once or twice a year, and it helps you keep a better handle on your child’s progress.

Monthly check-ins have become a wonderful tool for my own planning, and I actually look forward to them. Sit down with your planner and a notebook. Make sure that you have all of the appointments for the upcoming month listed in your planner. Then, look at the progress that’s been made over the past month and jot down what you have gotten done. Take a close look at what worked and what didn’t so that you can adjust your plans for the upcoming month accordingly.

No matter where you’re starting out today, you can make progress and move forward. Stop worrying about what you haven’t gotten done and decide what you’re going to do today. Write it down and then go do it!

Well… That Didn’t Go as Planned…

I’m big on plans. I have more planners and checklists than I probably need. In the immortal words of Hannibal from The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together!” Plans I can do, adapting when everything goes sideways? Not as much…

I felt so optimistic about the start of this school year. I had stuff figured out, and this was going to be a great year. The new books were stacked neatly on the table, cupcakes baked and frosted, and everyone excited to get started. It was all going according to the plan. Until one of the kids turned an alarming shade of pale in the middle of our lessons and said, “Mom, I feel like I’m going to be sick…” A bit later, a second kid did the exact same thing. That was most certainly not in the lesson plan. I soldiered on with the other two, hoping that a bit of rest on the couch and saltines would do the trick with the two on the edge of illness.

I discovered that I have a child who is wonderful with numbers, but would rather have his teeth pulled then work on learning to read. Intellectually, I understand that not every 6-year-old is quite ready to be reading proficiently yet. The avid reader in my finds this frustrating though.

By afternoon, the two kids on the couch had more color and were feeling well enough to finish their lessons. And that’s when I discovered that copywork was going to take one of my kids a really long time. Not because he struggles with his handwriting. He has some of the nicest penmanship of any of us, myself included! Rather, he seems to have inherited my easily-distracted personality. The more simple and un-challenging the task, the more distractible I am. Sorry kiddo, didn’t mean to pass that particular thing on to any of you.

We did manage to get everything done that day that we needed to. Let’s not discuss what time it was when we finished. Today, we’ve managed to be done by about 2:30. (The kid are anyway. I still have to check math assignments for today. No, I’m definitely not procrastinating by blogging…)

We’re off to a rocky start, but it is a start. I keep looking at the verse I wrote on a post-it note and stuck to my monitor. The first line of 2 Corinthians 4:16 is going to be my motto: “Therefore we do not give up.”

Has our first week gone according to plan? Not even close. Have we accomplished the things we needed to? It may have taken a while, but yes. Have the kids learned things this week? Definitely.

OK then, we’re not giving up. As I tell my kids, probably more often than they’d like to hear, the best and most rewarding things I’ve done in life have been the hardest and required the most work. We’ll put in the work, say a prayer for strength (and sanity), and we’ll just keep going.

How has the beginning of the academic year gone for you? Let me know in the comments!

We did get to do a pretty cool experiment on day 1 that involved a 9v battery, copper wires, and a water/baking soda solution. It was interesting to watch and gave me an excuse to raid my IT staff’s tool box to borrow something to strip the shielding off the wire ends! (Note: If the science book tells you to use scissors to strip the shielding off wires, it’s WELL worth it to find someone you can borrow an actual wire stripping tool from.)

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Summer, Printables, and Checklists

Technically, we do year-round school. However, we take the month of August off, and the other two summer months typically boast shorter school days because at this point we’ve completed the curriculum for some of the subjects. You know what that means, right? Kids get bored. Someone in a local homeschool group shared a link to a “Summer Rules” checklist that kids have to complete before using electronics. I thought it was a cool idea and a good way to keep the kids busy doing productive things once they’ve completed their schoolwork. Here’s a link to the blog where you can find the printables at Thirty Handmade Days.

I’ve filled mine in by hand, but there’s also an option for a list that’s already filled out and ready to go. I liked the pre-filled list, but decided to print out the blank one so that I could tweak it just a bit. (Of course!) I definitely want them to keep up with reading every day, and doing something that’s creative/educational. The kids are all doing their own laundry now, but since it’s new for some of them, I thought sticking the reminder to check on it would keep them from suddenly having no clothes to wear. The item about bringing Mom coffee was added just to make everyone laugh! (I don’t think I would actually trust anyone to make me coffee!)

I also noticed some of the other printables offered on Thirty Handmade Days and really liked the Summer Reading Challenge Bookmarks too. I laminated one for me and each of the three older kids. I told them that anyone who gets all of the circles on their bookmark punched by the end of the summer will get a special prize! Naturally, they wanted to know what the prize was, and I told them that it was a special surprise, so they couldn’t know yet. Actually, I’m not sure what the prize is yet! I have a couple of ideas, but if anyone has a great suggestion, then please leave a comment!

For chore ideas I just check my Clean Mama calendar or seasonal checklist. Clean Mama has a great list of printables too, and I just loved both of her books! (Can you tell how much I like checklists yet?)

So, do you love printables and checklists as much as I do? In any case, let me know what your summer plans are in the comments!

Questioning the Legality of Common Core

I honestly don’t care what the standards laid out in Common Core are. Some sort of federal educational standards have been around for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, Common Core, or whatever catchy name they come up with next, it’s basically the same ideas with a new brand. The reason why I oppose all of them has nothing to do with the standards themselves. You see, the federal government has absolutely no jurisdiction or authority when it comes to educational standards. The federal Department of Education cannot legally exist if we look to the Constitution.

First, let’s clear up a common misconception: The United States Constitution does not grant you any rights. Rather, it’s an employee manual written to the federal government. It details the responsibilities and authority entrusted to the federal government. The Bill of Rights details a number of inherent rights that they are prohibited from interfering with or infringing upon. The Tenth Amendment also clearly states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution details the specific powers that are in the hands of Congress. Nowhere in that list is education even hinted at. One might argue that the Department of Education falls under the Executive Branch, but as the Executive Branch is only to implement law as passed by Congress, and not write their own law, that’s not a valid argument. The Executive Branch cannot act outside of law passed by Congress, and as Congress has no jurisdiction over matters of education, neither one can enact any sort of binding educational standards.

My problem with federal educational standards has nothing to do with the content of said standards. It has everything to do with the question of the Constitutional legality of the very existence of any federal educational standards.

It’s no secret that a fair number of public schools fail to meet the minimums of any one of the DOE educational standards over the past few decades. What no one can seem to agree on, is what needs to be done in response to that. A change in the amount of federal funding the school in question receives is one idea, but that brings us to another sticky legal issue…

This will of course vary from state to state, but according to Article 8, Section 1 of the Maine State Constitution – “…the Legislature are authorized, and it shall be their duty to require, the several towns to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public schools…” (Emphasis mine.) According to the law in Maine, public schools must be solely funded by the towns, and may not accept funding from the state or federal government. In short, if the town is paying the tuition, then the town should decide which standards the school must meet. Admittedly, the public schools in Maine do accept state and federal funds for their operation, and are thus in violation of the Maine Constitution. We can’t pick and choose which parts of the Constitution we’ll follow though. We must either amend it or follow it, and laws or regulations that do not align with it need to be repealed immediately.

Ultimately, the responsibility for a child’s education lies on the shoulders of the parent, and to an increasing degree as they grow older, on the student themselves. Whether a student is enrolled in public schools, private schools, or is homeschooled, parental involvement in education is key. No amount of government grants or educational standards can change that… and neither should they try.