Why I’m Homeschooling My Kid in Science Next Year

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Thu, Jun 28 - 3:13 pm EDT | 10 years ago by
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    NotebooksIt’s no surprise to me that Colorado’s public school system is not good. I mean, I’m a product of the Boulder Valley School District and I can tell you first hand that it’s not great at preparing one for college, or anything for that matter.

    So, it shouldn’t come as a big shock to me that I need to pick up the slack for what my sons are NOT learning about science in school.

    My first experience with just how bad things were occurred back in the early 1990′s. I was giving a presentation to some 5th graders when I asked the question: “When did the United States first land a man on the moon?”

    No one raised their hand. In fact, most didn’t know we had ever been to the moon, and of those that did know, a substantial fraction doubted that we were there at all (parents were probably moon-landing-hoaxers).

    And I have a TON of stories like that.

    Fast forward to this last school year. My 7th grade son is a very good student, gets A’s in just about everything. He LOVES science, especially astronomy (imagine that) and he and I have great conversations about what the universe is like and what it’s like to be a scientist. He eats that stuff up so I know he does his best in his science class.

    Yet, throughout all of last year, his grade in science was C-. In every report card.

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    He was devastated because he knew how important science is to me and he always thought he knew science better than all of his classmates (and I agree with him, I’ve met some of those kids. Let’s just say critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to them).

    Getting that C- consistently really took a toll on him, he couldn’t understand what was going on. He really knows his stuff and always scored well on tests.

    Naturally, I talked to the teacher to investigate.

    It turns out my son IS a good student, DID understand the material and WAS way ahead of the other students in his comprehension of the material.

    BUT, he couldn’t organize his science notebook.

    “I’m sorry, he can’t organize what?”, I asked.

    “His science notebook. He failed the notebook checks. They were worth 100 points each, almost 80 percent of his grade.”, the science teacher calmly explained with a huge smirk on her face.

    “What does that have to do with science?”, I asked, but by then I knew what was going on and that I wasn’t about to get anywhere. I left the teacher conference furious.

    I’m all too familiar with this kind of teacher. She was a stickler for organization. All materials had to be inserted in the notebooks EXACTLY and each item had to have the name in a certain place, with the information outlined EXACTLY as specified.

    Now, I understand the need to teach kids organizational skills, I really do. But to make it 80% of a grade?

    What this teacher really wanted was the students to do all of her work for her. She didn’t want to have to search through reams of paper to try and figure out what the student knew. She just wanted to open the notebook and start checking off the existence of items, each containing the proper words so she could get through the grading as fast as possible.

    She wasn’t the slightest bit interested in whether or not the kids learned anything, only that the notebooks were in proper order.

    This isn’t all though folks, not by a long shot. I mean, I could let that go if that were the only issue because he would get a different, and hopefully more competent teacher next year.

    But in Colorado, all students are required to take the Colorado Student Aptitude Test (CSAP), as part of the Leave Every Child Behind Act. This means that all school year until March, but especially from January to March, my kids are getting immersed in that test. The teachers do NOTHING ELSE but teach that test.

    Then, after March, when the pressure is off, the teachers pretty much coast through April, May and the first part of June. This is the only time when my kids have a real chance at getting a useful education, and it’s wasted because “Whew, we’re done with that test.”

    The CSAP is the only thing that is actually measured, so everything else, like the actual education itself, is ignored.

    I simply cannot allow my kids to come out of the education system in Colorado without learning basic science and developing their critical thinking skills. As a parent, I take full responsibility for my kids education, so I’ll do it myself.

    So, every Tuesday and Thursday of the next school year, I’ll be pulling my then 8th grade son out of class for his last period (along with his friend and three other homeschooled students) and teaching them science.

    How can I do this? Why would the school let me take the boys out like that every week? Because so long as the boys are in class for a certain percentage of the school day, the school gets the credit for them and they get paid. The principal told me that’s all they care about: getting paid. I could do whatever I wanted with them in science as long as they met certain minimum knowledge standards.

    Standards they do NOT hold themselves to, by the way.

    No problem though, I can meet those just by spending one hour in front a telescope with them.

    The two days I’ll have them at home will be spent teaching, discussing and working on science topics with assignments to do on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I picked those two days to meet because of the seemingly infinite number of three day weekends the kids get in school for ‘planning days’ and other holidays. This would minimize any missed days due to that bullsh*t.

    So now, I get to spend the rest of my summer planning a science curriculum for my son and his friends. You can bet it’ll be heavy on astronomy, but I can guarantee you that, based on what I’ve seen so far, they’ll be WAY ahead of their classmates by the time I’m done with them.

    And I couldn’t care less about the state of their goddam notebooks.

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      • http://astroprofspage.com Astroprof

        Unfortunately, this is not an unusual tale. It is science teachers like this who are the reason that some of my college students who have always made A’s in science can’t pass the introductory sciences courses in college. Most likely the problem is that the teacher who is teaching the science class is not a scientist, but rather was an education major who took science for education majors in college. I’d dare say that your son probably knows more science than she does.

      • http://www.astronomybuff.com Tony

        Yes, this is an excellent point. I’m sure this teacher got the job because of a couple of classes she took while getting her teaching certificate.

        You know more than most how poorly prepared our kids are for college, I too was woefully unready for college just out of high school, I had to go through much to get myself ready.

        There is no way in hell my kids won’t be getting a good science background before they apply. Even more importantly though, they need to be taught HOW to do science. They need to know how to ask questions and look for answers; what questions are worth pursuing, and to recognize bad analyses when they see it.

        I want kids who grow up to be adults who think for themselves…

        Thanks for the feedback AstroProf, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you and what you do for your students.

      • http://scifijedi.com Shannon

        I think this is a great idea, and one more parents should consider. So many parents leave it up to the public school system to dictate what their kids should know and the best way to go about teaching them. Parents know their kids far better then a teacher ever could. Unfourtently, many parents are happy with the cookie cutter education system, many parents are happy letting their kids learn just enough to get a decent job and barely get by in life. Sorry, I guess I’m hitting rant stage. I should really consider switching to decaf. Just wanted to let you know that I think you’re doing a very valuable service not only for your kids, but for the extra ones you’ll be taking on as well.

      • Corey

        I work with people very much like this teacher and they really make you want to jump off a cliff some days.

        I can build elaborate and elegant software and correct the mistakes of a half-dozen other programmers, but some chair warmer three cubicles over can tell me my project isn’t completed because I didn’t fill out a form that isn’t even relevant to my project? “Just put N/A for all the fields on the form.” I have to fill out the GUI form for a piece of software that runs strictly on the server with no UI?


        I know exactly how you feel. Too bad that’s the way it is. Maybe your kid should be in that class AND learning from you, since he needs to know how the real world works, eh?

      • http://www.mywaiora.com/132674 George Wade

        How the real world works was brought into the Physics class by a superb teacher who had us all doing experiments: UK, Grammar School, 1952-7. Real experiments: 1954-7.

        You must be planning experiments; measuring errors; relating to theory and virtual experiments… Good homeschooling.

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      • sollipsist

        You’re all missing the point. Schools are preparing our children to enter the real world, which is all about pointless bureaucracy and pleasing authority- or, at least, avoiding the attention of said authority as much as possible. Kudos to this science teacher for effectively conditioning a whole new crop of semi-conscious rule-followers!

      • ANON

        I think with the recent decline in anything valuable to the growth of society and escalation of greed.This has caused the areas responsible for providing youth with the skills and knowledge to improve society to no longer be available. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Government was some how involved what with recent happenings. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

      • Mitch

        I won’t even address this teacher’s problems, but I would like to address something in the original post that sparked this conversation:

        I don’t care if students don’t know who landed on the moon, or even when or if it ever happened. Actually, I do care, but I see it as a Social Studies issue rather than a Science Education issue. I suspect that the teacher described has colleagues that would be happy if their students knew all kinds of “Jepordy!-style” information, but couldn’t form or identify an investigable question. This may be an even bigger problem in science teaching and, sadly, it is a problem that exists among teachers who actually have degrees in science and not in teaching — i.e. many High School teachers.

        What we need –because everyone is not capable of supplying their own children with the science learning that they don’t get in school–is a partnership between scientists and educators that will provide the education community with priorities, approaches, strategies, techniques and rationales for effective science teaching and learning. This has been started in the National Science Education Standards (NSES) that were meant to inform state and local bodies as they develop standards, benchmarks and guidelines. Unfortunately the NSES often gets lost in the translation if local education authorities are not enlightened.

        We all have to do what is best for our own children, but I hope that doesn’t mean a withdrawal of all of the voices of reason from the debate.

      • knight

        You are one crazy boulder mother. I do mean that literally. I am also a product of the BVSD and unlike you I found my time in high school very beneficial to my college experience. And your comments about the CSAP could not be any farther from the truth. Teachers do not just teach students material that is on the test, in fact I never had one class that just focused on the CSAP. If you think that home schooling is the best alternative to public school, then have fun when you children are socially isolated when they get to college. You think that you have all the right answers but what makes you think that you are above the school system that statistically has one of the highest graduation rates as well as placing more students into college then any other district in the state.

        I feel bad for your kids


      • http://www.armannd.com Armannd

        I completely agree to your points here. In fact, I would dare to go even further and say that all the compulsory schooling is doing that – destroying young lives.

        It’s a shame that many people consider school to be a necessary step in a child’s life…

        For me, events like this don’t even look exceptional anymore, because I’ve completely understood the basic philosophy and target of compulsory schooling: to control people through formulaic means.
        Going to school is like going to war. Only that the damaging effects of school are much greater.

      • Fred
      • Awol


        Serious did you read the full post. The author is talking about taking their son out of 1 class at school at the end of the day 2 times a week. Hardly creating a socially isolated child. Also I see this home school argument all the time and quite frankly its false. Parents who care enough to home school their children care enough to make sure they also get plenty of social interaction. School isn’t the only place one can get social interaction.

        I wish the author all the best.

      • chris

        the major issue as far as i can tell, is the drive for “standardization”. the only skills that are worth a damn that you are even exposed to in school, are critical thinking, and synthetic thinking. but how the heck do you _test_ for that? heck, you cant even JUDGE the thinking ability of someone else, unless yours is markedly superior.

        the real budding luminaries will find a way to their calling regardless of how the system is designed to their disadvantage. the system really does (coarsely) correspond to “the greatest good for the greatest number”… it is unfortunate but true that this greatest good equals “maximize the odds of a second generation imbecile getting a job”. as evidence for this, i point you in the direction of our university experience, which despite the positional advantages it enjoys over public education, again spews the overwhelming majority of its graduates into the world without the most rudimentary training in actual independent thought.

        sorry for the length of the diatribe :)

      • Darien B

        This kinda mentality in the my teachers was what led me to drop out of highschool. 6 years of the Bullsheet was enough for me. I’m now getting my GED and going on to college after.

      • Steve

        When I read that you son loves science but got barely-passing grades, I first thought it was an “impedance mismatch” problem. The easiest way to flunk a multiple-guess test is to know the subject better than the author of the test and spend a lot of time trying to guess which wrong answer the author believes.

        Sorry to hear that his problem was even worse. That Notebook crap is nothing new. Throughout middle and high school, I was bedeviled by teachers who would spend most of the class period filling the chalkboards with an outline of the textbook, then grade you on how pretty a copy you made. I have dysgraphia, so writing continuously for more than a minute or two is literally painful. I escaped from high school only by dint of three sessions of summer school. Not because I didn’t understand the material, but because I just couldn’t grind out the required volume of writing. This was in the mid-sixties, so even if I’d had a portable typewriter, I wouldn’t have been permitted to use it in class. Needless to say, college was right out of the question.

      • Keri

        I taught 3rd grade for 4 years and majored in science – BA in anthro, Master’s in elem. ed. Our school did amazing things when it came to science teaching; one teacher built a working go cart with his class, another took walks to a nearby pond to get samples of water to look at under microscopes, we had a teacher who organized a young astronauts club and Carolyn Shoemaker and Harrison Schmidt were key note speakers at different meetings. This is a public elementary school in Albuquerque, not a city known for amazing funding of anything. Here’s why this worked:
        1) The teachers were all nerdy and LOVED science themselves and constantly self educated.
        2) The principal “looked the other way” when it came to using some prescribed science text from the district. ONE teacher relied on it and used workbooks. We were all allowed to teach science and other subjects in our way, just in accordance with the published district standards.
        3) We cared and weren’t burnt out, and kids could see our own enthusiams for science, math, literature, world events, etc and enthusiasm is contagious, as is apathy, in your son’s teacher’s case.
        So good things are happening in public education, but I agree that teachers who aren’t educated on what’s important or correct, for that matter, need either more education or a different line of work.

        PS I’m 27, made 30,000/year before taxes and regularly worked an hour and a half over the contract day – it’s a lot of work to not use workbooks! I recently moved to Portland OR – we’ll see if I teach again – it’ll be hard to find a public school prinicpal as smart as the one I left.

      • YoDaddy

        I have to say that the school system in the USA is lacking. Having done my middle school in Europe (France) and my High School int he USA, let me put it this way, the HS system made skip 2 1/2 grade in High School. Because of my skills in math, physics, and other like World and European history, even American Government, was at the level of University, much more elevated that the fellow students in my classes, besides English that is. Let it be known that I failed the year before I came and moved to the USA.

        Where does the idea that a kid has to be in a school setting to to be socially adept?

        To have an idiot but socially adept child does not appeal to me as much as a child less adept socially but actually inquisitive and scientifically minded. I guess it would depend on what you prefer for your kid to be Paris Hilton or Einstein.

        The USA system education pre-univeristy has been ranked somewhat in the lower part of the bracket of the countries surveyed ( math, language , and history for criteria), of the the industrial 1st world nations the USA is ranked almost last. That is a recent development, in 1960 we were 7th, why? What happened?

        To help a child inquisitive nature to blossom should one of the biggest role of a parent. The attitude of questioning everything, authority included, is a great gift from a parent and society to children. That is the how and the why that made this country the greatest.

        To focus on form only like this bad teacher and not the content is a great example of what destroys our children minds.
        If you don’t do exactly like shown you fail, if your presentation is not perfect, you fail, why do we focus so much on appearance and not once again on the content?

        If we had always followed these practices we probably would still not be capable of domesticating fire.

        So I command the author for the doing the right thing and I am saddened for the Colorado school system for the loss a someone with a scientific and reasonable mind like the author.

      • Charles

        Whilst I know a fair amount about space exploration, I could not list a date for the first lunar landing, or the second, or the third. I know where and how to look it up, however, and, as Einstein said, never memorize something you can easily look up when you need it.

        I do, however, understand special relativity and the principles of general relativity, quantum interaction in atoms and bulk solids, classical electromagnetism, light diffraction, momentum, energy, and atomic spin. I have my bachelors in physics and intend to get my masters in education. I have held jobs in both fields, and my mother was a graduate of CU and the Boulder public education system. (Her background in programming and biology allowed her to provide the main income for my house growing up).

        The above is not meant to brag, but to say that I feel reasonably qualified for the opinion I am about to present.

        I wonder what field of science you might work in where it’s possible or even practical to neglect a daily lab notebook. I also wonder about your comments about lack of college preparation in relation to this. It seems to me that one of my most important skills in college was my ability to keep and maintain an effective notebook which allowed me to review and retain new information. Learning to keep a good notebook and learning to set up and solve problems are both more valuable to science than the ability to retain historical data. They are skills your son needs.

        I find it interesting that you brag about your son’s ability to take tests and then complain about spending part of the year teaching for the state test, but also complain about the emphasis on keeping a notebook. I’m not sure what it is you want the teacher to teach. Hopefully the teacher includes some hands on demonstrations and labs, and I find it probable that some amount of “out of book” homework is important, but the proof of students having done and maintained labs, homework, and understanding of class lectures and demonstrations is probably all in the notebook. That, to me, makes it well worth the 80% weight.

        I’m not saying this teacher is completely in the right. You should have been called into conference a long time before this to discuss the fact that your student was struggling despite apparent mastery of the material. In an ideal world, the teacher would have found the resources to set her students up to shadow a wide variety of science professionals, perhaps doing original research or helping perform technical analysis in a real world setting. Sadly, this is hard to do on a pay-check that’s less than most fields requiring comparable education and only a few hours a week to entice children who are often more worried about their next meal. Of course, the school also has to worry about liability and money for classrooms (which are never large enough or comfortable and always force children to sit, an almost sure way to disengage brains, but which parents insist on because you never know what’s OUTSIDE the class room).

        Of course, your son should have brought this up with you as well, and the fact that you had to go see the teacher to understand this means that perhaps your son needs to learn some communication skills. At very least, you should have had an honest dialog about this before it made it to the report card.

        I wish you the best of luck with your son and his friends: they will surely benefit from nearly one on one education. I also commend you for your willingness to allow your son to continue in school for the most part: he will learn important social and problem solving skills there. Since you are taking the time and energy, I hope you spend some time at the college, do hands on demonstrations, and spend time introducing your students to a wide variety of industry professionals. If you get your students excited enough, maybe some of the other students will decide it’s worth worrying about something other than their stomach as well.

      • windy

        Knight obviously didn’t read the part where you son goes to school EXCEPT for the science class. More parents should get involved in their children’s education. That is the whole premise of the Head Start program, and is why the fedral gov’t funds Head Start. Without parental involvement, kids just “get sent” to school instead of mindfully attending. And there is no certifiable link between homeschooled kids and social pariahs…only kids who go to school and have these “great social interactions” come into school one day and start killing people.

      • http://www.gregladen.com greg laden

        That’s great, and good luck to you. Don’t forget to also teach them about Evolutionary Biology, because they won’t get that in this school either, I suspect.

        … but really, it would not hurt to also work just a little bit on notebook skills… :)

      • Ed

        I applaud your initiative. And to Knight, you should read what he has to say more closely. He’s not isolating them, he only takes them out for an hour to teach them science.

      • http://TheUnder-Underground M

        Education, like most everything else, has become a way to garner money from the government as opposed accomplishing goals such as the education of our youth. Don’t be surprised if your children tell you one day about *their* child’s insipid teachers.

        “Organizational skills” is the excuse of choice for the modern teacher to put as little effort as possible into the education of his or her students, with other curriculum items consisting mostly of lengthy filler such as taking notes from state-provided materials that the teacher need only put on a projector.

        Home-schooling’s not going to be an easy task, but your child will thank you for it later when he’s not an incompetent office drone that stamps paperwork and redirects phone calls to a never-ending hold line.

      • Nickster

        Personally I think you should report her for failing the children and the system.

        No-one needs educators like that.

      • Kevin Brennan

        Nice work; the way our public education seems to be headed I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself homeschooling my kids someday (I’m in college right now). The only reason I was prepared to enter one of the most difficult engineering institutions in the country was because I was able to teach myself in high school while ignoring the actual curriculum. It was a waste of time, really, and don’t even mention those standardized tests!

        Have fun giving your kid and his friends a real education!

        P.S. ^^knight, I’m willing to guess that you’re a liberal arts major at a state school :P

      • Steve P.

        I recently (2006 grad) came out of the Colorado public school system. I noticed some of the same problems you mentioned, but I disagree with your assessment of their severity. “Teaching the test” occurs far more often with tests like AP examinations and their ilk. I didn’t really notice the same thing with CSAPs at all. This test did sometimes guide the classroom objectives, but I feel I received a good education that has served me well in my pursuit of an undergraduate degree. At the very least, my school district was staffed with well-qualified teachers that understood the difference between CSAP requirements and what should actually be taught.

        And Armannd, please don’t try and compare compulsory education with war.

      • Jenny

        Thank you for this. Makes me feel like less of a freak homeschooling myself through middle school and high school.

      • Phil E. Drifter

        Sad to see the state the public education system is in today.

        I was sent to catholic school for 12 years by my mother, and although I no longer believe in god, I appreciate it because I feel I got a much better education than I ever could have gotten in a public school, especially in Philadelphia, which is where I live.

      • GD

        Boo hoo…life must be so hard for all you. Here’s your tissue.

      • http://www.astronomybuff.com Tony

        Wow, I wrote this post months ago, it must’ve just gotten picked up by a social bookmarking site.

        I just got home from picking up the boys from school and am about to watch one of Sean Carroll’s cosmology lectures (that’s what we do on Fridays). After class, I’ll respond to some of these very thoughtful comments.

        Thank you all for commenting, I’ll do my best to respond to some of the ideas presented when I finish.

      • Aidan

        Knight –

        Clearly you have no idea what homeschooling is like. Sure, there are some wacko types (you get them anywhere you go), but by far and away, homeschooled kids are MORE socially capable than public school types. They’re less concerned with fitting in, and thus more likely to actually open up to people. That’s my anecdotal experience, anyway.

        You’ve also missed the point. Tony is more concerned about knowledge than being another cog in the wheel. Obviously BVSD did you good if you think that’s the point.

      • Eugene


        you are right about social sites. I saw it on reddit: http://reddit.com/info/2x10a/comments, but it’s also on digg: http://digg.com/general_sciences/Why_I_m_Homeschooling_My_Kid_in_Science_Next_Year :)

        What you are doing is great. Best of luck!

      • True Vulgarian

        I left Parker last year (south suburbs of Denver, for those unfamiliar) and if it weren’t for open enrollment and a good charter school in Lone Tree, we’d have been homeschooling as well. Tony, you are spot on, and “Knight” is an apologist for the hearty dysfunction that exists in Colorado schools.

        Also, Knight, if you read these follow up comments, you should be feeling “badly” for his kids. Also, Tony is male- making it REAL unlikely that he’s a “crazy Boulder mother”. In the English language, we end interrogative sentences with one of these: “?” It’s called a “question mark”. Also note how I capitalized the “B” in “Boulder” because place names are proper nouns- that’s another rule of the language you are attempting to use for your rebuttal. Perhaps you should go back to those quality schools you are embarrassingly inclined to defend?

        I can only assume your claim “I never had one class that just focused on the CSAP” means that you were in Boulder schools recently (the CSAP’s started in ’97), and if that’s true, then you make Tony’s point in a beautifully ironic manner. Dumb ass.

      • http://cosmicmonster.wordpress.com Chris

        Kudos to you, sir. Kudos.

      • jeff devlin

        As a science teacher, hopefully I can shed some light on this situation.

        1: NCLB is a terrible law based on a terrible premise making terrible teachers do terrible things.

        2. 80% of any grade for any single thing is way out of line.

        3. Grades distort the practice of teaching in many ways.

        I agree with Mitch completely, but solipsist is quite funny

      • Rick

        Way to go! It’s refreshing to see someone take it upon themselves to better a bad situation instead of merely complaining about it. I’m sure these kids will probably enjoy your classes, too. I bet one or more of them ends up walking on Mars one day.

      • Ben

        I know what you mean, science classes suck, so far in the toughest classes in high school I have slept and have good grades. As of now i am considering teaching physics. I don’t mean as a profession i mean as a way to stop my friends from failing because the teacher has no idea what is going on.

      • C

        I am an undergraduate student at UC Boulder and was homeschooled for most of grade school and part of high school (I spent what would have been my junior and senior years of high school at a community college getting an A.S. and A.A.).

        My experience in Colorado public schools was of getting beaten down by teachers who didn’t like that I asked questions and who wanted only for us to copy what they wrote on the board. There was no joy of learning, nor any true interest in teaching the students. I remember receiving candy in class for “standing in line to get our worksheets.”
        Children in public school aren’t learning anything about science, math, or even English (have you seen what gets published now? Even American adults can’t speak their native language!). I admire Tony for being willing to devote the time to ensure that his kid not only learns about science, but is interested in science and understands how important it is.

        My parents wanted me to get a good education and not become burned out before I graduated high school, so they homeschooled me. My mother put in hours every day doing research into curricula and finding books for myself and my sister to read. I taught myself math all the way through advanced algebra (at which point I went into college and took trig and calc), and my mother made sure that we never lacked for “social contact.” Homeschooling was wonderful for me — I have a very high GPA and an active social life. (I have also paid for almost my entire tuition bill for two years in a row through grants and scholarships, because my grades are so high.) Homeschooling, if done properly and for the right reasons, can be incredibly beneficial and a real leg-up for kids who want to go farther in school.

      • Steve P.

        By the way, I found this through StumbleUpon. I’m a big fan of the astronomy articles, this one just caught my eye.

        I hate to disagree, Aidan, but my experience is exactly the opposite. People who were exclusively homeschooled (So not these kids) are much more socially inept (Also based on anecdotal evidence) than public school lifers. I entered college at a school that basically forces relationships with classmates, and I’m always surprised at how easy it is to pick out the homeschooled students. They are often louder, more annoying attention-grabbers than anything else.
        Also, I believe because of the fact that their experience has been exclusively with academics, they tend to be more obviously “nerdy,” which in and of itself is hardly a bad thing, they seem to focus only on schoolwork, avoiding social interaction in favor of homework.
        I’ve also noticed that some homeschooled students grow out of this pretty quickly.

      • http://www.healthbolt.net Sara

        This is a cool thread. I know Tony’s only talking about one class, but I was home schooled for several years as a kid so I just have to add in my two cents. :) After I bombed first grade, my parents pulled me out (much to the horror of the school district). When the time eventually came, I went to public high school. I really loved my high school experience and did not have “social isolation” problems at all. There are many ways to educate a child. Our current way may or may not ultimately prove to be the best (35 kids in a class all born within 10 months of their peers). It’s a relatively new invention in the history of education, after all. Providing public schooling to all children is a wonderful advancement of human societies, but not every kid who is home-schooled is alone in a shack in the woods somewhere “learning” creationism, for goodness’ sakes. ;)

        At any rate, it’s only one class. Good for you, Tony.

      • windy

        FYI stumbleupon is where i linked in from, then i dugg it :)

      • Hendrik G.

        Great entry, same shi* here in germany.

      • Erin

        I am a teacher in Canada. One of my teaching areas is science and it disgusts me that a school teacher can get away with this. Some of the smartest kids I know have disorganised notebooks! I don’t understand giving 80% of their grade based on the order of the papers.

        I can’t even speak to the CSAP test – we don’t have anything like that in our schools. Science is all about inquiry and teaching critical thinking – all education is about critical thinking!

        I totaly understand why you would pull your child out of school for science, I’d do the same thing if I were in your situation.

      • Torvald

        YOU GO DUDE! The world needs more take charge people like you!

      • Joe

        It’s sad that some schools have resorted to those methods. Kudos to you for providing those kids with a meaningful education. As an engineering major I can agree with the importance of science. I personally think (my opinion here, I could be wrong) is that you should teach them a balance of general science, basic chemistry, basic physics, and basic astronomy. If they pick that up well, go more advanced. What do you think the school is gonna say when your kid is doing quantum physics in 10th grade! :)

      • cj_

        Why do people make the “socially adept” argument with regards to homeschooling? American public school systems are brutal and soul-crushing atmospheres that do nothing but encourage bullying, exclusion, bigotry. They take any self-confidence your child may have had and grind it to dust.

        I suppose in a way this would “prepare you for the real world.” Except, not really. In the real world you have the power to separate yourself from this sort of bullshit, even when it surrounds you utterly.

        Public schools are nothing but indoctrination camp + babysitter for anti-intellectual social climbers. And if you can’t climb, they teach you to suck it up and stay in your place. Education has NEVER been a primary focus of our public education system.

      • Alex

        I am a high school student in Oregon, and I must say that throughout my years as a student, I have come to realize one thing about public school teachers: all they care about is getting their paychecks. I began to realize this in elementary school, where most teachers were idiots. Just like this article, they cared only about one thing at a time. In my second grade class, all they cared about was getting me to read. That is when they pushed the reading, but for the rest of my days there, they had this stupid AR system. This “system” was where you went to the library, picked up a book that they had there, read it, and took a test about it on the computer. This was stupid because there were only so many books that you could read and take the test on. You couldn’t actually read a book you liked, just a book that they had. Don’t get me wrong, they did have some good books to read, but most of them were crap. The ones that I did want to read were never there, and they MADE you choose a book that was there in their little library. Just to ‘make sure’ you were reading, every week they would go through a list of students making sure that they had books from their library. I remember once wanting to read a book from the library that looked cool (though now I know how decieving book covers are), and when I brought it to the desk to get it, the teacher said,
        “You can’t read this book. This is a fifth grade level book!” And so I had to argue with them that I could very well read a fifth grade book. So finally I opened the book and began to read outloud from it. Sorely disappointed, they let me have the book. I never really liked the book, but the point is that they wouldn’t let me borrow the book because they thought that I couldn’t read at a fifth grade level (I was in fourth grade). For teachers who sure wanted you to read, the libarians didn’t seem to think that way.
        I have many more stories of all the bad experiences I have had in public school, and all the great experiences I had during homeschooling, and private schools. And those will be posted later.
        I do hope that this helps people at least begin to understand how stupid the public school system is. I will also explain later why I believe that teachers only care about thier paychecks.

      • rolf

        You are missing the point.

        The main purpose of school is to teach obedience. Science, bedyond the most meanless lowest common denominator has nothing to do with school.

        Why else is school organized in classrooms with only one authority figure and all others dependent on them? That is why your childs teacher was smirking, she knows and you don’t

      • penny

        I disagree with Charles. I am a research mathematician and mathematical physicist–and I never was able to keep a notebook or take notes.
        I never needed to, though, because I have an eidetic memory.

        I had a similar “teacher” in 7th grade. About ten years later, I sent him a note on Institute for Advanced Study letterhead that said: ” I still don’t have a notebook!”

        The world is full of semibright people who make it on their notetaking skills and are always trying to force people to follow a plan–which for them has been successful. But, the most important lesson in teaching the bright ( aka future researchers) is that ” One size doesn’t fit all.”

        Charles asked for an example of a science which doesn’t require a lab notebook. I will give two:
        Theoretical Physics and Mathematical Physics.
        Most theoretical types avoid labs–our skills lie elsewhere.


        P.s. In the same way, linear study skills were always worthless for me. I learn things by thinking hard in a nonlinear order about them.

      • Ian

        Honestly, I have no sympathy. If the kid is that smart then organize a notebook. Shouldn’t be that hard if the “lesser” kids can do it.

        If at your job you knew the material but just handed in whatever you wanted would you get that far.

      • penny

        The most important thing to teach in a science class is ” to question”. After every fact, the student should say: ” How do we know this?”
        ” What are the limitations and assumptions on how we know this?” ” What is still unknown here?”
        ” How might I find out the answer?”

        Much of what is taught in “science” classses in elementary school is not SCIENCE. Certainly, a talk by an astronaut is not science–at best, it is engineering. In the same way, learning the history of science is not SCIENCE–it is history.

        I recall elementary school “astronomy” classes where we were taught names of stars and constellations and legends about them. That is NOT SCIENCE. It is liberal arts.

        Building a go cart–as mentioned here, is NOT SCIENCE. It is engineering. Engineering is based on science, but it is NOT science.


        In this vein, I don’t care if students know we went to the moon, but I do care that they have some idea of any science we learned from that, and what the limitations on our interpetation of the data are.

      • http://badteacher.wordpress.com/ Alexi

        Hallo, science teacher here. From Canada.

        This caught my interest:

        What this teacher really wanted was the students to do all of her work for her. She didn’t want to have to search through reams of paper to try and figure out what the student knew. She just wanted to open the notebook and start checking off the existence of items, each containing the proper words so she could get through the grading as fast as possible.

        It’s about the only thing I can disagree with you on… If you have 160 or 200 students, the teacher’s life is all about efficiency. And, for better or worse, that includes an organized notebook.

        Hell, I even go further – my students use a specific colour duotang for every one of six units. After they submit the unit, I hold onto them until final exam review time. Unless of course a paren t writes in to say that they can handle the storage duties, and like to review past units with their kids.

        Amazing how little that happens, though.

        Anyhow, yes, we do. We do impose certain procedures on our students so that our (teachers’) lives are a bit easier. And it does, as you point out, also teach organization.

        A lasting skill, arguably more important than memorizing who Clyde Tombaugh was.

        (OK, I just threw that in to bug you. I am an amateur astronomer, so please, no flames!)

        Anyhow, you’ve done well grasshopper, and nothing short of what I would do. Well, I might call the Pricnipal and see what she had to say about the 80% thing.

        My guideline is that no line item on a report card will be responsible for a significant drop in grades (we don’t do letter grades hereabouts, but equivalent to a letter grade drop) should that item be bombed. Except for quizzes and exams, that is.

        80% for notes is clearly stupid. I salute you for not going Islamic on that teacher’s ass.


        Teacher With a Bad Attitude

      • Kath

        My mom was a 7th grade science teacher for almost 30 years. Before that she had actually worked for Dupont for a few years. She was a great teacher, and I learned so much more from her than I did in my own school. My mom brought home extra frogs to dissect & took me and my friends to museums and on “field trips” all the time. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world to sit next to my mom as we’d watch NOVA & Nature on PBS together, discussing what we each learned.

        But as she got older, she was paid much more than the school district would have to pay a fresh-outta-college teacher, and so they started to move her around, teaching different grades each year, until she felt forced to retire.

        It’s such a shame that the system is set up so that it’s so easy to discourage good teachers, and yet so hard to get rid of the truly bad ones.

        I hope you cherish the time you have with your son; your story has reminded me how much I have to thank my mom for.

      • cyber_rigger

        Two words.

        Teacher’s Union.

        You can’t fire them.

      • Blake

        I was homeschooled, and am currently a Freshman in college.

        All I can say is, I’m blown away by how easy “real” school is in comparison to homeschooling. As long as you allow your kid to have an adequate social life, I highly recommend homeschooling.

        I loved being homeschooled, I was allowed to progress so much faster without being slowed down by other students.

        It’s an incredible learning experience for both the student and the parent. Go for it!

      • http://n/a AndreaSue

        I happened upon your blog from reddit, and I must say I agree with you. When I was in junior high, we learned all the important stuff and there was no CSAP or anything (I live and grew up in Queens, New York). But I admire your ability to weed out bad teaching behavior from merely a student saying “my teacher hates me” because they don’t want to admit the bad grades are their fault. My parents would ALWAYS agree with the teachers NO MATTER WHAT, until now that I’m an inch away from being 26, now they’ll admit that a lot of my teachers were idiots. Gee thanks guys, but that would’ve been more helpful when I was, oh I don’t know, seven?!
        Go you.

      • http://website name

        You complain that the teachers and administration are selfish, and only care about finishing grading as fast as possible, getting good test scores, getting their money… all valid points.

        Then, rather than try to fix the system, you — selfishly — just pull out your own kid and his friends?

        Moral of the story — the teachers only care about themselves, and you only care about yourself. Good lesson for your son.

      • Dark-Star

        I feel for your kid, and I can relate VERY much.

        I graduated this year, class of 2007. I’ve survived public schooling for about half of my educational career – left a private school in fifth grade over a parents issue with a new principal.

        Since then, I’ve run up against the old ‘copy this exactly the way we show you’ so many times it made me want to scream. I’ve been exposed to several new-fashioned methods of note-taking, each more complicated than the last and less useful. Fortunately in high school the staff didn’t yet subscribe to this nonsense.

        80% of the kid’s grade for neatness is utter B.S. Thomas Edison’s invention factory at Menlo Park was probably an utter mess – and look how he turned out.

        This overemphasis on organazation could have two root causes:
        1. An excuse to have very little actual content to teach and just have tons of busywork.
        2. An attempt by the powers that be to drill your kids to follow to the letter what the person in charge says, whoever that may be.

        As much as I hate to say it, both of them may be to blame. Our public educaiton system is a national embarassment and so #1 wouldn’t surprise me at all. As for the second, companies from Mcdonald’s to the myriad telemarketing places place high value on low-skill employees who do exactly what they’re told, over and over and over.

        It’s all quite frightening, really.

      • http://www.thought-blender.com Craig

        Maybe I missed the boat here?
        Why did you wait until the end of the year to find out why your child was getting a poor grade? There are progress reports and report cards throughout the year?

        I don’t mean to offend, but if/when my child comes home with a grade that is not the norm, my wife and I immediately get involved to find out why and what we can do to correct the problem.

        Also, at the seventh grade level I’m sure your child was well aware that this notebook was a big part of his grade – - why didn’t he take responsibility for this?

        I hope my comments didn’t offend you – - just thought I’d offer a different view.

        I think all parents need to be very involved with their child’s development because it’s obvious some school systems are not and we can’t expect the system to ensure each child is properly educated – - sad but true.

      • spanky

        apply some of your science to the moon landing videos and u would know y they dont teach that crap in school

        its like teachin the kids we attacked iraq cuase it was right thing to do

      • http://whalesalad.com Michael

        My freshman year science teacher put it best…

        “In college they don’t care how you organize things, that is left up to you. You are the ones who need to be able to organize information in which ever way works best for you, and because I am preparing you for college, I am going to prepare you for that and NOT care.”

      • Michael Kautzman

        It’s very comforting to meet parents that do care and take action.

        I wish you the best of luck with your en devour and hope that other’s will see what is really going on and follow suit.

        Lets face facts, the US’s public school system is a joke at best.

      • http://deliberatedumbingdown.com/ Truth Teller


        Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt was a top official at the Department of Education. She wrote a book exposing how the whole purpose of the Department of Education is to dumb down the kids of america so the elite can have an easily fooled group of sheeple. She thought this is so important that the books is a free download on her site. There is also a movie on bit torrent. Just go to pirate bay and type in Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt. The book is huge and has documents galore that she took out of the department. If you know a teacher or someone in education go burn the video or download the book and get it to them. We got to wake people up to this criminality.

      • Mike

        As someone interested in science yourself you should know first hand that keeping an organized notebook is an extremely vital skill to have in the science world. Without a notebook, any work you do as a scientist is entirely meaningless. The maintenance of a notebook is necessary for publishing papers and, if need be, reproducing your results.

        Your rant about the notebook is quite insane to be honest. Yes, sure, if you do poorly on your notebook there is no way to do well in the class. But if you look at it the other way, and you do well on your notebook, its very easy to do well in that class. Why is maintaining a notebook so difficult?

        Organization is also an important life skill. If your son cannot keep a notebook organized how do you expect him to keep track of bills and other important tasks?

        And a curriculum heavy in astronomy? That is worse than having a teacher with crazy notebook demands. Your son is going to suffer as a result of your terrible overreaction to a bad teacher experience. How can you just try to mix in all the sciences and then focus in on astronomy? Also, astronomy is useless at a high school level. Try chemistry or biology or physics… When was the last time you saw any standardized exam with astronomy on it? Never? That’s right.

        I cannot believe this article was written. What a terrible vent. Find something else to do. In the time you wrote this you could have been helping your kid organize his fucking notebook.

      • Brodie

        I got so bored by the public school system here in CO when I was in JR high. This example of teachers here is only the start, and the school system could care less about the students. When I have kids, they will be home schooled.

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      • John Edison

        Having been a science teacher my entire career (35+ years), I thought the essay was pretty accurate. Unfortunately, since all these tests have come down on teachers, and their survival in their jobs depend on students doing well on a test, they will naturally “teach to the test”. This is a very huge mistake because no real teaching could get done, and many “teachable moments” have to be passed by because if an administrator happens by a classroom where this is happening and the teacher is not “teaching the standards”, that teacher is in a lot of trouble! I know since I have been there.

        The teaching load is way too heavy for a teacher who wants to do a decent job. I challenge anyone to read 160 papers every day written in the terrible prose of the students! It is almost impossible to have less than 60-70 work weeks at a rate of pay which is always less than a “real job”.

        In additoin, too many parents don’t really care, or worse yet, blame the school and teachers when their child is the one who screws up. This is a HUGE change from when I first got into teaching.

        So, let’s see, the teacher has to please the students, parents, administrators, and most of all themselves. It is a very difficult job, and not no wonder 50% of all new teachers quit the profession within the first 5 years of geting into it!

        I wish I had answers, but clearly, hitting everyone with tests that must be passed, no matter what, is not the answer.

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      • noisha

        I am all for home schooling. Recently I was assisting one of my friends daughters with her final major work sewing/art for the HSC (Higher School Certificate in Australia) and she had no idea how to cut out a pattern correctly, how to do darts effectively, how to even use a sewing machine correctly, had NO idea what different stitches were used and what they were called, no idea between the different machine needles and why you used one over the other and had never, in year 12 sewing, put in a zipper.

        I shook my head and when I met the teacher I realised why. The state of the Australian schools are about the same as above. very sad indeed.

      • Dr.Phobius

        Sadly, this isnt a Colorado-specific incident. Michigan is no better, and I feel this is just what the education system has become.
        School is really just a day long “rinse and repeat” session… with an “A” student only needing to be able to memorize, understanding is not needed, nor is it rewarded.

        Memorizing facts may be enough to “learn” history, but is not enough for a person to be able to put mathematics or science to use. This is obvious in our colleges as Asian and Indian (by birth, not by race) students come out of our universities as doctors, researchers and the like, while those schooled in the U.S. predominantly choose a business major (welcome to mediocrity).

        Our school system is in ruins and we do not wish to face it.

        On a trip to Russia a few years back I saw high school aged children paint and sculpt, and so many exceptional pianists and violinists that the term prodigy isnt appropriate. More excelled at music than did not!
        Here we are dropping our music and art classes so that we can buy the athletic team new uniforms… so that 1 student in 50,000+ can have a slim shot at a career in sports.

      • http://codyrobert.com/ Cody Baker

        I completely understand what you mean and you are fully in right to teach your son yourself. I would go as far to encourage you to fully homeschool him although then he loses out on the social aspect of attending school.

        I’m a sophomore in college right now. I spent 7 years in the Colorado public system though. Ohh boy, do I remember CSAPs. How you explained it was exact to the point. The first 7 months of school was studying for that test. We all knew it was easy coasting after March. We didn’t get out of school for another 2.5 months although we could slack off after that.

        Similarly in my science class in 9th grade, I would consistently be marked down because I forgot to bring my daily planner to write down our homework. Unfortunately though, unless we do something to change the schooling system it’s not going to change itself.

      • http://www.bloggrrl.com Bloggrrl

        You’re right on. I’m a public school teacher who works in a DEP (Disciplinary Education Program). I see so many kids in there who are bucking the system, and in my opinion, rightly so. The only reason I teach at this point is because I know what my replacement would be like.

        Your kiddo is fortunate indeed.

      • mrmx

        I’m dropping a college course because, after student teaching, I realized that the most important thing about learning– reading books and coming to conclusions, was being done for me by the professor.

        i.e. I hope that you don’t “over design” your curriculum. i.e. I tend to like the idea that educators should follow the interests of the students because diversity makes our society tick.

        thus, at this point, I try to get away from professors and read and analyze the material myself; in general, my reading ability has improved tremendously.

      • Charles

        Okay, I’m back, and I’m sorry this reads like a treatise. Maybe I just think that teachers really are one of the great underappreciated groups of people, or maybe I’m just too darn opinionated. I apologize in advance.

        Penny, I enjoyed your comment. I am not, however, sure that you indeed gave me two –separate- branches of science as examples (that was a joke, I very much recognize the importance and distinction of the two). :) I too am a nonlinear thinker. That’s exactly why I needed to keep a notebook: by the end of a lecture I was debating whether gravity was an effect of the uniform expansion of particles throughout the universe, and so I frequently had to go back and look at what had actually been talked about. Actually, the truth is, I only occasionally went back to look at my notes, but I had a much easier time staying on track while I was taking them. It was also very nice to have them on the rare occasion I needed them, even when they were not neat or orderly. Yes, I too experienced lower grades due to poor organization, but it encouraged me to understand that, in order to share information, I first had to organize it.

        I am not lucky enough to have an eidetic memory, though I understand how having a good multidimensional memory makes it difficult to re-organize notes on paper. Also, I admit that, because people think differently, note taking is not for all of us, and one style is certainly not for all of us. In part, what concerned me is that the student had to get past at least one report card before anyone brought up the issue of needing to try a different tack. I am glad that it was eventually discussed, and I just hope that another parent, reading this, has the chance to jump on a solution earlier. It’s unfortunate that the teacher was inflexible on this point, but then, how does the teacher know the kid who has trouble organizing from the one who slacks off all week and then crams for a Friday test only to forget it Monday? Yes, I am aware that there are solutions, but I also do not agree that this teacher is inherently lazy or misdirected in using this particular one. In fact, I would give this teacher kudos for attempting to do something other than simply “teach to the test”.

        I do think a notebook and the skill to use one are good tools, but I’m also not here to condemn people who have difficulty with “the box”- I know I did, and I think many good minds (notably Einstein) do. Sometimes a little adversity breeds genius. Nonetheless, good notebooks are a generally important life skill and certainly a good way to learn forms of organized problem solving, observation, information sharing, and record keeping that are extremely valuable to science. Perhaps the grading could have been reweighed, but I am not overall against using this as a guideline.

        Kath, you point out something important about your mom. I think all kids can learn a LOT from their parents, and I think all children are “home schooled” at least a little. I also think you make a good point about school systems having some bureaucratic flaws. Unions are both good and bad. I currently work under a union contract, and I chose this job because of that contract. I know that there are some bad apples where I work, who survive because of the union, but I also know that the vast majority are genuinely good, diligently hard working people, who have to deal with the scum of society on a daily basis and can still go home smiling. So do unions work? They do if they set a good example and provide burnt out workers with a good exit plan. They don’t if they force people out who should be there or let people in without proving that they are right for the job. They also have to work with, and not against, management unless it simply becomes impossible to agree.

        I’m not out against home schooling. I have some very good friends who were home schooled, and I can’t say they are particularly different from my other friends (we are all “different” but it’s hard to separate the weird from the weird, and the weirdness is a product of the selection process, not necessarily the home schooling). I do think the home-schooled have a potential to miss out on learning from their peers, and that is usually a shame. Smart kids will often learn valuable things from their peers. That does not mean that a home classroom can’t be set up for peer involvement though, and I have certainly seen many set up that way.

        I will say that the one aspect of my home-schooled friends that is anecdotally consistent is that often they are almost unconsciously and unintentionally elitist. They describe me as being one of the few people “smart enough to be worth talking to” (I have them very cleverly fooled) or mention how grateful they are that they were not “held back by the other students”. In all of my time working with students, I rarely found that there was not something that one student could not learn from another. In my time as a student, I learned at least as much directly related to the course through peer interaction as I did from the course material, and this was not the fault of the material. While at least one of my home schooled friends is very near brilliant, at least three of my close high school friends were certifiably brilliant, and I was the one so touchingly described here as “holding them back”. Fortunately they didn’t see it that way.

        Yes, there were idiots in my high school. One of my friends was once induced to say of a classmate “I just want to go beat my head against the wall, until I can be as stupid as him and understand”. There were also bad teachers. At least one of them was more or less forced to retire the year after I had her class, as was another excellent teacher who was just in the wrong program. Another probably is still teaching, despite being utterly inept. There were teachers I loved that my classmates hated. There were teachers I disliked that my classmates adored. For every bad teacher or student, though, I had at least two that truly inspired me and brought a subject to life even if I was terrible at it. The truth is that the worst of my teachers were not terrible; they were simply mediocre, but I am not against your judgment that your this “bad apple” isn’t working for your son, and I congratulate you in managing to work with the school to the extent you have. Don’t put the weight of one teacher on the whole system, though, and I hope you make an effort to seek out good teachers (and teach this to your new students) and work with them in the future.

        I say this because I believe in teachers. The best of mine were exemplary both as teachers and as people. They encouraged me to think outside of the box, to do research on my own time, to ask questions and, yes to think critically. They also taught me to take good notes, set up equations, learn tricks for mathematical expansions and memorize a few things that I would need over and over again. They did not prepare me to follow blindly, nor did they encourage me to criticize blindly (I learned that from craigslist… oops). They often gave me information that was unpopular but true, and asked me to take it in the larger picture. They occasionally let us lick slugs. They appreciated our lame jokes, and opened up their classrooms for discussions during their break times. One even gave her class her home phone number, as if grading and teaching a few hundred kids wasn’t enough. This year in Beaverton, Oregon, I was witness to a team of middle school students led through a school program who were doing college graduate level research. (See ORTOP, National Competitions- I can proudly say this team won first place and it was no easy match.)

        Of my friends who wished they had found a better path through life, it was often a strict community outside of school that they blame for their lack of foresight, usually not the school. I, however, learned a lot in school that I simply would not have learned otherwise.

        That said I have learned a lot more being involved in the teaching process. I think it is good for everyone to teach, and I think you are giving your son and his fellow students the opportunity to share a great wealth of knowledge with their peers. I hope that you don’t forget to teach the basics of the scientific process, and spend some time on problem solving (be it the kind that happens in the lab or the kind that happens on paper), and I am glad to hear that you will spend time with the telescope- I hope you find other hands on demonstrations (a lot of university and museum web sites have some excellent ideas for these). Also, don’t neglect community outdoor programs and regional innovation competitions. Spend some time talking about ethical science. Lastly, make sure your students are responsible for helping a few of the people who were “dragging them down” catch up a little. You never know, they might learn something. :)

      • Leo Bricker

        I find it disappointing that such an interest in the development of the students as scientists isn’t matched by an equal concern for their development as people who don’t blaspheme, even when it could be argued it’s deserved as in the case of the notebook.

      • Chris

        I wish I had the ability to do this. My son has to do the similar damned test and I raised hell with the school over the exact same issue. The fact that the teachers, and school, are ONLY focused on getting the kids ready for that test, forsaking anything they don’t think will be on that test. No child left behind is leaving our nation behind, we will woe the day when we realize what this test is doing to our entire countries children.

      • Daniel

        As a recent student of the California public school system, let me say THANK YOU!

        I was always one of the smartest in most of my classes, but am very poorly organized and forgot to turn in quite a bit of homework, so I was getting very low grades (despite acing every test put in front of me)

        I decided to skip the whole high school scene all together because of that. After my sophomore year I took the California High School Proficiency Exam (like a GED) Took a year off to plan the next few years of my life, and am not in a JR college with goals to transfer to UCSC.

      • Chris

        From what penny was saying, I just have a question on note-taking skills. Since you have a eidetic memory, doesn’t mean everyone else in the class has it. In elementary, it is to prepare everyone who has all kinds of different learning style to practice the idea of note-taking and organizing notes. I agree with what the teacher has done in her position, for the students in her class would not care if it wasn’t for marks. Forget the idea how the teacher wanted to get through it as fast as possible, it is also in student’s best of interest. If the student doesn’t like the teacher, tell their parents, get a new teacher, simple.

        Interesting enough, the teacher that taught that grade 8 class is probably new to teaching. I don’t blame that at all. And I think the idea of having you pull out the kids out from last period is a good idea. Well, in my old high school, we got to choose what kind of course to take, didn’t have to take all the mandatory courses required. If I wanted to, I could have taken all sciences, physics; chemistry; biology. And later in the years of high school, I could even go into deep concentration if I was really interested in science.


      • dsnchntd

        I’m a high school student from Texas. We’ve had to take a standardized exam like the CSAT since…well, as far back as I can remember. It is the most mindless, idiotic thing I have ever been forced to undertake, year after year after year.What you say is true here as well. Teachers spend the majority of the school year teaching to the lowest common denominator, the pointless babble for the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and skills) It’s material that in other countries would equate to several grade levels below. Why? Because some parents prefer that rather than admitting that their child is slow in certain areas and requires some special education. They take it as an insult for their child to be classified as challenged, not even necessarily mentally retarded. This ignorance passes down to their children also, producing the stigma that there is something ‘wrong’ with them, which only makes it harder on those kids.
        The inadequacy of the government funded educational system, my parents lack of proper education to homeschool me with has forced me to teach myself whatever I can, however poorly as it may be taught. Autodidacticism is great, but it shouldn’t have to be a last resort because the government didn’t keep their responsibility to properly educate me.
        Here’s to you, your kids, and more parents realizing the same.

      • Chris

        Welcome to a Republican America! At least they’re being exposed to “science” and not taking Sunday school classes. I wish you well and hope your sons succeed in college.

      • Abraham

        I truly understand what your son was going through. In my first computer class in High School, I lost 20% of my mark because my binder was considered incomplete. Apparently, I was totally at fault for not keeping and taking every single handout and note. Every time a handout was given I wondered, why would I need to write it down and have 4 hand outs about how to copy a file. This was a class where my teacher had to ask me for answers and clarifications on the materials she was teaching. In fact I probably could have taught that class myself.

        Unfortunately after my mother argued with the teacher, we were forced to photocopy another student’s entire binder and then place it in mine. Something that was absolutely a waste of time and gave no indication that about my knowledge of the materials.

        I hope you continue to post on the progress of your home schooling. My wife and I are expecting and I am seriously beginning to worry about what my child will be taught.

      • William Boller

        The education problem is a nation-wide issue. Teachers are being taught to teach on the strictest levels instead of teachers being hired as lovers of knowledge who are able to spread the love of knowledge. I would not be the college student I am now without the guidance of the one teacher (out of about 50-some). I owe my mind to this woman who had the uncanny ability to make me excited about discovery, intellect, argument, and problem-solving. Besides her, I nearly flunked out of high school because well… I never did any homework and I only took tests and wrote essays (and only because ‘that’ teacher was an English teacher, and actually gave me challenging essays to write about, but was still somewhat restricted by the inaptitude of my peers). I was frustrated in high school, and I’m now frustrated with college because the general education classes I’m required to take are being slowed by the same the same kind of peer who never was taught how to love learning, but only taught how to ‘get a grade’ and ‘go through the motions’. I’m actually glad that, most of them don’t have what it takes to maintain actual knowledge in college and are forced to drop out because it’s ‘too hard’. I’m not glad because they’re misfortunate; I’m glad because they are no longer a burden in a class to ‘baby’ and take care of.

        I’m very glad, Tony, that you are taking the initiative to make sure your children have the necessary skills that are required to excel in college and not be a burden to a college class, or be a waste of college tuition (weather it be from your pocket, hard-earned scholarships, or student loans). I just wish that more schools would employ teachers who actually cared about the minds they were responsible for maturing and looking at education as a joy that needs to be paid forward.

      • glenn

        You have my full agreement and sympathy. But you are too generous on one point.

        Like your son I always loved and excelled in science. I am a National Merit Scholar, have a post-graduate degree and in the last IQ test ever administered in a US elementry school had a score of zero (explained to me that the test they used was insufficient to measure my IQ). Yet throughout my public elementry schooling I received not just mediocre but failing grades. When my mother came to meet my teachers, among the many behavioral problems cited were reading my own books in class instead of paying attention and writing essays that deviated from the assigned material.

        As to the point where you were too generous? Your sons teacher was not so lazy that she wanted everything laid out for her. In fact, the organization of the notebook is the only thing she could possibly offer a grade on. She doesn’t have any idea of science beyond what she can read out loud from the primer. Nor is any such knowledge a requirement for her job. Likewise, my reading teacher was illiterate. Also not a prerequisite.

      • Pingback: Homeschooling your kid | Pussy Can't Code

      • http://www.greenwaysroad.com Hrishikesh Muruk

        I totally understand the intentions behind your move to home school. But dont your think changing schools might be a better idea? Science in school should cover a broad set of disciplines – Physics, Chemistry, Biology. Do you have the expertise to teach all of these?
        My experience in school (India) was pretty good. Compared to what I have seen in the US, I came out of the K12 equivalent system very well prepared for college. That would not have been possible without teachers with in depth knowledge in what they were teaching. At the very minimum a school teacher should have atleast an MS in the area he/she is teaching.

      • http://www.monroe.nu Ian Monroe

        There is something to be said for learning organization in a science class. In college labs your lab notebook organization is at least supposed to be important.

        In general middle school sucks. I was like your son and had organization problems. In high school my chemistry class also had a notebook that we had to keep track of all the worksheets, I didn’t do so well on it, but it didn’t matter since the grade was mostly based on the tests. Middle school is all worksheets, notebooks and posters, which can put your son at a temporary disadvantage.

        My main suggestion would be to on the lookout for the good science teachers. I had an awesome biology teacher in high school. I’m sure you could get some fetal pigs and dissect them at home, but do you really want to? ;)

      • Steve

        I’m in highschool an I have never had a good science teacher. The one’s I’ve had in high school can’t teach. They may know the stuff, but they can’t teach at all. One teacher gave us worksheets to do every class, another did nothing and another just read us the textbook everyday. They are absolutely terrible.

      • http://www.f15sim.com rhomel

        I am a high school drop out, from a Colorado High School. I am also a college drop in. If you don’t know what that is I am not certain I can explain it satisfactorily .

        During my years in the public education system I found myself driven further away from school. During my elementary school years I was extremely interested in science. I read books on astronomy, geology and any other branch of science which caught my fancy.

        It’s amazing what a book report will do to a young mind when faced with a question such as who were the main characters, the book was on geology. My teacher surely thought that igneous and sedimentary were people.

        The years were good to me however, in junior high school notebooks were an important part of our grade as well. I was thankful for having a teacher who knew a great deal about science, public education was not her first career field. Years later I find myself thanking her still for making me think about science and it’s methodology. In her class I learned much about the fundamentals of chemistry. Many of the skills she taught me I still find useful.

        My high school was not much different from most I suppose. My chemistry class had a total of three students for the quarter and the school would have drop it had I not applied. My math skills were not of a level to admit me to the class yet the teacher intervened to admit me to the class. I still hold that teacher in the highest regard.

        College was a real learning experience. My knowledge of science was often greater than my educators. I had during the years I was away from school learned a great deal. I visited colleges and Universities around the country often sitting in on a lectures which interested me. I talked to the students read their text books and learned to learn. I learned that all math devolves into the math which preceded it. Calculus becomes algebra, algebra become arithmetic. I can do arithmetic. :-)

        I have met Clyde Tombaugh and discussed telescope making with him. Spent many an evening under the stars with friends talking about astronomy. One of my best friends of a days gone by today teaches physics at a University. He believed in me for a long time, I always hope to see him one more time again.

        Science allowed me the opportunity to expand my world to encompass the Universe. Education at a public school level taught me that education comes from the mind as well as the heart.

        The idea of being able to question is fundamental to science so I will leave this with two questions. If the school fails the student who is at fault? How does the teacher decide who is to fail?

      • TL

        Fantastic that you knew to take your child away from the profoundly stupid — how else would they (the gov’t employees) ever have a chance to learn? Meetings? Conferences? Letters to the school board? A friendly chat with a bureaucrat? I know parents who have tried to do things the “right” way, but they always wind up either withdrawing their kids or hiring a lawyer.
        Organization and planning ARE useful (Stacks-Of-Paper-Everywhere-Girl is here to tell you), but when the structure itself is the ultimate goal, what are you learning? My, but you have a tidy sock drawer!
        Sadly, cj is quite correct about our public schools. My own twelve years were sheer misery for the most part. Mom taught me to read when I was a toddler, though, and I taught my sister, who was a VERY skilled reader by age 3. She described the G.E.D. as “The most pathetic test I’ve ever taken”. Our education didn’t take place on any campus! I recall spending my grade school years reviewing the exact same material, learning the exact same information, and taking the exact same tests, because the teachers started with the lowest test score in the class and went from there. By age 11, I was completely glazed over and tuned out. There was nothing new to learn. One adult classroom assistant in 6th grade “corrected” a writing assignment (in red ink), so that I would understand that “horse” should be spelled “hourse”. There were literally NO challenges, except for trying to hide from the kids who didn’t like white people, and who wanted to make me bleed for the crime of having light skin.
        In Junior High, I begged to take placement tests to attend the local community college, but that just wasn’t DONE back then. They wouldn’t even let me take shop, though I had abundant proof that I could already cook and sew (Thanks, Mom!) with no one looking over my shoulder. Girls weren’t allowed to do that in the mid-70s. I spent my time answering cries of despair as other girls struggled with their projects in an overcrowded classroom.
        There was ONE math instructor whose teaching made sense to me — I would stand in his doorway during my lunch hour. If the school had allowed me to study in this man’s algebra class, I would probably have had some math skills when I graduated, BUT…..my last name started with the wrong letter. Second half of the alphabet got the OTHER teacher, who was a virtual zombie. I graduated knowing only how to add, subtract and multiply (have since aced the algebra, but it happened in college).
        There are MANY home schoolers in my town, and their children are, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, far more civilized, respectful, articulate and mature than the public-school attendees. I have never met even ONE bully or attention hog in the home school crowd (not to say they could never exist), maybe because they know their parents love them enought to prioritize their
        education(s), which usually requires significant adjustments in the time and cash-flow departments. On the OTHER hand, my youngest child has shared classrooms for several years with (let’s see here….) some rather unkind youngsters, for whom the inside of the Principal’s office inspires nothing but disdain, and whose parents frequently argue against any discipline.
        To be fair, there are some decent public school systems. Despite the bullies, we’re in one of them (and I keep thinking I’m going to wake up any second, and it’ll all be a dream). They even let you say “Merry Christmas” in the halls if you feel like it, and will go out of their way to bring a struggling student up to grade level. The teachers are dedicated (Whoa!) and inclined to work with individual parents to meet the needs of the kids. Not one of them so far has enthused about the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning), but they manage to make it possible for the kids to pass the silly thing while still keeping their minds and imaginations in gear. Could this be a byproduct of the local home school culture? Wouldn’t be much of a shock!

      • Ben

        No shit. If you got paid a teachers salary then you would want all the help you could get too. Might as well get minimum wage. If teachers are as important as we think (and judging by this article, you expect your teacher to be a “all that”) then they really deserve a doctors salary… your lucky to get 28k/year and will be paying off your student loands until your 35.

        So fuck you and fuck your kids. You should have tipped that bitch when the conference was over. I am sorry, but this is one of those “Fuck you. Pay Me.” scenarios.

      • white hat

        Is. 14:12-16, Enoch 14:4
        & take a GOOD look at how the ‘SLS laser’ works

        Rev 3:9 (families & lying spyworld), Rev 17:2+5
        choose this day who you will serve – baal, or GOD. ;)

      • Bob

        Normally I am against homeschooling. (I know someone who has psychological problems that were caused by being homeschooled by parents who were nutcases.) But I certainly agree with the necessity of teaching good science to your child. Science classes are the most important classes there are, IMHO.

      • http://www.canisaureus.org/ Alexander

        As a recent product of the Colorado public education system, I’d like to concur.

        I’m a fairly logical person, but my weakest score on the ACT test (Colorado doesn’t use the SAT) was in Science. The sad part about this is that almost everyone I knew at the time also did poorly on that section.

        Instead of using the CSAPs why don’t the just look at students’ scores on college placement tests? Theoretically, the fact that students have a vested interest in doing well on this test should work in the school system’s favour.

      • http://www.LanBui.com Lan Bui

        I agree mostly with what you say. But keep in mind, teachers are typically overwork, have too many students, and can’t spend the time to sift through papers. It is extreme to make organization 80% of a grade, but it should definatley be something that needs attention.

        Could you handle 10 students on you few days a week? how about 20, 30 or maybe 40?

      • Tim

        As a science teacher in Colorado I would like to say a couple of things. DO NOT BLAME US BECAUSE OF THE CSAPS. We didnt invent them, we dont like them, so blame the geniuses who passed NCLB. Also, grading science notebooks is an easy way for students to gain points in a class. I resent the comment that science teachers in Colorado have degrees in Education. We are REQUIRED TO HAVE A DEGREE IN ONE OF THE SCIENCES TO TEACH SCIENCE GENIUS. TRY DOING YOUR HOMEWORK NEXT TIME. I myself have a masters degree in Biochemistry then decided to get my lic. to teach. Science teaches us an important lesson. IF YOU DONT KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT THEN SHUT THE HELL UP!!!!!!!!!

      • Bard

        Goodness, things have changed.

        I’m not too far out of the Colorado public school system, but apparently the whole curriculum, top to bottom, has been completely shaken.

        I remember taking the CSAP. Preparation time in all my classes, including A.P. was three days. Not months.

        Also, the problem of organization in science notebooks won’t disappear. They do it in higher education too, especially the low level Chemistry and Physics courses. How will the problem be solved there?

        I’d also like to remind each poster that, while it is incredibly easy and facile to knock civil servants in our public school districts for being incompetent, poorly trained and insufficiently funded, there are many, many excellent and well qualified teachers who made my high school experience one of the apogees of my life. Demagoguery and catch-all taunts like “Welcome to Republican America!” may be hinting at a legitimate argument, but are profoundly simple and offer nothing to the debate over our nations public education system.

        I too am a victim of the “Inane Assignment” syndrome a lot of teachers prescribe too, but remember that there are always exceptional and hard working professionals who are currently being grouped together in many of these comments’ half-baked acerbic diatribes.

      • http://www.astronomybuff.com Tony

        OK, there is a lot to digest here. Let me just say right off the bat that I am so happy to read these comments, even the ones blasting me.

        I need to clarify something first, I am taking my son out of school everyday, not just Tuesdays/Thursdays, I pick the boys up at 2:45 and we work till about 4:00.

        Here’s our schedule:

        On Mondays we go throught the 8th grade science textbook, so I’m not JUST doing astronomy (we’re already half way through it).

        Tuesdays and Thursdays are our science “free for all” days where we talk about whatever is interesting to us.

        Wednesdays are problem sets and/or project days, so far no projects, just problems sets either from the textbook or ones I make up.

        On Friday we watch Sean Carroll’s course on Dark Matter that I bought from The Learning Company.

        The kids are responding well to this schedule with “free for all” days being the most popular. We discuss all questions, look up the answers we don’t know, and decide if any of these things would make a good project.

        At the rate we’re going, we’ll be done with the science textbook by November so we’ll have mondays free for something else.

        Some things I want to clairfy:

        My attitude towards teachers. I realize this post comes across as my not supporting them. Nothing could be further from the truth, my wife is a language arts teacher so of course I am sympathetic to the demands placed on them. I find it criminal that they are not paid commensurate with what they do.

        The problem is, going into teaching is like going into politics, the smart and talented people who you’d really like to see doing the job are smart enough to know better. Good people stay in for a little while, then quit because they need to live a decent life earning a decent wage.

        The quality people that stay in teaching IN SPITE of it all are truly heroic and are worth their weight in gold, and I’m always surprised at how many there are. Compared to the total teacher population though, their numbers are small.

        I’ve been accused of thinking that teachers are idiots and students know everything. That’s preposterous.

        I couldn’t care less about grades. I’m one of the few parents who really doesn’t care what my son’s report card says. All I want to know is if he’s doing the best he can and trying his utmost. One look at him on a school night can attest to the fact that he is.

        My son has many very good teachers this year. I’ve met them all and almost all of them are committed people who care about teaching. He has a great math teacher, and it turns out the 8th grade science teacher is really good too.

        But I couldn’t take that chance could I? Last year almost sucked the love of science right out my kid. I was not going to sit around and let a one bad experience taint a natural talent like his and turn him away from something he loved.

        These things are fragile and have to be nurtured at critical times in order to thrive. It took decades for me to be able to face math after my public school education. I didn’t want that for him.

        The school isn’t responsible for my son’s education, I AM. It is also my responsibility to raise a kid that can think critically, solve problems, interact with others and contribute positively to society. I take full responsibility for the fact that I have offspring, I don’t palm it off on institutions and I damn sure don’t expect them to be perfect.

        But when these institutions fail, I can’t sit around waiting for them to get fixed.

        Still, all this having been said. I still messed up. My son’s science teacher for this year would have been a good one, his science education would have been adequate. It turns out it’s the language arts teacher I should have been worried about.

        But that’s another story entirely.

      • barney fife

        “college drop in” = trespasser.. Pay for class like the rest of us and stop breaking the law.

      • Steve P.

        I would wish that more parents would do what you are doing, but I realize that’s not realistic. Many (if not most) parents would probably be bigger failures at teaching than school teachers.
        More power to parents like you who know what you’re doing and have a plan as to how to do it.

      • http://www.astronomybuff.com Tony

        @Tim: I don’t blame science teachers for anything. They have to do what they have to do. CSAP’s are what they are and they are a reality we all have to deal with. I just can’t have them getting in the way of actual learning.

        @All comments who tell me they don’t teach the test: My experience is that they do. I have had several teachers tell me they do and I believe them because I trust them.

        I want to also be clear that I understand the need for notebooks. Organizational skills are important, I said that in the post. Both are very important in science and I do not mean to suggest that notebooks should not be kept. It was the 80% of the grade coupled with the effect it had on my kid’s morale about being able to do science that made me act.

      • http://www.astronomybuff.com Tony

        Oh, one more comment from my son: he wants me to emphasize that he LOVES his Social Studies teacher. He says that she is smart, funny engaging and he loves learning from her.

      • http://yahoo.com joke

        its the way the goddam public school system is structured!!! watch this video/documentary and really understand about what is going on:


      • http://bikinicute.blogspot.com Rieke Indrianty

        15 years ago, when I was still in a high-school (not in US), I had a teacher who during every class basically slowly read a course book and asked everyone to write it in the notebook, or re-write it to a notebook at home. I obviously didn’t want to follow such idiocy and refused to keep such notes, augmenting that I have same thing in the book which I own, thus re-writing it is pointless. This obviously resulted in downgrading. I had same situation later with two teachers during my study. Many years later when I’m running my own business, I actually start to question the whole idea of going through a formal education system. If I’d have to make a choice now, I’d stop my education at a high school – or earlier – and focus on developing business skils and practice by running my own business. Frankly speaking, after my college graduation I even had to waste few years to clear my mind of all the impractical business knowledge, before I started to realize that it’s all useless as every business case is special. Anyway, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison, Li Ka-Shing (Asia’s Richest Man), Roman Abramovich (Richest Russian), Paul Allen, Richard Branson … dozen of other billionaires are obviously smarter than me, because I have a college degree, while they don’t and this haven’t stopped them from getting highly successful.

        Note: Sorry, I speak 4 languages but I’m not fluent in English.

      • http://none boojay

        Not surprised at all. It’s sad, but society and the so-called educational system is so twisted that there’s not much one can do to change it. I applaud you, however, for not letting your kid(s) become victim to this monstrous educational “industry”. If only I were so lucky to have my eyes opened at a young age.

      • sue

        in high school my whole class nearly failed chemistry because of these stupid little 2 questions quizzes at the beginning of class (that was a large part of our grades) based on the material she was going to cover in THAT class period.

        yet that same year I fell in love with history class because of the passion my teacher had for it.

      • Sputnik

        I don’t even remember learning any science in middle school in Chicago Public School system. The only things we were tested on, on the IOWA test was reading and math pretty much. We had 1 math teacher for the whole school who would visit each class once in a while to teach us something new. In fact, I remember learning the same thing over and over again from year to year in middle school when it came to readin/english and math.

        What about geography in public schools? It’s disgusting, majority of the kids can’t even locate their own state on the map. American public schools are a joke. At least those in urban settings are.

        I started school in Russia, and there in 2.5 years of education I learned more in all subjects than I did in CPS.

        When I moved to burbs and started at a “good” high-school I was so freaking surprised that all of my peers could actually read without stuttering. I

        It’s very very sad.

      • the kids are alright

        Couldn’t your son still attend the Science class so that he can learn the skills related to being organized and also teach him for an hour on the weekend or in the evening after school?

        It seems like you could get the best of both worlds. He would learn a valuable lesson in coping with unappealing responsibilities, and also the good that comes of freer quality time spent with a parent in the teacher role. It seems like taking him from class has more to do with your making a point then his education. I don’t agree with the teacher either but consider the latent consequences of your ‘example’.

        Finally, fifth grade children aren’t lost causes because they don’t know the year of the moon landing. Think about the things they do know already. With the amount of media, social messages, and early exposures to concepts kids are having beamed into their brains these days their ability to sort through the ways of our world are well above those of kids their age 30 years ago. Information about the moon landing is good to know but those dates and numbers will be a click away for the rest of their lives along with a bunch of other trivial things like how to make change or state capitals. I’m more interested in hiring the kid that grows up and may not know the answer but knows how to find it and figure out why it’s important. Logic, application, adaptation, and making sense of complex systems are the skills that a good science/math education should impart. Love of these subjects is hopefully a side effect but not a requirement.

      • http://science-student.com/ Nate

        Middle school and high school teachers are aweful. I always hated busywork that we were forced to do because they were lazy and felt like getting on the computer. Oh, and you can’t question them because all too often their ego is the size of the moon and they don’t answer to anyone. The teachers spent more time disciplining and worrying about cell phones and the latest gossip than covering the material. I don’t remember ever getting through an entire textbook. Good for you, I hope the homeschooling goes well.

        ps. Astrophysics!


      • http://www.astronomybuff.com Tony

        (Can you tell I’m reading these from the bottom up?)

        @Craig: I didn’t wait until the end of the school year to realize there was a problem. I stated above that I really didn’t care about the grades on the report card because I knew my son, his work ethic and what he knew. Grades aren’t always a good measure of what a kid knows.

        The problem arose in May when he said to me, “Dad, I’m sorry about that C-, I know how important science is to you, I guess I’m just not cut out to be a scientist.”

        That’s when I hit the brakes on this. You see, the problem was that the grade meant something to HIM. He was using it as a measure of whether or not he was good at science. I spent a long time trying to explain to him that not only was he GOOD at science (his organizational and notetaking skills notwithstanding), but that he had EXACTLY the right skills to become a scientist.

        Last year, as now, he was at a critical time in his life. He is deciding what he wants to do, and that’s guided very much by what he thinks he can do.

        When adults think back to the time they decided they were going to be what they eventually became, they remember fondly these years.

        “I’ve wanted to be an astronaut since I was 10.”

        “I knew at 12 that I would become a doctor, I was watching M*A*S*H…”

        At this age, if he thinks he sucks at science, he’s going to give it up, possibly forever, and it’s all because of a silly notebook requirement.

        I really, really, really don’t give a shit about his grades because I know the system isn’t perfect and doesn’t always reflect reality, often grades measure how well a student can take a test. Further, I know my kid, he is a good student and he takes pride in his work. The thing is, the grades matter to HIM and he uses them as a reflection of his abilities.

        I just think that particular policy, along with a few others I’ve seen this year in his language arts teacher, set these students up to fail, sometimes with far-reaching consequences.

      • http://science-student.com/ Nate

        In my Pennsylvania high school, it was generally the math and science teachers that WERE ON TOPIC! In my previous comment I was ranting on the history, government, and elective teachers.

      • http://codeundspiele.de Moritz Voss

        10 years ago, I visited a family in the US that was home-schooling their kids. I thought very little of them, because their parents focused on religious education, and pooled their 5th grader’s curriculum with their 8th graders when it came to maths.

        Well, times have changed. Your idea is great and your story is shocking and saddening. I really hope your kid didn’t suffer any irreparable motivational damage, and I hope he doesn’t feel bad about being “special”.

      • nicola

        A friend of mine forwarded this thread to me to see what I think. As a public elementary school teacher, it is incredibly discouraging to read all of the comments about how teachers beat students down, are lazy, are only interested in a paycheck, etc. There are hardly any supportive comments regarding teachers in this thread. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from a private university, subsequently went into international marketing, left that position because I truly wanted to teach and work with children. I earned a Master’s Degree in Education in a very rigorous graduate program. (I know the meaning of hard work, so when I say rigorous I know what I’m talking about.) My first three years of teaching I worked anywhere from 60 – 70 hours each week, all while earning about $30K a year. Big fat paycheck for that much education and that much work, huh? Stretch the time out over the (unpaid) summer and I would still have been working overtime. I care about my students on a personal level, I plan my curriculum so that they are learning on many levels, I evaluate the needs of each student and try to meet those individual needs even while managing a large group (some of whom require extra attention for behavior issues alone). The few parents who are able to offer some time to volunteer in my room to do special activities with small groups(which I don’t expect but which I greatly appreciate when available) always remark that after working with only a few kids at a time, they “don’t know how I do it” working with a whole classroom of young ones. After reading this thread, my opinion is that if you think you can do a better job homeschooling your child, then by all means please leave your own job and stay home to do that. Personally I would prefer to know that the families of the children in my class have more understanding of exactly how demanding my job is, more recognition for how much I actually do care about their children, and more appreciation for how much of my personal time I put in because I want to meet each child’s needs.

      • Daniel Joyce

        80% for organization is just dumb. If it were a college level Analytical chem class, then you might have a reason, but even my lab book in such a class was not 50% of the grade!

        Ever seen a field researchers guides? Sure, some parts are organized logs. Others are quickly scrawled down notes, ideas, and observations.

        The teacher was being lazy and dumb.

        And unless you ARE working as a Crime Scene Investigator, where your logs may be legal docs, your research books are rarely organized.

        And every person is different. If anything, kids need to be taught to find out what works for them. Because college, and in the adult world, we’re all different, and what works for one will not work for another.

        So get a grip. Some of you seem to be really bitter.

      • http://www.astronomybuff.com Tony

        @the kids are alright: I know the kids aren’t lost causes (kids are rarely lost causes), I never meant to imply that. I was just very discouraged and frustrated that some really basic astronomy info wasn’t in their heads.

        I was being very biased there, I admit. Every kid should know about the moon landing, right? The single most amazing thing we ever did? (Besides take the Hubble Deep Field?)

        As to your question of teaching him on the weekends and getting the best of both worlds…

        Looking back, and seeing who his teacher was this year, I can see that he would have gotten an adequate education in science, so he could have taken the science class and probably been fine (I also said that in my post). There’s still the CSAP business though and the fact that he really could benefit from some SERIOUS study in the sciences, particularly cosmology since that is his professed interest. I just felt like I should take some action now since he’ll be in high school next year.

        This has turned out to be a great experience though. The time I spend with him in the afternoon has become very important to both of us.

      • Thom

        As a teacher myself, trained in the US, but teaching in the UK, I dare say you are doing the right thing, but should also be doing something else:

        Work to revoke NCLB, and get the Federal Govt. out of the classroom. States have historically been responsible for the education of their pupils, and chances are, the vast majority of your property tax dollars go to support schools in Colorado. Use your voice, and the voice of those who share your views, to make the changes that your son, your son’s friends, and those other children who are also having to deal with unnecessary pressure of these tests desperately need.

      • HapEdad

        This is a great first step to homeschooling full time. Unfortunately if you look closely, many of the other content areas are lacking too, thus causing kids to fall behind or skate through at a minimal level. I will give credit where credit is due, many of the AP teachers I know in Denver do a high quality job challenging the kids, but we know the AP student population is not the average student ;-) . Colorado has one of the largest homeschooling constituencies in the nation so please utilize the CO homeschooling organizations if you have any questions regarding curriculum choices, or Colorado legal requirements.

        Good Luck!

      • http://www.xanga.com/that_bob_guy Nurse with a prostate

        Wow … many comments. I’m sure mine will be lost in the sea of positive accolades, but I have to add my $.02 as well. I’ll be short, unlike many above me.

        You’re blog has inspired me to take the steps necessary to begin homeschooling my children. I’m disappointed in the quality of science, history and civics education my children will be receiving (1st grader is the oldest of 3) and I thought my only recourse was bitching at the school board. Well, I’m going to bitch with my feet now; I will make preparations to educate my children in these areas and encourage them to learn as much as possible at school as well.

        I’ll be learning right along with them.

      • anonymous

        Seriously though, the first moon landing was faked. We simply had to beat the Soviets at _something_ since they were kicking our butts in the so-called “space race”. (First animal in space, first man in space, first satellite in orbit) Our space program simply was not as advanced as the USSR’s.

        All the other moon landings were real, of course.

      • Apple-A-Day

        80% of a grade from a notebook is excessive, I agree. The bulk of the grade should be weighted more toward tests and quizzes. But that doesn’t mean that organization and following a strict and prescribed formatting procedure isn’t important.

        What would happen if you didn’t follow the formatting procedure on a college application? How about a job application? How about your taxes? … Well, at best, you just don’t get what you want. Your application gets tossed out. Or you’re fighting the IRS!

        Showing what you know in a formal, formatted way is more than “making it easy” on the teacher. It really is important for kids. And if it makes the grading process smoother, then good. Most middle school teachers have between 180 to 200 kids to teach. Sometimes more. And that is Every. Single. Day. How would you like to grade every notebook? How would you feel when, notebook after notebook, you see kids who could give a shit on how they present their work? Think about it.

        Why didn’t you help your kid organize his notebook? I’m sure the syllabus for the class told you that a large portion of the grade was coming from the notebook?

        If you care about your kid’s education, you are going to be clear on his classroom expectations BEFORE he comes home with the C-. And you’re going to be there to help him with the areas he’s weak on every. single. day.

      • Evin

        I went to an American international school in Asia and it was the same thing there. They gave so many points for absolutely nothing and as a result many of the kids didn’t actually comprehend what they were learning. It looked like they were doing well on paper and thats all the teachers (well the American ones) and the school cared about. These kind of crazy grading methods were also employed for English classes! And if kids were too dumb to realize how easy it was to get a B by following simple procedure then all the American teachers would roll out extra credit, which is a concept that makes no sense to me what so ever. I think the American education system is a joke. I went to college in The States and in my freshman year I had to take an English class. This class was the equivalent of 9th grade English where I went to high school (Even though it was an American based high school we could take European standard classes if we wanted to) and the kids in my class still struggled. My teacher actually pulled me aside one day after class and asked me where I got my high school education! He basically said to me that I couldn’t have been educated in America!

        I was astounded at the things my American classmates did not know when I went to college. Whatever about science I think someone should start teaching them geography!

        I do not blame you for home schooling your kids in science. I cant say im surprised to me reading any of this. Good Luck :)

      • penny

        Thanks for your reply to my comments, Chris.

        Eidetic memory didn’t make me UNABLE to keep a notebook–it was just a total waste of my time and effort. My point is that some of the brightest
        students DO NOT NEED A NOTEBOOK. They do not need instruction in learning tools for those who do not have excellent memories. They do not need to learn to organize information–as their minds do that in their own way.

        Nor do they need training in “observation, and problem solving”–indeed, they are probably better at such skills than their “teacher” in middle school. That is why they are already interested in science.

        What they may need is SCIENCE instruction–not “generally useful life skills” ( useful to whom?).
        But, most likely, they don’t need anything from
        adults of the level of intellect of the average

        Creative people should not be penalized for being different, and for opposing authority, or for poor social skills–pretty much every important scientific discovery was made by such people.
        This is especially true when they are young and more vulnerable to brainwashing and “induced failure” and ridicule.

        Finally, to address other’s comments. Education is not “job training”. It is not about teaching conformity skills and obedience. It is not about teaching people to follow rules, turn in work as requested, or follow the boss. The root of the word “education” means ” to bring out”. It is about the unfolding of creative ability–the growth of the what some people might call the soul.

        Training is for “animals”, as Henry Adams wrote.

        It is sad that our society has largely forgotten the point of education.
        We will pay a heavy price! Some might argue that we already are paying it–in spades.

      • Simmons

        Shut Up! Teachers suck get over.

      • Simmons

        I hope you and your jack off kid die in a car fire.

      • http://www.subcorpus.net/blog/ subcorpus

        i thought the US was good …
        if its like what you are telling us …
        than its worse than i thought …
        like ever …

      • http://iwishihadone Aurash Ismail

        lol, i hear you. its freaking bs

      • cdj

        Run from anybody with an education “degree”. They’re all idiots.

        See, for example:


      • http://openartist.net Paul Bloch

        Wow, this is so great.

        PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE post your curriculum to an appropriate site and share it with the rest of the world. It would even be amazing if you would make a podcast of some sort of every lesson. Just a thought.

        I’m 24 now, and I’m one of those kids who could pretty much ace tests but never did my homework (sometimes over 50% of the grade) thus receiving Cs, Ds, and Fs. At a certain point in highschool I didn’t care about it anymore because I knew that whatever I’d make of myself in this world highschool wouldn’t be the deciding factor of my life as from my perspective highschool was more of a holding pen of tribalistic non-thinking adolescents.

        I eventually tried a charter school and when I couldn’t find time to study as I was working full-time at that point I decided to go ahead and test out of highschool all together. When I took my proficiency exam (I was 16) I couldn’t believe how little one actually had to know. And while friends were still in highschool I was travelling in India, giving myself a robust education in eastern thought and the harsh realities of the developing world.

        When I finally learned about Integral Theory (Ken Wilber) and began to appreciate seeing history and all things being part of a 14 billion year evolutionary process everything clicked. I suddenly realized the interrelationship of all fields of education. The result has been an unceasing interest in everything. I’m now interested in every subject imaginable because I have a broader perspective that allows me to appreciate them.

        So if I were to offer an piece of advice I’d say while you’re teaching astronomy and science connect it to the 14 billion year evolution of the universe so you’re kids can even foster a greater appreciation to history, the mysterious emergence of biological organisms, societal and cultural development, and so on. Make the connections that help give value, meaning, and purpose to understanding. The irony of education is we never talk about the value of knowledge, why we pursue it in the first place, how it helps give meaning and purpose to our lives. And anything a kid doesn’t value, they won’t remember in the long run. Of course, the other problem is that kids take education and everything else for granted because we’ve been indoctrinated by our culture (and parents) to be narcissists..but that’s a wholly different subject.

        Good luck!

      • http://openartist.net Paul Bloch

        Darn, should have proofed that comment before submitting it…:)

      • penny

        A clairification: I did write that I was unable to keep a notebook or keep notes. What I meant was “Unable to be willing to waste my time and energy on technique that was WORTHLESS in my learning”.
        It was an emotional “unableness”.

        There are plenty of students in middleschool with excellent memories–and they should not be forced to pretend that they need to learn learning skills worthless to them.

        As to teaching to the majority of the class: It very much depends on what the goal of teaching is. If one teaches much useful stuff to most of the class ( who are–by definition–average), and destroys even one potential Newton, Einstein, or Steinmetz–then, IMHO, you have committed a crime against human culture and progress.

        Education is not a factory assembly line.

      • penny

        In the same way, some may object to my
        orthography for “clarification”. I intentionally
        did that: More french–more fun too.

        It brings out the meaning. Our current school system is all about conformity. In the days of Shakespeare—orthography was not fixed. And, one result is that people were far more creative writers.

        Creativity is all! Plodding is for insects.
        Our school system is designed to create…..

        “What is the closest planet to the earth?”
        ” The earth.”
        “No, I mean, ‘What is the closest other planet to the earth?”
        ” When?”

        “Draw a radio wave.”
        ” I can’t. I don’t have ten dimensional graph paper.”

        ” The electrons run down the inside of the wire at the speed of light.”
        ” Surely, you are joking.”

        From my elementary school experience.

      • JD

        Maybe you should check out the Ontario curriculum? (That’s a province in Canada, for those who don’t know). You can find material on the Internet. Look for “Enriched”, “AP”, “IB”, and other advanced courses. I go to a high school with Enriched science, math and English courses that go far beyond the curriculum. It’s the most fun I’ve had in my life.

      • http://Unitedxtremegaming.net Mike B

        Way back when I was in highschool(an entire 3 years ago) I noticed one sudden trend.. Between the teachers that actually cared and those who could give a crap about their jobs. Those who cared actually took an interactive interest in class, leaving the less static HOMEWORK to those rare occasions that they could not finish in class. The other teachers as mentioned here, would often times hand out simple worksheets, and pile on the homework… Even assign a ‘notebook’ such as this.

      • someguy@n.net

        FYI, the word goddamn has an n in it, as in god- damn. I am writing here to tell you that I do not believe a human has walked on the moon. I also see clearly that 9/11 was a high-tech inside job and three buildings were blown up. If you do not know this, you need to look into it. As far as Apollo, I now believe they circled the earth while the video tapes were played. The videos were made at Area 51 in Nevada which is now viewable with satellite images, craters and all. The US space program was a wreck circa 1961. The aged astronauts act strange today. A high number of them met premature accidental deaths. There are a lot of government killings including Pat Tillman and General Patton. After 9/11 and the parade of lies, I now see it. And it is a shame. The Germans made the Hasselblad cameras used for Apollo. The camera makers say it is a fraud, cameras mounted on a frame on chest of spacesuit, astronaut can not look down to see the viewfinder and all those magazine gorgeous perfectly focused and framed photographs. And in 2007 “Al Queda” runs the world? We are so mind controlled and dumbed down it is a bad thing, can not hold up. As far as home schooling, you sound like a control freak. Maybe you need to find a private or independent or charter school. In a local school system, schools have academic reputation, some are very bad and some function. Good luck. FYI I am not some kook and have attended some of the top schools in the US. Apollo was a fraud. 9/11 was a catastrophe. I am still stunned if not damaged from the quantity of lieing under BushCo. And they’ve stolen practically everything in sight and run the government credit card up to the moon.

      • Slaven Kotur

        Thats nothing. The school system here in Australia is rocketing into the toilet. Its the same here, teacher unions are unchecked and the government allows aristocrats from private schools to rewrite the public school system/curriculum at will.

        My advice is to run and run far away from these pits of humanity we call 1st world countries and their deplorable education systems.

        I suggest Norway or New Zealand

      • Mike

        I did very poorly in high school. All I wanted was to learn the material and move on to the next thing. I had little patience for “busy work”, and tended to ignore exercises (homework, labs) that covered subjects I thoroughly understood. I found it infinitely frustrating that teachers spent most of their time dragging along the bottom 10% of the class instead of charging forward into new areas.

        One year, on the advice of my guidance counselor, I dropped a chemistry class I was failing to keep it off my report card. I was enjoying the class, but I had a 30% average. The grade was calculated on 35% labs, 35% homework, and 30% tests and quizzes. I had nearly perfect scores on every test, and the second highest score on the midterm exam. But that’s not how school works.

        Unfortunate, isn’t it? I graduated with a C average (if that). My first semester in college, I got a 4.0. (My favorite class? Astronomy.)

      • Andy

        I’m in 8th grade in Maryland, and my grades are often 5 or 10 points lower than they should be because of ‘Notebook Checks’ and crap like that.

      • http://www.watersworld.com Chuck W

        You really should home school. My wife and I started home schooling our kids nearly 5 years ago and it has been a fantastic experience. We made this decision for religious reasons as we wanted our children to understand that discussion of God should not be limited only to Church on Sunday, but should be saturated throughout the entire educational career. Our kids score much higher on state tests than kids that go to public school.

        It’s a big time commitment. We are able to do this because my wife is a stay at home mom and does most of the work. If you can’t spare the time, then don’t try it.

        Also, keep in mind that ultimately, you are going to be held responsible for the education of your kids. So if you choose to leave your kids in public school, you will still have to pick up the schools slack to make sure your kids education is complete.

        Good luck.

      • Stephen

        I just would like you, before condemning Colorado public education, to consider a few things. My wife taught for several years in Colorado (Adams 12) before we moved to the Bay Area. This sounds like a bad teacher. Just like every job there are people who aren’t that good. Its annoying, but it happens. Others upthread blame the teacher’s union. It isn’t the union’s fault that some people aren’t very good. And it certainly isn’t impossible to fire someone. It is very difficult to find science and math teachers right now because smart people with those skills don’t want to work for $40k a year.

        Colorado has been underfunding education for years. You want good teachers, you need to pay them more. I would also like you to consider that although you have the luxury of taking matters in your own hands, many parents do not. Parents with only a high school education or less often don’t have the knowledge to teach this on their own. And you are right CSAP is a total waste of time and makes things worse.

      • http://www.delicat.ca amyt

        Bravo for you! That school system sounds pathetic. I pity the 30 other kids left behind in that science class.

        Aside from the school system like you’ve described, we as parents have to understand that we are still the primary instructors in our kids’ lives. School is supposed to teach them the basics (sorry yours isn’t), and we need to fill in the gaps. That’s why I take my daughter on field trips, get her to cook with me, or explain things to her as we do the gardening together.

      • http://none Kyle

        This is exactly how my middle school and early high school science classes were. Students who are able to copy templates get A’s while students who actually comprehend the information but don’t write on the correct side of the notebook paper (cant write on the backs, that’s unorganized) get C’s.

        Oh well I guess it beats the only really educational thing we did in middle school science: dissect frogs. To get us comfortable working with dead animals the teacher made us peel off the frog’s skin, cut it into a costume of sorts and put it back on the frog. We then had a silence of the lambs style frog fashion show complete with music, runway walks, and awards. The winner got extra credit and the unit was over.

        Good-old midwestern educational system. (Iowa)

      • John C. Randolph

        “Why would the school let me take the boys out like that every week? ”

        LET you?

        Let’s be clear on just whose kids you’re talking about. NEA bureaucrats may believe that they’re entitled to override a parent’s choices, and it’s the job of a citizen to correct that belief whenever it rears its stupid head.


      • james

        I agree and disagree with this post. Here are my points of contention: I went to high school in rural Western Kentucky. Boulder Valley has a much better school system that would leave a student adequatley prepared for college. The date of the moon landing wasn’t on an college entrance exams, so I think he’s okay. The most alarming thing of your post was its overall self-righteousness, but that is to be expected as you are a Boulder native. You said your child consistently got C- before you talked to the teacher.. seems like the first C- would have rang your alarm bells.

        Anyway, my story: I got out of high school with a 2.003 GPA but with my SAT I was automatically accepted to the best state university. When I got there I knew more about computer science than any other freshman I met.. more than a lot of the upper students I met. But! I failed out! How was that? I couldn’t manage to get things turned in even though I would do them! I had such terrible organizational skills along with a contempt for a system that simply made you jump through hoops to complete your grade. I failed out repeatedly and showed them!

        Then, a few years later, I realized.. I have to get a degree, therefore I have to keep a notebook if and only if the professor tells me to. My greatest professor made us a keep a lab notebook and he would check it for a big grade at the end of the year. Your son will be screwed because he will have been taught to laugh in the face of that kind of authority.

      • Joshua

        I’m sorry but, being a grad student in biology, I can tell you that if your kid can’t organize his notebook, two things will happen: He will not get good grades in college and he will not be able to get a job in any research lab. Really, it seems like if your kid is the bright young lad you say but he can’t organize his stuff in the same way that all of the other little windowlickers did, perhaps he is slacking off. He had the requirements and he knew what they were, he just didn’t follow them. I’d say he deserves a C-. This isn’t about science. It’s about being in 7th grade and learning how to follow instructions to build a base for later laboratory science so when he works in an Organics lab someday, he won’t blow himself up.

      • Michael

        Great story. I’m from Israel and I don’t familiar with the US/Colorado education system, but I can assure you that such flaws exists here too. Just making me mad that I wasted 12 years of my life learning the wrong way/wrong things.

      • James Rhodes

        I have a comment about grades and GPA. They mean garbage in the real world. What should be doing in the public school system? We should be aiming for competency levels. At my university, Western Governors University (http://www.wgu.edu/), they do not issue a letter grade or a GPA for a course. All they issue is a PASS or FAIL. A PASS is defined as a “B” or 3.00 GPA. Get lower than that and you FAIL! This is how you make sure that teachers are actually competent in their field of study.

        By implementing high standards like this for all public schools, we put less pressure on students to perform to a letter grade or a GPA. Some high schools in New Hampshire are already transitioning to a competency based system. My hat goes off to them for having the “you know what” to do this. I wish more school districts would see the light.

      • Michael

        Seriously, other states are like that? Our education in West Des Moines, IA is a very comprehensive program run (mostly) by teachers that really do care. Our homework is challenging and every student is expected to do well. It’s not that unusual at all to be enrolled in two or more AP classes simultaneously, and these teachers do a thorough job of explaining the material.

        We also have all the science materials one would ever need at our disposal. It doesn’t matter how expensive a piece of equipment is if the district decides it will further our education experience, science or otherwise. Every classroom is currently being installed with a ceiling mounted projector and a desk camera. Teachers will sometimes integrate this with a touchscreen smartboard we can interact with while working in front of our school laptops.

        I couldn’t imagine living in a place like Colorado after reading this.

      • james

        delete my comment please, I forgot that I wasn’t that worried about it as I wrote my comment.

      • omegaant

        Wow – this is amazing!! Apparently there is LOTS of interest in this common problem with education. I agree with THOM – 10/6/07 1:00AM. The Federal Government is not a good supervisor of teachers, and has created an atmosphere of fear and indifference in schools. Do you know that NCLB is all about 8% of any given school district’s money? You (parent) did the right thing to visit the classroom and give a presentation. More parents need to do just that – and teachers really appreciate it!

        I’m a licensed teacher but have been substitute teaching because I can’t even get interviewed in Boulder (perhaps due to my age – 55). I’m creative and creativity is not what schools are looking for. Likewise with critical thinking. There also seems to be a lot of racism going on here against Hispanics. I see it in every school, every grade level K-12!!

        Vote for Ron Paul – he wants to do away with the Dept. of Education and let states govern themselves. It’s a start!!

        Good luck with the kids – but they will, sooner or later, need to learn some organization skills…

      • http://principalquattrano.com/blog Angela

        When I began my student teaching, I was appalled by the amount of emphasis on keeping notebooks, rather than on learning content. The class spent lots of time spent “taking notes”, which was actually copying the teacher’s summary of the current section of the book from a transparency projected on the screen at the front of the room.

        Teachers at the high school complained bitterly that arriving freshmen had no clue how to take notes.

        Textbooks in some classes were huge doorstops – they were too big for the students to take them home to use – the publisher trying to be everything for everyone, even though the whole book was badly written. So assignments from them had to be done in class, and study materials and assignments had to be photocopied.

        In other classes, there was one set of textbooks for the classroom, so no kids could ever remove one from the class.

        I swore to myself that I was not going to focus on trivial things like pretty binders, nor make kids copy down what ought to have been lecture notes for a lecture they never got.

        The next semester I taught earth science to 9th graders. To my chagrin I found that students paid no attention to what was being said in class without a mechanism for grading them for listening right then and there.

        Tell them to write down what they don’t know? They were utterly clueless about taking notes. They didn’t listen anyway, and figured that if it wasn’t on a piece of paper that they had in front of them, I couldn’t legitimately test them on it.

        So I’d make a powerpoint presentation with the lecture outline on it and lots of illustrations, and of course they’d bitch endlessly that I expected them to write it down. But if I passed out notes, they would plan to use the notes to study from and instead spend the time chattering with their friends.

        At the same time, since they were not being graded for keeping the notebooks, only the best organized among them even kept the notes.

        How hard is it to take a piece of paper that you are told is critical to your grade on the next test and put it in your notebook? Apparently too hard, as lots of the kids threw any handouts away immediately.

        The text was written at about the 5th grade level, yet they would not or could not read it – or they would skim once and give up. So basically, they had to have those notebooks.

        A student who is motivated can learn almost anything from reading books, but students nowadays are not motivated to learn. They live in the short term. If they aren’t being graded on putting that piece of paper in a notebook, they won’t do it, even if it needs to be there the next day for another assignment.

        What they learn is to determine the motions they need to go through to get a passing grade, and they just work the system.

        Don’t get me started about “group work”. One kid in a group does the work, then they all copy it down without checking to see if it’s correct.

      • Johan

        I’m a Junior in High School this year and I know the exact situation. Science education in High School is terrible. It is for this reason that I went to the Mass Academy of Math and Science. It’s a selective school (only 50 people get in out of the state), but it’s well worth it. If any of you have kids interested in Math and Science, check out schools like this in your area. Instead of notebook checks and tests, the students are taught advanced subjects (such as Mathematical modeling and Calculus I in one year) and have a lab-based science class where you learn hands-on, and the only organization that matters is where you put the data in official reports. You also have a chance to be nationally recognized as you are entered into almost all major math and science competitions. It’s really challenging and rewarding. So, any parents with kids who are interested in these subject matters, look those schools up! It’s the best thing that can happen to your child.

      • Nick

        I agree with you on the Boulder Valley being a Shi*tty place to be. I grew up here, went to different schools here. I started in Longmont as a kid, at Burlington Elementary school. Turns out they were to racist that they tried to teach me my left hand was my right, and vice-versa. Then I went to Heatherwood. They didn’t have walls there. Just cubical dividers between classrooms. I went to Platt Middle School soon after. Those teachers were the worst. Almost every class I had a D or an F in. I repeated 6th grade because of it. All because of what you mentioned about “organizational skills.” It rang especially true for Math, Science, and English classes. I would all the time get marked off in English because what I wrote was not “perfect English.” My father is an engineer and a English minor from Standford and I kept on getting low scores. Math was a picky subject. Both my parents are engineers, and I kept getting points taken from tests and assignments because “they were illegible scribbles to show my work.” Fine, but I always got the right answer. To really add insult to injury, the math teacher gave me an award at the end of the year, “most likely to succeed.” I still have it framed up if you ever want to see it.

        Then there was High School. That was just painful! We were using books from the 1970s. It was pathetic. There have been major advances in science since then. Half the tests we over materials that were not in the book, but had to be researched outside of class, online. The assignments were idiotic because they didn’t do anything except waste your time making you do busy work. “Fill in the blank” was an obvious copy and paste of the bold text in the book. I thankfully only had three classes that required “the notebook.” All of them were a complete waste of time. They also wasted resources.

        I probably learned nothing in school. I retained some information but dumped most of it. Most of what I “learned” for the future in college didn’t even begin to apply. I somehow made it into college with a 2.76 GPA, granted not my first choices either. I decided to go into business and found myself completely lost. I learned nothing in high school. I was probably better off being taught by my parents, but they didn’t have time to do that.

        I envy your son Tony. He’ll get something way more out of you than he will in school.

        By the way, we live in Boulder, and everyone here is a complete “hippie.” I’ve lived with a ton of them. They probably smoked themselves into paranoia about everything from, the moon landing to why “organic” is any better for you than “non organic.” People here are weird. If you want to know more about my experiences through the BVSD school system, just ask.

      • Pingback: Problems in the educational system? « Later On

      • Jyri from Finland

        Although I share your feelings with that particular teacher, I still think public schools teach a lot more social skills/interaction than home schooling. Not by teachers, but by the student community.

        Maybe you should consider talking to the principal or whoever is in charge of those things in the U.S. about getting the teacher changed.

        In any case, a child actually interested in learning should definately get the best possible teacher, be it at home or school.

        Just my two cents.

      • Alli

        “If at your job you knew the material but just handed in whatever you wanted would you get that far.”

        Well, Ian, I suppose we know which kind of career you chose then;) Thanks for your armchair-quarterbacking from your little cubicle in that cold, dark building you work in.
        Some of us actually chose career fields where we see the sun and don’t “hand in” our work to the authority figure. Have fun with that, do.

      • Dr.Phobius

        To all the teachers reading these responses who are up in arms… take a breath.

        I dont think anyone is insinuating that ALL teachers are bad, or that all teachers just want to get their paycheck and go home. But please be honest enough (even if just with yourself) to admit that you have at least one or two teachers at your school who fit that bill exactly. They may have even started out filled with optimism and a desire to teach, and have since been crushed by the current state of our public school system. But lets not pretend that the teacher that Tony is speaking of is an anomaly in the system.

        Im against home schooling, because it seems that many people who choose to home school are not the most intelligent people themselves, and are doing so due to some extremist religious belief, and are not going to be able to educate their child adequately. But that is just me, and I dont believe that EVERYONE who home schools falls into that category.
        But Tony is not “home schooling” (IMO) by teaching this one class himself. He also seems to be properly trained in the discipline he is teaching and most important, he is passionate about the subject he will teach. I will never forget what I learned in school from the few teachers I had who actually seemed to be passionate about their subject. They drew me into the subject by their sheer love of it, and even if it wasnt something I personally felt strongly about, I learned and absorbed from them because of their attitude toward what they taught. Unfortunately, those teachers seem to be in the minority…

        But I digress.

        As nice as it would be to tell Tony to just fight the education system for change, we know how unrealistic that is. Most people in the U.S. would rather just “not make waves” and let thing go on as they are, as the days of getting involved for change seem to be behind us. Ive tried, and I was lucky if I could get a handful of people out of the entire school district to sign a petition, much less get anyone to attend a school board meeting in the evening. How can we expect our children to care, when we as parents cant be bothered to do so?

        To everyone here complaining: Are you actually willing to help make a change, or does your concern about this topic begin and end with message board bitching?

      • http://none Mark Walter

        Sigh, Another parent with a few gross misconceptions. You said:

        “This means that all school year until March, but especially from January to March, my kids are getting immersed in that test. The teachers do NOTHING ELSE but teach that test.”

        And also:

        “Then, after March, when the pressure is off, the teachers pretty much coast through April, May and the first part of June. ”

        First of all. No day in a school, especially a middle
        school is ever ‘coasting.’ Thanks for putting down all hard working teachers.

        Second of all, yeah, it sucks but you are told: Every student has to pass the test or you get fired. What would you do? That’s great your son is really smart, but you know what? Thanks to parents, politics, and admin, every student who isn’t as smart as your son is still in my class, and If I don’t get each one of them to pass the test I lose my job.

        Sure, there are teachers out there that saw screw the test and teach how you would like your son to be taught, but they’ll quickly get fired and replaced by someone who can produce better test scores.

        In short, way to be another parent blaming it on the teacher. Why not take the time to understand school politics before you blame the hard working teacher.

        As for this particular teacher, yeah 80% is rough for a notebook grade. All the same, you’re no better for putting the rest of us down and saying we “coast.”

        Spend a month as a teacher and your eyes will open to a whole new world.

      • http://none Mark Walter


        Yeah my periods and commas are messed up and so is the world saw and say.

        Good thing I don’t teach English.

      • dpocius

        I don’t remember much from any of my science classes from K through 12, other than what I was taught seemed reasonable and validated my extracurricular experiences in learning about science and the world in general. I was always interested in science because it made more sense than business or politics, and was internally consistent, and held truth as the ultimate goal. My dad was interested in science and engineering, not so much in sports, and thus so was I. Methinks part of the problem is that it’s the other way ’round in many households.
        Tony, I agree with you about the notetaking. 80% is ridiculous; 20% would make sense. Notetaking is a valuable tool as long as it doesn’t interfere with learning the material. I soon discovered I couldn’t pay attention to the lecture and write at the same time, so notes had to go. I then discovered that if I paid attention to the lecture, read the book, and did enough homework to convince myself I knew what was going on, I had no problem learning the material, and hence, passing tests and quizzes. I also discovered the more math and science I learned, the more I could rely on the underlying patterns to synthesize answers to particular questions, rather than memorizing each and every thing. This really paid off in college physics and calculus, and the realization of the underlying organization of the universe became somewhat of a religious experience for me. My faith is in the truth of Universe, not in the words of some Bronze-Age text written by people whose motives have been lost in time.
        But I digress. The point is, I learned enough in school to get me by in spite of the overlay of bureaucracy inherent in any organization. Actually, that aspect also was educational, preparing me for the real-world dichotomy of what’s expected vs. what’s important. The other important thing I learned was grammar. This is a fundamental tool for any activity more sophisticated than flipping burgers! Does anyone teach this any more? Honestly, reading Internet posts is often like fingernails on a blackboard! PROOFREAD, PEOPLE! It’s “a lot”, not “alot”!
        The bottom line is, it’s parents who have primary responsibility for the way their kids turn out, not schools. It’s parents who inspire the basic direction their kids take in life, or neglect to do so and leave them drifting, rudderless. Parents (like Tony) can exercise a surprising degree of control of their children’s education. My wife all but specified which teachers our daughter was assigned to in elementary school by being active in school activities, and frankly by being a good politician. Hey, it’s survival of the fittest. If the good teachers get a lot of attention from parents, that provides valuable feedback to the administration at performance review time.
        But parental influence is more than explicit help with homework and homeschooling. It’s what you’re interested in, what magazines you have lying around, what books are on the bookshelves, what side trips you take on family vacations, what’s on the TV. Honestly, if you’re not genuinely interested in a thing, you’re kids won’t be interested in that thing either. And, the most important “thing” is the love of learning. Curiosity is the root of all learning and self-improvement. If you sit around like a lump on weekends, your kids won’t be motivated to learn in school or anywhere else.
        As far as schools go, we need to insist on excellence at all levels. Fund smaller class sizes, insist on and pay for excellence, that’s what I say. Do more with less. Guest lectures from working professionals. Require one semester of theatrical training of all teachers so classes aren’t as dull as dishwater. Think out of the box. If a teacher has a good idea, admin should get the hell out of the way and let them get on with it. Teach combo classes that belong together, like calculus/physics. Institute competent guidance counseling (I didn’t know the difference between an engineer and a technician until it was too late!), again with help from working professionals. Teach practical life skills, like how to balance a checkbook. Put some thought behind knee-jerk political correctness so as to return to a climate of basic human dignity. I could go on, but I don’t want to piss off too many readers.
        Background stats: I’m 55, retired non-degreed engineer, and a product of east-coast public schools, no unusual educational timing or family circumstance. Other than a fascination with cosmology and philosophy, I’m about as white-bread as it gets.

      • http://nicholdraper.com Nichol Draper

        My mother took me out of the California school system for part of the day to teach me reading. My mother was a certified teacher and made sure she did it for enough hours that they didn’t get their money. The fact that I lived outside the United States for a few years helps me now that over half of my coworkers in my R&D group are not citizens of the US. You have to tutor your own children in every subject if you don’t want American idiots. And my children’s teachers tell my children that teachers are underpaid.

      • Mr. Mark


        I laughed out loud when I read your comment. Tony wants to take complete responsibility for one class, and your response is that the students will be socially isolated when they get to college. Really?

        My daughters were homeschooled from 5th and 3rd grade (respectively) on. One is in college. The other is a high school junior –still homeschooled– and is dually enrolled in classes at a small college nearby. They’re both well-balanced, high achieving, active in extra-curriculars, and popular amongst a crowd of other kids their own ages. For example, their birthday parties each had 80+ kids in attendance this year, all of whom are polite to adults, kind and supportive of each other. When my youngest daughter’s volleyball team plays locally, I have to arrive early in order to get a seat in the bleachers; her friends pack the stands in support. My kids love to swing dance, and have been interviewed by a top 5 radio station in town (Detroit) about a weekly dance they help host each week in a nearby suburb. They read Kierkegaard, Machiavelli, Hemingway and Proust and Potok. They love to write (and they’re pretty good at it). They managed to do well in math and science classes. By the way, their science curriculum is not creationist-based; I’ve seen some of that stuff, and it’s appalling.

        And all the while, they’re some of the least socially isolated teenagers I’ve ever known in 16 years of working full-time with teenagers. I wonder how they managed to do that…..

        My guess is that Tony’s kids won’t be isolated, either. May I suggest that your comments betray that you’ve swallowed some propagandist’s bait, hook/line/sinker? Maybe Tony would allow you to attend this science class, too. Critical thinking is part of the curriculum, after all.

      • http://www.51-life.net/home 51-life

        Thanks for sharing

      • Raj

        To everyone here complaining: Are you actually willing to help make a change, or does your concern about this topic begin and end with message board bitching?

        Why yes. I did and will also do the same for my grandchildren.

        Have you?

      • http://HealthyLivingForPeopleAndPlanetEarth.com Will

        I homeschooled all our children right up to high school. I did it only for academic reasons. The teachers in our elementary schools are very good, but…. They have 30 plus kids in each classroom. Also a 5th grade class might have some kids performing at the 2nd grade level and others at the 8th grade level. Add in the behavior problems and what is a teacher, even a very good one, supposed to do.

        My youngest is now in7th grade and will go to our local high school. I am worried about this as our local high schools have recently embraced the Gates Foundation’s philosophy and money. So now all AP classes are being eliminated and the honors classes watered down. They want the smarter and highest achieving kids in the same classroom as all the others. No more “segregation” of the top students in their own, more challenging classes.

        I write at length about this on my web site. I write about it in the local papers. I go to the school board meetings. I talk to as many other parents as I can. I have tried to contact the Gates Foundation. All to no avail. Money talks, not necessarily common sense!


      • http://none carl

        I would have to guess that your son’s poor grade is not just about the poor organization, I bet there are plenty of kids doing better than him with worse notebooks. The real reason is because he knows more than the teacher and corrects her in class, he notebook is just her excuse to make herself feel more powerful than a 7th grader.

      • http://baka-koneko.com/blog Tokio

        I got out of high school 2 years ago – and yeah, it sucked.

        To me, the ONLY reason a child should fail a class is because they don’t know the material. Who cares about how they organize themselves? It might work for them.

        Not only did I hate notebook checks, but I also hated projects that were a large percentage of your grade (some classes, a project was 50%).

        So if you skip this ONE project (or don’t do good on this ONE project) you’re screwed. You can get A’s on everything else and still fail. Not because you don’t know the material, but because you didn’t do/messed up on ONE project.

        There’s a lot of smart people I knew that used to skip assignments because it bored them. They knew the material, but suffered because the work bored them.

        School should be about educating, not about who can turn in the most assignments. If it is obvious the kid knows the stuff – then pass them.

        And get rid of that standardization garbage. I’m not ‘standard’.

      • http://cataclasite.blogspot.com Joe

        I dissagree….truely, its great that your son knows science very well.

        but part of being in the classroom is learning rules, and part if part of those rules involves organizing your science notebook, then your son needs to learn how to create his science notebook.

        if the teacher put out a syllabus at the beginning of the year that said “80% of your grade is organizing your science notebook” then your son NEEDS to work on organization.

        science is more than just facts and knowledge….I’m a professional geologist, and I can tell you that keeping field data, notes, and all scientific information (journal articles, etc…) organized is a KEY COMPONENT to being a successful scientist…

        a good scientist knows alot of science, but a great scientist knows how to keep his ideas organized, how to research and look for information he/she needs, and how to compile that data into coherent reports/journal articles/field notes/etc…

      • SD

        I don’t understand. I live in NJ, and we have the aptitude test, and my teacher’s never eve mentioned the test EVER (except a month before just to remind us that if you’re not a junior, you get to sleep in for 3 days).

      • DavidP

        I’m sure that you or any parent passionate enough to homeschool your child will do a good job of it – the investment couldn’t be more important to you, and the teacher-student ratio is wonderful. I wish you all success!

        However I’m not much persuaded by this post. It seems reasonable to me for teachers to require students to present their work in an organized manner. Organization and coherence are basic requirements for academics and employment.

        I don’t mean to be hard on you or your child, but you say that he failed his notebook checks, and failed them all year long. How bad did the notebooks have to be to fail? How little improvement would have been needed to make pass? How could he have managed this all year long without your noticing? And was it just the “C-” that caused this – would you have left him in school if he had made a B?

        I don’t doubt that the teacher could have been a prick. But I would be surprised if her standards were unreasonable – there’s just too much blowback for expecting a lot from students (child get a C-, dad pulls him out of the school system). I strongly suspect that a bit more attention and effort could have bypassed this whole problem.

        Again, I’m not trying to be hard on you or your son. You should have a great year, and I wish you all success.

      • Tom

        This is why Canada trumps the US on education.

      • Tao

        Sadly it’s not just some teachers but the books used in the classes. My son was in 5th Grade last year and their Math book covered the largest burrito ever made in Mexico… but not how to divide fractions. I had to show him how to do it so that he could complete his homework. (Yep. They had problems where you had to do it but did not show the method.)

      • http://www.allusis.net Tony Montemorano

        I was home schooled from 7th – 12th grade and have been asked every time the subject is brought it up if I feel like I missed out on something. No.. I still played sports, I am by no means socially inept, I had plenty of friends etc. I will say that many of the parents and children that I met through various programs who were home schooled were strict, scary, reality shrouding fanatics and thankfully my mother saw right through all of that and opted away from the insanity and helped me get in touch with what I wanted to do and accellerate in areas that I think many people don’t really see until they are in their mid twenties. I’m 23 years old now. I went to college and I have been a graphics designer for the past 7 years. I am successful in the industry and I think that anyone who can dedicate themselves to their children properly in this situation will quickly realize that it’s not so unnatural.

      • don

        We homeschool all our kids, and for science our 8th – 12th graders are using the Apologia.com curriculum, which is written by a science PhD with help from other science teaching pros. The kids love it, and I love it because it’s a solid series of courses that are easy for the kids to use and learn from. They have both book and DVD portions.

        Best of luck! If you’re having similar problems with math, check out the terrific math courses at teachingtextbooks.com.

      • aja

        This is a function of the universities too. The education department at most universities promote the belive that you don’t have to know what you teach. The do this because the department is given money for the classes they teach. If future teachers took science classes that would take money away from the education department. So, most science teacher don’t even qualify for a minor in science.

        I learned this the hard way. I was a part-time high school teacher for 2 yrs. I was a science major but took education classes to keep my job. I quite to get my Phd. I left that job with a odd feeling that I had been right when I was in school, most teachers were idiots.

        The great teachers are the ones that love the subject and are still learning themselfs. This is why I loved my science profs. They still knew what it was like to suffer to learn something new or to think in a new way.

      • jason

        This story angers me so deeply. I’m so sorry your son has to go through this.

        I’m a practicing engineer. I’ve got my MSEE, BSEE, and an BA in Physics. I also had a terrible 8th grade science teacher who was a stickler for notebooks. I went so far as to get an F for a quarter because I organized my notebook as I saw fit, graded homework in back, current things in front, notes in the middle. The way I had done for my entire life as an A student. She had things setup for her convenience: graded homework in front, then current work, then notes, in back.

        It was so demoralizing that the rest of my grades started slipping. I was so furious. My parents were confused. The school guidance counselor was confused. It was blamed on my parents and their divorce. The school wouldn’t take any credit and I was too shy to say anything. Luckily, my curiosity ran deep and I had all of high school to get things back on track, now with renewed vigor.

        Years later, when I was in college, I ran into her in a grocery store. She asked me how things were going, and I rattled off my story; Ivy League school, engineering, things were good, and, “no thanks to you. By the way, are you still teaching junior high or have they forced you into retirement?” Then I paid for my groceries and left while her jaw was still hanging.

        Your son is lucky and you’re doing a wonderful thing for him.

      • Alex

        I do not understand why people are saying that public school teachers are underpaid. I don’t have a problem with good teachers getting paid well, and I understand that teachers look after kids for 12 years, but they are vastly over compensated, IMHO.
        It seems to me their primary focus is their compensation. This article has sprung so many comments about how bad our school system is and, it is so bad, that people have to pull their children out of public school. Given this, why are we even paying anything to these teachers?
        I saw a comment saying that teachers are lucky to get 28k a year. This commenter is merely cherry picking. I have a problem when people pick the lowest amount that a teacher might get, (like what a 1st grade teacher would get in the first year), and then post it as though all teachers get that much. This is not true. High school teachers in Oregon get $50,000+ a year, plus 3 months off each year and many more days off for holidays, snow days, and Christmas break. Their retirement fund is second to none, and they get medical benefits. Again, in Oregon, 92% of all the money that goes to the schools goes to payroll (most of THAT goes to the teachers).
        After looking at the ridiculously poor quality of public education in general compared to the incredibly generous overall compensation package for the public teachers, I don’t understand why anyone would think that they are underpaid.
        Again, if teachers were doing a bang up job, I suspect most people wouldn’t complain about their pay.

      • cdj

        They are hugely underpaid. You know how you can tell? They’re all idiots. I say triple or quadruple the pay immediately. Guess what’ll happen in 3-5 years? The idiot teachers will all be janitors, shoved out by smart, well-educated (in a REAL field, NOT education) go-getters.

        Increase teacher pay I say; the quicker the better, the more the better.

      • Alex


        Then why is it that even though the money going to teachers has increased dramatically over the years, that we still see a poor quality of teaching? Paying them more money is not going to solve the problem. History shows us that paying more doesn’t work. Look at the American Auto Industry.

      • cdj

        Alex – whether one calls the increase in money going to teachers “dramatically” increased is a matter of opinion. Objectively, I’d be surprised if median teacher income is over $60k – ie, lower middle class. I say triple that right now. Yah – there will be a couple years of idiots getting a lot of money, but you gotta start somewhere. Smart folks’ll catch on real quick that there’s excellent money to be made in teaching, in addition to all of the other good things about it.

        In a few years, if median incomes are in the 150k range, pretty much every “education” major will be gone, replaced with smart people. That’ll take care of easiest part of the education problem to solve. It’ll be harder to deal with the crappy parents.

      • Tilly

        Wow, I’m from Vancouver Canada. I have some minor complaints about our school system (mostly in how they are teaching math, my youngest is in Grade 4), but nothing along these lines though I always think they should do more science. My stepson is in 4th year science at the university, UBC, and was very well prepared from high school. By the way, UBC draws huge talent worldwide for its commitment to research and has spun off numerous companies that have gone on to provide thousands of jobs and investment. It is a huge benefit to our community, so not only are your kids not being taught your society is not benefiting from their future talents. We also keep religion separate. Here teachers are not allowed to show any religious or cultural bias to the point of absurdity sometimes (like not doing a Chinese Lantern Festival and instead calling it Fall Days even though we have a large Asian community). But like Tony I do not rely totally on the school system to teach my kid. We do lots of science experiments at home and watch tons of science and nature programs. I too assume it is my job to keep her love of science alive. It’s just about teaching our kids the world – it’s a pretty interesting place. Oh, and I am an English major, so you don’t need a science background yourself to teach basic science, just curiosity about the world, knowing how to look up stuff and maybe a subscription to Discover:) I won’t be able to help her as much as she gets older, but the foundation will be there.

      • aja

        Money will not help. Making the teacher know the material the are teaching will!

        You can apy out a ton but if you tell them it is ok that they don’t understand the subject matter this is what you will get.

      • cdj

        lol! You’re one of the ones who would be weeded out.

      • http://www.mywaiora.com/132674 George Wade

        Here is one more perspective:

        October 5, 2007
        For immediate release and distribution
        Vaccine Autoimmune Project Publication
        When 1 in 150 is really 1 in 67
        By Raymond W. Gallup and F. Edward Yazbak, MD, FAAP

        Since February 2007, news outlets have widely publicized the fact that recently released figures by the CDC have estimated the prevalence of autism and autistic spectral disorders at a NEW high of 1 in 150. In this report, VAP’s co-founder Ray Gallup and Dr. Yazbak examine the most recent United States Department of Education statistics and reveal that the 1 in 150 estimate is outdated by five years. They report that the present prevalence of ASD may be as high as 1 in 67.

        We at the Vaccine Autoimmune Project are saddened and concerned to see the latest Department of Education figures. We are also concerned about what is to come. It is evident that, 1) our medical authorities are more interested in defending vaccination programs than controlling autism, the most devastating and real epidemic we have faced in a hundred years, and 2) our wealthiest and largest autism association is giving little attention to the role of vaccines and vaccine additives and preservatives.

        _http://www.vaproject.org/yazbak/1-in-150-is-really-1-in-67- 20071005.htm
        Raymond Gallup
        F. Edward Yazbak, MD, FAAP

        Vaccine Autoimmune Project (VAP)
        Barbara Labrecque
        Butch Labrecque
        Ray Gallup

        Now, autism is not the only factor in the situation we face: it is more like the “Canary in the coalmine” that would stop singing and drop dead in time to warn the miners to get the hell out and to ventilate the mine of suffocating gasses before returning. The job of the CDC and Dept of Ed seems to be to drape a cover over the cage to hide the dying canary warning us.

        “Interesting Times” to be living in. Good that some of us home school children & self educate ourselves, more or less. The system is not all wrong: just needs taking with a large pinch of garlic salt.


      • Nathan R

        Hi, I’m a recent high school graduate and I can relate this story very strongly. I was a product of the public school education system and then graduated from a private school my last two years of high school. While science is no doubt very important, another one of equal, if not higher, significance is mathematics. I can personally attest that in my county alone, the so called advanced classes in mathematics only covers about 1/3 of the standard classes at my private high school. Can you guess which third was only covered? The portion on the spring accountability test. What’s more shocking is that, when it comes time to go to college, these students with a highly diluted education show off A’s in “advanced” classes and have no problem getting in. Once in college, they are so far up shit creek, by the time they realize they never had a paddle, they’re out of college or pursuing an education major. Education in the country is quite startling and it seems that the people in charge of teaching the children are quite apathetic to their job and only care about their paycheck. As for myself, I plan on getting my Bachelors of Science in Aerospace Engineering, but at times, I am questioning my abilities and future from the poor foundation of my pre-college education.

      • http://www.snissen.com Sam N.

        I agreed with your point that testing isn’t the best form of education and that teachers are forced to teach the test. I also disdained the pedantic types of teachers you describe. Finally, I laud your effort to invest in your kid’s education. Kudos.

        But I couldn’t help but notice you blame the teaching profession for ‘teaching the test’ and the principle for caring about making his school financially solvent. This blame is ill-placed. Both are charged with those duties. If you believe that either groups entered the teaching profession to complete either charge, you don’t understand market economics. That is, they obviously would like to be living up to the high standards set by yourself and others, but cannot because of the pressure on them.

        The up shot: don’t blame the players when the game is rigged, please. I’m sure most of your son’s teachers are decent people.

      • wallflower67

        Now that I’m homeschooling my learning disabled daughter (7th grade), she can actually have a social life and fully participate in a sport that she loves. She learned nothing in school, despite special ed services, so evenings were spent with me teaching her what she should have learned during the day. No time for any social life. She got picked on in school because she couldn’t get the material. So no real social life at school either.

        For those of you who homeschool, what science curriculum do you use? Any favorite publisher?

      • Sandy

        This sounds very familiar. Probably because where I live (Florida) does the same thing. Except our test is called the FCAT. We are not taught anything useful. We are taught what is on the FCAT test. That’s the only thing they care about because the better students do, the more they get paid. I am very upset because I do not think I am learning what I need to know to be successful. Standardized state tests need to be abolished because they are taking away from student’s education.

      • Michelle


        I have experienced some of the same issues with my son, and he is now in 4th grade.

        In 3rd grade, they introduced the assignment book. It became a huge focus for his teacher to have them fill it out… to the point that it became a distraction. Yes, organizational skills are excellent to have, but 3rd grade is a bit ridiculous to start expecting these kids to fill one out. What was the big push? Because this teacher had been a middle school teacher. She expected middle school habits out of 3rd graders. Most of the time, she didn’t care if the assignments were actually done, so long as the assignment book was filled out. It became very bizarre.

        I take issue with how basic English grammar is taught, as well. I had to provide quite a bit of secondary teaching at home because the concept of such basic things as nouns, verbs, and adjectives were not being taught correctly. The teacher taught “down the middle,” and the bright kids would get finished and be bored while the kids who were a bit slower were left behind, and yet they were not understanding the basic concepts. No one could move on until everyone got it…. a result of NCLB. So, once everyone had a basic understanding, they moved quickly to the next topic. My son was one of the brighter students (honor roll), but there were things that he needed help with.

        Unfortunately, his homework was not reflective of his deficits. Instead, everyone’s homework was the same, every single day. It didn’t matter if this child really needed to focus on reading but was doing well in math. He or she still had to do 3 math sheets every night but would not receive a reading assignment.

        We also had an experience with this teacher where the children and parents were not provided a “syllabus,” if you will. The children were told to write spelling words five times each every night. The first night, my son wrote his spelling words… and received a zero. Why? Because they weren’t written in a column instead of five times on the same line. The next night, he wrote them in a column…. and received a zero. Why? Because they were too close together. The next night, he wrote them again, in a column, and spaced out… and received a zero. Why? Because there were smudges on his paper (he was so nervous about it, that he would chew on the end of his pencil, the eraser would get wet, and then his erasures would smudge). It was ME who pointed this fact out to him. By this point in time, we were in a battle for him to write his spelling words at all. Why? Because he said he would “just get a zero, so why bother?” Indeed. We did have him do them anyway.

        The focus of his class began to center more on organization than the actual subjects being taught, at which time I addressed it with the school. The teacher backed off… for a while.

        I also began to carefully grade his papers myself. On almost every paper that things were marked incorrect were really correct. For example, he had written furniture, and the teacher had marked it wrong and written “furnature” in the margins as the correct spelling. 4×9=36 was marked wrong, and 32 was written in red as the correct answer. By the time I went to the next parent-teacher conference, I had a stack of papers with things marked as incorrect that were correct and vice versa. When I confronted the teacher with it, I was told that (a) her key was wrong (who needs a key?), (b) that she had a high school intern helping her, or (c) that she wasn’t feeling well on that particular day.

        I understand those mistakes. The problem I had is that she would not correct the papers and the kids were being given incorrect information.

        For me, it is a personal issue because I deal with the written/spoken word every day in my job. However, I think it is important for people to be able to express themselves coherently. I finished my degree last year (after being out of school for 20 years and going back to college), and there were classmates who could not even form a coherent sentence, their spelling was atrocious, and the sentence structure left much to be desired (one classmate did not use periods or commas in an entire paper… just double spaces).

        I don’t know the answer. I just try to supplement my son’s education at home and feed his desire for knowledge. He self-educates that way, and it keeps his interest in certain subjects. I have also considered homeschooling, but I have declined to do that for now. It may happen in the very near future, however, if things do not change.

        Oh, and the teachers “teach to the tests” here, as well.

      • penny

        In Re: Jason’s and my comments:

        Richard Feynman went to one of the two high schools that I attended ( before I left at 15 to save my sanity, and went to university). When he won the Nobel Prize in physics, he came to give a talk.

        The principal started by fishing for a comment about how great this school was.
        Feynman replied: ” It was a repressive, authoritian, mediocre nightmare– I survived, but two other friends MORE TALENTED THAN I WAS, were completely destroyed.”

        Today, I just got back from a research conference on Riemannian Geometry. It was interesting to note that the most talented researchers there did not arrive with notepaper–and took NO notes.

        You would have liked the conference Charles! One speaker has found a new definition of global mass in general relativity–which obsoletes the Hawking, Bartnik and ADM mass definitions! History in the making! Science is SO Exciting.
        I may not sleep tonight!!

        I loved his talk–I didn’t take notes.

      • penny

        The history of notetaking:

        In tbe middle ages–before printing, books were so expensive and rare that the university chained them to desks and only the faculty
        could consult them.

        The teacher copied the book into his notebook–then copied that copy onto the equivalent of a blackboard. Then, the students copied the copy–of the copy–into their notebook, and went home to repeat the process at their village school.

        That is: Notetaking was a method of publishing, not a method of learning.

        Today–with all the books, and internet sources etc., notetaking is a vastly overstressed skill.

        Albert Einstein was terribly disorganized–and admitted he was a terrible notetaker–and he cut
        classes–and he loathed authority. BUT, he created general relativity!!

        “School requires of a student, the obedience of a corpse!”–A. Einstein.

      • Ben

        Well done! The U.S. school system is a joke and should be completely rejected by all responsible parents, except perhaps, at the University level. Let children learn at home. The State only wants to brainwash your kids and make them passive and compliant citizens.

      • Steve

        I just realized that the most notebook-happy teachers I remember from middle and high school were not in the sciences, where keeping good lab notes is truly important, but in history, geography and, of all things, English. I especially remember hours of after-school detention catching up on my English notebook, an outline of the textbook posted in daily chunks on the blackboard. None of us learned real, college-style notetaking, just rapid copying. If you never got fast, (if, for instance, your hand cramped up after five minutes of scribbling), you stayed after school. Then, in my case, it all had to be recopied from the rough notebook into the one that was handed in to be graded on completeness, format and penmanship. Those students who went on to college must have been profoundly shocked when they encountered traditional lecture courses that didn’t have time for verbatim copying. This madness is most of what I remember of middle school, along with hearing the principal terrify my mother by waving the word “ineducable” in her face and threatening to have me shipped of to the retard dump. BTW, most of the science classes in that middle school were taught by the Home Ec teacher. You can imagine her approach.

      • Duane

        Unfortunately we live in a society that has become more concerned with conformity than ingenuity and intelligence. (I don’t mean testable intelligence, I mean the raw ability to learn and apply knowledge.) The truly exceptional people are required to at least pretend to conform or they are ridiculed or ignored. As a side note if there are any English teachers that still tell students to use a comma at every pause… STOP NOW! A nice college writing instructor will mark them as errors of punctuation. However, I met one with a pet peeve about it that tore a student’s paper in half and threw it in the wastebasket.

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      • jm

        I’ll admit it. I’m a science teacher who grades notebooks. But not like this. Organization MAY be important, and for those kids that are struggling and have a bad notebook I give advice and let them turn it in again, maybe having a better notebook (or taking notes at all) will help them. I insist on some sort of planning calendar as well, to organize assignments, increasing the chance that they will do them. For those kids with A’s and a bad notebook, or no planning system…well, I just leave that grade blank. Their brain *IS* their organization system and I’m not going to ruin it for them.

      • Alex


        It would seem to me that people who care more about money will be attracted to teaching rather than those who actually care. If you do something you like, you shouldn’t care about how much you make. Don’t get me wrong, there is a bare minimum that is needed to survive, but you should be doing something that you like, not something that pays really well that you don’t like.

      • CrAZ

        Taking your child out of class seems like a dramatic knee-jerk reaction. Why not augment his experience with schooling at home ?
        As for the teacher’s notebook obsession – yup, seen that before. Lived the pain of inflexible people in authority. Guess what, its an important life lesson.
        He’s going to be forced to deal with it many times in the future. Try turning in an incomplete tax form – that’ll cost ya.
        Have a great idea and turn in a disorganized patent application – denied.
        Or write an incomprehsible scientific paper – nobody will listen to your ideas.
        Better to be able to confidently work with/around these types of people and situations than let them send you running “home to mommy” !

      • http://leapkick.blogspot.com Mark

        Wow, great read! Good luck- I think your son (and the other kids) will be much better for it. The main reason? Your PASSION, and the desire to actually TEACH them and enable them… My sister is a teacher and even she is sometimes disheartened by the lack of motivation of other teachers. Living in CO myself, I am curious what city has a school like this! Or should I infer that you still live in the Boulder area?

      • MK

        Sadly, most schools systems and grades are completely meaningless, such as the 80% for a notebook.

        Going to school in Louisiana was no better during my time spent in school. I was always considered to be a “smart kid” On standardized tests I was consistently 99% percentile at worst. Tests? Usually an A or a B if the class really bored me. However, my grade point average for high school as below 2.5. How does a smart person end up with such bad grades? More often than not the lazy teachers would assign big projects are a significant portion of their overall grade. Coming from a relatively poor home, I often times couldn’t afford flashy lettering and other expenses to make my posters visually appealing. Despite how informative said project was, often times the lack of visual beauty would lead to a poor score on said project, and an overall lower grade. Often times I would see other students, that didn’t learn a damn thing in a class end up with a better grade me only because they shelled out a lot of money come project time.

        I had an English class where we had to make model planets, and purchase a certain type of craft plastic to make blow up buildings. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but in retrospect I fail to see the relationship of either with learning English.

        Despite my actual comprehension of what was taught, and ability to prove it time and time again by acing exams, my GPA consistently suffered due to lack of money spent. This has affected me because my GPA was so low, I was undesirable by most colleges, and did not qualify for scholarships I needed to afford college.

      • Bill Wesley

        The schools have produced people who will blindly follow authority wherever it may lead and that is the point. The primary lesson is obedience. the ability to think criticaly marks you as the enemy, when it comes to the status quo the last thing on earth those in power desire is a critic! Self motivated students are not well prepaired to be docile employees. These are the FACTS of the mater, any other model is a head in the sand.

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      • someguy@n.net

        This video is good for perspective and overview so you don’t get caught in some type of regional myopia. 20/20 TV show, 40 minute program on “Stupid Schools.”

      • Gestault

        We landed on the moon? Yayyyy!!!

      • Pete

        Ok.. as a student myself.. I find that it is not about organization skills. It is about giving the less”educated” students a chance in the class. If they cant pass by science, they can pass by some silly notebook. I am certain that this is what happened. Some of my classes used to do this to raise grades so the teacher will look better in the upper officials eyes. Organization is always a plus and I as well think it is silly.

      • Sam Whitehall

        I’m currently a science student in the UK, and I feel that the curriculum here tests data regurgitation skills rather than actual science.

        I look at old O-Level books with much more challenging science, which I enjoy reading in my spare time.

      • Sam Whitehall

        I want you as a science teacher :D

      • abec

        i didn’t read all of that cuz im drinking and busy but it seems home schoolings the best idea or a better school i was lucky in school as i had a teacher that loved science so tried to teach as much of it as possible to us

      • Jacob of Dallas, Tx

        About a week ago my teacher wrote all the presidential candidates on the board, followed by their race and gender, and asked us students who we wanted to win, based on this information.
        He asked us to express prejudice, in a classroom.
        That same teacher referred to the “good lord” when explaining how he has become successful.
        He also told an African-American student that he was “one of those black people that make the others look bad”. Not a single student questioned this, they only laughed and returned to ridiculing a foreign kid about his language,who happened to be smarter than all of them.
        I could tell you more stories like this, or I could tell you how this sh*tty school system forced me to teach myself, and how I was unfavored by my teachers for questioning them and wanting to understand why they did things like this.
        My school counselor and the school mediator know of my plans to drop-out, and I know not of any plans to be taken against me. They merely suggested I stay, so as not to waste my talents…
        Poor education is a far more sad story than you know. I hope your students realize and appreciate the gift you are giving them as much as I would.

        supporter of the cause,
        Jacob Castillo

      • cdj

        “It would seem to me that people who care more about money will be attracted to teaching rather than those who actually care.”

        Of course. Since the job by definition requires a person deal with a bunch of little monsters all day long, there’s little worry that ANYONE who didn’t love it would do it for any period of time.

        But loving teaching is only ONE sine qua non. The other is being smart and knowledgeable. While it is perfectly possible to get I-love-teaching people without money as an incentive, it is apparently NOT possible to get SMART-I-love-teaching people without money. To get BOTH qualities in a person, money would seem to be required.

        “If you do something you like, you shouldn’t care about how much you make.”

        That’s just plain asinine. Even hippies didn’t believe that. Not even when they were high.

      • aja

        CrAz has a point. That was one of the hardest things I ever learned. The great scientist are able to maintain their creativity and while being able to put in a linear and concise form. I was lucky to have an advisor in grad school that said it was great to think in spider-webs or from all angles but you need to be able to pick the most concise and logical single path to publish. However, this can lead to trouble when the publish approach is used verbatim on another problem.

      • JP

        “Normally I am against homeschooling. (I know someone who has psychological problems that were caused by being homeschooled by parents who were nutcases.)”

        But Bob, why does this make you against homeschooling as opposed to being against parents who are nutcases?

      • JP

        RE: wallflower67
        Oct 6, 2007 at 4:04 pm


      • cdj


        “The great scientist are able to maintain their creativity and while being able to put in a linear and concise form.”

        Yes – the order of *discovery* is different from the order of *pedagogy*. This has been understood for hundreds of years. For beautiful examples of this, you can refer to Lakatos’ “Proofs and Refutations”.

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      • psikeyhackr

        Actually there are a couple of good lessons for the kid in that. Don’t take grades so seriously and there are people in authority that are complete ___holes.

        And there are alternatives for learning science. Teachers aren’t always necessary.



      • Bob, but not that Bob

        In part the problem begins with the Teacher Unions. Math and the sciences need to be taught by someone that truly understands them. It is hard to expect someone who has never had a class in differential equations to teach high school math, but too often this is the case. Pick up the phone and call your local school district and ask them what positions their looking to fill; the answer will be math and science teachers. Why? Because the union negotiated pay scale does not take into account what the talent will make in the real world.

        Most people teaching these days have degrees in topics like art, education, language, literature, history or social sciences. In the real world they’d make between 40-60K working 12 months a year. Someone with a math or science degree will make that right out of college with the potential of making two to three times that amount in a few years. So how can we expect them to give up that kind of money for a career in teaching? You can’t, like Tony they have to think about their family and their children’s future.

        It’s time to break the one union one pay scale philosophy that is destroying our children’s future. Teachers need to make a salary more on par with what they would make in the real world. If you want a quality science program you need to find quality scientists to teach it and pay them a quality wage.

      • Alex


        I strongly disagree with everything you have said. Not only have you put what I have said out of context, but also what you say is just completely wrong. I will no longer argue with you, for there is no hope in persuading you of what I think.
        I once saw this on TV. I suggest you watch it and tell me what you think. I won’t be replying to anything you say anymore, though.


      • wallflower67

        thanks, JP

      • Alex

        I go to school in the boulder vally school district and i have to say this is total bulshit. just because your son had a crappy scince teacher doesn’t mean anything, there are pleanty of crappy teachers out there. But you making generalizations about the whole school district is stupid. I’ll admit my middle school education was less than perfect but most middle schools suck. Now i go to Boulder High and i’am getting a great education. Besides your article is porely writing. In the begining you say the whole system sucks than you say its just Science. So don’t make generalizations and learn how to write.

      • cdj


        “But you making generalizations about the whole school district is stupid. I’ll admit my middle school education was less than perfect but most middle schools suck.”

        The gay republicans called. They want their irony back.

      • http://www.celtisgroup.com Mike Hoskins

        You ought to read John Taylor Gatto – especially The Underground History of American Education.


        You can read the whole thing online, for free, there. You can also buy the print edition of his work.

        Warning: After reading his case about where public/compulsory education came from and where it is going, you may want to homeschool for the rest of his courses, as we do.

        There’s also Charlotte Iserbyt’s works: http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/

      • http://www.intelligaia.com Sandeep Chauhan

        This reminds me of a discussion I had recently with my mother who is a very dedicated school teacher. She was telling me about a training that was organized to introduce teachers to new ‘American Style’ textbooks and teaching methodologies being introduced in India.

        The level of education is so dumbed down, students are kept ‘happy’ with stories and ‘busy’ with activities. The system caters to the lowest common denominator. If any student is left behind teachers would held accountable.

        Some teachers were very agitated and they put many questions to the ‘education specialists’ who had designed the teaching material and they had no answer.

        Some teachers said cynically if we are going to be penalized for kids who won’t/can’t learn just keep giving everyone good grades and let them go to next level. The kids will come to their senses when they reach high school/college.

        Btw. Indian courseware for science and math is used in a whole lot of developing countries so this nonsense is going to spread far and wide.

        I’m happy I put my kids in a different school board with high standards, but I worry about kids who are going to be passing out from govt schools in future.

        It is good that you are taking personal interest in rounding off your kids education.

      • Milander

        Oct 7, 2007 at 7:46 pm

        I go to school in the B(b)oulder vallEy school district and I(i) have to say this is total bulLshit. just because your son had a crappy sciEnce teacher doesn’t mean anything, there are ple(a)nty of crappy teachers out there. But you ARE making generalizations about the whole school district BEING (is) stupid. I’ll admit my middle school education was less than perfect but most middle schools suck. Now I(i) go to Boulder High and i’am getting a great education. Besides your article is (porely) poorly (writing) written. In the beginNing you say the whole system sucks (than) THEN you say (its) it’s just Science. So don’t make generalizations and learn how to write.

        I’m sorry I just had to correct. Maybe it is you who should learn how to write you oaf.

        Thanks for the post btw, loved it. Homeschooling is the best way

      • Liz

        Gee, I’m so sorry that your special little snowflake had to deal with the realities of the educational system. Perhaps you could teach him to actually do the notebook organization work that EVERY other student in his class has to do to pass — and then teach him science on your own time? Part of life is dealing with unfair situations. Your kid is not different or special enough to warrant the school going out of their way to pass him when he is not working as hard as everyone else. The only difference between him and Joe Hillbilly is that his daddy is a scientist. After I failed my first term of grade 7 science due to poor notebook organization, I sat down and ordered my notebook — and have gotten straight As ever since. And hell, I’ve actually learned something — because as usual, it’s only the kids who actually have an interest in the subject who will take anything away from it, regardless of what the class teaches.

      • wallflower67

        I jumped into this conversaation earlier because I home school my youngest. I wanted to add that I had a great science classes in school, and other classes as well. My senior year I took all AP courses.

        But this was 20 years ago. My first two years of college were a breeze compared to high school, even though I tested out of many entry-level courses.

        I don’t see the same expectations at my step-kids’ high school. (I don’t home school them.) It definitely seems like the courses are dumbed down.

        I do have one step-son who is taking an AP Chem class, but it’s more like my first year chem class was. I took AP chem when I was in school too, but it was much more rigorous.

      • Jamjam42

        My god!!! I had been told the schooling in america was a bit nuts but that just takes the bicky!!!!

      • Jerry

        Not all schools are bad. Lawrence, KS public schools implemented a plan where college engineering students from the University of Kansas come out to assist teaching science. I was one of those engineering students and it was an amazing experience.

        But you are definitely correct that many schools have lowered standards.

      • The Cat

        The state of most schools in the United States is abominable. I’m a fourth year college student but this article sent me rushing back to my days in a public school. My school as highly underfunded and taught out of out-dated text books. My science education especially in chemistry was ruined by this. Science was not the only thing that suffered, our English program was horrible. I was taught absolutely no grammar until my Junior year and by then it was too late. I’ve had to struggle more than some non-native speakers to force myself into good writing habits.
        A word on standardized testing, get rid of it. Regardless of what people say or think, those tests are taught to students. Curriculum is based around what is on those tests. A complete overhaul would also work. They should look and see that maybe the reason students aren’t doing well on those tests is the lack of funding for that school, the outdated texts and equipment. Older teachers whose certificates say they can teach anything even though they are not necessarily qualified to teach it. Young students’ educations are becoming the victims of politics and money. This could also be said for college education (go into debt to get a good job to get out of debt, vicious cycle). I will end my thoughts there, though I could go on for days about our current education system.

      • The Cat

        My lack of grammar skills is shown in this post, it makes me sad that I made some of those mistakes.

      • Jessica

        you guys try to be a teacher. its hard!

      • Mike

        I go to Central High School of Philadelphia and our district is like this but my school gets the benchmark which my school pretty much pases with 100%. The district leaves us alone because of this and the teachers actually care what we learn. The text books are out dated but thats where these teachers come in, they don’t use the books they teach us from their own notes or a text book they find suitable for that class. Science interests me and thats how i stumbled on this, some teachers like the paycheck others actually care about the future of the next generation. i am proud to say my school has amazing teachers who do care and will stay after school and help the students or sacrifice their lunch for them. I am the class of 268, I’m a junior and the teachers in our school do care so i am a lucky one.

      • Penny

        I think Jessica meant to say:
        “You guys: Try to be teachers. Its hard!”

        Yes, it is. But, it is not so hard to tutor one child.

        University Professor for thirty five years.

      • Penny

        I think Jessica meant to say:
        “You guys: Try to be teachers. It’s hard!”

        Yes, it is. But, it is not so hard to tutor one child.

        University Professor for thirty five years.

      • Penny

        Writing correctly is HARD!
        ( product of degenerate American education)

        p.s. At least, I don’t teach English.

        I had to fix my post, as I left out an ” ‘ ”
        in my first post–a typo.

      • Penny

        Dear “The Cat”.
        The best book on grammar, and writing in general is:
        ” The Oxford Book of Writing”

        I got a lot out of that book–to fix up my American education.

        Shorter but not better: “The Elements of Style”,
        by Strunk and White.


        p.s. For learning math:
        One should look at the inexpensive series:
        “The Schaums Outlines”
        range: algebra to grad school.

        Also try the series: “Mathematics for the Practical Worker”–which Feynman used as a kid.

        p.s. For learning physics:
        The Feynman Lectures on Physics
        ( so good that it hurts!)

        p.s. To learn to read French:
        French for Reading, by Karl Sandburg
        ( in programmed instruction format)

        p.s. To learn history ( slightly dated, but wonderful):
        The multivolume history of the world by
        Will and Ariel Durant

        p.s. History for young kids:
        ” The Story of Mankind”–by Heinrich W. Van Loon
        ( Hooked me as a child)

        History of math and motivation for middle school kids: “Mathematics for the Million” by L. Hogbin

        To Learn to draw:
        “Thinking with a Pencil
        by H. Nelms
        ( a classic, amazing book)

        To learn Electronics:
        ” The Art of Electronics”
        ( a classic)
        by Horowitz

        For kids:
        “The Chemical History of a Candle Flame”
        by Michael Faraday

      • Penny

        For Calculus:
        “Quick Calculus, a programmed guide”
        ( I used this at age 12 to learn calculus–three terms covered here, with clear proofs in the back–as programmed instruction”)

        Calculus made Easy
        ( a classic)

        For microscopy ( for kids):
        Hunting with a Microscope

        Shorter than Durant by still great:
        ” The Outline of History” by H.G. Wells

        For Music:
        ” How to Play the Piano–Despite Years of Lessons”
        ” How to Play Popular Piano, in Ten Hours.”
        Then ( for classical music):
        The Well Tempered Clavier by J.S. Bach

        Seek out the excellent chemistry articles and experiments series in the 1930′s Popular Science Magazine. But, make sure that an adult is present–these are dangerous!!

      • Penny

        For kids:
        “The Intelligent Man’s Guide to Physics”
        By I. Asimov
        “The Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science”
        by I. Asimov
        “I. Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare”

        For Critical Reading:
        “How to Read a Book”
        by M. Adler

      • cdj


        Aaahh… the eternal quest for a Royal Road to edjumacatedness. Which is, naturally, a fool’s errand.

        You wanna know how to write? Read a lot. And write a lot.

        You wanna be able to do math? Get a textbook. Classics (Calculus: Courant, Apostol, and some others) are nice, but not mandatory. Do every exercise. Slowly. Again: slowly.

        History? Read primary sources. Some translated versions are ok – find someone knowledgeable to tell you which (e.g., Kemp Smith: yes. Meiklejohn: no.)

        I dunno how the Feynman Lectures made it into the Idiot’s Guide To Education – especially since they’ll NEVER be understood by someone reading all of those Idiots’ Guides you suggest. Yah – Hamiltonians Made Easy – christ – we’re a stupid, stupid country.

        There is nothing remotely resembling a shortcut to being educated. It takes time; there’s just no way around it. That’s why we need smart teachers – to get kids on useful intellectual paths early (anything else is a battle already lost). Idiots’ Guides’ only effect is to further convince idiots that they’re NOT idiots – which is quite the opposite of what is desirable.

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      • Nikhil

        Good job Tony,

        Your article here was linked from a forum in my home town newspaper in Louisiana. Apparently, people are listening to you.

        More parents should take time to learn the reason behind their children’s grades. Some will learn that their children are lazy, and some will learn that the teacher is lazy.

        Congratulations on offering to teach your child’s friends too. Very few parents would do that.

      • Nikhil

        Hrishikesh Muruk,

        People with an MS are very expensive in the US. Government schools do not have enough money to hire them. Teachers with an MS or PhD are usually hired by colleges and universities.

        I am grateful that my high school was different. I went to a private school (not run by the government).

      • Sam

        It’s stories like this that make me glad I live in Britain. The English school system isn’t perfect by a long shot but we always learnt something, whether that knowledge would be useful for the working world is another matter and I always got the feeling we were learning to pass exams more than learning for the love of it but the system has certainly worked with me, I’m currently in university studying a subject that is a mix of academic and practical subjects and (apparently) exude an intelligent ‘aura’. Things could be better here but they could also be a whole lot worse and your story proves that, I think you’re doing the best thing you could do by home schooling your kid (and even better several others), so nice one!

      • penny

        cdj–the books on my list are mostly NOT idiot’s
        guides. Quick Calculus was Written and used at MIT for students entering physics who needed calculus in a hurry. The history books are excellent. So are the books by Asimov–for a child who wants a clear nonmathematical introduction to the topics.

        In particular, I found “The Oxford Book of Writing”–which is a writing TEXTBOOK used at
        Oxford University quite useful.

        The Book I listed for learning to read French is also a textbook–designed to get Phd students in the liberal arts quickly through french–in order to pass Phd language requirements.

        Feynman’s Lectures are wonderful and like ALL of the books I listed requires serious study! Except, for the book on Microscopy, which I used as a child for a summer–doing all the projects.

        As you point out, learning is hard work and it takes time and effort.

        p.s. Courant and Fritz John’s two volume Calculus
        book— a junior level analysis book for freshman–is what I used in university for honors Calculus.
        I already knew Calculus from Quick Calculus. The
        book above is better than Courant’s sole authored book.
        Apostle’s book is ok, but his junior level book on
        analysis is superb! So is his intro book on Analytic Number theory. These are beyond the scope of the task on this thread.

        p.s. Along the lines of “Hamiltonians Made Easy”, there actually are books like that—and some are not too bad. Feynman is better–even if he has serious circular reasoning issues in his Vol III.
        One can learn a lot of physics from the Feynman Lectures–ONE WILL WORK HARD!!

      • penny

        cdj–The music books that I listed are excellent, and surely you wouldn’t call Bach’s “Well Tempered Clavier” an idiot’s guide.
        I learned to play piano from them.

        The art book is a classic–it is rather amazing. I learned to draw from it. It was suggested to me by …..Dick Feynman.

        p.s. Convincing Idiot’s that they are not idiots is –as you pointed out–a bad thing. But, giving people good sources–tested by personal experience–is not!

      • penny

        In the USA, it is usually a State requirement that all middle school and above teachers have a Masters degree–certainly, true for High School Teachers.
        Few University teachers do not have a Phd.

        The problem is that the middle school teachers often have a masters in something like “math education”, rather than in math.

        We have a strange educational system, but at the Phd level is is still the best in the world.
        Few American students have the background to succeed in American science phd programs. But, we have no shortage of foreign students.

        We could fix our lower level educational system.
        We would need to require actual masters in SUBJECTS other than education, and to require our students to follow the curriculum in high school of the International Bach–which we created for children of our foreign service.
        We could follow China or India in our most elementary educational curriculum.

        We do NOT need to increase salaries of teachers. Our teachers get long vacations, early retirement options, tenure, and great health care benefits–and in some states: quite high salaries.

        We need fewer and less powerful administrators.
        They get in the way.

        And we MUST DUMP NCLB–created for idiots, on the demand of an idiot.

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      • http://none maria

        “Teaching” like that which you tell of damages the trust and respect that students feel for adults.

        The bright kids who know more than she does.

        The regular kids who can tell she is not there to help them.

        The needy kids who could really use some – you know – what’s the word?


      • http://none maria

        some chair warmer three cubicles over can tell me my project isn’t completed because I didn’t fill out a form that isn’t even relevant to my project?


        They enjoy doing it, too. Destroying gifted and motivated workers is a great pleasure of petty nobodys. They have power! Bwahahahaha! And nobody is going to bring the workplace team upwards if they can stop it.

      • http://nosite tiffany

        this is really lazy as a teacher,as a student of a middle school i know what it’s like to have notes and homework.my notebook grade isint even worth 50% of my grade.this is silly,teachers a- students need to trust a teacher on they’er future,teachers who sit around talking about things that do not make sence to the kids…it’s just not right.I’m glad i have a nice school and nice teachers who really care.school is very important,without it no one could get jobs,and this lies on the teachers,and they’er wasteing the peoples time away being lazy and not careing,all that maters to them is geting payed,kids are the future.so make them smart,it will be worth it,but…they fail to see that.

      • Steve

        Re: tiffany 10-18-2007
        This has GOT to be a troll! Even a middle-school bimbo would know how to use a spellchecker.

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      • http://www.daybydayhsing.blogspot.com Dawn

        Tony, if you’re still reading…Please feel free to blog about and share your curriculum ideas. Secular homeschoolers are generally happy to get there hands on any good science material for kids that doesn’t mention creationism.

      • http://www.daybydayhsing.blogspot.com Dawn

        Oh geez…And yes, I’m aware that my “there” should have been “their.”

      • Kim

        I think you’re absolutely doing the right thing – good for you for having the courage to do something different!! I’m just wondering if you’ve considered homeschooling full time, it sounds like you’d be great at it!

        Congratulations, have fun next year!

      • http://cheeseburgerbrown.com Cheeseburger Brown

        I’m sympathetically frustrated by your account of dealing with the school system, and heartened that there are others out there whose outlook on education is at least comparable to my own.

        My wife and I have just started homeschool kindergarten for our daughter, and our son will be joining her in a couple of years.

        At this point her favourite subjects are science and math, and I think it’s sad that her system-schooled peers, even at just kindergarten age!, have come home with the opinion that science and math are “boy subjects.”

        Keep it up, and thanks for writing!

        Cheeseburger Brown

      • lars

        I stumbled upon your blog, and specifically this post, while googling sentences from my students’ English essays because two are exactly alike, so now I’m spending an extra hour trying to find their source (or not) and have some extra evidence to prove their plagiarism. Teachers are not to blame for your issue. The system is. The politicians, at every level (local, state, national), are. Give teachers a break – we do what our administrators tell us to, or we get poor evaluations. Too bad you won’t team with this teacher to enrich all the students’ science educations – but then again I’m not surprised that you would handpick the ones you will teach. How I wish I could do that! Until you welcome every child, regardless of potential, socio-economic background, mental health, or ambition, into your homeschooling enterprise, you cannot compare it to public education. Period. You’ll have success, because success will come easily. And then you’ll be sure that teaching is a simple thing. And you will be wrong.

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      • http://adsoofmelk.wordpress.com/ Adso of Melk

        Tony, I’ve not read through the (to date) 258 comments you’ve received on this article, but I cannot tell you how much I heartily support your decision. Teachers such as the one you’ve described, in being all about the letter of the law, completely miss the spirit of it.

        For what it’s worth, I’m a teacher — and it drives me insane when other teachers nit-pick students to death without focusing on what’s actually important: the actual content and the love of learning it. Bravo to you.

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      • Weston

        This really gets my blood boiling. As a Colorado student, I coudn’t agree more. Teachers really miss the point, and the school’s administration does a horrible job of hiring teachers. Very few teachers of mine actually cared I learned something, but they sure do care about their pay.

      • Austin

        exactly what my science teacher is like. Im in eighth grade and i go to catholic school in New York and all my science teachers care about is a neat notebook she said all good scientists were neat so i brought up einstein and got kicked out of class got sent to the principals office and my parents were called to the school. Then when i took the trimester test and got a 100% and half of the 8th grade fail she noticed how smart i was and now im paired up with the two smartest kids in the grade and she treats me like roylety

      • Stephen

        I just stumbled on this article and though it parallels the way I was taught in South Carolina. I’m a college student now, but I had to make the awful transition from private school to public school early on. The bad effects of the South Carolina school system resonate throughout my college career right now. I lack in grammar skills and some vital calculus knowledge that I feel I could have been taught in any other school system, and because of that I’m not making the grades I feel capable of. I wish my parents took the initiative you did and started filling in the gaps made by one of the statistically worst Education systems in the nation…

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      • Matthew

        Heh, this reminds me of my science teacher in the 7th grade. For the first marking period, I received a 75 (Which is terrible), the second a 95 (Which is good, and the last an 85 (Not too good) In the 8th grade, I managed to hold a perfect 100 average throughout the whole year in science. Now, this year, I started off with another perfect average in biology. By the way, this is New York City. The middle and elementary school education in my area seems pretty… bad.

      • Jenn

        Awesome!! Good for you! I was a science teacher in Georgia last year and in Florida the previous year and I will tell you it was hell. I do not have a degree in education, but rather in Biology and Psychology. The pressure for teaching to the state standardized tests is immense. In fact, our curriculum is generated around satisfying those tests. No projects, no labs, nothing fun or realistically educational, just grinding away at these test standards. Its horrible. Also, if you want to test students’ knowledge, you can’t count tests for very much according to administration; THE BEST WAY TO GRADE A CHILD’S PROGRESS IS WITH A NOTEBOOK CHECK! I kid you not, notebook checks are all the rage for teachers. I will say this for notebooks though, as a teacher, having the kids keep an organized notebook for a grade will certainly cover your ass when the administration looks over your shoulder. But in so far as LEARNING anything, pah, most of the kids copy each others notes and frequently exchange notebooks between classes. I’ve seen a teacher grade the same notebook 4 times for 4 different kids. Apparently taking a test is not good enough for checking whether a child understands the information. Also we are coached as new teachers not to make tests that are particularly hard, especially in science. The questions should be true or false or multiple guess, and should not require too much mental processing to answer. A lot of folks blame the teachers, and I won’t say that they aren’t somewhat responsible, but when I was teaching, my hands were tied frequently by the administration and the state curriculum. there is no bonus for the teachers if the students LEARN the material and there is no bonus if the kids pass or fail these standardized tests for teachers. However, if the scores on the state tests are high enough, the admin gets a hefty bonus. So really, where are their motivations? I taught for 2 years- I will never ever do it again.

      • Mmmhhmmmmmm

        As a senior in high school, I very much agree. There are so many teachers who think that keeping a notebook for a ridiculous portion of your grade is “an easy way to earn points.” It really isn’t. Though it sounds dumb, I concentrate much much more on learning than I do on my grade. And I have failed classes before because ignorant teachers decide that notebooks are the perfect solution to everything. I’ve always liked math and basically any science, but the problem is I have yet to have a math teacher that understands me as a person. I’m not organized, I never will be, but I can learn so much more by sitting and listening. All children are so different that there should NEVER be one set standard in a classroom. You’d be amazed at how much one person can struggle just because they focus on knowledge rather than grades.

      • Brian

        I’m a senior in high school now, in Northern Virginia, but I did go second through fifth grade in Colorado Springs, and I was in for a bit of a shock when I moved to Florida, where they took science a bit more seriously. I also agree about the CSAP. That was ALL the teachers EVER talked about.

      • http://www.ticklemeplant.com Jennifer

        I agree with your article. I mean the teachers today are still growing lima beans to teach kids about plants. I did a little research and found kids to be much more excited about growing a TickleMe Plant and watching the leaves fold and branches more when Tickled! I know my kids will appreciate nature more by my own home schooling and creative lesson plans.
        I found the TickleMe Plant Greenhouse at

      • E.D.Barber

        As a full fledged scientist with a masters degree in science (microbiology,) I went back to school to get a teaching certificate to teach secondary school science. I lasted three years when I was told I was too intelligent to “teach these kids.” The kids didn’t think so. They learned and got very excited about science. The teach to the test nonsense will never produce a scientist. It is the individual thinking, critical thinking, that does it. It is also not necessary to entertain the students. Learning and exploration is entertainment enough. The self-saisfaction a child gets from figuring it out themselves and getting it right. It isn’t the teachers. It is the grossly overpaid, too numerous administrators.
        Best of luck to all of you who are taking this into your own hands. It is simply too important to neglect.

      • http://www.homeschoolcustomcurriculum.blogspot.com Debbie

        This scenerio sounds familiar. Not necessarily in science though. We took our kids out of the public schools after they completed the third grade for incidents at school that I found disturbing in a classroom. The teacher had no control and the kids were dancing on top of desks screaming at the top of their lungs. I only had to stand out in the hallway to hear all the commotion going. The principal was no help and half the time was away from the school in district meetings. It seemed more favorable to be a friend to the students than a authoritary figure.

        I homeschooled for 3 1/2 years and when I started there was need for remedial work before I could take them into the next grade. They had problems in spelling, math (didn’t know their time-tables), and their reading level was below the third grade. It was shameful what I saw that the teachers failed to do in that school. They didn’t know how to write in cursive, let alone even know what that was. I found out from another parent that it wasn’t taught because they didn’t feel it was a necessary area to teach. As long as they could print legibly, they considered that enough. Frankly, a lot couldn’t print legibly either.

        What I witnessed in that school, was more disciplining than teaching and even that was ineffective because it was a continuous daily battle between teacher and students. What was worse, because teachers were fearful of lawsuits, the students were winning. There were even parents that threaten teachers about discipling their kids and then would threaten them with a lawsuit. And these were usuallly the kids who were the bullies in the class. Look where they learned to be like that from. It was a no-win situation all around.

        The kids knew exactly how to manipulate situations, like if the teacher touched a kid on the shoulder to get him to turn around, it turned into a type of child abuse scenario. Teachers ended up fearful of even laying a hand on a student for fear of being brought up on charges.

        School playgrounds are war zones with possies of kids running who were to play where and with whom. If the rules weren’t followed as ordained by these kids, the victims ended up with heads smashed against brick walls and stepped on or kicked against the asphalt play surface. I heard about kids pushed off of jungle gyms because a group of kids claimed it and wouldn’t allow anyone else on it. And it seemed that victums of the incidents received the worse end of the deal when it brought up for disciplinary actions. The kid who started it up was alway good in coming up with a good story to get him out of the worst end of the deal. So where were the teachers? They never seemed to be around when these incidents occurred or claimed they didn’t see it even though they were on the playground.

        The public schools have lots of problems that are in desperate need of attention. They are failing our children.

        The claim that homeschool children are socially inept is so completely misunderstood. They are engaged with not only homeschoolers but with kids of the public schools as well. Outside activities for homeschooler is not only limited to kids who are homeschooled but activities such as boyscouts, little league, parks and reservation organizations activities from children in the community. Plus, they get out and about with other kids in their neighborhood who many attend public schools. Just because they are homeschooled does not mean that we shelter them away in our homes. Homeschooling is not a prison but a type of education where there is freedom to learn what you want and more. Some of that takes place outside of the home. Those are perhaps the best classrooms.

      • Jenn

        Hey. Ease up on public school teachers… we do have standards. It’s the freaking tests that rope us in. BTW my name for it is “No Child Can get Ahead”. We generally hate the tests as much as parents do, but no one will listen, not to mention that when we DO say that we hate them, the ignorant administration just assumes that we don’t want to TEACH. PARENTS have to step up, like you are and say it. Parents have to tell school board and especially lawmakers that this is rediculous. TEACHERS don’t make the standards!!! TEACHERS don’t make these tests!!! You had a bad applelk for a science teacher…. I DO care that my students’ notebooks are organized in so far as that THEY can find the information…. I DO give them a “one size fits all” standard format, but that is because very few of my student’ or their parents woudl organize their notebook properly where THEY could find the info if I didn’t. Sorry for the tirade, but I feel liek many parents are quick to blame ALL teachers, when the lawmakers are at fault.

      • SJohnson

        Check out this program. http://www.yescience.com. It may be one that works well with a homeschool environment. I’ve used these prepackaged kits with my Scouts and they are easy to do but teach great concepts.

      • Diana Delk

        Seriously, who cares what you do with your kid? There are much bigger problems out there than what you want your kid to know.

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