Homeschool: Week 1

I’m starting to put together the activities for my daughter’s French II homeschool. It’s been quite fun, even though I admit I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing.

I do have access to the online textbook. I’m not sure how she’ll access it when she’s at school, because I know it won’t work on an iPhone (one clear argument against BYOD. These online texts don’t function at all on phones, or at least not well.)

This lets me have a general idea about vocabulary and grammar that the regular class is doing. I have to figure out how much time to spend here, figure out how my daughter will learn it best, and how to assess.

I do know that she has an excellent auditory memory, so I’m looking up as many YouTube videos and podcasts that I can find. She can listen to these over and over while at school (they will work on an iPhone). Even if she doesn’t understand every word, it gets her used to the cadence of the language. Someday, it’ll get easier to understand.

The first chapter of the text focuses on Paris! This couldn’t be better, as I’ve lived there twice. I know the city, and we can certainly use the few things I have here, as well as online sources, to explore. We’ll look at the Louvre and other art museums, find historical resources (hmmmm – what era would be most fun? 18th century? 1920s?), and track down some literature (in translation) and movies (subtitled in English.)

Here’s a fun video we’re going to watch:

The Equalizer

The school district where I live has seen tremendous change in demographics in the last 10 years when my daughter started school. By the numbers, it’s about 44% free/reduced lunch, with one elementary school being nearly 90% ELL. The district has a significant (and growing) population of refugees – many of whom come to school literally days after arriving in the country. Many other students come from homes with lower incomes – whether formerly middle class families who have experienced job loss or other reasons.

If you evaluate the “achievement gap” by the numbers here, it’s truly scary. I sit on a district curriculum advisory committee, and have been able to look closely at the numbers. If our primary means of evaluating achievement is test results, then things look pretty bad. Students of non-majority ethnicities and lower incomes have significantly lower test scores.

I’d argue that things look even worse if we look at other indicators of achievement. I don’t know the numbers for graduation, or post-secondary education entry or completion. But I do know that the system is failing many of these kids in a crucial area: technology access.

In a Mindshift post this week, Tina Barseghian blogs about device access as the true equalizer. She has lots of statistics and more to support her argument. I just have anecdotal….

How do we expect students who never have access to devices of any kind to develop the digital literacy skills essential for success in post-secondary education? or in just about any workplace now? I dare you to find really any job that doesn’t use any technology. These students must have access to these devices and learn to use them responsibly in order to be functional in the bigger world.

A refugee family has many immediate needs to worry about: food, shelter, transportation, income. However, technology access should be an essential part of schooling, just like learning English.

Access doesn’t mean a computer lab in a school. Access means a personal device, or other immediate access. We all know that computer labs are taken up with testing now – there’s no room in the schedule to do other learning.

Access means teachers who feel comfortable with the technology, teachers who aren’t afraid to let it be used, to use it themselves.Teachers deserve access to training and tools in order to learn for themselves.

Access means a pedagogy in which teachers and administrators see themselves as guides, rather than solely content experts.

Access means devices. Here’s hoping my district can make that happen.