OPINION: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?

OPINION: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?

By Ronald W. Holmes, Ph.D., Special to the Outlook

Parents have the choice to send their children to traditional public schools in their communities as a result of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. However, these schools must offer students a quality education. They must also keep them safe from any potential or dangerous crime. When they do not, parents have the right to choose other alternatives to educate their children. One alternative is homeschooling. This type of schooling is where children obtain all or most of their education at home. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a projected enrollment of homeschooled students ages 5 through 17, exceeds 1.5 million. 

With school shootings becoming a frequent occurrence in America’s public schools, the critical question to be asked is: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?  The answer to this question will be found in my next book to be released in February of 2019. The book will explore the success stories of parents who have homeschooled their children, as well as those who are currently homeschooling their children. 

In addition to a quality education and a safe school environment, there are many other reasons parents homeschooled their children. This book will highlight the program structure, curriculum options, partnerships and other resources afforded to homeschoolers for an enriching educational experience. It will also highlight the extent of technology integrated into the instructional process. 

If you would like to participate in this book project as someone who has successfully homeschooled a child or currently having success in homeschooling a child, please contact Dr. Ronald Holmes at rwholmes18@gmail.com. 

I am a former teacher, school administrator, test developer and district superintendent. I am the author of 16 books and publisher of The Holmes Education Post, an education-focused Internet newspaper. These books include How to Eradicate Hazing; How to Eradicate Cyber Bullying; How to Eradicate Schoolyard Bullying; and How to Eradicate Workplace Bullying. These books serve as a reference guide to an online anti-bullying program that provides training for all students, parents, employees, and managers. These books are also equipped with a 24-hour Web-Based Reporting, Tracking, Training and Documentation System that allow individuals to report bullying incidents anonymously from the home, school, work, and community.

Thirty-Two  Summer STEM campers explore science and engineering, aeronautics, coding and competitive math  games utilizing smart technology

Thirty-Two Summer STEM campers explore science and engineering, aeronautics, coding and competitive math games utilizing smart technology

Thirty-two outstanding young people in grades 6 through 10, from the Big Bend area, assembled at Bethel Family Life Center at 406 Bronough St. in Tallahassee for a variety of challenging, but interesting projects.

The 2018 Summer STEM Camp was sponsored by BUC Technologies, LLC of Tallahassee. Major student sponsors were “Take Stock in Children Program”, Margo Thomas, Director and “Distinguished Young Gentlemen Program”, LaRhonda Larkins, Director.

 STEM Camp Staff:

  • Mark Thompson, Instructor-retired NASA engineer, former middle school science teacher and current high school teacher for AP computer science.
  • Chris Weider, Instructor-middle/high school science teacher.
  • Rachelle Dierestil, Instructional Support and Activities Coordinator

The camp activities were divided into four rotating blocks of 90 minutes each. The activity blocks included science/engineering projects, science online modules and computer math games (Scratch and Sumdog), art/drama activities, and science lab lectures and experiments.

Science projects implemented during the four-block rotation by Mr. Thompson included the following:

  • Growing Crystals by creating two saturated solutions of water and dissolved chemicals. 
  • Students learned about the different elements of the Solar System. They built models of the eight planets and Pluto. Finally, the students demonstrated their knowledge through quizzes to compete for the right to take a solar system model home.
  • Students discovered the three states of matter through hands-on chemistry activities. They learned about non-Newtonian fluids by mixing liquid polymer with a reagent to produce silly putty. They also made slimy ooze and glow ooze.
  • Campers engaged in a discovery of states of matter. The students learned about turning liquid to solid by making butter from heavy cream. They could eat the butter afterwards. Finally, they made ice cream from milk, learning about the properties of freezing point and how we can change the properties of a substance by adding salt.
  • Campers learned about gas pressures (Ideal Gas Law). We used acetic acid (vinegar) and baking soda to produce carbon dioxide (CO2) gas. Students learned about the difference in density of different gasses by weighing the CO2 vs air.

STEM activities by Mr. James included the following:

  • Administer Pre-test covering middle and high school science facts (prize given for highest score by grade level)
  • Convene discussions about current NASA and space science news
  • Monitor “Scratch” (project building game) and “Sumdog” math game where campers can accumulate points (award given for highest points).
  • View relevant videos on STEM topics (prize given for best essay summary)
  • Creation of pictorial project boards for viewing on the last day by parents, visitors and stakeholders.

STEM activities implemented by Ms. Cotterell through the inclusion of the Arts:

  • Support activities where students would create an arts project from previous science and technology experiences that included one or more components of music, art and dramatization.
  • Administer post-camp activities until 5:30 p.m.

Science Labs implemented during the final rotation block by Mr. Weider included the following:

  • Dry Ice Lab and Experiment
  • Physical and Chemical Changes
  • Balloon Rocket Experiment and Competition
  • Extraction of DNA from Strawberries

Field Trips During Weeks 1 & 2:

  • Field trip to the FAMU Viticulture Center. Students learned about small fruit growing and extracted DNA from bananas and strawberries.
  • Field trip to Lake Jackson
May is Children’s Mental Health Month

May is Children’s Mental Health Month

By Kaylor Miles, Special to the Outlook

Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified School Counselor, children’s mental health is of particular importance to me. I have observed throughout my career many children suffering with mental health disorders that are often not recognized, or diagnosed. Some children simply lack basic social skills. Schools have a unique opportunity to provide mental health services and social and emotional learning (SEL) using the school as a place to obtain these lifelong skills.

According to The American School Counselor Association (ASCA), School Counselors are to help students focus on academic, career, social and emotional development, so they achieve success in school and are prepared to lead fulfilling lives as responsible members of society. Unfortunately, as a former School Counselor, duties may not include working with students in small groups, or providing individual counseling sessions. I served in the following capacities:

  1. Testing Coordinator
  2. English Speaking Other Language (ESOL) Coordinator
  3. Response to Intervention (RTI) Coordinator
  4. Scheduling
  5. Academic Advisor
  6. Coordinating Parent and Teacher Conferences and
  7. Hall Duty

These duties and responsibilities don’t allow for opportunities to work with students who may be struggling with mental health or social and emotional issues. According to the American School Counseling Association (ASCA), during the 2014-2015 school year, the national average for student to School Counselor ratio was 482 to 1. In Florida, the ratio was 485 to 1. The (ASCA) recommends a 250 to 1 ratio. As an Elementary and Middle School Counselor, I was the only counselor assigned to that grade level with a student population of over 500 students. As a result, many students may never see their School Counselor.

Data suggests children who receive SEL perform better academically and demonstrate improved pro-social behaviors. This is not “rocket science.” I presented a proposal several years ago to then Leon County School Superintendent Bill Montford. During our meeting, I told him we expect children to pass a standardized test, but the night before they may have witnessed their mother being beaten or had to get their younger siblings fed and ready for school. You can’t expect them to pass that test. However, if you meet their emotional needs they will perform academically. He agreed, and allowed me the privilege to work with Title I schools as a mental health counselor. The work was challenging at times, but more than rewarding. I worked with students, who were referred by school administrators, teachers and parents, who had behavioral and academic issues. This was a tremendous opportunity for me because I reminded students I wasn’t going to teach them math or reading, but would teach them skills to help them navigate life, in addition to discussing their concerns for seeing me. Some of our group topics included: importance of making good choices, bully and self-esteem and why it was important to treat people the way you wanted to be treated. In one middle school case, a teacher reported, a student was being bullied for repeating outfits. I met with the student and she confided in me that both of her parents had recently lost their jobs and the family was struggling financially. I told her I would, with her permission, speak to the other students in her class about bullying her. I always give students the option of attending these meetings. She stated she wanted to meet with her classmates. During the meeting, she told her classmates about her parents losing their job and explained to them this was the reason she was repeating outfits. I asked the students, what would happen if their parents lost their jobs? One student said “I don’t live with my parents I live with my grandmother.” Another student said “I live with my aunt.” Then another student said “we wouldn’t be able to have the things we have if our parents didn’t work.”

Finally, one student said, “I’m sorry for making fun of your clothes.” Eventually, all of the girls apologized. I reminded students there are always three parties as it relates to bullying, the victim, the bully and the bystanders. I ask them who has the most power some said the bully, some said the victim. I told them the bystander has the most power simply because of their numbers. If you see someone being bullied, stand up and say that’s not right. Several weeks later, the teacher who initially alerted me to the bully issue reported a new male student had arrived and started to bully a student. She reported that the five girls who were initially bullying in class told the young man we don’t bully here and the bullying stopped. I was so proud of those students for using their empathy and the power of numbers as bystanders to stop bullying in their classroom.

This is only one of many examples where I was able to focus on the issue and address the problem using psycho-education. Not only did we end two bullying situations, which could have escalated, but students were taught a life skill, showing empathy for others and making good choices. I always reminded my students we are all leaders and you can lead people the right way or you can choose to lead the wrong way. Again, having mental health professionals in the schools to address mental health disorders, provide consultation to school administrators, teachers and staff and consultation for parents can only help our students. We still need to use School Counselors, however, for their intended purpose of developing their social and emotional skills. Schools provide access and, in many cases, a safe place for students to thrive and grow.

For many students this is an environment that may be more conducive to therapeutic interventions and psycho-education. Moreover, some children may never see a counselor unless it’s in school, due to the cost or transportation associated with seeing a therapist in private practice.

Let’s capitalize on this opportunity by using School Counselors to develop social and emotional skills and bringing in Mental Health Professionals to address disorders.

Kaylor Miles is the Executive Director of the Bethel Family Counseling Center and a Ph.D. Candidate in Educational Leadership at Florida A&M University.