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Freedom to Learn and Succeed: Why an Individualized Education Works

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Photo by Michael Dziedzig

Here is the beginning quote from an article by Thomas Lifson in The American Thinker.

This is the path of national suicide, as Sam Dorman reports for Fox News:

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is moving to eliminate all accelerated math options prior to 11th grade, effectively keeping higher-achieving students from advancing as they usually would in the school system. (snip) "[A]s currently planned, this initiative will eliminate ALL math acceleration prior to 11th grade," he said. "That is not an exaggeration, nor does there appear to be any discretion in how local districts implement this. All 6th graders will take Foundational Concepts 6. All 7th graders will take Foundational Concepts 7. All 10th graders will take Essential Concepts 10. Only in 11th and 12th grade is there any opportunity for choice in higher math courses."

Students in general, boys in particular, are bored with school. Many act out because of this boredom. The acting out will be explained away by schools to parents that this acting out is because he is a boy, or has a learning problem or just he just because doesn't work hard. And while these are observable behaviors, the main issue is boredom.

And the answer to this boredom is not to make learning fun. I have been at schools where schools tried to make learning fun. It was the stated main goal of one school The results are always the same. It is fun only for the higher skilled students. The lower skilled students stay lower skilled and have little fun.

Computers as platforms to learn from are not the answer. Mesa Public Schools performed their own in-house research in the 90's after spending a lot of money on computer labs for all of their schools. There was no change in learning or test scores. The results were never presented to the community.

Arizona school districts have invested heavily in computers, learning technologies and support staff. State achievement scores are pretty much below 50% statewide. No where near the 95% where they should be.

Reading the excerpt above from The American Thinker article, the expectation the state of Virginia is planning is no different than what kindergarten through sixth grade expectations are in almost all elementary schools where all students go through their grade level expectations together. First grade learns first grade goals. Second grade is taught second grade skills. So, what is wrong with this? Boredom.

Boredom at many levels. Here is why. Some students understood the concept being taught in fifth grade way back in third grade, but it is being taught again because most of his classmates did not grasp or understand the skill or worse, because the district or principal said so. Some of his classmates never learned the prerequisite skills and never will because of the traditional instructional model followed and used by 98% of the schools. It goes something like this - whole close instruction, then small group instruction for those that did not understand from the group instruction. Individual tutoring, when available, for those who still continue to not understand. And finally, the ultimate fallback position for 98% of the schools, there is always next year.

So, what do we do at Maricopa Christian Academy to deny the traditional problem of boredom in school?. We look at the individual student and his/her needs daily. We do this using small increments of instruction (teaching, correction, admonition, encouragement) based on the student's successes and failures from the day before.

This means the people making decisions about what the student is to learn is not a school board, superintendent, or a principal. No, it is the teacher and the student. The teacher knows the path the student is to follow. The student increases in skills based on what he knows, not from a school board's controlling approval or a principal's uninformed decision. Just the student's daily achievement and the teacher's skilled support towards meeting his goals.

Though individualized learning daily is the main impetus, how we get there is by using interesting materials.

Reading instruction is mainly through time tested interesting literature. Books such as Little House in the Big Woods and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Math is taught using Horizons and Saxon math books. These books use a spiral method of instruction that repeats previous skills. This repetition creates longer retention of previous skills learned. This allows more learning of advanced skills.

History is taught with short readings, historical games and map projects.

Science. Aah, science. In science our students love science. We threw the science text books out the window in the elementary grades. Instead, students work in pairs around different themes. Each experiment involves a basic concept and a sciences experiment the two partners solve together.

We here at Maricopa Christian Academy, provide an exciting, God - centered education based on the individual student's needs in a safe environment.

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