Learn something new everyday: / education

Take Your Learning Outdoors--Forest Kindergartens

Many parents are beginning to realize that the structured academics of traditional classrooms are not as beneficial to their children’s’ education as other styles of learning. Rather a strong connection with the natural world can enhance and improve our learning in the classroom.

Hence, the invention of Forest schools has given children the opportunity for just that—kids learn in classrooms, but also have a great exposure to exploration and freedom by having recess session in forests and other natural areas. Children play outside, rain or shine, with little supervision. The idea is that the children are allowed to connect with the natural world because their brains will automatically use their literary and math skills in the way that they interact with the real world as well. The teachers are allowed to bring their students to meadows, creeks, mountains, forests, and shorelines.


This may sound like a new concept for American schools, and it is. But it has been around for years in other countries such as Germany, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and South Korea. Teaching and lessons are done by personal experience with the environment; for example, teacher Nihal Öz of the Waldkindergarten in Germany tells a story of a little boy who wanted to know what would happen if he stood in the fire. He ran up to the teacher and said “Look, my feet did not burn!” From this, the teachers use this moment as a lesson by gathering all the kids around the fire, and teaching them about how fire works. Thorston Reinecke, another teacher, commented on the lesser amount of supervision that the children receive, but how it is beneficial to them: “maybe I don’t have that much control and I can’t always see them, but I know where they are. Not being there all the time allows them to assess risks better.”

When the world is your classroom, there is no end to the amount of learning that you can have just from personal experience and from picking up on the way that the world around you works. A stronger sense of the world can make a child more confident in itself and prepare them to use that confidence in the classroom later on.

Now, Waldkindergartens, or Forest schools, are popping up all over the United States. The first Forest School opened up in Portland, Oregon in 2007. There are several new Forest schools sprouting up in California as well, and there are enough schools involved that they are able to have formal meetings of all the supervisors of the Forest schools.

There is a growing amount of technology in our lives, but there will always be a vast amount of nature and earth to explore as well. Respecting both spheres of the world we live in are the first beginning steps to knowing more and learning more about our world, and creating stronger students in the classroom.


--Jessalyn Kieta

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Breaking Barriers of Autism

The solutions and breakthroughs of autism have long been a point of research, but this mother figured out the best way to help her child on her own. Jacob Barnett was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, and now that he is 12 years old, he is reaching new achievements that are not commonly seen with autistic children. But Jacob is special, and his mother, Kristine, also put him through a different education system.

Jacob was put through a cookie cutter education system right after he was diagnosed. Kristine was told he would never be able to read, tie his own shoes, or function normally in society. But, just from watching Jacob work on his own, Kristine realized he was already doing incredible things that were being overlooked by the education system he was in. She decided to go against what all the professionals were telling her and homeschool Jacob herself.

Through homeschooling, Jacob was able to discover and learn what he wanted to learn, and in the right amounts of time. He also had more time for hands-on activities like art, crafting, and sports.

Jacob’s mother’s plan worked; at the age of 11, Jacob is studying condensed matter physics at Indiana University-Purdue University. His IQ is higher than Einstein’s, being at 170. With the work and research that Jacob is currently doing, he could be on his way to a Nobel Prize. One of his professors said that the problems he is working on are some of the hardest in theoretical physics and astrophysics.

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Preparing your Preschooler

As parents, we are given so many tools and resources to get your child on the right educational track from preschool and onward. This can include books, educational movies, singing songs, playing with puzzles, and the list goes on. But one huge part of education that can sometimes be looked over is developing the skills for your child to learn how to work and interact with the world. There are some key ways that, as parents, we can help our kids learn to become independent thinkers and problem solvers by giving them small doses of independence from the start!

Here are some top 5 ways that you can begin implementing great life skills for your preschooler: 

  1. Assign Responsibility: Give your kids a few chores or invite them to help you out around the house. This can be a small task like setting the table for dinner, feeding pets, or putting away toys and laundry. This shows your child that these things don’t get done by themselves!
  2. Do not help your child by doing things that he/she can complete herself: As much as you are teaching your child to learn how to complete tasks and work independently, allow them to try out their new responsibilities! This can be hard to remember when your child is learning so fast, but eventually they will catch up and follow your lead.
  3. Do not redo the work that your child has done: It may be driving you crazy that the shirt your child folded is really just a twisted ball, but do not fix that shirt! Your child will never come to notice the results of his/her work if they are not seeing the results of what they did.
  4. Know when to stop: Your children will come to enjoy learning; children naturally love to learn. If your child loses interest in the book you are reading, do not continue to read through the book or force your child to finish something. This can discourage them from having a positive learning experience.
  5. Talk to your child as an equal: Ask your child about their day, what they enjoyed, and any new things they have learned. Be enthusiastic and genuine about your interest. Speaking to your child as an equal shows your child that you respect them and care for them, and can also enhance their speaking skills from early on.


-- Jessalyn Kieta

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The Government and College Collide

Colleges have been trying to become more liberal in solving their solutions, addressing problems, and catering towards student’s needs and wants. However, Victor Davis Hanson, a historian and winner of the National Humanities Model, presented a column about how colleges are actually moving further away from acting liberally than they had once believed. The choices that colleges have been making to address their issues can arguably be recognized as conservative more than liberal. Is this why problems aren’t getting solved as fast as people would like them to?

Hanson argues that colleges may want to claim to be liberal on the outside and encouraging open and creative minds, they are not allowing the freedom of speech and “edgy speech” that young adults deserve. They also should drop the political niceties, teach more inductive reasoning, and inform students on the current economic status of the job market.

Hanson makes a great point that keeping students informed in the employment rate after graduation and how much money they will be making can help parents and students be more proactive about paying off their loans, and allow parents to do cost-benefit analyses on college, just like you would do for any other major expenses. 

A standardized exit test similar to the ACT or SAT should also be given to all graduates, as a measurement on their education and increased knowledge after years of expensive study. 

Hanson believes that these are things that need to be done by universities, and therefore should be government regulated. However, building up a college that is more government regulated is far from being more liberal; it’s turning a university into being more conservative!

Do some of Hanson’s plans make sense? They can be beneficial to many students, but getting the government more involved in our higher education system may attract more harm than help. Getting a liberal education can be extremely important into making well-rounded graduates that have a better understanding of the world around them.

--Jessalyn Kieta

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Putting Up a Fight Towards Common Core

States have been attempting to improve education through the implementation of Common Core, but their tactics are failing before they even began. Many parents are choosing to have their students opt out of taking the standardized Common Core tests—and its enough students that its raising awareness. 

In New York, there are between 60 to 70 percent of students who are refusing to take the exams. There has also been considerable resistance in Maine, Oregon, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, with more states predicted to hop on the bandwagon this spring when tests are administered again. 

U.S. Department of Education Spokeswoman Dorie Nolt tries to ease parents by informing them that the state tests are meant to simply serve students in underprivileged populations and give teachers and parents an idea of where their student stands educationally. There has been encouragement from Barack Obama to adapt to Common Core as well with a program called Race To The Top. However, each state is free to develop their own tests. This is why there is a variation among states and the responses that parents are giving to Common Core.


Much of the criticism and concern with Common Core may also have to do with the amount of tests administered; between kindergarten to grade 12, there are over 113 tests administered just for Common Core outside of other test requirements for class course material. Only 17 of these required by the federal government, but the rallying for No Child Left Behind made pushed for teachers to keep up a closer watch on their students’ progress. Though No Child Left Behind and Common Core may be working wonders for some students, bringing them to higher and better levels of education, there is a huge pressure put on these students at the same time to improve year after year.

Schools are working with parents in some ways and allowing opt-outs for whatever reason, while others are passing laws that only allow 45 hours of testing per school year. These states seem to understand more about how much is expected of students these days. There are more discussions about Common Core and Race To The Top that are still happening in Congress, which might change some of these issues for the better in the future.


For the original Huffington Post article, click here. 


--Jessalyn Kieta

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Learning is a Choice, Not a Part of Growing Up

There are laws in place that require children under 18 to attend school, but going to school every day for years and years is not the same as learning. There is a difference between learning and education, and learning has been a choice that has been given to adolescents for decades.

Parents send their children off to school in hopes that they will learn more science, math, English, and history to apply to the world around them and their future education. However, it is only the child’s choice to listen and retain the information that is being taught. The truth is that education should be something enjoyable for the children because that is what will motivate them to continue to learn more and more. If you look at your own interests and hobbies, no one tells people to keep up with these interests; they simply do it on their own because they want to! Education is slowly backing away from having this kind of mentality, and we need to reintroduce a passion for knowing and learning more. A great way of turning education around is to make schooling become more of an interest rather than a chore; there are many learning requirements and expectations for learning in schools that makes it difficult for children to enjoy it!

Parents, teachers, and adults cannot continue to thrust information from a subject that a child does not want to learn. Hopefully, more interactive hands-on teaching and activities can spark adolescents’ interests in schooling for the future. Creativity in teaching through theater performance, art, ceramics, and music are also great subjects in school that need more attention and get the brain working.


It was best said by John Holt: “Learners make learning.” No parent or teacher can force someone to remember something that bores them or is not something they need to know to be successful. We all have made mistakes and learn from them, whether we receive a great education or not. In the end, learning is a choice we make based on our interests.


--Jessalyn Kieta

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