Sunday, December 30, 2007

Educational Reform - Higher Education Thoughts

While my eldest is just in 8th grade, I have alot of friends whose children (and families) are going thru the ordeal of applying to and selecting a college.

I'm struck by the fact that while elementary and primary school education are in a period of wild-change, I'm unaware of any dramatic re-engineering that is going on at the college level.

For primary and secondary education, the great waves are:
  • A major new vote with their feet by 4% of the population to homeschooling
  • An attempt from above to control and impose rigor by No Child Left Behind
  • An attempt to privatize with school vouchers and school choice
  • A massive investment by parents in supplementary education materials and services
  • Much attempts to move to magnet schools, centers of excellence, and other choices within the system and away from the large high schools which supposedly provided resources for everyone (but turned into a scary environment for everyone)
At the college level however, it seems to be business as usual. Anyone who lives near a large state university campus can tell you that education appears to be the last thing on most students' minds. The professors all know that undergraduate education is the last thing on their mind as they compete to publish and for perks. But the budgets of so many families and states are built around providing four year access to these institutions of "higher learning". In the case of most schools, this expression is a joke.

Shouldn't this be on the agenda? Any politicians want to step up to the plate?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I just read an old article about Brian's experience working at a Kumon center: "Educating Ali". Basically, while inside the Kumon machine, he found a child who needed a little focused one-on-one attention and gave it to him.

I think it makes the basic point that with a little special help, many children's education can be greatly improved.

It struck a different cord with me. It was while sitting in a Kumon Center that I decided to launch myself as an entrepreneur. I was there with my 6 year old son and was very impressed by how crowded the waiting room was. Parents were lining up in droves for Kumon. I looked Kumon up in the almanac and found it was the single largest franchise in the US (in terms of number of centers).

A Kumon Jr. session for my son consisted of him sitting at a low table with 3-4 other kids and filling out simple worksheets while a para-professional watched and encouraged them. Then, the kids were given a large number of worksheets to fill out at home with the parents during the week along with a reading book.

For this, we were paying $250/month. There was nothing magic about the worksheets. They looked identical to the free ones on the net or the ones that you can get in a 200 page book for $4.99 at a discount store.

I asked myself why were all these parents paying so much for so simple a product. After considering a few possibilities (we were all dumb...?), I concluded that the answer was that it's not the worksheets per se, it's the fact that the kids get the right worksheet at the right time along with a motivational system that makes it valuable and effective. It was when I realized that and I looked at all these parents lining up for help. And I thought about all that driving and parking and followup by us parents at home that I decided to make the plunge and start

For a little more info on the Kumon philosophy, here's a quote from Brian's blog...

Regular school maths usually seems to involve the children working through only a few rather hard problems. Kumon makes them do many more much easier ones. Instead of hoping that they get, say, about half to two thirds of their stuff right, Kumon says they must get nearly everything right. At the heart of the Kumon method is the difference between a child painfully working out that seven plus six equals, er, thirteen? (anxious glance at face of teacher), and knowing with real certainty that seven plus six equals thirteen, with no doubts or hesitations. The usual educational emphasis is on "understanding". The Kumon literature talks of "mastery".
Each child does a clutch of sums selected for him or her personally (there is no everyone-in-the-class-does-the-same-stuff rule) each day, which are supposed to take about twenty minutes to complete.

Or, as puts in (quoting from a page comparing Time4Learning & Kumon)

It provides a service for children and parents alike, based on the philosophy of repetition and self-motivated learning. This after-school program works primarily toward enrichment and a mastery of the basics through a standardized approach of workbook completion. The Kumon workbooks consist of several pages of sequential math or reading content. Students complete one workbook while at the Kumon Center. In addition, students are required to complete a workbook at home each day they are not in attendance (including weekends). Workbooks range from two pages a day to twenty pages a day, requiring a degree of parental supervision.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I watched a family member a few years ago, spend an hour per week in speech therapy. He was young - 6 years old - but his language skills were developing properly. We all noticed that his speech was hard to understand. Once he was tested, his vocabulary (understood and spoken) turned out to be small.

In therapy, there was a long series of exercises with his mouth and tongue to build muscles and habits to improve his enunciation. There were alot of flash cards and exercises to build his vocabulary.

It was all very pricey and, since the problems went away, we were pleased with the results. I was struck at the time by how technology-void the therapy was.

I've just seen an article which points out that some of the free online word games provide the type of therapy that many families pay for. Take a look at the article on games for word retrieval therapy.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Computers for Learning for Everyone

At Time4Learning, our mouse says: "It's Time 4 Learning. And Fun!". At times, we like to add : "For Everyone!".

If only this were true. Usually, we think of inclusiveness in terms of how our program works for special needs learning.

This thanksgiving week, we gave a thought to those who don't have access to computers and are on the wrong side of the digital divide.

We donated to Nick Negaponte's One Laptop one child...

Thank you for participating in the One Laptop per Child "Give One Get One" program. Your donation of $399.00 will bring education and enlightenment to children of the developing world. $200 of each $399 "Give One Get One" Donation is tax-deductible (your donation minus the fair market value of each laptop you receive). With Shipping and Handling, the total charge to your credit card is $423.95.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My karate interest, my interest in blogging leads to...

I've been quite the dojo rat, hanging out at lavallees karate school in ft lauderdale. What's funny is how I have now combined two of my hobbies:
  • Karate
  • Blogging

The fusion of these two hobbies can be seen in my karate blog. Plus, I've combined them with my professional life in several ways. Firstly, I've been building blogs and found that they can be used to help grow my business through providing increased visibility for my online educational sites. Secondly, and this is the most interesting, I've found that writing an interesting blog is difficult. While I can write interesting articles, I've had trouble finding a voice and personna that people want to read and that the audience will keep coming back to. So I started looking around for interesting examples. And I've found that only a few people have learned how to blog about their life in a way that actually connects to an audience.

So, my efforts at karate blogging have led me to wish that I could earn a black belt in blogging. That is, I wish I could blog well. So if you want to know more about my writing course and specifically, the blog writing course.

This is how it's all come together. john

Karate School

I've been spending alot of fun time learning in a whole new area: karate.

I've been going to the lavallee black belt dojo in Ft Lauderdale.

I've been learning a new language with terms like bugo kum ite, (bugo khum ite), ouse, aiee, sensei, keoshi, kata, kempo kataa, mma, XMA, ultimate fighting, and a bunch of other funny terms.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Education is

Heh, I'm in the business of education. We can't teach without having students.

And, we would like to share our thoughts on websites and blogs and get your thoughts. To do this, we will try using technorati....

Technorati Profile

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Learning Vocabulary Can Be Fun - Now has a blog!

Hi Everyone!

Time4Learning now has a new affiliated site called: Learning Vocabulary Can Be Fun

Mostly, we will keep the vocabulary site the way it is. The few changes that we will make will be:

- increase the number of vocabulary words and vocabulary topics in the vocabulary games. For instance, we just added 600 new words to the database by providing individual word lists for pre-kindergarten to 8th grade. There are now 219 topics and 10,353 words in the vocabulary database. There are many suitable topics for both young and older students.

- adding a vocabulary blog to improve communciation with the users and to solicity information on what more the site could be providing or on how best to use it. The first post was about Teaching with Crossword Puzzles and the second was the announcement about Jacob (creator of the site) about the increased vocabulary topics list.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Teach to the Test - FCAT

This year, my daughter has teachers who have thrown out all pretense of teaching anything other than FCAT.Last night at her school’s open house, I sat, stunned, as her English teacher explained that there would be no curriculum other than FCAT practice until after the writing test in February... “I don’t teach any literature at all until after that time,” the English teacher said. “I’m sure you all understand.”

I don’t understand. Not at all. I’m speechless.
by Vicki McCash Brennan

Ms. Brennan - You are so right to be outraged.

How can America, whose future depends so much on education, have turned our educational system into this test prep morass? It's a grim frivolous time in education where the need for reform has been hijacked by a top-down order to focus on the simplest most-measurable type of education and get the largest number of kids possible to score at the passing level.


And now a word from our sponsor. There's an article about Warriors Collide, Ft Lauderdale. This is a little bit like news.

Here's some resources to be found on Vocabulary Learning Fun.
Vocabulary Resources :Ultimate Vocabulary - A software package designed to vocabulary
Expand Vocabulary - A chnce to do what the name says!!!!
Power Words - For people with little minds. Use big words to compensate and highlight your lack of brainpower.Vocabulary Builder - Learn about the parts of words. Like lego, parts can be assembled into bigger things!!!!

.GRE Vocabulary - This will teach you how A better vocabulary is...uh...better. A series of cheesy educationally-invalid ways

Increase Vocabulary - How does your vocabulary tell everyone about your personality ?Vocabulary Software - To feed the hungry machine, we need to keep pushing software. Very popularWord Smart Review - I haven't had a chance to review this essay but I'd like to.

Lastly, aren't you curious:Why do I blog?

That's all folks !!!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Technology Education

My kids in the car yesterday reminded me how different their childhood world is than mine was. The eight year old was looking at a catalog and asked me to buy some gadget so he could "text message" his friends. Text message his friends? I only figured out what that was about in the last year.

And then my 13 year old handed me her cell phone saying that there was something wrong: she was hearing a sound that she had never heard before. I listened and laughed. It was a busy signal. Something that she with her digital world with voice mail et al had never heard before.

All of this reminds me how different the kids skills are these days. And how different the tools that they use are. They seem to be doing very well with the practical aspects of mastering the computers and the net and their cell phones and ipods, but what about understanding how some of this stuff works?

I think that its a bad thing for anyone to thing that the technology around them is black magic, not understood and not understandable. No, I'm not saying that everyone should learn to code. I am saying that everyone should be able to explain why the light goes on when you touch a switch, what's the difference between a circuit switched classic telephone line and the VOIP technology used by digital networks, and the relationships between magnets and electricity.

As technology becomes more embedded in our world, I think our understanding of the technology, at the conceptual level, should also deepen. I'm now looking at the technology curriculum standards to see if they are addressing these issues only as users or with some feel for the need to appreciate the tools around them.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Home school high school

Homeschooling for High School – What’s different?

Homeschooling your students into high school will surely many bring changes to your homeschool program . There are several reasons that the approach used in the elementary and middle school years should change for the high school years.

First of all, the subject matter is much more in-depth. So most homeschooling parents shift from a role where they are a subject-matter expert to a role where they are more of a guide. Parents often broaden their use of outside resources not just from their local support group but they include online courses, courses at local colleges, and often, at their local high schools (especially for homeschool driver’s education.)

Homeschooling in high school can also be different since at the high school level, there is a need to prepare skills and credentials to meet career and post secondary education requirements. This means that in addition to complying with minimal requirements for homeschooling, parents start considering the requirements to receive high school diplomas, to gain acceptance to colleges, and to be prepared for careers.

Here is a link to more information on how to plan for the changes in homeschooling at the high school level.

And, there are parents who are moving in the other direction. There are parents who only start homeschooling in high school.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Free Educational Games Online

Online Free Fun Educational Games.

I'd like to mention four websites:

A Vocabulary site called

A Spelling site called (really cool but not yet finished).

A site with Learning Games for Kids which features the hurricane song and sun song.

And, the free demo learning games on Time4Learning's site.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

UK Homeschooling

I'm travelling in the UK at the moment, staying with friends near Bristol. Actually, we're pretty deep in the country.

When people ask what I do and I explain about homeschooling in the US, they all say that it's illegal here although it's a shame since the schools have apparently badly declined in the past decade.

So I thought I'd peak around online to see what is actually allowed....

First, from , I learned from If home schooling is something you are considering you should contact the Home Education Advisory Service ( The Department for Education and Skills sets out conditions parents have to fulfill in order to educate their child at home; these can be seen on their website

The gov site only mentions homeschooling in a number of posts on the forum. But the HEAS site, the Home Educational Advisory Site, talks about a Quiet Revolution.

They provide alot of support. More later on the UK>...BTW- I know a fair amount about the differences in the school systems having attended 2nd-4th grade in the UK myself and then, having my elder daughter start her education in the UK system. What I know is that it's way different. color vs colour. Letter names vs letter sounds.

But Time4Learning has alot of subscribers for online homeschool learning from the UK, most are expats....

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Developing Interactive Curriculum

We're developing some curriculum and while the developers are very proud of their preliminary drafts, they have been a little shell-shocked by the highly critical feedback that our parent-educators are providing. After I sent along a few emails, I wrote the following to help my educational developers get a feel for the context....

I'm glad you're reading and struggling with the feedback. Obviously, homeschool parents are not like professional educators.

They are outspoken, not-intimidated by credentials, don't give false praise, and are not politically-aware (nor -correct). They feel like educational veterans having spent day and night for years wrestling with the limitations of existing curriculum. They are passionate, they want the materials to be better for their children now. They are willing to experiment. And Time4Learning has raised expectations about the level of interactivity.

As a resource for getting feedback on educational materials and curriculum, I think they have tremendous potential. I'm hoping over the next year to get a real system in place for getting feedback and suggestions. I think this will be easier for finished materials where we are just looking for bugs or suggestions or ratings (great, OK, weak). I think it will be harder for materials that are early in development where they are being looked at somewhat out of context. But, if I am really going to launch into curriculum development, I will need to have an efficient feedback loop.

I think their feedback is great guidance to getting us "on-track" although in some cases, expectations are out-of-whack.

I hope you are using this feedback with the teacher although perhaps filtering it before passing it on....

Homeschool Curriculum by Time4Learning
PreSchool-8th Grade.Math, Phonics, Reading Comprehension,and so much more!
Games for Kids. Reports for Parents.
For homeschool or enrichment

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Is Homeschooling Legal?

Is Homeschooling Legal?
State Regulations in the US about homeschooling

In the US, all 50 states (plus DC & Puerto Rico) have mandatory school attendence laws until a certain age (often 16). But, each state has it's own method of defining what constitutes "school attendence".

In some states, parents are free to set up their own homeschool and take full responsibility for their children's education without any reporting or constraints. In other states, the children need to be enrolled full time in an accredited school but the school can provide a home-based distance-learning program. Often, some states require the parents to establish a "school".

In short, each state is different and many states change their rules. And, the rules for school attendence are different than those about who can issue an accredited high school diploma.

Time4Learning has been researching and recording some of these different regulations. While this does not constitute legal advice, here is a collection of information by states about homeschooling....

Alabama Homeschooling & Time4Learning
Florida Homeschooling & Time4Learning
California Homeschooling & Time4Learning
Georgia Homeschooling & Time4Learning
North Carolina & Time4Learning
Ohio Homeschooling & Time4Learning
Texas Homeschooling & Time4Learning
Alaska Homeschooling & Time4Learning
Virginia Homeschooling & Time4Learning
South Carolina Homeschooling & Time4Learning

Grade Level Curriculum

Online Learning - Grade by Grade

Time4Learning teaches preschool, elementary, and middle school curriculum.

We have put ontline a series of grade level summaries for our parents convenience. Take a look!

First Grade
Second Grade
Third Grade
Fourth Grade
Fifth Grade
Sixth Grade
Seventh Grade
Eighth Grade

Social Studies Homeschool Curriculum

Social Studies is one of subjects that some kids seem to really like. Here's an overview of Time4Learning's online social studies curriculum.

In first and second grade social studies, students learn about human's basic needs and are introduced to map reading and historical and cultural holidays. Learn more about first and second grade social studies lesson plans.

Map skills are enhanced in third grade social studies and geographic terms are introduced. Students also study Alaska Inuits, Vikings, exploration of the Americas and colonization of North America. Read about the third grade lesson plans here.

Upper Elementary - Fourth & Fifth Grade Social Studies Curriculum

In fourth grade, ancient civilizations, the Incas, Mayas and Aztecs and the American Revolutionary war period are studied in the history lessons. Geography lesson focus on land formations and how people interact with their physical environment. United States civics are introduced. Complete details are in the fourth grade social studies lesson plans.

Early civilizations ranging from the Olmecs to the Phoenicians are the focus of fifth grade history, along with 19th century United States history, including the events leading up to the Civil War, the war itself, and post-war reconstruction. Economics, US and world geography, and government systems round out the fifth grade social studies curriculum. Read here for complete details about the fifth grade social study lesson plans.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Preschool Homeschool - Is it?

Does it count as homeschooling, if it's only preschool?

What a silly question!

Answer: since you can get into arguments about curriculum, it must be homeschooling?

Is preschool too young to learn to read?
Should a preschooler be unschooled?
Should a preschooler follow a structured curriculum?

I find that one system that works as part of the preschool homeschool curriculum for me is Time4Learning with their learning games.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Learning and Games

Here is quick overview of electronic games and how it affects learning.

1. Todays learners are different. They have different abilities to absorb info and skills, different concentration spans, familiarity with different tools, different ways of communicating etc etc. The "digital natives" concept is credited to Marc Prensky who then concludes that they've taken the attitude of digital-age learning styles.

2. Much of game playing is learning. Not learning about academics, not learning in a way that many schools have understood or appreciate. But a raw type of learning thru observation, trial-and-error, theorizing, testing theories, in a way that somehow encompasses both the scientific method, cultural literacy, algebraic thinking, spatial reasoning, and common sense. The writer that I'm familiar with on this topic is: James Paul Gee. I'm also influenced by the grade novel, Enders Games. Adn the fact that I spent half a decade on the development side of games.

3. Games can be used to motivate kids to learn. To get to the next level, you must complete the fractions island. Basically, create a learning mgt system which provides game-like motivation for kids to collect powerups, crystals, and complete levels which map to educational benchmarks. I've never seen this done well. I intend to build an educational system in which the navigation system can be changed so that game structures can be tried.

4. Learning activities can be game-like. Shoot the right answer for math facts before it gets you. Provides motivation for boring tasks. If done right, can include nifty help with memorization or concepts.

5. Make tools fun to use like the soon to be launched spelling program.....

All of this is being explored as the next step for Time4Learning, the leading homeschool curriculum that's fun and effective and affordable.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I've been looking at different approaches to tutoring.

I of course am a big believer in student directed online learning such as the online learning games from Time4Learning. I've been looking at how to compare this with the Kumon Math and Reading Centers , or the Sylvan Learning Centers, the Huntington Learning Centers, any Learning Center, or even the old famous late-night-TV direct marketing heavy-weight champion, Hooked On Phonics!

More later on the choices for each of these levels.....
Preschool games, Elementary, and Middle School

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Christian Curriculum

The Shelf-Life of Christian Curriculum
By Kerry Jones

We all do it at some point in our lives. Stick that milk back in the refrigerator after smelling it and discovering it has indeed gone past it’s prime. But we hate to waste it. Maybe we could give it to the cat? Or use it for that homemade sour cream recipe we always meant to try? Unfortunately, our attempt at frugality is usually in vain, and we will eventually get up the courage to pour the foul-smelling stuff down the sink.

Whether we realize it or not, that past-dated milk sometimes has a good bit in common with our familiar Christian curriculum. It has served its purpose incredibly well for us in the past, but it just feels lately like it may have gone a bit sour. Even looking at it makes us pucker up and dread opening the lid! So what do we do? We want to give our children a strong Christian education, and we want them to grow into godly men and women, but we feel like we are in a rut. We want our children to continue loving learning, but our current curriculum is boring us to tears.

If we feel like this, are we heretics? Of course not. God has seen to it that homeschool never has to feel stale. Within the Christian homeschool culture, there are any number of ways to successfully homeschool your child. There are unschoolers, Classical schoolers, Waldorf schoolers, Montessori schoolers, Charlotte Mason schoolers, and Unit Studiers. Some homeschoolers use mostly video-based software, while others depend on the internet for their curriculum. Some do all their schooling at home, while others take advantage of homeschool co-ops in their communities. Believe it or not, some Christian homeschoolers even supplement their curriculum with secular materials that meet the specific needs their child.

The most important thing to do when you discover you curriculum isn’t working for you anymore is to go back to the basics. Ask yourself some key questions about your child.

· What type of learning do they most enjoy?
· What style of learner are they?
· Do they have any special learning needs?
· What reasons made you start homeschooling your child, and why do you continue?

The answers to these questions can and should greatly influence your curriculum choices. For instance, if your child is a visual learner, he may do poorly with a workbook-style curriculum. If your daughter learns best by demonstration and hands-on involvement, she will probably not excel with a video-based curriculum. If your child enjoys delving deeply into subjects that interest him, he might find unit study curriculum much more helpful than a simple textbook overview.

Also, ask yourself what it is about your current curriculum that has gone stale for you. And what do you wish it had, that it doesn’t. Chances are, there is another curriculum or perhaps a mix of curricula that will be just what you and your children need at this particular juncture of homeschooling. Sometimes, we go through a phase where we are simply tired of plain old milk. We need variety - - chocolate milk, strawberry milk, soy milk - - something different. I believe we are created to enjoy diversity from time to time. I recently wrote about this in an online article titled “A Different Drum.”

“Because of this, I know that when I hit the roadblocks of life, I can find a way around them. When my children face the challenges of being different, I can remind them that means they are on the right track! When the normal battles of life take over my home, I understand that I will win the war in the end. And when I have laid my head down on my pillow at the end of a difficult day, and wondered why God has called me to this thing called “homeschooling” - - I will remember that it is because I have been called according to His purpose. Called to be different.”

In my experience, one of the greatest ways to jumpstart your homeschool motor again is to completely switch gears. Instead of pulling out the textbooks and worksheets one morning, how about announcing that you are going to do an online curriculum for a while? is a company that has an incredible multimedia homeschool program without long-term contracts or high monthly fees. An interactive, engaging, computer-based curriculum may be just what you need to freshen up your homeschool stale spell. But if that sounds too radical for you, you might at least consider using an online program to supplement or enrich your current curriculum.

The key to long-term homeschool success is flexibility, and the willingness to experiment to find what works. The most difficult step is finding the courage to pour the old milk down the drain when it has passed its usefulness. Once you have diagnosed the problem, the solution will be just around the bend. So gather your courage - - and go sniff out the source of that sour smell coming from the direction of your homeschool materials. You will be glad you did!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Christian Homeschoolers too

Time4Learning has turned out to be a real melting pot. Amongst our members, we can count a great number of Christian homeschoolers, a number of traditional anti-educational homeschoolers (unschoolers), and accidental homeschoolers.

We just read a very interesting story by a Christian homeschooler, Kerry Jones.

There is also interesting diversity in terms of highly gifted and special needs.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lego Ergo Sum

"Lego Ergo Sum" - what does it mean?

This fall, the educational content of Time4Learning (from CompassLearning) was greatly enhanced by a large number of wonderful new lessons.

The highlight of the new materials was a large number of vocabulary exercises. Antonyms and synonyms and all sorts of exercises done in a fun multimedia manner.

Fast paced but with just the right type of repetition so that the children really learn.

Each one starts with the announcement of Lego Ergo Sum.

If someone could tell me what that means, they've earned a free Time4Learning coffee cup.(no, saying that it is Latin does not count). email to john at time4learning . thats a com.

The winner is Kathy. Although her translation of lego ergo sum only fed my curiosity.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Preschool Online Learning Games

There are lots and lots of good online and computer learning games for preschoolers.

For the kids, everything is new and fun and they are so curious and ready to learn.

Parents are of two minds. They are thrilled to see their children using sophisticated tools and playing preschool games that teach.

But they worry about the amount of time that their kids spend online and whether they are creating some sort of computer or game addict. Also, since the kids move rapidly, parents need to keep finding new games and site for them to use.

Time4Learning solves alot of these problems for families. Time4Learning's preschool program has a timer which helps parents manage the kids time online. And it provides an endless stream of lessons in a meaningful educational sequence. So, you can start your child at time4Learning at preschool and have them use it to learn with right up thru elementary games and middle school.