The problem: America is falling dreadfully behind in primary/secondary education, ranking 31st in math (behind most of Eastern Europe, even!) and 23rd in Science (from page 106 of Tom Friedman & Michael Mandlebaum’s That Used to Be Us). For more information on the scary state of American primary/secondary education read chapter 6, Homework x 2 = the American Dream in That Used to Be Us.
The solution: Don’t rely on the school system – teach your children well. This could mean home schooling, but it could also mean providing resources.
I have no kids. But I have 13 ‘grands’ – 9 grandnieces and 4 grandnephews. I care about my family. I care about the next generation. And I care about America. Tom Friedman/Michael Mandlebaum’s book got my attention (in fact, I wrote two reviews in this blog – here and here). With no offense meant to Eastern Europe, it was the thought of being behind Slovenia in math that discouraged me. Really? We’ve had so many advantages, they’ve had a hard run of it and they’re beating us in math?
So in my “think locally, act globally” mindset I decided that our family’s 13 members of GenFour (all age 7 and under) would be a great place to start. I went to Google and typed in math and science books for preschoolers, got a list and sent it to each of my five nieces/nephews who are parents, suggesting that they pick a book for each child (age appropriate – we didn’t get books on math for infants).
My favorite response was from my niece Mary, who wrote:
Thank you again for offering to buy a book for Isla. We are lovers of books around here.
I don’t know why, but it has been totally stressing me out trying to pick a book. I want to get something that will be useful for us, but also something that you will enjoy giving her.
My final solution is this. I am giving you a list to choose from. Any one of the books listed below (the singular books or one off the list) would be much appreciated. Please get her which ever one speaks to you the most.
Well – what’s a doting grand-aunt to do? Of course I bought all three.
Mary then sent me THIS email:
“Thank you so much for the books. So far Big Mama Cat and Apple Fractions have come. We have read them both a bunch of times, and we are really enjoying them. Isla has already learned a bunch from them. She understands so much more about fractions. She can read the names of fractions now (1/2 is one half and 3/4 is three fourths). She now knows what a numerator and denominator is. She understands that when the numerator and the denominator are the same, the fraction equals one whole. Big Mama Cat has helped her a lot, too. She now knows about reading o’clock. When we first got the book, she read 12:00 as twelve oh oh. Now she says twelve o’clock. She also is figuring out about the big hand points to the first number. So, great stuff! We look forward to getting the third book.”
Isla is five years old. I think I was in third grade when we started learning fractions. I don’t think Isla will fall behind Slovenian kids in math.
If our institutions are failing us, WE can take back our power. If you have children, help them learn things that will matter. If you are an aunt/uncle, grandaunt/granduncle, godparent or just a person who cares, buy books or academic supplies for kids in your life. Or help a school with needed supplies (I’d pick math, science or financial literacy skills, but that’s me) using a charity my friend Tammy aka Agrigirl told me about – Donors Choose.
After all, we know the alternative, dont’ we? (see picture below)