Friday, August 15, 2014

Back to School

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Maybe it's the fact that both my parents were teachers when I was growing up, or that I was a studious, serious child, but I've always loved going back to school in the fall.

My mother was a high school math teacher, and my father taught at West Georgia College, now called the University of West Georgia. Going back to school meant a chance to start over, to get organized, to get into a routine and to create a plan to be successful in the year ahead.

My earliest memory of school is being dropped off in front of Carrollton Kindergarten under the metal awning on the circular driveway. Children's footprints had been painted on the ground where students were to be dropped off. Looking down at the footprints and stepping out onto the asphalt, matching my feet to the painted prints provided me with a feeling of accomplishment.

One day, a neighbor missed the mark, dropping me off a bit before or a bit after the footprints -- I can't remember which -- and taking away the feeling of accomplishment I had gotten by landing on the feet. I was terribly upset that day with not being dropped off at the proper location.

The start of school not only meant a fresh start for academic achievement, but also signified the beginning of the social season in the small town where I grew up: Carrollton, Georgia. This booming town, which today houses many commuters from Atlanta, was a smaller community when I was young. Social activities were created around high school football and church. Football games were not only attended at home but also on the road. We often travelled for hours to watch our team, the Trojans, play.

During my college years, fall meant the return to campus, catching up with friends and joining in the whirlwind of social activities (rush, anyone?). From an academic perspective, the start of a new semester provided a chance at a new beginning. No grades had been earned, no first impressions made; there was a clean slate, and anything was possible.

Books and supplies, purchased with high hopes, were organized and laid out carefully in anticipation of the work to come. The first day of classes provided an opportunity to make a first impression, not only with teacher, but with other students.

The fresh start was put into motion once a copy of the teacher's syllabus was in hand. This marked the path from the start of the term to where I would be at the end. It included the topics to be covered, the objectives of the class, the homework that would be assigned, the tests that would be taken and the weight of each in the calculation of the final grades.

The individual teachers' preferences and plans for grading would weigh heavily in my planning for the term ahead. Should I focus on class participation, tests, projects or exams? Was there a way to earn extra credit? I marked the test dates on the calendar and they, as well as projects, gave me a sense of structure for the coming term.

After graduate school, I moved into the workforce in corporate financial planning, which provided me with a similar structure. I created annual budgets through a clear planning process, with specific due dates. Monthly reports provided me with ongoing feedback to measure how I was progressing toward my goals. Every year provided a new opportunity to create a new plan to be measured against.

And the cycle continues. This coming week marks the beginning of the school year for our children and reminds me that plans are important to provide structure and focus in our lives. All their school supplies are purchased and ready; their schoolbooks are on their desks; their calendars are beginning to fill up with games and other activities.

And while we know that plans always change as they materialize into reality, the planning process itself allows us to reconsider and review to ensure that what is most important in our lives -- family, community, career and faith -- are reflected in where our time is spent.

The lessons I learned in preparing for school are ones I expect to carry through life. This fall, dear reader, you too may wish to set aside a bit of time for yourself to consider your priorities, reflect them in your plan and create a structure of time that will set yourself up for success.

SOURCE Defines Homeschooling as "Lame Propaganda"

Homeschooling parents have a few choice words for this week. While the online vocabulary tool can often be a helpful resource, users now realize it can also be pretty insulting. Just take a look at the example sentences the website chose for "homeschooling"

This incensed Twitter user was one of many homeschooling parents to let know just what they thought of their definitions.

While may deem homeschooling as backwards, statistics show that home schooled children often fare better than their peers. For instance, a study from 2009 revealed that homeschooled children scored 86 percent higher than students in public schools.

Here are just a few other homeschooling merits outlined on

    Control what your children learn and when they learn it.

    Show your children that learning is not boring, but exciting.

    Build intimate and meaningful relationships with your children.

    Tailor your teaching to fit your children's dominant learning styles.

    Give your children in-depth, personal attention in any subject with which they struggle or excel.

These details weren't anywhere to be found on In response to so many angry internet users, the online vocabulary resource has seemingly deleted its poorly chosen example sentences and replaced them with these safe, generic ones:

    "The kits are also available through school and homeschool suppliers, and toy and gift catalogs."

    So this year, along with our other homeschool subjects, we've been doing a unit on food.

The website's word of the day today is "brusque," which means "abrupt in manner," "blunt" and "rough." As in,'s use of "homeschooling" was met with brusque criticism from peeved parents.


UK: Students from affluent areas ten times more likely to win place at leading university: Prospects of poorer pupils barely change despite multi-million pound initiatives

Pupils from the most affluent areas are nearly 10 times more likely to win a place at a leading university than those from the poorest, a new study has revealed.

The prospects of disadvantaged youngsters have barely changed since 2010 despite a series of multi-million pound initiatives aimed at easing their path to the most academically selective universities.

The research also highlighted concerns over low numbers of working-class men going to university and a sharp drop in older ‘second-chance’ applicants’ who missed out on university as teenagers.

The study, from the Independent Commission on Fees, was designed to assess the impact of Coalition university funding reforms including £9,000-a-year tuition fees.

Universities wishing to charge the maximum fee must agree targets and funding to encourage the poorest pupils to apply.

The study found that youngsters from the most advantaged fifth of areas in England – those where high numbers of residents already have a university education – were 9.5 times more likely than those from the least advantaged fifth to have won a place at a top university in 2013.

This was barely an improvement on 2010, when rich pupils were 9.8 times more likely to go to a prestigious university. The study looked at entry to the 13 most academically selective universities in the country.

‘The gap in application and entry rates between advantaged and disadvantaged students has narrowed slightly, but remains unacceptably large - particularly for the most selective universities,’ the study said.

The research – commissioned by the Sutton Trust education charity - also examined sex differences and found that in 2013, 21 per cent more 18-year-old women entered university than men of the same age.

It warns that the divide is largest among the poorest university applicants, with disadvantaged boys particularly under-represented.

While application rates among 18-year-olds have recovered following a dip triggered by the introduction in 2012 of higher fees, the picture for mature and part-time students is ‘much bleaker’.

Will Hutton, chair of the Commission, said: ‘Whilst we welcome the recovery in the proportion of 18-year-olds taking up places at university after the introduction of higher fees in 2012, serious gaps in access to university remain.

‘Our research shows that advantaged students are nearly 10 times more likely to attend a top university than their disadvantaged peers. Young men from disadvantaged areas are particularly badly affected and remain under-represented in applications to all universities.

‘Mature student numbers also appear to be disproportionately affected by the student fee changes with their numbers remaining below 2010 levels. The number of students on part-time courses has fallen dramatically.

‘Since many mature and part-time students come from less advantaged backgrounds this is an issue we must address if we are to ensure fair access to university for all.’

Meanwhile a poll showed some support for the idea of students from disadvantaged homes being charged lower tuition fees.

A Business Department spokesman said: ‘It is encouraging that applications to higher education from 18-year-olds are at an all-time high - including the applications rates for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

‘Prospective students recognise the lifelong value of a university degree, but we are not complacent and there is still more to do - particularly by some of the higher tariff institutions.’


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