I work in education so I hear a lot about Common Core. I currently work with the registrar, and while I don’t teach yet, I recently received my teacher certification for PreK-4th grade. When I help parents register their students for school, the first question I get is, “Do you follow Common Core here?” This is usually followed by “I hate Common Core! My kids shouldn’t have 4 hours worth of homework per night!!!” I’m also a father of school-aged children. I work in Pennsylvania, where they’ve adopted Common Core but integrated it within their own Pennsylvania State Standards, and my kids go to school in Maryland where the Common Core was adopted as-is.
Speaking as a ParentI 100-percent agree with these angry parents that no kid should have four hours of homework per night—especially when you have two or three kids in school. That makes for a combined total of 12 hours worth of homework we as parents have to help with. For teachers, four hours of homework per kids, means grading that much homework 24 or more times. But I couldn’t be happier that my kids are learning the Common Core standards. The district my children are in took the time to educate their teachers on what Common Core is all about. The district also sent home an abundance of information to help parents understand the standards as well. These are important steps that I feel a lot of districts left out. I have heard of many states implementing Common Core without training their teachers or informing the parents. I will admit, my kids have harder math problems, my kids have to read a lot more, my kids do have to do things differently. There have certainly been nights when I have struggled to get my kids through their homework. They fought me the entire way through. There are nights they have outright refused to do the homework because it was “too hard.” I’m not going to lie, there are nights that I have to stare at a problem or two to understand it before I can help my kids with it. When I talk to other parents I hear them complain and gripe about “Why can’t they teach math like they used to?” or “We weren’t taught like this and we all turned out fine.” I’m just saying, when I hear “Ain’t nuttin’ wrong with the way I learnt math in school!” the case for Common Core is proven. Times have changed. And we need our education to change too. Our kids are faced with entirely different challenges than we ever encountered as kids. Our kids’ brains work entirely different than ours did, too. Our parenting styles have changed too. When we fight against the way our children are being taught in school, then we fight progress and we fight change. We also hinder our kids’ futures. You may not agree with the fact that your children are learning basic algebra in 3rd grade, but imagine how proud you will be when your child masters those functions and skills. That in turn, allows them to take Advanced Placement or honors classes in high school. They are better prepared for college and for their future. You may not agree with the testing that students have to go through. I know that when my kids come home with that “A” on their test, though, their excitement makes the struggle worth it. Sometimes it is hard to see the value in something when the results are off in the future. But there are immediate wins and benefits that can be seen with Common Core. For example: The other night while baking, our 1-cup measuring spoon was already used. But my daughter recognized that we could fill the 1/3-cup spoon three times and it would equal 1 cup. When I was a kid, I don’t remember baking going that smoothly. I remember my mom being more like, “That one, put the milk in that one, twice. No! That one over there. There!! Oh, forget it, let me do it. You can lick the spoon when I’m done.” (Although I may have intentionally done it wrong just so I could lick the spoon with less work). Additionally my kids have a daily view of where they stand. My kids both know what level they read at, and they know what level in math they are at. They are able to see their strengths and weaknesses at a glance. This is a huge convenience to me as a parent. I know when they need help, and I can help them choose quality books from the library that will be on their level and help them learn and go to the next level.
The Benefits of Hard WorkOur kids need to be challenged. I don’t see Common Core as a threat to my children. My children may struggle through their homework on occasion. But when they recognize their successes I know that it gets them excited for what’s to come. I understand all kids learn differently. Both my kids who are in school have opposite learning styles. But I think this is where many parents make a mistake and blame Common Core. All children learn differently—that is why the Common Core allows for so many different approaches. Just because they learn differently, doesn’t mean they need to learn different things. My son learned his ABC’s by singing them and pointing to letters. My daughter learned better by putting an ABC puzzle together. But they both learned their ABC’s. That is what Common Core is all about. It takes different approaches to teach the same concepts. Yes, the concepts are more advanced, but these advancements give our kids the advantage when it comes time for college and career. As a parent, I won’t fight against that.
Mike Barnard is a father who blogs at OneMoreDadBlog. He lives with his wife and three children in Washington County, Maryland. An earlier version of this post appeared on Dads Round Table.
Mike Barnard is a father who blogs at OneMoreDadBlog. He lives with his wife and three children in Washington County, Maryland.