January 2008
Educational Options Newsletter
In this issue

School is Not Real Life - Introduction

In the past year, I've started many of my speeches by asking my audiences to repeat after me as I state, "School is not real life!" They usually chuckle and don't say anything, and I then lean forward and say, "I'm not kidding. Let's all say it together. School is not real life!"

Everywhere we turn we are lead to believe that school-and school success-is absolutely the most important thing during our children's childhood years. We are judged as parents according to how well our children perform in school, how well they behave, the grades they get, and whether or not we have taught our children how to "fit in" and do the work of getting good grades.

How many people recognize that "Best Practices" and "Standards" imply a one-size- fits-all approach to instruction that assumes that all children pretty much learn the same way, at the same speed, and at the same ages? How many of you are guilty of accepting and believing that one early task of the school years is to learn to get along with the other children their age? To whom does it occur that we really don't learn social skills from fellow 6-year-olds, especially those who may be our same age but are otherwise quite different from us?

When we grow up, do we choose jobs that hire only people our age? Do we rule out possible friendships because someone is a different age from us? I assert that teaching children by age makes about as much pedagogical sense as teaching children by height. Also, learning to follow directions and do what someone else tells you to do for 12 or more years does not lead to creative thinking or entrepreneurship, and yet our educational system is set up to allow teachers to grade our children on how well they comply, sit still, do the assigned work and turn it in, whether or not it makes any intrinsic sense for the individual child.

So, my subsequent columns will address many of the ways students vary from one another and how a good educational system would allow for these differences. It is my strongly held opinion that tweaking the current system is not the answer. Let's see if I make arguments and points that change more than a few minds.

-- Deborah L. Ruf, Ph.D.


A new year is always associated with new beginnings and new attempts to re-prioritize our lives. At Educational Options, Dr. Ruf has decided this is the year to do more writing, and so we have been actively arranging her calendar to allow time to do that.

As she has traveled around Minnesota and around the country to speak to audiences about different topics related to giftedness, many have asked Dr. Ruf where they can find information about such issues as personality, intellectual profiles, or gender differences in the classroom. She does use handouts of both her own writing and articles from others to supplement and support the information she shares; however, although much information is out there, it isn't always put into a form that is clearly about school adjustment.

Over the next months, Dr. Ruf will pull her ideas together into mini-articles to share with her clients and newsletter readers. In this issue we are including the first series of articles, entitled School is Not Real Life. Enjoy!

Sincerely, Kathy Hara, Editor

Online Learning

At Educational Options, we seem to meet more and more families who are interested in homeschooling their students. Making that experience even more convenient are emerging online schools or online distance learning programs.

Here in Minnesota, we have been hearing about the Minnesota Virtual Academy and MTS Minnesota Connections Academy . Both offer home-based education to Minnesota families for grades K-12 and K-11, respectively. Parents pay no tuition, and the students are considered to be enrolled in public school. Other states offer similar online programs to their residents.

Before deciding to enroll your student in an online learning program, check out The Online Bargain Basement and Online Bargain Basement Returns. These Power Point presentations explain how to select and use an online course, and offer samples of a variety of the best free online courses.

For links to other online learning programs, see the Davidson Institute's and Hoagie's websites.

In next month's newsletter, we will list some links to curricula for homeschooling.

Mensa Research Journal - Homeschooling

The latest edition of the Mensa Research Journal is still available. Guest edited by Dr. Ruf, the issue features the latest thinking on homeschooling and, in particular, how it impacts the gifted. The 96-page issue includes eight articles and several sections devoted to the topic.To purchase a single copy, to subscribe, or to read an excerpt from one of its articles, go to the Mensa Foundation.

In Minnesota - Speaking about Gifted Middle School Reform

Edina Council for Gifted and Talented (ECGT) welcomes interested elementary and middle school parents to hear Special Event Speaker Stephan Schroeder-Davis on Tuesday, January 15. Dr. Schroeder-Davis will be speaking on the thought-provoking and timely topic of Gifted Middle School reform. This event will be at the Edina Community Center, Room 350, 5701 Normandale Road in Edina from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

In Minnesota - Chess Clubs

During Minnesota winters, not everybody wants to go play in the snow. Fortunately, there are plenty of indoor activities, including chess clubs. To see what camps and tournaments are scheduled in January and February, check out the following websites: The Chess Club of Minnesota, Minn esota State Chess Association, and School Chess Association.

Losing Our Minds
Dr. Ruf's book, Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind, is available through Great PotentialPress or Amazon.

Learn More

As always . . .
. . . we wish to thank all our clients who have recommended Dr. Ruf to their friends and neighbors for assessments. The core of our business is based on referrals, and we appreciate your confidence.

A computer terminal . . .
. . . is not some clunky old television with a typewriter in front of it. It is an interface where the mind and body can connect with the universe and move bits of it about.

- Douglas Noel Adams, from Mostly Harmless

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