RSS
 

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

What if… we did math right?

24 Oct

What if we made developmentally sequencel goals that we want our children to reach.

what if these goals includes procedures and concepts?

what if we designed learning material to help students achieve these goals and had multiple approaches to teaching allowing the child to work with the easiest approach for their learning style.

What if the students got lots of practice and teacher feedback.

what if students could pretest themselves to see if they need more time or are ready for a test.

what if we provide more time and resources when a child isn’t yet ready instead of just having then fail a test.

what if they take a test and we spend time afterwards, helping them correct and understand what they got wrong.

what if we don’t move on to the next unit until we have a certain level of mastery with the current unit.

what if we continue to include previous material in new units so students don’t forget older topics and retain their mastery.

why don’t we focus on quality over quantity and not worry about kids memorizing formulas but instead can they correctly use and apply them.

teachers can be guides and facilitators  in the classroom, kids who are further along can help give lessons to their peers, online resources can be used to free up the traditional approach.

Assessments can contain questions that require many different types of learning, procedural, conceptual, appplications, theorical, experimental, etc.

why can’t we change how we do math? It seems so simple.

 

 

 

 
 

Quality over Quantity: A New idea for Math Education

08 Aug

“I can’t do Math,” you hear this said over and over by children and adults alike.  It is even “acceptable” to tout that “math isn’t your thing.  You don’t hear people saying, “I can’t read,” yet it is okay to almost brag that you can’t do mathematics.  Why is math such a hard subject for our country?  When and how does it fall apart?  As a math educator, I see so many solutions to our national math crisis that have just never been tried.  We always seem to just play around with the ideas of “the basics,” learning the concepts behind the mathematics (conceptual learning, new math, mathematical modeling), and procedural learning (very similar to the “basics” in many ways.)  All those things are important and we have a problem of tending to lean to one side vs. the other rather than keeping a reasonable balance between the two.  However, what I see as the biggest problem is looking at, “what is our ultimate goal?”  When I read an article that says a California College has done away with the requirement that all students must show mastery in Intermediate Algebra for college because non-STEM students don’t need math, it gets me thinking.

 

If non-STEM majors don’t need math, then do STEM majors no longer need to take literature classes and humanities classes required in the general education classes, these are not “needed” for their majors?  Why do undergraduate degrees require students to take general education classes in addition to their major focus?  We know the answer. It is the same reason why high schools require 4 English classes, 4 Math classes, 3-4 Science classes, 3-4 History classes, etc., in order to make a well rounded educated person.  Just like English, knowing math provides a level of competence for getting around in the world, it allows you to think critically, math is used in many places that kids don’t realize until they get to be an adult.  Adults who truly understand Intermediate Algebra, will be able to make more sound financial decisions in their own personal financial choices.

 

Additionally, Intermediate Algebra as a prerequisite for a college level math course, shouldn’t be too hard since Intermediate Algebra is a class that should be mastered in high school.  So, why is a high school math giving college students so much trouble that a college has to drop a high school remedial math class requirement?  This is because how we currently teach high school math is a failure.  Let’s face it, some students will struggle more with mathematical concepts and others will move on and take Calculus 3 before graduating high school.  There is nothing wrong with either student but we act like there is and we need to stop this.  We need to stop putting on kids on the same math trajectory and expecting it to work.  

 

My feeling is that the goal for graduation of high is to pass, with a B or better, Intermediate Algebra (which should replace tedious useless work with real world knowledge like understanding the Normal Distribution so you can talk intelligently about IQ scores and statistical research as well as linking concepts to real world like amortization tables for car loans and mortgages, these ideas are more important that long division of polynomials and adding rational fractions which is tedious.)  Students should be able to take the “slow path” to math if they need it where they learn the main topics in Algebra 1, some lighter topics in Algebra 2, and some of the basic ideas of Geometry (no geometric proofs).  The goal would be mastery of these topics at a B level.  Anyone graduating should be ready to prove their understanding to a college prerequisite test and be ready for a Pre-Calculus class, although, if they are not a STEM major, they may choose Statistics or Financial Math.  

 

Right now, in NC, we require students to take 4 years of math.  They start learning Algebra 1 concepts as early as middle school so that once in high school, they are already learning topics in Algebra 1, Geometry, and some starter Statistical topics.  By Math 2, they are being introduced to Trigonometry, Algebra 2, Probability, more Geometry, including proofs, and a small amount of what used to be in Pre-Calculus.  By Math 3, the students are finishing Algebra 2, finishing Geometry, taking on more topics from Pre-Calculus, and adding in more Statistical topics.  After Math 3, students must take a fourth math course.  Most non Honors students take Intro to College math, which ends up being a review of Algebra topics or Discrete Math, which goes into Probability, Statistics, and Decision Making.  If students were mastering all these topics, this would be wonderful but students are barely grasping all of this.  We need to slow it down and cut out the fourth class, cut stuff from Math 1-3, and although still require 4 full years (not semester blocks) of math for the non-Honors track but focus on QUALITY of instruction and MASTERY of learning, rather than QUANTITY of material we can “say” they were exposed to.  We will have students who learn more, are less stressed, and have a higher success rate in future math courses in college.

 

Students who are on the Honors track, can continue to be on their own schedule as they should not be slowed down.  They can meet that high school requirement while in middle school, take the “test” showing mastery and once they get to high school, they can be moving on to learning the missing pieces from Algebra 2, Geometry (with proofs), and move into modeling classes or Pre Calculus, Calculus, Statistics, and beyond.

 

Written by:

Lynne Gregorio, Ph.D. Mathematics Education

 
 

Freshman year for free… pay for only 3 years of college

11 Jul

College is expensive.  It can be a lot of work too and for many, they get stuck taking classes that just don’t interest them to meet their general education requirements.  IS there a way that you could either

  1.  only need 3 years of those high college bills
  2. go four years but with 20% less work each semester so you have time for a job, college theater, sports, or other interests.
  3. avoid many of those gen ed classes you are not interested in

The answer is yes!  Just follow this easy plan.  Depending on the type of student and opportunities available, you may need to pick and choose which options work best for you.

My first recommendation is that you, as a student, know what school you want and what major your looking to do.  This helps target the plan and makes it more successful.

Secondly, look at the school or schools on your list and see what credit is given for:

CLEP test, AP tests, and any other advanced credit options

Next, look at what courses are required at your school and see if the classes you plan to work on will be able to receive credit and at what score.  If you are considering dual enrollment, look to see if the classes you are taking will transfer.

Once you have all that information (mostly found on admissions page), you can look at your program of study and see how you can replace required classes with test or dual enrollment.

Lets do an example:  In  the Colleges of Engineering at NCSU, they  have a common first year for all COE majors. R. Wants computer science which is in the college of engineering.  He will need all those courses plus general education classes, some of which are specifically for his major, like Economics has to be taken as your social science.

To get a head start, he takes the Calculus CLEP test.  Passing this gives him 4 credits and allows him to sign up for dual enrollment and take Calc 2 at the community college.  He could have taken Calc AB and BC and then took the exam but he felt dividing it up into 2 different test situations was better, rather remember 2 full classes for one test.  He also needed As to get into the computer science major.  Additionally, he took AP computer science (not offered at his school but found it online) the year before and scored 4.  This will allow him to skip the first CSC class at NCSU.

Next, he notices NCSU required Calc based Physics 1, 2, Chemistry 1, and another science course beyond that.  So, although he chose to just take Honors Earth Science, he knew enough to take the AP Environmental Science test, scored a 4 and gets his “extra science ” class out of the way.  The AP Physics class offered in his school was not Calculus based, so he took it as an overview and then self-studied the Calc based Mechanics class, scoring a 4.  This gives him credit for Calc Physics  1 and its Lab.    He tried to do the AP Chem test but his score was not high enough, he needs an A (5) in order to meet requirements of the computer science major.

Now R. hates non – STEM classes, so it is in his best interest to get those done quickly and painlessly.  Therefore, he chose to get some things of his social science done with CLEP testing.  First he chose sociology.  This just requires you to memorize vocabulary and then be able to relate those words to an example.  It was a quick study of two weeks and his test was passed.

The other social science class required by engineering is Microeconomics.  R. Has been self studying for that test, although it has s harder since it isn’t just memorizing, you have to have a sense of the relationships between different parts of the supply and demand concepts.  Hopefully, the plan for s that R. will CLEP out of microeconomics as well.  You don’t get a grade, it is just pass /fail.  And a C is passing.  He gets to avoid all the homework and only has one test to focus on and if he doesn’t pass, he can also retake it again in two months or he will be well prepared for the actual class.

Finally, R. Has time in his high school schedule to take some additional classes.  If they were 3 credit class, it would be easier to schedule and he might make two but with 4 credit classes, it doesn’t leave you much else, so he usually take one 4 credit class plus two high school classes and if time, self studies other things.  For the coming year R. Will take Calc 3 and Physics 2.

Assuming he passes all, this is how it will look when he applies to and attends NCSU.

NCSU first year coursess

  1.  Calc 1. MET
  2. English 1
  3. Enginnering / computers 1
  4. Gen ed class – Sociology- MET
  5. Chemistry 1
  6. calc 2 – MET
  7. Physic 1 with lab – MET
  8.  Csc 116 – first computer class –  MET
  9. Microeconomics –  MET
  10. Basic Sxience elective  – MET

plus he will have Physics 2 and Calc 3 which are softmore classes met.

Total Credits:

Calc 1,2,3 — 12 credits

Physics 1, 2 — 8 credits

APES – basic science- 4

APCS – first csc class- 3

sociology – 3

Microeconomics – 3

————————-

Total: 33 credits

This will allow him either to graduate in three years or take 12 credits instead of 15-16 per semester.

A second example, C. had AP credit for English Composition, he didn’t want to do all the extra work required to take an AP class, so he self studied and got a 4.  He also took AP Computer Science and got a 3. He took APES and got a 4.  But he only has 3 AP tests.  He did take a lot of dual enrollment classes, he was going for a degree in simlation and game design and took two iintroductory classes in this but they did not transfer.  He did take both Calc 1 and Business Calculus.  He took Macroeconomics and two programming classes one in C ++ and the other in Java.  He had 29 credits to transfer.  He went in as a freshman but took 16 credits his first semester and tha numbers him to a second semester sophomore.  He was able to graduate in 3 year and save his family an entire tear of tuition, room, and board.  If C. Had known about CLEP tests, he would have tried coming in with more of his gen ed courses met.

Stdents can manage even more than one year but I think one year is good, it gives them options, doesn’t put them too far ahead of their peers, is doable during the four years that f high school without overloading the child to try and do a year of high school and college at the same time unless they are in an early college program that has them all in college classes full time by senior year.

Remember, if you don’t get a merit scholarship, taking a semester or a year from payments can offer similar financial advantages.

 

 

 

Early College Credit through North Carolina Community Colleges, CCP, Dual Enrollment

03 May

Have you heard about dual enrollment?  Dual enrollment allows your high school student to take college classes at one of the community colleges for free and get both high school and college credit for the class.  Many kids can enter college with 1 semester complete or a full year complete, a few can even do more than that.

The program as it stands in Wake County is called the Career and Collge Promise program.  It is mostly designed for juniors and seniors in high school.  Students have to have a certain GPA and permission from their school.  They can split heir time between high school and college.

I have had two children do the program.  My kids earned college credits through a mix of AP exams, CLEP exams, and dual enrollment classes.  My first son took AP Environmental Science and AP computer science classes, he passed those tests earning credit.  He also,self studied for AP English and got credit for that.  Through dual enrollment, he took C++ programming, Java Programming, Economics, Calc 1, Business Calculus, and all these gave him 29 credit hours, allowing him to start as 1 credit short of a freshman and he was just considered a transfer.  He got better housing, earlier registration, etc.

My other son now is in the program although they changed how they do it and limit the classes you can take.  He just started this semester.  He had taken AP Calc AB at school in the Fall but AP exams are not until spring, so to get college credit for what he learned, he took the CLEP Calculus test, he had not even finished the course yet but skimmed the remaining lessons and went for it as he needed a passing score to register for Calc 2 at the community college.  Even though he took it a month before his class ended, he still scored a 68. 20 points above passing on their scale.  So he was allowed to take Calc 2 as a high school junior with all the college students at Wake Tech.  It was a great experience for him.  He made friends with his classmates and teacher and he was accepted by everyone, they all were amazed at how well he did as a 16 year old!  He got an A and is ready to continue in the program.

Navigating your high school and college classes and after school activities can be difficult.  Normally, you would take 2 high school classes and 2 college classes but since this was a 4 credit class rather than a 3 credit class, it met more often and caused conflicts with most other classes.  We decided to use the extra time to self study AP exams.  So my son sel studied Environmental Science and Physics C Mechanics.  He had taken AP physics 1 with Algebra but the leap to Calculus was a lot and he neede Calc based physics for his college classes, not the Algebra ones.  So he self studied to take that AP test as well.  As of this writing, he took his APES exam and next week is his Physics test and then in July the scores come out.

So, we are getting ready to register for his senior year.  We hope he gets a 4 or 5 on the AP Physic c  Mechanics, if so, we can have him take Physics 2, if he doesn’t, he will need to take Physics 1 but at least he will be prepared and should get an A.  Registration is this week and we need to find classes that will also work with his high school schedule again.  The hard part is that we don’t even know his high school schedule, so,we are just guessing at this point.

Our top pick would be Calculus 3, so he can finish all his Calculus at the same college.  But, we don’t know if it will work with his high school schedule and you have to consider teachers.  There may be a time that fits with a poorly rated teacher and it is not worth taking a class with a poorly rated teacher.  Other options would include Physics or English and Chemistry or Linear Algebra.

we are also planning on having him study sociology and Microeconomics this summer and hopefully get CLEP credits for those.  Three full weeks of study should be enough and then take it he test and one less class in college.

His goal is to enter as a sophomore and since it is a very demanding degree, only have to,do 4 classes instead of 5 each semester so he can do well on them.

So, overall, I love the program.  I love that my kids enter college with a year complete and they can graduate in 3 years (first son did), choose a,double major and still only cost me four years of tuition, do a masters for the same cost as an undergraduate degree, or take a lighter load to make sure they do well if they are in a competitive school and major.

i prefer actual college classes to AP exams because it better prepares the for real college, some AP classes are great and other are terrible (we had a terrible one or two), would rather my kids self study for AP,exams unless I know their teacher has students consistently getting 4’s and 5’s.  This is not the case at my son’s school, very few kids even pass the AP tests, so I would rather he take the college class than the high school AP class with the exam.  Our first experience with AP was Chemistry, my son was doing well, understood stuff but teacher was out so,much, they never finished the course, never did practice exams, and free response practice, my son got a 2.  That is when I knew we needed to change things!

Instead of doing an art project like his fellow peers are doing in AP Calc BC (instead of studying for AP exam), my son was in a real college Calc 2 class,with college students, earned an A and doesn’t need to take a single test to determine his grade and his future college will weight a 3 as a C 4 as a B and a 5 as a A, so he would need a 5.  He has that now, the traditional way without having to make comic strips and art projects.

 
 

Getting your high school student ahead, free college credits

30 Apr

is your child ready to head off to high school ?  Exciting isn’t it ?  Just three short years ago, my son was heading into his freshman year and now after what seems like a blink of an eye, he is going to be a senior in a couple weeks.  My daughter will be a he new entering Freshman now.

These aren’t my first two kids to do high school.  I already had two other high school graduates.  Their years flew by too.  I have learned some things though.  First, is a question for you, how do you feel about college?   We pass a lot of how we feel onto our kids, sometimes that’s a good thing, other times it is not.  College has become a debated issue lately, it is expensive, s it necessary?  Well, that depends on a few things:

  1.  You feel strongly your child should go to college.
  2. your child feels strongly that he or she should go to college
  3. your child’s career goals match one where a college degree is expected
  4. you or your college want college for maturity and growth and the college experience

Now, if your child wants to do a job that doesn’t really require a college degree, like work a restaurant, be a fed ex driver, be in sales, etc. college isn’t worth it except for the growth, maturity, and experience.  You can also get training from vocational programs that don’t require college like hvac repair, beauty school, ekg tech.

Lets say that college student son the plans, your child wants to be an engineer or computer programmer.  Most jobs want a four year degree.  So, what does that have to do with freshman year of high school?

Remember how fast I said these years would fly by, well, freshman year is not a huge deal but even then it can be setting you up…. Sttin you up for what?  For future classes, the big plan… th enigma plan actually starts to come together Freshman year when you select classes.  Students need to start thinking long term, start thinking about college and goals.

Here are some examples:  Case wants to be a computer programmer and wants to get in a competitive college.  He needs to be taking the right classes now,that lead him to the best classes latter:

Freshman year, he takes Hon Eng, Hon World His, Hon Math 3, Hon Bio, PE, intro programming 1, Spanish 1, intro Engineering

**These set him up for future classes

Sophomore year:  Hon Eng 2, Hon US Hist, Hon Pre Calc, Hon Chem, AP Chem, Spanish 2, programming 2, Engineering 2

*** Notice he took his first AP class and arranged it to follow Honors Chem

Junior Year:  AP Eng, Hon US Hist 2, AP Calc AB, College Calc 2, AP Physics c AP Computer Science, AP Environmental Science,

** notice now we have, AP English, APES, AP Calc AB, AP Physics C, AP CS tests…. that is up to 16 credit hours plus 4 college transfer hours

Right now, his transcripts show 2 full semesters of Calculus with college credit, one aken at a college, 1 Calculus based Physics class, a Computer Science class, another regular science, a Chemistry credit, and Engineering she credit (if allowed).  This all looks great to a prospective college.

Additionally, over the summer between Junior and Senior year, I would suggest taking two gen ed CLEP courses and getting credit.  It is just memorizing and asking a test.  This will give you another 6 credits.

Finally, senior year, take more AP and or college classes.

Case might take:  Senior year:  Hon Eng 3, Hon Civics, Theater, AP Statistics, Calc 3’atnthe college, Physics 2 at the college,

When he graduates, not only will he have met most of his freshman classes for college, he will over 30 hours and start college as a sophomore, saving money or with the ability mtomtake a lighter load.

 

 

 

 
 

High school choices for gifted students in Wake High Schools

27 Feb

Your child is academically gifted and you want to maximize their potential. Great, good job being proactive in your child’s life, strengths, and awareness of their needs.  I would be remiss to not point out that academics is not everything and a good balanced person is ideal.  Someone who is smart but do not make  others feel dumb, someone who can connect socially with many different types of people,  and someone who appreciates that other people can have fantastic gifts that are not intellectual.

So, what hgh schools offer the most for children?  Let’s look at the pros and cons of a few:

 

  1.  STEM EARLY college…I generally like this project gram, it has a very set theme, kids earn college credits while in high school, however, all electives are in science, math, computer science,and engineering somthta better be your passion.  Now a con, it is very difficult to get a spot.

2,  Raleigh Charter High School, a great school for the basics. There is very little offered in electives and the ones they have are weak.  So, if you choose this, is you can expect a no bellls,r,whistle learning environment for math, science, English,and social studies.  The kids are very studius and don’t interact the same way you see  a traditinal highschool. They get lots of HW but go to school 1.5 hr less per day.

 

3.  Southeast Raleigh Magnet Charter HS…. they have lots of academies like Engineering, Bimedical, and IT.  These are good programs but there has been a lot of turn over in faculty in these academies and the school as a whole.  I aslomfind that some teachers are great and some are lazy.  I have not been pleased with the AP classes at the school, I wish I knew the exact number but I would guess only 10% pass the math and science exams.  The teachers are terrible at teaching AP classes.  My child ghastly enjoyed being the big fish their but we have had to supplement to keep him on track academcally for the competitive college class of engineering  at NCSU that he wants to go to.

 

4.Cardinal Gibbons HighmSchool….l cant say too much because I have only had a small experience with students from there.  What I found is that they are academically weak. For example, there Math always a year behind ours.  When kids taken Algebra 2 there, they learn what we taught in Algebra 1.  There precalc be is like our math 3.  They never win national merit scholarships or get n best high school list so it is academically weak.

5.  Enloe will be the last school I talk about.  It has a good reputation.  it offers lots of great electives, a strong core and I hear good things about their AP scores. There is decent level of diversity, but the it does start at 7:25!

 

*sorry for typos, ipad keypad is acting up.

 

Wake County School choices, Magnet and Charter 2016

12 Dec

It is that time of year when you start looking at school choices for your children.  Most of you will select the base school and not look back.  What are the benefits to that?  For one, convenience.  It is close to home.  Two, most of the other kids are doing the same.  If your child has already been a base school student, you will hear, “I want to stay with my friends.”  Valid?  Maybe.  It depends on the base school.  In Wake county if Green Hope or Panther Creek were my base schools, I might be more inclined to go with the base.  Green Hope, especially, has a good reputation.  Other schools have less to offer and if you are really invested in your child’s academic experience, you may want to consider other alternatives.

Overall, any base elementary will give you a good start.  I don’t have a magnet experience from elementary school but the base schools were good, although a bit slow for a gifted child.  For a highly motivated gifted child, you might try Sterling Montessori or Poe Montessori.  They can work at their own pace.  Poe is magnet and Sterling is charter.

Your next big window for a spot comes in sixth grade but don’t forget to consider stealing a spot in fifth grade.  With many families not willing to move their kid during their final year of elementary school, it may be a time to grab a spot when competition is low.

Middle school is a great time to get into magnets.  Your child (in their head, they will be fine in any case) will survive making new friends easier from fifth to sixth than from eighth to ninth.  In base middle schools, you typically get to choose from 4 electives, things like band, PE, the wheel (learn about career choices), and keyboarding.  It isn’t really a choice, since you have to take keyboarding.  In seventh and eighth grade you can add a language as a choice but you see how limited your electives are.

In magnet schools, you choose,from 60 electives and the choices are wide and interesting, pet vet, math patterns, mythology, sculpture, piano, volleyball, dance, robotics, fantasy football, etc. There are still classes in keyboarding (required), health (required), and the option to take three (instead of 2) years of a foreign language.  Additionally, there may be a theme, like field trips, Academically Gifted, Leadership, Languages, etc.

There are also many charter schools that go from K to 8 and they usually have a theme, like Sterling Montessori or Exploris Elementary and Middle, etc. ; visit these schools and see if they fit your child.  We have had kids at both.  We were very happy at Sterling and had a good first year at Exploris (6th grade) but it changed too much with the new director for a good fit for us but could be a good fit for others.  Be sure to fully investigate though do two reasons, one is that Exploris does not use a traditional approach to teaching, make sure your child learns that way, it is not direct and that was hard for my ADHD son, second, sometimes charter schools are  over run with a special needs population that they are not equipped to handle.  Sterling actually excelled in that area where Explois failed.  Just things to keep in mind.

Even when if your child is only in fourth grade or sixth grade, you need to be thinking about the path that includes high school.  High school is the biggest and most important decision.  If your child is considering a traditional path that includes college, where they go to high school is very important.  Choosing a place that they can be academically successful, meet strong academic goals and also have a great social experience should be the goal.  One is not good without the other.

There are a few charter schools that are good, Raleigh Charter HS, Research Triangle HS, Longleaf School of the Arts are some examples.  There is Triangle Math and Science Academy (not to be confused with the state funded School of Science and Math in Durham) that is highly focused on academics but from what I know, lacks the social component needed so I don’t recommend it.  Raleigh Charter is known for being rigorous and because of that seems to have a reduced social atmosphere (I had a child go there).  Research Triangle is supposed to be a STEM school but offers almost no STEM electives.  This is also a problem with most charters, the choices in electives is very small.

As for magnet high schools, you will find many more electives.  Base schools offer some but in many cases they are over crowded and hard to get into the popular ones so kids take your basic ones like foods, teen life, weight training, and other random classes they get put in because it is all that is available.  In the magnets, you will find a much wider variety, more sections, and more interesting classes.  Enloe is known as the strongest academic magnet.  They offer almost every AP class and from what I hear do a good job with those classes.  They have a four year computer programming sequence and a biomedical program in addition to many classes in the arts.

In the past, I had written positive reviews of Southeast Raleigh high school as a magnet choice.  They have Engineering, Biomedical, Cybersecurity, and a good arts program.  The teachers my son had the first two  years were great but we lost almost all his teachers this year (administration issues I hear).  I have not been as happy this year academically.  He s now taking many AP classes with teachers who are not qualified to be teaching AP.  The good news is he gets no homework so I am able to use that time and supplement what he should be learning if it is a subject we can teach (Calculus and Physics) but he was on his own in AP Chemistry so although he got a B in the class, he only scored a 2 on the AP exam (which was probably one of the high grades).  Instead of taking Calculus 2 with his teacher, however, they are letting him take it at Wake Tech next semester.  He enjoys the flexibility, the students are very nice, and he has been very involved in theater and for that aspect, I can still give it a high rating but academically right now, it is not something I would recommend to someone unless they want to supplement their child’s education.  To put it in perspective, though, I would still choose it over my bases school (Apex).

There are many benefits to looking outside of your bases school.  The window to look is now, magnet registration opens in January and most charter school lotteries are in February or March.

Good Luck.

Lynne Gregorio, Ph.D,

 

oldest went to: Sterling Montessori (K-6), base (just 7th grade), Raleigh Charter (9-10),

homeschool (8th and 11th), base (2 classes senior year), Dual enrollment WTCC, graduated UNCC, degree computer science

next went to : Sterling Montessori (pre K -8 th), base (9-12)

next went to: base, Exploris, homeschool (3rd and 8th), Southeast Raleigh Magnet, Dual Enrolled WTCC

youngest: went to: base, Sterling Montessori, base, Moore Square Middle, considering Enloe for high,school

 
 

Moving to North Carolina, want to know about the schools in the Triangle area? Reviews here, Magnet, Charter, Public

11 Aug

Wake County Schools, Research Triangle Schools, North Carolina School System, Magnet Schools, Charter Schools, Public Schools – how good are they, what you need to know.

As a blogger, educator, and owner of a tutoring center, I will from time to time get emails or phone calls from parents who are moving to the area or have just moved into the area who want to know more about schools in North Carolina.  You will find some individual reviews of schools on my blog but I wanted to write a more general review to help guide new families.  Many families do not know the difference between public, charter, magnet, and private schools, so I will start with that and get more specific.

Public Schools:  North Carolina Public School system is not ranked in the top 10 nor is it ranked in the bottom 10 of schools in the United States.  However, so much depends on WHAT schools you are talking about, specifically in what county and at what level.  Also different individual schools have better reputations than other individual schools.  If you want to consider a public school and have not bought a house yet, then looking at what schools are assigned for that area would be important, although, these lines can change.  Since North Carolina is growing rapidly, especially in the urban areas, new schools are constantly being built and hence students are being shifted, so you cannot assume you will be at the school you planned on unless you are in the magnet or charter system.

The public schools, however, are funded by the State of North Carolina.  Teachers in our state are no paid very well, however, and we have high teacher turnover.  We have some GREAT teachers but we also have some teachers who are just collecting a paycheck (small as it is) and many who leave for other states or other jobs in general because they cannot live off the salary.  As a general rule, however, most elementary teachers are all very good and I have never seen an elementary school in Wake County (my county) do a bad job.  Once you get to middle and high school, however, you really need to be more selective.  The content and expectations of learning have increased and with poor teachers, students get lost and it has a negative impact on their future.  This is not to say we don’t have good middle and high school teachers, but you need to be aware of the schools that are better and those that are not and if needed, get a tutor when you get bad luck and get a bad teacher in a subject like math that builds on itself.

A few schools, although you cannot choose to attend these, you have to have this as your base school AND you have to apply and get selected by a lottery drawing will have an academy within the school.  One school has an AOIT academy, Academy of Information Technology, another has AOE, Academy of Engineering.  These are kind of like a minor at the school where you take 1-2 required classes in the Academy related to that field and do an internship before you graduate.  Examples for the AOIT might be taking classes in Microsoft Office Suite and Programming.  In AOE, you would take classes called Project Lead the Way and take Introduction to Engineering and Principals of Engineering, etc.  Each academy has 4-6 class course requirements plus the internship.

As far as academic knowledge, North Carolina sets the bar very high.  Many students coming from other states end up BEHIND because our expectations and standards are high.  This is both good and bad.  The good is that smart kids get the chance to live up to those expectations and be well prepared academically for college.  The bad is that students who struggle academically, get pushed through the system and everything falls apart for those kids.

We also have block scheduling in most high schools which may not be common in other states.  Block scheduling is where high school students take classes similar to the way a college student would take classes on a semester schedule.  The year is divided into two 18 week semesters.  Each semester, high school students take 4 classes that meet for 90 minutes, so four classes in the Fall and another 4 in the Spring.  People not used to this think it is terrible but personally, I like it a lot.  For one, it gives more time in class to focus on content, second students are only dealing with and studying for 4 classes at a time so they have more time to devote to those studies, and third it allows students to take 8 classes a year which gives them amazing elective choices in addition to the core courses which are not possible with a traditional schedule.

Magnet Schools:  Magnet schools are part of the public school system except that they tend to be in poorer socioeconomic area (but we are not talking high crime or bad neighborhoods).  Part of the school is made up of a regular base population, just like your normal base school but a certain percentage of the school is saved for “magnet” students.  The word magnet is used because the school has special themes and resources used to attract students from greater distances to this school (in this lower socioeconomic area) to attend.  There are magnet schools at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  Examples of elementary school magnets might include:  Montessori, Leadership, Academically Gifted (AG), Gifted and Talented (GT), IB, Language Immersion, or a combination of these.  Examples of middle schools are some of the same although there is not a Montessori or Language Immersion at the middle level (in Wake County) but they have schools that are located in downtown Raleigh that are AG/GT/Museums , this means it is a combination of all three and the museum aspect is that students often get walking field trips to all the museums in downtown Raleigh due to its proximity.  There is also an all girls and all boys academy that flows into the Early College model for high school that starts with 6th grade.  (North Carolina middle school are grades 6,7, and8).  High school examples include:  Early College options such as a Health Science Early College, the Girls and Boys Early College Academies, and a STEM Early College; all of these have students attend high school for 5 years instead of 4.  They partner with a college and during grades 11, 12, and 13, the students attend college classes and graduate high school with both a high school diploma and an Associates Degree.  Other high school options include a 4 year Tech College partnership for those interested in Cosmotology, Airconditioning Repair, Computer Game Design and Development, and more.  These students take college courses in grades 11 and 12 and graduate with at least a years worth of college credit in addition to their high school diploma.  All the Early College costs are covered completely, so if your child attends, there is no cost to you.  More traditional magnet schools will be Leadership and Technology or Academically Gifted / Gifted and Talented, IB Schools, and more.  These schools will have programs such as specific academies within school like a Biotech Academy, Engineering Academy, or Cyber Security academy that your child can take part in where it is like a school within a school.  These are similar to the ones mentioned in the base public schools but are much easier to get into if you are a magnet student.  They also have a significant number of elective choices that you won’t find at the base schools.  The AG/GT/IB school will have multiple languages, every AP and IB class possible, as well as piano classes, guitar, dance, many more art classes than one would normally have, and things like an entire department of classes in computer programming.

Can anyone become a Magnet Student?  First, not all counties have magnet programs.  I can only speak about Wake county (those mentioned here are from Wake County).  I doubt there are much in the way of Magnet schools in any rural counties.  Second, you must apply to get into the magnet program and you may or may not be selected.  It depends on what school you want to go into, there is VERY high demand for some schools and less demand for others.  Once you ARE a magnet student, however, it is easier then to transfer to a different magnet school, you will have priority over new students applying to get in.  The process is to usually go to the Magnet fair that is held the first weekend in November every year and then go take tours of the magnet schools.  You then make sure you are signed up to attend the base school and put in an application with a list of choices for magnets.  You get to list your top 3, more if you list an early college as they select those before the rest.  Early Colleges are the hardest to get a place in although I believe the Health Science Early College is the easiest of all the early colleges to get a spot at.  We did apply to two early colleges and did not get a spot but got a spot in a regular magnet for 2 of my children.  If you have twins and apply with both, you have a much better chance!  Applications have to be sometime in January or early February, I believe (don’t hold me to that!) and results come out in early Spring.  If you get a spot, you have to take it (at least as of now, it didn’t used to be that way, although I believe you can just not show up!)

What are your chances of getting selected?  I will answer in a little more detail.  It is NOT just a straight lottery.  They have a system and give priority to many different things.  Siblings, of course, get first priority, then other magnet students, then students who are coming from schools that are high performing (they want your high performing kid!), and then overcrowded schools, and then anyone else not in those categories (or something along those lines…).  Of course, if select a school where they have plenty of open spots, there won’t be a problem at all, if you select a school with only 3 open spots and you fall into the “someone not in one of the high priority categories,” your chances are slim to none.

So what school have open spots if you just want to get INTO a magent (and then maybe move to a better magnet in a year)?  I would call and ask, they will usually tell you, they want to fill those spots.  I remember once getting a letter saying that CONN elementary had spots and if we wanted one, we could have it but we were already settled at that time so we didn’t move into magnets until middle and high school.  As I said, at the elementary level, the base schools do a decent job!

What about SAFETY at these Magnet Schools?  I have done open houses for my son’s magnet.  The racial makeup of the schools can vary depending on the school, the number of magnet spots, and the location of the base population.  Some will be balanced racially (50% white, 50% non-white) and others will be less balanced (20% white, 80% non-white).  My son is at a school that is less racially balanced, we heard all sorts of rumors, etc.  So, we took it upon ourselves to go there during a school day and be in the hallways.  We even got some teachers to let us go in their classrooms, we talked to other parents of magnet students, and we talked to kids (magnet and nonmagnet) that went to the school.  Nothing felt unsafe or negative.  In fact, even the superintendent said, this school has less fights and issues than other schools with more balanced or a more-white student makeup.  I haven’t met one kid at that school that wasn’t super friendly and nice!  My son feels safe and has a ton of friends of all colors and I am very glad to have chosen the school.  So, don’t let race be an issue and as for safety, check out the individual school yourself and make your own judgment, don’t listen to rumors!!  All the negative ones we hear are from people who “would never send their kid there,” who are they to judge vs. those of use with kids at the school who all say it is a safe, friendly place.

My experience has also been that teachers at magnet schools as a whole are better than teachers at base schools.  Now there are good teacher and bad teachers at ALL schools, however.  After running a tutoring center and seeing kids with teachers from all area schools, I am much more impressed with the teachers from magnet schools.  The only negative and this is all of NC, is the teacher turn over rate and that we lose teachers!

Charter Schools:  So what is a Charter school and how is it different from a Magnet school?  Both school types are under the rules of North Carolina and must meet North Carolina standards and use NC curriculum and testing requirements.  However, Magnet schools (and base public schools) are also governed by the county they are in.  As I mentioned, most of my experience is in Wake County Public Schools.  So, all the schools in Wake County (Apex High School, Holly Springs High School, Green Hope High, Cary High, Wake Forest High, etc. AND the magnets, Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School, Enloe, Stem Early College, etc.) all follow both the rules of NC and the rules of Wake County.  Charter Schools only follow the rules of North Carolina, they are their own LEA (forgot what that stands for.. Local Education Area, I think…).  Charter schools get funding per student from the state put the state does not pay for their building expenses, etc.  So they have to come up with a lot more resources than a public school.   They still have to follow the state guidelines but if you live in Wake County you can ONLY go to Wake County schools.  You cannot decide you want to go to Chapel Hill High School.  However, since charter schools are not county specific, you can live in a different county and go to a charter school.  I can live in Wake County and go to a charter school in Durham County or I can live just over the line in Chatham County but not want to put my kids in Chatham County schools, so I send them to a charter school in Wake County or even in Durham County.

What do Charter Schools offer?  Well, besides the location flexibility, they are similar in many ways to magnet schools.  They are theme based and you usually pick a charter school that has a theme that matches your educational philosophy.  For example, one of my kids went to Sterling Montessori Charter School from Preschool through 8th grade (that is where it stops).  Many families with special needs kids find charter schools to be great as they tend to be better at providing more reliable services to special needs students, although this is not true for ALL charters.  In our case, Sterling offered amazing 1:1 resource help for our son with an IEP!  He would have sank in a traditional setting!  However, on the other hand when my other son went to Exploris Charter middle school, there were so many kids with “issues,” he had a hard time really finding his groove and making good friends.  The school was also very “granola” for lack of a better word, which fits many families and kids but not mine, we ended up leaving part way through 8th grade as doing daily Yoga, instead of traditional PE, just didn’t fit him.  So, it is important to really look for a good fit with the charter schools.  My oldest attended Raleigh Charter High School, it has been ranked as one of the top ten academic high schools in the country year after year.  He was very book smart and he did well there.  However, we knew that it would have been the wrong fit for another one of my kids, even though it is a highly regarded school and instead he is excelling in the magnet school in the Engineering Academy and having options like Theater and Robotics.

That is another drawback to Charter schools, they are a lot smaller.  This can be good and bad, your child will be in a smaller class and get to know teachers well but there will a lot less electives to choose from.  One of the really good charters in Durham County is call Research Triangle High School.  My son, the one in the Magnet school, was accepted there and we had to make a choice.  RTHS is known as a STEM charter but has no electives in any STEM areas and only 1 STEM club, it is not the school’s fault, it is just that the school is so small.  If he went there, he would have gotten some really good solid academics (I really liked the teachers) but he wouldn’t have had any electives he would have enjoyed, he wouldn’t have been in any plays, he wouldn’t have had as many people to meet to find the “right” ones to click with.  So, although the teachers seemed amazing, the entire environment was too limiting so we chose the magnet and it was clearly the right choice.  Making academic choices requires one consider lots of things and is a personal decision, my own thoughts on the matter is that school is not only about academics but about learning, growing, and experiencing new things – so I try to keep this in mind as I consider what option will best fit my kids.

Private Schools:  In many areas of the country, parents immediately plan on sending their kids to private schools because there are no other good options.  I don’t feel this is true in the Triangle area of North Carolina, especially Wake County.  I often tell people that Wake County is the best county to choose for schools because we have the most options – all the charter schools are options, we have magnets, base schools, and there are always private schools.  I will talk more about areas in a moment but back to private schools.

Many families that are well off, choose Cary Academy.  I hear it is very good, it also costs as much as or more than it costs to send your kid with room and board and a meal plan to a public four year NC college. Since personally, I only have funds to get my kids through college once, it isn’t on my radar – but if it is for you, the campus is beautiful and I believe it is a decent school but I can’t say too much.

Other private schools people choose are often religious based, if you have a desire to go that route for religious reasons, you don’t really need to be reading any of this since that is probably your number one driving factor.  *Stop reading now as I am about to give an honest review based on experience and I don’t want to be negative about something you are moving towards doing*  If you are just considering it as an option for academic reasons, I will tell you that you will get a better ACADEMIC education by choosing a magnet or charter school or one of the stronger base schools.  I have tutored children from some of the religious based schools and they are not rigorous.  The kids, when compared to public school kids, are academically behind, so if you want a more rigorous choice that will better prepare your child, I would not select one of the religious based institutions.  Now, if a religious based institution is important to you, your kid can still do fine but I don’t see any National Merit Scholarships coming from our Catholic High School, etc.  He or she will still go on to college and if studious, make it in the world and as I said before academics are not the only reason to select a school.

Areas to live in 

So, do you choose Wake County, Durham County, Chapel Hill, Chatham County or somewhere else?

As I mentioned, I don’t know much outside the triangle, so I can not speak too much on that.  However, most of what I have heard says Durham County schools are not good, everyone I know who lives in Durham seems to have kids that are past elementary school age in a charter school or private school.  Everyone I know who lives in Chatham County, puts their kids in charter schools.  I have heard good things in general about Chapel Hill schools but the taxes in Chapel Hill are very expensive, they have less choices and if you have a child gifted in math, they will be forced to stay on the slow track until they are a junior in high school (unless they make changes in the future).

Currently in Wake county, a student can be single subject accelerated and work one grade level ahead in math or Language Arts OR by the time they get to 6th grade they can take 6th grade Compacted math which is 6th/7th and half of 8th all in one year, then in 7th grade they take High School Math 1 – also finishes math 8 (Alg. 1) and in 8th grade they take High School Math 2, so by the time they start high school they have two high school math credits and start in Honors Math 3 as a freshman.

In Chapel Hill, they will not let students fast forward through middle school math until 8th grade, advanced 6th grades take 6 PLUS math, 7th grades take 7 PLUS math (which I believe is 7 and half of 8), and they can’t take the first level high school math until 8th grade where they take Math 1 (and finish math 8).  In 9th grade they enter with only 1 high school credit and take Honors Math 2.  They can speed up in their junior year by taking Honors Math 3/Pre Calc combo class.

My kids would have been BORED in the Chapel Hill approach but that is what they feel is important.  As a Ph.D. in Math Education, I think some kids are just ready earlier and we shouldn’t make them bored, it just makes them dislike the subject.

So, my vote for areas to live in is Wake County because it gives the most options.  You should also consider looking at which high schools are best rated if you are not going to do a magnet or charter.  Green Hope and Panther Creek have really good scores and I would personally look to live near the best high school rather than worry about an elementary school.

I hope this information is helpful and Welcome to all of you who move to North Carolina!  It is a great place to live!

Lynne Gregorio, Ph.D.

Mathematics Education

 
 

Mandarin Chinese 1 North Carolina Virtual Public Schools Online course Review

08 Nov

Review of Mandarin Chinese 1 North Carolina Virtual Public Schools Online Course 2015

 

I have written about NCVPS courses before and a little about Mandarin 1 Chinese, but I wanted to write a more solid review for those who are considering it.  I think having the option to take other languages besides just 2 or maybe 3 choices at all schools is wonderful and NCVPS makes that possible for students in North Carolina schools.  Some students attend a middle school where they get 2 years (equivalent to one high school semester) of Mandarin Chinese but then go to attend their base school only to find that Mandarin is not an option at their school.  They want to continue with the language they started so one option is to look to NCVPS online classes as a way to continue with the same language if it is not possible to offer languages in feeder schools.  Personally I feel if Mandarin is offered in Middle School A and it feeds into High School B and C, then High Schools B and C should offer Mandarin.  However, I realize this might not be feasible and at least we do have the option of online learning.

Now, we look at the effectiveness of learning a language online.  This is a very difficult thing to teach online and in an independent format.  As an adult (who is also an educator) I know that it is even a challenge for me to learn a language through self-study and things like tapes that provide immersion situations have helped me much more than trying to meet course expectations at the same time I am trying to absorb a language.  A good educator knows how students learn, this is independent of what they are learning, there are just certain things that apply in general to learning, such as learning gradually, having material presented in small amounts and then gradually building on the foundation.  Students need repetition and practice of patterns to learn them.  If we sit down and make a list of what is needed to create a good learning environment for students in general and then specifically for learning a foreign language (and then specifically for Mandarin) – we can see if NCVPS is successful at achieving these goals in their online course.

Learning foreign languages is a lot like learning mathematics, everything you learn builds on the former foundation and you must always look for patterns.  This is why they say students who do good in math are more likely to be successful with foreign languages.  Also, just like in mathematics, you can’t start teaching a student Calculus if they haven’t learned how to multiply.  In Mandarin, you can’t start teaching past tense if you haven’t built a foundation of basic sentence patterns and vocabulary.  You need to go slow enough to let students get that foundations so they can be successful when you put those higher layers on otherwise the “house” will just tumble down from a weak foundation.

Looking at the current (2015) curriculum for Mandarin 1 NCVPS – it comes from a program developed by Learn NC:  http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/mandarin1/contents

In the course, students go through 10 lessons in a block schedule of 18 weeks (which in the end boils down to about 16 weeks by the time things get started and end a little early for grading and transition).

The first few weeks are spent going slowly building the foundational blocks of Pinyin and pronunciation.  Students spend time just learning to associate the sounds that the different English letters make, for example, x makes the /sh/ sound so xi says “she”.  Students are also introduced to the four basic tones.   Students do not actually start with much vocabulary yet, just work on these sound concepts.

A few weeks later, students finally dive into the first actually lesson of the 10 week lessons – now that it is already almost a month into the course, students are allotted about 1.5 weeks per lesson.    In each lesson, they learn new vocabulary, new pronunciation, practice more pinyin and tones, begin to associate characters to words as well as the pinyin to the words, and have grammar lessons that introduce them to sentence patterns – for example, in Mandarin, you don’t write, I am smart, you would write I very smart.  You would not put the “to be” verb “am” in there and you be expected to put “very” in front of smart.  You would write, “My dog very cute.  My friend very pretty.”  This would be just one example of a pattern you would learn.  However, the curriculum does not spell that out in easy to understand terms like I just did, you have to kind of figure it out on your own by looking at the examples and finding a pattern on your own – which for many kids won’t ever happen.  Finally, the students get a quiz (that they can do open notes) but it is all in characters (which they don’t know) to test if they have figured out these hidden sentence patterns from within the text and grammar notes.  It is almost a game in “hide and go seek.”

As the lessons get more difficult, the amount of vocab greatly increases, the meaning behind the words becomes more complex and are often not well explained in the notes and the patterns continue to be very difficult to tease out of the notes.  They will use words that have multiple meanings but the notes don’t share all the details so as a student tries to get more information on their own they just get confused.

Students also have coaching 2 times per week for 45 minutes each.  These sessions are with about 6 other students.  The coach will usually talk about things from the lessons and then ask students to read and practice pronunciation, build a sentence pattern, tell the meaning of a vocab word, etc.  However, it is ineffective because the amount of time students actually get to interact with the coach one to one and “practice” something really useful is less than 10 minutes and nothing is repeated enough or demonstrated in a way that really builds the strong foundation because the pace of the class is so fast.  Examples of things she might ask:  Each student has to read from a dialogue, each student has to match a character, each student has to say a word using the word di which turns a number into an ordinal, each student has to give a date, each student has to say a number, etc.  Making these sessions have more direct focus on essentials such as one that is just practicing pronunciation in the beginning but then just building sentence patterns and just working on conversation where she quickly goes from one student to the next or all students can answer at the same time would be much more useful.

By the time lesson 9 rolls around, the number of grammar situations that have been introduced are more complex.   There are no practice sheets for these sentence patterns (in pinyin which is how students are learning at this stage) that are simple, clear, and have the answers.  It would be very helpful if students had practice sheets with answers to check where they were told to first do direct word for word translations so they could get used the pattern in the backwards way they write in Chinese.  For example, students might be told to write in pinyin:  I 7:00 as early as came.  Later, they can get the sentence in form:  I came as early as 7:00.  This way the students learn the backwards way to write it and practice both the vocab and the backwards patterning first and then later have to remember how to put it together to match the way we say it in English later.  They should do this for many different vocab words, for example, the next one would be:  He 9:00 as early as was in the library, step two would be translate from:  He was in the library as early as 9:00.  As the student does both more and more, they will get used to the location of words in the sentence and the pattern.  However, there is nothing set up in the curriculum for the student to do this.  All there is on this lesson is a brief and hard to understand description and two examples without any practice for the student to remember it.  Most students cannot simply learn a language by “reading” sentence patterns, they need to be actively involved in writing (and speaking) these sentence patterns.  This is what is lacking in this curriculum.

Additionally, a student can only move so fast.  You cannot teach a student Calculus 1 in one month, it is not reasonable.  Also, having the expectation that a student will go from never having spoken a word of language to knowing all these sentence patterns, huge amounts of vocab, pinyin, grammar, idioms, and perhaps even characters in less than 4 months is not realistic.  Even the language tutor that I hired said her college classes did not move this fast.  On top of that you do not have a personal teacher there helping the student learn and you have insufficient practice for the student.  A student can do well in the class because they are allowed to use notes to do assignments and can re-take quizzes, however, the grade does not reflect mastery of content presented in the class.  In other words and A does not mean that the student now knows all the vocab, idioms, sentence patterns / grammar, characters, pinyin, can speak fluently, etc. of all the content in lessons 1-10, so if that is an assumption for Mandarin 2, that is a worrisome thought.

I believe the material here could be a foundation to build a curriculum from, however, one needs someone who understand how students learn and knows how to write good curriculum to jump on board and help create lessons and practice that align with this to improve the course.

If a student needs/wants Mandarin, my suggestion would be to plan on getting a tutor with this class so they have someone to help support them.  With my own son, I had a tutor and am planning on having her reteach him throughout the summer so he can be prepared for Mandarin 2.  Hopefully, NCVPS will get some feedback and make the needed changes to make this course more successful for students.  If you have taken it or have comments, please let us know, we would love to hear from you.

 

Written by:

Lynne Gregorio, Ph.D. Mathematics Education

Mother of Student who took Mandarin 1 through NCVPS

 

 
 

How to kill a nest of yellow jackets in the ground

25 Oct

I am sure there is more than one way to do this.  I spent time on the internet reading many different approaches including gasoline, boiling water, soapy water, bee spray, etc.  Many people didn’t even have any luck with their approach.  I will share my story as I believe, knock on wood, my nest is dead but we are still giving it more time so we don’t take any chances.

When putting fresh mulch on our landscape area we realized we had a nest and disturbed it.  It took them a few days to dig a new hole into the mulch that was put on top of the hole that must have been there already.  With mulch it is really hard to see a hole and you don’t want to get too close to watch.  Here is what we did.

  1. At evening time when they are less active, we put a large “muck” bucket (we use them as laundry baskets but they don’t have holes in them) over the area we thought they might be coming out of.  We had to use something very large since we couldn’t really see a hole since the nest was in mulch.  We waited a few days.
  2. We then wanted to see if our bucket was doing anything so we (again at night) lifted the bucket and found that it did have many bees (living but sleepy) in it.  We sprayed the whole area with bee and wasp spray and put the bucket back.  We continued to wait but saw more bees again the next day.
  3. I could see a new hole that they seemed to have made so I sprinkled borax on the area so they could bring it into the nest.  I could see them walking in the borax and going in the new hole.  The muck bucket was still on the other hole.
  4. After a few days of them walking through the borax, I went and put a plastic cereal bowl over the new hole I saw.
  5. After that day I did not see bees for a long time.  I think I saw one more bee about a week later and he looked like he was going into a new spot right near the cereal bowl, so I put a plastic cup near the cereal bowl.  Again, so no more bees for another few days.
  6. Now it has been about 1.5 weeks with only the one bee that I saw near the nest, don’t even know if he got into the nest or not.  So, tonight, we pulled off all the buckets, bowls, and cups.  There were many many bees under the cereal bowl,  I did not want to shine a light on them or investigate their signs of life (I hope they were dead).   So, we now put down layers of plastic that are being held down with stake holders including an extra set that secures the plastic all around the area where the cereal bowl was to trap the bees for a longer period.  This way our neighbors don’t have to see our entire pantry as they drive down the road.  Hopefully, this will secure the area and any bees that might still be alive in the nest will remain trapped and perish.

Bottom line, if you can find the nest, putting something for the bees to walk in first (Borax or another insecticide) and track into the nest and then covering the hole(s) and waiting seems like the easiest solution.