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Book Review - The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids The Education They Deserve

Posted Sep 19 2011 7:58am

Award winning journalist Peg Tyre is back with a new book, The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids The Education They Deserve . This book follows the very successful look at boys in education in The Trouble with Boys , a book we reviewed back in January 2009. I owe this review to my partner, Arna Cook - thanks for your hard work in reading the book and writing this review.

The Good School is an information packed parental resource to help parents work out what good and not so good schools look like, the way that these schools are run, and how to choose what is going to work for the individual child. Good education in the USA is not as easy to find as it is in other countries and parents are finding it very hard to find the education their children deserve. Peg Tyre takes the reader on a journey, chapter by chapter, of what a parent should be on the look out for in order to avoid their child being lost in the competitive world of education.

The book is well set out in the following way:

Introduction: A quick look at the traps many parents fall into when they are hunting for the right education for their child/ren, a briefing on how to use the book and an overview of how the education system is run. On page 11, Peg Tyre describes her book as 'looking under the hood' of the education system.

The Preschool Scramble: A look at where formal education for a child begins and where education begins to unravel for a child, if the style of teaching is not suitable to the child.

Testing: Looks at how schools are evaluated based on Standardized Testings, and how these results are not a true representation of the quality of education being offered between schools. The reader is also given a wake up call on how these tests are made up - really, it is all a scam to make it look as though progress is being made with the education system

Class Size: Here the reader is taken through how class size really doesn't have that much of an impact on a child's learning, but the quality of the teaching and resources does.

Reading: What It Takes To Succeed: A look at where the first skills for reading come from, and how the education system doesn't support the individual child's learning pace etc - let's just say, the more we talk and read to our kids, the better they are going to do, so if you want an early reader, start before they are born.

Book review - The Good School by Peg TyreWhen Mathematics Get Angry: Looks at how the text-books used could be influencing the way a child thinks about people around them, in turn, affecting their ability to absorb the materials being taught. There is a bit of a debate on what teaching methods work and which ones don't and a quick trip through an animal laboratory where lemurs are helping researchers to understand how children learn maths skills - yes, lemurs have basic math abilities, but not the brain power to understand the exact concepts or to expand on their abilities to the same level humans can. A look at Singaporean teaching models is given as well, and why these models seem to be more successful than current teaching trends.

The Right Balance: The reader is taken on a tour of how the school day is broken down. Broken-down is more like, with children being allowed very little time to play and socialize, which is not optimal for learning. It is pointed out that teachers work really hard on bringing up the Standardized Testing scores, which takes away from a child's 'free time' and helps to create despondent and lack-luster learners. Does the school your child/ren go to allow time for free play? If not, this chapter will help you to see how this can cause more harm than good.

Teachers Matter: Of course they do. They are the ones we entrust our precious prodigy to in order to make sure they become academically sound individuals, but not all teachers are good at teaching. It seems that a good teacher, with good teaching practices that accommodate each individual child's learning abilities are going to be far better for your child than a teacher who is a 'text-book' teacher - the ones who aren't able to adapt to the realities of teaching and those who are inexperienced in the field. A good giggle can be derived from teachers being compared to 'widgets', but that is still a serious matter - read this chapter carefully and more than once.

The Perfect School: In reality, it doesn't exist, but the reader is taken through what Peg Tyre sees are the true problems within schools and how they need to be corrected - fast - and not just by the education system, but by parents who take an active role and interest in their child's education. Idealism is fine, pro-activity to reach those ideals by the whole community is better.

The Good School is jam packed full of information, and personal stories of families trying to swim in the pool of education. The introduction are well defined, and each chapter has a 'Take-Aways' summary, which, for the super busy parent, is probably just as useful as the whole chapter is still a good idea to go back and read the chapter to better understand what the summary's are referring to.

The Good School shouldn't just be read by parents though. Many of the US education professionals and administrators would benefit from the kick up the pants this book provides, so share it with your school principal (be nice about it) and see what changes happen - if none, then you lost nothing and gained the understanding that the principal is just another 'widget'

On a personal note, I think that it is important for parents to understand that their child's learning begins in the womb, and continues in the bigger world. Parents and siblings are the greatest education influences on children, so please, spend as much time as you can reading, playing and talking with your children - it really does help better than remedial (read tedious) catch up classes. It also better prepares them for formal education by priming those little neurons into hyperacitity which increases better absorption and retention of information, and could save your child slipping into the void (and a growing one at that) of educational nightmares.

Once again, a well researched and eye opening 'adventure' (yes, it is) into the education systems of the United States of America, and how to avoid problematic education for your child/ren right from the start.

If you like Peg Tyre's work, then feel free to like her pages on Facebook at

The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids The Education They Deserve
Author: Peg Tyre
Published by: Henry Holt and Company Publishing
Review by: Arna Cook

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