May the Fourth Be With You – Star Wars and Lifelong Learning

Me and my brothers. #StarWarsDay
My brothers and I #StarWarsDay

Growing up my brothers and I would get out our Star Was action figures and reenact the Star Wars movies.

  • We did this every Saturday.
  • We were teenagers.
  • We were are a little nerdy.
  • We were homeschooled.

Not only was our Star Wars reenactments lots of fun, research suggests that this kind of imaginative play is actually very beneficial. An article in Psychology Today entitled The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development, speaks to the benefits of pretend play for children.

“Actual studies have demonstrated cognitive benefits such as increases in language usage including subjunctives, future tenses, and adjectives. The important concept of “theory of mind,” an awareness that one’s thoughts may differ from those of other persons and that there are a variety of perspectives of which each of us is capable, is closely related to imaginative play (Jenkins & Astington, 2000; Leslie, 1987; Singer & Singer, 1990; Singer & Singer, 2005).”

Basically, when my brothers and I had to use our communication skills to resolve disagreements about who got to be Han Solo or how the next scene should play out, we were growing and developing our social skills. The article says it this way:

“. . .Make-believe games are forerunners of the important capacity for forms of self-regulation including reduced aggression, delay of gratification, civility, and empathy.”

Play is the work that a child is tasked with performing. And through imaginative “pretend” play, children learn key social skills that will help them succeed all throughout their life.

One of our core concepts at Demme Learning is the power of multi sensory engagement. We think it’s best for children to have tangible objects that they can interact with in their learning. This is why we emphasize the blocks in teaching and learning mathematical concepts.

Looking back on those Star War reenactments, I am convinced that those action figures enriched our play, providing tangible objects that enhanced our learning. Whether it’s dolls or action figures or a pretend vacuum cleaner, toys are an essential element of pretend play. But then again, as any nerd knows, the difference between a stick and a lightsaber is the sound effects.

Happy Star Wars day and may the Fourth Be With You!

North Carolina: A Case Study in Trusting Parents

Seal of NC
Seal of NC

I’ve been digging through some education data from the state of North Carolina and the numbers point to a simple truth: if you trust parents by giving them more educational options to choose from they will exercise that choice.

Prior to the 1980s, the only two official education options available in North Carolina were public or private schools. In 1980s, a series of legal battles paved the way for home instruction options for parents. Then in 1988, the state legislature passed what is still currently North Carolina’s home instruction law.

Beginning in the 1990s, the charter school movement took off. “The North Carolina charter school movement began in 1996, when the General Assembly approved the Charter School Act (CSA)” . . . which “allowed any person, group, or non-profit organization to propose a charter school.” (View Source)

In the graph below, note how homeschooling as a market share begins to grow rapidly beginning near the end of the 1980s, which corresponds to the changes in homeschool law in the state. Note also how charter schools begin to take on a larger market share beginning near the end of the 1990s which again corresponds to changes in the laws.

 here's a full-scale version of the North Carolina school population graph
here’s a full-scale version of the North Carolina school population graph

Here’s another graph that allows us to closely look at the growth of non-traditional education (i.e., non public school.) in NC.

North Carolina data
North Carolina data

Here are three main points that the data shows:

  1. Since home schools were legalized in 1985, the market share of home schools has risen to about 4.8%, while over the same period the market share of public schools fell by 7.7% (see next point).
  2. The same appears to be true of charter schools. Since 2000, the charter school market share grew to about 2.7%. The total growth in market share of home schools and charter schools combined (7.5%) corresponds almost exactly to the decrease in public school market share (-7.7%) since 1985 in North Carolina. 
  3. Home school market share and charter school market share are positively correlated, indicating that the same factor or factors are likely to be affecting each of them.

Opportunities for greater school choice in North Carolina began with key legislative efforts to support homeschooling and charter schools. With a little over two decades worth of data showing the result of those changes in legislation you can see in the data a pent up demand among parents for more education options and when those opportunities are available then parents will begin choosing them. Or put more simply, “If you build it, they will come”. As more choices open up for parents across the country you can see a similar response, a pent up demand for more education options for their kids. Let’s trust parents more.


Data Source