Friday, September 26, 2008

Tonight's teachable moment

Okay, it's Friday a.m. on the East Coast and we still don't know if the GOP candidate is going to show up for the presidential debates scheduled for this evening.

Sorry to infuse politics into homeschooling, but gee whiz, I'm mad as all get out about this. You see, my children and I had been looking forward to the debates and really getting to know the candidates better. Not only would this be a perfect homeschooling "moment", but one of these candidates is going to directly impact the future of these little people with whom I share so many important things.

As my children cannot yet vote, they depend on my husband and me to make the best informed decisions on their behalf. They are going to inherit this mess and the least I can do at this juncture is do my homework. That includes watching the presidential debates.

What does this teachable moment teach my children? That when things are looking challenging and the situation is getting complicated and frightening, it's okay to shirk your responsibilities and just not show up.

That's not okay. It's not the lesson I want my children learning today or any other day.

Leadership is about courage, wisdom, and fortitude. Sometimes, it's just about just showing up.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A little tongue in cheek

How I Homeschool

Homeschool Summer

What I Like About Homeschooling

I Will Survive

Patience my young Padawan

I think I may have survived my first week of homeschooling all three children, but I’m not quite sure yet. It’s all still a blur. I’ll really have to get back to you on that.

It didn’t help that we went to visit family out of state for over four weeks and didn’t return until days before we were to begin school. Thankfully, most every book, notebook, and pencil had already been purchased and was awaiting us all boxed up in a closet. The downside is that I hardly remembered what was in those boxes and had to scramble to get it all sorted out, reacquaint myself with the teacher’s manuals, and put together at least six weeks of study plans.

The funny thing is that as good as it feels to print up those handy six week planners I get from Donna Young, I always end up regretting working so far ahead. It never fails. I end up marking up the planners with all kinds of revisions within the very first days, only to go back multiple times during the six weeks and do it again and again.

The planner thing is absolute insanity this time around considering I now have three six week planners to coordinate. There are so many adjustments to make now that I know that my son needs MUCH more work, for example. He had finished a week’s worth of Singapore Math by Tuesday morning (we started school on Tuesday) including Test 1 in Saxon. It finally dawned on him that he didn't have to wait for anyone to be finished. This was a self-paced day in many regards, and he was off to the races indeed.

I'm having to reconsider his day to day schedule. I was only going to do the Story of the World for history with the two younger ones to streamline things a bit, but I realized this week that my son needs more stuff he do on his own than I had predicted. The best solution, I think, is to add History Odyssey to the mix. That way, we’ll still do Story of the World, but he’ll have more things that he can work on without my help. I've been very happy with the Level 2 material for my sixth grader, so I expect that the Level 1 study guide is what we're missing. I definitely don’t want to give him busy work just to fill the hours, but on the other hand, if he’s not focused on something constructive he’s a distraction to the other two, particularly his older sister. We just can’t have that. We just can’t.

I also came to the realization that my oldest daughter really needs to start doing more things on her own so that I have more time to work with the younger two. Since I do have a number of direct instruction type curricula in the mix for all three, I am facing a particularly interesting challenge when there is only one of me. Needless to say, the schedule needs some major tweaking. So, guess what I’ll be doing this very rainy weekend? Yep. Revising the six week planners, again.

We are also still recovering from a terrible case of jetlag. Not to make excuses, but that three hour time difference is a real bugger when waking up at 7 a.m. suddenly feels like 4 a.m. Ouch! Because I’m still figuring out this homeschooling multiples thing, I tried waking the kids up on a staggered schedule this week so that my sixth grader would have a jump start, followed by my third grader, with the first grader trailing right behind. I figured the differences in their workload justified trying it out.

I have to say it wasn’t as helpful as I’d hoped. We still ended up with some unfinished stuff to finish up over the weekend. Thanks to Hurricane Hanna, soccer is canceled so it will give my eldest something constructive to do. We have an art project we never got to, for one, which has turned out to be a mixed blessing considering we’ll be inside this weekend. I guess not getting through everything worked out for the best after all.

Much of the reason that we have uncompleted work is my own fault too. Not only did I over program by trying to cram five days of work into a shortened week (Labor Day holiday), but I definitely didn’t nail the daily schedule this first time around. I must improve the way I organize their day and remember to give myself a little down time too. I think I have some clear ideas about how to improve things, and I also know this is kind of like a new job for all of us. It’s just going to take some time to get into the flow of things.

Patience, my young Padawan. Patience.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Percy Jackson Day!

My fifth grader is only one review lesson away from finishing Singapore 5B. This is huge considering we were wrapping up 4B at the beginning of the school year AND she also does about one Saxon 8/7 lesson a day as well (including fact practice and tests).
She was about to turn the workbook page when the doorbell rang. It was UPS.

She asked if she could bring in the package and I'm certain she assumed it was yet another school book I'd ordered. They've been arriving pretty regularly now. Anyway, after making sure it was okay with me, she opened up the box. It wasn't in the excited way you tear open a birthday or Christmas present, either. Just slow and easy and without any kind of expectation at all.

She was beside herself when she realized it was the fourth book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. I'm sure I've given her birthday and Christmas presents that didn't elicit that kind of response. It was pure joy.

We had almost forgotten. Today was the release date for The Battle of the Labyrinth by homeschooling dad, Rick Riordan.

Today she was supposed to be working on ancient history, grammar, spelling and more math. She's already finished up with science and classical roots for the year. I've been pushing her pretty consistently this first year of homeschooling. So I thought, "What the heck. Let's call it a Percy Jackson Day!" I told her to scrap the rest of today's schedule and get reading. "Really?" YES, really.

Sometimes it feels good to throw caution to the wind and do something that just feels right. Today was one of those days.

Percy Jackson Word Problems.

Myth & Mystery - The official blog for author Rick Riordan

Check out the trailer and this snippet from The Battle of the Labyrinth, I Battled the Cheerleading Squad read by author Rick Riordan:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore Geisel, whose timeless best-sellers used a controlled "scientific" vocabulary supplied by the publisher, demonstrated his own awareness of the mindlessness of all this in an interview he gave in 1981:

I did it for a textbook house and they sent me a word list. That was due to the Dewey revolt in the twenties, in which they threw out phonics reading and went to a word recognition as if you’re reading a Chinese pictograph instead of blending sounds or different letters. I think killing phonics was one of the greatest causes of illiteracy in the country.

Anyway they had it all worked out that a healthy child at the age of four can only learn so many words in a week. So there were two hundred and twenty-three words to use in this book. I read the list three times and I almost went out of my head.

I said, “I’ll read it once more and if I can find two words that rhyme, that’ll be the title of my book.” I found "cat" and "hat" and said, the title of my book will be The Cat in the Hat.

Arizona magazine, 1981

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Total Lunar Eclipse

Wednesday's total lunar eclipse promises to be quite a display and Sky and Telescope has all the interesting details here. If you're on the East Coast, like we are, you'll want to adjust the viewing times to begin at 8:43 p.m. and end shortly after midnight.

The full Moon is going to get totally eclipsed on the night of February 20–21, putting on a gorgeous show as it glides through Earth's shadow. Skywatchers in nearly the entire Western Hemisphere will get an excellent view.

In the Americas, the eclipse happens during convenient evening hours on Wednesday, the 20th, when people are up and about. In the time zones of Europe
and West Africa, the eclipse happens during the early-morning hours of Thursday,
the 21st.

Earth’s shadow will totally engulf the Moon from 10:00 to 10:52 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, or 7:00 to 7:52 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. The partial phases of the eclipse last for about an hour and a quarter before and after totality.

Mark your calendar! If you miss this one, you'll have to wait until 2010 for the next lunar eclipse.

Friday, January 25, 2008

If I Ran the School

My Teacher Sees Right Through Me

I didn't do my homework.
My teacher asked me, "Why?"
I answered him, "It's much too hard."
He said, "You didn't try."

I told him, "My dog ate it."
He said, "You have no dog."
I said, "I went out running."
He said, "You never jog."

I told him, "I had chores to do."
He said, "You watched TV."
I said, "I saw the doctor."
He said, "You were with me."

My teacher sees right through my fibs,
which makes me very sad.
It's hard to fool the teacher
when the teacher is your dad.

by Bruce Lansky
If I Ran the School

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Pourquoi l’Ecole?

In case you're thinking that North America has the monopoly on the education crisis, think again. Professor Ralph A. Raimi of the University of Rochester has, in a labor of love, translated an essay by the French mathematician, Laurent Lafforgue.

The following is excerpted from "Why the Public Schools?"

That parents should go so far as to remove their children from school, to teach them themselves, at home, or to form parallel classes for them in which they, themselves, are the teachers, to prefer a school to which they must pay the fee to the free public school, or to impose on their children and themselves the burden of a night school added to the day school they consider to be nothing but a holding pen, all this became and remains for me a theme of profound dismay. And I notice as well that these are surely the parents who enjoy a high level of education and – for those who can pay the fees of a private school – of income. And then I think of the other children, who do not have the benefits of having been born into families similarly favored.

Since we have said that it is necessary for us to make choices, let us look for some hints or directions that would help us to choose what must be taught. But look, we already have them in the definition we have just read – a definition much more helpful, to tell the truth, than what one may read every year and every month, as penned by those who govern our national Education system.

For years now, these last have placed at the top of their page that the school must no longer teach “knowledge”, as the dictionary has it, but “competencies” and “skills”. Just a few days ago, a member of the Academy of Sciences who specializes in education wrote to me that in school “one acquires abilities, such as thinking skills”. Well, yes, Mister Academician: in school one acquires, or rather ought to acquire, the ability to think. But, contrary to what you prescribe, only knowledge, not thinking, should appear in the curriculum. For thinking cannot be taught.

What can be taught are the words, the vocabulary, the verbs, the conjugations which render thinking possible and which give it form.

What can be taught are the rules of grammar, which provide a considered mastery of the language, that open the way to the rich language of books and to the precise, structured and abstract language of the sciences, which are the introduction to logic – that basic logic which is today so lacking among the majority of today’s university students.

What can be taught are the organized forms of reasoning such as: in mathematics, the careful writing out of the solution of prosaic problems in arithmetic, and later of proofs;

What teaches is still the culture, the knowledge of those great works which will become the material for thought.

What teaches is still and forever that well defined knowledge that is the means and the conditions of thought, but not thought itself.

Mister Academician, Ladies and Gentlemen who have brought our school to where it now is, have you ever asked yourselves if it is possible for a teacher to say to his students, “For tomorrow, you will learn how to think”? Thinking, like all other aptitudes, is only cultivated laterally, indirectly; one doesn’t teach in the hope of developing it except in looking at it from the side while speaking of other things infinitely more modest and infinitely more precise.

In the definition of the verb “to teach” given us by the dictionary, one must presume that the student “assimilates” the transmitted knowledge. The student must assimilate the knowledge as an organism assimilates food, and not at all the way a computer receives a program. What the verb “assimilate”, with its underlying metaphor of nourishment, is saying is that a student is not a machine but a living being.

This is an extremely important point, one too much forgotten by the technocrats of education imbued with a scientistic vision of man, something they reduce to a mechanism whose functioning is something that needs governing. It is this vision that has made possible the domination of the schools of education by the so-called “sciences of education”. It is also what leads to the incessant questioning of whether what is taught in school will be useful in later life.

-- Laurent Lafforgue, Why the Public Schools?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Protractor Passion

My kids usually get pretty excited when a package is dropped off at the door. Now that Christmas is over it's practically a mob scene because it's a rare happening.

Well today we received a package. Of course, they wanted to know what it was.

We opened it right up to find it filled with protractors of different types and sizes. You'd think it was filled with candy and video games they were so besides themselves with joy.

It warms my heart.

I'm raising three little nerdy kids who find great happiness in mathematical tools.

You gotta love it!