Tuesday, May 30, 2006
We also barbecued a bunch of food, and everyone ate and drank and had a great time. The kids played down by the dock, catching fish and swinging on the rope. It was such a great day. I hope to do this type of thing every time I'm pregnant.
Monday, May 22, 2006
God, I love this kid! Cleaning up after her is never a treat, but she sure does know how to entertain herself and have fun. I hope she never, ever, ever loses that ability.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
This is a picture of Tania on May Day at her school. It's a really special day in Hawaii. It's not really a holiday about the labor movement here. It's more of a celebration of all that is Hawaii. Typically, a royal Hawaiian court is elected from the sixth grade. There are a king and queen to represent each of the eight Hawaiian islands, and a king and queen that preside over all of the islands. Each island king and queen bring an offering to the chief king and queen. The offerings are things like mango, papaya, and kalo (taro). Each grade, first through fifth, performs a song or hula for the king and queen. At the end, the queen performs a hula for everyone there. May Day is one of those events that made me tear up this year and wish we could stay here.
So why are we leaving, you ask? Because it's retardedly expensive to live here. We can't find a house to rent for under $2,500 a month or a house to buy for under $600,000. And since I am staying at home and Joey is still a student, it's just not working out for us here. But we'll be back! Someday, some way, we'll be back. I think they have the lottery in Oregon. Maybe that will be our long-term financial goal: Winning the lottery.
By the way, imagine an eight-months pregnant woman running around May Day in platform slippers trying to get photos of her daughter and nieces. You see her sort of wobble and then plummet to the ground and land on all fours, her hands on the principal's feet. That was me.
by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
This book is a guide to Classical Education, the method which we will mostly use for Tania. (Unless of course it doesn't work, then we'll have to abandon it and go for Plan B. We haven't figured out Plan B yet.) When I say "mostly use," I mean that we will pretty much follow it to a tee, but I disagree with some of the things the authors emphasize. For example, I don't see any value in refusing my child the opportunity to read the books she chooses. Reading should be enjoyable, and Joey and I read the books we like, so why shouldn't Tania read the books she likes? It's not a big thing to me, because Tania has excellent taste in literature, but that advice kind of annoyed me. Another thing I don't like much is the Christian emphasis, so we'll be leaving that out. Accordingly, we have to tailor some of the lessons to include other secular ideas and works. The authors also believe that art and music lessons can be held off until 5th grade. This will never work for us, because Tania is too in love with those subjects for us not to put any importance in them. They also believe that learning languages at an early age is useless unless someone in the house is bilingual, and recommend putting it off until high school. I just don't believe this. I think now is the time to learn vocabluary and the conversational aspects of foreign langauges. Grammar can wait until later.
Other than that, I really like the emphasis on good literature and learning history in a logical order. I also like that I have something to follow. It gives Tania and me a sense of purpose.
Here are the basics of Classical Education:
Children are taught according to a "trivium," or three segments of learning: Grades 1-4 are the "grammar" stage, Grades 5-8 are the "logic" stage, and Grades 9-12 are the "rhetoric" stage. Briefly, the "grammar" stage is when children best soak up information and learn facts; the "logic" stage is when children begin to question the "whys" in life and recognize whether arguments are valid or invalid; the "rhetoric" stage is when children learn to effectively form and argue their own opinions.
Emphasis is on the "Great Books" of important literature. It is important for children to work their way through these great works, and not be fed information through media sources.
History is taught chronologically in four segments and repeated in each trivium stage: the Ancients, Medieval Times, Renaissance to Early Modern Era, and Early Modern to Modern Era.
Science is taught in four segments and repeated in each trivium stage: Biology, Earth Science and Astronomy, Chemistry, and Physics.
That stuff all sounds good to me. I can see in Tania how she is in the "grammar" stage. She loves showing off the facts she learns, and she loves learning new facts. She likes memorizing and being quizzed.
I am worried about the time commitment. It seems like a lot of work. But when I think about how much time she spends at school, a few hours per day of homeschool doesn't seem like much. So that's the plan for now. I don't want to be naive and think that it's definitely going to work, but it seems like something that can work for our family.
I remember reading Shel Silverstein as a kid. I remember feeling like there was some grown-up out there who was on my side. He understood how kids think. When I was in second grade I had to memorize the poem "Sick":
"I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more--that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut--my eyes are blue--
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke--
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is--what?
What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"
I was chosen by my teacher to compete in a speech contest, and had to recite the poem for a bunch of judges. I didn't win, but I think it was a pretty good accomplishment for a second-grader. I picked the poem out myself, and had to come up with facial and hand gestures to go along with the words.
Anyway, I remember that in the 80s, when I was a kid, some parents hated Shel Silverstein! They didn't like the kid humor or some of the gross things he would write about. I'm so glad my parents weren't a part of that crowd.
Well, you can read about Shel Silverstein here. This is his website. Here's a list of his children's books. He has other works as well, which include adult writings and music.
I really think that Roald Dahl's books might be the greatest children's literature of contemporary times, and quite possibly of all time. His books have everything a kid needs: They're humorous, non-patronizing, and well-written, and they have hilarious and memorable characters.
I have yet to learn how these books would be viewed under the Classical Education Method, which is what we will mainly be using. If these books are considered unacceptable, that will have to be an area in which we defect.
There are several websites dedicated to Roald Dahl. Some of them have tips for teachers and lesson plans, like the "official site." Some have online games and trivia. You can read about the life and works of Roald Dahl here. There's even The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Buckinghamshire, UK, and The Roald Dahl Children's Gallery in Aylesbury, UK. We will go to these places one day. (If I say it forcefully enough, I think it makes likelier the chances of its happening.) I'm shooting for the summer of 2009. If we stick to the Classical method, Tania will be studying contemporary literature, so naturally we should take a United Kingdom vacation to further her educational experience... I'm going to develop that argument more thoroughly and present it to Joey when the time is right.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
by John Holt
This guy is pretty much the guru of the modern homeschooling movement, although he passed away in 1985. Here is the Amazon review for this book:
"If John Holt had his way, today's primers would be replaced with the large-print edition of The New York Times, cursive handwriting would fade into disuse, and talking "cutesy-wootsy" to children would be considered a criminal act. This highly opinionated former teacher and original thinker spent the last half of his life challenging widely accepted classroom practices. The author of 10 books that concentrate on early child development and education, Holt is widely considered the father of the modern-day homeschooling movement because he grew to believe that schools stifle the learning process. In this, his final book--compiled by colleagues from drafts, letters, and magazine essays written by Holt before he died in 1985--he strings together his own observations and philosophies to show how young children can be encouraged to learn everything from reading and math to music and science.
Holt's thoughts carry the power of common sense. One of his pet peeves: the silly, nonsensical rules of phonics drilled into schoolchildren today. One of those adages, found on the walls of many an elementary school classroom, goes, "When two vowels go out walking, the first one does the talking." Holt points out that two pairs of vowels in the sentence violate the rule. This is not only confusing to some children, but simply "dumb," he complains. He dismisses picture books and primers, with their small, simple vocabularies. In their place, Holt urges parents to expose children to the Yellow Pages, warranties, letters, ticket stubs, and newspapers--the print trappings that adults rely upon for everyday life. Holt's call for context amid learning is delivered in a sensible, delightful writing style. He even includes several graphics and number games that can easily be used at home. Anyone who comes in contact with a small child would benefit from--and enjoy--reading these last words from a man who clearly adored and remained mesmerized by children and their inquisitive minds."
I really enjoy John Holt's practical approach to education. Children will learn what they need to know to get by in life, and they will learn those things that peak their interest, regardless of whether we make them sit down and learn it. It's almost as though John Holt looks at education through fresh, untainted eyes. He observes children in learning situations, whether in school or in life, and comments about what he observes. Even though he is a teacher, he is not sold on formal teaching.
This is a good book for homeschool philosophy, particularly unschooling philosophy. It's another one that has added credibility because, after all, the author is also a teacher.
Oh, and he's written a bunch of other books.
Here are some ways that homeschoolers answer this question:
1) "Go to your local middle school, junior high, or high school, walk down the hallways, and tell me which behavior you see that you think our son should emulate." That's a quote from this article.
2) Ew, socialization is creepy. It reminds me of those residential schools they used to make Australian and Canadian natives attend to teach them how to be proper British subjects. Wait, do you mean "social outlets"? Homeschoolers have a lot more time for this type of thing than their school-schooled counterparts. See this article.
3) The socialization that occurs in schools is an unnatural kind of socialization. Children are divided according to age and they never get a chance to socialize with children of other ages or with adults. And this is the type of socialization that is supposed to prepare children for the "real world"? Homeschooled children meet all different types of people and choose their friends according to interest. This article explains things nicely.
This is a pretty funny compilation that one woman made of socialization questions that her readers have been asked. This one's my favorite: "She informed me that I really need to expose my kids to more germs on a regular basis so that they don't get sick 'when they are around people.'" That's funny.
This fake interview about homeschooling is also funny. I like this portion the best:
SB: So maybe school isn't such a great place for learning the positive aspects of socialization, but what about the other side? We all need to learn to be tough, to deal with bullies and smart alecks and people who don't like us.
DS: I'm sorry to keep answering you with questions, Sandy, but if one of your co-workers called you nasty names every day, or if they knocked your papers out of your hands and cornered you in the restroom and threatened you or stole your money, what would you do? This really is an important issue -- please tell me what you would really do.
SB: I'd probably sue the pants off them.
DS: Do you think a jury would be on your side?
SB: If they weren't, I'd say something was definitely wrong with people's thinking.
DS: Do you think people would understand if you said you had been so traumatized by your co-worker's treatment that you decided to seek therapy?
SB: I'm sure they would.
DS: Didn't you learn how to handle all that sort of thing in school without falling apart? Didn't school toughen you up for the real world, where co-workers harass you and pick on you, call you names, make your life miserable?SB: Point well-taken.
Another thing to think about is that, in recent years, schools have been cutting recess time to make more time for the children to learn what they need to know to pass the standardized tests. If the concern is about "socializing," then school-schooled kids are now worse off than homeschooled kids. School truly becomes a place for "socialization," that is, "the process of learning interpersonal and interactional skills that are in conformity with the values of one's society." When kids are taught in government schools how to "socialize," they are being "place[d] under government or group ownership or control." (Definitions here.)
Socialization, one of the main topics that people bring up as a reason not to homeschool, is actually one of the main reasons that people should homeschool.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
by Grace Llewellyn
Joey actually told me to read this book a long time before I got around to it. He and his friends used to pass out copies of it to people.
It's a great read. It's another teacher expressing her opinion that the school system is inherently flawed, and that kids would be better off dropping out of school and educating themselves.
Amazon has this to say:
"You won't find this book on a school library shelf--it's pure teenage anarchy. While many homeschooling authors hem and haw that learning at home isn't for everyone, this manifesto practically tells kids they're losers if they do otherwise. With the exception of a forwarding note to parents, this book is written entirely for teenagers, and the first 75 pages explain why school is a waste of time. Grace Llewellyn insists that people learn better when they are self-motivated and not confined by school walls. Instead of homeschooling, which connotes setting up a school at home, Llewellyn prefers "unschooling," a learning method with no structure or formal curriculum. There are tips here you won't hear from a school guidance counselor. Llewellyn urges kids to take a vacation--at least for a week--after quitting school to purge its influence. "Throw darts at a picture of your school" or "Make a bonfire of old worksheets," she advises. She spends an entire chapter on the gentle art of persuading parents that this is a good idea. Then she gets serious. Llewellyn urges teens to turn off the TV, get outside, and turn to their local libraries, museums, the Internet, and other resources for information. She devotes many chapters to books and suggestions for teaching yourself science, math, social sciences, English, foreign languages, and the arts. She also includes advice on jobs and getting into college, assuring teens that, contrary to what they've been told in school, they won't be flipping burgers for the rest of their days if they drop out.
Llewellyn is a former middle-school English teacher, and she knows her audience well. Her formula for making the transition from traditional school to unschooling is accompanied by quotes on freedom and free thought from radical thinkers such as Steve Biko and Ralph Waldo Emerson. And Llewellyn is not above using slang. She capitalizes words to add emphasis, as in the "Mainstream American Suburbia-Think" she blames most schools for perpetuating. Some of her attempts to appeal to young minds ring a bit corny. She weaves through several chapters an allegory about a baby whose enthusiasm is squashed by a sterile, unnatural environment, and tells readers to "learn to be a human bean and not a mashed potato." But her underlying theme--think for yourself--should appeal to many teenagers."
I think the book is great. I think it tells the truth to teenagers in a non-patronizing way.
Grace Llewellyn runs camps in Oregon and Vermont called "Not Back to School Camp." She has a website here. She has written other books too: Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School (written with Amy Silver); Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don't Go to School Tell Their Own Stories; and Freedom Challenge: African American Homeschoolers.
by Valerie Fitzenreiter
I really hated this book. I could not wait for it to be over and done with.
Here is Amazon's book description:
"The Unprocessed Child is a work of nonfiction about a child raised with no coercion and no curriculum. Laurie Chancey spent her childhood immersing herself in topics of her own choosing. She was never forced to learn something simply because tradition and/or society said it was necessary. No one was looking over her shoulder to make sure she was learning the "proper" subjects.
Having never seen a textbook or taken a test, never used workbooks or any type of teaching techniques, Laurie scored in the top 10% of the state of Louisiana on her college entrance exam. She enrolled in college when she was eighteen, and graduated summa cum laude three and a half years later. Laurie is a bright adult, but her IQ is not why she did so well. She spent her life learning to learn and it’s something that now comes easily to her.
The Unprocessed Child was written by her mother and is full of examples of raising a child with respect and dignity. It is the first book written about a radically unschooled child who has now reached adulthood and is a responsible member of society.
Questions about the radical unschooling lifestyle are answered on topics ranging from socialization, parental responsibility, self-discipline, chores, bedtimes and much more. The book shows that it is not only possible to befriend your child, but that it is highly preferable to the struggles that so many parents go through with their children. It proves that school is not necessary for learning, socializing or motivation."
So what was my problem with it? I think I just didn't like the author. To me, she really seemed to toot her own horn a lot and criticize others who do things in a different way. I felt like she was saying that if you require your children to do anything at all, then you are coercive and cruel. I realize that some people let their children watch as much TV as they want, and some of those children self-regulate, but I just don't think I am robbing my child of anything if I don't let her watch TV. There are a million better things that she can and will do with her time if she doesn't watch TV. She also pats herself on the back for not giving her daughter a bedtime or chores, and again insinuates that parents who do so are cruel. I can understand people who don't give their kids a bedtime or chores. But I cannot understand people who think that their way is THE way and that other parents just don't know better.
Anyway, my irritation toward the author overshadowed the things I did learn from the book. One thing that was really helpful was that this book is essentially a case study about the author's daughter, Laurie, who it seems grew up to be a successful college student with a lifelong love of learning. Here's an article about Laurie. She used to have a webpage here, but it seems that it has been removed temporarily. She's been very busy, according to her Curriculum Vitae. So, even though her mother is irritating, we have a lot to learn about the way Laurie was educated.
Speaking of literature, Joey is probably the biggest reader of literature that I have ever known. He reads everything from the classics to Bukowski to Henry Miller to Kurt Vonnegut. He's my encyclopedia of writers and books. He has us going to the library every couple of weeks at least.
Joey is also a music buff. He played the trumpet in school, and was in the school's marching band. (I married a nerd.) He also plays the guitar, and is self-taught. He likes all kinds of music: Indie, hip-hop, rap, emo, 60s rock, classical, and I'm sure I didn't name them all. He's one of those guys who knows what every single song on the radio is.
Joey also likes crossword puzzles, chess, hiking, and in-depth conversations over a shared pitcher of cold ale. He's one of those people who has a really easy time making new friends, because he's really friendly and totally unpretentious. Can you tell that I love this guy?
Joey really wants to contribute to Tania's education. He has been really supportive of all the conclusions I have made about her education, and has read every book that I have passed on to him about homeschooling.
Tania enjoys reading, and is at the top of her class in that area. She reads children’s chapter books and likes Shel Silverstein’s poetry. She is good at spelling, and has nice handwriting. Grammar comes naturally to Tania.
Tania gets by in math, but seems to struggle due to lack of interest. When she has homework, she wants to do it as quickly as possible. When she is interested, she picks up concepts quickly. For example, one night she asked how to add double-digits. I explained how it was done and wrote out some problems for her to do. She picked it up in five minutes.
Tania has a good memory and constantly repeats facts about history and science that she has learned in school. She is proud when she remembers these details.
Tania is probably the best artist I have seen in her age group. (I know, every parent thinks their child is 'the best.') She has an amazing ability to concentrate for long periods of time until she gets a drawing or painting “just right.”
Tania is interested in music, and has expressed desires to learn to play the guitar and the violin. She enjoys listening to CDs (especially Avril Lavigne) and has several favorite bands and genres of music.
Tania does not like forced physical education. She can run very fast, and is proud of herself when she wins a race, but she does not like mundane exercise, such as running laps, when she has to stay in line and not compete. She enjoys riding her bike, and absolutely loves swimming. She has recently taken an interest in skateboarding. She has expressed a desire to take basketball classes.
At school, Tania had minimal instruction in Japanese and Hawaiian language. Because of her ability to memorize, she did well in these areas. She has also been learning French at home, mainly through the use of DVDs and asking questions. She knows some Spanish words as well. She seems interested in learning other languages.
Tania gets in trouble at school for talking during class, not listening to the teacher, and not sitting still. She is very social, and has a lot of energy. She needs a physical outlet for her energy, which she does not get at school. Tania is very sensitive and socially conscious. She wants to right all the wrongs in the world. Tania is very independent, and does not need a lot of direction from outside sources to get work done. At age seven, she is still very child-like in some ways, yet very grown-up in others. She still plays with her baby-dolls, but sometimes she wants to dress like a teenager. Tania is excited when she learns something and when learning is fun. I feel that if Tania gets enough physical exercise, and if learning is enjoyable, she will excel using a specially tailored curriculum.
by John Taylor Gatto
This book convinced me of the futility of school. It also taught me that school can actually be dangerous: I'm not talking Columbine; I'm talking about a child's spirit being killed.
Gatto is an award-winning NY teacher. He gave a shocking Teacher of the Year acceptance speech that comprises the first chapter of this book. In the speech, he lets everyone in on a secret. He really only teaches seven things: 1) confusion, 2) class position, 3) indifference, 4) emotional dependency, 5) intellectual dependency, 6) provisional self-esteem, and 7) constant surveillance and the denial of privacy. He explains these lessons in more depth. Gatto believes that children are harmed by so much time spent in school. He believes that they should spend less time at school and more time at home with their families.
I guess I should not be surprised that there are a lot of reader reviews on Amazon that are critical of this book. The critics are essentially saying, "Well, then what's the solution?" Well, for me, homeschool is a solution.
I would highly recommend this book for anyone considering whether they want to keep their children in public school. I think it makes a lot of sense if you have experience with the public school system.
by David and Micki Colfax
I picked this used book up from my local bookstore one day, about six months ago. I'll admit that I was attracted to it at first because the son on the cover was wearing a Harvard sweatshirt. I had assumed that homeschoolers probably had to sacrifice the prospect of attending an Ivy League school. I was intrigued by this family.
Amazon's Editorial Review says this:
"Role models for a generation of homeschoolers, David and Micki Colfax are teachers turned ranchers who taught their four sons at home in the 1970s and '80s and schooled three of them into Harvard. Isolation on their northern California homestead forced them into the experience, but this resourceful family eventually discovered all kinds of advantages to home education. Like a modern-day Little House on the Prairie, the Colfax children learned about geometry while constructing outbuildings on their ranch, explored aspects of chemistry and biology as they improved their livestock and garden, and generally discovered the value of self-reliance as they went about life without TV or neighbors. Their world is described in clear, warm words that illustrate the fondness these parents and children possess for each other. Family photos grouped throughout the book show the boys working and learning together.
The Colfaxes don't purport to be experts; they don't prescribe a formula for their success. Rather, their experience is described as a trial-and-error effort, with some of their mistakes offered up as lessons for others. The value of critically examining textbooks in advance, for instance, is learned after one son falls behind in algebra using a schoolbook that touts "new math" principles. The Colfaxes' philosophy is that every child is gifted. Parents don't need to be certified teachers to teach them (although it does ward off doubters). But, despite the contention of some homeschoolers, the Colfaxes do caution that teaching at home requires much time and money--and they don't advise it for single parents or most working women. Any parent interested in connecting with his or her child, however, will find the Colfax take on life an enjoyable and enlightening read. The couple closes the book with an appendix of suggested references for building a family library and a delightful list of their children's favorite books."
While this book wasn't a how-to book, and didn't even really go into the curricula this family used for each child, it really made me feel like I could do this. It made me feel like this was a gift I could give my child. It made me see how much Tania could learn in the right environment. And the Colfaxes are normal people who simply wanted to educate their children.
This book created a spark in me that further reading would only solidify.
I could go on and on.
I mentioned before that these things made me change my views on homeschooling. What I mean is that I previously thought homeschooling was for Fundamentalist Christians who didn't want their kids to learn about evolution or condoms (as Grace Llewellyn has put it). I had no idea that so many different kinds of people have been converted to homeschooling in the past thirty years or so.
So I began my research. The next several blog entries will be discussions of different books I read and other resources that have helped me to make the decisions I have made.
When I first began my research, I knew several things that I didn't like about school. I didn't like the time commitment. I didn't like the institution-like setting. I didn't like the lining up, the sitting still, the being quiet. I didn't like the focus on testing, the lack of emphasis on art and music. I didn't like the hit-or-miss people experience with good and bad teachers.
And again, I could go on.
But as I researched, I began to discover what I DID want for Tania. I want her to enjoy learning, to be curious and inquisitive. I want her to have the opportunity to learn about anything her heart desires. I want her to be a world-citizen, conscious of the problems of others, and committed to righting those wrongs. I want her to be healthy and strong. I want her to live freely, without her educational experience clouded by self-doubt and fear of what others think of her. I want her to be compassionate, and I want her to be true to herself. I want her to be happy.
And so her father and I have decided that homeschooling is the route we will take to achieve these goals for Tania.