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29 December 2006

How Children Learn

Although this title was not on my list of books to get at the library today (I was looking for titles from my book list from before Christmas.) when I recognized John Holt's name from my various readings around the Internet, I was so pleased by my find that this was the first book I opened to peruse there at the library. It didn't come home with me.

There are a lot of authors out there who make non-fiction a pleasure to read. Mr. Holt doesn't appear to be one of them. His prose was stilted and somewhat condescending. Rather than starting off with what the title promises: insight on how kids learn, it started with a plug for his other book (How Children Fail) and then launched into a rather involved look at current brain research. Only he said at the outset that brain research isn't the right way to go about learning how kids learn. Seems to me that if that's not where the magic and wonder of learning is at, then it shouldn't be worth pages and pages of our attention. By this time, I was so irritated that such a highly respected voice in unschooling was so reluctant to make his point that I didn't even bring it home from the library.

Clutter Free Finally & Forever

I was actually looking for Is There Life After Housework, by Don Aslett, but when I ran across this Clutter Free Finally & Forever (coincidentally also by Mr. Aslett) at the library, I thought "there's the book for me." Not so. This book is nothing more than a collection of useless tales - you might even say it's cluttered with tales - of the horribly cluttered state of people's homes. The few de-cluttering tips are so deeply buried in pointless verbiage they become impossible to find, and therefore useless.

19 December 2006

Thoughts on Public School

As I have been thinking about homeschooling, it's lead me to some more analytical thoughts on Public Schools and on my experience in them. Up until now, I really hadn't thought about the usual public education: about my education. I never questioned the value of the time I spent at school. It never occurred to me to wonder who decided what we should learn or how and when we should learn it. I didn't know there was any other way.

18 December 2006

Language and God

Fascinating! I am having some lovely new thoughts this afternoon. I've been reading the FAQs about Classical Christian Homeschooling, which is a very language-oriented philosophy of education. They have some interesting thoughts on why it is so important to master language:

Why is this language mastery so important? It is because God is a God of His Word. He spoke, and it came to be. He has chosen to reveal Himself to man by the Word. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14). (Read the rest of the article here.)

That particular passage of scripture has always puzzled me. I've never been able to make heads nor tails of it, but today I feel like I have a start at understanding it. When you consider that God is a God of His word, then it starts to make more sense. He is bound by His word, by the things that He says that He will do. He has given us the scriptures, but we have to work at it to understand the old language they use. Of course, this passage also is in reference to Christ as the Word. I still don't have the whole thing figured out, but I'm getting closer, I think.

Books I Gotta Get

Alright, I keep seeing people recommend books. Just tonight I've seen enough reading material on homeschooling to keep me reading for a month or more - and I read relatively quickly. Here's a few that look the most interesting:

Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto
How to Homeschool: a practical approach by Gayle Grahm
The Right Choice: homeschooling by Christopher Klicka
Is There Life After Housework by Don Aslett
Introduction to Classical Education by Christine Miller
Preparing for a Great Books Education by Wes Callihan
How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles van Doren
Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature & Survival for Children by Tom & Judy Brown

Guess I better get to the library and see if they've got any of these and see what I can get started on. I did peek at one, and Amazon had a used copy for less than $5, so I may look into that as well. In deciding to homeschool, I suspect that our personal library will be growing quite a bit over the next several years. Right now we've got a good start - there are 6 bookshelves in our home already, mostly full of books, but it's not a library that will give a well rounded education just yet.

17 December 2006

Which One is What & What One is Which

So, one of the big questions we face is "What sort of homeschooling do we want to do?" So far the answer is, "I really don't know." In my wandering around the internet, I have noticed that there are nearly as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschooling families.

Early in my research into how to homeschool I was a bit intrigued by unschooling but A's just not into that idea, so we're still looking. School-at-home doesn't appeal much: it seems like that's an OK way to do things occasionally, but you sure don't read much about people loving it. On the contrary, there seems to be a large number of folks out there that started out with school-at-home and then moved on to some other style. It's also often pegged as being cost-prohibitive. Unit studies looks somewhat promising. It makes sense to build Monkey's education in the things he needs to know around the things he wants to know.

Here's one that looks interesting, one I hadn't heard of before: Classical homeschooling. It's supposed to be ancient - from the Middle Ages - and develop reason, record, research, relate, and rhetoric skills. Hmmmm. Going to have to look into that one a little more.

One of the ladies at church, after hearing A speak today, is going to give me some information on a Principle Approach. She's sending me an email with some information, but while I wait for that I thought I'd poke around online some to see what I can come up with. It looks interesting. This seems to be a main portal for this method.

Good thing the Little Monkey's so small. Plenty of time remains before the selection of a starting method is really critically important.

15 December 2006

Article: Homeschool Civics Lessons

California homeschoolers took an emotional roller coaster ride this spring and summer when Berkeley Unified School District officials made a bid to outlaw homeschooling in our state. The Berkeley bureaucrats' attempt to have the courts declare independent homeschooling illegal was stopped when an open minded District Attorney, willing to educate himself about the Education Code and listen to the rock solid legal reasoning of Attorney William Rogers, declined to prosecute "The Berkeley Four" for truancy.

This was, of course, a victory for homeschoolers, with the Education Establishment again being turned back in their endless assault on educational liberty. More importantly, however, it was a victory for all parents because without the growing homeschool movement and its clearly superior pedagogy, public schools would not be under such great pressure to address their worst failings...

Having worked in public schools - and with my Mother teaching in a pleasant kindergarten class not far from where I live, I am suspious of such sweeping classifications as "Educational Establishment," and yet there seems to be more than a grem of truth in her observations about government in general and our government in particular.

13 December 2006

Changing Focus

Monkey and DaddyWith the birth of my son in September of this year, there is a new focus in my life. I find that much my interest and energy is consumed in making sure that his needs are met now, and in ensuring that I will be able to meet his needs in the future. After a whole lot of discussion, his Dad and I have determined that homeschooling will best meet our Little Monkey's needs. I've decided to change the focus of this blog as well, from a general sampling of whatever happens to catch my attention to one more focused on my thoughts and experiences as a homeschooling Mama.

There's a lot of interesting information out there on homeschooling. How to do it, why to do it, when to do it, what you need to have (or don't need to have) to do it. Around here Kindergarten is not compulsory, so Monkey doesn't actually have to begin his "education" until he's nearly seven years old (because of when his birthday is). However, between now and then there is a large amount of learning... sitting, standing, putting on clothes, speaking, tying shoes, letters, numbers... many many things to learn. It seems to me that it would be ideal to move seamlessly from these very basic skills into more "school-like" topics. Certainly he will have many stories read to him. Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton actually captured and held his attention yesterday, long enough to read the whole story, with him actually looking at the pictures. I anticipate that he will have a natural curiosity about the way that letters go together to make words and suddenly one day we'll realize he's reading.

a happly Little Monkey I imagine that in the early days that numbers and Math will go much the same way. Really, in settings outside of school, Math is often well mixed with Reading. For instance, that same Hippos Go Berserk book we read yesterday is actually a counting book: it counts one to nine, then back to one again, introducing not only numbers, but different ways to organize them. Another fun counting book is Counting Cows by Woody Jackson, which also counts backwards. Not to mention the counting we do around the house in counting his feet when we put on his socks, the sets of sit ups or other exercises his Dad and I do, and whatever else we happen to be doing that presents an opportunity to offer him numbers.

In an effort to find out what is going on behind those awesome eyes of his, we plan to use sign language to give him expressive language sooner than what he will be able to manage with speech alone. One of my girlfriends (also a homeschooling Mama) recommended the Sign With Your Baby materials she used with her children - I bought her kit for a song at her yard sale last summer while I was still pregnant. After watching the video we've decided to go ahead with the program, with a slight modification: we're introducing a few signs now (he's almost 3 months) rather than waiting until he's 6 months old. We may have to wait a while before he produces any signs, but I don't think that any language acquisition is wasted. I'm not waiting until he is able to produce speech to speak to him, so I see no need to wait to sign.

PlaytimeFor right now, those are the activities that form the core of his "education," with one significant addition. I wear him in a MobyWrap a lot, so he spends a great deal of time in the thick of the activity, watching what I'm doing, and I often will give him a running commentary on what I'm doing, how I'm doing it, and why it's important enough to bother with. Keeping him in the wrap keeps him close enough that I can guess what he's looking at and tell him about it. Not to mention that it allows me to hold him virtually as much as I want to and still get most things done almost as quickly as I might if he were playing on the floor.


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