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27 March 2007

His Box

I read This is Your Box this afternoon. It's got some fun ideas - ones that I think will probably serve us well if we can implement them around our home. I like the idea of having "yes" places where our Monkey is always allowed to be, things he is always allowed to use. The article's idea of making these things reflective of what Mom & Dad are doing makes perfect sense to me: Littles always want to be like their Bigs, to be doing the important things their Bigs are doing.

23 March 2007

Watching the Sky

I had these fabulous plans for this evening: last night I was driving home from a family get-together & it was so bright & clear outside about 9pm, and the moon was up (it's a waxing crescent right now) and it was really cool looking, cuz you could actually also see the dark part, but below it and a very little to the south was this very bright thing. Looked very bright & kinda big to be a star, so I came home & looked it up this morning. Turns out it was Venus. Orion's right there in the same neighborhood. Saw it last night too, although I didn't think a whole lot about it. Right above Orion is Taurus, which contains both the Crab Nebula & the Pleiades. Man was I ever looking forward to dark tonight! Gonna go watch the sky & see what I could see.

So, this afternoon, I go on a walk & even find a nice spot that would probably work for starwatching not too far from home. It's nice and open, and this afternoon it was filled with birds, including Red-wing Blackbirds, which I love to listen to. But as I'm coming back the clouds are rolling in... I doubt that I'd be able to see the moon, much less a planet or a Nebula. Bummer. But they'll probably still be there on Sunday (I'm too busy tomorrow to try it.) I should check the weather & see if that might be a better time to look at the sky.

Astronomy for Kids: Taurus
Astronomy for Kids: Venus
Weather Underground: last night's star chart

09 March 2007


Andy is a scientist. He works on linear particle accelerators for a living. I've seen several physicists of our acquaintance drool over a chance to see these wonderful(?) machines he works with every day. At home he looks into the mysteries of over-unity motors and he presides over the inner works of our computers and the network he set up between them. He knows an amazing amount about the human body, ranging from chiropractic adjustments to reflexology, acupressure, and massage. He occasionally ponders concepts of time travel and flight in his spare time.

Not surprisingly, the math/science component of Monkey's education is a topic of great concern for him.

So when I set out browsing through HEM this afternoon, I perked right up when i saw that they're featuring science right now. Here is something interesting. Something I am going to need to know about. I dived right in.

First, an article about teaching high school science from a scientist, "Learning and Doing Science," by Cafi Cohen. She's clearly unimpressed with regular high school science, and the reasons she gives for it are valid.

Classroom science ... focus[es] on ... the "body of facts" and "systematic knowledge" and "general laws." The result? Students taking biology read the text, complete worksheets, bumble through "experiments" (which, sadly, have but One Right Answer), and take exams to demonstrate that they can differentiate porifera from coelenterates. Classroom science... rewards memorization and regurgitation. Answers are prized; questions are discouraged.

Although I would say that my most intense and memorable science teacher worked hard to bring us interesting labs and was truly committed to seeing us reach our potential (he was also the class advisor), a lot of both the physics and chem classes I took from him were just like she describes: memorize, the stress over coming to the "right answer" in the lab, rehash on the test.

In contrast, real world scientists practice definition (2) above, "knowledge of the physical world gained through observation and experimentation." ...

They focus on doing, rather than on memorizing what everyone else has done. Instead of rehashing another's explorations and discoveries, real world scientists study the unknown, the not-yet-understood. Their questions are just as important as the answers. Unlike the situation with classroom science, real world scientists are often rewarded for asking new questions and for creative experimental design.

Interestingly, as I consider the dichotomy Cohen talks about between "real" science and "class" science, I realize that even when we did have a nice open-ended project - for instance building little balsa wood bridges to see how much weight we could get them to hold - it was often more competitive (whose bridge holds the most) than comparative (what design elements hold the most). Cohen talks about her son's ongoing interest in model rocket design. She tells a little about how he played with various elements of his rockets as he entered competitions. That's experimentation. How much more will he have learned from doing the "same" thing 50 different ways in search of the best flight possible? I'm quite sure that he learned more about rockets than I did about the strength of balsa wood or the strongest architectural shapes it can be made into: I only got to do it once. Then we moved on to something else.

Lesson for me: There is wisdom in letting an interest run its course, in finding materials for repeated experiments. Even when the Monkey manages to choose something that I'm not terribly interested in, which I'm sure he'll do at least once or twice.

Several of the other article I read were as much a list of reviews of science-related books as articles. Here are some of the books that appear most likely to find their way to our family's bookshelves:

The Amature Naturalist by Gerald Durrell

From Franklyn M. Branley's "Let's-Read-and-Find-Out" Science Series:
Snow Is Falling
Hurricane Watch
Tornado Alert
Sunshine Makes the Seasons
Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll

The Cloud Book by Tomie de Paola

It's Raining Cats and Dogs: All Kinds of Weather and Why We Have It by Franklyn Branley (this one's supposed to cover pink(!) snow)

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

How Artists See the Weather: Sun, Wind, Snow, Rain by Colleen Carroll

Weather Dude: A Musical Guide to the Atmosphere by Nick Walter

The Weather Factor by David Ludlum (weather's impact on history!)

Yeah, I know, I'm showing my own biases in what is interesting, but with the Monkey so small at all I'm not sure where else to start. And even a few of those books would add to the foundation of science books already in our personal library.

Mother Goose: Print Awareness

Today's Mother Goose story time at the library was about print awareness. It was interesting, but not anything earth shattering. Miss Ellen talked about ordinary things that have words on them: shirts, cups, wall hangings. She'd brought in some of her own things with words on them, and showed them to us. Had the kids look at their shirts to decide if there are any words on them. She passed out words to the songs we were singing and had us point to certain words any time they appeared in the text. It was pretty basic stuff.

On the one hand, I kinda feel like, "I got up early for THIS?" On the other hand, it's kinda nice to know that we're already doing things right. We read to the Monkey, and when he gets a little older we'll notice words around and about. I think that the group would be better advertised for 12-36 months, rather than 0-36 months. Monkey would get a whole lot more out of it if he were quite a bit older. I was very interested to see a number of kids there with their Daddies (well, I presume the men were their Daddies). And a few lucky kids had both parents there. It's too bad that Monkey's Daddy has a conference call at that time. There's no way that Monkey-boy is going to have both his parents there.

In any case, we got some more books to look at. Several are in Spanish, which should help both my vocabulary and help keep the "teach Monkey Spanish" project alive.

The Real Mother Goose

06 March 2007

Difficult Month

My goodness, but February's been a difficult month! Not only did every single one of my families miss at least one lesson, but I spent 2 weeks fighting a Wicked Cold. But I think that's finally behind us now, and we're getting back into the swing of things again.

I signed the Monkey up for a "Mother Goose" reading readiness group at the library. It's actually more for me than him, I think. One week we're supposed to talk about print awareness, and one week about phonemic awareness, stuff like that, using Mother Goose and music. Sounds like a really cool class to me! The big draw-back? It's at 9am. I have to be dressed, have the Monkey dressed, both of us fed, and somehow manage to get to the library on time. Sometimes Andy's odd sort of 2nd shift schedule is really nice... sometimes it's not. But it's only 5 weeks, so I can do it for that long.


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