Archive for August, 2010

Why Classical? – She Said

Monday, August 30th, 2010

A little over a week ago, Nate introduced our “Why Classical?” series with an overview of the topic. In this next installment in the series, I will give my opinion on the issue. Later, Nate will respond to my post. We hope to explore a number of issues in this manner, a category which we will name “He Said, She Said.”  We think Nate’s voice will provide a refreshing perspective, since the majority of homeschool bloggers seem to be moms.

As for why I like the classical method, or at least a variant thereof, part of my reasoning hails back to my teacher education. A good part of our secondary methods course (practically all except practicum and classroom management) was working with teacher candidates from other disciplines to create an interdisciplinary unit.  The thinking behind this is simple: learners retain information better when they can draw meaningful connections between subjects.* Integration is not merely desirable in classical education. Rather, it is practically a cornerstone. The curriculum covers the whole of history from the ancients to present day, integrating the literature, scientific developments, and fine arts of each time period. Admittedly, English grammar and math will be more difficult to integrate, but no more so than in the classroom.

One real advantage to classical education, which I find lacking in the current system, is that as students progress through the three stages, they build upon previous learning. Without the proper building blocks, it is difficult for learners to think critically and make meaningful connections with and between subjects. The Indiana Academic Standards mandate that in Kindergarten, students ” examine the connections of their own environment with the past.” While well-meaning, I believe that this is sort of putting the cart before the horse. Why not give students a full review of history, from start to finish, before asking them to make connections?  Young children are sponges for information, and much of history is more fascinating than you might believe.  As for grammar, I will spare you a description of the atrocities I saw on tenth-grade papers during my student teaching experience.  How students were allowed to progress that far without a basic grasp of sentence structure and punctuation is beyond me.

In short, I like classical education because it teaches the subjects within the proper context and provides the building blocks that students need to think critically about content.  Et tu, Nate?

<< Why Classical – An introduction

*National Middle School Association: NMSA Position Statement on Curriculum Integration Note: I realize that this article also mentions the benefits of the learner’s relationships with content, teacher, and other learners.  I may touch on these at another point, since I believe homeschooling supports all of these.  However, I cited the one that is relevant to this post.

Mathcounts and Homeschool students

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

The HSLDA has successfully negotiated where homeschooling teams can again compete the Mathcounts competition.  Mathcounts is a math competition for middle school students.  It is good that groups such as the HSLDA defend homeschool students from discrimination.

For more read here.

Homeschooling in the News: Homeschool Numbers on the Rise

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

We have been super busy with some major changes in our household and didn’t have time for a good, meaty post today.  However, we both enjoyed this news story that the HSLDA recently shared on Facebook.  This family is quite an inspiration, as is the fact that the number of homeschoolers has more than doubled in the last decade.  Enjoy!

Software Review: Toddler Flashcards iPhone App

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Did you know that penguins say, “Hur dur-dur-dur-dur?” Thanks to iTot Apps’ Toddler Flashcards, I do!  As with many learning tools we have stumbled upon, we originally purchased Toddler Flashcards to entertain the kids.  It ended up being one of the better 99 cents we’ve spent!  Toddler Flashcards is engaging, entertaining, and educational.  Our kids love it and so do we.

The application features dozens of digital flashcards that kids can flip through with the swipe of a finger.  Each “card” shows the printed word, a crisp photo illustration, and an audio clip of the word being pronounced. Some categories provide additional enhancements. For example, each animal’s sound plays after its pronunciation.   Last night, Isaac sat and played the penguin card over and over ad nauseam, giggling the whole time.  Toddler Flashcards works great any time kids must sit still for an extended period, such as in the car or at a restaurant.  We always carry our phones, so it is there when we need it.

The interface  is easy for kids–even very young ones– to navigate.  Our two- and four-year-olds often steal our phones and have figured out how to load the app.  Kids can easily browse through one of several categories: animals, food, things, shapes, colors, alphabet, and numbers.  One option also shuffles cards from the first three categories.  The app is simply packed with information that teaches vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, counting, colors–and plenty of trivia, such as the little penguin tidbit I shared earlier.

In short, we use and strongly recommend Toddler Flashcards to any iPhone user with toddlers or preschoolers.

(Note: We were not compensated in any way for this review.  We just love the app and wanted to share it with others who might find it useful.)

Why this Teacher Chose to Homeschool

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I acknowledge that all homeschool parents–all parents, really–are teachers, but few call themselves by that title.  I call myself a teacher because several years ago, I completed all of the requirements for a teaching license in secondary English education.  It may seem odd that someone who was once so involved with classroom learning would come to favor homeschooling.  Look at it in them terms of educational research, and it doesn’t seem like such a jump.  In my education classes, it was repeatedly emphasized that students benefit from the following:

  • Low student to teacher ratio. A review of educational literature presented by the U.S. Department of Education supports the notion that smaller class sizes lead to higher student achievement.  The effects are most pronounced in grades K-3 and, and become more significant as the student to teacher ratio approaches one to one.  In our home school, our smallest ratio will probably be one to four, which allows for lots of individualized attention for each of the children.
  • Individualized instruction. A popular idea in education, Howard Gardener’s theory of multiple intelligences simply suggests that different people learn things different ways.  Some kids learn by seeing, some by hearing, some by doing, etc.  With only three or four students to balance, I will have freedom to adapt lessons to each child’s learning style.  We can accelerate or decelerate our timetable without worrying about the other 27 kids in the class.
  • Authentic learning experiences. In a review of literature, Herrington and Oliver (2000) wrote: “When learning and context are separated, knowledge itself is seen by learners as the final product of education rather than a tool to be used dynamically to solve problems.”  Teacher education programs emphasize the importance of providing authentic learning experiences, and many teachers work hard to incorporate such experiences into their classrooms.  However, some real life experiences simply cannot be duplicated authentically within the classroom.  I appreciate that with homeschooling, the kids can learn within authentic environments–both inside the home and out in the community.  We can take a spontaneous field trip whenever we like without worrying about the cost and hassle of reserving a bus.

I do not argue that home education is the right choice for every family.  Some parents cannot or should not homeschool for a variety of reasons.  For my family, I believe that homeschooling is the best way that I can give my children an education that applies research-tested principles of effective teaching.  Also, it sounds like a lot of fun!

Free Resources: Letter Puppets

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I mentioned in Saturday’s post that I do not intend to follow Slow and Steady Get me Ready to a T.  This week’s activities are a perfect example of how I might adapt the ideas presented in the book.  I opened up to “Age 4 — Week 12″ and found that the week begins by introducing the letter D.  Thanks to Starfall, Levi has been able to identify all of the letters and their sounds since he was two years old.  Two years later, he is beginning to put words together using alphabet blocks.  Last week he even wrote his name on his magnetic writing board!  You will see in the picture at the left that he has an issue with spelling: he does not understand letter order.  We wouldn’t want him to go around signing things “Vile” or “Evil,” now would we?  One activity suggested in the text is to look through magazines for words that begin with a particular letter.  I think this could help.  We may also try cutting out the words and making a collage?  Too ambitious?  Maybe.  I’d also like try digging in sand for letters, mostly because it sounds like fun.

To introduce each of the letters, Oberlander asks parents to make “letter puppets.”  When I think of a puppet, I think of the figure of a person or animal; I would generally describe these as “flashcards on sticks.”  However, I will refer to them as puppets to prevent confusion.  While I don’t find it necessary to introduce each letter, the author suggests other activities to do with the puppets, so I decided to go ahead and make them.  Being the nerd that I am, I made them electronically.  If you’d like to save some work, or aren’t particularly fond of drawing, you can download my version from the Resource Center.  Just cut the sheet in half between the two letters and have your child color it.  Then, fold it in half and glue the sides together with a stiff cardboard “stick” or a craft stick in between.  Voila!  Instant letter puppets!

I’ll report later this week about how the activities work.

The Dreaded “S” Word – Socialization

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Any parent who has even thought of homeschooling has heard the so called dreaded “S” word, socialization.   Most homeschooling parents have heard it so many times they are sick of it.  The comments are usually (although not always) from well meaning people.  The fact of the matter is, many studies suggest that homeschoolers are better socialized than their schooled counterparts.

Dr. Thomas Smedley performed a Vineyard Adaptive Behavior Scales study on both publicly and home educated students.  The study looks for well-adapted and mature behaviors.  Homeschool students rated at 84th percentile whereas public school students rated at 23rd percentile.  There are other studies that mirror this result.

I have heard from other parents about pizza parties, sports and other “social” public school events my kids will miss out on.  This is a myth.  First, it is only available or fun if you are in certain “in crowds.”  Public schools are also a cradle of favoritism, sex, drugs, and bullying that are a part of “socialization.”

Do people really believe that home educated students just sit at home all the time and never get out?  Is it thought that the we simply replicate the public schools in our homes?  If so then why bother homeschooling at all?!  Fortunately this is only a myth; homeschoolers can and do get involved in outside activities.  The beauty is students can choose whatever interests them.  Homeschool co-ops and groups exist throughout the country for students to get together, play sports and have other social events.  The point is “socialization” is available in whatever type and amount the student chooses.

Periodically, I will answer questions and concerns about socialization and other issues about homeschooling.

Thoughts About Slow and Steady Get Me Ready

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

I have a confession to make: I got so excited about being about being able to download Slow and Steady Get me Ready for free that I failed to thoroughly read through the text before sharing the link.  I think that by posting a progress chart, I may be misrepresenting the way in which we plan to use the book.

Let me emphasize that we do not intend to precisely follow each week’s activities.  I created the chart as a concrete record that Levi is receiving instruction long before it is required by law.  It will also help me develop the habit of tracking his progress so that by the time school is legally required, it will come easily to me.  As with any curriculum resource, I plan to draw upon its ideas and adapt them to each child’s needs and abilities.  I will share my adaptations so that others may use what they find helpful.  I will leave the chart in the Resource Center, but please understand that I am not encouraging anyone to follow the book perfectly.

Nate and I are also slightly concerned with the author’s tone.  For example, in one place, she spoke of having to “unteach” what she called “improper printing” (I would argue what she calls “improper” is more a developmental stage on the way to “proper” printing.)  While the author may not have intended it so, I sense a condescending undertone toward parents.  I will not reject the entire book because of this.  The author does present some interesting activities, and overall, the book makes a good reference.  After all, it was free!