Archive for the ‘Issues’ Category

Have Your Cake and Eat Pi Too

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Cupcakes of psi, pi and tria (3)

Mandi sure can bake.  Those are cupcakes with chocolate icing.  Isaac asked for an “alphabeta” cake for his birthday.  Isaac wanted a yellow cake instead of pumpkin cake, and Mandi offered white or chocolate icing.  Isaac chose chocolate.

The photo to the left has psi and pi on the top.  The bottom cupcake has “tria,” or the Greek word for “three” on it.  We had no idea Isaac would want Greek alphabeta cupcakes.  Isaac also helped Mandi put the ingredients in and counted with her while mixing them.

Children develop their own interests.  Isaac for now is interested in
helicopters and Greek letters.  I figure Why not? Not everyone agrees.  A couple of people on Facebook commented that his interest is weird.  The ironic thing is they spelled it “w-i-e-r-d.”  Any child-initiated opportunity for learning is a good thing.

A wise Chinese proverb says “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”

Book Discussion: The Underground History of American Education – Chapter 1

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

This evening we took a drive and I read aloud from The Underground History of American Education.  The kids seemed to enjoy it, even if the concepts were far over their heads.  If nothing else, this submerses them in language and they find the cadence of my voice relaxing as I read aloud.

As promised, I have developed a few questions to spark discussion of Chapter 1.  These are just a jumping-off point.  If you have other questions to raise, we’d love to hear them.  Now, ready … set … discuss!

1. Gatto writes: “Something in the structure of schooling calls forth violence.” He gives modern-day examples of “slurs, aspersion, formal ranking, insult, and inference,” which he believes are “more deadly” than physical violence?  Does this match your experience with schooling?  Which do you believe is most detrimental: physical violence or emotional violence?

2. Throughout the chapter, Gatto uses the analogy of driving a car to illustrate attitudes about compulsory education.  He points out that very with few hours of training or experience, we allow practically anyone to operate a massive deadly weapon full of an explosive liquid.  Why, then, do governments require people to attend schools to learn skills such as reading and math?

3. In ancient Rome, a pedagogue was a slave trained as a drill master for young students.  Despite the negative connotations of its etymology, the word “pedagogy” is often used to describe modern school science.  Do the origins of the term reflect current educational practices?  If so, how?

4. Gatto argues that the public education system is based upon a Hindu model, which was used to keep the lower castes in place.  Andrew Bell, who is largely responsible for bringing this method to the West, called it an “impediment to learning writing and ciphering, an efficient control on reading development.”  Do you think that compulsory education has any effect on class relations today?  If so, what effects does it have and what are their causes?

5. Lincoln, Farragut, Edison, Franklin, Washington … Gatto lists self-educated people who did great things at a young age.  Today, some of these people would still be in middle school at the age when they accomplished their crowning acheivements.  Why does our society shelter children well into their teens or twenties?  What might be the effects of allowing teens more responsibility?

If you missed the first installment in this series, you can catch it here.

You can read the full text of Gatto’s book online.

A Holy Curiosity

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Levi found my middle school yearbook yesterday, and managed to color several photos fuschia before I caught him. As I flipped through to survey the damage, I paused to reminisce.  One page spread showed pictures from various classes: physical education, math, science, social studies.  Aside from the captions, I couldn’t tell most of them apart.  Here, I’ve shared the picture labeled “Science.”  Pardon me, but I don’t see much science happening in this picture.

Contrast this with yesterday’s outing with the kids.  We took a nature hike, snapped some family photos, and took in the beautiful fall day.  They experienced firsthand the flora and fauna of a temperate forest, our local biome.  They experimented with physics by throwing small rocks over a ledge and widely missing the lake below.  They collected pods from locust trees and shook them, listening to the seeds rattle inside.  True, there is something to be said for systematic learning, and some science facts (e.g. the periodic table) must be memorized.  We’ll do plenty of both over the next several years.  Still, there is no replacement for observing one’s world, guided by innate curiosity.  Perhaps Albert Einstein said it best when he said:

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.

As Nate and I educate our children, one of our goals is to preserve and enhance that curiosity.  I am concerned that the type of “science” occurring in this yearbook picture would stifle it.

No Cable? No Problem!

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Something we had on vacation that we don’t have at home was cable.  We have no religious or ethical opposition to TV–we just don’t need it.  We’d rather put that money toward super-fast Internet. ;)   After this trip, I can now confidently say that I’m glad we don’t have it.

It’s not that we don’t consume our share of media as a family.  We have our TV connected to a computer so we can watch shows online.  We are able to catch episodes of some of the more popular shows on Hulu.com.  Hulu also offers a variety of good family movies like Benji.   When watching online, we are able to save less age-appropriate shows for after the kids are asleep.  Most popular kids shows are not available (legally) on the Internet, so we don’t generally see them.  Both our cabin and our hotel room had cable or satellite.  We watched a few cartoons, more out of novelty than anything.

I was more annoyed than offended by what I saw.  Most of it came across painfully stupid while at the same time preachy and didactic.  I can’t remember seeing one adult character that wasn’t portrayed as stupid or clueless or cruel.   And there were ads–wow, were there ads!  Online, we see one ad (or at most two) every ten minutes or so.  Most of these sell household products or grocery items.  Nearly all of the ads shown during cartoons bombarded kids with yet another piece of plastic crap that they need.  A Barbie with a built in video camera?  Really?  I’d almost rather they watch adult shows.  “Inappropriate” humor is usually disguised so kids don’t understand it.  Materialism, on the other hand, reaches up and slaps them in the face.

Could we have just turned it off?  Absolutely.  Should we have?  Probably.  Sometimes you just can’t look away.  Thankfully, we don’t usually have to make that choice.

Lies I Learned in School: “You Need a College Degree to be Successful”

Monday, September 6th, 2010

I do not wish to make this blog into a soapbox for bashing public schools.  I attended public schools for my entire K-12 career and overall, I’m happy with how I turned out.  However, the system perpetuates a number of myths that can seriously impact students’ lives.  In the proceeding series of posts, I will expose some of the more common myths–or lies–that the public education  system wants you to believe.  Please understand that I am not taking issue with individual teachers, but with the system itself.

A billboard touting the achievements of our local schools

Due to recent changes in state policy, students in Indiana may now attend any school in the state tuition-free.  Local districts receive funding based upon how many seats are filled in their classrooms.  This has encouraged schools to compete against one another.  In the face of decreasing enrollment, our city’s public schools have launched an advertising campaign to attract students.  Their claim to fame?  Eighty percent of their 2009 graduates pursued a college education.  What they don’t advertise is that their graduation rate is below 75%.  However, the greater problem for me is not their use of statistics.  It is the implication that the more students who go to college, the better.  This lie cost me years of my life and tens of thousands of dollars.

I entered school on the gifted track, and continued on it until I graduated high school.  I honestly cannot remember a time when college was not the only option presented to me.  It was commonly accepted that the higher your educational attainment, the higher your salary.  Statistically, this may be true, but the statistics only present the silver lining of this dark cloud that hangs over many disappointed college graduates.

There are a few important conditions to this assumption that I wish someone would have told me about.  First, these statistics do not apply to all disciplines.  Students in the humanities and liberal arts will be lucky to make half of the average $53,000 earned by people with a bachelor’s degrees.  Second, student loan debt cancels out much of the extra money earned as the result of a college degree.  When I was working full-time with a master’s degree, after factoring in my student loans, I was taking home less than nine dollars per hour.  Chances are, had I stayed with my after school job in fast food and moved up the ranks, I would have come out ahead financially.  Student loan debt often takes years to repay, and may force some families to keep two incomes when one parent would have otherwise chosen to stay at home with their children.

Lest I appear as an ingrate, I should say that I do not regret earning a bachelor’s degree.  (The master’s was the biggest mistake of my life, and I would have been better served by an associate’s to begin with.)  Though I may have earned the same amount of money at another job, my degrees have helped me obtain jobs that I enjoy.   When my children reach the age where they are considering college, I plan to present them with all the pros and cons.  Whatever path they choose, I want them to choose it for the right reasons, not because it is the next step on their educational track.  I urge schools to do the same.  Pushing everyone toward college may seem noble, but in the end it results in a bunch of jaded adults who wish someone had been brutally honest.

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.