Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

26 Hours

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Last week at the recycled crafts class that I teach, we made clocks from old CDs. One of the girls in the class mused that she wanted her clock to go to 13 instead of 12. I only thought of her suggestion as cute at the time, but looking at it symbolically, I realized how I really could use an extra two hours in every day. I’m not formally teaching yet, but I still find it challenging to fit everything in. I have a question for you, readers. How do you find an extra hour or two in your day? What time-saving tips and tricks can you share? Share a great idea in the comments area, and you may just find yourself featured in a future post! :)

Our Kids: The Reason It Is Worth It

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Isaac pouring sand on Levi as Naomi watches

Kids can be A LOT of work as any parent will say.  A common comment I hear is that parents can’t wait till their kids go to preschool or kindergarten.

I guess on one hand I can understand.  Mandi and I need to get away from the kids occasionally.  On the other hand, we chose to have these children, and care deeply for them.  I want to spend time with my kids and help them become productive adults.  I know soon enough will come the day I will be helping each of them move out.  I say why shove them out the door any sooner than necessary?

We have made sacrifices and decisions over that last four years to see this happen.  That is OK, as most parents make sacrifices for their offspring.  In the process, we have also found a better life for our family.  Does homeschooling work for everyone?  Probably not.

As the picture shows, kids can be work and a lot of fun too.  Levi didn’t enjoy getting the sand shower as much as Isaac enjoyed giving it.  Naomi was sure entertained though.

I don’t know how at all the next twenty or so years will end up.  I do know whatever happens we will raise and teach our kids on our terms and be responsible for the outcome.  In my view that it is all worth it.

Defending the Reputation of Rote Learning

Friday, September 10th, 2010

I often talk about my education courses and how they inform my homeschooling philosophy and practice.  One place where I part ways with my education is my opinion of rote learning.  Rote learning has a bad reputation in educational circles these days.  K12 Academics pretty well sums up the impression I received of this type of learning from my instructors and texts.  They write:

Rote learning is a learning technique which avoids understanding the inner complexities and inferences of the subject that is being learned and instead focuses on memorizing the material so that it can be recalled by the learner exactly the way it was read or heard. In other words, it is learning “just for the test.

Thankfully, after some research into classical education, I appreciate the value of rote learning, and find K12′s assessment to be unfair. They totally misunderstand the purpose of memorization. As I understand it, students do not memorize facts during the grammar stage so that they can “regurgitate” them on a test. In fact, I plan to use few formal assessments in the early years. Instead, the purpose is to introduce students to the basics of each subject so that the concepts sound familiar when they delve deeper into content.  I am confident that this will help them in the later stages of our curriculum–when their brains have developed to the point where they can understand “the inner complexities and inferences.”

Memorization need not be boring, either. We have no intention of sitting our children in a chair, pointing to a chart while they mindlessly repeat our every word. Nate has written a bit about the Song School Greek and Latin that we received earlier this week. Today we also received the Math-U-See Skip Counting and Addition CD.  All are based on the same concept: using songs to help kids (and adults!) memorize the facts so integral to their understanding of material.  The instructor on the Math-U-See CD emphasizes that students must eventually know the facts independently from the songs.  That’s something we’ll work toward.  For now, we’ll keep on learning like we’ve done since our first child was born–by just having fun!

Learning at Twilight

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Indiana at Twilight

We took the kids to the park this evening and they loved playing on the slides and swings.  The play area was fairly empty.

Afterwards, we took a drive for a little while and watched nightfall.  The photo on the left, Mandi took of the twilight sky.  While driving, we put the new Song School Greek CD in the van’s CD player.  We will post a first impressions review later of the product.

Levi was repeating some of it and then working Greek words into English sentences.  I think he argued with the CD a few times too.  The drive reminded me that learning can happen anywhere, not just sitting at a desk with a book or tutor.

In this glorious information age we now have access to information only a generation or two ago wasn’t even dreamed of.  This provides ample opportunity to teach as a way of life, not simply a task to do at a certain time of the day.  Again, a great end to a beautiful day.

So you are teaching your kids Greek?

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Levi playing with Greek blocks

Someone on Facebook asked if we are teaching our kids Greek.  I responded that yes, we are.  I previously discussed some of our reasons in the Isn’t Latin a dead language? post.

We will introduce Latin and Greek from Preschool age in the age appropriate form.  We are using Song School Latin and Greek for early learning.  We have gotten the kids Uncle Goose Greek Alphabet blocks. These blocks are simply to get the kids used to seeing the Greek alphabet.

In later years we will likely use either Classical Academic Press Greek for Children Primer or Memoria Press Latina Christiana.

From Plato to the New Testament, Greek has many works that cover various subject matter.  The twin classical languages being taught early in a fun way rather than pure rote memorization is an important goal for our children.

It will likely be easier for our kids to learn the languages with mastery than for us adults.  Its not just about teaching our children challenging subjects, but also doing it in a way that they find interesting.

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.

Why Classical? – He Said

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Isn’t Latin a dead language?  Why teach it?

“Ut ager quamvis fertilis sine cultura fructuosus esse non potest, sic sine doctrina animus.” or “A mind without instruction can no more bear fruit than can a field, however fertile, without cultivation.”  -Cicero

The great orator Marcus Tullius Cicero made this excellent observation.   A well- educated mind requires instruction.  The classical method is language-driven–specifically focused on Latin and Greek.  The teaching of classical languages are often seen as a reason that classical teaching is dated.

Many of the great thinkers throughout history were taught by the classical method, including instruction in Latin.  At age 19, John Calvin wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion, originally in Latin.  The translator of Harry Potter into Latin was the personal tutor to the British royal family.

If you take a close look at the great works of Western thought–specifically the Latin and Greek writings–you move from language to history, theology, mathematics, law and philosophy.  With Latin and Greek comes access to almost 3,000 years of the human experience, both triumphs as well as failures.  This access is direct and not through translation, which generally is good, but still is a third-party interpretation.

Access to many works of Western thought in their native tongue provides a unique opportunity.  We are trying Classical Academics Press Song School Latin and Greek to expose the kids to these languages early.  We will post our experiences with the products as we use them.

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.