The Pond View

November 18th, 2010 by Nate

The boys looking into a pond

Last Friday, we took a trip to the Lost Bridge State Recreation Area.  We arrived around 5:00 p.m.  The sun was beginning to set.  We took a flashlight just in case it got dark before we returned to our car.  Levi initially did not want to go on the hike.  After a while he started to enjoy himself and played in the leaves.

We also observed two deer,a buck and a doe.  Levi yelled at them and scared them off.  Still they were pretty close.  The view in the woods and off of the pond around sunset is quite simply amazing.  The trail has markers.  Both boys started counting them down from 16 to 1 (we walked the trail “backwards”).  It is amazing what they pick up and learn by themselves without prompting.  Opportunities to learn are everywhere.

We finally cleared the woods and arrived at the pond as the sun was setting.  The boys wanted to go out onto the dock on the pond.  They took some leaves and tossed them in and watched them float.  We spent some time there on the cool and quiet water letting the boys observe and experiment.

We finally returned to the trail as twilight arrived, and we used the flashlight briefly as we returned the van.  It was a fun hike in the woods for us and the kids.  I look forward to doing this more often in the future.

Isaac: And So the Sun Sets on 2

November 16th, 2010 by Nate

trail marker at twilight

Three years ago today, Mandi and I welcomed our second son, Isaac, into the world.  In fact, I caught his rather large head.  He was four weeks early due to preeclampsia.  He was still seven pounds, 15 ounces and 20.5 inches long at 36 weeks.

It is hard to believe three years have now passed since that snowy November day. My little buddy is growing so quickly.

We took a walk Friday at the Salamonie Reservoir at sunset.  This is where we took this photo of a trail marker. We saw a lot of deer.  Of course Levi had to yell at them.

Happy τρίτος (third) birthday, little dude.

Have Your Cake and Eat Pi Too

November 14th, 2010 by Nate

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

October 31st, 2010 by Mandi

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.

Isaac and an Innate Curiosity

October 24th, 2010 by Nate

Isaac sitting on a park bench

Isaac is almost 3 years old.  He is very curious about how things in the world work, sometimes to our chagrin–especially when it involves water or a piece of electronics.

Still, even through the headache and expense, his curiosity and interest is amazing.  He can operate either Mandi’s iPhone or my HTC Droid phone and get what he wants.  He can even remotely control (as can his older brother) our Mac Mini that runs our TV.  This is our second Mac Mini since Isaac helped the first one bite the dust.

Isaac repeatedly asks for  the”Alphabeta” video lately.  Here it is.  The pronunciation is off in a few places, but it is still fun (sounds a little like the 80s pop song “I’m Too Sexy”).  We are working to insure this curiosity is preserved.

Book Discussion: The Underground History of American Education – Intro

October 24th, 2010 by Mandi

Lately, I’ve been listening to speeches and interviews of  John Taylor Gatto, a champion of school reform.  During one radio segment, he mentioned that he offers one of his several books for free on his website!  Sure enough, I visited his site and found the full text of The Underground History of American Education there.  I am excited about Gatto’s ideas and would love to start writing about the book right now.  Unfortunately, I haven’t read enough to make an informed analysis.

Instead, I am going to extend an invitation.  Read along with me!  Each week, I will read one chapter and throw out some questions for discussion.  Now, here’s where you come in: please use the comments section to share your reactions to the text.  Nate and I will jump in and chat with you.  Hopefully we will start an interesting and informative dialogue.

A week from today, I will post questions for Chapter 1.  For those who prefer to read from a printed page rather than a screen, the print version is available from Amazon.

Free Resource: Videos Teaching Greek, Latin and Other Ancient Languages

October 22nd, 2010 by Nate

We were searching on YouTube for more “alphabeta” that Isaac wanted.  I ran across a YouTube channel by a gentleman named Kleber Kosta.  He teaches Greek (both modern and ancient) as well as Latin and a few others.  It is really interesting and very comprehensive.

A Holy Curiosity

October 18th, 2010 by Mandi

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.


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