Friday, October 29, 2004

Therapeutic Coloring -- Learning Log

Today was a rainy day, so I brought out a cardboard playhouse I picked up at Wal-Mart a few weeks ago. It has beach designs all over it (probably why it was only $5) and comes with some 'washable' markers. The girls had fun playing with it -- going inside it and coloring on it. Of course, the 2 year-old colored all over her arms. She does it all the time, I can't believe she'll grow up to be anything other than a tatoo artist. Of course, she's also going through a phase of taking off her clothes constantly, so her future professional choices are a bit disturbing at the moment. And I don't know how many times a day I say to her "nice girls don't take off their shirts." Mardi Gras here she comes.

After the 2 year-old was put down to nap, my 4 year-old asked me to color with her on the playhouse. I must say, I found it very calming. I'd like to say I emptied my head, but I did feel very peaceful and into the coloring. Suzanne decided she wanted to work on the same design as I was and it was duplicated on the other side of the house. So we peacefully colored on opposite sides of the house. Interestingly, her work was very derivitive; she kept checking to see what I was doing and what color I was using and copied me.

Coloring books are a topic of debate among unschoolers. The purists eschew them, feeling that they stomp on the child's innate creativity. Others are less concerned. I figure that we have both coloring books and plain drawing paper and the girls are free to choose which they want to use and how. I could care less whether and if they 'stay in the lines.'

We made instant pudding after the coloring. I made Suzanne read the instructions on the box and was pretty impressed when she read them all. I wondered if I heard what I wanted to hear. I asked her again to read 'immediately,' she sort of mush-mouthed it and didn't know the word when questioned. I thought she did a good job of faking it; she got the 'imm' sound right -- she also read it quickly, didn't stop and act as if she didn't know it. Great, another lawyer in the family.

What Game is Your Life?

When my husband worked as an associate in litigation for a law firm, he told me his job felt a bit like playing the amusement park game Whack-A-Mole. That game involves holding a large, soft mallet while electronic 'moles' emerged from various holes. The quicker you whacked them, the higher your score.

Today, I'm feeling a bit like the game Asteroids -- these young children keep coming at me from various sides and I have to stay alive.

I imagine PacMan would describe how a lot of people feel -- I was wondering if it might describe DH's current job, at least the part about being chased around by ghosts.

Anyway, I was just wondering what game your life feels like. This is not limited to Gen Xers who might be more familiar with arcade games, if a board game describes your life, tell me about it.

Episcopalians Anonymous

Hello, my name is Sparky and I'm an Episcopalian.

Hi, Sparky!

The Episcopal Church is dealing with the fall-out of having consecrated a homosexual bishop in New Hampshire. I don't know that there is any Episcopal church that has been unaffected by this, though some have more difficulty with it than others. Some parishs are considering breaking away, some parishioners are leaving for other churches, and some churches are considering affliliating with some sort of Anglican organization, a more conservative branch that opposes the consecration of gays -- I don't know much about this organization (not even its name) because my parish is not among those considering membership.
To read more, click on the Xs

I think all Episcopalians (and probably many others) have asked themselves how they feel about the consecration of a gay bishop. Can you accept that? Under what reasoning?

This is a difficult issue for me but not for the most obvious reason. Its difficult for me because in discussing my view, I have offended people and disrupted a small discussion group at my church. I'm really very ashamed about the whole situation, though I think I'm making more of it than there really was. I'm very reluctant to create any more pain about this issue but I still have wounds that are unhealed, so this is my attempt to find a bit healing and perhaps make a bit more sense of my feelings on the issue.

I don't have a problem with consecrating a gay bishop if the person is not promiscuous -- i.e. the person is either in a committed relationship or celibate. I would expect the same from any unmarried priest. First issue resolved.

The reasoning behind my view is where things get tricky. One line of reasoning might be termed "sin is everywhere." In this view, I say that I realize the Bible makes several statements against homosexuality. The Bible also makes several statements against divorce and remarriage but the Episcopal church has been able to overcome this nasty little problem -- I believe there are both priests and bishops who have been divorced and remarried. This leads me to wonder on what basis gay priests can be denied the opportunity to become bishops. This is where the explosion went off in my small group -- regardless of the obvious fact that none of us were priests and therefore ineligible to seek a bishopric, one person became extremely offended, thinking that I was condemning her. At that point, I realized that I had created more strife when what I was seeking to do was explain my reasoning. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Okay, lets move beyond my issues. If sin is the barrier to consecrating a gay bishop, we must realize that we are weighing sins here. It would follow that we are determining homosexuality to be a greater sin than adultery (which is what the Bible has called divorce and remarriage). I'm not picking on anyone who has been remarried, here -- I'm not judging them. Mistakes happen, people hurt each other -- praise God that they can move on. Doesn't the Bible emphasize the quest for redemption? We're talking about who can be a bishop here. I can't and it doesn't bother me a bit.

Back to sin -- one sin that gets harped on quite a bit in the Bible is the sin of pride. I have a problem with pride. I have met many priests who have a problem with pride. Shall we deem the sin of pride to be less than the sin of homosexuality? Some apparently feel that we should. I think the Catholics even put pride, the love of self instead the love of God, as tops in the Seven Deadly sins. (I may be way off on that, but it makes the list).

Leaving the topic of sin, what other rationales might we find for allowing the consecration of a gay bishop? The Bishop of my diocese reasoned in a New York Times Magazine article last winter that the churches of New Hampshire had elected to consecrate the gay priest, that there had been many votes and this was who the people wanted as their Bishop. The General Convention vote was merely the last vote in a long line of elections. Shouldn't the people have the Bishop they want?

Later, I read an article, or perhaps it was in the same article, where my Diocesan Bishop discussed his Biblical reasoning for voting for the consecration of a gay bishop. He felt that the liberal tenor of the New Testament allowed for the acceptance of homosexuality in the future and that the consecration would not be contrary to that. I'm sure I'm mangling this a bit, but my point was that my Bishop did look at the Bible and consider its message as part of his reasoning.

All of this leads me to what will have to be a future post -- what is the point of a bishop anyway? Right now, all I can think of is that they move diagonally. Chess humor.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Dear Daughter's Post -- October 16, 2004

My 4 year-old DD knows that I enjoy blogging. Being at a highly imitative age, she wants a blog of her own. I've offered to set up a real one for her, but she'd rather do her own one.

She dictated to me a post:

"Here is my blog. My computer is so hard to work on. Remember my book, Leaves, that I worked on and it was so hard, too. Then turn off computer."

By the way, she made her own computer and I didn't even know it. She glued a blue piece of construction paper to a green piece and bent to blue to make a screen. She took a building block and traced around it in four different places to make keys. I just noticed it today, I don't know when she did it. I don't plan or initiate art activities for her. I'm glad to see confirmation that I don't need to, she'll do it on her own and it shows more creativity than if I showed her a project to make and told her how to do it.

Makes Worship Fun

A phrase often used in advertising educational toys for children is "makes learning fun!" This makes my blood boil. Learning is inherently fun, its only when learning is forced unwanted on people that it becomes a drudgery. Having to put the fun back in learning tells me that something went very wrong somewhere.

I was at an adult education lecture at my church a few weeks ago and the topic was the communion services in the Book of Common Prayer. Oh, oh, bad joke in my head. Why doesn't the Catholic Church use the Book of Common Prayer? Because the initials are the same as birth control pills. I said it was a bad joke. Anyway, the Book of Common Prayer contains the services used by the Episcopal church, along with prayers and other documents.

I took some notes on the history and theology of the services -- frankly, I found the lecture a little dull (hence the title of this post). At some point, my thoughts took over from the notes I was taking on the lecture. I have the question "does Orthodoxy work?" I'm willing to bet this was not what the lecturer was saying. I was wondering if the church is accomplishing what the Bible set forth as its purpose. With him I am well pleased. Does this apply to the Church today?

The lecturer discussed the theology imbedded in the BCP. She said that the authors were motivated to set forth some uniformity because of the profusion of movements during the Reformation; there was a florid view of what was permissive in the Christian church and the Reformers were trying to stop it. The problem was one with the doctrine, not the practice. The corruption was in the teaching and the uniform prayer had a specific form to fix this.

If this sounds stilted and unclear, its because it is -- I should have typed up my notes and thoughts soon after I heard the lecture. I didn't and I post this stuff just to see if it sparks a discussion. Call me Sparky.

Learning Log -- October 21, 2004

My unschooling log -- sometimes its easier to see what you've done than what you're doing.

My 4 year-old DD was painting with brushes on an easel while I was puttering around tidying things up. (Note: you can get a very reasonably priced stand-up art easel from Ikea; no need to order one for $80 through a fancy toy catalog). I had a bunch of fliers and pamphlets and other giveaways from the Black Family Reunion, and I finally started sorting through them. I came across a 2004 wall calendar and asked DD if she wanted it. She got very excited and started flipping through it. She flipped to October and asked me for the date, noting that the day was Wednesday. I told her it was the 21st and that it was actually Thursday (this is a no-no according to John Holt, who thought it better to let the child correct herself, believing that the child would eventually do so and that no harm is done in the meantime. He had exceptions, of course, where there was actual danger posed by a potential mistake). She notices that there are two Columbus Days marked on the calendar, which gave me the opportunity to explain the difference between a holiday itself and when the holiday is observed.

She saw the notations in the calendar for the phases of the moon -- new, first quarter, full, and last quarter. I was intrigued that there was no half moon notation; later, my husband and I figured that one out (since we only see one side of the moon, a 'half' moon is really a quarter of the actual moon -- we're only seeing half of the half that faces the earth. So its new with no sun reflected on it, then waxing to half, which is first quarter, than waxing beyond to full and then waning back to last quarter, which is really back down to 'half' again, then back to new. I hope we got that right, otherwise the kids are off to school. Nah, we'd just learn it together).

She flipped over to February and saw Valentine's Day and said that its on the February 4. I corrected her (Holt: bad mommy) and point to where the 4th is on the calendar and ask her what day Valentine's Day is. She counts up to 14. I do a really quick lesson on ordinals, saying that February 14 is the 14th of February.

Hopefully, that covers math for awhile.

Earlier in the week, we went to a story time at the library. I always love hearing what DD says to other people. The librarian mentioned pumpkins and DD told her how we had pumpkins on the porch and one was eaten by a squirrel who was eating lots of food to sleep through the winter. So she does listen to the things I tell her (hope I was right!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Skipping Preschool

Are we homeschooling preschool, homepreschooling or skipping preschool? Take your pick. An interesting article on preschool and the home appeared in the most recent issue of The Link, by a mom who sent her son to preschool but withdrew him because he was bored. [if the link to the article doesn't work, try this one, its a different article, but she mentions this about halfway through it.]

I appreciate all the resources available on the web (many are also available in print, but its so easy to websurf). I like checking the World Book scope and sequence to see if we're missing anything. By their list, we're on target except for writing -- of course, this doesn't really help me because I'm not going to push writing, her muscles aren't ready yet. I think its a natural drive to want to communicate with others and I'm certain she will write when she is able -- she's at the scribbling stage where she claims its writing (though she knows it isn't), a developmental stage on the road to writing (just as pretending to read a memorized book is a step on the road to reading). At least the list gives me something to look at to see if there are any dreaded gaps (learning gaps is a fun topic on the hs e-mail groups).

Broadly speaking, the World Book scope and sequence for preschool lists skills pertaining to: size, shapes and colors, numbers and counting, reading readiness, position and direction, time, motor skills, and social-emotional development. There's really not all that much to it and nothing that requires any specialized tools or teaching. Most of this stuff can be learned by a child on her own or with demonstration and a few pointers. I love 'strewing,' so when I read on some list that preschoolers should know their address and phone number, I simply left a lot of at-home cards (business cards with our name and address on them) lying around for her to find -- it worked.

There are plenty of other lists out there. My state has its Standards of Learning listed on its Board of Education website and I imagine many other states do as well. There are also numerous differing philosophical approaches to education and most of them have skills lists. I was going to post a link to another list, but when I was going through the various homeschool websites, I was overwhelmed -- there is a lot of information out there.

Other items I've seen on preschool skills lists include: major holidays, days of the week, months of the year and seasons. We've learned these through reading lots of books that either directly address the subject or that include the subject. For instance, Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar is about a catepillar's diet and his eventual change into a butterfly. The book progresses through the week as the caterpillar eats different things (On Monday...., On Tuesday...). Eric Carle's A House for Hermit Crab does something similar with months of the year.

As to writing, how are we working on that? By sitting with a pencil and workbooks, of course. No, just kidding -- by playing with playdough and cutting and pasting. Peeling and sticking stickers is another great way to work on fine motor skills. Its interesting, she can zipper and button, but her drawings are definitely in the abstract phase, though I can see her progressing -- she just added arms and legs to her figures.

Finally, who can ignore the importance of socialization? I don't think any homeschoolers disagree with the importance of socialization, we disagree with the assumption that proper socialization occurs only at schools (or that proper socialization even occurs at schools). Socialization opportunities are provided through playdates and park days and library story time, dance class and visits to the grandparents and Sunday school. How will she ever learn to sit down and be quiet -- not that it takes all that long to learn this important skill -- library story time and Sunday school. What about waiting in line? Go to the bank or the grocery store or almost anywhere. Take turns? Have a sibling or play with other kids.

One deficit we suffer by not going to preschool, we don't get invited to anywhere near the number of birthday parties that our preschooled friends do.

NOTE: this post is a work in progress, I plan to add more books to the subject areas noted above. I'm just sick of saving this post as a draft. If you're looking for books, check for updates or e-mail me.

NOTE to DH: your 2 year old nudie daughter just peed on your office floor. Apparently, she's untoilet-training herself. I preferred her sister's method of training after the age of 3 but with no accidents. Sigh. But I'm sure glad I'm not in an office somewhere doing real work. Grrrr.

An Interesting Picture Book -- energy

My Light by Molly Bang is a picture book about how the sun's energy creates electricity using water power/dams, windturbines, solar panels and also discusses how plants use the sun's energy and how this created coal. The author includes a few pages of notes about electricity at the back of the book -- good for adults and older kids, for whom the picture book might be a bit simplistic. The author states within the notes that she had more but that her publisher urged her to shorten it, however, she's posted the deleted portion on her website,

Transcendentalism for Children

D.B. Johnson has written and illustrated several picture books based on the life and writings of Henry David Thoreau. My 4 year-old enjoys the stories about Henry, who is a bear in the books, and his various adventures. I'm not sure how much sense the books make, but many children's picture books are silly stories and these books are fun for me to read. There is a page of notes in the back of each book that tells the background of the story, including where it appears in Thoreau's works, and an inspiring quote. From the notes to Henry Builds a Cabin, an excerpt from Walden:

"Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think they must have such a one as their neighbors have."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

What Are You Doing In Your Homeschooling?

This is a question I have a hard time answering. I realize that saying "nothing" is probably socially unacceptable, but its the truth, so I'm trying to work out an answer to this question so that I don't fail in future social encounters.

First of all, there really doesn't seem like there is anything to be 'done' in preschool. Reading books about preschool, I've learned that most (non-Montessori) preschools allow the children free time to choose activities such as dress up, building with blocks, doing artwork, a library area with books, etc. There is circle time, which can involve show and tell or storytime or learning songs or games. There is snack time and maybe some outside time on the playground. All this for two or three hours, three to five days a week for at least $200 a month (and Montessorians are laughing because Montessori is twice that). I'm not really sure why people send their kids to preschool, I imagine there are lots of reasons, including getting a break from the kids, socialization with a class of the children's peers, and perhaps for learning. However, I have to question if learning is the main reason anyone sends their child to preschool because kids learn just by living -- I'd even argue that they learn more outside of a classroom than inside it. For instance, why make a child who has known the alphabet for a year sit in circle time and review what the letter A is, what sound it makes, words that begin with A, etc? Perhaps there is a hierarchy of things parents what their children to know, the child who does not know the alphabet in preschool may not be interested in it for several years but might be captivated by nature and learn all about science that way..... Opps, I'm not supposed to be telling you why I homeschool, but what we're doing.

Nothing, we're doing nothing. When the 2 year-old naps, my 4 year-old and I read books together, if she's in the mood. The other day, we played Go Fish -- a couple of good games after we got past an initial argument when she told me I could not put down a pair from the hand I was dealt at the beginning of the game. It was interesting, because we didn't really talk about winning or losing, other than I noted that I won the first game because I wanted her to know the game was over since I had no cards. The second game, she got rid of all her cards first, she won and I noted it, but I don't think she gloated over it. When Daddy came home she told him about the game, noting that I won the first game and she won the second. Its funny to hear what your kids learn -- it was definitely significant to her because she reported it, she wasn't asked the outcome.

We cook sometimes, she helps me stir or measure and looks at the recipe with me.

She plays and tells stories. Once, she wrote a book (dictated to me which I wrote down).

The other day, I got four books from the library. The 4 year-old was holding two and her 2 year-old sister was holding two. My 4 year-old told me that they each had half. I was pretty impressed with that.

What are we doing? Nothing, but I've got to come up with a better answer than that.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The unclimber

I came across some notes I must have written down a few months ago, I don't remember any of it, but thought I'd post it here.

The name unclimber came from a comment I once made to my DH that those I labelled as social climbers could network all they wanted but I was happy "hanging out at basecamp." Various forms of basecamp were already claimed on blogspot, so I blended my interest in unschooling with my disdain for social climbers and came up with unclimber.

However, now I find myself a bit embarrassed by the name I chose out of a snarky social commentary. Strangely, though, unclimber is coming to mean something else to me. It speaks of being in the here and now (meditation and awareness) and not spending too much time, energy and thought on the future (vs. fundamentalist religion/salvation).

--sitting with contradictions
--fissure of personality
--need for unity in self [I have no idea why I wrote this list.]

Intersection/dovetailing of spirituality and unschooling. I could not be liberal about education and conservative about religion -- it lead to a psychically painful fissure, highlighted by my experiences in BSF vs. DOCC -- arrogance, frustration, impatience. I had a hard time with DOCC, not because DOCC failed me, but I think I failed DOCC.

Compulsion -- we can't make anyone eat, sleep, use the potty, learn or believe.

'Believing,' it makes me think of a post on Ken's blog, where he wrote:

"Evangelism is the easy work. Most have a canned message that takes a
salesman’s attitude and the memory of a few simple verses. Evangelists don’t
have the burden of nurturing people after they’ve scared the hell out of them
and left them with a rudimentary system of faith. They drive to the next
“revival” and all but forget about the new converts they’ve left at the altar.
Fundamentalist evangelists are particularly annoying because they think that
everything revolves around their beliefs. They are usually so ignorant
to everything but the subject of salvation that they are able to spread as
much damage as they do the “gospel.”"

To me, this was aptly illustrated this summer while walking along the Mall in Washington, D.C. when I was handed a small pamphlet by a nice-looking young man. It was a tract from a Baptist church in New Hampshire. In it there is an exhortation "Believe today!" and a prayer. I just question the utility of telling someone to believe -- like you can just will belief. If this doesn't make sense (and I think it probably doesn't), all I can say is that perhaps the connection between these two things lies only in my head.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Limits of the Intellect

An excerpt from Susan Howatch's novel, The Heartbreaker:

"Golden Girl tries to outline her problem. She's always relied on her intelligence, she says. It's been the only thing that's never let her down. People you trust let you down, she says.... People behave like absolute shits, she says.... People try to stab you in the back, she says.... But so long as you've got brains, she says, you can work out how to survive.

...."Then she found out that a load of the most important things in life such as truth, beauty and goodness -- and of course love -- the whole spiritual package -- aren't always accessible through intellectual reasoning and streetwise brainpower. In fact although Christianity can be very intellectually high-powered indeed, spiritual stuff can never be fully sorted out by the human intellect.... She's always equated survival with intellectual success, and she can't imagine surviving in a dimension where there are no exams to pass and you're required to function as the whole you and not just as a brain on legs.

...."'But love's the most spiritual thing there is!'"

Thursday, October 14, 2004


An article in this morning's Washington Post reports on the closing of a Capitol Hill office by a Senator from Minnesota in response to an intelligence analysis report presented to senators.

This article really strikes a chord with me. I live in a close-in suburb of Washington, D.C. The threat level is adjusted now and then and occassionally we hear dire warnings of possible future terrorist activity, then we're told to go about our business being alert. If we shut down in fear, the terrorists win, right?

Mark Dayton sent his staff home and cautioned people not to visit D.C. in response to a series of briefings given to senators by the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, a joint FBI-CIA agency. The senators are beginning their preelection recess, so Dayton was headed out of town anyway; he defended his actions saying that its immoral to expose his staff to a risk he is not taking. If this is true, I think its admirable. Of course, where politics are involved, its so hard to be certain of motives, but that doesn't mean his motives aren't pure either.

What I find really interesting about this article are the various quotes within it from various sources. "This [terrorist scenario reported by the agency] is way over the top." If its over the top, why was it reported to the senators as a possibility? "Its not based on any credible information thats come in." Then why was it presented? The article says there is "[n]o new information to support the extreme scenario."

Who are the terrorists?

From the District's delegate to Congress, "[Dayton's] damaged us -- he's unnecessarily panicked people across the United States." Oh, I get it, clearly Dayton is the terrorist here. People may not want to visit the Nation's Capital because he reacted to a terror alert.

I have to say, I'm sort of glad that Dayton closed his office. Some might think its an overreaction (and I'm not saying its not), but it seems to be a logical conclusion to a scenario presented by a Federal agency that was described as "fire and brimstone raining down from the skies." I'm tired of the dire warnings then the assertion that we're all okay, just be alert. Which is it? If moving away from this area didn't involve leaving so much behind, I might consider it, but you can't run away from terror (though you might be a good deal safer from this particular threat in Minnesota).

What really has me thinking is a quote from a general laborer who has worked in the Capitol for more than 10 years. He said, "It's kind of scary to me that [Dayton] might know something others don't." My mind just flashed on that scene from the movie Titanic where the steerage passengers are gated off while the ship is sinking. They don't even get a chance to get on deck to try to get on a lifeboat.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

How Do You Explain Suffering?

I was telling Larry that my view of tragedy is that God has a plan and he wants the best for us, so that, I hope, present suffering has a purpose, even if I don't know what that is, and there are better things to come. Perhaps this whole life is like the bad dream that we awaken from after we die. Its one way to deal with the fact that we're all going to die. I realize this philosophy is naive and derived from the viewpoint I picked up from my Reformed Bible study (or as Larry put it, its quite Calvinist). I don't think of my view as predestination (thats for Presbyterians and I'm not) but as some sort of complicated view of the intersection of the temporal with the eternal which we can't understand. But thats probably what predestination is. Its where I am now, I don't necessarily think its right, but its how I cope.

The Susan Howatch novels, which I adore, seem to be espousing the idea that creation is on-going and that we are all part of trying to make things 'come right,' which I suppose they eventually will, its just we get to decide whether we try to actively contribute to it or whether we work against it and against ourselves. I don't know what this doctrine is called.

The other night, my DH and I watched 21 Grams, which I'd been wanting to see for awhile. It sort of sounds like its a movie about drugs, its not, 21 grams is supposedly the weight of the soul and the movie is about loving and death and religion and hell and redemption. I highly recommend it, though its work to watch because the chronology jumps around (along the lines of Memento, but not as strange or as clear-cut). The basic story is that an evangelistic, fundamentalist Christian accidently kills a man and his two young daughters in a hit and run accident. The movie is what happens to the wife/mother of the victims, the driver, and the recipient of the husband's heart. Its pretty intense. It also has a lot of religious imagery -- I think I caught the most overt of it, though there is probably plenty more -- my favorites, the last names of the characters, Jordan, Rivers and Peck. By the way, the fundamentalist is (predictably) portrayed as a holy-roller and a bit of a nut.

Anyway, a wonderful scene, which I'd like to watch again, is when the driver is visited in prison by his pastor. They argue about what is going on -- why did this happen? The driver insists it happened because Jesus wanted it to happen (at least he's consistent, earlier in the film, he said he won his truck in a lottery because Jesus wanted him to have it). The pastor insists that it was just an accident. They argue, the pastor says that part of the problem is the driver's arrogance and he must pray for forgiveness, to which the driver asks, why do I have to ask for forgiveness if it was an accident? They yell, they both quote scripture at each other. The pastor screams at the driver that he needs to renounce his pride or he's going to hell. The driver points at his head and says "this is hell." I thought it was very moving. I'm sure I've mangled the scene in my memory, but I thought it was a very powerful scene, showing the problem with fundamentalism -- neither answer really makes sense. How could God or Jesus want such a tragedy to occur? How could he allow such a terrible accident? Is the accident a way of punishing us for our sins?

Maybe we can't know the cause of some tragedies, maybe we're not meant to know. Maybe our job is to figure out how to move along, staying on our path or finding it again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Learning Math

We had a playdate with homeschool friends of ours today. I was recommending my blog to the hsing mom for some of my hs posts and I mentioned that I had done a few on hsing math. To my horror (overstatement), I've noticed that I haven't done a post with resources for helping your child learn math -- I thought I had. Well, now's as good a time as any.

My oldest is 4 years-old and I take an unschooling approach. What this means is I don't try to teach her math, but I do acquire lots of math stuff -- books and manipulatives and toys; we have a 100 chart on the wall in the kitchen that she looks at often and uses as a guide. I try to strew my daughter's path (an unschooling term coined by Sandra Dodd, I think; definitely not original to me) and let her find things she wants to play with or books she wants to peruse. When she has questions or wants to play or read, I'm all hers, or I try to be.

So far, she seems be learning counting, greater than/less than, sequencing, matching/sorting. She's getting interested in adding and realizing that numbers can be added up in various ways -- today she was noting that 4 can be 3 plus 1 but also 2 plus 2. I figure thats progress.

Ah, yes, I must also admit that we have plenty of workbooks lying around the house which she'll pick up and work on when she's in the mood. I'm not thrilled with workbooks, but if she wants to do them and learns something, thats great.

There are lots of books about math out there. One source is the library, under the subject term Mathematics -- Children's Material. Rosemary Wells wrote a Get Ready for Kindergarten Series which has a couple of math books, outside that series but by the same author is Bunny Party and Bunny Money. The Get Ready Series is not as interesting, its not much of a story and its set in a classroom -- something hsers may not want to push if they are worried it will make their children feel weird for not being in school. The Bunny books are cute stories about a big sister and her troublesome younger brother and their ever-understanding grandmother. Definitely cute and worth a look.

I just ordered 10 Friends by Bruce Goldstone -- its illustrates the various ways numbers can add up to ten.

Math Start Series by Stuart Murphy -- he has written a lot of books and sorts them into a few levels. Each book focuses on a single math topic, like sequencing, sets, matching, counting, etc. The stories vary, some are cute, some are sort of lame, but my DD likes them. What I really like about them is that each book has a parent page which suggests activities and a few other children's books that address the same math topic.

Eric Carle has wonderful books, some of which focus more on math than others -- there is one about the zoo thats especially math oriented.

Anno has wonderful wordless picture books dealing with math -- we've used Anno's Counting book, but he also has books involving math puzzles that are more advanced.

Loreen Leedy has written several books about addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. These are pretty active looking books, probably better for older kids.

I think that Bruce MacMillan and Pat Hutchins have books that address math topics. Hutchins has The Doorbell Rang, about a batch of cookies that keeps getting divided into smaller servings as more children arrive at a party.

Greg Tang has several math riddles books that are probably fun for older children. I have another math games book called Midnight Math by Peter Ledwon that might be useful in a few years.

Marilyn Burns has lots of books on math, though they are probably for elementary aged kids. She has some readers with simpler concepts as well.

Playing cards, dice, dominoes -- really basic toys that teach math.
We also have an abacus, which I don't really know how to use, but I was able to use it to demonstrate how 10 can be arrived at by lots of different ways (9+1, 8+2, etc.). This was handy after DD made her comment that only 7+3=10. I think it helped her visualize.

I really love playing cards and even came up with a few games (probably modified from games I'd read in resource books) teaching ordering. I'll post those some other time. If you want them and I haven't posted them, e-mail me and I'll do it. Even basic games like War and Go Fish teach concepts like greater than/less than and matching.

The Leap Pad toy for which you can by books and cartridges. She's asked for a few of the math games, so I buy them and figure she's probably learning something from them. If not, she's at least working on her fine motor skills with the stylus.

Resources for Parents:
These are hsing and other books for parents/teachers and are either all about math or include sections on teaching math.

Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics -- free from the feds.

Eenie Meenie Miney Math, Math Play for You and Your Preschooler by Linda Allison and Martha Weston

Homeschooling the Early Years by Linda Dobson

Peggy Kaye wrote Games for Math to help teachers and parents.

The Complete Home Learning Source Book by Rebecca Rupp

Cathy Duffy and Mary Pride author hs curriculum guides that include math resources.

I love John Holt, and in Learning All the Time and Teach Your Own, he has some hints for unschooling math. One suggestion I really like is doing a multiplication grid -- numbering from 1 to 10 across the x and y axes and filling in the products and the intersecting grids. I love the idea of seeing the relationships of the numbers as opposed to writing them or doing flashcards (ugh).

I saw these listed on a hsing group, I don't know much about them.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

The Prophetic Function of Clergy

A recent editorial in the Washington Post argues that the Presbyterian church should not have issued a resolution condemning the war in Iraq becuase he "feared it would have a polarizing effect. It was a divider, not a uniter."

I don't know if I would have been interested in this topic if it wasn't for a recent post on Larry's blog.

The editorial is interesting, I think, but I don't agree with it. Perhaps I'm more black and white than shades of gray, but I get frustrated with the idea that you can't say anything unless most people agree with it (though I can see why majority rule for a denominational resolution might be a good idea; if the denomination makes a resolution, shouldn't most of the denomination agree with it?). If the invasion of Iraq was "unwise, immoral and illegal" whatever the majority says does not matter.

In some ways, I have little sympathy for the Presbyterian church, in large part because of all the troubles the Episcopal church is having over the issue of consecrating a gay bishop. Then again, that was a majority decision -- but was it right? I don't know, but the pain it has caused is very real and it is continuing. I'm not saying they shouldn't have done it, though.

What is the function of clergy anyway? To speak the truth? To facilitate discussion? To save our souls? To guide us to mental health? To manage a church?

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Love is the Key to Happiness

cue music "Love makes the world go round..."

But seriously, a post and its subsequent comments on Larry's blog has me thinking about the importance of love. Larry mentions it as an antidote to mood swings; my friend, Barely Attentive Mother queries this. While I entirely agree with Larry, I was trying to figure out why -- that is what I hope to do in this post.

The Barely Attentive Mother and I are friends in real life and when she was over once for a playdate for our daughters, I showed her a children's picture book, The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth. The book is based on a story by Leo Tolstoy and in it, a little boy poses three questions to his friends: when is the best time to do things, who is the most important one, and what is the right thing to do? I wanted to share this book with Barely because of her interest in Buddhism and the note in the book that the story follows Zen principles (she's not particularly interested in Zen Buddhism, but what difference does that make to a narrow-minded Protestant who doesn't really understand any of it? he he) Well, the answers to the questions are (don't read this if it will ruin the book for you): now, the person you're with, and to do good for the one you're with. To me, doing good for the one you're with is showing love for them.

I recently grabbed a book at the library, Stone Soup. Its a familiar tale of clever visitors who induce reluctant townspeople to share by piqueing their curiosity about how stones can make a delicious soup; I thought it would be a nice story for my 4 year-old. Interestingly, this version of the story was written by Jon J. Muth and is set in China and the visitors are Zen monks. In the story, the townspeople are alienated from each other as a result of the hard times they have endured. The book follows the traditional story, one by one, the villagers add items to the pot, making the soup by sharing with one another. Muth ends the book with the villagers thanking the monks, "with the gifts you have given, we will always have plenty. You have shown us that sharing makes us all richer." "And to think," said the monks, "to be happy is as simple as making stone soup."

Does this prove my point? Maybe, maybe not. It does lead me to note that Muth states in an Author's Note that he uses a trick from the Buddha story tradition, where tricksters spread enlightenment rather than seeking gain for themselves. I find myself asking, how is this tradition any different from the parables told by Jesus. (Larry has noted -- on two blogs -- that Jesus and the Buddha are brothers).

I can't help adding that my conclusion is that the meaning of life is the search for God (its a lifelong search). To seek happiness is a basic human drive, love is the key to happiness and God is love (as shown to us through Jesus). QED. Okay, maybe its not a solid proof, but perhaps I'm persuasive...or not.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Unschooling at Work

I started feeling a bit anxious a few days ago that I haven't been doing anything with my 4 year-old DD that would count as homeschooling. I wasn't teaching her, didn't see any learning going on, I must be failing. Later, I talked with a good hs friend of mine and she suggested that this is just a year when I can practice my hsing technique and not worry. Really, what do preschoolers need to learn? Not all the much and DD is right on target, at least. FYI, there are lots of websites that have skills lists for different ages, so I'm not flying solo on this, I check them now and then.

While I'm not a high energy arts and crafts type, I've been thinking that my 'read only' approach is probably not enough at this point. DD hasn't really felt like sitting down for long reading sessions like she used to. My DH reads to her at night and perhaps thats all she wants right now. Maybe she was more interested in being read to months ago because she was learning to read and now she's interested in developing other skills. All I really know is that I keep checking out loads of books from the library and we're not reading them. Maybe its time to change course a bit.

Monday, we had a couple of hours at a playground with friends and in the afternoon, DD and I made pumpkin bread from a mix. We had to add 1/3 cup oil, 1/2 cup water and 1 cup of pumpkin. As we added the oil and water, I took advantage of the opportunity to point out the fractions on the measuring cup. I pointed to the various measures for oil and water and asked her which we added more of. She said water, score one from hsing mom. As she stirred the mixture, I mentally noted that she was working on fine motor skill development. I set the timer for the bread to bake and talked about how long it would take -- more math.

While the bread baked, I decided to start dinner. She got more fine motor development by mixing (the recipe is an old favorite, so I no longer measure anything formally).

Yesterday we had more spontaneous hsing. She wanted to do a leaf collage, so she collected leaves and pasted them on paper on the porch. I told her she could not bring the leaves into the house (they were moldy and disintegrating) but that if she wanted, she could make a leaf collage out of construction paper that she could bring inside. I have cookie cutters that look like maple leaves, oak leaves and acorns. For each shape, there are 3 different sizes, so I had 9 cookie cutters. While she was working on her real leaf collage, I traced some leaf and acorn shapes of various sizes and cut them out. She started playing with them. She compared the various sizes of the leaves, she sorted them in different ways -- by type, by size and by the color of the construction paper. She matched them to the cookie cutters. She had a lot of fun with all this and I never suggested any of it -- I thought she'd just glue them on paper. I was very pleased because these are the sorts of activities that are suggested in various books for learning math skills and I didn't have to force them on her, she did it on her own.

So I'm feeling a bit reinvigorated about hsing. I prefer a low key, unschooling, literature based approach. I'm all for reading and researching activities, but I have a hard time making myself do them and I really don't want to try to make her do them. Its very encouraging to know that it all works out. Even though I didn't set up the learning activity, she found it for herself.