Monday, November 08, 2010

well, that sort of worked

Yay! I added a gadget to my page - see that spiffy Ravelry logo on the upper right? Nice, huh? Not sure about the criss-cross tools. They got up there on my first attempt, which didn't work. Once I got the gadget on there, they remain. I suppose if I cared, I could try to take them off.

What I do like about the tools is that they remind me of the part in the movie Pink Floyd, the Wall, where the hammers go marching by. I think it's hammers. Well, this is my own little piece of the Wall right here and I am partial to the lyric "we don't need no education." Though, really, Pink, it should be "we don't need no institutionalization." Education isn't the problem. But I guess his point was about institutionalized education. Not the visionary of a Holt or a Gatto, but still good music.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Sins of Forced Education

Psychology Today has a blog called Freedom to Learn which is pretty interesting to me. I've linked a post before, and now I'm linking again -- this time to Seven Sins of Our Forced Education System. Like I said in my other post, this is no surprise to me and I think most, if not all of the items, were brought up by John Holt in his book, How Children Fail (this link actually gives you a preview of many of the pages). I loved that book, which I could find my copy of it and all the stuff I underlined. Alas, I cannot, but at least I did some posts early on this blog which quoted some of my favorite passages.

Back to the Seven Sins -- I strongly agree with his second premise:

2. Fostering of shame, on the one hand, and hubris, on the other.
It is not easy to force people to do what they do not want to do....Children are made to feel ashamed if they perform worse than their peers and pride if they perform better....Those made to feel excessive pride from the shallow accomplishments that earn them A's and honors may become arrogant, disdainful of the common lot who don't do so well on tests; disdainful, therefore, of democratic values and processes (and this may be the worst effect of all).

 While I agree that what happens to those who don't measure up is terrible, what happens to those who do is not much better. I think tracking can be useful, but it's not without it's downside. I wonder if some of these successful students don't internalize the constant competition and become somewhat fearful that they will find someone better, smarter, or more accomplished. To look at others as a constant source of competition strikes me as a barrier to healthy relationships. But I'm no pyschologist.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Teaching Ourselves to Read

I admit I don't find this article very interesting because it has been my experience. My response is more like, "yeah, so?" than, "wow, are you serious?"

My oldest started reading somewhere between ages 3 and 4, I think. My attempts to use a reading program (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) did not go well. The first few lessons were fine, then she got bored and I got impatient. The CD case of ABBA Gold seemed to provide her more help than reading instruction. I would play that CD in the car, Suzanne asked to look at the case and I'd hand it back.

My youngest started reading around the age of 7. Unlike her sister, she was not a big fan of being read to. However, she started writing earlier than her sister did, so she was working on her own things, at her own pace.

It's nice to have them both reading now. Now go educate yourselves, kids, and let me know when you need me.

Federal Resources for Educational Excellence

I fell down the rabbit hole again. While writing my last post to share a link for preschool resources, I wandered across this link. It has extensive listings and I don't always trust the Federal government when it comes to education, but there might be something useful in there, so I'm posting the link here.

Ed Pubs Resources for Preschoolers

The Helping Your Child series were not designed with homeschoolers in mind, I'm sure, but they are free publications available from the Federal government. They are now available as pdf files, but when my kids were little, I ordered printed copies of the books. They may be useful in their suggested activities and worth a look.

If I recall correctly, I found the Helping Your Preschooler and Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics most useful.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

No Us v. Them in Homeschooling, please

The Diosa Dotada Endeavor has a number of posts in response to the Robin West article -- I believe this was the first post on the subject on this blog. My focus is to archive my comment on my blog, but her response is well worth reading.

And now to my comment

fantastic response! I’m so glad you had stats to back you up. Here Robin goes on and on about the Fundamentalists Protestants and yet she uses their (HSLDA and NHERI’s) data — to the degree she uses any data, which is very little.
I really tried to read her article, but the opening page was alarmist and emotional and then she makes a rather bland statement that her thesis is about regulation.
I am not a Fundamentalist Protestant but she clearly has an ax to grind against them – but even her concerns make no sense. On the one hand, they can raise a political army, on the other hand, they are uneducated and lack skills. Which is it? Are they a potent enemy to reckon with, or hapless and ignorant?
She wonders why no one is worried about the looming scourge of homeschooling. Well, maybe because it’s not a looming scourge? Maybe what’s going on in the public schools is of greater concern? Maybe people are worried about health care or the war on drugs, whether homosexuals can marry, international foreign policy, or anything other than whether or not the local homeschoolers are teaching creationism. Honestly, I’m not a creationist but I really can’t see why anyone cares so much as to whether people believe in evolution. Maybe I feel this way because I’m not a scientist, but it’s just not had a huge impact on my life.
I’m also wary of anyone who wants to start and us vs. them with homeschoolers. Oh, you liberal types, you’re okay, it’s THEM we’re worried about. Well, freedom is freedom, no matter what anyone’s personal, political, and religious views are.
Oh, and can someone please explain to me why the critics love to carp on teaching credentials? What do they actually do, teach classroom management techniques? Tell you how to get a large, diverse group of students with different learning abilities interested in a subject? Someone please explain to me how a certification which helps teachers teach classrooms of kids is necessary in a homeschooling environment. But then she lobs “over-educated” at us — which is it? Can we teach our kids or not? Or is it just that she thinks we should be doing something else (like contributing to the sexist media machine, consumer-driven culture by having more spending power with the money we earn at jobs that are more deserving of our time than our own children)?
Thanks for the forum! and thanks for your posts and the dialog you’ve begun with Robin.
Homeschool on! Ever seen that t-shirt “The Revolutionaries will be homeschooled!”? I love it, except that it drives me nuts because shouldn’t it be “The Revolutionaries will have been homeschooled.” Opps, must be showing my over-education!

Fleshing out the feminist bitch-slap in the Harms of Homeschooling

Just for the sake of archives on unclimber, since I refused to link myself when I made the comment.

This is a link to The Diosa Dotada Endeavor, another post that discussed the aforementioned Robin West article and another place where I left a comment. Many homeschoolers and other commented and once again, my comment is not easily found (though it is easily linked).

yeah, I, too was wondering about the “over-educated” comment of hers. How is it a feminist professor can label some women as over-educated and what makes her different from the paternalistic professor of the 60s who pointedly asked the women in my mom’s class why they were there, taking up a seat that could have been filled by a man? The irony of it all. And I’m a homeschooling mama who is, was, and always considered herself to be a feminist. Why do some feminists think that all women need to listen to them and do as they say and what makes that any different from the current paradigm of male-domination? Sorry, but I don’t see it as an advancement for women to stop doing what men say in order to do what some “feminist” tells us to do. Makes no sense – isn’t feminism about women thinking for themselves? And I choose homeschooling for my daughters.

The Scary, Scary Harms of Homeschooling

At the risk of giving publicity to an article I don't agree with, I am posting about a slightly dated article The Harms of Homeschooling by Robin West. A friend of mine called my attention to the article and pointed me to a blog post commenting on it. I was quite pleased to see that West herself commented on the post and she did so in a way that suggested a far more reasonable mind than her original article. Despite my normally shy and reserved demeanor, I couldn't help commenting on it also, within the comments section of the post. The comments continue, because I just received notice of another one, which is what reminded me to write this post.

When I first read the article, I was surprised that it was published and even more surprised that it was written by a law professor. It was very alarmist, not terribly factual, highly anedoctal, and mostly just a rant. As anyone who has read the earlier posts on this blog, you'll know that I recognize that style of writing because it's so similar to my own. But I publish on a personal blog, not a university journal. Clearly I have some career soul-searching to do.

I just want to pull out my comment from the comment field and reprint it here because I like it, it makes me proud (up until the end when I go a bit nutty) and because there are so many comments that if I just leave this here hoping one of my blog's readers will find it, they might lose interest. I'm kicking myself for not linking this blog to my name but I was worried it would reduce the impact of my comment if it became clear it was posted by a nutcase.

- if I counted correctly, it's the 14th - this link might take you directly to it, but I've reprinted it below

Robin, I appreciate your comment here. I was disturbed by the alarmist nature in the PPP article and hope that the full treatment of it in your work does not sound as emotional and poorly reasoned. I’d also be interested in seeing your legal reasoning and hope you have more comprehensive coverage of the laws regarding homeschooling. As a homeschooler, I have only focused on the laws of my own state, Virginia, and have not had the time nor inclination to research beyond that. I would caution you against relying on the HSLDA (or NHERI) for your homeschool facts — many homeschoolers disagree strongly with that organization, it’s approaches, tactics, political and religious views, and how it derives it’s data.
I’m not certain why you feel that testing is the only way to give adequate evidence of education – in Virginia, it is but one option. Another option is an evaluation with an accredited evaluator. Personally, I believe in the value of learning to take tests, but I don’t see how that ensures a literate and numerate citizenry any more than a meeting with an evaluator.
I’d also love to hear more discussion about the state’s legitimate interest in education and how best to ensure that. I’m always curious to learn how private schools are regulated and why they are free from the concerns that plague homeschooling.
Finally, I think when you mention the “children of the over-educated and under-employed suburban mothers who simply would prefer to do this work for themselves than delegate it to the state” you show a fundamental lack of comprehension (and interest) for why many choose to homeschool. Simply stated, a homeschool education can be richer, deeper, and more individualized (and often has little to do with religion or conservative politics, which seem to be your greatest concerns). To comment on the mothers seems to underscore the emotional nature of the piece and sounds more like an attempt to ignite the Mommy wars than a reason why homeschooling should be regulated. It strikes me as poor reasoning that one moment you seem disturbed that homeschoolers are not accredited to teach their children and then you comment that some of us are overeducated (but I understand that advanced degrees are not teaching credentials. However, most homeschooling mothers have fewer than 30 children in their families, so perhaps they don’t really need teaching credentials. Which raises the question of what teaching credentials are and what they are for – a question no one ever seems to examine, they just seem to assume that homeschoolers should have them).
Thank you, Milton, for calling my attention to this article and for providing a forum for comments.

Scarf of many patterns

This is a work in progress but I'm just playing around to see if my Ravelry notes come over cleanly with cut and paste or whether I'll get a vast wasteland of broken links.

Oooo....lookie, it's been so long since I've used blogger -- is it possible you can actually put the pictures anywhere within the post and not just at the top?

Note to non-Ravelers, if you do not have a free account with Ravelry, a few of these links will not work for you because they are to project pages in Ravelry. If you don't have a Ravelry account and you don't knit or crochet, then you needn't worry about it. If you aren't on Ravelry and you do knit and or crochet, then you should get an account. If you click a broken link, my guess is it will take you to a page where you can request an account. Or google Ravelry, or click the button on the upper right of this blog (not the post, the blog).

CO 24 per pattern
here’s a video of how to do the pattern
1/30 Used straight needles even though I use circs for everything. It was difficult for me cross over the dropped stitches on the circulars - everything felt too floppy. Also, I have found dropped stitches difficult on circs – on the next row, all the drops cross and can be difficult to slide up off the cable and onto the needle. It’s a pain to constantly stop and try to work them up onto the needle.
Modified the pattern. Following it through Row 10. I follow Row 11 as directed by the pattern except that I only wrap it 3 times to keep the length about the same with the crisscross rows (figuring the crossing eats up about one wrap). Row 12, I just drop and knit the stitches, I don’t criss-cross them.
For the next pattern repeat, I modify row 6 by slipping the 8 stitches back to the left needle and inserting the right needle into the 4 furthest stitches and cross them over. The result is that every other criss-cross row has the outside stitches slanting in opposite directions (see picture – the bottom row slants from left to right and the upper row slants right to left).
Of course, if I had it to do over, I’d alternate the criss cross rows as per pattern, which would give me a “2 diamond” criss cross row, a straight drop stitch row, then a “3 diamond” criss cross row, then straight, then 2, then 3 and so on. This project shows clearly how the criss-cross rows alternate.
I may do this when I get to the other end of the scarf, symmetry be damned.
1/31 I don’t know if I have the patience for a scarf. I like how this looks, but I’m toying with the idea of switching patterns every so often – it might be a great way to try out some new patterns while incorporating them into a scarf.
2/1 okay, I’ve calmed down and decided to focus. I like the drop stitch pattern I’ve got going for the ends. I like to be able to wear my scarf up over my head to cover my ears. This stitch pattern is too holey for that, so I’ll switch to another pattern for the middle section of the scarf and then return to my drop stitching.
After much pattern research, I’m going with the Prismatic Scarf, but I think I’ll use TexturedKnitter’s modificationfor it.
2/7 decided it’s time to switch to the Prismatic pattern. Increased to 30 sts because this is narrower than the drop stitch pattern and I want this to cover my ears.
2/9 bored. Decided to modify prismatic scarf by doing pattern rows 1 through 12 and then reverse back down to 1. This pattern narrows the scarf considerably. Adding the 6 stitches makes the scarf the same width of the first pattern.
Based on the prismatic projects, I have to say that reversing the pattern isn’t as pretty as doing it as written, but I think it works with the criss-crossy, zig-zaggy nature of this scarf.
Due to concerns about running out of yarn and boredom, I’ve decided to switch to garter (because garter is such a scintillating stitch!). Seriously, this will widen the scarf and I’ll knit it long enough to go over my head and ears then I’ll return to the prismatic scarf pattern, doing rows 1 to 12 then reverse back down to 1 and then go back to my drop stitch pattern.
2/13 did a whole bunch of rows in garter. Got the book 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders so I could look at thecross-stitch scarf. Decided to rip back most of the garter and give cross-stitch a try. Pattern is very difficult to understand and after some internet and ravelry searching, I decided to use the directions for the 2 st-left cross found here for free and for the second row, follow the pattern. This pattern was nearly impossible for me until I switched to a smaller left needle on my interchangeables (one of the things I love about interchangeables).

To be continued, because it's a freakin' scarf and it goes on forever and ever the same as it ever was, unless you go all add and keep switching patterns.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I don't know what the hell is going on but it seems pretty cool to me

I was bumping around TED because a friend recommended an Elizabeth Gilbert TED Talk. I enjoyed the talk, but in my time on TED, I saw a picture of Jane McGonigal who will be speaking at an upcoming conference. Maybe because she's pretty and I wondered who she was, I investigated further - I don't know exactly but somehow I found my way to this statement on the website about her, Reality is broken, says Jane McGonigal, and we need to make it work more like a game. Her work shows us how.

Fascinating to me. I'm not a gamer but I like games and I've been intrigued by role-playing games and even spent some time researching them on-line. Too much work to learn to play one, I decided. Fascinating, but I don't have the inclination to invest the time, I thought.

So now I'm internet stalking Jane McGonigal, trying to figure out who she is and what she's up to. She has an interesting blog and that has information about some of her past games and the upcoming on-line game, Evoke. The idea of using gaming as a social tool to solve real or potential problems seems absolutely wonderful to me. So wonderful, my expression of wonder is limited to that.

Google provided me with more sites, and I ended up watching the video on this site about another fascinating game she did a few years ago, World Without Oil. Chasing the rabbit further down to hole, she mentions Clay Shirky and a recent (this was in 2008) essay he wrote about cognitive surplus - that extra time we have since we don't have to spend our entire lives fulfilling our basic needs. This led me to this post, which I partly skimmed, but from which I picked up the idea that those who mock and wonder how we have the time to do what we do (a topic I recently chatted about on Facebook) are missing something. At least we are doing something rather than passively accepting/viewing/absorbing something.

....It's better to do something than to do nothing. Even lolcats, even cute pictures of kittens made even cuter with the addition of cute captions, hold out an invitation to participation. When you see a lolcat, one of the things it says to the viewer is, "If you have some sans-serif fonts on your computer, you can play this game, too." And that's message--I can do that, too--is a big change.

This is something that people in the media world don't understand. Media in the 20th century was run as a single race--consumption. How much can we produce? How much can you consume? Can we produce more and you'll consume more? And the answer to that question has generally been yes. But media is actually a triathlon, it 's three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.
This may be where I go over the edge, but in my mind, this sort of connects up with the ideas I expressed last year about the potential of technology (okay, just Facebook) to create community/intimacy/make connections/find God. Perhaps not one in the same, but I really like people who can see the positives where others see negatives (and a waste of time). Even better, people who can not only see it, but create something that utilizes the positives. This is exciting to me. See what's there, consider the potential and give it a try. I don't know if I'll ever be a gamer, I'm barely technologically literate, but maybe I can live my life this way. Maybe that's part of what I'm doing by homeschooling.

Who knows, but I'm sort of excited about Evoke.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Mathematician's Lament

From the linked paper:

Sadly, our present system of mathematics education is [a] nightmare. In fact, if I had to design a mechanism for the express purpose of destroying a child’s natural curiosity and love of pattern-making, I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as is currently being done— I simply wouldn’t have the imagination to come up with the kind of senseless, soul- crushing ideas that constitute contemporary mathematics education.

Dreaming of Solomon's Knots

Looking through a crochet stitch dictionary, I saw Solomon's Knot. I think it's beautiful but didn't think much else about it until days later when I saw a woman wearing a poncho in Solomon's Knot. She couldn't confirm that that was the stitch as a friend made it for her, but I'm pretty sure it was the stitch.

I just found a youtube video on how to make it and thought I'd post it here for when I get around to making something in this gorgeous stitch.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Unschooling Math - sort of, so far

Unschooling math isn't something I'm completely comfortable with, yet I find it preferable to the alternative of using a math program or curriculum. Perhaps no parent is ever completely comfortable with how their child is learning math -- every program has deficiencies and we always wonder if there is something better suited to our children out there. I'm not offering any insights or advocating my way of seeing things. I'm just documenting why I'm taking the approach I take so that in the future when I ask myself what the hell I was thinking, I can come back and see this post and say "ohhhhh...."

I don't think I'm having any new epiphanies on the matter, so maybe this is a progress report. Also, since I started this blog, Blogger has added tags, so maybe I can tag this and find it more easily than my older posts on the subject. Someday I will get around to tagging those, but for now, this will be a recap and an update of how math is going in our homeschool.

I'm a collector/hoarder of books and educational paraphernalia. I suppose that what I'm thinking is that if we have everything we could possibly need, my kids will find it and use to as it helps them best. I'm also a big believer in natural learning - that so many needed skills can be learned just through the normal course of life and that this knowledge learned through application will stick better.

Back when I first started to homeschool, I read alot about homeschooling and education. Some things that stick out in my mind were reading Mary Pride mention that her father taught her all of elementary math in one summer. Well, that sort of takes care of my concern about elementary school and it reinforces my feeling from school that most of the math seemed to just repeat itself year in/year out. I always liked math, found it to be a game and I enjoyed it. I was never in the highest math group but always did well where I was. What sticks out most in my mind was how much I loved algebra and geometry. Most interesting, though, was that I truly found high school geometry to be a reiteration of what we had been learning up until then. I suppose there was the added element of proofs, but I recall that they were very simple and fun for me. Beginning with trigonometry, I found math tedious and uninteresting. Maybe I'm just not the math sort. Luckily, I have a husband who did not find it so and went further in math than I did, so I can balance my math thoughts with his, though his thinking is very similar to mine.

After Mary Pride seemed to confirm my suspicion that there is not all that much to elementary math (or perhaps math before algebra), we found Gareth Lewis. I admit I have not read One-to-One in years, but what my husband took from it was the importance of keeping math mental for as long as possible.

Since my older daughter is such a reader, we have lots of math books in our house. A few are text books from used book sales, but I don't think anyone looks at those. I have found the E.D. Hirsch books helpful. FUN books has a great selection of math books and I've heard good things about the Jacobs series. We've also acquired the first Life of Fred book, though we may not be ready for it, but it's on my radar. Just looking through his website, I found what probably best sums up my approach to education - "Let them have a happy childhood." What he writes for how to learn the times tables is true of our house -- my husband quizzes my daughter in the morning with the math fact of the day. It's a "fact family" - what is 5 x 3? 15. What is 15/3, what is 15/5 sort of thing. We have the multiplication charts on the back of the door of our downstairs bathroom. I have tried to interest my daughter in the multiplication grid without much interest. I should try again. Just playing around with the multiplication chart and a 100 chart (easy to find on an internet search) helps to learn the times tables. John Holt recommended in one of his books to learn the tables by using a multiplication chart with blank spaces and letting the child fill it out.

I suppose what is most important to me is that my children learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide, so that is what we are focussed on right now and it seems to be happening fairly seamlessly. I buy the placemats with the tables on them, they may be ignored. I hang the hundred chart and the multiplication tables. We talk to our kids, peppering then with questions throughout the day (it's easy to incorporate multiplication into many daily tasks, especially trips to the grocery store).

Up next....
Mathematicians lament.
American Girl books.
Freedom in education blog

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Homeschooling 4th grade math

I'm an unschooler. It's not something I aspire to be, it's just who I am. Sometimes I think about homeschooling in some other way and I always decide against it - I really believe my children know how to learn best and they'll show me how best to help them. So, for most of the year, things are fine and dandy and we learn so seamlessly that I'm always hard pressed to demonstrate or describe what's going on in our homeschool. I guess it's like brushing my teeth, I do it every day, but I'd have to stop and think to describe exactly how I do it and I always seem to bore myself in the explanation. An odd analogy, perhaps, but perhaps I'm an odd person.

Our state requires that we give proof of progress annually. I don't mind this regulation as it seems reasonable and fairly unintrusive. To give proof, we use the California Achievement Test (CAT). We've also been using the Spectrum Test prep books, though they are far more intensive than necessary to prepare for the test. However, they give me the chance to see what my kids know (to a limited degree) and whether they understand how to take the test. I have found them very useful in the past, though I must say that their utility seems to be decreasing as my kids get older. Starting around 3rd grade, Spectrum does not seem well correlated to the CAT. If I remember correctly, Spectrum introduced long division and did not review subtraction with regrouping. The CAT at the same level did not have any long division and did have subtraction with regrouping. So now I'm careful to do more math review than the Spectrum offers and to use it as a way to introduce new math concepts without too much worry that it will be on the test.

My oldest is in 4th grade now and, as has been my habit, I ordered the Spectrum Test prep earlier this month. My youngest is in 1st grade. I pulled out the books and started the review. My oldest is learning long division. I don't use a math curriculum, an issue I am constantly reconsidering and so far have always decided against - I blame Mary Pride who wrote in her Big Book of Home Learning that her dad taught her six years of math in the summer after first grade. So, when it's time to prepare for testing, I need to cobble together material other than my own tutoring that can help my daughter. She is a strong reader and loves books, so I usually go the literature route. We have the whole E.D. Hirsch series, What Your X Grader Needs to Know. Like the Spectrum grade levels, it seems I have to consult two grades in Hirsch to get what we need. Two digit multiplication and division can be found in the third grade and fourth grade books. I have assorted other math books (text and otherwise) that I look at, but I think the Hirsch books do a nice job of displaying and explaining what is going on in the problems (how they are done). As you can tell, I am not into drill and kill, I want my child to understand what she is doing and why - not just spit back the procedure. I'm not advocating that this is the proper approach, just explaining that it's mine.

While at the library today, I also checked out some books on division that I also thought seemed to illustrate the procedure clearly. I got Division Made Easy is from the Making Math Easy series (one I was unfamiliar with). Hey, cool, there are reproducible worksheets for the book on-line. I also got Dazzling Division by Lynette Long, which looks much more games oriented but might be a way to extend the concept and make it more concrete. We shall see. As much as I love the idea of using games to learn math, I tend chafe at using a contrived "math game" and prefer to play real games. I don't know that it reaches long division, but most card and dice games at least offer a lot of practice in addition (thinking of my younger daughter here). Maybe it's time for me to try some math games.

I also picked up a couple of video tapes from the Math for Children series. I got Multiplication and Division and was very pleased with how entertaining and educational they are. My kids seemed to like them and perhaps they will even watch them a few more times. Can't hurt, right?