Archive | Teaching RSS feed for this section

Zoo Field Trip – learning about more than just animals

25 Mar

WARNING:

Planning and map reading skills in use.

We recently took a trip to the zoo. Squirrel had a zoo map that he had saved from our last trip to the zoo (almost a year ago). As we are preparing to leave he makes a big deal about packing his backpack with the map. This was very important to him. But we didn’t realize how important until we got to the zoo and he pulls out the map and proceeds to inform us of what he wants to see and how to get there.

So, yes… We got to see lots of animals and observe their behavior in a controlled environment and all of the normal zoo stuff. The map reading was an extra bonus. I love unschooling. It’s amazing what they come up with all on their own.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Unschooling is hard and dangerous work

26 Feb

Sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing.

I love unschooling. But it is very hard sometimes. So often I want to jump in and try to manipulate the learning process. And every time I do that, learning stalls. It is hard to be patient and let my kids learn what they need to learn when they are ready to learn it.

Just recently my husband was talking to me about Pumpkin and how she needed to start working on her multiplication tables. Sure, she is at the age when they start learning it at school. So we picked up some books at the library and proceeded to instruct her. What a Stonewall Jackson she can be.

“I don’t want to.”

“I already read that book.”

“Why can’t I do [insert any other activity] instead?”

Bah. Headache followed frustration.

And really. Was this all necessary? I just recently talked to her Sunday School teacher. She had nothing but glowing praise for Pumpkin. How much better she was at reading than the other kids. How Pumpkin was able to look up Bible verses without any help, unlike the other kids. And how she noticed that Pumpkin went almost instantly from not reading at all to being almost totally independent.

We had the same frustrations with reading a couple of years ago that we are having with math now. We kept trying to MAKE her read. Kept trying to force it because we were afraid that she was somehow BEHIND. But once we left her alone and backed off, suddenly she started asking about reading books in the older kids section of the library. Suddenly she started talking to us about different books that she had read (that we didn’t even know she was reading!) Suddenly she was asking to look up more information on little tidbits that she had read here and there. (Like “Are there any reptiles that don’t lay eggs?”) Suddenly she was an independent reader. All without any headache, any effort, and distress. She became a reader because she wanted to and because she was ready for it.

This, for me, is the hardest part of unschooling. I want to be involved. I want to do something. I’ve got years of pedagogical experience. Come on! I’m important. You can’t learn without a teacher!

… or can you?

Knowledge is fixed in time, whereas, knowing is continual. Knowledge comes from a sourse, from an accumulation, from a conclusion, while knowing is a movement.”

“The additive process is merely a cultivation of memory which becomes mechanical. Learning is never cumulative; it is a movement of knowing which has no beginning and no end.”

~Bruce Lee, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do

The Sun – science study made easy thanks to the internet

15 Oct

We started the day by reading a little book we aquired years ago. It’s just a small little pamphlet from NASA, but they enjoy reading it. On the last page we were referred to the NASA website (http://stp.gsfc.nasa.gov) and they wanted to check it out. And away we went.

We started by looking at some of the pictures of the sun, stars, and the galaxy. We stumbled across some pictures of a new group of stars being born. “What! Stars are born? How does that happen?”

So we start digging some more…

Pulling up handy google search we type in “how are stars born” and we get a list of university websites and research pages and so on. “No mom, type in video after it so we can find some movies about stars.” Oh, okay. And we find more info. Some of them are videos of professors discussing stars and astronomy.

Good stuff, but the kids were not really that interested in a dry lecture – even though it was a topic they wanted to study. So we kept digging and found a few handy resources.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Very cool, but this video didn’t have any explanations.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

That’s better. And How Stuff Works also queued up more videos that were related or in a series. After this group, we watched a whole series on “Savage Sun”.

New Math – Fun with Cards

14 Oct

I’m reading Old Dogs, New Math by Rob Eastaway and Mike Askew. It inspired me to try out some ideas with the kids to encourage math learning. So, today we spent some time playing cards.

First we played “13”. A solitary card game my mother taught me when I was a wee young lass. You start out by making a pyramid with the cards. Seven rows, with the top and bottom rows face-up, starting with one card in the first row and ending with seven cards in the bottom row. All cards are face value numbers, with the Jack for 11, Queen for 12, and King for 13. The objective is to clear the cards by matching up pairs to equal 13.

Even the five year old was counting and subtracting, trying to figure out which cards he would need to equal 13. The eight year old quickly figured out the 6+7 ALWAYS equals 13. And they all had fun.

After lunch we played “21” (which is really just Black Jack without the gambling debt). I’m sure most of you know the rules, but just in case – you start out with two cards (for older kids, one face-down, and the second face-up). And you hit (for more cards) or hold to try to get as close to 21 without going over, or “bust”. As you can see, the five-year old was all about the counting.

And we got to incorporate the number line into the whole fun as we tried to figure out what cards we would need to get close to 21 without going over. There was also the added bonus of aces being used for 1 or 11 added to the math fun.

Stay tuned for more on this interesting book. The teenager is reading it right now to see what all the fuss is about and I will be writing a review in the next few weeks. The publisher has also agreed to send a copy of this book to one of my lucky readers so stay tuned for more math fun. (Is that an oxymoron or can math really be that interesting?)

*Thanks to The Experiment Publishing for sending me a copy of Old Dogs, New Math to review.

11 TED talks for Parents listed on Christian Colleges and Universities Website

30 Sep

I was just directed to an interesting little site. It is a listing and resource for online higher education at a group of religious schools. The list is predominantly Christian, but I think they are trying to be as comprehensive as possible. So this is definitely a site that almost anyone could look into.

And their blog is fascinating. Articles of lists. What a neat concept. And that’s where I found the 11 TED talks for parents. Carl Honore and the “Slow Movement”; Gever Tulley and the Tinkering School; Ken Robinson and an educational revolution (I reviewed this video here on P&E); Laura Trice and the power of “Thank you”; Adora Svitak and what parents can learn from their kids; Kiran Bir Sethi and believing that “I can”; Cameron Herold and allowing entrepreneurship and experimenting in our kids’ lives; John Wooden and the true meaning of success; Stuart Brown and the importance of playing; Liz Coleman and exploring different interests and hobbies instead of focusing on one. It’s a jam-packed list!

The joy of learning you’re going to become a parent is usually followed by a panicked question: “Wait, how do I do this?” The parenting advice business is a big one, with thousands and thousands of available titles for parents to choose from; so many, in fact, that it can tough to know where to start. If you’re a young parent or an old hand looking for fresh advice, these talks from the TED conference might be able to help. They focus on parenting, relationships, and the best way to form and execute the kind of big-picture plans that are vital for parental success.

Read the rest of the article and watch the videos here…

Primer for ed reformers (or, it’s the curriculum, stupid!)

22 Jul

Being a former public school educator and an advocate of homeschooling, this article really caught my eye. I’ve talked repeatedly about school reform and why it doesn’t (and will never) work. This article pinpoints the specifics of why. While many people, justifiably so, wish to continue efforts to reform schools, we must be practical and realistic. What he proposes is not just a band aid or a politically correct patch. Nor will it be easy. But it is simple. I am not sure that I agree with the idea of establishing another bureaucracy to rethink education. If you wish to maintain a government controlled system, clearly something drastic needs to be done.

Basically,

  • Education cannot be subdivided into neat little subjects. That is not how life works.
  • People, children and adults, do not learn in isolation of any kind (physical or intellectual).
  • We learn more by doing, asking questions, observing, practicing, and refining that we do by sitting still and listening.
  • Testing tells us nothing.

I’m not sure that it is worth the effort to radically change the school system. I don’t think the department of education and public schools need to be a part of the American landscape. But it is obvious that the majority of the people wish to have public schools and this type of reform is definitely worth talking about.

******************************

My guest today is Marion Brady, veteran teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and author.

By Marion Brady
Just about everybody who’s ever been to school has a theory about what’s wrong with education. And a good many of them have a theory about what would make what’s wrong right.

The list of those reform theories is long and getting longer: Get back to the basics! Lengthen the school day! Separate the sexes! Require more math and science! Toughen the standards! Add end-of-course exams! Increase the number of Advanced Placement courses! Put mayors in charge! Replace superintendents with retired military officers! Pay kids for good grades! Abolish teacher unions! End tenure! Lengthen the school year! Tie teacher pay to test scores! Adopt vouchers! Open more charter schools! Close colleges of education! Require school uniforms! Force parental cooperation! Give every kid a laptop! Fire the worst 25% of teachers, rank the rest, and publish the ranking in the newspaper! Adopt national standards for every school subject! Partner schools and businesses! Transfer authority from local school boards to the feds! (Just to begin a list.)

Read the full article here:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/primer-for-ed-reformers-or-its.html#more

Reform is no use any more!

8 Jun

There has been a lot of talk about reforming the education system for years. Holt talks about it in books 40 years ago! It’s an ongoing discussion. But it doesn’t work. You can’t patch up something that is broken beyond repair. Why do we expect radical improvements with such little effort or change? Why do we continue to accept such mediocre results from public schools?

Sir Ken Robinson, a visionary cultural leader, who led the British government’s 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning. Sir Ken Robinson talks about an educational REVOLUTION on this TED video. He compares the current public school system to fast food. Both are destructive to our health and welfare.

(Watch the video here if the above video doesn’t work)

I love how he talks about diversity of talent and how crucial this diversity of talent is to our world and our personal selves! Education that is tailored specifically to individual needs is the revolution we need!

I talked with a lady this weekend about her son. He just failed kindergarten and his teacher convinced them to put the poor boy on ritalin. The mom is so worried because he’s crying all the time for no reason. But she’s afraid he needs it so that he can do better in school! I’m not going to get into the dangers of these types of drugs. (I talk about it here.) Good grief! This teacher doesn’t care about the permanent harm these drugs will do to the child. Her main focus is classroom management – how to keep the classroom under her control.

These kinds of practices (one of many in the public schools) stifle creativity, destroy health and well being, and creates cookie cutter people instead of bright, shining, inspiring individuals.

Now, I know personally that unschooling works and fulfills this need. However many people can’t or won’t home school their kids. The philosophy and mandate of Pomegranate Gardens is centered on the individual student. But many people are not willing to take what they see as a gamble on their child’s future. They would rather stick with what they know, even though they know it doesn’t work.

“Everyday, everywhere, our children spread their dreams at our feet. And we should tread softly.”