Thursday, February 21, 2008

News Stories to Study History with

I read an article on a homeschool curricula blog and I'm intrigued. It takes a news story and discusses using it as a lesson play to teach with. I'm going to pick up on this and hopefully, build an entire website and educational effort around it. Anybody think this would be interesting? Of course, it's probably much more useful to homeschoolers than their standards-leadened school bound counterparts.

News story from earlier this week: Kosovo Breaks Away: Province declares itself sovereign; Serbia says it's illegal. Kosovo's regional parliament declared independence Sunday

Questions for discussion and research:

Has anything like this ever happened in American history? Two likely answers, the American Revolution and the Civil War.

The American Revolution was punctuated by a Declaration of Independence. Did Kosova issue a declaration of independence? If so, how did they justify their actions? In fact, lets revisit the US Declaration - What was it's purpose? How did we justify our acts? When the Confederacy declared it's independence, did it issue a declaration? What justification did it give?

Who in Kosova declared independence in terms of what organization? What claim do they have to speak for Kosova? In America, what organization did we have that declared independence and what claim did it have to speak for the colonies? And what organization was there in the Confederacy?

What do we think the Serbs will do? What did the British do when the US declared independence? What did the Union do when the Confederates declared independence? What will decide whether this will be called a War of Independence or a Civil War?

When Kosova declared independence, the US recognized them as a nation. Any idea why? The US recognition, is it important? Did anyone recognize the US as a nation after our July 1776 declaration? Why did they? How much and how did they help us (Answer; France recognized us and sent $s, generals, soldiers and support. Mostly to hurt their rival the UK). Did anybody recognize the South?

Anybody want to talk or research other efforts for independence? Anybody want to talk about the Kurds in Iraq? The Mexican war of independents? How about the Declaration of Independence by Texas (from Mexico).

This post brought to you by: online kids learning, where you get website info on reading comprehension, and math help, for home school.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Paradox of Proverbs

I've long been fascinated with proverbs. Not just how they sound, which is comforting, but also by theparadox.

While proverbs are great at encapsulating a point of view, they are useless at providing guidance. In fact, worse than useless.

Proverbs are frequently used by people to justify really stupid decisions when they don't feel up to really thinking about it.

They're useless because there is contradictory folk wisdom for any point of view.

You want to move quickly without considering the implications and you justify it with:
"He who hesitates is lost" and Strike while the Iron is Hot".
Well, what about: Look before you leap.

A penny saved is a penny earned. You need to spend money to make it (OK, not as good an example but I'm in a hurry to get my run in).

The point that I want to make in my opus on proverbs has something to do with following your own internal compass, not the wisdom of others.

BTW, while you might have noted that my use of the word opus is self-mocking, this is a project that I've thought about for years. Be careful, with just a little support, I might pursue it. For instance, I just bought myself a pair of domains ( and It was just 15 months ago that I dusted off another old project and created my spelling web site. My point is that I might just dive into it.

Readers. Please help. Can you come up with some pairs of proverbs that express opposing points of view? I'd appreciate the help.

I got into this today when I read a "just keep churning" story with some folk history supports it. Beth, the just keep churning lady, had a teaching story by Paramahansa Yoganandato to support her quest: to get a motivational call from Diane Sawyer (I'm not kidding!). Apparently, she has long idolized Diane and this would be meaningful to her.

My instinct was to remind her that a definition of insanity is to keep trying the same thing over and over and over again and expect different results. Perhaps, better goal setting would be a good exercise for her? For instance, motivational calls by Ed Mouse are amazingly effective and they come with a complementary coffee cup. Plus, they can be arranged quikcly so that she can get on with her life. Or, maybe, she should stick to her guns (note, all paradoxical proverbs contributions gratefully accepted but without any right to attribution, royalties, or other moral rights in my opus)

Education, learning, & homeschool
Here are three more educational directory sites that might benefit from a little goosing...
Reading Comprehension is one of the major goals of education.We all need more help with math.And, while school seems like the place to learn and make friends, the homeschool world is fast showing how false that can be.there's also the big homeschool world website.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

By simply listening, a mother helps her child learn

This is so obvious (to me) that I'm amazed and pleased that somebody took the time to validate it. I also think that it's the tip of the iceberg (which I'll explain below) And I quote:

“We knew that children learn well with their moms or with a peer, but we did not know if that was because they were getting feedback and help,” Bethany Rittle-Johnson, the study’s lead author and assistant professor of psychology at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development, said.

“In this study, we just had the children’s mothers listen, without providing any assistance. We’ve found that by simply listening, a mother helps her child learn.”....

Although the researchers used children and their mothers in the study, they believe the same results will hold true whether the person is the child’s father, grandparent, or other familiar person.

Personally, I believe that anytime somebody revisists some recently-learned materials and tries to express or explain it, they reinforce the learning and broaden their understanding (making new connections) as they strive to articulate it. This is, I believe, the basis behind book reports. If you think about and try to explain what you've read and what it meant, you will build your understanding of it.

The article continues: “The basic idea is that it is really effective to try to get kids to explain things themselves instead of just telling them the answer,” she said. “Explaining their reasoning, to a parent or perhaps to other people they know, will help them understand the problem and apply what they have learned to other situations.”
The research is currently in press at the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
Rittle-Johnson, along with co-authors Megan Saylor, assistant professor of psychology, and recent graduate Kathryn Swygert, set out to determine if 4- and 5-year-olds learn more when they have to explain the solution to a problem to someone else. They were shown a series of plastic bugs, and then had to say which bug should come next in the series based on color and type of bug, a problem that is challenging for 4- and 5-year-olds. The children were told to explain the solution to their moms, to themselves or to simply repeat the answer out loud.

The researchers found that explaining the answer to themselves and to their moms improved the children’s ability to solve similar problems later, and that explaining the answer to their moms helped them solve more difficult problems.

“We saw that this simple act of listening by mom made a difference in the quality of the child’s explanations and how well they could solve more difficult problems later on,” Rittle-Johnson said.

The researchers also found that children experience the benefit of explaining a solution at an earlier age than previously thought.

“This is one of the first studies to examine whether or not explanation is useful in helping children under 8 apply what they’ve learned to a modification of a task,” Rittle-Johnson said. “We found that even 4-year-olds can use explanation to help them learn and to apply what they’ve learned to other tasks.”

I'd like to know more, I think I'll google Rittle-Johnson , Megan Saylor, and Kathryn Swygert. I think this might be one of the keys to why homeschoolers get such a great education. They talk about it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How to Build a Homeschool Program for Your Child

The Internet can dramatically improve education. Homeschoolers take full advantage of the educational use of the net. In the discussions about the growth of homeschooling, the impact of the Internet is often overlooked.

The general population of course, would be surprised that "those backward homeschoolers" are benefitting to a greater degree than their school-bound counterparts. But arguably, one of the root reasons that homeschooling is growing so fast is the role of the Internet in providing educational resources to homeschoolers, the simplified shopping, and the web-based homeschool communities and support groups.

“Kids like using the computer to learn and to develop their skills. Time4Learning's educational teaching games gives students independence as they progress at their own pace.” - Time4Learning

When starting to homeschool, many parents’ first instinct is to go shopping and to buy a year's worth of curriculum. This is one of the most common errors that new homeschooling parents make. When a parent begins homeschooling, they must first understand where their children are academically. We recommend that you start out with two weeks of working with and observing your child across all subjects while you consider your choices in terms of curriculum and programs. You could borrow textbooks from the library or purchase new or used books for this effort. Time4Learning is a simple low cost resource for this exploration period. After a few weeks, you are in a much better position to start making curriculum commitments.
Also, parents should get connected. Find some mentors and friends. Try to find some like-minded homeschooling families and ask them what they do and recommend. Try to find local families with whom you can share ideas and activities on an ongoing basis. Be aware that the homeschool world is a collection of many strong-minded people with a range of views. There will be plenty of people who have widely divergent views from yours. Expect to have to meet ten families to be sure to find two to three that you will consider "like-minded".

Use the net! The Internet provides an amazing ability to find people with similar situations. Are you looking for secular curriculum for children with reading difficulties but gifted in math? Are you looking for interactive curriculum appropriate for a Christian family or for attention deficit children with aspergers?

You can find collections of people with just a few hours searching on the net. On the Time4Learning homeschool forum, there are moms with decades of experience homeschooling, ready to answer questions on all sorts of topics. Discussions include questions like how to set up kid-safe email and how to blend Time4Learning with other curriculum.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Learning State Capitals

I watched my daughter try to memorize all the states capitals last night and this morning for a test today. I remain annoyed at these efforts. Very stressful, time-consuming, and of unclear benefit to me. While it's fun to be able to rattle off (Maine-Augusta: Maryland-Annapolis) the names, I'm not convinced that it's worth the time and effort. While name recognition is pleasant, I feel that it's a hollow exercise. But it's an effort made by most schools and most students. When I was small, my brothers and Dad used to take great pleasure in learning them and firing them back and forth over breakfast (including mottos: The ShowMe State?)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

American Colleges: Their Branding

Everybody knows that MIT stands for brilliant engineering. Stanford represents the highest academic standards in a very tight symbiotic relationship with Silicon Valley. Harvard and Yale also have clear brands.

What about The University of Texas, the University of Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and lots of other schools? They are known for their football teams. They are not known for student fitness or a high level of excellence. They are known for their football teams and the general giddiness and celebration around their teams, the games, and their campuses. These are schools with a big Greek system. I mean fraternities.

I just spent a few days with a friend of mine who had been at a conference with some major university presidents, Fortune 200 Presidents, and public education people. One of the university presidents was particularly outspoken on why this country is over-reacting to the threat for leadership from China and India in the future. He had recently visited China and saw universities with shoddy construction and poor facilities which, compared to his well constructed campus, seemed lame.

I hear this and worry for tthe future. Our educational system is our future and the universities are dominated by a corrupt dysfunctional alliance with sports. With semiprofessional sports. I feel that these schools have sold their soul. In terms of the future, here's a simple summary.

Our big schools are about the prestige of big time sports, the associated parties and drinking, and the fraternity partying system. Our professors all know this and are very cynical as a result.

Their schools are about education, national competitiveness, and a chance to get ahead. We have frats, they don't. They'll win. And they deserve to.