Monday, August 29, 2005

our Not Back to School Day

So my youngest and oldest daughters headed back to school today. One is a freshman and a half at UNLV's Honor College and the other is a sophomore at a local public school.

Josh and I ... well we had a Not Back to School Day instead :)

We started with McDonald's McGriddles and watching the weather channel to see what Katrina was up to as she hit landfall. Lots of remembering many facts and such we learned last year when we studied hurricanes and Florida obliged us with 3 to track and study. I'm not sure about this memory thing though. Always seems the student (that's Josh) beats out the mentor (that's me, mom, in case you couldn't figure it out) everytime lol.

We moved on to reading and more remembering (of course by said student again) on the Incas because on Enchanted Learning's calendar they list the fact of Inca King Atahualpa being murdered by the Spanish conqueror Fransisco Pizarro in 1533. We reviewed all this, I say reviewed because we have studied Incas before and yes it seems plenty stuck with Josh. We used one of our favorite resources (which I think the student has memorized!), Dempsey Parr's World History Encyclopedia and also used the Young Student Encyclopedia. Josh has notebooks this year for his subjects and I had him pretend he was a historian and report his findings on the Incan people. I was surprised at how well he did with spelling some of the words since this is usually one of his weaker points. He is coming along without me knowing it seems lol.

Moving on from there was Nature Study (as per our weekly schedule which will be followed very loosely and changed when needed) Now anyone that's been reading this blog knows that nature study with Josh lately is ALL about birds lol. So, on our errand to get groceries we picked up a replacement hummingbird feeder (our original one broke last night when Josh's dad tried to bring it in to refill it). It seems Las Vegas heat and plastic can be at odds- maybe I should make that a science project hmmmm. We not only got the replacement but he talked me into another smaller hummingbird feeder for the front yard, a general bird feeder for the front yard, a thistle sock for the back yard and we just had to get the small suet feeder to be ready for fall migration especially since it was on sale. Oh yeah, we also had to get some black oil sunflower seeds because you can't have a bird feeder with no feed! Thank goodness the hummingbirds nectar is good old fashioned sugar water, 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Hey, but that gave us Math later too as we had to figure out how to half the proportions for the smaller feeder. We then drew in our nature journals, Josh choosing to draw the large hummingbird feeder with one of the black-chinns at it while I drew pictures of each of the feeders we purchased and put up today. He also read part of a chapter of the book he has been reading on birds called Going Wild, Adventures with Birds in the Suburban Wilderness by Robert Winkler. This is an adult book thatn he is enjoying. Thank goodness birders, who also happen to be writers, (at least from what we have found) write so that even young birders can read the books and you don't have to worry about the content. We also used a quote from the beginning of the chapter he read from as his copywork. Oh, I forgot to mention before we went on the birding accessory shopping expedition, I mean grocery shopping, we began the book My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. We began a bird field notebook similar to one Winkler has and talks of in his book.

All in all not a bad day to not go back to school. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

lost post

Welllll... after spending about 1/2 hour on a post for here I went to publish it and my computer messed up. Aghhhh! Needless to say you will not see that one but thought I'd just give the jist of what I had posted.

I have lately been reading Charlotte Mason's A Philosophy of Education Vol. 6 in the Original Home Schooling Series along with the CMSeries yahoo group. In reading Book II Theory Applied Chapter 1 A Liberal Education in Elementary Schools (pages 235-249) I came across a few quotes that made me stop and think.

Miss Mason states, " ... in the nature of things the teacher has a prophetic power of appeal and inspiration, that his part is not the weariful task of spoon-feeding with pap-meat, but the delightful commerce of equal minds where he is the part of guide, philosopher and friend. The friction of wills which makes school work harassing ceases to a surprising degree when we deal with the children, mind to mind, through the medium of knowledge."

I need to remember this when I am confronting a more than reluctant student this year. I have unfortunately been guilty of so called "spoon-feeding" and the results are usually not what I anticipate. No wonder. As Miss Mason reminds us, "Put the 'little minds' of children out of your thooughts. Children have just as big minds as we have." (from A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola) Things would no doubt go alot smoother if I took this view. I have seen this so when we are birding. We are "mind to mind". Actually his is a little farther ahead. Shoot alot farther ahead. I do not "spoon-feed" him on this subject because of the simple fact that he is wayyy ahead in the knowledge dept in this field than I am. So I look at him as "mind to mind" and we work well together. No fuss and tuss, just alot of really excited learning going on for both of us. I need to apply this to other things we study.

I like how she describes children as "... born persons - This is the first article of the educational credo which I am concerned to advance; this implies that they come to us with power of attention, avidity for knowledge, clearness of thought, nice discrimination in books even before they can read, and the power of dealing with many subjects." Both parent and child when engaged in this thing we call homeschooling need to remember perhaps the most important part of all this is respect for each other.

She later reminds us, "He really is capable of much more than he gets credit for, but we go the wrong way about getting his capable mind to action. We err when we allow our admirable teaching to intervene between children and the knowledge their minds demand. The desire for knowledge (curiosity) is the chief agent in education."

Something else that I need to keep in the front of my thoughts. I am not Josh's chief agent in this journey. His own curiosity is the true foundation on which to build this wonder of knowledge. This makes so much sense as I want him to "own" his education.

One last thing that spoke to me was her statement, "One thing at any rate we know with certainty, that no teaching, no information becomes knowledge to any of us until the individual maind has acted upon it, translated it, transformed, absorbed it, to reappear ... in forms of vitality. Therefore, teaching talk and tale, however lucid and fascinating, effect nothing until self-activity be set up; that is, self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer lain on the surface of a child's nature." Again here is what I feel is so important. This is JOSH'S education, not mine. He is a different person than I am and I need to recognize and honor that.

we are legal and official in the state of Nevada

as of yesterday for once again another year on this journey. :)

Steve went down to the office and filed Josh's paperwork for me yesterday. Said it was the only thing that went easily for him the whole day poor guy. I was glad to hear there were no problems since we now have a new and very easy to use one page form for our notification. If you are into your second year of homeschooling here in Nevada all that is required is name, address, phone and age of child along with the signature of a parent stating they take full responsibilty for their child's education. THAT'S it! No educational goals, curriculum etc. WOW! Couldn't get an easier especially since we do not have any type of end of the year assessment, testing etc either. Living in Las Vegas seems not so bad when I look at it from strictly a homeschooling point of view. lol

Josh and I will begin "officially" on Monday when his big sisters go back to high school and college. He would be in the 6th grade this year if in the "system". Middle school. Goodness I'm getting old - wait - I mean he's sure growing up fast. :) When my children were in school in Ohio they attended Catholic schools so to use the term middle school always seems a little foreign to me. No matter what you call it though he is growing up and I feel so lucky to be a part of ALL of it!

Friday, August 19, 2005

In the famous words of Spongebob Squarepants...

I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready!! :))))

for our studies to begin. Welllll, not all the way ready but almost. Today I went through my file box of study ideas, worksheets (yes we do use them sometimes), etc etc. I put aside things I know we have done in the past and other things that I know we probably will not be doing this year. I do this every year and every year my youngest daughter teases me that if I would only THROW a few things out I probably wouldn't be doing this year after year lol. I also cleaned out a drawer of paper and such that we use in our studies. I rearranged a little and am FIRED up to start lol.

Living the way we do we seem to learn for the fun of it though. IE Today we watched a new show called Backyard Habitat. I had totally forgotten to remind us it was on at 8 am but Josh found it by luck later in the morning. We both wanted to really see this one as it was about making a yard that would attract ospreys. Being the birders we are it was right up our yard so to say. It was pretty good and showed some great shots of ospreys and their nests. Josh sat watching the show while copying his life list into his field guide so that he will have it in two different places. When you have a life list of 154 birds you don't take chances on having just one list and losing it.

Yesterday we took Julie Bogart's advice of having a movie day once a week and rented and watched The Spongebob movie. I know, I know. A grown woman and Spongebob you are thinking. I have to admit when he first came out a few years ago I did NOT like the show at all but I tell you that little sponge grows on you. I think more than anything I LOVE being able to sit with my 11 year old son and giggle the afternoon away. If it takes watching a sponge this mom's all for it then. :))

Well I'm off to go through the A & E and History Channel listings I was sent in their educator magazine to see what I can plan for us when we actually do get this show on the road.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

join us in our birding adventures

Just wanted to invite anyone interested to join Josh, his dad and I on our birding adventures. You can do this through our blog that is located here:

There is alot more birding that goes on than tales of those times unfortunately lately. Hopefully we will be more faithful as our study year begins again in a few weeks. I may make that a part of his Friday freewrite. Josh and his dad just returned from a trip to Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada where he was able to add 9 new birds to his life list. We'll try and get up a post in the next day or so about the trip and even show the picture of the snow which is really hail in their campsite. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Pocketful of Pinecones

One of my favorite homeschooling books is Pocketful of Pinecones in which homechooling mom and author, Karen Andreola, explains "how to do" nature study the Charlotte Mason way in the form of a fictional story. This book is comfort food for my mind and soul and each time inspires me.

Re-reading it presently I have been reminded of one of my nature study resources that I have and do not take advantage of as often as I could/should. This resource is Anna Comstock's, Handbook of Nature Study. Originally published in 1911, it has been revised and republished a few times, the latest being 1986. This book is as timely now as when it was first published.

This morning, in anticipation of his trip to Great Basin National Park with his dad this weekend, Josh was going through his National Geographic Bird Guide discussing birds they anticipate seeing there. He is especially looking foward to trying to see these species of owls there that he does not yet have on his life list: northern saw whet, northern pygmy, great horned, flamulated, barn, and western screech. As he was reading about these owls in his guide, I grabbed my Handbook of Nature Study and began reading to him some of the things that Comstock has to say about owls in her book and discussing various aspects of such information as she shares.

This is the "natural learning" that I love to see happening in our home life. Mutual sharing of knowledge that interests us both.

And we haven't even "officially" started our school year yet. :))

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Theresa's hiking analogy and more educational reading

Lately I have been using Theresa's beautiful hiking analogy and applying it to not only our homeschool journey (as the last post attested to) but also to life's journey. Such a wonderful way to consider the meanings of all that we do and the way we do them. Thanks so much Theresa :)

One of the books that I recently read and have been doing some thinking on is John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing Us Down. In all these years of homeschooling I had never read any of his books though I was familiar with his name and the ideas he espoused. The book was a veritable gold mine of ideas and thoughts for contemplating my own philosophies regarding education and learning.

Here are a few I'd like to share:

"...wherever possible I have broken with teaching tradition and sent kids down their spearate paths to their own private truths."

"...people have to be allowed to make their own mistakes and to try again, or they will never master themselves, although they may well seem to be competent when they have in fact only memorized or imitated someone else's performance."

"... I get out of kids' way. I give them space and time and respect."

"... we've built a way of life that depends on people doing what they are told because they don't know how to tell themselves what to do."

"... reading, writing, and arithmetic only take about 100 hours to transmit as long as the audience is eager and willing to learn. The trick is to wait until someone asks and then move fast while the mood is on."

"... when children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cell blocks they learn to read, write and do arithmetic with ease, if those things make sense in the kind of life that unfolds around them."

"... School takes our children away from any possibility of an active role in community life - in fact, it destroys communities by regulating the training of children to the hands of certified experts - and by doing so it ensures our children cannot grow up fully human."

"... Aristotle taught that without a fully active role in community life one could not hope to become a healthy human being."

"... school insitutions 'school' very well, though it does not 'educate'."

"... two institutions at present control our children's lives: television and schooling, in that order. Both of these reduce the real world of wisdom, fortitude, temperance, and justice to a never-ending, non-stop abstraction... in centuries past, the time of childhood and adolescence would have been occupied in real work, real charity, real adventures, and the realistic search for mentors who might teach what you really wanted to learn."

"... Right now we are taking from our children all the time that they need to develop self-knowledge... I am confident that as they gain self-knowledge they'll also become self-teachers - and only self-teaching has any lasting value..."

"... independent study, community service, adventures and experience, large doses of privacy and solitude, a thousand different apprenticeships - the one day variety or longer - these are all powerful, cheap and effective ways to start a real reform of schooling... no large scale reform is ever going to work until we force open the idea of "school" to include family as the main engine of education."

"...Discovering maning for yourself as well as discovering satisfying purpose for yourself, is a big part of what education is. How this can be done by locking children away from the world is beyond me. "

"... whatever education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; how to live and how to die."

These are only some of the notes that I took as I read this book. Mr. Gatto has hit his finger on the spot so to say. What do we adults expect from children when we require of them things that will not in the long run help them in living life?

I felt as though I had been hit with a 4 by 4 after reading this book regarding a situation with one of my own children. My youngest daughter attends a public high school. She has been homeschooled in the past and is now a part of the educational system. She will be a sophomore this coming school year and is scheduled for all honors classes. She was recommended for an AP class and was making herself physically sick this summer worrying about all that she will be dealing with this coming academic year. After much discusssion with her, her father and I emailed her teacher and called her school to notify them of the fact she will be dropping this class. There is NO reason for that young woman to feel such pressure. I have to admit that in the beginning I forgot to look at HER and all this meant to her. I had felt proud of her and just a bit smug with myself as her parent and let that get in the way of seeing what was really best for her, not only as a student, but as a person in her own right. I was so pleased when her teacher responded postively to our notification of her dropping his class. He said he sees so many students being pressured in "performing" not only by teachers etc but by their own parents and was glad to see parents involved and concerned with their child's education in the exact opposite regard. It was funny that in homeschooling her brother I don't have a problem trying to "live" ideas such as Mr. Gatto talks about in his book and yet when faced with a situation in the education system with one of my other children I almost forgot about my own philosohpies and beliefs and the application of such. Thank you Mr. Gatto for the wake up call!

If you haven't read this book I highly recommend it. I borrowed it from our local library but plan on adding this gem to our own family homeschooling library.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Life happens...

in a family which makes learning in a perfect world something that only works in mom's study notebook. I had planned on trying to get back to a little more routine in our studies as both Josh and I are wanting and needing this but this past month has thrown our family for a loop in the journey of life. Instead of our planned start in July we have found ourselves trying to make forward motion with an older brother's epilepsy and breakthrough seizures and the myriad tangled brush called the medical system. That, and a few other issues, have kept us continuing our own summer voyages of self-discovery at least for a little while longer. Maybe that's what is needed anyway. So, I find myself reading on education and homeschooling and Josh, well, he is hiking and sitting quietly on the path of the things that have filled his summer thus far. Learning, sharing, and life continue for our family just not in the way that most are used to seeing. The routine will have to wait for just awhile longer and who knows we may even find something wonderful in these other life lessons.