Saturday, January 30, 2010
Documenting Children's Work: Pre-Project - This post on the Camp Creek Blog describes the process of observing children, determining their interests and ensuring accurate data collection
State of US Kids: 2010 - The AERO blog gives the highlights of a report issued by TIME kids and KidsHealth.org
How to be an Anti-Racist Ally - More tips from New Demographic, posted on their Love Isn't Enough blog, on how to raise anti-racist children
Peyton Manning Can Call Audibles, Can You? - Ecology of Education explores standardization in schools
Thursday, January 28, 2010
The kind of nice thing about it, though, has been the chance I've had to spend a couple of focused days with her. Usually we're so busy going about our lives, and I am busy chasing her toddler brother, that I don't get to spend much time just hanging out with her, talking. It's been nice to snuggle on the couch, reading books and telling stories.
I've gotten the chance to really see how much she's learned, grown and matured over the past several months. When reading books, I can see the buds of literacy starting to peek through, as she begins to recognize letters and words and interacts with stories in ways she never did before. Her math skills are growing as well, as she is beginning to be interested in simple addition, subtraction and fractions. Even her awareness of the world is starting to shift - as we sat this morning watching the snow fall, she explained to me the phases of matter, and how the flakes don't really disappear but change from ice to water.
I don't know how she would be developing intellectually and academically if she were in a different school environment, but there's something else that I am confident is unique to Wellspring. Even though she has been up all night with a nasty cough and a fever of over 102 degrees, she was desperately trying to convince me that she was healthy enough to go to school. She feels a responsibility to her friends and a commitment to her community, and she wants to be at school. She loves being at school. She feels like she belongs there, and the importance of that cannot be overstated.
So, I'm off to do more soup-making and brow-mopping so I can get my daughter back to her friends as soon as possible!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Money for education? Comprehensive literacy plans? How can you go wrong?
I absolutely concur that literacy is vital and should be given much attention. However, I have to wonder about a program that creates generalized mandates and "comprehensive literacy plans" instead of leaving implementation in the hands of the people best equipped to judge the needs of students - namely, their teachers. I also find it difficult to imagine that Washington can create a plan that will work for all students.
As a holistic educator, I believe that each child is an individual - sorry to state the obvious! Furthermore, as an individual, each child has unique needs that cannot be adequately addressed through any one-size-fits-all curriculum. Literacy is more than decoding and vocabulary. It is about learning to interact with words, to understand their deeper meanings and think carefully about what a writer is trying to say even if she hasn't explicitly said it. It is about incorporating new ideas and gradually expanding your world-view through the things you read, hear, see and learn. This sort of intellectual development requires a certain degree of trust and a strong relationship between student and teacher, which is difficult to develop in most educational situations. The question really isn't whether or not children will learn to read, but will they learn to think about what they read, to form a meaningful relationship with words and ideas that will help them to be successful, informed individuals?
Perhaps comprehension is more difficult to measure than decoding and vocabulary skills. In our current corporate culture that is so focused on predictable and measurable results, people are reluctant to talk about the more obscure skills that don't lend themselves to testing, such as curiosity, critical thinking and creativity. Certainly, people are reluctant to grant money unless they can come away with a number that tells them whether or not their money was well-spent. However, we cannot educate our children based on our desire to measure their progress. We need to educate them to have the skills they will need to be knowledgeable and happy people who have a valuable contribution to make to the world. We continue to try to come up with different ideas that will make schools more successful at giving children the academic skills we think they need, but perhaps what we really need is nothing short of a paradigm shift.
Read another perspective here.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
1. Step outside your comfort zone. If something is making you uncomfortable, look closely at it and figure out where your own biases are.
2. Being anti-racist is a journey, not a destination. The topic of racism is not a one-time conversation. Racism is a difficult subject that must be looked at closely and talked about in relationship to real life.
3. Seek out professionals of color. If possible, find a physician, attorney, dentist, artist, etc. of color and do business with them so that your child does not assume that people of color only do certain types of job (often low-paying, low-prestige ones).
4. Never stop dismantling your own racist beliefs. We all have them, and we need to look at them carefully and frequently.
5. Speak truthfully and proudly. Answer questions in a straightforward way without making excuses or acting as if the subject of race is taboo.
6. Make conversations about racism relaxed and frequent. You want your children to be comfortable coming to you with questions, concerns and stories.
7. Lead by example. I don’t think this one requires any additional explanation.
8. Don’t let others decide your child’s ethnicity for them. If your child is of a minority ethnic group, don’t be afraid to describe her ethnicity in any way you choose.
9. Have an answer prepared. This is always better than being caught off guard.
10. Your children will face racism, so prepare them for it. It does you, and your children, no good to pretend that racism does not exist, so it is best to prepare them ahead of time rather than allowing them to get caught unprepared in a difficult situation.
Friday, January 15, 2010
In Defense of Reading...Which Should Need No Defense: Camp Creek blog asks why kids can't play Wii AND read.
We are Hardwired to Care and Connect: David Korten shares on the Eartheasy blog that all we need to be happy is to do what comes naturally - connect with community.
What if Schools Had Solutionary Teams: Zoe Weil wonders why schools offer (require?) debate teams but not chances for students to work together toward solutions?
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
Now that we are several months into the school year, the Olders have stepped up their game. Recently, the lunchtime math chatter turned to talk of “x.” One of the boys had mastered the skill of figuring out simple algebraic problems. He quickly explained it to a peer, and they delighted in stumping the other children with new math problems involving the elusive “x.” Some of the interested Youngers looked to me in confusion. X? What in the world could they be talking about? We discussed the fact that x is called a “variable,” a number that we aren’t sure of, a “mystery number.” This, the Youngers could understand. Of course, they wanted to know how to solve this mystery! A younger sibling, C (5 years old), was particularly determined to figure out what “x” was. This was the exchange that took place as we cleaned up from lunch:
Me: Give me two numbers. X plus something equals something else.
C: X plus 19 equals 9.
Me: Well, we need the last number to be the biggest, because we’re saying that the mystery number, x, plus something, equals something else, so the ending number has to be biggest.
C: Ok, x plus 9 equals 19.
Me: That’ll work. So, mystery number, added to 9, will give us 19. (I hold up my hands in front of him to count with my fingers). If we start at 9, how many will we have to count to get to 19? Start with the number that comes after 9, and stop me when we get to 19. What comes after 9?C: Ten.
Me: Right. Keep going. (I hold up a finger for each number he ticks off).
C: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 . . . STOP!
Me: (holding 10 fingers in front of him) Ok, how many did it take us to get from 9 to 19? (he counts each of my fingers)
Me: So what plus 9 equals 19?
C: Ten.Me: So x is what?
C: TEN!! (runs over to P and B) It’s 10! X is 10!!
The older boys congratulate him on solving the problem, and C is ecstatic. He tells 4 year old S, “I know what x is! X is 10!” She’s clearly happy to have this information with which to impress her brother. The Olders then give them another problem: X+45=90.
C and S announce in unison, “x is 10!” and the Olders laugh. The Youngers look to me, the air gone from their sails. I break the news:
"X was 10 in the problem we did. But guess what? X is not always 10. X changes when the other numbers change. The good news is, if you know two of the numbers, you can always figure out X. Do you want to try some?” They sure did. We made our way over to the chalkboard as the rest of the students were getting dressed to go outside. The paddock would have to wait for this small group! The Olders wanted to give the Youngers some problems. We started out with smaller numbers, to make things easier.
B: Ok, 5 plus x equals 8. (writes it on chalkboard) So, what you do is, you subtract the same thing from both sides and that will give you x.
S and C look completely confused. I explain the strategy we used to solve the first problem.
Me: We started with the number we knew, then counted how many it took to get to the ‘equals number,’ and that’s how we found x. That might be easier for them to understand than subtraction.
P: Ok, so what do you have to add to 5 to get 8?
Me: Try showing them with something, it will help them see it.
B: (makes tally marks on chalkboard) 6, 7, 8. So what is x?
C looks to me, unsure.
Me: How many did it take to get from 5 to 8? Count them.
C: 1, 2, 3.Me: So x is?
Me: You just did algebra!
C: (to S) I did algebra! I know it! (turns to me) If I learn all the algebra now, by the time I get to college, I’ll know all the algebra already, and it’ll be easier!
C runs to get dressed for outside, leaving S with me, studying the chalkboard. I ask if she wants to try one, and she enthusiastically says yes.
Me: Let’s try this one. X plus 8 equals 10. (I write it on the board). If we have 8, how many will it take us to get to 10?(S doesn’t seem to know where to begin, so I pull out the basket of chalk pieces). We know we start with 8, so show me 8.(S counts out and lines up 8 pieces of chalk on the rug). So now that we have 8, how many more will we need to get to 10?
Me: Are you sure? Show me. (She takes out two more pieces of chalk, adds them to the lineup).
S: Nine, ten.
Me: So what plus 8 equals 10?
Me: So x is what, in this problem?
She fills in the number 2 on the chalkboard, then runs to the cubbies to D-R-A-G Anne over to see her work. She beams as she shows Anne the equation on the board, and the chalk pieces on the floor that prove her skill. “I did algebra!” she says with a smile, and runs to join C to share the news.
Friday, January 8, 2010
10 Questions to Encourage Engaged Parenting in 2010 - Megan at simplemom gives parents a starting point for setting parenting goals for the upcoming year
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Douglas Economy as the traditional German Weihnachtsmann
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I couldn't help but wonder, instead of giving parents tips on how to minimize the effects of school stress on children, what if we were to look at the way schools are set up and try to minimize the stress felt by children in the first place? As a former researcher who studied the effects of stress on learning, I know that stress compromises a person's ability to learn complex tasks and ideas. When our stress response is turned on, we are more likely to be in survival mode, paying attention to cues that signal the onset of more stress and trying to figure out ways to minimize its unpleasant effects. We certainly are not giving our full attention to solving for "x" or the use of allegory in Renaissance literature.
Clearly, some stress is inevitible, even useful. All interpersonal interactions are marked by a certain degree of conflict. It is our responsibility as parents to give our children the tools to learn how to manage their time to allow for adequate rest, to deal with other people, to overcome disappointment and frustration, to take responsibility for their own learning, to find solutions for difficult situations. However, I think we do all children a disservice when we fail to acknowledge the fact that most schools are set up as places where stressors can quickly become overwhelming.
Children often receive so much homework that adequate rest is impossible, especially when extracurricular activities are included in the schedule. Teachers are expected to cover certain predetermined curriculum in a given amount of time, regardless of the number and abilities of the students in a class. Children may be unable to receive extra help if they are behind, or enrichment if they are ahead, for a number of reasons. Instead of offering instruction on how to solve conflicts, disagreements among children often lead to punishment if they are addressed by adults at all. Teachers are seen as authorities and purveyors of knowledge, grades, and status, not as students' friends. Given these conditions, it's no wonder that students are stressed!
Holistic education asks how we can help children develop academically within an environment that also supports their personal, social and spiritual growth. Each child is met and nurtured as an individual by adults who see themselves as allies and aides of the students. Relationships are viewed as being at least as important as classwork, and significant time is devoted to teaching children how to be together in kindness and community. Surely, there is still conflict and stress, but this is dealt with as a matter of course. Instead of seeing life and school as separate, holistic facilitators and parents work together to provide a continuous network of support that helps children to navigate the murky and confusing roads of growth and maturity.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Friday, January 1, 2010
What About Other Pressing Issues?
Many people today feel that there are concerns which are so pressing that these concerns must be solved before any others (like developing alternative forms of education) are addressed. Such people will say that one can not discuss philosophy with someone starving - feed the person first, and then one can give time and energy to philosophy.
Holistic education has seen the situation a bit differently, and thinks this metaphor is inadequate. Let us assume that a person is starving unnecessarily because that person has some fundamentally mistaken notions. Perhaps one needs to feed the person initially, but no amount of just feeding the person will help; simply giving them food will only mean they end up starving again later. Holistic education has long maintained that mis-education or inadequate education lies at the roots of our modern problems, and a different kind of education has a real chance of solving them.