Friday, June 29, 2007

American Education: A Research Project

I've decided to embark on a research project on the state of American education. My question is what is the state of education in America and (as I confirm it's as bad as I suspect) as Christians, what should our response be? I'm collecting all kinds of articles on different aspects. So if anyone wants to send me links, I will appreciate it.
Also, as mentioned on this blog before, a line I heard recently about the public schools being the greatest mission field keeps resonating in my brain. Even though I must confess I doubt the abundance of such, I'm going to be on the lookout for any great mission stories. I'm looking for stories of Christian students who have an effect on their schools. In fact, even any success stories of children going through the system without loosing their faith, virginity, closeness with their families, love of learning, etc. will be welcome finds. When I do become aware of these students, I would love to interview them and find the secrets to their success. Maybe it could help others who are struggling but determined to stay in the governmental school system.
My first reading on the topic is John Taylor Gatto's Underground History of American Education. You can read this book online. For those of you not familiar with Mr. Gatto he was a teacher for 30 years and awarded New York's Teacher of the Year award. His assessments and observations are not pleasant to say the least. I've been in tears all morning while reading his writings. Sometimes it's painful to open your eyes to the larger world around you and see what you are sheltered from, but I believe it's our duty to face reality and then decide on a Christian response.
On a trip I recently listened to Focus on the Family's radio theatre of Amazing Grace, a set of three different biographies of the main characters in the Amazing Grace movie. The one that inspired me the most was the story of Olaudah Equiano, a former slave. He took upon himself the unpleasant task of making people face what was really going on around them, a task that does not bring popularity. People don't want their comfort disturbed. When they wanted to whitewash what was happening, Mr. Equiano held the truth up for them to see. He forced them to look. I see a lot of correlations between what was taking place then, and what is happening now. I prayed that God would help us to be as brave.
It's easy to look back on issues of the past and see what seemingly blind people could not see. We might wonder how people could have tolerated the injustices that seem so clear to us. How many issues do we have in our society today that future generations will look on and wonder how we tolerated them. Will our system of "education" be one of them?
It is often tempting, as a homeschooler, to just live defensively. "We just want to be left alone." I remember a visit with a state senator years ago and he admonished us to leave off that attitude and push for more. Then recently our pastor preached about living offensively. Hearing that sermon and Equiano's story have got me thinking, a thinking that is leading to a desire to be "doing". May God raise up more Mr. Equianos and Mr. Gattos.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Have Caved

So, I have finally given in and caved in to the library's summer reading program. I had a long climb down to get off my educational-philosophy-high-horse. I had always hated the idea of offering children bribes to read. The story should be reward enough, I contended. Then came The Boys. They never want to read. They would rather be outside playing, exploring, investigating...anything besides reading.
So we signed up. Every so many pages they get to go in and spin a wheel for a prize. The prizes range from ice cream cones to getting to choose a free book from the designated shelf. So far it's working. The boys are reading more and keeping a count of their pages. The very next day after signing up they had read enough to spin the wheel. One got an ice cream cone coupon and the other won a coupon for free breadsticks at Dominoes. Annalise is participating too and was happy with her pencil and ruler set.
We are off again today to spin again.

Friday, June 15, 2007

More Math Fun wih Fractions

We are really having a math revolution around here. It seems the younger the children are the more responsive they are to these non-traditional ways of learning math. For some reason this is really setting off some triggers in my mind and I am amazed at how easy math concepts are becoming to me. Math used to be such an area of frustration around here. I only wish I had caught on to this idea when my older children were young.

Fraction Jugglers is what I'm using with the boys. We've been using the wooden fraction puzzle that is shown below to check our work, sort of like how cusinaire rods are used with whole numbers. It's funny that I need to use the puzzle more than they do because they seem to be able to picture it better in their heads. I have some other fraction games with the set of games I bought from Right Start Math and I'll be pulling those out too in order to add some variety.

I got this Fraction Action book from the library and I read it to Annalise. I was amazed at how much fraction knowledge she picked up from this one title. Abel sat in on it too and was saying, "Aw. She's learning about fractions too? That's not right. I'm four years older than she is!" I tried to explain that I was starting to look at studying math the way we study history. We are all learning about Ancient Rome together aren't we? Why not do the same with math topics? Of course, there will be different levels of understanding but why not all play with fractions together?

Here is a picture of the fraction puzzle I bought from Right Start. Annalise just played with it one day with no help from me and the next day she was explaining to me how fractions get smaller when the bottom number gets bigger. She explained in excited tones how 1 was bigger than 1/10. She continued to expound on how it was the opposite of counting with regular numbers and that is why they were called fractions.

Thanks to Julie at the Living Math site and the accompanying email list, I'm seeing numbers in a whole different light. I look forward to trying more resources and enjoying our mathematical adventure. I'll continue to post things that we use and enjoy here in hopes that it will encourage others to step out of the workbook/textbook box and have fun learning!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Discussion on Courtship

I have found Cindy over at Dominion Family to be an astute observer of the homeschooling community. She recently posted her thoughts on courtship. I have considered writing my own reformed thoughts on the topic many times but never quite got it together - "it" being both my thoughts and my courage. I posted a few quotes from her post here along with my thoughts on the issue. I am sure my thoughts will be more scrambled than Cindy's.

"It is not an easy topic to discuss because people have violent opinions and the younger the children the more violent the opinions get."

This was definitely me a few short years ago. It's amazing what actually having some experience in the matter will do to your opinions. I think the violent opinions come from wanting so badly to protect your children from unnecessary hurt. But God knows it is often times pain that forms our character and like Jesus we can pray for what we think is best but ultimately we need to say, "God's will be done."

"Almost every family I know with older children has modified their views on courtship. That is not to say that they have rushed towards dating but just that they have stopped believing in courtship as a panacea. Courtship carries within itself just as many pitfalls as dating, some of the same pitfalls and a few more besides."

That would also describe me and I would have to agree with the rest of the paragraph. Both of my older girls have been hurt through a courtship process and in one of the cases a few others were hurt too and we ended up having to leave our church of eleven years because of the situation going sour. However, we have all have grown tremendously from it. And because we were involved and our wishes respected, neither relationship became physical so they both still have the chance of entering into their marriages completely pure. I thank God for that.

In one of the comments Cindy says,

"One thing we have not been confused about is that the goal of all this is purity. Our boys are not in any doubt at all about the fact we expect them to remain pure until marriage and guard the purity of the girls they pursue."

Amen. I have known people who have different standards for their daughters and sons, thinking it is up to the girl's family to protect her purity and putting no responsibility on the sons. I think that is pathetic and pitiful and I'm glad to hear Cindy say otherwise.

"For parents of boys, courtship basically means whatever the father of the girl decides it means. This can range from mild interest to the boy almost having to fall in love with dear old dad. "

For us, details about things such as where they spend the majority of their time are no longer pre-determined. I'm sure our children will want prospective mates to spend time with us because they like to spend time with us and they will want our opinions on the matter. I expect the prospective mates will desire the same thing with their own families. As one commenter brought up the idea of long-distance relationships and the problems that brings for the girl to spend time with the young man's family, if we were in that situation I think the ideal would be having the young man and the young man's father as committed to protecting our daughter's purity as he would his own daughter/sister. If that were not the case, I would not suggest sending her alone.

And being that the bride is the one being "given", I still think that her father should know enough of the young man to be able to give wholeheartedly, thus demanding some amount of relationship. However, it is the girl who must live with the choice for the rest of her life. She is wise if she seeks counsel from those she trusts, especially in case her emotions are blinding her. But demanding a best friend relationship with a father-in-law is foolish in my opinion. Why should we assume that the kind of person our daughter wants to marry should be the type that my husband would have as a best friend?

Sometimes as humans we like formulas. But God often gives us principles instead. I think this is a good scripture to apply to the matter. When you look up the definitions of the words sanctification, defraud and transgress it makes it even more clear.

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification." 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7

Monday, June 04, 2007

Looks Like She's Having A Good Time

This picture was posted on the website of the worldview camp where Priscilla is this week.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fun Math

Last month at our local homeschooling meeting I know I astounded my ex-math professor friend when I told her I was actually having fun with math. Math has always been something we got out of the way so we could get to the "fun stuff", which for me was reading, writing and drawing. I'm experimenting with Annalise and using lots of games and real books to see if we can learn the basics.

I thought I would share a few titles that we have been having fun with. Annalise asks for math every day. We'll see if I can manage to keep this fire burning instead of the dousing with the boredom I usually provide with endless workbook pages. Thanks to the Living Math site and the library, we have lots of books to try.

Number Jugglers is something I've been using with Annalise and the boys. Everyday Annalise asks for the odd/even game or the number ladder game. The boys like some of the games too. Or I should say the one who is winning at the moment likes it. At least they admit it's better than workbooks. It's been a great way to review the four basic operations. Often we can all play together adjusting the game for the different levels by not dealing as many cards to the older ones as the book suggests. We have also been using Fraction Jugglers for the boys. My summer experiment is to see if I can teach them all about fractions while reviewing what they already know in a fun way .

Annalise just loved this and other books by Greg Tang. Sometimes I'm the one who needs a different way to do something after doing it six times before. This particular title involves finding addition strategies.
The library had many in this series so I brought home a large stack to read to Annalise. This little title taught her about negative numbers. Since she is already in the habit of loving books, these are an easy way to introduce new topics. At the end of each book there are reinforcement and activity suggestions. I think this one stack I have could keep us busy for quite a while.