Literacy and Education

October 4, 2014 at 4:31 pm (Education, In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , )

Every day I read.  And since having a child, every book I read is filtered through a mental checklist of sorts: Would this be useful to Kiddo?  How would I feel about her reading this? What age is this appropriate for? How can we apply tools, principles, morals, themes, etc. that we learn from reading this to our lives?

Does this mean she’s the center of my universe and I do it all for her?  No.  I read for myself.  It might not seem like it when I’m making lessons plans, blogging reviews with Amazon affiliate purchase links (every time YOU buy a book by clicking the link from my site, a portion of that money is used as much needed income – thank you), posting about bookstore events, etc.  But I do so much of it for me it verges on selfishness.  This is my vice, my hobby, my job, my world.  I am a book fiend and somehow I have made that work for me on as many fronts as possible.

But even with all that self-serving book binging going on, determining how my reading material could mold the mind of my child – whether directly or indirectly – is a constant subplot to my life story.

If I weren’t homeschooling, would I have been interested in titles like Why School? If I wasn’t teaching my daughter to read right now, would a book on literacy research been a desirable past time?

I laughed at myself several times this week.  By the time I’m done raising my daughter I could have a PhD in education, going by my thirst for educational theory.  However, it’s not even remotely close to what I desire to earn a PhD in.  Is every parent required to study this hard? No.  Is it necessary to do all this leg work to be a homeschool mom?  Absolutely not.  You are qualified to teach your child just by virtue of being their parent and longing to make a priority of their spiritual, educational, and physical growth, of viewing your parent-child relationship as something worthy of being tackled with excitement and care.  But for those naturally driven to research and reading, for those who have undeniably lofty ideas regarding the swoon of academia, for those who possibly have an unhealthy love for pens and paper, stacks and shelves, mahogany and oak, for those people it’s a little hard not to fall “victim” to the pull of differing philosophies regarding your life choice to teach your child yourself.  (God help me when it comes to instructing her on the laws of grammar as I’ve never quite mastered getting over run on sentences, they are my favorite grammatical mistake.  Those, and sentence fragments, I suppose.)

why schoolWhy School? is a diminutive sized hardback with a picture of an old one room schoolhouse on the front.  Behind the schoolhouse – identical to what I long to build on my future homestead, although much larger I’m sure – is a vast sky of blue inviting you to all the possibilities contemplation and the school of thought might have to offer you.  The book begins with a tale about a janitor who had suffered some brain damaged, but chose to work at a community college to be around “where it happens” and to have access to materials he could study and/or take home to his daughter.  It was a beautiful tale regarding academia and how it is viewed from different sets of eyes.  Most people see it as a mandatory road map in life, one they can’t get out of.  Some see it as a golden ticket to the land of opportunity.  Few actually see it for what it is meant to be: a place to learn.

The author, Mike Rose, talks about many things regarding school and college and life.  He discusses blue collar life vs. white collar life.  He addresses a few political issues, some I agree with and some I don’t.  But one thing is clear: he is passionate about learning.  He is passionate about education.  Rose’s goal is to make others aware of the importance of developing the mind and taking charge of what we put in it, whether it be tools and life skills or book facts.

“We live in a time of much talk about intelligence.  Yet we operate with a fairly restricted notion of what that term means, one identified with the verbal and quantitative measures of the schoolhouse and the IQ test.  As the culture of testing we live in helps define achievement and the goals of schooling, it also has an effect on the way we think about ability.” – pg. 73

I loved that part.  I loved how he addressed the parts of the brain used by those who work with their hands.  My husband works with his hands, he is a millwright.  More than anything, I want to balance my child’s developmental education with things both her parents are passionate about.  I want her to continue to love books, but I want to allow her to be passionate about building things (the girl is a master tower builder when it comes to legos and VHS tapes).  So much creative energy is dismissed when people look at their mechanic or a machinist.  People do not understand how even your diner waitress is the Queen of her domain, has mastered brain patterns you cannot fathom, and has an internal clock and rhythm you could not duplicate without years of practice and training.  I understood this example Rose provided well, having waited tables just long enough to say I learned to do it the best I ever could and could not do it forever.  (I was a good server, well-liked by most my customers, but I was no Wanda.)

lit resI read chapters of Rose’s book in between dives into Adolescent Literacy Research and Practice.  Where Rose is quaint and inspiring, though thoughtful and well-spoken, Adolescent Lit. is all academic essays, lengthy work cited pages, references to studies and schools of thought.  The book is written by public school educators for public school educators, but one would be remiss if they didn’t hear the constant hum of “Homeschooling is the answer” to nearly every issue they address.  The writers would laugh, I think, as there is an entire section dedicated to how people tend to read things and find support for their own arguments and core beliefs even where there may be none.

Timothy and Cynthia Shanahan were the contributors I enjoyed reading the most.  They talked in great detail about what literacy is truly about, what being able to write is for, and how important it is in the education process to not confuse its purpose.  Literacy and developing good writing habits are at the core of understanding any subject – not just literature – but math, science, and history as well.  Writing isn’t merely about communicating what you have learned, but a process of diving deeper into a subject and gleaning a more thorough understanding of it.  Not just about memorizing facts and regurgitating, but thinking about what those facts mean to you and how that may or may not affect your world view.  It is about engaging the brain and coming up with new thoughts about old concepts.  It is about developing theories from research.  It is about invention and progress.  It isn’t just about basic comprehension, it’s about eventual enlightenment on any given subject.

Several essayists in the book discuss the issue of the misconception that writing is only for the literature major and how there is only one way to read.  There is great detail on how the practices for reading a science text cannot be considered the same as those to read classic fiction.  So many do not address this, which is why we have children in our schools reading their chemistry and physics homework, plodding their way through formulas, but they haven’t internalized it.  They only barely understand, it’s passion-less math or vague theories… whereas teaching these same kids how to read their science text (and giving them more than just standard textbooks, but also journals produced by scientists and articles from the professional world) will bridge the gap between the information and the passion to do something with that information.  Not everyone is Einstein, but we are not raising independent thinkers with a drive to feed their brains.  We are raising frustrated honey bees who have been deprived of pollen, and by doing such a thing they become useless drones who produce nothing.

I say this screams “homeschool is the solution” to me because the essence of the discussion in the book is teach a child to read for each appropriate discipline and you give them the world.  You teach them how to teach themselves.  You teach them how to use their brains and be studious and good stewards of their minds.  Not for the sake of a grade, not for an award or blessing, but for the act of embracing the knowledge itself.  We are driven by standardized tests – and I get it, how else do you assess where a child is when you must maintain some semblance of order while still addressing the needs of 30 students at a time.  How else do you sort them out and provide the best education possible?  If you can, you teach them at home.  Smaller classrooms, a personal relationship, true observing of where that child is developmentally and how you can aid them on the path to true literacy.  In Texas a homeschool is considered a private school run out of the home.  If there was nothing I liked about Texas (and I love Texas, but if I didn’t), this fact alone would keep me here as long as possible.

There’s also a thing called Unschooling that I’m finding more and more I lean to (I am combining classical education and unschooling education styles in my “private school” that is the Klemm home).  Unschooling is child driven.  You pursue their interests with a passion when they have them.  You learn what you can while they are motivated to learn it.  Every moment is a possible classroom moment.  The other day we researched praying mantises after discovering one in the garden we were weeding.  Kiddo was so excited and immediately went to her bug book and found a picture of one, thrilled to see something in the book that she had just seen in real life.  Well that’s easy when they’re in pre-school, people like to say.  Yes, it is.  But it can continue to be that way as they get older.

“Reading classrooms at the secondary school level typically tend to minimize student choice (Guthrie & Davis, 2003).  However, giving students opportunities to ‘self-rule’ and ‘self-determine’ can make learning more personally meaningful and intrinsically motivating (Deci & Ryan, 1985, Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, 1991; Ryan & Powelson, 1991).” – pg. 286

What do you think?

 

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Mother’s Day

May 11, 2014 at 7:03 am (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , )

This is my third mother’s day – fourth if you’re one of those people that count mother’s day when you’re pregnant because you’re a mother from the first heartbeat.  I believe in life from the moment of conception, but I wasn’t really thinking of myself as a mother yet.  I didn’t really feel like a mother until I was nursing and changing diapers and praying I didn’t screw it up.

Preggo me with fam

Me & Ayla Day One

Although this blog began as a book review blog, it is still a blog and by definition it is an online diary.  Which means it contains not just one of my passions, but all of them.  Books, Kung Fu, Cycling, and now, of course, for the last three years – mothering.

Being a mother, for me, has meant that I have found every possible way to make half my previous yearly income from home.  I’m not quite making half as my book sales are chronically lean because it’s in the wrong category on Amazon.  I’m a little conceited about the beauty of its cover and enticing back jacket blurb and think it would sell like hotcakes if only the right people could find it by browsing.

Of course, being a mother has actually made it possible for me to finish writing a book in the first place.

Day in the Life 054Being a mother, for me, has meant that my book reviews take me twice as long to write because I used to be able to completely bury myself in a book until I felt like coming up for air.  Now, I don’t get to choose when I come up for air – that is usually chosen for me by a precocious three year old who will say things like, “Mommy, I need more juice.”  “Mommy, look, it’s echoes, like in the bathroom.” (After drawing a series of parenthesis like lines getting larger across the width of her chalkboard.)  “Mommy, I need a peanut butter sandwich.”  “Mommy, you be the orange dalek and I’ll be the white one – ‘Exterminate! Exterminate!” (While dancing rubber Daleks across my kitchen table.) “Mommy, I want to learn something.  Can we do a lesson?” “Mommy, can you teach me my letters now?”  I love my tiny, vocal, human who will assert her needs and remind me to read to her at every turn and not neglect her schooling.

At the dock 6Being a mother, for me, means endless beautiful walks in the woods.  Miles and miles of trails, flower picking, foraging, bird-watching, and outdoor story time.  It means multiple trips to the park, the lake, the grocery store, bookstores, and libraries.  It means art projects, painting, dancing, extra house cleaning just for the fun of letting her sweep and mop knowing I’ll have to do it again.  It means demonstrating all of your passions, all your talents, all your dreams, and all your healthy habits to a small person who is watching your every move and gathering every ounce of information she can from it all.

Being a mother has meant seeing this little girl go from this:

Ayla

To this:

P1010626

In what can simultaneously be equated to a blink of an eye and the longest three years of my life.

I didn’t think I’d be a mother.  But I’m enjoying it immensely.

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Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – Dinosaurs!

January 18, 2013 at 8:13 pm (Education, JARS, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

dinsaurs before darkI read Magic Tree House #1: Dinosaurs Before Dark to the kiddo today, all the way through this time.  We have started it before, but she wasn’t old enough to listen to it all and grasp the concept yet.  We’ve been practicing our alphabet and started a notebook together, though, and now at age two and three months she knows that ‘D’ is for ‘dogs and dinosaurs’ and can identify their images in illustrations.  So reading Mary Pope Osborn’s first adventure was a little more exciting this time.

We had to stop a few times to draw a rhinoceros onto our ‘R’ page, check out whales and their sizes in relation to dinosaurs in our encyclopedia, and to correct behavior as she climbed in my living room window sill that is about three and half feet off the ground.  We even had a brief whistling lesson after reading how the wind was whistling around the tree house.  Overall, she enjoyed it, so we moved onto the Research Guide.

dinosaurs research guideMary Pope Osborne and her husband Will Osborne joined forces and started writing nonfiction companion books to the fictional Magic Tree House adventures.  When I first discovered this, I started purchasing them in pairs, vowing to use them as fun assignments while home schooling.  I’d like for kiddo to grow up in the habit of reading a nonfiction title that somehow relates to every fiction title that she devours, expanding both her facts and her imagination.  What better way than to start with research guides to her first chapter books?

Why am I reading these to her so early?  Frankly, it’s quite hilarious to watch a two  year old run circles in your living room chanting, “Fossils! Minerals! Dinosaurs!” at the top of her lungs, while her dog (who happens to be the biggest one we own) lays in the center rolling his eyes.

wanna iguanaChapter three of the research guide Dinosaurs talks about iguanas and how Gideon Mantell though the dinosaur teeth he and his wife found were giant iguana teeth.  Of course, we had to stop to re-read I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff and David Catrow.  It has quickly  become a favorite since we came across it at Half Price Books a few weeks ago, and the tie-in to our dinosaur lesson was flawless.  The banter between mother and son is downright fun and the illustrations are extra spunky.  It gave us a chance to talk about different iguana sizes and different ancient dinosaur sizes again, bigger and smaller is something I think the kiddo is really getting the hang of after our discussions today.

All in all, we had a good ‘school day’ this morning, something we have been working on being more diligent about now that kiddo is two and it has actually managed to get too cold to venture out as much.

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A Day With a Klemm

September 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Klemm.  When I looked up the meaning of my married name, I found a definition somewhat like this one:

German: from Middle High German klem ‘narrow’, ‘tight’, ‘scarce’, hence a
nickname for a thin or inhibited person, or alternatively a topographic name for
someone living in a narrow, precipitous place, from the Middle High German noun
form klemme ‘constriction’.

Read more on FamilyEducation: http://genealogy.familyeducation.com/surname-origin/klemm#ixzz26eR2FcGy

So it should come as no surprise that we have some very interesting daily habits that coincide with being a small, introverted, hobbit-like soul, that does not emerge from the house for days at a time.  First of all, we eat like hobbits:

  • Breakfast – 7am
  • Second breakfast – 9 am
  • Elevenses – 11 am
  • Lunch – 1 pm
  • Afternoon tea – 3pm
  • Dinner – 6 pm
  • Supper – 9 pm

In between all these meal times is a whole lot of coffee, a morning cleaning ritual, and lots of reading.

I get really into my books and the characters involved.  And with that engagement comes an intense need to invite them in my home the same way I would a welcomed but unknown guest.  I prepare coffee, make sure we have had our meals and have later meals prepared, clean the house (sweep, mop, vacuum, do the dishes and wipe down counters) and then I am ready to sit down with my future new friends – the lovely people portrayed in books.

So, I’m writing this blog post in between Elevenses and mopping the floor.  My coffee is ready (more than ready, I’m on cup two – and my cups are overly large mugs that fit about half a French press in each serving) thinking about Louise de la Baume le Blanc de la Valliere and how we are going to enjoy some afternoon sandwiches together.  That’s crazy book nerd talk for: I am going to be reading more of Karleen Koen’s Before Versailles while I munch on chicken salad sandwiches (I’m addicted to HEB’s Rotisserie Chicken Salad) and sip even more coffee.

I do the same thing before I write.  Which is probably why I’ve been working on the same novel since I was 14 years old.  Karleen said yesterday that it takes her a long time to complete a book, and all I could think was: Thank God, I am not alone, because I am taking forever.  If my debut novel is half as good as hers (Through a Glass Darkly) I feel as though I will have accomplished something in life.  I just want to finish it, get it in print, and have a completed work that someone – anyone – will remember.

I spend days on end reading and writing and eating with my daughter.  It is only for events, planned activities for her benefit, and my random extreme extrovert days that get me out of the house.  (One day, my daughter will probably tell you her mother was a bit wacky, as when I take personality tests I come out equally extroverted and introverted depending on the day.  Some have misused the term bipolar on me, but I got that checked out and I’m not.)  Yesterday I spent the whole day at Half Price Books running around and giving things away… today I will huddle up with Louise and Louis XIV and whoever my daughter interupts me with (LadyBug Girl a constant play friend in our house).

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