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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Welcome to PreSchool at “Klemm University”

September 23, 2014 at 7:15 pm (Education) (, , , , , , , )

Teach Your Child to Read Outside and Play – A Lot

It’s been awhile since I shared a bit from our homeschooling adventures.  Since my last homeschooling post, we purchased Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and have progressed to Lesson 9.  We’ve taken Poet Laureate and Professor Mark Strand’s advice about memorizing 1500 lines of poetry and memorized the first four verses of Psalm 1, with the intent of memorizing a verse a week until we know the whole book by heart (no, I did not do the math on this and I have no idea how long it will take – I think the less I know in this regard the better).  We’ve moved, and have done a lot of exploring our new school-site – via bubble blowing.  We’ve learned to play Checkers (pretty exciting for an almost four year old), and we’re tackling bead projects.

Drawing Dinosaursdinosaurs

She got this cool dinosaur coloring book awhile back, but has really taken to it in the last few months.  The book teaches your kid how to draw properly named dinosaurs step by step.  Whether you’re a die hard dinosaur believer, or a skeptic to their existence, all kids love dinosaurs – they’re just so cool!

Activity books like these teach kids to follow step by step instructions, help with dexterity and handling writing utensils, and keep them busy for thirty minutes to an hour at a time.  Win, win for everyone.

Moving and Acoustics

Empty HouseThe great thing about moving with a small child is teaching your kid the art of donation from a young age.  What we don’t need anymore, we’ve been donating.  For a kid who has outgrown those things, it’s time consuming, but giving them the knowledge and opportunity to come to conclusions about their own belongings is an eye-opening experience.  I haven’t forced her to get rid of anything, and I’m overjoyed to have so many moments when my kiddo comes to me and says, “Mama, I don’t need this anymore.  We can give this to another kid.”  And off to Goodwill we go.  (At our garage sales she selected things to sell and was quite the little negotiator.  She made about $5 off old toys other kids carried off and put that money right in her piggy bank.  Now, she keeps telling me she has plenty of money for Chick-fi-la…)

On top of all that, every kid should get a chance to stand in an empty room and shout at the top of their lungs.  (Or spin in circles singing All Around the Mulberry Bush while shooting a soft dart gun…)

teach read book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

This book came highly recommended by my sister who has taught 5 kids to read (not including myself when I was 4) and has 2 more that are on their way to starting lessons.  The above link is for Amazon.com, but I actually purchased my copy from hpbmarketplace.com.

Teach Your Child to Read goes straight into the phonics and skips the step of learning what a letter is called.  My kid could already identify all her letters and knew most of her phonics, but she’s enjoying diving right into the decoding process by seeing an “m” and knowing to say “Mmmmm.” We’re only on Lesson 9 and she can already read words like “mat” and “sat,” “am” and “Me” just by sounding them out.  These beginning lessons do not teach sight words but sounding out and decoding a word even if it means you don’t understand the word right away.  I like this because it allows a child to read outside their vocabulary and have the tools to learn new words.

We do the rhyming and say it fast/ say it slow exercises while outside playing bubbles:

bubbles

Here, she’s not just practicing the “sssss” sound (and writing it, look at the chalkboard behind her), she’s also blowing some stellar bubbles while sporting a Seed Savers t-shirt, compliments of S. Smith, author of the series.  Kiddo adores Sandy and the shirt she gave her.

Beads and Dexterity

No preschool program is complete without crafts!

While moving I rediscovered some craft supplies from my own childhood.  I thought about donating these as well, but kiddo begged to do a bead project and I determined that these were worth saving.  The star was her first try, it took about an hour to complete; so if your preschooler doesn’t quite have the patience and attention span, be prepared to split a project like this into two sessions.

beadsCheck out Klemm University for more frequent updates. We are an online homeschool group based in Texas and would love for other homeschool moms, teachers, and general citizens to pipe in with ideas for keeping our educational journey more exciting, diverse, and thorough.  Come join the conversations!

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Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – Math Adventures

January 12, 2013 at 4:10 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

sircumference1Title: Sir Cumference and the First Round Table

Author: Cindy Neuschwander

Illustrator: Wayne Geehan

I think everyone who has talked to me for longer than a minute and a half about children’s books knows how much I adore Brian P. Cleary and his books on grammar and math, but I have yet to thoroughly discuss other educational picture books.  Mainly, because even though I collect them, kiddo hasn’t quite grown up enough for us to attempt them with purpose.  Today, however, we took the bull by the horns and branched out.

So a two year old who still stumbles through her ABC song, can only manage some really intense stripes when writing, and can only identify circles and triangles isn’t really ready for a book about circumferences, diameters, the concept of a radius, parallelograms, diamonds, and all that, but that’s when it is perfect to start reading these stories.  By the time she needs the information, I want the stories thoroughly engrained in her mind.

Sir Cumference is a knight, married to Lady Di of Ameter, father of a short-stack son named Radius.  With their help, King Arthur is able to come up with a plan to keep his knights on their best behavior as they discuss the well-being of Camelot.  Add to the cast of characters a carpenter named Geo of Metry, the books instill all the basic concepts of geometry in the disguise of some exciting fake King Arthur folklore.  Start reading the books to your kid from birth through early elementary school and you’ve got one math savvy child without even trying.  As a home school mom with a serious distaste for math, I want my kid to enjoy it and make her life a lot easier than mine was by the time her high school curriculum comes along.

For slightly older kids, I’d say ages 5-10, the book easily lends itself to hands on activities.  Paper projects, baking projects, even wood working if you were bold and wanted to make an actual play table, the story takes you step by step through cutting a rectangle down into all the various shapes.  And, of course, it’s a series.  Click the Sir Cumference link to purchase from Amazon. Click the collection image to go to another blogger’s reviews.

Other Sir Cumference titles include:

sircumcollectionSir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi

Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens

Sir Cumference and the Viking’s Map

Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter

Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland

Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone

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