Saturday, July 28, 2007

Fruit Flies Like a Banana

The summer is two-thirds over already. (As Groucho Marx once observed, "Times flies like an arrow, fruit flies..." Well, I already gave that one away in the title, didn't I?) And it's about this time that a young teacher's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of school. Except for those unschoolers and year-round schoolers out there, in which case, Carry on!

But I wanted to offer some support for the public school refugees, myself included, who may be wondering if they did the right thing pulling their child out of school because all he did was lay on the couch and whine. Surely things would be better if they went to school at least part of the day so someone else had to listen to the whining? Take heart, my friends. You are still on the right path.

Here's the thing: there is a concept called "deschooling". Generally it means that you need to get the schoolish thinking out of your head before you can relearn how to learn or how to teach or how to behave. The rule of thumb is that it takes one month for every year of public school to learn the difference between school and learning.

It's kind of like your kids are public school junkies. Deschooling is the withdrawal period and like drug withdrawal it can be painful for the junkie and painful to watch. Your kids lie around and whine because they are used to someone telling them what to do, what to learn and how to behave. Without that constant supervision, they don't know what to do with themselves. You can see this over summer vacation, sometimes, too. Along about August there is much whining about how bored they are. They can't think of anything to do because they're used to being told what to do, but they don't want to do anything you suggest because they resent being told what to do.

So what to do? Plug your ears with cotton balls and wait them out. Seriously. Support any reasonable request for an activity (boy, have I been playing a lot of board games lately!). Do an art or craft project by yourself in full view. Read in full view. Not "Oh hey, look what I'm doing!" manipulative, but because you genuinely want to learn something. The kids will come around.

An example: we signed up for 4H last winter as a way to get out the house, do some service learning and other enrichment kinds of things. The boys refused to sign up for any project other than archery and they refused to participate in the county fair. I thought the prize money might entice Xavier, but he was adamant. So, they didn't submit anything for the fair. Wolfie took part in the dog project training but didn't take Jack the Wonder Dog to the dog show.

I didn't push them to do anything and at this point, Wolfie is really digging on the 4H thing. He's got a number of projects he is thinking about taking next year. And this is the boy who told me last fall that "project" was a four-letter word. Coincidentally, this change in thinking happened about seven months after we started homeschooling. So even though we didn't technically deschool, he still came around. Xavier's still somewhat truculent, but then again, he's a twelve-year-old boy.

So unless your whiny student is twelve, have faith that your homeschooling decision is still the right one and your student will come around (even the 12-year-olds eventually get older). If you're getting a lot of resistance, just lay back and deschool completely for awhile. Whatever you do, don't let the kid con you into creating school at home. Homeschooling is better because it's different than school, remember? So put away the school bell and the ruler and pull out the Mentos and Diet Coke!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Just Where Are Those Wild Things?

There's an interesting essay at Education World called One Teacher's Pitch to Be Emperor of Education. Chemistry teacher Dr. Richard Chempleau's "first two imperial acts would be to fire one-third of American teachers and then to give every parent a one-question quiz."

"Next, every parent of a 2-year old would have a one-question quiz, and they'd all have to take it at the same instant. I know too much about cheating, of course. The question would be "One Fish, Two Fish"? Any parent who didn't write "Red Fish, Blue Fish" would be required to sign a Universal Release of Liability and Parental Promise Not to Whine Statement. Parents who can't spout Dr. Seuss or Mother Goose, but who can name ten movie stars, professional sports players, or rock idols, are ruining their child's future.

They can't give their children the first four years of life in an impoverished educational environment, then expect the schools to fix all of their mistakes. A parent is the first and most important teacher their children will ever know, but most parents never spend that magical time with their child on the sofa. The TV should be off, the book is open, and their child is captured for life by the rhythm of a nursery rhyme. Four years watching reruns or ball games hardwires the future student to expect entertainment, not education, from 12 years of school."

Read to your kids, folks. From the day you bring them home from the hospital to the day they ask you to stop. It doesn't matter if you think they're too young to understand the words. You're building a bond between you that will last a lifetime and starting their education out on the right foot, too.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chess Programs for Kids

From the Educational Options newsletter:

"Online chess academy for kids:
We have noticed locally there is quite a bit of interest in chess, with clubs, open game nights at bookstores, summer camps and tournaments. Now we have recently found an interesting website, chessKIDS Academy. Webmaster Richard James, of the United Kingdom, has written and co-written several books and magazine columns about the subject, and he has taught children how to play chess since the 1970s.

This website is packed with free online interactive lessons, quizzes and games for kids, computers to play against, and more."

Other options are online: FICS The Free Internet Chess Server and ChessBase
Software: Fritz and Chesster CD

It's Official!

Klaus admitted today that he does want to go to Simon's Rock, so we've sent in his deposit and begun the process of figuring out how we're going to pay for this, cancelling fall classes we'd already signed him up for, scheduling a physical, etc. etc. etc. before August 17th.

Getting college plans finalized in April is much easier than July. Of course, Klaus has a history of drastically changing his schooling plans at the last minute, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I rather feel like we've not only changed horses midstream but changed from a horse to a horseless carriage. Let's hope the engine isn't flooded!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Going Away to College

The Universe is trying to tell me something. The same day Klaus got the acceptance to Simon's Rock, the London Guardian ran this story about the disadvantages of living at home during college:

""Young people who live at home with their parents are less likely to undertake optional work placements as part of their degree, less likely to undertake graduate level jobs on graduation, less likely to socialise with their fellow students because they remain in their pre-university social groups, and more likely to feel isolated from their peer group at university," says ERS director Sarah Parkinson."

You can read all the details here. I have to say, it makes sense to me. When I went to Northwestern and lived in the dorms, I made lots of friends, many of whom I'm still in contact with. When I transferred to Michigan and lived off-campus with my fiancee-then-husband, my social ties and university ties became much weaker.

Klaus Has Been Accepted to College!

We found out two days ago that Klaus has been accepted to Simon's Rock College of Bard. Yay Klaus! This acceptance has been a long time coming. He applied in January for their merit scholarship but wasn't eligible because his grades tanked the previous semester, so we rolled over to the regular admissions process. Apparently they were waiting to see his second semester grades. (We're still working on finishing up second semester.)

It turns out that, even though college starts one month from now (ACK!), the timing of the acceptance couldn't have been better. Klaus just got back from three weeks of "college lite" at CTD-Northwestern University, where he took an honors course on Public Speaking and Debate, lived in the dorm, dealt with the roommate from hell, did his own laundry and tasted a little freedom. Surrounded by intellectual peers, he says he "learned how to teach myself," which is fabulous. From what I can tell, Simon's Rock would be a step up from CTD--similar atmosphere but juggling several classes instead of just one.

So, whereas we would have said, "Thanks, but no thanks" to Simon's Rock in April or May, this week, Klaus is actually considering it and seems to be leaning towards going. DH and I are trying not to let our "losing our little boy" feelings influence him to stay home for our sake. Simon's Rock is a thousand miles away, but it's such a great opportunity for him. I hope he decides to go.