Wednesday, July 30, 2008

1 Smart Bloggers

Do you have a passion for classical education? Are you a member of Classical Conversations? Do you have a blog? Tell me about it!

I'd love to add you to our blogroll, so that other 1 Smart Mamas can share your insights. Reply to this post (comment) with your URL if you would like to be added to the list.

Thanks! Keep the great ideas coming!

The Greatest Scandal

On Monday, July 28, The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece called “The Greatest Scandal.” The article begins with a daring statement: “The profound failure of inner-city public schools to teach children may be the nation’s greatest scandal.”

The author compares John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s stances on this issue and says “the facts support Senator McCain,” who wants to give “parents that choice and children that opportunity” to pursue alternative forms of education like better public schools, charter schools, and private schools.

Wait…aren’t they forgetting something? What about the approximately 2 million families who have chosen to center their children’s education from home? (See NHERI statistics).

Think of all the choices they're leaving out of the conversation! ...programs like CC combined with community college, part-time coursework at local high schools, satellite programs, co-ops, traditional homeschool curriculums, and the wealth of technology and opportunities available to students in the U.S.

I hope if McCain and Obama debate education in the near future, their conversation won’t leave us similarly out of the picture. If they do, the idea of choice will become a very narrow one.

Let’s consider ALL of the choices and alternatives available in education and encourage our political candidates to do the same.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Link to this site!

Want to share the news about 1 Smart Mama? If you have a blog or a website, you can now link to this site. It's easy. Follow the steps below, or leave a comment and someone will get in touch with you to help.

Right click on the image to the right, and then select "save picture as" to save it to a location on your computer. If you change the file name, give it a simple name like "1smartmama.jpg". You may resize the file, but please do not remove the "TM," because it signifies that this is a trademarked image.

If you have a website through Google Blogger:

  1. Sign in to Blogger and go to your dashboard.
  2. Go to the "Layout" page from your blog's dashboard.
  3. Click on "Add a Page Element" and in the pop-up window, choose "Picture."
  4. Give the image a title and caption if you wish, and then for the "link," type http://1smartmama.blogspot.com/
  5. Click on the dot for "From your computer," and then hit browse to find and select the picture.
  6. Click "save." This will close the pop-up window.
  7. Back on the page that says "Add and Arrange Page Elements," click and drag to place the picture element where you want it relative to your other elements.
  8. Finally, hit save again (at the top of the page).

If you have a different website or blog host, the process is probably similar. If, however, you need to use basic HTML:
  1. Use the image uploader on your website to upload the image.
  2. In the HTML editor, add this code: <a href="http://1smartmama.blogspot.com/"><img src="1smartmamaTM.jpg"></a>.
  3. Make sure the file name (1smartmamaTM.jpg) matches the actual file name as uploaded.

Thanks to Beth for her great suggestion. Leave a comment if you have trouble or need help.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Something to laugh about

Last week we were late to church and had to walk past everyone to the front row so we could find enough chairs to sit together. We remained standing as the congregation finished the opening hymn and then I sat down on a chair that just had too much texture.

It took a split second for me to realize that the entire seam below the zipper on my dress had come undone and I was very exposed to those seated behind me. I was wearing the equivalent of a hospital gown in front of 600 people.

So this Smart Mama stayed seated until everyone closed their eyes for the next prayer, grabbed my ten year old firmly by the hand, and silently dragged him out of the sanctuary. “Look at my back. Is my dress opened,” I demanded. “Well, ha, yeah…” he nervously giggled. I told him to return to his seat and tell his father I’d be back before the service was over and was going home to change clothes.

I shared my fate with a girlfriend in the hall who offered to staple the seam, but I declined and said I prefer just to run for the car. I should have taken the staples. I forgot the entire face of the church is glass. The choir is on stage facing the glass front right after corporate prayer.

Lord, I hope the preacher had a lot to pray about…and was keeping his eyes closed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summer fun

I think one of the best things about summer is the chance to get whole bunches of people together to celebrate and have fun.

Independence Day was a few weeks ago, so that meant my family threw a big party. (You're all invited next year, so email me if you plan to come, and I'll tell the guard at the community gate to let you in.)

I think it is much smarter to have a few really big parties a year than to entertain regularly throughout the year. Plus, people feel so guilty coming for so long a day that they always bring a lot of food, and I don’t have to cook much. I just try to have a lot of ice, paper products, drinks, and meat for sandwiches. I’m prepared with large cans of baked beans should my guests let me down. We set up tables in the basement, and everyone puts their food out as they come. This way we can have another helping every time a family arrives.

My husband will greet you and tell you where to go, as I’ll be floating in the water with my good friends discussing classical literature or current events.

Every one just sits in the backyard and visits. It never rains, and even if it did, no one would care because we are already wet from swimming in the lake. Last year we had a flag burning to properly dispose of our tattered flag. This year our flag was in good shape, so we’ll have to wait until 2009 to burn it.

It may sound hard to have 30-50 people over for 8-10 hours and two meals, but we have found it a great way to make the whole family clean cobwebs from decks and porches and wash bird droppings off furniture in preparation. Plus, it’s a great chance to share our love of life with lots of people at the same time.

What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate summer?

Monday, July 21, 2008

About this blog...

If you have been reading my blog, you might wonder why I'm calling it "One Smart Mama." Here's why:

I have a blog called 1 Smart Mama because I travel around the country telling people, mostly mothers, that they are smart enough to learn anything. Mothers constantly feel guilty, whether they do too much or not enough for their kids. And then our culture confirms their inadequacies by telling them their offspring are better off raised by professionals, further eroding the confidence of women to be the best mothers they can be.

Well, I know the truth. Mothers and fathers are certainly smart enough to train their own children to learn anything they want to learn and to become productive adults marked by integrity and wisdom. C’mon! You can do it! You’re 1 Smart Mama!

Education is a big part of being a smart mama, but there's also much more! So, I want to use this blog to share with you more than just smart ways to educate. Let's talk about what being a "smart mama" looks like every day, with all the messes, laughs, and fun that go along with it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Visions for American Education

A New York Times article this morning described the vision of Randi Weingarten, new president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), for America's schools. Here's an excerpt:

"Can you imagine a federal law that promoted community schools—schools that serve the neediest children by bringing together under one roof all the services and activities they and their families need?" ... "Imagine schools that are open all day and offer after-school and evening recreational activities and homework assistance,” she said. “And suppose the schools included child care and dental, medical and counseling clinics." ... "Imagine if schools had the educational resources we have long advocated, like quality pre-K, smaller classes, up-to-date materials and technology and a nurturing atmosphere, so no child feels anonymous."
Compare this to America's founding. Samuel L. Blumenfeld shares, "Of the 117 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the constitution, one out of three had only a few months of formal schooling, and only one in four had gone to college.

"Parents and neighbors assumed it was their responsibility to fulfill Deuteronomy 6:6-7: 'And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons…'"

  • What happens when public education takes a broader role in the community?
  • Can schools ever take the place of family and church communities?
  • What is your vision for American education?
I want to hear your voices!
Click on the "comments" link to add your thoughts.

Friday, July 11, 2008

M.E.N.T.O.R.

Meaningful Education Needs To be Obtained through Relationship.

How many of you parents have said something in the heat of anger, only to hear your toddler repeat it a few hours later? The maxims are everywhere: “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” etc.

There is a reason that modeling and imitation are such important forms of learning. Christ washed His disciples’ feet and then said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:1-17).

Our children see what we do when we spend time with them, and the behavior we model for them must be worth emulating. See 1 Thessalonians 1:4-7. Paul explains the sacrifice it takes to be a good model to those who are younger in the faith in 2 Thessalonians 3. Sacrifice is key.

In Building the Christian Academy (2001), Arthur Holmes tells us about the school in third-century Alexandria, where a single teacher would take a handful of youths and develop a deep relationship. They would continue the discipleship their parents had begun.

For over two centuries, Americans began and ended their day with family devotions. That meant someone in the family knew how to read, so they were capable of teaching the rest how to read the Bible. Now we have whole families that never read together.

A parent’s role is to actively pursue the godly upbringing of their children. Dr. James Dobson’s book and video Bringing Up Boys gives a detailed account of the statistics about modern boys whose fathers have abandoned instruction in the things of God. He says 25% of American boys over five years old never see their biological fathers.

Contemporary writers on education echo the need for relationship in education. Posts on Edwize and the Education Policy Blog relate news stories about students devastated by the loss of a teacher. According to SchoolsMatter, "Parents trust the judgment of their child’s teachers above all other measures of student or school success."

Regardless of our views on education, we all innately recognize that learning occurs in relationship. Ultimately, children learn from teachers, not from special curriculum and expensive equipment.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Either/or? What about all?

In 2007, Bob Compton, a filmmaker from Indiana, released the documentary “2 Million Minutes,” comparing high school education in the United States, China, and India. His conclusion, recently echoed by one of the American students he interviewed, was that Americans are falling dangerously behind, especially in math and science.

Critics of the film argue that American students gain skills that their international counterparts do not. They are innovative, “well-rounded” and “socially aware,” according to a school newspaper.

But why is the issue always framed with "either/or"? Why are we so sure it's impossible to have both? I firmly believe it is possible to say, "I want more for my children’s education. I want them to know a lot, think about a lot of things, and interact with all kinds of people."

So, to reach that higher standard, how do we disciple students to be well-rounded, innovative, AND proficient in technology and science?

If children are taught, in relationship with parents and mentors, how to learn any subject, whether they are asked to learn a new technology or read Jane Eyre, they will be prepared to do it.

Instead of offering students survey courses on the history of movies or philosophy of gender neutrality, C.S. Lewis (Letters to Children, 1958) suggests we teach students to read, research, and write about any subject and argue a point within any subject.

The Bible doesn't tell parents to teach their children algebra or science, so you may argue that home-centered education as a Biblical mandate is a stretch. But if you are going to teach words, you need to teach language arts. If you want to be without excuse and read God's invisible qualities in the visible world, you must study science and math. If you are going to be ready with an answer for your faith, you need to study people and cultures and arts.

John 13:3 relates Jesus' knowledge that the Father gave Him all things under His power. Satan tried to negotiate all kingdoms with Jesus in the wilderness. We cannot spiritualize 'all' to mean only our prayer life and character traits. All means all, not either/or.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Lessons for children (and the rest of us)

Although children’s literature is marketed to children, we can learn a lot about the history of American education from children’s novels.

In Mary Emma and Company by Ralph Moody, 12-year-old Ralph’s family moves in the 1910s from the Colorado frontier of one-room school houses to the public school system of Boston. He has to take a placement test so the principal knows in which class to place him.

The principle asks, “What is the result of twelve times twelve, divided by thirteen, times five, divided by three?” Ralph responds, “I got along all right until I came to fifty-five and five-thirteenths, then I got a little bit mixed up in trying to divide it by three … I got mixed up when I got into the thirteenths…”

And so, Ralph was placed in seventh grade. How many of today’s adults can hold that many numbers in their head? Yet it was commonly expected of all children, as evidenced by Ray’s Higher Arithmetic (1880), which was the standard math text at that time.

Modern American students are no longer required to memorize how to divide by four let alone by thirteenths in their heads. Everyday Math, a popular math curriculum for elementary students, says learning math algorithms is no longer necessary due to calculators.

Training brains to retain massive amounts of information is no longer deemed important. The connection between training the brain like any other muscle, through rigorous repetition, and the ability to think deeply and well has been severed.

A post by Jim Horn on Schools Matter (July 6, 2008) complains that proposed charter schools offer “a Spartan diet of behavior modification with their boiled reading and math.” He protests “the cognitive decapitation on which these schools build their mindless parrot learning programs.”

And while some of his criticisms may be founded, how can students consider new ideas, be creative, or rise above their circumstances if they are never taught good manners (behavior modification) or how to store, process, and use information (mindless parrot learning of boiled reading and math)?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day! Enjoy celebrating with friends and family!

...We the people of the United States...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What's the big deal about books?

Amidst debates about the government's "Reading First" programs and standards of literacy, sometimes we might wonder why books are so important in the first place. If children are technologically savvy, what's wrong with books going the way of the early abacus?

Neil Postman, 20th-century cultural analyst and educator, has defined the main problem with this idea. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, he talks about the "peculiarity" of God's second commandment, which tells the Israelites not to make graven images. He says:

"It is a strange injunction to include as part of an ethical system unless its author assumed a connection between forms of human communication and the quality of a culture. We may hazard a guess that a people who are being asked to embrace an abstract, universal deity would be rendered unfit to do so by the habit of drawing pictures or making statues or depicting their ideas in any concrete, iconographic forms. The God of the Jews was to exist in the Word and through the Word, an unprecedented conception requiring the highest order of abstract thinking” (p.9).
Postman asks us to reconsider viewing ‘screens’ as a form of education. He proposes that proficient literacy builds a stronger individual and develops a culture able to understand an abstract, triune God.

Teaching a child to read C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia and think about God is a better use of time than encouraging a child to watch the movie version. The child who can’t read the book cannot read the Bible either and only has personal experience as a filter for his or her worldview instead of the wealth of knowledge developed through history and expressed in literature.

Images can both reflect and change a culture--Bambi and Sex and the City are prime examples. But do they equip the culture to intelligently understand the teachings of the church and to unwaveringly obey a God whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I want to see your faces!

One Smart Mamas - I want to see your faces!

I want the whole world to see your faces, so I’ve set up a 1 Smart Mamas Group. I’d love for you to join the group and add your pictures. Here’s how you do it.
  • First, join Flickr. It’s totally free.
  • Add your favorite, most representative picture to your Flickr photostream.
  • Next, follow this link to the 1 Smart Mamas group on Flickr. Click “Join This Group,” and join away!
  • Go back to your mug shot in your photostream, click “Send to Group” and send it to the 1 Smart Mama group.
That’s it! It’s really easy!

-Leigh

P.S. Connect with other folks in CC!! If you're on Facebook, look for the Classical Conversations Alumni *official* group.