Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Family that Reads Together...

Autumn is always a reminder to thank God in every circumstance. When the days are sunny and cool, we can enjoy the leaves changing colors. When the rain comes in buckets instead of watering cans, we know hurricane season is here, and after enjoying the puddles and fresh-washed outdoors, it's a great time to come inside and cuddle up with the kids and a good book. 

The grammar of reading begins with someone reading to a child. Children need to be read to in three ways: 1) Above their reading level to expose them to vocabulary, 2) below their reading level to over-learn meaning, and 3) at their reading level to broaden their thinking skills. Reading as a family is the most effective way to get all these levels of reading in, whether you have one child or twelve. 

I have been reading to boys at night since 1983. I will read to my boys and then to my husband for the rest of my life. I can’t wait to read to my grandbabies. Some nights I miss reading because we watch TV or I’m not home. It’s okay. 

By the time David graduates from high school, I will have read to my boys for almost 11,000 hours. Believe me: we have covered every possible kind of book in that time, from medical and science journals to joke books and magazines. I have no planned reading. We just read something someone wants to read. Easy!

Other families read at meal times or after Dad gets home from work. This is the most important thing we do as a family. If there were no church building to attend or no work to employ us or no neighbors to keep up with, we could still be richly influenced by others as we enter the Great Classical Conversations of mankind through history and literature.

So, even if this autumn has you searching for the rainbow instead of basking in the sun, take a minute to enjoy the gift of reading with your family.

Monday, September 29, 2008

  • Starbucks, anyone?  Monday, September 29, home school parents can join the "Great Start for Great Teachers" coffee giveaway (with proper proof of home schooling!)

  • Washington Times - Home school families do a better job with civic education.  How do you teach American history, government, and politics?  What are the talking points in your family about the upcoming election?

  • Home schooling is big news these days!  What are your reasons for centering your children's education at home? (See some other people's thoughts here).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Letters and Numbers

For those who deny that our standards of literacy are too low, check out this example of popular illiteracy as noticed by blogger Edwize

The post brought to mind a few thoughts: isn't it funny how many hits appear on Google News for the words "literacy" and "illiteracy," but "numeracy" and "innumeracy" seem to make the news primarily in other countries?

Words and numbers are the building blocks through which we learn about the universe.  I am reminded of a comment I sent in to WORLD Magazine way back in 1997.  (Wow!  It's still online!)  Every day, I see new ways that literacy and numeracy are important to understanding God's universe, so for Christians, being ignorant of them is not an option.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Technology in Perspective

As I figure out what to say in this post, I'm pressing keys on a computer and watching letters appear on a screen. After I finish, I'll press a 'button,' and my words will go out for anyone to read anywhere the Internet is available. Sometimes the sheer scope of technology is mind-boggling.

Like everyone else, educators are asking hard questions about the role of technology.

For many families, technology has made it possible to work and learn from home. We have a world of opportunities to use technology, from Internet help sites and research to online classrooms and distance learning. New technologies force us to anticipate all the exciting changes we can imagine in a different world.

Isn't it amazing that we can talk in real time to someone on the other side of the globe and share ideas with a million people on a website?

So how do we use technology without being used by it?

We can't design education around the assumption that everyone has access to technology. And children have been educated well for centuries without computers. Obviously, technology is not necessary to education, but that doesn't mean it's not advantageous. That means keeping technology in proper perspective.

In an article in The Seattle Times, Kent Hickey comments on the way technology has changed roles. Here's what he says:
"Increasingly, we are ignoring the miracle of learning deep reading, thoughtful writing, analysis and reflection, and focusing our attention only on its trappings: inclusion on some lists (best of), exclusion from others (failing schools), and using technology as window dressing instead of as a tool to help learners."
We have so many resources at our fingertips as we disciple our children, but one of the most important is our ability to share a love of life and learning. As long as computer games, virtual museums, and PowerPoint presentations contribute to that joy, then let's celebrate adding the best of modern technology to the best of classical education techniques.

How do you use technology in your home school?
How do you keep it in its proper perspective?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Joy for the Rainy Days

In conversations about education, we sometimes get so caught up in the details that we forget the joy.  Sometimes we need a reminder from the kind of people who exude love of life and learning.

Ishbel Ross wrote a beautiful biography of Helen Keller, called Journey Into Light. Though doubly handicapped, Helen became an international figure before the age of radio or movies. During an age where few traveled, let alone single, blind females, Annie Sullivan and Helen went around the world to find the best teachers.

Though born in Alabama, Helen was taught to speak and 'hear' by Sarah Fuller in Boston, Ma. Miss Fuller taught Helen to speak by showing her how to touch another's mouth, nose, and throat at the same time with three different fingers on one hand. 

I am unable to comprehend the scope of imagination and determination this woman possessed. But I am even more convicted by her joy for life in spite of literal total darkness. 

Ishbel Ross says, "She found Franklin D. Roosevelt an ideal subject (for lip reading by vibration). She caught Mark Twain's best jokes by vibration. With her fingers on his lips Enrico Caruso 'poured his golden voice' into her hand. Feodor Chaliapin shouted the 'Song of Volga Boatman' with his arm encircling her tightly so that she could feel every vibration of his mighty voice. Jascha Heifertz played for her while her fingers rested lightly on his violin. She read Carl Sandburg's verses from his lips and old plantation folk songs from the rim of his guitar." 

Most moderns won't even recognize the names of these national treasures, let alone teach our 'healthy' children with full faculties to appreciate these artists' contributions to mankind. We need to follow Helen’s example of reading Braille until her fingers bled and needed to be wrapped in silk so that she could read some more.  

People like Helen remind us why we work so hard and so intentionally to disciple our children: so that they can experience the sense of wonder that comes from seeing the order in God's creation and using the talents He has given each of us.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Relationship Practice

A few days ago, the blog Bridging Differences, co-written by long-time educators and policy analysts Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier, talked about measuring education policy by its impacts.

A recurring theme in the discussion was the importance of relationships: "the opportunities young people have to keep company with respected, powerful, and wise adults," and, "the relationships between the key actors—students, teachers, and families."

What a great insight, even if the authors missed the reason behind it. God designed little humans to be nurtured, taught, and loved by two adults within a supportive community. Instead, we put children in a situation where the only consistent thing is meeting their peers in the same building.

The adults charged with their education teach a specialty for fifteen weeks, and then students move on to a new adult. They have no time to bond or learn the ways of their instructor.No wonder they value their peers more than their teachers. At least their peers are always there.

The government has funded many initiatives and innovations in an attempt to fix modern education. They all fail because they forget that humans are complex.  A rising emphasis on mentoring programs across the country indicates that people are realizing something:

If we want children to grow up respecting adults, finding great mentors, and being able to interact with all ages and types of people, surprise, surprise - we will have to give them the opportunity to practice!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Making Pledges

As you have probably seen, the news has been full of politics the last few weeks, with the Republican National Convention this week and the Democratic last week.

On Wednesday, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska accepted the GOP nomination for vice president. (You can find the transcript through NPR).  Like the other speakers, she made some strong claims about what a president should be. 

With all the political speeches buzzing in your ears, think about how seriously politicians have to pledge to serve the U.S. and its people.  Now imagine if parents stepped forward to make those kinds of vows to our families - to our children. 

For example...Do you think about the word "victory" in your relationship with your family? Or are you focused on the discouraging parts? Do you see your job as a parent as more than just an "organizer"?  Are you willing to fight for your family? Are you the same person when you are with company and when you are with family?  Do you treat your children with the "compassion that comes from having once been powerless"?

Think about it for a minute.  Here's a quote from Palin's speech
"From the inside, no family ever seems typical. That's how it is with us. Our family has the same ups and downs as any other — the same challenges and the same joys. Sometimes even the greatest joys bring challenge."
Parents often say they would die for one of their children, yet somehow they are unwilling to live with them. Do we embrace Orwell’s 1984 picture of women just being baby machines who then hire low income workers to monitor the results? Or are we parents given the honorable task of raising children to be useful to mankind by sharing our lives with them?

So, as you face the challenges and joys of family life during this election season, think about the commitment it takes to run a country.  And then ask yourself, is the commitment it takes to grow a family to love the Lord any less?