Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Home School Humor

One sign that home schooling is gaining influence and publicity is its appearance as fuel for comedy in mainstream media sources...


From the New Yorker, via This Week in Education

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Two Radio Interviews

Tune in this week! I'm going to be interviewed about The Core on two Christian radio programs, starting tomorrow.

On Wednesday, June 30, The Janet Mefferd Show (a nationally syndicated Christian radio program) will interview me live at 3 p.m. EST. Also available on XM Satellite Radio at 7 p.m. EST daily. *UPDATE* You can listen to the archived show here.

On Thursday, July 1, Word FM's John Hall and Kathy Emmons will be interviewing me live at 4:30 p.m. EST. You can also tune in live via their website.

I'm excited to share my ideas, and I hope you'll join me tomorrow and Thursday on the other end of the airwaves!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Explaining Executive Orders

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

On May 21, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a national commission to examine the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

If you watch the news regularly, you've probably heard the term "Executive Order" (EO) many times. What it means, its purpose, and the source of its authority may be less familiar to you, and especially to your children. What a great opportunity to learn together!

To start with the grammar, the word "executive" comes from the Latin from exequi/exsequi "to follow out," from ex- "out" + sequi "follow". According to ThisNation.com,

Executive Orders (EOs) are legally binding orders given by the President, acting as the head of the Executive Branch, to Federal Administrative Agencies. Executive Orders are generally used to direct federal agencies and officials in their execution of congressionally established laws or policies. However, in many instances they have been used to guide agencies in directions contrary to congressional intent...

Executive Orders do not require Congressional approval to take effect but they have the same legal weight as laws passed by Congress. The President's source of authority to issue Executive Orders can be found in the Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution which grants to the President the "executive Power." Section 3 of Article II further directs the President to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." To implement or execute the laws of the land, Presidents give direction and guidance to Executive Branch agencies and departments, often in the form of Executive Orders.
With your children, read Article II of the U.S. Constitution. Talk about what it means to have "executive Power": the origin of the term, ways it might be interpreted and used properly or improperly, and some historic executive orders (President Eisenhower's EO desegregating schools, the Emancipation Proclamation...).

Then, take a look at recent EOs, and analyze the language used and what it assumes, what it leaves out, and what it implies. (You can find a listing of all presidential Executive Orders from the Federal Register's Executive Orders Disposition Tables, including a subject index for all EOs since Clinton's presidency.)

Finally, find a few articles about the proper use of Executive Orders. Compare the arguments and discuss which side has stronger claims. (For a starting place, see this 1999 Congressional testimony). How would you frame an argument about the proper role of Executive Orders?

Above all, enjoy learning more about the U.S. government with your family!

Between now and July 4th, keep your eyes on my blog for weekly snippets of history and trivia about the workings of the U.S. government.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Giving up on Good Men

Sometimes, in the rush of everyday life, it's easy to forget about the depth of our sin and the radical nature of God's grace.

Mid-twentieth century American author Flannery O'Connor wrote two novels and over thirty short stories reflecting on morality and faith. When asked in an interview about the frequent violence of her writing, O'Connor said, "The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism... when I see these stories described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror."

She published one of my favorite stories, "A Good Man is Hard to Find," as part of a collection in 1955. Here's how it begins:
The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey's mind. Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy. He was sitting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the orange sports section of the Journal. "Now look here, Bailey," she said, "see here, read this," and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head. "Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn't take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn't answer to my conscience if I did..." (Keep reading...)
Read the whole story once.

Then read it again.

Read it a third time.

Ask yourself, Where is Christ in this story about a search for "good men"?

Now look again.

The Misfit says, "He shown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him."

Ponder that for a moment.

When you get right down to it, there's very little safe or comfortable about grace, but doesn't that fact only make it more amazing?!

(c.f. Galatians 5, Romans 7)

Monday, June 21, 2010

State Studies

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union..."

If you're civic-minded, you probably recognize the preamble to the U.S. Constitution; what most Americans study far less regularly are their state constitutions.

For example, North Carolina's preamble says
We, the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessings to us and our posterity, do, for the more certain security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain and establish this Constitution.
What are the basic assumptions of your state's constitution? What does it have to say about education? In North Carolina, "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, libraries, and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." (Article IX)

What principles from your state's constitution do you see under debate or challenge today?

Constitution.org contains links to the constitutions of all 50 states, as well as the official government websites of each state. Those websites provide information about your state government, contact information for government officials, and links to other important sites.

Remember, as Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn." Have fun learning about your state government with your family today!!

Between now and July 4th, keep your eyes on my blog for weekly snippets of history and trivia about the workings of the U.S. government.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Bee"ing Educated

In "Competition Makes a Comeback," an article in Education Next, June Kronholz writes,

Today’s teachers generally cringe at everything about [the popularity of competitions]. All those hours spent on one narrow academic focus! All that rote learning! All that stressful competition! And if some children shine on that national stage, what about the self-esteem of every other child whose luster is publicly shown to be not as bright?

Good points, perhaps. But they haven’t slowed the apparent growing interest among middle schoolers in the Scripps spell-off or any of the other bees, bowls, and academic olympiads that will climax in national championships this spring.
Attempting to explain the discrepancy between teacher and student enthusiasm, Kronholz takes a look at history:
The squeamishness about competition reached its extreme with the self-esteem movement of the 1990s, when researchers decided that low-performing kids would do better in school if they just, darn it, felt better about themselves. Schools dropped honor rolls, the class valedictorian, and assemblies that recognized academic stars, but not, of course, assemblies that recognized football or basketball or golf stars. At the feel-good movement’s most absurd, “authentic experience” triumphed over standardized spelling and grammar.
In spite of this, she explains that stereotypes of "bee" contestants may not hit the mark.
The popular image of bee contestants, moreover, is that they spend hours on grinding memorization and mind-numbing rote that robs them of time for creative thought and interdisciplinary learning.

But the kids I talked to saw their bees as a happy experience that broadened their knowledge rather than narrowed it.
Let's stop there for a moment. Fact 1: These kids are spending time on memorization and rote learning. Fact 2: They're seeing results that broaden their knowledge. Exactly! The skills they practice equip them for creative thought and interdisciplinary learning. For anyone with a thirst for knowledge, the tools of learning are a starting point, not an end. As Kronholz goes on to say,

The best spellers aren’t memorizers, “they’re word sleuths,” the spelling bee’s Paige Kimble told me, spelling out “sleuth,” just as you’d expect a spelling maven to do. The most successful contestants are kids who learn about language patterns and “have an incredible sense of how language is put together,” she added.

Some kids assembled mountains of flashcards and binders of maps, lists, and fact sheets. Arjun Kandaswamy said he studied for the geography bee finals by “layering”—starting with “the basic stuff” like continents and countries, and gradually adding layers of geographic complexity.

The one common denominator among the kids I talked to is that they read—a lot.
In this example, Arjun has discovered the pattern of all good learning: start with the "basic stuff", and then devour books as you add layers of complexity to your heart's content!

Kronholz concludes her article by saying, "Maybe that tells us something about bee contestants, and maybe bee contestants tell us something about our kids and our schools."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Legislative Language

If you want to find out more about a bill that is currently in Congress, you can find the full text, the sponsors, and more at the Congressional Record, or browse this GPO list for the 111th Congress.

But, like any other pursuit, until you learn the language of the legislative branch, you may be daunted by the abbreviations and terminology that structure government documents. So, to help you get started, check out this glossary from the Government Printing Office and add a new set of words and terms to your vocabulary! Here are a few sample entries:
H.R. House Bill
S. Senate Bill
H.J.Res. House Joint Resolution
S.J.Res. Senate Joint Resolution
H.Con.Res. House Concurrent Resolution
S.Con.Res. Senate Concurrent Resolution
H.Res. House Simple Resolution
S.Res. Senate Simple Resolution

Bills
H.R. House Bill
S. Senate Bill

A bill is a legislative proposal before Congress. Bills from each house are assigned a number in the order in which they are introduced, starting at the beginning of each Congress (first and second sessions). Public bills pertain to matters that affect the general public or classes of citizens, while private bills pertain to individual matters that affect individuals and organizations, such as claims against the Government.

Joint Resolutions

H.J.Res House Joint Resolution
S.J.Res. Senate Joint Resolution

A joint resolution is a legislative proposal that requires the approval of both houses and the signature of the President, just as a bill does. Resolutions from each house are assigned a number in the order in which they are introduced, starting at the beginning of each Congress (first and second sessions). There is no real difference between a bill and a joint resolution. Joint resolutions generally are used for limited matters, such as a single appropriation for a specific purpose. They are also used to propose amendments to the Constitution. A joint resolution has the force of law, if approved. Joint resolutions become a part of the Constitution when three-quarters of the states have ratified them; they do not require the President's signature.

Between now and July 4th, keep your eyes on my blog for weekly snippets of history and trivia about the workings of the U.S. government.

Friday, June 11, 2010

'The Core' sales update

The Core: June 10
Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
#238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#1 in Books > Nonfiction > Education > Education Theory > Contemporary Methods > Experimental
#1 in Books > Nonfiction > Education > Homeschooling
#1 in Books > Parenting & Families > Education

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

$$hopper: Fathers' Day Giveaway

Dads Rock Giveaway Bash
Start thinking about Fathers' Day early, and head over to my friend Jen @ Balancing Beauty and Bedlam tomorrow, Thursday, June 10 for the Dads Rock Giveaway Bash. A group of bloggers will be giving away hourly prizes that will make great gifts for the dads in your life. Also check out Jen's regular content while you're there!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stanley Fish on 'The Core' and classical ed.

Check out this editorial from Stanley Fish in the New York Times: "A Classical Education: Back to the Future".
...although I have degrees from two Ivy league schools and have taught at U.C. Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Duke, Classical High School (in Providence, RI) is the best and most demanding educational institution I have ever been associated with. The name tells the story...

Sounds downright antediluvian, outmoded, narrow and elitist, and maybe it was (and is; the curriculum’s still there, with some additions like Japanese), but when I returned home I found three new books waiting for me, each of which made a case for something like the education I received at Classical...

Three more different perspectives from three more different authors could hardly be imagined...
Don't miss Fish's thoughts on my new book The Core!!!

Click here to continue reading...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Declaring Independence from Ignorance

"Barely one-third of Americans can even name the three branches of government, much less say what they do," the AP quotes [former Justice Sandra Day] O'Connor as saying at a conference sponsored by Games for Change, a project that aims to promote computer and video games for social change. "Less than one-fifth of high school seniors can explain how civic participation benefits our government. Less than that can say what the Declaration of Independence is, and it's right there in the title. I'm worried."

Courtesy of Education Week.

How is your civics knowledge? Your children's?

If your family is like the other two thirds of Americans, instead of feeling guilty, why not take the month between now and Independence Day (July 4) to do something about it?

The Internet is loaded with resources that can help. Former Justice O'Connor recommends this website: www.iCivics.org, which offers online games targeted to middle schoolers, like Supreme Decision, which allows students to simulate a day as a supreme court justice.

Or better yet, take a few hours a week and take turns reading aloud from the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Practice rewriting them in your own words and imagine listening to or reading those words for the first time today.

When, as a part of human history, it becomes necessary for a nation to break away politically from another nation...

Knowing less than you would like to about any topic is nothing to be ashamed of; it's an impetus to step out and start learning more!

In the meantime, keep your eyes on my blog for weekly snippets of history and trivia about the workings of the U.S. government.

You can do it!

(Archives.gov, USHistory.org, and GPOaccess.gov also offer great resources for further reading.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Core Questions

As I've been working on The Core, I've been blessed by accountability to my community of Christ-followers. Your questions challenge me and keep me focused as I navigate this new adventure.

A few people have expressed concern that in writing this book for a secular press and from a secular perspective, I would dilute the truth that drives me to promote Home-Centered Education. Can this book advance the greater goal of CC, "To know God and make Him known" through classical education, if faith is not explicitly at the center?

It's a good question, and not a simple one. Today, I'd like to share with you some of the struggles--and joys--that I've found in this process of seeking out an answer.

It was hard to write this book at first because I can't help but express my faith as I write. It's just in me. Every time I'd get "too" theological for the publisher, they would argue with me until I took it out. But the arguing was so fun because I got to share my faith with a handful of secular New Yorkers in the process.

I knew I'd lose because I was working for them, not myself, but their arguments helped me hone mine and I pray our Lord was often glorified. One editor privately contacted me and said because of the book his family was now going to home school.

I started home schooling as a secularist, and like my pastor said, "If you stand by the river long enough, eventually you will fall in." Which I did, and I pray now that the publishers will do so too as we continue to hang out together.

I'm praying The Core will draw non-Christians near to us, the church, through an issue parents care about and in a way that we can influence them for Christ.

It was nerve wracking sometimes to write the book because I believe there is no neutrality. You are either for Christ or against Him. I hope that in the stories about our daily life, where the publisher allowed me to be open about our family's faith, all readers will know that I am for Him.

By respecting the authority of my employer, I was able to gain their trust and respect while very often sharing the gospel. By listening to me, they earned my respect. So I look forward to working with Palgrave MacMillan again.

I love all my endeavors with the church and CC and am also excited about this new mission field, the realm of New York publishing and secular parents who need to be told they are capable and trusted by we Christians. I love loving on them and can't wait to see what the Lord will do.

My team won't let me rest until every parent hears that they are trusted by God to not only birth children, but raise them for His glory.

Thanks for all your efforts in home schooling and your prayers that as I venture into unfamiliar territory I boldly speak the words of Christ.

Love, Leigh

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summer Practicums

I'm heading on the road again in just a few weeks. Won't you join me this summer? I'll be speaking at Parent Practicums around the country about my newest book, The Core, and Beyond the Book, a conversation about using texts as the starting point, rather than the be-all and end-all of education.

Hope to see you at one of these locations!
For information about Parent Practicums in your area, visit our website, ClassicalConversations.com. (Practicums are listed under "Equipping Events," or go to the "Event Calendar" and search for 1- or 3-day practicums by state.)