Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Butterflies Are Free To Fly

video
video
Last night, one of the butterflies was quite intent on mating - quite - so I decided it was time to unzip their garden.

Day 19: When I got home from work, my daughter and I went onto the patio and watched them all fly away... high away...

(In the second clip, our most hesitant butterfly unfurls his proboscis.)

For earlier caterpillar posts, check out:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 10
Day 13
Day 15
Day 16
Day 17

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

UnCommon Education

My students had their fourth Common Core testing session today.

Because my school is four times as large as many elementary schools (we have eight 4th grade classrooms), and a limited number of computers, the students at my school must test in sessions. For example, today, my students tested from 10:15 to 11:20 a.m., 65 minutes.

Because my school has lots of wonderful weekly offerings (science lab, library, art, singing, chorus, and orchestra), as well as three morning recess periods and three lunch periods, scheduling is difficult.

As a result, most teachers signed up to bring students to one of the two computer classrooms for testing one time per week, with testing taking a month. (Prior to Common Core, when we still used paper and pencils, we were able to get testing done in a week.)

Fourth graders takes three tests (math, language arts, and a language arts performance task). The performance task involves reading multiple loosely-related nonfiction passages, then synthesizing the material to answer three questions. To sufficiently answer the questions, students must type a short paragraph for each of the three questions, citing their sources.

But that's not the worst of it.

After spending 45 minutes answering three questions, many of my students clicked to go on to question #4.

Unbeknownst to the teachers, question #4 involved using multiple loosely-related sources to write a multi-paragraph story or informative essay. (Some students were assigned narratives, some were assigned essays.)

They had less than 20 minutes to read instructions, criteria, and source material, plan, type a multi-paragraph paper, revise, and edit. (Did I mention, they don't know how to type?)

A student can't review previously viewed questions during subsequent sessions. Fair enough. However, the test is supposed to be untimed.

I can't help but imagine Charlotte Mason standing in the corner of the Tech Lab, shaking her head at the absurdity of it all.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Birthday Party Planning

Me - at my 3rd birthday party
My almost-three-year-old has recently gotten to go to two perfectly-executed third birthday parties.

The first was at a park on a Saturday afternoon. The weather was glorious, and the parents had staked out a couple of picnic tables under big trees. They decorated the puppy-themed party with balloons (including three puppy-shaped Airwalker balloons, which the kids l-o-v-e-d "walking" around the park) and a child-sized, cardboard doghouse (white with a red roof, reminiscent of the Snoopy's Sno Cone Makers from the 1980s). The doghouse was the final obstacle in a puppy obstacle course (an ideal activity for three year olds) that involved hopping, walking a line, jumping, and crawling on all fours. Birthday girl's mother is brilliant. At the craft table, kids decorated goody bags with puppy stickers, foam shapes, markers, and glitter pens. All two dozen guests got a turn to whack the toy-filled, pink and white puppy pinata. Finally, we all ate chocolate cake, baked and decorated with tiny plastic puppies by the birthday girl's mom.

The second was yesterday morning, in the birthday boy's backyard. Again, the weather was glorious. There was a Planes-themed bounce house, a man twisting balloon animals, and another man painting glitter tattoos. But there were also the birthday boy's backyard toys (house, kitchen, car, wagon, and a Fisher Price car track called a Loops 'n Swoops Amusement Park); the little ones bounced and played and played and bounced, and everyone was tattooed and happy. Birthday boy's wonderful mom is Australian, so one of the many party foods was "fairy bread," little sandwiches made of white bread, butter, and rainbow sprinkles - an Australian standard and a huge hit with the kids. There was a Planes-themed cake, and Planes goody bags, and I studied it all with an anthropologist's attentiveness.

My daughter turns three in two weeks.

Two weeks! I got on Amazon, with the hope of putting together a sweet Beatrix Potter-themed party, and then I got really overwhelmed. It was a combination of seeing how much money I was going to spend on paper plates alone, and my desire to make a Mr. McGregor's cupcake garden, the cupcakes decorated with crushed Oreo "dirt" and handmade candy "vegetables."

By 9 p.m., I had given up and, in defeat, I googled the phrase "birthday in a box" which is - as I thought it should be - an actual thing.

"Okay," I said, pulling my daughter up onto the couch next to me. "What do you want?"

She oohed over Minnie Mouse, Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street, and Tinkerbell. But when she saw Monsters, Inc., her mind was made up.

"You like Monsters, Inc. better than Tinkerbell?" Yes. "Better than Dora?" Yes. "Okay," I said, clicking the mouse, "Monsters, Inc. it is."

I was simultaneously disappointed and relieved... and guilt-ridden, my excuse for buying absolutely  everything my daughter asked for.

When I was almost three, my amazing mother asked what I wanted on my birthday cake, and when I told her Garfield and E.T. touching fingers, she made it happen. Then, she painted an E.T. beanbag toss, and sewed lederhosen for my dad's ventriloquist dummy. At my party, Dad told the story of Jack and the Beanstalk; the dummy played Jack and Dad played the giant.
The cake Mom made for my 3rd birthday
My I-don't-have-lederhosen-sewing-time-guilt resulted in the purchase of (very affordable) Monsters, Inc. paper plates... cups, napkins, balloons, a helium tank, stickers, lollipops, frisbees, paper masks, party hats, pencils, blow-outs, curling ribbon, favor boxes, monster-head-water-squirter balls, an Airwalker balloon shaped like Mike Wazowski that will stand more than a foot taller than my daughter, and a Sulley monster costume for my daughter to wear.

Because she said she needed it.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Kite Flying

Yesterday was sooo windy. While Mommy made dinner, Daddy took Miss Almost-Three down to a grassy area at the beach to fly her Spiderman kite.

(Can I just share what a great day yesterday was? First, my husband surprised me by making breakfast. He only makes one thing, and that's fine by me because I love the one thing he makes: chorizo and egg burritos. Then, Miss Almost-Three and I walked down to the beach to check out a professional sandcastle competition. The aquarium was giving out sand pails and large shovels. She played with crabs and dug in the sand to her heart's content. We walked to the Promenade for gelato, bought a birthday present for her friend, shared a large slice of pepperoni pizza - life is uncertain, eat dessert first - and played in the food court's play area. When we got home, three of our butterflies had emerged from their chrysalides. Miss Almost-Three asked me to read her the story about "the mommy that washes the cats' faces and brushes their whiskers and then they wear clothes and take the clothes off." The Tale of Tom Kitten. This is when Daddy came home with a kite. After dinner, Miss Almost-Three finished painting her build-your-own-birdhouse kit and had a bubble bath. How lovely is that?)

Build Your Own Birdhouse - Completed

Well, last night my almost-three-year-old finished painting her birdhouse. I must say, this kit is so easy to put together; it doesn't require any screws or nails! I would buy it again in a heartbeat. The only problem with this kit, as is the case with any children's kit involving paint, is... not enough paint. We keep a bottle of each of the three primary colors on hand for moments like this. The kit does not come with orange, and my daughter insisted the base and perch be orange - just like the "instructions" (the photo on the box). She had fun swirling red and yellow together, and insisted on doing it herself. Now, we just need some birdy tenants.

For the first birdhouse post, check this out.

Caterpillars Day 17

video
They have all hatched. We came back from a birthday party to find the fifth Painted Lady flapping her wings.

For earlier caterpillar posts, check out:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 10
Day 13
Day 15
Day 16 

And, if you like butterflies, here is our trip to the Los Angeles Natural History Museum's Butterfly Pavilion.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sandcastle Competition

My daughter building her own sandcastle


Turtle
Rubber Ducky
My favorite
Lego sphinx
Playing with sand crabs
video
The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium held a beach clean-up and professional sandcastle competition today, followed by a family competition. I'm not sure who won either, but my daughter had lots of fun digging in the sand and playing with sand crabs.

Caterpillars Day 16

video 
Three more of the chrysalides were dark this morning, and the first-born butterfly was perched on the "garden's" netting.
Late last night (still Day 15)
Up close (late last night). How cool is this?!
This morning
The red spots on the paper towel are meconium - the waste that the "Painted Ladies" produce during the pupal stage. When a butterfly emerges, it pumps the meconium through its veins into its wrinkled wings.

A FEW HOURS LATER...

 We returned from the sandcastle competition to find that three more butterflies had emerged!

For earlier caterpillar posts, check this out.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Preschool Art

Brush on primary colored paint

Put hands on paper, then rub hands together!
Put hands on paper a second time
Viola! A secondary color!
My daughter chose to make green with blue and yellow.
A story about mixing primary colors
Our snack - rainbow swirl cake! YUM!
At the weekly preschool group meet-up, the kids explored how mixing colors makes new colors. Each child chose two primary colors, pressed their paint-covered hands on paper, then rubbed their hands together. You should have seen their surprised faces! They decorated their papers with handprints, then we all ate delicious rainbow swirl cake.

For other posts about art, check out:
Art Lesson - Tulips
Artist Study - Who is Hundertwasser?
Why Drawing is Still Worth Learning

Caterpillars Day 15

Our first butterfly!
Butterfly #1 was the dark chrysalis on the right.

This morning, before I left for work, one of the chrysalides was darker than the rest. I figured it was either very, very dead or that it was just about to emerge.
Butterfly #1 came out of the lower chrysalis.
 We put in a rose and squeezed a pipette of sugar water onto its petals.

For earlier caterpillar posts, check this out.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why Drawing is Still Worth Learning

In "high school," Charlotte Mason's students read The Fesole Club Papers by W.G. Collingswood.

Collingswood wrote "[T]here are two reasons why drawing is still worth learning."

His first reason was that "photography is inadequate... Moreover, it commonly happens that we want to note things in places and upon occasions when we can't be expected to carry a camera; but a note-book, and even a miniature colour-box, will never be much of a burden in anybody's pocket."

Now, because of cell phones, we are expected to carry cameras everywhere.

But Collingswood's second reason is the only reason we need:

"The photographer, as such, is not a qualified observer. The habit of sketching makes one sensitive to impressions, sharpens the eye and the memory in a wonderful way. Of course, if a sketcher aim at being an artist pure and simple, and look only for "effects" which will work up into pictures, then he sees only "effects." But if he be interested in any branch of science, his sketching habit keeps him on the lookout; and the necessity for choosing the leading lines trains him to seize them in any case, much more when he is in the act of drawing."

Collingswood writes that we need "the habit of looking, and the power of seeing... [M]ost people are half blind."

We rush from one place to the next, not seeing the scenery. We see the sun set, the act of the sun setting, but we don't "notice the iridescence before the sun went down," or the shapes of the clouds and "their mysterious consent of movement," or "[t]he strange obscurity of olive sky behind certain brightest primrose-golden flakes of flame."

The person who does not draw sees the sun go down and says it's beautiful, but is "like a deaf man at an opera."

Looks like I need to put away my phone and pick up a pencil...

Art Lesson - Tulips

My fourth graders began a still life in art today.  They will be painting vases of tulips. 
Today's warm-up sheet.  Teacher's drawings
on the left, student's drawings on the right.
As I wrote in an earlier post, the warm-up
sheet is to help students break down the
object they are studying into its shapes
and lines.

They will be painting on sheets of
newspaper. This is the beginning of one
student's work.
Ms. Green told students that when she was in art school, she had to make decisions about what to spend her money on.  Should I buy that new outfit, or those expensive paints?  The art supplies always won out.

But artists often use what is free, and this forces creativity. So my fourth graders are getting the chance to work with a new medium, and they soon discovered how different newsprint is from the thicker paper they're used to.
A still life by Cezanne.
Ms. Green explained to the students what a still life is, and that Cezanne often painted flowers and fruit. (I found this great link about Cezanne and his still lifes here, and here is a wonderful site with more of Cezanne's paintings and a biography.)




These are Ms. Green's display boards for this project.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Caterpillars Day 13


The paper under the plastic lid
This is before I removed the silk
Two caterpillars were not attached to the paper.
The caterpillars have been chrysalides for a few days now, so I watched the instructional video - which is actually very cool - and followed the directions.  It was terrifying. You have to remove all of the silk from around the chrysalides; it's really strong and you can hear it ripping. (Here are earlier caterpillar posts.)

Citizenship in Grades 4 through 6

Based on the original Parents' Union programmes, citizenship in grade 4 consisted of:
1)Stories from the History of Rome (Beesly) - one chapter per term
&
2)The Complete Citizen (by Richard Wilson) - described as an introduction to civics based on history, literature, and everyday life - 85 pages per term

In 5th and 6th grade:
1)Students read Plutarch (North's translation) - one biography per term
2)They used Smaller Classical Dictionary by Smith.
3)And (per term) they read approximately 25 pages of The Citizen Reader.
(This book is about being an English citizen, so Americans would probably want to use a book about what it means to be a citizen of the U.S., the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, etc.)

Blocking The Tempest

My fourth grade class began blocking our adaptation of The Tempest.  I was able to reserve the cafeteria/ auditorium/ cafetorium today, so we could practice entrances and exits, where students will deliver their lines, and how to "magically" change Miranda #1 to Miranda #2 and so on and so on.

(To make sure all 33 students got a part, a part they were excited to have and a part they could play well, I worked it out so that we have 5 Prosperos, 4 Mirandas, and 2 Calibans.  I also have a group of students with minor roles who double as spirits.  For example, the spirits enter, stand in front of Miranda #1, and when the spirits exit - viola! Miranda #2 is onstage.)

I have spirits stomping around like elephants, a Prospero who won't get near Ariel because she's a girl, a Gonzalo who keeps emphasizing the wrong word in an important line, and a Miranda no one can hear, and various students entering and exiting by rolling under the stage curtains.

It was all pretty funny.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Great Ideas

This morning started with my students lined up on the yard, tattling on each other for saying a made-up phrase that was code for "something nasty" reported two girls.  I brought them inside and - after taking a few deep breaths - wrote the word "base" on the whiteboard.  I explained to them what "base" means; I likened it to junk food for the brain.  I said that I've tried all year to feed them great ideas: Shakespeare's The Tempest, Robinson Crusoe, Bullfinch's Mythology, poems by William Blake and Emily Dickinson, Mozart and Beethoven, Leonardo and Monet, the biographies of people like Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson, Ralph Bunche, Alexander Graham Bell, and Harriet Tubman. I told them that it makes me sad to be greeted first thing in the morning by students exchanging base ideas.

To say these things make me sad is putting it lightly. I question daily why I entered this profession.

Another example of this base vs. great ideas conflict: Two weeks ago, some of my nine-year-old boys were discussing the video game Grand Theft Auto, specifically the game's strippers, while walking in line.

There are lots of reasons we want to homeschool.  This is one of the reasons.  It's not that I don't think lots of children do just fine. But why settle for fine? Why settle for common? I went to public school, and I went on to college and am now a "productive member of society."  Lots of children do just fine.

As a classroom teacher, I spend a lot of time not teaching, a lot of time talking about what is appropriate for fourth graders to talk about and what is not, a lot of time that children could be learning independently, but have not been trained in this habit. Children who could be working on their own are either forced to be on the class' schedule, or I am busy with "management" and unable to create challenging individual programs. I spend an inordinate amount of time in conflict resolution, the result of "socializing" children.

I do spend a lot of time teaching, too. Today, after lunch, I read my students the myth of Minerva and Arachne (from Bullfinch's Mythology), which they loved.  What nine-year-old doesn't love a story in which someone's fingers fuse to their body to become spider legs?



Monday, April 21, 2014

An Imaginary Conversation with Ms. Mason

Some Preliminary Considerations

MS. MASON: Not the least sign of the higher status women have gained, is the growing desire for work that obtains amongst educated women. 

ME: Um, well, it's not that I desired to work so much as I thought that's just what one does.  I thought that I was supposed to go to college and get a job.  I thought that getting a job depended upon me being educated.  An educated woman. 

MS. MASON: The world wants the work of such women... Presently, as education becomes more general, we shall see all women with the capacity to work falling into the ranks of working women, with definite tasks, fixed hours, and for wages, the pleasure and honour of doing useful work if they are under no necessity to earn money.

ME: But some women are under the necessity to earn money.  I'm under that necessity, but that's a long story and you were saying...

MS. MASON: That work which is of most importance to society is the bringing up and instruction of the children - in the school, certainly, but far more in the home, because it is more than anything else the home influences brought to bear upon the child that determine the character and career of the future man or woman. 

ME: I hope you don't think I think having a career is more important than being a mother. Becoming a parent was the best decision I ever made.

MS. MASON: It is a great thing to be a parent - there is no promotion, no dignity, to compare with it. 

ME: But you never married, never had children of your own.

(She looks away, then changes the subject.)

MS. MASON: The parents of but one child may be cherishing what shall prove a blessing to the world. 

Monday Monday

It was back to school today.  My daughter woke up before I could quietly slip out.  She cried, saying she wanted me to stay with her and not go far away. I told her I understood what she wanted, but that I had to go.  "Mommy goes to work to earn money.  Remember?  We talked about this before." This is not an easy thing to explain to a not-yet-three-year-old.  There is a lot that can't be said, like, "I wish I could stay home with you," because I'm certain she would think, "Then why don't you?" and we'd be back to where we started - a preschool lesson in economics.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Caterpillars Day 10


This is one caterpillar up close.  You can see he
(or she) is in the middle of changing into a chrysalis.
For earlier caterpillar posts:
Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five

Easter Eggs

Dying eggs with Grandma

Decorating her egg to look like a zebra
All lined up and ready to be hidden
Grandma decorated this cute chick.
Papa giving egg-hunting hints


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Thursday

In celebration of Easter, I chose specific Bible stories to read to my almost-three-year-old this week. Thursday night's story was that of The Lord's Supper, which takes place during a Passover Seder. Because I wanted my daughter to have a better understanding of this story, after reading to her, my mother helped me set the table with matzoh, a lamb bone, haroset, romaine lettuce, parsley, an egg, a bowl of salt water, and grape juice.

Matzoh is unleavened bread, a reminder that the Israelites had to be ready to move when God told them to, and did not have time to wait for bread to rise.  Romaine lettuce (maror) is a bitter vegetable symbolizing the bitter suffering of the Israelites in slavery.  Haroset (a mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon, honey, and wine or grape juice) represents the mortar the Israelites used to build Pharaoh's cities.  The lamb bone symbolizes the tenth plague in Exodus, when the Israelites marked their doors with lamb's blood as a signal that death should "pass-over" their houses; we did not have a lamb shank bone, so we used a bone from a lamb chop (vegetarians use a roasted beet).  A hard boiled egg was the food of mourners, and symbolizes mourning the loss of the two temples.  Parsley is dipped in the salt water to represent the tears shed by the Israelites while they were enslaved.  Wine (or grape juice) symbolizes freedom.

For Christians, Passover Seder is when Jesus told his disciples to eat unleavened bread and drink wine "in remembrance of me" - the reason Christians take communion.  During dinner, my daughter ate asparagus and matzoh.  At one point, I looked over, and saw that she'd made a huge mess with her matzoh.  I raised my eyebrows and opened my mouth, but before I could say anything, she said, "I broke the bread like Jesus broke the bread."

Caterpillars Day 9

We returned home from visiting family to find our caterpillars pupating!  Four of them are hanging, and one is at the bottom of the cup.  When the caterpillars are done turning into chrysalides, I'm supposed to gently scoop it out with a spoon and put it on a paper towel on the floor of the butterfly habitat, and it will emerge there.

Here is a pic of our caterpillars just a few days ago.

Six Places Mother and Father Have Visited

On the programmes from Charlotte Mason schools, children in grades one through three were to hear stories of places father and mother had visited. This was part of their geography lesson. Six places per term, or one place every two weeks.

What countries have we visited?

Father:
Mexico
Panama
Bahamas
Netherlands
Germany
France
Italy
Armenia
Georgia (the country, not the state)
Saudi Arabia
Pakistan
Bahrain
Thailand
Korea
Hong Kong
Japan (including Okinawa)
Philippines
Guam
The Marshall Islands
Iran (for 15 minutes)

Mother:
England
France
Germany
Austria
Switzerland
Armenia
Italy
Bahamas
Mexico




A Master Thought

My musings while reading Home Education chapter 15 ("A Master Thought"):

Education is the values we model for our children through our actions.

Curriculum is chosen, not because it teaches certain skills or certain facts, but based on what a child can learn from it about beauty, truth, goodness.

Education includes a wide variety of subjects.

Faith and science can coexist.

A theory is not a fact. A theory is based on evidence, and as new evidence is found, theories change. By studying science in historical context, as well as in current events about science, one can see this truth over and over.

Children are fed a "diet of great ideas."

Education is the science of relations. (Fed a diet of great ideas, children will form connections between these ideas.)


Friday, April 18, 2014

1st Grade Term

After looking at the Parents' Union Programme 44, I came up with this:

BIBLE LESSONS
-one Old Testament story per week
-one New Testament story (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) per week
-maps of the Holy Land

WRITING
-one letter each lesson (master one letter each week)
-write a letter from dictation ("Write the letter C.")

NATURAL HISTORY
-read 40 pages of a nature book
-study 6 kinds of something (trees, flowers, insects, etc.)

GEOGRAPHY
-read 40 pages of a geography book
-mother & father tell stories of 6 places they've travelled
-draw the neighborhood in a sand tray

FORIEGN LANGUAGE
-learned orally with pictures

SUMS/MATH
-use of dominoes and beans to do sums

PICTURE TALK
-study 6 reproductions of the works of one artist

DRAWING
-one sketch per week
(6 of one thing, 6 of another)

TALES
-History stories (40 pages)
-3 Grimm's Fairy Tales (one a month)

RECITATION
-2 poems (1 every 6 weeks)
-3 hymns (not set to music) (I plan to do 1 hymn set to music per month)
-12 Bible verses (6 OT and 6 NT) (one verse per week)

READING
-The Happy Reader or The Delightful Reading Box by Sarah Mason

MUSIC
-piano

SINGING
-1 English song per month
-1 foreign language song (over 3 months)

DRILL (P.E.)
-marching
-calisthenics
-ball drills

WORK
-handicrafts


On Ambleside Online, 44 1a is labeled 2nd and 3rd grade, but looking at the programmes, I think these are mislabeled. The reason I think this is that 1b appears more advanced than 1a (the number of subjects, the expectations in math, the tales, etc.).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Grace Week

In my post Education Is Not An Environment, I mentioned Mason's idea that students who are used to having others order their lives do not do the hard work of ordering their own. It reminded me of a post by Linda Johnson about "Grace Week."

Grace Week is a one week break every six weeks of instruction.  

During Grace Week, children take a break from academics, but not from learning.  At the beginning of Grace Week, each child sets specific goals (about a dozen) for what he or she wants to accomplish during the week, and submits the list to mom for approval.

Examples:
1)a handicraft
2)read from their independent reading list
3)write - book review, film review, blog, an essay, personal journal, poem, letters
4)practice musical instrument/master a piece/finish a composition
5)watch a film/film appreciation
6)kitchen project (bake, cook, add to recipe journal, preserve)
9)do for others (service project, making a get well card)
10)exercise
11)cleaning/organizing
12)art -sketch, paint a picture
13)play a game/practice chess
14)file schoolwork
15)science project
16)outdoor skill (learn archery, learn to ride a bike)
17)go on a field trip
18)book report alternative (examples: build something from a book, dramatic play from a book)

This is a great idea for teaching children time management and that they don't need someone to entertain them.

Typing on my phone. I'll add links later from my laptop.

Education is an Atmosphere

Mason believed that one-third of education is atmosphere. Yesterday, I posted a little about this. She wrote that atmosphere is different than environment. Atmosphere is invisible and intangible.

Learning happens everywhere. Today, grabbing lunch on the go, I witnessed a woman with two small children speaking rudely to the restaurant employees. Because I have been thinking about "atmosphere," I thought about how this was a lesson. A negative atmosphere teaches negative lessons. 

Being a mother makes me want to model patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, and gratitude (and, and, and...) because these are the lessons I want to teach my daughter. (And these are the lessons being a mom teaches me.)

Atmosphere is not our physical surroundings. I have to remind myself of this. We live in a very small apartment with no lawn, the trade-off being that we live within walking distance of the beach and the weather is like being on vacation year-round. But atmosphere is how we live in this space, not what we furnish it with.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Education Is Not An Environment

In Volume 3, chapter 15, Charlotte Mason writes about the motto of the Parents' Union: Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

While I don't agree with Mason on everything, I do agree with her on the following...

Education is not an environment.  At the beginning of each school year, I give a lot of thought to my "classroom environment."  I arrange the desks so that students will have a view of the whiteboards and be able to work in cooperative groups.  I post the rules and consequences and rewards (Mason was philosophically opposed to rewards, but I am required by administration to give them) to make students aware of my expectations.  My classroom environment must promote tolerance, safety, and responsibility.  Every choice I make must make the students feel organized, and teachers are told we can achieve this with cute bulletin boards and potted plants.

But education is not an environment.

“We are more ready to be done unto than to do[.]”  Mason wrote that when education is viewed as an environment (or - I will add - when environment is seen as paramount), it breeds listless students who let others order their lives, instead of doing the hard work of ordering their own; students require schedules and need to be entertained.  

Two anecdotes:

Friday, my students asked if they would be getting a reading log for Spring Break.  (I give them a reading log to fill out as part of their homework each week, something I disagree with but do anyway.) I said, "No, it's vacation." (This week - Easter Week - parents should be able to choose where their children's attention is focused.) One student raised her hand and asked, "But can we read anyway?"  I can't tell you how surprised I was by this question.  My students are so used to having their lives ordered for them.  "Yes," I said, "please do."

A couple of years ago, when the district I work for adopted new Language Arts textbooks, the trainer was demonstrating the digital textbook.  "This is what the students demand," he said.  Demand.  My jaw dropped.  Do we feed children candy when they demand it, or do we give them foods we know will nourish them?  Education is not an environment.


 

Caterpillars Day 5

The caterpillars are definitely alive.  Yesterday, I drew on the cup with dry erase marker, tracing each caterpillar. (I did this twice, once in the morning with one color and again in the evening with another color.) The one in the middle appears to have moved less than a quarter of an inch over the past day and a half.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Glue


We have several of these Kumon First Steps Workbooks (Let's Fold!, Let's Cut Paper!, More Let's Cut Paper!, and Let's Sticker and Paste!)  Each book includes more than 30 activities in full color.  The subject matter is happy and sweet.

Activities like folding, cutting, play-doh-squishing, and gluing all improve fine motor control, which is needed for writing.


Afternoon at the Beach


This afternoon, in lieu of a nap, we went to play at the beach.

A 2 Year Old Chopping Vegetables?

This is my still-two-years-old-for-another-month daughter chopping zucchini for dinner (Mommy and Daddy's dinner, since the only vegetables she cares for at the moment are baby carrots and cucumber slices).  The tool she is using is called a vegetable crinkle cutter.  I'd read about kindergarteners in Waldorf schools chopping vegetables with crinkle cutters to make vegetable soup.  The blade is blunt. It requires the child to hold the handle with one hand, and press down with their other hand (see the photo), so little fingers do not get in the way.  Again, she is carefully supervised.  We've had this tool for a year and I love it.