Sunday, August 31, 2008
Now that school is starting I'm not sure how much I will be contributing to this group for the time being. If we read really slowly I might be able to keep up, but other than that I'm just going to be fully immersed in what we're learning here at home and doing some of my own pleasure reading (including Andrea & Kaylie's book!). I will do my best, but that's where I stand as of today. Just FYI.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I wanted to join your ranks (well, not you, Ju). I hate being left out of things!!!
So.....I'm expecting my fifth baby! Pretty sweet. Pretty un-planned. Just thought I'd let you know. I'm due in March. I will have three children with birthdays in a 30 day time period. Pretty wild.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Also the d'Aulaire books on George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
There's a magic tree house book on the subject.
Felicity, from the American Girl series grows up in Colonial Times. :-)
There's a Diane Stanley book (she's so awesome) called Joining the Boston Tea Party
"The Courage of Sarah Noble" is a good one for younger kids.
I have a bunch of ideas from the Sonlight Curriculum. I usually just use what I can pull from the library and I haven't checked on that yet. But here's what Sonlight uses for American History:
American Adventures 1 - Greenberg SL3 (many topics 1770-1870)
The Story of the USA: A Young Nation Solves Its Problems - Escher SL3
Pocahontas and the Strangers - Bulla SL3
Squanto, Friend of Pilgrims - Bulla SL3
What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? - Fritz SL3
Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia - Cousins SL3
Mr. Revere and I - Lawson SL3
And then What Happened, Paul Revere? - Fritz SL3
Can't You Make Them Behave, King George - Fritz SL3
Johnny Tremain - Forbes SL3 (American Revolution)
Toliver's Secret - Brady SL3 (American Revolution)
Phoebe the Spy - Griffin SL3 (American Revolution)
Martha Washington (Childhood of Famous Americans) SL3
Meet George Washington - Heilbroner SL3
George Washington (Childhood of Famous Americans) SL3
Winter at Valley Forge - Knight SL3 (1777)
If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution - Levy SL3
Meet Thomas Jefferson - Barrett SL3
Diary of an Early American Boy - Sloane SL4 (1805 pioneer life)
Johnny Appleseed - Kellogg SLK
Ben and Me - Lawson SL2 (Ben Franklin)
I'm sorry if those aren't helpful for a five year old. These are mainly for my eight year old daughter. The SL3 means it's Sonlight's level 3.
A long time ago I read a fabulous book called "The Signers: the 56 Stories behind the Declaration of Independence". It's not a read aloud for young kids but it was FABULOUS and I told the kids the stories in my own words. Many of the stories moved me to tears as I told my children about the courage of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
For all of my vast knowledge of literature, I'm having a hard time coming up with many fiction titles that deal directly with colonial America. Pre-revolution and during the revolution specifically. Johnny Tremain is the classic. Witch of Blackbird Pond another classic--too old for Miriam though. Why aren't there more books about puritan girls? About Jamestown lasses?
If you can think of any, let me know. Of course, I'm not reading just colonial books to her (boring for a whole year) but I am surprised at how shallow the lit is for this time period. Obviously, I'm missing something.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
So this is one of my all-time favorite books. It's inspiring, it's informational, and it's hopeful.
That's all I have to say. It's one the those books I plan to re-read, at least partially, on a regular basis to keep me motivated and focused.
And that's all I have to say because it's been far too long since I've read it and I don't want to get it confused with "There Are No Shortcuts" - also by Rafe.
Friday, August 8, 2008
First, education is a state level issue so whenever the federal government gets involved things go downhill fast--because what backwoods Alabama kids need is not the same as what inner-city ESL kids need. Education is best handled at a local level.
Second, taking funding away from struggling schools has got to be the number one stupidest thing anyone has ever thought of. It was supposed to "encourage" teachers to improve test scores, which resulted in the things Rafe was talking about--panicked teachers who help the kids cheat, or yell/scream/pull their hair out, over the tests. The teachers care about getting the funding because they care about their kids and their jobs. When funding gets cut, teachers get fired, class sizes get bigger, and students suffer.
If you've ever heard of teachers talking with great bitterness about No Child Left Behind--that's why. More high-stakes testing with threats of funding loss and worse, your district getting taken over by businessmen. Nothing worse than that really, because education cannot be run like a business no matter how good it sounds when a politician is talking about it.
So--we have an incredible number of tests that take up and incredible amount of a teacher's time, and because there are so many of the lame things, our kids have stopped worrying about them. I thought it was interesting that his kids thought they meant something. In Utah, there are so many tests that the kids often fill in blanks to make pretty pictures, or fall asleep, or most often--skip school that day. It is impossible to convince students that the school's funding is worth them showing up to take a test that doesn't affect their grade because we don't get the results in time to even tell the kids how they did. The whole thing is LAME.
I'm not against testing--but the system is seriously sick in the testing area. And what makes it worse is that parents who have no idea what the tests are even designed to demonstrate, read about test scores and get all up in arms about the teachers not doing their job. Give me a break.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Using Trust rather than Fear
"Never use fear as a shortcut for education." p 6
I thought the same thing as you with my own children and how they have learned to "fear" me more than to "trust" me (in some areas of their lives - - i.e. cleaning their bedrooms - - okay, so, maybe fear doesn't work there either! hee-hee)
Quote from Measure for Measure, Shakespeare:
"Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt."
Moral Levels of Development
LOVED this as well. And if you read Ron Clark's 55 Rules, it adds upon this whole concept of raising strong, intelligent, independent and confident children.
Why do we settle? I would agree that there aren't necessarily "bad" teachers out there, but there are many who settle for mediocrity. Who want to make it easier for themselves and their students. BUT can you blame them? After seeing the HOURS Esquith put into his teaching I realized why more teachers are not like him.
You mentioned, also how the teachers would step in to fix the problems of their students. Parents do this ALL THE TIME!! The kids come to them with any problem, big or small, and the parents give an answer: "You should...." "Go do...." Instead, we need to help our kids become problem solvers, thinkers! When my kids have come to me with problems (sometimes in hysterics), I've started to ask them a question, "What are our solutions." I remember Brooklynn freaking out about a lost something and I asked the question. She said, "There are no solutions!" (enter: the tears!) I just stayed calm (one trait I constantly need to work on when my girls go into needless hysterics) and said, "Well, go think about it and come back with a list of solutions." Well, she stomped out of the room (still crying) only to come back a few more minutes with the "something" found. I just think it's so easy to tell our kids how to behave, how to feel, how to think - - and then we get frsutrated as they get older and don't know how to make wise decisions. Duh! (read pp 147-148: How to solve a problem)
p. 141 "To help young people become remarkable, we need to challenge them with lessons theywill use for the rest of their lives."
This is so key, I agree. And it's something I've not been so strong at teaching. Writing came so easily for me, I don't even remember learning how, I just alwasy seemed to KNOW. Therefore, I just assumed my kids would know how to write. Ha! We've worked on it and come a long way, but this year we are mostly focussing on writing. EVERYTHING will involve writing (especially for John). I am so excited about it!
Esquith also made me realize that TV/Movies are actually good learning tools if used properly! (maybe you haven't gotten there yet, Ans). . . Before reading his book I would use "educational movies" as babysitters for my kids. They were still learning, right?! Well, let me just tell you how my whole perspective has changed and we are watching some really sweet movies! I've never seen a Shirley Temple movie until last night. It was great and the kids loved it. Anyway, I put Esquith's idea to a challenge. John wanted to watch Fetch with Ruff Ruffman (PBS kids show). Well, I told him he could only watch it if he wrote 5 sentences afterwards telling me what he had learned. He watched it and then couldn't come up wiht 5 sentences. I told him he still needed to do it. Well, he let it rest. Then, the next morning he woke up and said, "Mom, can I watch Fw/RR again and finish my sentences?' Well, he did and he wrote some great sentences. We sat down with the sentences and did all the correcting then and there - - grammar, spelling, penmanship! Then, he had to rewrite it with the corrections and in his best handwriting. John LOVED it! He didn't fight me on it one bit because I had taken one of his passions and turned it into a learning experience. LOVE writing!!
"Despite the fact taht standardized testing was conceived to help our children, in practice it has only contributed to their failure." p 75
"We adults must work hard to help the kids navigate the ridiculous hoops through which they are asked to jump." p 80
"In an era wehn 'You are your test score' has become accepted . . . we adults must work hard to make sure kids know that their test scores are actually a very small part of who they are." p 83
p. 174 "I believe that many of today's . . . schools are making a . . . significant mistake in how thye think about college. They place so much emphasis on getting into college that they lose sight of the larger issue of finishing college."
Andrea - explain this more to me (because I'm a critic) -- what is up with these tests? Washington's is HORRIBLE. AND, why are the teachers so limited on their cirriculum choices. I know, its' better to have a guideline, but does it need to be so set in stone and according to what administrators think? How do parents change this, or can they? I know there's a cirriculum board & all. Anyway, this is just one part of the book that frustrated me about the public school system (though I'm generally NOT anti-public school nor am I critical of the teachers themselves - - just to clarify!).
p. 108 "Teachers and parents must remember that our children should be the performers, even if they are not perfect. That's the beauty of art - - we strive for perfection but never reach it. The journey is everything."
P.S. I won't comment on Young Fu until I get back from Utah. I read it awhile back, but may need to refresh. LOL
Sunday, August 3, 2008
I completely forgot I wanted to comment on that too. Doesn't that just drive you a little crazy?? I want to know how Fermat solved it. Errrrr....
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I love math books! Real math books, anyway. Books about mathematicians and the math that they discover. I've read books about Descartes, Blaine Pascal, and other mathematicians. I've also read books about code-makers and -breakers from WWII. They all fascinate me. Which I find odd, really, because I don't understand math very easily.
I was hooked on this one right from the start.
There was so much information packed into this one book. I can hardly wrap my mind around it. I don't even know what to focus my essay on!
I read several sections of Fermat's Enigma to Josh, always finishing with: “if that's not a testimony of God, then I don't know what is!” I think one of the reasons I like math is that it's so orderly. My favorite “testimony” parts include the mathematics found in music, the pi ratio of rivers, the perfect number 6, and the friendly numbers. People have drawn such interesting comparisons between math and God. I thought the argument that St. Augustine made in “The City of God” about 6 being a perfect number and the earth being created in six days just fascinating.
One of the things that was new to me was the camaraderie within the mathematic community. I didn't realize that they tend to work so closely together, bouncing ideas off each other.
As much as this book is about a math problem, it's also definitely about the passion that envelops people and the tightness to which they can hold to an idea or a dream. It seems true that those who rise to the top of a field (any field) are the ones who are most passionate about it; who pursue their dream unceasingly. This book was chalk full of stories about people who followed their passion. What great examples they set for us.
Regarding mathematics: the intense concentration involved; the difficulty behind it all, astounds me. At one point, describing Wiles' lecture course on a portion of his proof, Nick Katz says, “There was no way in the world that anyone could have guessed what it was really about. It was done in such a way that unless you knew what this was for, then the calculations would just seem incredibly technical and tedious. And when you don't know what the mathematics is for, it's impossible to follow it. It's pretty hard to follow it even when you do know what it's for” (242-243). This quote, coupled with Nick Katz's explanation of the work required to check the proof (256) shows the huge amount of difficulty behind the math involved. It's just crazy to me that the best minds in the world found it difficult to check his proof!
“If Fermat did not have Wiles' proof, then what did he have?” (284). Wouldn't it be fascinating to find out if Fermat really did have the proof or not? The great thing about this theorem is that even after being “solved”, it's still an enigma because we know that if Fermat solved it, he must have used a different method. When I got to this part of the book, right at the end, I heard dramatic music playing in my head. The problem is still there – how did Fermat reach his conclusion?
I think the concept of hard work and perseverance is demonstrated repeatedly by the many mathematicians who devote whole segments of their lives to one problem. Hard work won't necessarily always be rewarded with success, but when it comes, success is all the more sweet because of the effort taken to get it. Sacrifice and discipline make good work partners. It's a lesson worth learning well.
I want to finish by quoting what I thought was probably the funniest moment in the entire book (and I liked Euler's proof of God, also): “When asked for his reaction to the proof, Shimura gently smiled and in a restrained and dignified manner simply said, 'I told you so.'”(280). I just loved that answer. Finally, to be justified after so many years! It must have felt good.
One of the main reasons I liked it so much, is that it made me appreciate how amazingly intelligent humans can be and the potential we have. Does anyone remember in Anne of Green Gables when Anne is talking to Diana about whether she would be infinitely good, stunningly beautiful, or astoundingly intelligent? (I paraphrased that.) Well, I always--even as a kid--would have chosen the intelligent one, although I felt rather guilty because I thought I should chose the good one. Anyway, this book made me wish that again. The genius of the people involved is really humbling to me. It kind of puts me in awe of the human race again, since generally speaking I don't have a high opinion of the average joe.
I had no idea of the complexities of mathematics in the theoretical realm and how many applications that has. For instance, how all the rivers can be calculated to have a ratio of pi between the actual length and direct distance. Also, to me, the author is right that mathematics has an appeal because "Mathematical theorems rely on this logical process and once proven true are true until the end of time." vs. "...the hypothesis becomes accepted as a scientific theory. However, the scientific theory can never be proven to the same absolute level of a mathematical theorem: It is merely considered highly likely based on the evidence available." pg. 21
The development in mathematics and the logic involved is incredible to me too. I loved how the author explained parts of this, "The solution for Bombelli was to create a new number, i, called an imaginary number... This might seem like a cowardly solution to the problem, but it was no different to the way in which negative numbers were introduced." pg. 84 To me, imaginary numbers are so completely odd and hard to comprehend (yes, I'm not that great in math). It makes i seem more normal to read "It should be noted that mathematicians consider imaginary numbers to be no more abstract than a negative number or any counting number. Furthermore, physicists discovered that imaginary numbers provide the best language for describing some real-world phenomena." pg 86
I also loved, "I am a liar!" pg. 141 and "This statement does not have a proof." pg 142, it's so fun to try to wrap your mental abilities around those. Hee. Hee. Also another fun logical "proof," was Pascal's "religion was a game of infinite excitement and one worth playing, because multiplying an infinite prize by a finite probability results in infinity."pg. 21 Although not logical at all, and certainly no proof, was Euler's "Sir, a+b nth power/n=x, hence God exists; reply!" pg. 76--I was laughing out loud when I read that anecdote.
I'll end with that since I have to go get me crying baby. Chau.