Friday, September 14, 2012

Little Britches

I haven't finished Little Britches, but I have read it several times.  As I think I mentioned, I'm reading it with my 9 year old son.  He thinks it's hilarious.  I'm sure most of the dad's lessons are not as obvious to him as they are to me, but the lessons that the boy learned are certainly making an impression.  He's learning so much about hard work and determination.  He's been begging me for ways to earn money.  Listening to Ralph's experience with herding the cows, stacking hay, etc., has been really eye opening for him.  I have always thought that this would be a great book for little boys to read.  I agree that it is pretty sentimental, but I think it reflects true to how Ralph viewed his dad at that point - larger than life, a hero for the ages. And, I think this was probably the best year(s) of his life.  After his Dad died, he grew up so fast and starting helping to provide for his family.  I can forgive his nostalgia.  ;-)

I've actually read pretty much all of Ralph Moody's books.  I highly recommend the one on the Pony Express.  Unlike most of his books, which are about his life, this one is a biography of the first pony express riders.  It's a quick, exciting, fantastic read.

Kami, as for your post about your school....I TOTALLY agree with your father.  That is seriously crazy.

My daughter is in full-time school this year for only the second time in her life.  She is a freshman at a small charter school.  She came home the first week just SHOCKED that most of the kids in her school have no desire to attend college.  They think school is boring.  They can't wait until they're done.
 I really think it's because the kids have gotten pushed too hard while they're young.  They've got to be so burned out by the time they get into high school.  College doesn't sound fun anymore!  Pretty sad, since college is WAY more fun than high school, in my opinion!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Little Britches and 1491

First,  Little Britches.   It was a good story, but I've heard about it so much beforehand as such a great book to teach values, that I think it ruined the book for me. Every time the father said anything, I was thinking, "Oh, and here comes the lesson I'm supposed to learn."  Also, the father had no faults whatsoever, and all in all it seemed too rose-colored.  I realize that the author probably idolized his father and with the father passing away while he was young, he might never had realized any faults or short-comings in his father.  And I think for a younger reader, and for this type of book, it isn't necessary to have a more critical approach.  However for me, it came across as too sentimental.

As for 1491, it was interesting, but seemed disjointed at times, giving it a kind of pointless feel by the end. (I mean the ending just kind of happens with no sum up or conclusion or anything, just talking about what he had been talking about in that particular chapter.) The political correctness was kind of grating at times too--I thought the author did a good job being fair and balanced in his views, but it was so obvious the effort he took to be politically correct, that it was annoying. Another thing was that many of the theories are still being debated and so the author would present both views and then just move on, (okay, I know that's not really his fault but it still made the book seem rather unconnected). But the author never gives his opinion, and I find that rather boring writing.  

I did enjoy learning about the cultures and archaeology. So fascinating! I wish I had read this book closer to the time I read Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond, because they seem to conflict in many areas concerning the Americas.  For instance, Guns, Germs, and Steel argued that the Americas didn't progress as rapidly because it didn't have enough grain crops to domesticate and that corn was inconsequential till recent hybrids and development, while 1491 had a whole chapter on corn and its importance.  1491 and GGS even differed on the location of pre-Columbian corn usage.  (Okay, I'm making these books sound extremely dull. They're really not.) 

My favorite parts of the book dealt with Squanto--yes, of pilgrim fame.  His history is fascinating!  If nothing else, you should check out this book and read the chapter about him and John Smith.  And yes, they knew each other.  The politics that Squanto was trying to put into play by helping the pilgrims--wow.  Who knew?  

Other things I would have found engrossing except I read about them before in other books, like Guns, Germs, and Steel and The Lost City of Z.   So if you've never read those, this book would be even better.  But seriously, read the Squanto chapter.

So much to post on...but first a rant.

This Tuesday, I went to two open houses, one for the elementary school and one for the junior high.  First of all, they overlapped the scheduling.  Umm..that's dumb.  Second of all, is it just me, or is this some heightened form of helicopter parenting?  That's what I felt like, but on the other hand, I did find out several things.  The first one of which will be my rant.

Elena goes to all day kindergarten from 8:20 till 3:40.  I think this is much too long, and she comes home exhausted each day and cries half the mornings about having to go to school. However, I figured, it's kindergarten, they'll have lots of play time and recess, and she'll adjust.  At the open house, I received a detailed schedule of their day.  Guess how much time they have for recess during the entire day???
15 minutes!  

Seriously??  I would be exhausted with the schedule they have these kids on.  I literally cried when I was telling Leo about it at home that night.  (Okay that might be a bit of postpartum hormones.)  She does have PE for 55 mins, 2 or 3 days a week--it varies.  But that's not the same as unstructured play and downtime.  Here's her schedule:

8:20-8:30 Morning announcements and pledge
8:30-8:45 Calendar (reviewing days, months, seasons)
8:45-9:00  Phonemic Awareness (ABC chants, sight words review)
9:00-9:45 Writer's Workshop (kid writing)
9:45-10:30 Extended Learning/Developmental Centers
10:30-10:48 Handwriting
10:48-11:18  Lunch (this does not include recess time, I asked)
11:30-12:35 Math/Science
12:35-1:30 Specials (Art/PE/Music/Library)
1:30-1:45 Recess
1:45-2:00 Snack/Quiet time
2:00-2:20 Themed Interactive writing (science/social studies)
2:20-2:35 Shared reading/read aloud
2:35-3:20 Literacy Centers/Guided reading
3:20-3:40 Pack & Stack/Dismissal

So is it just me, or does this seem crazy?  And the teacher kept explaining how the district upped it's standards this year, and kids have to be reading at a 1st grade level by the end of kindergarten, and how they're requiring more sight words to be memorized, etc.   Really?  I know I'm the odd person out by not having Elena in preschool, but Kindergarten, I thought, was still supposed to be a transition into regular school.  But not only that, I would want my older kids (1st graders, 4th graders, etc) to have more recess too.  Even the national recommendations are at least 20 minutes of recess a day.   

My father referred to my school district as "abusive," and said that "No educator in the country would consider that as developmental appropriate for that age group."

My good friend who has a ten year old brother in an elementary school nearby--which is rated the number 1 elementary school in the entire Houston area, and one of the best in the state--told me that her brother is being treated for anxiety.  And the problem is the pressure he feels at school.  That's insane.  She herself went to a the number 1 ranked high school in Houston, and she said BYU (most of her classmates went to Ivy League schools) was easy for her, but that wasn't necessarily a good thing, because she was so burnt out from high school when she got there and she felt that her high school had been too extreme and not in proportion to the needs of preparing for college and a career. I definitely want my kids challenged in school, but this is too much. 

Back to play, here's some tidbits I found.

 In a comprehensive review of numerous studies on play, researchers found evidence that play contributes to advances in "verbalization, vocabulary, language comprehension, attention span, imagination, concentration, impulse control, curiosity, problem-solving strategies, cooperation, empathy, and group participation" (Smilansky & Shefatya, 1990). Recent research provides additional evidence of the strong connections between quality of play in preschool years and children's readiness for school instruction (Bowman, Donovan, & Burns, 2000; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, 2002; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). Further, research directly links play to children's ability to master such academic content as literacy and numeracy. For example, children's engagement in pretend play was found to be positively and significantly correlated with such competencies as text comprehension and metalinguistic awareness and with an understanding of the purpose of reading and writing (Roskos & Christie, 2000).
The Importance of Being Playful. By: Bodrova, Elena, Leong, Deborah J., Educational Leadership, 00131784, Apr2003, Vol. 60, Issue 7

Because of the positive effects of physical activity on attention-to-task, it is recommended that elementary school teachers consider implementing physical activity sessions throughout the school day in the form of recess and classroom-based physical activities.

Impact of short bouts of physical activity on attention-to-task in elementary school children Matthew T. Mahar Activity Promotion Laboratory, Department of Exercise and Sport Science, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, USA

When youth participate in at least 60 min of physical activity every day, health benefits accrue, such as healthy bones and muscles, improved muscular strength and endurance, reduced risk for developing chronic disease risk factors, improved self-esteem, and reduced stress and anxiety (Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee, 2008).

So I'm going to write a letter to the principal and superintendent of the school district voicing my opinion.  Also, I am definitely holding my other children back a year before they start kindergarten and I'm going to start looking at other school districts nearby and charter schools.  However, the reason we moved to this area WAS the schools.  Elena is in the Spanish two-way immersion program, and I really want my kids to stay in a immersion program for Spanish.  So my options are limited.  (See me now banging my head on the table.) What to do?  What to do?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I'm reading it aloud to my 9 year old son.  We're both enjoying it.  First time he's read it.  We won't be done for a bit, though.  I'm having him help read it aloud as reading practice.

side note:  If there's one thing that public school taught me (as a mostly homeschool mom) it's that children need to have time to read aloud.  It improves their fluency, and prompts discussions for what words mean.  I find kids are more likely to ask what a word means when they are the ones doing the reading.

Anyway, we're working on it!

Monday, September 3, 2012


Did anyone read Little Britches? I just barely got it in at the library, as my Sunday School teacher reminded me on Sunday.  His last names starts with an L too and he was picking up his wife's books and saw mine.  Anyway, I still plan on reading it but I would like someone else's comments.

Will anyone read 1491?  I read it this past month because I didn't have Little Britches and I would LOVE to discuss it.