homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sleeping like a baby

My babies are asleep right now. Three and nearly one, collapsed in a tangle of limbs, breathing their soft puppy breath on each other and, yes, sleeping like babies.

I grow weary of people questioning the phrase "sleeping like a baby" by pointing out that babies wake frequently. The criticism is often extended to jokingly ponder that whoever coined the phrase was "obviously" not a parent.

But I disagree. It must have been a parent.

It must have been someone who sat watching as her little one slumbered with a forehead utterly devoid of creases. Someone who carried a limp and warm sleeping body that had absolutely no residual tension in it. Someone who was blessed to watch a child wake up and at exactly the instant their eyes open, smile.

I wish I slept that well. Even if only for two hours at a stretch.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Learning happens

So many things have led me to choose an unschooling approach for my children's education. Most of them boil down to these simple ideas:
  • We are constantly learning.
  • We learn best through direct experience.
If you accept these ideas, it can seem preposterous for us to blindly assume that most meaningful and necessary learning must take place within a classroom, and through the use of lectures and texts.

Not that they don't have their virtues, mind you. I'm personally a big fan of both. I intend to write a little essay on that one of these days, in fact. (Yeah, I love essays too.) But I recognize that they aren't for everyone, and that by and large, they are not the most effective methods.

I often remember a conversation I had with a mother of an autistic child who was frustrated with the school district's approach to her son's education. The instructors were stressing just how important it was that he be taught in certain ways, so that he *could* learn. She, bless her heart, laughed in their faces and said, "All of my children are learning every day of their lives!"

Yes, they are. We accept and celebrate that when they are babies. You don't lecture your infant on proper rolling-over technique or give your baby a text on the many uses of stacking toys or show your toddler diagrams explaining the most efficient way to navigate stairs. You don't have to lecture your preschoolers on natural history; you just answer as many "why"s as you can. (Often as quickly as you can!) So why, once they are of "school age", do we lose our faith in their desire (and capacity!) to learn, and assume that learning has to be forced on them in an institutional setting by trained professionals?

Well, actually I am starting to learn why, and there have been enough books written on it that I won't bother tackling it here.

All of this is just mind-rambling. What I really wanted to blog tonight was the fact that my 3-year-old did his first experiments with pulleys today. It was not part of a curriculum and it was not prompted by me; it was just him and the kid next door trying to figure out how to get the toy lawnmower up into the playhouse fort. And it was just as awesome for me to watch as were his first steps.

Learning happens. Let's not forget to celebrate it!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pronouns

My three-year old is going through a cute figuring-out-pronouns phase. He's occasionally mixing up his subjective and objective pronouns. So we get fun stuff like, "Let I do it!" and "Tell she to come here."

He's not, however, getting the genders confused, as I've observed in other children around this age. "I asked Grandma to show me his garden."

In the case of the latter, though, I wonder if it's 100% an issue of learning the rules of language & syntax, or if it's also compounded by the fact that many kids that age still don't have a firm grasp on gender differences. Hmmmm...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My Favorite Headache

Ah, Pittsburgh.


I've been keeping it in for too long. Let me tell you exactly how nuts this sign (on Grant Street, downtown) makes me.

A minor source of annoyance is the use of a noun (gridlock) as a verb. But this is pretty common and I'm a relatively frequent offender, so I suppose that can be forgiven.

Then we have the double-negative paradox. There's a negative command "Don't Gridlock" positioned inside the international restriction symbol (also negative). Taken together, if we apply the same rules to language as to math (as I think we must, dear readers), this literally means "you are not permitted to not gridlock". Oh, okay. So...I should make every effort to produce gridlock, then, right??

And on top of all of that, after two strong commands ("don't" and the restriction symbol), we're treated to a polite (I suppose that's why it's in a lovely script font?) request. Please? Oh...well, if you're just requesting it, then I'm free to refuse...

Someone bring me the head of that sign designer. Please?

Friday, March 9, 2007

Mommy Brain Moment

So, picture this. The kidlets and I returned from some mid-afternoon errands. I got out of the van, got the kids unloaded, and walked toward the house. I had the baby (sleeping) draped over one shoulder, the diaper bag sliding off the other one, and the toddler stumbling along in front of me. I got to the front door, fumbled for the keys, and...

...pointed my remote keyless entry thingy at the door and pushed the button.

The van chirped happily in the driveway and I did a mental "doh!" and promised myself I'd slow down a little.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

No child left alone

My stepsons are in 7th and 4th grade. Next week, they will be forced to take the PSSA tests...Pennsylvania's current answer to standardized testing. My head is practically spinning right now.

First there's the frustration over this being completely useless and a huge waste of time. I remember taking the tests...CTBS, they were called in my day...and it was a week of boredom and futility to rival solitary confinement. These tests do not measure the progress or comprehension of your child. They measure the performance of a school district, and are used to approve funding. I'm still trying to figure out why the SAT's, the GRE's...hell, even the bar exam, are one-day tests...and they DO affect the test subject! I fail to see why anyone would invest that much of their time in something that has no direct relevance to themselves. Oh wait...that's why participation isn't voluntary.

I considered keeping the kids home next week, but then I remembered that when my oldest stepson was in fourth grade, he was tutored at home by his teacher (awesome woman) because of a chronic illness (he got a Make-A-Wish and everything). And he was still made to take the standardized test.

Don't get me wrong, it's not only my annoyance at the fact that the kids will be doing nothing but filling in circles and staring at the wall in a silent room for an entire week. (In seventh grade, I read the entire Narnia series and half of the first Thomas Covenant trilogy, and still had time to catch up with all of my penpals.) What is really burning me is that they take time away from TEACHING the kids anything. And not just for the duration of the testing, either. The kids have each been bringing home study guides for the past two weeks. Study guides! Holy crap, I didn't even find them useful for the SAT's, considering that these type of assessment tests are primarily about comprehension of material that they won't see until that day.

I am just getting more and more fired up about this pathetic waste of time and resources. And I'm extra rant-y today, because of a letter that the district mailed to parents. Here are some excerpts, with my snark added.

The results are used...to help plan your child's academic future [only in the sense that they are one of many in the affected district, not that it is in any way tailored to that child's specific needs] as well as school programs...

It is imperative that your child is in attendance and on time for the scheduled testing dates. If you have appointments scheduled for this time period, please make every effort to change them. [Great, so now you're dictating how *I* spend *my* day, too?]

...make-up testing necessitates a loss of instructional time in the classroom. [Hello?!? So does the scheduled testing! Hence my grouchiness!]

...a well-balanced breakfast is essential to optimize your child's performance. Also, please be sure that they are well rested during testing week. [Apparently, the rest of the year, when they're presumably doing actual work and learning and other things that directly affect them, it doesn't matter if they're sleep-deprived and starving. Oh, and thanks for telling me how to raise my children.]

It seems that our only loophole (outside of yanking them from school completely) is to file a grievance with the district superintendent explaining that the test material is offensive in some way to our religious beliefs.

Hm. Anyone know of a good religion I could convert to over the weekend?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Send a message

To Congress. Click here to add your name to the list.

Here's a nice letter from Al Gore explaining why. We all owe it to ourselves and our children to stop pretending and start living more responsibly.

Oh, and if you haven't seen AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, do it. 'Kay?