Thursday, November 29, 2007

Finally Getting Going Again

It's been a long three months. To be honest, we haven't done a whole lot of schoolish stuff, like I said earlier, which I've been feeling guilty about. But now that I'm coming out of the first trimester, I'm feeling a little bit better and we've been doing more. We've done some workbook pages, we've been practicing sounding out/spelling things in Word, and playing with our math manipulatives.

I didn't really talk about Colwyn's birthday party, but we did some fun science-y activities. It was space themed, and here's a picture of the kids in their "space ship" - basically the kitchen, with little chairs and pictures of dials and control panels taped to the cabinet doors. They all have jet packs on that they received after completing astronaut training (which was basically just jumping jacks, toe touches, etc).

And here's where they got to wash the moon rocks they found hidden throughout the house. They were tin foil with a few tablespoons of baking soda inside, along with a little parachute guy. The bowls were filled with diluted vinegar.

Fun stuff.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Oh, One More Thing...

I was just catching up on my blog reading, and found this nifty quote from a study put out by the Franklin Institute:

Surprisingly, several studies have found that home
education may help eliminate the potential negative
effects of certain socio-economic factors.
Though children whose parents have university
degrees score higher on tests of academic achievement
than other home schooled children, home
education appears to mitigate the harmful effect of
low parental education levels. That is, public
schools seem to educate children of poorly educated
parents worse than do the poorly educated
parents themselves. One study found that students
taught at home by mothers who had never finished
high school scored a full 55 percentile points
higher than public school students from families
with comparable education levels.


Commonwealth Readiness Project

This is mind-boggling. I got an email through a homeschooling group about a forum to ask questions about the Commonwealth Readiness Project, which I'm embarassed to admit I knew nothing about. So I looked it up. Here are some quotes from a press release.

The opportunity to attend a pre-K class makes a child 40 percent less likely to need special education services, 40 percent less likely to repeat a grade and twice as likely to attend college.

A 10 percent increase in the graduation rate for boys would reduce the arrest rate for murder by 20 percent, for car theft by 13 percent, and for arson by eight percent.

So.. mandatory preschool would reduce the arrest rate for murder (wait, but not the actual number of murders?) by 20 percent. Wow. Send your kids to preschool to keep them from being murderers.

A five percent increase in high school graduation rates would produce $115 million in annual benefits to the state

This sounds more like the 'real' reason behind this project, doesn't it?

Let's take a peek at who's working on this project.

Jackie Jenkins-Scott, President Wheelock College

Tom Payzant, Former Superintendent of the Boston and Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Joe Tucci, Chairman, President, CEO and Chairman of the Board EMC Corporation

Senator Robert Antonioni, Senate Chair, Joint Committee on Education

Dan Asquino, President of Mount Wachusett Community College

Eduardo Carballo, Superintendent Holyoke Public Schools

Patricia H. Crosby, Executive Director, Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board

Ed Dugger, UNC Partners, Inc.

Grace Fey, Executive VP and Director of Frontier Capital Management Company

Chris Gabrieli, Founder Mass2020

Representative Patricia Haddad, House Chair, Joint Committee on Education

Clare Higgins, Mayor, Northampton Massachusetts

Kathy Kelly, Former President American Federation of Teachers, Massachusetts

Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis, President and Director, Museum of Science Boston

Dana Mohler-Faria, Governor’s Special Advisor for Education, President, Bridgewater

Janet Palmer-Owens, Acting Assistant Superintendent, Triad A, Boston Public Schools

Paul Reville, Executive Director, Rennie Center for Education Policy and Research

Paul Sagan, CEO Akamai Technologies

Andrea Silbert, CEO, EOS Foundation

Harry Spence

Henry Thomas, President, Urban League of Springfield

Of those 21 people, only six people are credentialed as working with public schools and colleges. Four are politicians and one works for one. One works for a foundation that addresses urban poverty, and two work for technology companies. One works for a tourist attraction, and another works for an independent policy and research organization. Two work for investment management firms, one provides resources to local businesses. One doesn't have any credentials listed at all.

So I'm kind of wondering how that mishmash of people has any authority to make decisions on how our children should be schooled.


Neighborhood Pests

We had a very exciting evening last night, and as with most things, it was a real learning opportunity for the kids. We were sitting at the table working on a long-neglected math workbook (more about that later), when I noticed a raccoon prowling around on our deck. I quietly got the kids attention and tried to move them slowly to the slider, worried that we'd scare the critter away. Well, this guy certainly wasn't scared. I had set a garbage bag right outside the door for Doug to bring down to the trash barrels when he got home, and the raccoon was happily digging through the bag and pulling out bits of food and wrappers.

Now, let me just interrupt the story here to say that I fully recognize a normal reaction would have been to try to scare the raccoon away to avoid a big mess. Well, first off, it wasn't me that was going to be cleaning it up. ;) And secondly, how often are my kids going to get the chance to see a raccoon less than a foot away, while still protected by a thick glass door?

It was a fascinating experience. We observed the raccoons' behavior (we quickly spotted another hanging near the stairs), how he rummaged for food and held it in his paws, how he got a Ben & Jerry's carton stuck on his head (lots of laughter at that), how whenever they heard a noise outside they would freeze, and sometimes climb up the railing and into the arbor vitae. We got to examine the markings on their faces, their stripped tails, and their long claws. We talked about where raccoons live (Colwyn worriedly told me, "But raccoons live in the forest!" right when we saw them) and the geography of our neighborhood, why their fur was so thick and why their bellies were so fat, what hibernation means and what other animals hibernate and why. We talked about weather and the seasons, and how animals (including humans) adapt to changing weather conditions. We talked about why we shouldn't open the door, and how if we ever see a raccoon while we're outside, how we should stay far away. We talked about wild versus domesticated animals, and why we couldn't let the dog out to say Hello. We talked about baby raccoons and fully grown raccoons and their relative sizes. Today we came up with a few different stories about the raccoons and why they didn't come back, where they might be, etc. We also pretended to be raccoons. If Colwyn is still interested tomorrow, I may pull up some info on raccoons online.

All in all, it was a very thorough lesson. Just look at the different subject areas we touched on. I was quite impressed. And to top it all off, Doug was perfectly willing to clean up the mess (it wasn't that big of a mess anyway) and thought it was very cool that we got such an up-close encounter with raccoons.

As I mentioned earlier, we returned to the Singapore Math workbook after nearly a full month of not touching it. I didn't think it had been that long, but I date the pages as we do them. Well, we did several pages and Colwyn thought it was great fun. I'm always sure to stop him before he gets tired of it, and we only sit down to do it if he's agreeable to it in the first place. I do have to suggest activities like that most of the time, as they're out of the way and he would never think to ask for it on his own, though he does really like doing the workbooks. So far all of the concepts and activities are things he already knows how to do--I haven't had to explain anything other than briefly give him directions. I'm pretty sure that'll be the case throughout most of the book (I've looked ahead), and it isn't until the next book (we're on 1A right now and will start 1B whenever he finishes the first one) that there are some things he's probably not familiar with at all.

We also wrote thank you notes yesterday for Colwyn's birthday party. I've been having him write out "Thank You" on the front and then draw a picture on the inside, and while his spacing is usually a little off, he does great with the letters. I even had to take Lachlann for a diaper change before he had started writing "You" on one of them and he did it all by himself. We've got a few more left to do, including our out-of-town relatives who sent gifts.

Tomorrow we have a playdate with Charlotte and I'm planning on trying to fit a library trip in either before the playdate or maybe after naptime. Either that or we'll go Thursday.. but I've got a book on hold and I'm anxious to get it. :) Plus, I can handle reading the same childrens' books over and over and over again for only so long.

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