alt King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green (Puffin Books, 2008)

I bought this book for my grandson, who so enjoyed Roger Lancelyn Green's The Adventures of Robin Hood.  His mother reported that the Robin Hood book was "perfect" for him, but I wish I had read it myself, first, so I could compare it with King Arthur, since I'm having second thoughts.  King Arthur has been read by and to children for half a century, and there's nothing at all inappropriate about it, but there are not a few battles in which people's heads get lopped off, and a few babies conceived under less than ideal circumstances (Arthur in a scenario not unlike Solomon's), and—perhaps more disturbing for a child—a couple of examples of children raised by others instead of their own families. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, July 25, 2009 at 11:09 am | Edit
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  The Element:  How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, by Ken Robinson (Viking, New York, 2009)

I've written before about Sir Ken Robinson, Creativity, and Education, and put an order in with our library as soon as I heard about his new book.  It finally came through, as library books are wont to do, at a time when hours for leisure reading are scarcer than arts classes in a standardized-test-obsessed school system.  But unlike Last Child in the Woods, The Element is a quick and non-technical read.  Robinson's 2006 TED talk is a good summary of the ideas in The Element.  The book goes into more detail, with more examples, and expands a bit further. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 12, 2009 at 4:24 am | Edit
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As if I don't already have a huge backblog, Jon keeps posting things in Google Reader/Facebook that I think those who can't see them will be interested in.  In this case, since I can't comment at GeekDad, I'll comment here.

When GeekDad's son was 12 years old he entered his school's science fair, which called for inventing something new and useful.  (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 10:00 am | Edit
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A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family, by Mary Ostyn (Gibbs Smith, Layton, Utah, 2009)

This book sounded useful to Heather, who wishes both to have a large family and to retain her sanity, so we bought it for her as a Mother's Day gift.  Naturally, I read it first.  (Book-gift recipients are accustomed to that behavior from me, I'm afraid.)

I recommend A Sane Woman's Guide to all families who aspire to sanity, even if their hopes don't include a large family.  Although I don't agree with all of Mary Ostyn's advice, it's a surprisingly useful collection of ideas in a slim 192 pages, amusingly presented. Here's the table of contents for a quick preview, followed by a few, rather random, excerpts. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 9:24 am | Edit
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I wrote a long comment to Mark Shiffman's Front Porch Republic article, Why we do not own a Television; not being one to waste an item on a single use if it can be recycled, I reproduce it here.  You'll have to follow the link to see the context (and other readers' comments), but I think what I wrote is pretty clear on its own.

To my total surprise and (almost) mortification, I write in defense of television.  I agree with some of the comments that DVD is the only way to go, but most if not all of the content I find valuable on DVD originated in the TV and movie media, so despising them completely would be a bit hypocritical on my part. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 9:55 am | Edit
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Here's a perfect funding opportunity for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundatation, or anyone else who is interested in both technology and education:  Sponsor grants—available to both universities and private video game companies—for the production of really good educational games.

Although video game technology has made tremendous progress in recent years, educational software is for the most part stuck in the past.  Entertainment is where the commercial money is, but with proper funding there's no reason why the best and brightest of our video game designers couldn't revolutionize gaming as a learning tool.  (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 10:02 am | Edit
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I awoke this morning to e-mails from two family members, each containing a link to a video.  They seemed as unrelated as can be...until I realized that each is a powerful statement of how we underestimate the abilities of ordinary human beings—from frumpy housewives to scruffy street children.

I'll admit it:  I did not get through Susan Boyle's Britain's Got Talent performance dry-eyed, her triumph over the sneering judges being overlaid on some pretty deep emotional memories associated with that song.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Britain's Former Empire's Got Talent, too.  I can't improve on Janet's introduction:

Sugata Mitra did a series of "Hole in the Wall" experiments in various remote places in India and found that children would discover, play with, and learn how to use a computer and touch pad he placed in their villages.  One of his early experiments was in a community that had no English knowledge, but when he returned to check on them they told him "we need a better processer and a new mouse."  They had taught themselves English relavant to computers and used (mispronounced) English words like file, back, and save, even in their normal communication.

The lecture could have been better organized, especially at the end where the speaker is clearly running out of time, but the autodidactic abilities of these children will astound you.  And maybe frighten you, when you consider what a double-edged blade the Internet is.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 at 3:11 pm | Edit
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SFSignal asked of several present-day science fiction writers, "What non-sf/fantasy books would you recommend to someone whose reading was predominantly in sf/fantasy?"  I found the responses notable for two reasons:

One of the respondents was John Kessel, whom I remember from the Science Fiction Society of the University of Rochester.  (I remember him as Jack, rather than John, but that could be either a no-longer-used nickname, or my own faulty memory.  In any case I'm sure it's the same person.)  Although an avid SF fan for much of my early life, I've been away from the genre for a long time and have read none of Kessel's books, but it was a pleasure to see that he succeeded in turning an avocation into a vocation.

The most delightful response to the question, however, came from John C. Wright.  It is neither typical of the responses nor what most people would expect from a science fiction writer.  I excerpt it here for those of my readers who care very little about science fiction but a lot about book lists and good reading.   (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 13, 2009 at 10:58 am | Edit
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A brilliant student, Marcus sailed through grade school. He completed his assignments easily and routinely earned As. Marcus puzzled over why some of his classmates struggled, and his parents told him he had a special gift. In the seventh grade, however, Marcus suddenly lost interest in school, refusing to do homework or study for tests. As a consequence, his grades plummeted. His parents tried to boost their son’s confidence by assuring him that he was very smart. But their attempts failed to motivate Marcus (who is a composite drawn from several children). Schoolwork, their son maintained, was boring and pointless.

The story above is from a Scientific American Mind article entitled The Secret to Raising Smart Kids. (I've changed the name because in the original it is "Jonathan."  Apologies to any Marcuses who might read this.)  I insist that Marcus was probably right:  most seventh grade schoolwork is boring and pointless.  Be that as it may, the article investigates a question I have wrestled with for decades:  Why do so many bright students fail of their promise, surpassed sooner or later by their apparently average, ordinary classmates? (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 10:08 am | Edit
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Declining by Degrees:  Higher Education at Risk premiered on PBS in 2005; I watched it for the first time this week, intrigued by this Netflix summary.

Debunking commonly held notions about the rite of passage known as the college experience, this PBS documentary follows 30 students and their teachers along the path of higher education, from admission to graduation, and exposes the disappointment, disorientation and deflation many students feel—in both public and private schools. This revealing study also addresses the quality and readiness of America's future work force.

"Disappointment, disorientation, and deflation" fairly describes how I felt watching the show.  Here's what I learned: (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 10:06 am | Edit
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I've written often enough about threats to the fundamental right of parents to educate their own children:  the dreadful situation for homeschoolers in Germany, my concerns for Switzerland, and the unwarranted judicial intrusion in family life and education touched closer to home, in California.  California ultimately upheld the legitimacy of home education, but it appears North Carolina is the next battleground.

As with the Terri Schiavo case, it is family problems that allowed the court's nose into this tent.  It illustrates a serious problem with our "no fault" attitude towards divorce:  despite the husband's admitted, ongoing, adulterous affair, his desire to send his children to public school has been allowed to trump his wife's desire to continue homeschooling.  What is truly worrisome, as it touches homeschooling is the judge's power and attitude, as well as whatever precedent his decision may set. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 10:22 am | Edit
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"What is VPK?" asks an article in our city's magazine.

Pre-math, pre-reading and social skills.  How do I teach my child all this information before she enters kindergarten?  Many parents used to ask themselves that precise question not too long ago.  However, for the past four years, concerned parents have decided to enroll their children in what is called VPK, or voluntary pre-kindergarten education....VPK is free [that is, tax-funded]...regardless of family income.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Edit
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Jon provided the name; now all I have to do is figure out what "Classical Unschooling" is.  It could be confused with unschooling as it was practiced "in the good ol' days"—but for a great article on the "unschooling" label see Pat Farenga's post What's going on with unschooling?  (There's no permalink that I could find, so if you come to this post later you may have to search in his archives.)  What I mean for Classical Unschooling to be, however, is an approach to homeschooling—better yet, all of life—that combines the best of what I've gleaned from authors as divergent as John Holt and Susan Wise Bauer, a flexible plan that is low-stress yet high-expectation, creative yet disciplined, supportive yet challenging.

Liz at smithically schooled began the discussion, but it's a little hard to keep up with because if there's an an easy way to know when comments have been added there I can't find it.  (The Recent Comments feature is another reason I like LifeType on Lime Daley for this blog.)  It would be great if my highly intelligent and experienced blog readers would read and add to her discussion, which is why I'm making this post and sending you there.  I'll also post a comment here if I note that the discussion has progressed there (and hope others will do the same) so you can know more easily if there's been an update.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 23, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Edit
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The usual disclaimers, I don't usually do "memes," etc.  But when it's books, it's hard to resist.  I found this one over at Percival Blakeney Academy.  The instructions are:

  • Look at the list and bold those you have read—films don't count.
  • Italicize those you intend to read.  ("Intend" may be a little strong.  How about "Would like to read someday, sometime.)
  • Tag somebody if you like.  (I don’t like to tag people.  But I’d love to see other people’s lists and comments.)

I don't know who chose the books on the list, nor why.  It seems varied enough, with books old and new, and several I've never heard of.  And any book list that includes Swallows and Amazons gets big points as far as I'm concerned.  It could only have done better by including George MacDonald.  :)  My comments follow in parentheses. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Edit
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What do you expect to find in a public library?  I would like—though no longer expect—to find a large selection of old, unusual, and out-of-print books, music, and videos, the kind I am unable to buy from Amazon or borrow from Netflix.  Shouldn't that be a basic purpose of libraries:  to be a treasure store of valuable materials outside of whatever happens to be popular at the moment, especially those not otherwise easily obtainable?  Unfortunately, most libraries seem to be divesting themselves of these materials in order to make more room for the the latest favorites.  To be sure, this is also a function of libraries, and I appreciate being able to borrow a book when all I want to do is read it; I prefer stocking our own bookshelves with materials I already know are worthwhile.  (One casualty of the libraries' jettisoning old books is that our shelves are overflowing; I can no longer prune our collection of lesser books on the grounds that I can always borrow them from the library if needed.)  Most libraries, I believe, are out of balance in the way they address both functions, and our culture is suffering for it.

Thanks to my sister-in-law, who should have her own blog because she and my brother send me interesting ideas much faster than I can write about them, and to the Percival Blakeney Academy blog, I now know that this phenomenon is not limited to libraries, but has had a major impact on the Oxford University Press Junior Dictionary(More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 6:06 am | Edit
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