I'm posting a link to this U.S. News and World Report short article on Japanese schools, hoping it will provoke commentary from one who can speak firsthand, rather than second, about the realities behind this rosy picture. (Not that she doesn't have dozens of much more important things to do.) Anyone else is welcome to comment as well! (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 24, 2007 at 12:25 pm | Edit
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Earlier I wrote about Melissa Busekros, the 15-year-old German girl who was taken from her family to a psychiatric ward and thence to foster care because of her desire to be tutored at home in some subjects.  This morning I learned that the five children of a second family have been ordered into state custody by a German court.

The parents reportedly can regain custody of their children only by placing them in public school.

In the order, which was based solely on the parents' decision against sending their children to public school, the family also was told to pay court costs estimated at $4,000.

The judge had concluded that the children were well-educated, but accused the parents of failing to provide their children with an education in a public school. The court noted that one of the daughters expressed the same opinions as her father, showing they have not had the chance to develop "independent" personalities.

 (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 22, 2007 at 9:40 am | Edit
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A friend sent me the following YouTube link.  WARNING:  Parts of the video are offensive, and if you go to YouTube and read the comments, many of them are extremely offensive.  Nonetheless, both are part of the point I want to make.  Since my commentary contains some spoilers, you have to click on the "more" link to read it.

 (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 at 8:07 am | Edit
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I figured out why I am so impatient with sermons and generally find them the least important part of the church service:  I'm definitely a print person.  I'd rather read a story than hear it, and find written arguments more persuasive than spoken ones.  Still, I can't resist posting this homeschooler's speech, which Janet found.  The only quarrel I'd make with him is over his statement that community colleges provide "high level education."  Otherwise, he gives a good speech on the basic advantages of home education and counters some of the popular objections.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 24, 2007 at 11:00 am | Edit
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Everyone wants to "fix" our educational system.  But as long as most people have no choice over which school they attend, which teachers they sit under, and what they study, the system as a whole cannot be fixed.  At best we will continue to have an education lottery, because as long as schools are where people go to be taught, rather than to learn, everything depends on the teachers.

Today's Orlando Sentinel reports that although Florida's schools are being asked to place greater emphasis on the sciences, participation in county-wide science fairs is down drastically.  Some are blaming competition for students' time by other contests, such as Odyssey of the Mind; others bring out those customary whipping-boys, the pressures of standardized testing and of too many hours of employment. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 23, 2007 at 6:30 am | Edit
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I found this gem reading MacDonald's story, The Portent.  Not profound, but there are several readers of this blog who will appreciate it.

[part of a dialogue between a student and his tutor

"I am afraid you will despise me, when you find how badly I spell."

"There is no fear of that," I rejoined.  "It is a mere peculiarity.  So long as one can think well, spelling is altogether secondary."
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 22, 2007 at 4:50 pm | Edit
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The Well-Educated Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer (W W Norton & Co, NY 2003)

The Well-Educated Mind reminds me of Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book, only it's less intimidating. In a time when most people who can read, don't, and in which teachers are thrilled if their students read anything at all, no matter how worthless or even harmful, it's sobering to be reminded that—avid reader as I am—there is a world of reading far beyond the level of attention I bring to a book. My palate can distinquish between a white wine and a red, and can distinguish each from kerosene, but the sophisticated analysis of even a moderate expert is beyond by attainment. Susan Wise Bauer encourages me to believe it is not beyond my reach, however.

This may be what those annoying English teachers were trying so unsuccessfully to convey when they sucked all the fun out of a book by their analysis. If so, I missed the point altogether, because Bauer's approach—which incorporates historical, social, and literary context along with what amounts to a serious paying attention to what one reads—is both challenging and intriguing. In reality, I have to admit my list of books to read once, let alone three times with note-taking, is intimidating as it is. Still, I've already gained just by reading this book. (Once only, and even so not quite all of the extensive readings section before I had to return it to the library.)

Like The Well-Trained Mind, The Well-Educated Mind would be worthwhile for the extensive list (with summaries) of recommended reading alone. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 12:56 pm | Edit
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When I read the story of Melissa Busekros, I wonder anew why some people are so anxious to subject our country to the authority of international governing bodies.  Fifteen-year-old Melissa was ripped from her home by German police, committed to a mental hospital, and placed in state custody, all because her parents, concerned that the chaotic environment of her school had contributed to her failure in two subjects, chose to have her tutored at home the next year.  She was (and apparently still is) cut off from contact with her parents and siblings, with the excuse that she is suffering from "school phobia" and contact with her family would exacerbate the problem.

Homeschooling is illegal in Germany.  That's bad enough for German citizens, but could be disastrous for the rest of Europe if the German philosophy gains the upper hand in European Union politics.  And should the United States decide to submit to the authority of the United Nations or another international authority, we would put ourselves at risk of similar tyranny. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 9, 2007 at 9:15 am | Edit
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The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child.  Volume 3:  Early Modern Times, by Susan Wise Bauer (Peace Hill Press, Charles City, Virginia, 2004)

Once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler.  Sometimes I can't help checking out the curriculum explosion that has taken place since the younger days of our own home education experiences.  As one might expect, some is awful, some great, and much in between.

Based on this one sample, Susan Wise Bauer's history books are on the high end of in between.  In addition to the five-star praises, there are some harsh reviews on Amazon for the first volume of this series.  Some of them clearly have an axe to grind on issues that don't bother me; some I agree with but find minor (such as her overuse of exclamation points); others I think refer to faults that were largely corrected by the time she wrote the third volume. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 8:43 am | Edit
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Check out this essay by Andrew Pudewa on teaching writing.  I've been perusing his site, which I find very interesting, and was struck by this common-sense view of how to encourage children to develop good writing skills.  I'm especially pleased that he managed to drag in most of my favorite writers of educational philosophy:  Dorothy Sayers, Maria Montessori, Glenn Doman, and Arthur Robinson by name—and John Holt is well represented, though anonymously.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 10:40 am | Edit
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According to this WebMD article, napping helps babies process and retain new information.  Extrapolating to all ages, maybe a good book or educational video, or a stimulating intellectual discussion, would be a profitable pre-bedtime ritual.  And maybe we should stop being so hard on students who snooze during class....
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 9:53 am | Edit
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I do feel sorry for Lake Brantley High School's band. When our kids played in it, many of the members secretly (or not so secretly) wanted the football team to lose so they wouldn't extend the marching season by making the playoffs. (An understandable side effect of the unreasonable rule requiring students to play in the marching band if they wanted to be part of the concert band.)

Still, even the hardest-hearted (that would have been me, had I known) must have felt a thrill when Brantley became the first Seminole County football team to play in a State Championship game, which was held at Miami's Dolphin Stadium last night. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, December 10, 2006 at 7:29 am | Edit
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In the past few decades, the number of college-bound students has skyrocketed, and so has the number of world-class schools. The demand for an excellent education has created an ever-expanding supply of big and small campuses that provide great academics and first-rate faculties.

So says Newsweek, which procedes to list 25 top schools it calls the "New Ivies," rivaling the traditional powerhouse schools in excellence. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you might find your alma mater on that list, which includes Carnegie Mellon, Colby, Kenyon, Vanderbilt, Davidson, RPI, and my own University of Rochester. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 10, 2006 at 7:05 am | Edit
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At our children's elementary school, the administration made it clear that parents were not particularly welcome to visit their children’s classrooms, although occasional visits would be possible if special arrangements were made several days in advance.

Not long afterward, the school sent home a pamphlet about choosing daycare, in which it was stated that under no circumstances should children be in a daycare situation in which parents could not drop in at any time, without warning. If such visits were not allowed, the pamphlet warned, parents should suspect that the daycare provider had something to hide.

As far as I know, no one in the school’s administration appreciated the irony.
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 1:55 pm | Edit
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Even young children can benefit from music lessons. I knew that, but it's nice to read about this McMaster University study of twelve four- to six-year-old children, half of whom took Suzuki violin lessons. The tiny violinists performed better on both a general memory test and on a measurement related to attention and sound discrimination.

Twelve students is a small sample, so I'll add one more. When I administered early kindergarten "readiness" tests for our local elementary school, the one little boy I knew was a Suzuki violin student showed a marked superiority on the tests of listening skills and auditory processing.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at 1:05 pm | Edit
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