It's not a topic I'd intended to blog about, even though I'd read the AP article, Top home-school texts dismiss Darwin, evolution.   But I wrote so much in a comment to a friend's Facebook post (thanks, Liz!), I figure it's a shame not to make a second use of the effort.

Our own homeschooling experience left me not particularly impressed with the efforts of specifically Christian publishers, beginning with the discovery that the A Beka kindergarten book I'd bought taught that winter is a time of snow, with no mention of the large part of the world where that isn't true.  I suspect most books at the kindergarten level are about as bad, but A Beka is based in Pensacola, Florida, and should have known better. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 9:37 am | Edit
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Homeschooling for the Rest of Us:  How Your One-of-a-Kind Family Can Make Homeschooling and Real Life Work, by Sonya Haskins (Bethany House, Minneapolis, 2010)

Sonya Haskins is a calm and reasonable voice speaking to the homeschooler—and potential homeschooler—who is overwhelmed and intimidated by the image of the "perfect" homeschooling experience:  "Matching outfits, polite toddlers, award-winning students, fifteen-passenger vans, and family Web sites."   (Raymond and Dorothy Moore did the same thing in the 1980s with Homeschool Burnout, which was updated and revised in the 1990s as The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook.)  There's a lot of hype, confusion, and contradictory information out there, and Haskins' practical, back-to-basics approach and helpful suggestions will reassure timid beginners that they can, indeed, safely navigate the homeschooling waters. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 8, 2010 at 8:15 am | Edit
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Weapons of Mass Instruction:  A Schoolteacher's Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, by John Taylor Gatto (New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, 2009)

A pastor I know was fond of quoting Martin Luther, who, when asked why he preached on justification by faith every week, responded, "Because you forget it every week."  John Taylor Gatto has no love for Martin Luther, but I can imagine him giving a similar response when asked why his books, articles, and lectures include so much that he has said before.  He has a critically important message to deliver, and is clearly compelled to repeat it as many times and in as many ways as he can.

In his desperation to make people understand what he has learned, from his research and 30 years on the front lines of teaching, Gatto has become more pointed, strident and radical as time goes on.  It's an understandable reaction—I remember noting the same effect in John Holt's writings, and I fall prey to it all too often myself—but for this reason I hesitate a little to recommend Weapons of Mass Instruction to anyone who is not already convinced of the dangers inherent in our pubic school system.  And yet...I do recommend it, highly.  Why?  Let me digress. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Edit
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Theatre Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild (Dell, New York, 1983)

This wasn't on my reading list at this time, but the combination of (1) hearing a Teaching Company lecture about The Tempest and remembering the part it plays in this book, and (2) a dreary, chilly, rainy day in which the computer, the dryer, and the telephone all suddenly stopped working, led me to feel that what I needed was a bit of curling up by the heater with a blanket, a cup of tea, and an easy-to-read, uplifting book. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Edit
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Jennifer at Conversion Diary is turning 33, and asked her readers what they would say to their 33-year-old selves if they could.  That's the kind of challenge I can't resist, and neither can I resist recycling what I wrote as a blog post.  It's pretty much just off the top of my head, and in no particular order, but here are a few of the things I wish I could have told myself.

  • Have more kids.  There were some good reasons why we didn't, but a very bad reason was buying into the "you can't afford it and neither can the world" mentality.  If you haven't lived through it, I don't think you can fathom how much pressure there was in those days to have no more than two children.
  • Expect much more from your children than society does, on every level.  From the day they are born, your children can learn more, do more, and behave better than you will be told is possible.  Don't limit them with your low expectations.
  • Homeschool.  Homeschool.  Homeschool.  From the beginning, and never look back.  This is one of the best decisions we ever made, and I wish we had never subjected our children to the "school mindset."  But when I was 33, school was "the way things are done," and I never questioned it till years later.
  • "Bloom where you are planted."  Make the most of your present situation, because you never know when it will change. 
  • Keep a journal, take pictures (and label them!), make recordings.  Concentrate on people and places dear to you—there are plenty of professionals documenting the rest of the scenery.
  • When you videotape your children's performances, be sure to include their friends as well.  You may not care, but your children will!
  • Talk with older family members about their childhoods and their life stories, and get everything you can from them about your ancestors and family history.  Make sure their pictures are labelled!
  • Take care of yourself.  When you have young children at home, it's very easy (and seems virtuous) to shortchange yourself when it comes to sleep, exercise, education, and the care of your soul.  Make yourself make time for these things.   Enlist the aid of your spouse—I don't mean to tell you what to do, but to make sure you get the time to do it.  Your children will thank you later.
  • If you are too busy to get organized, you are too busy not to get organized.  Make the time (and again, get your spouse to help).  There is no moment better than now; that mythical time "when I have time" will never come.  Never give up; experiment with different systems till you find one that works for you.  Be prepared to alter it as needed, however, when your circumstances alter.
I'm not that good at taking advice, so I'm not sure I would have listened.  But I wish I had.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Edit
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Tales of the Greek Heroes by Roger Lancelyn Green (Puffin Books, London, 2002) and The Tale of Troy by Roger Lancelyn Green (Puffin Books, London, 1994)

These two books are meant to be read together, with the story of Troy second.

After my very positive experiences with Green's books on Robin Hood, King Arthur, and ancient Egyptian stories, I expected too much of these two.  I still recommend them; they are worth reading, and I found that within a week something I read there helped me understand a story I heard later.  Nonetheless, there are drawbacks. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 20, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Edit
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My recent visit with our grandchildren reminded me of why I don't like video/computer games. I don't mean I don't like to play them; I know all too well how addicted I can get if I allow myself to get started.

It began, of course, with television.  When the technological wonder entered my home when I was seven, I was already familiar with its delights, thanks to the generosity of our neighbors.  We matured together, television and I, and with such a sibling it's no wonder we bonded strongly as the years passed.  It was not a healthy bond, and I'm thankful that I went to college before televisions were ubiquitous in the dormitories, because those four years of abstention were the beginning of my liberation.  It would be many years and much struggle before I could declare myself free, but never again would the glowing opium box control my life. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 9:15 am | Edit
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School at the Daley household could hardly have been called normal, since Grandma was there as a distraction and Mommy was sick for the first part of my visit.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed my glimpse into the official, sit-at-the-table side of their 24/7 educational process.

Jonathan is not at the moment as excited about math as he is about reading—unlike his Aunt Janet at that age, for whom reading was all right but math was a bowl full of candy.  He's doing well, though, with basic addition and subtraction (and even some simple multiplication and division), and enjoys the "math paths" that Grandma sends him in the mail, problems like this one:

Both boys also like using their Cuisenaire rods, base-10 blocks, and bucket balance.  The Cuisenaire rods are from our own homeschooling days.  We also had a set of base-10 blocks that I had made out of cardboard.  They disappeared somehow, probably in one of our moves, and trust me, buying a commercial set is well worth the $16 investment.  I can't get over the resources available to homeschoolers these days!

The fun is the same, though.  There are few thrills more sublime than observing the "ah ha!" moment in your child's (or grandchild's) eyes.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 26, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Edit
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If there's an advantage to Mommy being sick, it's that Grandma got to supervise, i.e. watch, Noah doing his chores.  His is not a difficult regimen, but still pretty impressive for a three-year old, particularly the enthusiasm with which he demonstrated his skills.

  • Clear his own breakfast dishes off the table and put them in the dishwasher.
  • Brush his teeth.
  • Make his bed.
  • Sweep under the table, which is only fitting, since most of the crumbs seem to be his.
  • "Help Mommy," which on this particular day meant cleaning the tub in the bathroom.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 6:42 am | Edit
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The future may belong to the Indians, or perhaps the Africans—or anyone who grows up in a multilingual environment.  Adding to the evidence of the benefits to the brain of speaking multiple languages is the research of Lera Boroditsky at Stanford University.  (Newsweek article by Sharon Begley.)

When the world's tallest vehicular bridge,* the Viaduc de Millau, opened,

German newspapers described how it "floated above the clouds" with "elegance and lightness" and "breathtaking" beauty. In France, papers praised the "immense" "concrete giant." Was it mere coincidence that the Germans saw beauty where the French saw heft and power?


Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 9:27 am | Edit
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altLast Child in the Woods:  Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv (Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2005)

I'm sorry to say I gave this book short shrift, but reading time has been scarce lately, and I must return it to the library today.  I can say, however, that it is a must-read for anyone who is not already convinced that children need, as one of life's basic necessities, plenty of time in the natural world:  hiking, camping, and learning with their families, building forts and tree houses, exploring on their own, and just being in the world of bugs and fish, stars and sand dunes, trees and caverns.  If for you this kind of exhortation is preaching to the choir, it's probably still worth at least skimming it as much as I did, if only for the shock value of learning that today's children are even more cut off from such activities than you had imagined. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Edit
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A common theme over at the Front Porch Republic is a respect for place: for home and community, for not only eating locally but being locally, staying in (or returning to) one's hometown rather than venturing off to "better" places.  The article Root Hog or Die is where I chose to ask a question that has been bothering me about this approach to life, much as I like some of the ideas. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 6:47 am | Edit
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A friend alerted me to an article on midwives from the May 20, 2009 Orlando Sentinel.  It's about a recently-developed program of the Orange County Health Department that provides hospital-based midwife services for low-income women in the Orlando area, and told me some things I didn't know about midwives and Florida law.

Knowing from experience that links to Sentinel articles break after a while, I'll provide a few relevant excerpts below.  (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 8:13 am | Edit
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Daniel Hauser, a 13-year-old boy with cancer, is being forced to receive treatment that both he and his parents have refused.

"It is imperative that Daniel receive the attention of an oncologist as soon as possible," wrote Brown County District Judge John R. Rodenberg in an order to "apprehend and detain....His best interests require it."

I often find myself in the minority when I argue for parental rights.  Doctors, teachers, social workers, and "concerned citizens" fret over the idea that parents should be allowed to make decisions that they believe are not in the bests interests of their children.  In one sense it's hard to blame them, as these are often people who are in a position to see better than most the consequences of physical, emotional, and educational neglect and abuse. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 7:00 am | Edit
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It seems appropriate that Katherine Dalton's The Immoral Life of Children should appear on the Front Porch Republic just after a conversation I had with Heather about children's art books.  A friend of hers uses a particular homeschooling curriculum that she likes, but finds herself censoring certain illustrations in the art history sections that she deems inappropriate for elementary-age children.

I happen to disagree with this mother's approach.  Not that there isn't plenty of so-called art that I wouldn't want our grandchildren to see—pretty much the same art that I don't want to see, myself—but I have no objection to art nudes, per se, even for young children.  It may be that the Supreme Court will soon be unable to tell the difference between Michelangelo's David (picture alert) and something indecent, but I can.  :)  However, I don't understand the publisher of that curriculum.  If I think (as I do) that there are works of art which everyone should be able to recognize and appreciate, and if the list happens to include nudes (as it does), nonetheless I can't think of any potentially offensive work that is critical for an elementary-aged child to view.  Any introduction to art necessarily excludes vastly more than it includes; one ought to be able to put together quite an impressive elementary-age art curriculum without tempting mothers to deface the pages of the books.  What bothers me more is that this mother's over-protectiveness seemingly precludes taking her child to an art museum, an omission I think of much graver consequence. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Edit
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