Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids blog is one of my favorite antidotes to the frustrations of modern life, and the outrageous stories she finds make great pass-along blog fodder, though they probably don't do my blood pressure any favors.

In an attempt to resurrect the once-normal sight of kids playing outdoors with their friends till the sun goes down—now unthinkable to many parents despite a crime rate lower than when they themselves played outside unsupervised—she declared tomorrow, May 22, to be Take Our Children to the Park...and Leave Them There Day.  I don't think she was expecting quite the firestorm she created when she suggested that pre-teens could survive for half an hour without their parents hovering nearby.  You can read all about it, positive and negative, on her blog(More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 21, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Edit
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altThe Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge (Penguin, New York, 2007)


The idea that our brains are fixed, hard-wired machines was (and in many cases still is) so deeply entrenched in the scientific establishment that evidence to the contrary was not only suppressed, but often not even seen because the minds of even respectable scientists could not absorb what they were certain was impossible.  Having been familiar since the 1960s with the work of Glenn Doman and the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, the idea that the human brain is continually changing itself and can recover from injury in astonishing ways did not surprise me. In fact, the only shock was that in a 400 page book on neuroplasticity and the persecution of its early pioneers I found not one mention of Doman's name. But the stories are none the less astonishing for that.

In Chapter 1 we meet woman whose vestibular system was destroyed by antibiotic side-effects.  She is freed by a sensor held on her tongue and a computerized helmet from the severely disabling feeling that she is falling all the time, even when lying flat.  That's the stuff of science fiction, but what's most astounding is that the effect lingers for a few minutes after she removes the apparatus the first time, and after several sessions she no longer needs the device(More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Edit
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Today's Mallard Fillmore comic inspired this post, which Li'l Writer Guy had actually been working on in the background ever since a conversation we had about the subject last night.

Mind you, I don't know any of the details of how it will work, and am only commenting on the theory that children should be covered on their parents' health insurance until they are 26 years old. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 8:18 am | Edit
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A friend of mine likes to clean out her files periodically, and when she does I know to expect an envelope in the mail.  She's very much into recycling.

Some of the articles she sends are from years back, so when there's one I'd like to share it's not always possible to locate it online.  Thanks to Google News archives, however, you too can read this Lori Borgman column from 2002. 

Maybe when all's said and done, the greatest perk of staying for the duration is knowing and being known.

Lori is both wise and funny, a healthy combination in any era.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 9, 2010 at 8:15 am | Edit
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The Gobblestone School: A Tale Inspired by the German Criminalization of Homeschooling, by Jacob Schriftman (aka Jokim Schnoebbe) (Moonrise/CreateSpace, Scotts Valley, California, 2009)

I wanted to like this book.

First, I wanted to read it, and for that I had to buy it, as it was not available in the library.  It languished in my Amazon "save for later" cart for a while, but I recently decided to indulge myself.  I'm glad I read it, but as indulgence goes, I'd rather have dark chocolate. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 10:05 am | Edit
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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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