Having written recently about my love of student recitals, I have to mention that we went to a Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra concert yesterday.  In my limited, and admittedly biased opinion, they are far and away the best student orchestra in the area.  Not perfect:  Depending on whose philosophy happens to be strongest at the time, the emphasis is sometimes more on education than on making music. As most of you know, I strongly believe that real learning more often takes place in an atmosphere of "let's do something wonderful and important together" than in a "Me Teacher, You Student" situation.

Be that as it may, the FSYO is the best game in town for a young person who wants to play good orchestral repertoire, and it's good listening, too. The only reason we don't attend more of their concerts is that there are so many other great things to do in life. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 7, 2007 at 7:35 am | Edit
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Not long ago, a friend was lamenting to me about how tedious elementary recitals are.  Little piano and violin students plunking and scraping away on the same, boring pieces, making the same mistakes you've heard hundreds of times.  I couldn't disagree more.

She has a different perspective, mind you:  she's a music teacher, so no doubt that makes a difference. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 5, 2007 at 3:20 pm | Edit
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Swordplay has always been a major part of my extended family's get-togethers, from plastic tube "swords" for the younger ones to realistic wooden swords as they grew.  No one has yet taken to fencing formally, but maybe they should.  This morning's Orlando Sentinel featured an article on how fencing improves mathematical skills.  Apparently it improves spacial awareness, geometric visualization, abstract reasoning and other mathematical concepts through physical action.

That doesn't surprise me as much as it once might have, since I have been hearing a lot lately about the critical importance of physical activity (such as crawling, creeping, walking, running, brachiation, and activities that stimulate the vestibular system) for mental and intellectual development.

En garde!
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 20, 2007 at 7:52 am | Edit
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Once again, Tim at Random Observations has provided post which I must pass on.  (Warning:  Yes, it's depressing, but worth reading, really.)  First, read his commentary, You're Just Another (Lego) Brick in the Wall... about an after-school program in Seattle, where teachers took over the children's imaginative Lego play and turned it into a chance for socialist indoctrination.  For a more direct view of the teachers' perspective, read their original article, Why We Banned Legos.

To Tim's insightful post I will only add this:  What about the parents?  Where were they when all this was going on?  Were they expecting childcare and maybe some help with math and reading from this afterschool program?  Did they know their children were getting a heavy dose of politics and indoctrination in values—politics and values possibly in direct opposition to the parents' own?  Certainly most parents would have a few issues with this part of the lesson:

[W]e explored questions about how rules are made and enforced, and when they ought to be followed or broken. We aimed to help children see that all rules (including social structures and systems) are made by people with particular perspectives, interests, and experiences that shape their rule-making. And we wanted to encourage them to consider that there are times when rules ought to be questioned or even broken....

The children were between the ages of five and nine, perhaps not the best ages at which to tell them that obeying their parents' rules is optional.  On the other hand, perhaps the teachers will eventually receive due retribution in the form of students who have decided that the school's rules are not worth following.  Alas, it's probably the high school teachers who will bear that cost. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 29, 2007 at 7:52 am | Edit
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In Arizona, the winning team in the kindergarten through sixth grade category of the recent state scholastic chess championship must know that their victory is tainted.

At least I hope so. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 25, 2007 at 11:33 am | Edit
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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.

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.

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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