During my lifetime I've watched the Deaf community teach the world to see them as people, rather than as people who can't hear. This was brought home most forcefully to me in the story of the two young children, one deaf and one hearing, who met one day, and each went home to report the other's disability. The hearing child explained to his mother that his new friend could not understand him when he spoke, while the deaf child expressed to his own mother his amazement that his playmate could not understand him when he signed.Today's Orlando Sentinel showed me that blind people are beginning to accomplish the same feat. An article on teaching very young blind children to use a cane describes an encouraging departure from the conventional model of mobility for the vision impaired. In the old, vision-centered model, young children are taught to depend on those who can see to lead them around, and only later learn to use a cane. This trains blind children in habits of dependency at a stage in life which for most children is the golden age of mobility. The new method introduces the child to using a cane at an early age, even as young as when he first learns to walk. In this way the skills needed for independence come naturally and thoroughly. According to advocate Joe Cutter, retired from the New Jersey Commission for the Blind, "What matters isn't the vision you have. What matters is the skill you have. You have to observe your own movement, do it solo, to get those skills."
I doubt I would have found The Giver had it not been required reading for two of my nephews. One read it as a class assignment in seventh grade; for the other it was read aloud in fifth grade. Intrigued, I borrowed the book from our library.The Giver makes me wish I belonged to a literary discussion group. Without a doubt there is plenty here to discuss, and I can see why teachers might be eager to share this Newbery Award winner with their classes. I would love to talk about it in a group, to toss about various interpretations and implications. And yet, despite the "young adult" designation, despite the fact that the main character has not yet reached his teens, I question the value of such a book in the elementary or middle school curriculum. (More)
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise (W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 2004)
I heard so many homeschoolers raving about The Well-Trained Mind that I had to read it for myself. Then the question became not why so many people love it, but why do I? One reviewer called this approach “ultra school-at-home”—which should have been enough to send me fleeing as from a thousand devils. (More)
I once read that a child should learn "at the rate determined by her own happy hunger." (I believe the quotation is from John Ciardi, but I haven’t been able to confirm that.) It is delightful to observe Jonathan’s voracious appetite. (More)
One of Janet's classes was discussing the causative have, such as "I had my hair cut" and "I had my bike stolen." She noted that the latter can make it sound as if the person caused his bike to be stolen, though that is not the way it is normally used. That set me thinking. To me,
"My store burned down in 1990" implies the poor guy's store caught on fire and burned to the ground.
"I had my store burn down in 1990" implies the same thing.
"I had my store burned down in 1990" implies he hired some arsonist to torch his store so he could collect the insurance money!
I'm glad I learned English as a child, when accepting such subtleties was still easy! Any comments, grammar experts? (More)
My nephew is going into seventh grade, and this was part of his required summer reading. He didn't have much to say about it, not surprising since it's hardly a title, nor a story, I would expect to appeal to most middle school boys. Or girls, for that matter. At that age, I would have picked up the book, assuming it was a science fiction story, then put it down in disgust when I discovered what it really was.
I'm not sure who the target audience is for this book, since the setting is high school and the themes adolescent, yet the intellectual level seems more geared towards elementary school.Nonetheless, when I picked up the book recently to check it out, I became intrigued when I discovered that the title character was homeschooled before making her way into public high school—and definitely not fitting in. So when my nephew left for home, taking the book with him, I borrowed it from the library so I could finish reading the story. (More)
Janet is currently in Japan, preparing to teach English. Perusing an old diary today, I discovered an inclination toward that profession appearing much earlier in her life than I had supposed. The incident took place in the fall of her third grade year.
Homeschooling families puzzle over this concern, having observed that their children are much more at ease with people of all ages than are most schoolchildren, arguing that peer-socialization is unnatural and generally negative, and pointing to the vast array of sports teams, musical ensembles, church groups, and other associations to which they belong. Why this concern, they wonder, with something as natural and easily attainable as socialization? (More)
A friend sent me the following Frazz comic and I was immediately hooked. The setting is an elementary school, and the main characters are Frazz (school janitor and Renaissance Man), Caulfield (a genius who hates school because it bores him; he hangs out with Frazz a lot), Mrs. Olsen (Caulfield's teacher), Mr. Burke (the school's best teacher, and Frazz's best friend), Mr. Spaetzle (the principal), Miss Plainwell (first grade teacher).
I've never been much of a Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. fan, but his short story, Harrison Bergeron, has haunted me since I first read it, long before frustrations with our chidren's schools brought us head to head with its stunning reality. Written in 1961, Vonnegut's warning is yet more accurate and more frightening today. (More)
American Sign Language to the rescue! In New York, a choking woman dialed 911, but was unable to speak. Her three year old daugher, whom she had taught some basic sign language, conveyed her mother's signed plea for help to the operator. This recent news story illustrates just one of many good reasons for teaching your baby as much ASL as you can manage.
Learning another language and culture is a huge benefit. Not only does it broaden your understanding and appreciation, it also increases your brainpower! It would be best, certainly, to teach your children (and yourself) to the point of fluency in ASL—and in several other languages as well. Even a little is much better than none, however. Children can sign before they can speak, and anyone who has experienced the frustration of not know what a screaming baby wants will appreciate this means of communication. Signing does not slow down speech acquisition, but rather accelerates it. (More)
When you walk into Heather and Jon's house, you can't miss the Periodic Table that takes up most of one wall. It was an extraordinary gift to Heather years ago from an extraordinary friend.
Science museums around the world should hope to have such extraordinary friends of their own so that they can acquire the new interactive Periodic Table displays produced through a partnership of Theodore Gray and the Red Green and Blue Company. If you can't wait until the exhibit is available at your local science museum, check it out online. If you can be deal with the relatively long download times, you can click on the individual elements and get a glimpse of how wonderful the physical display must be. I was most fascinated by how many of what I thought were unusual elements turn up in common use, something I first learned from The Radioactive Boy Scout. (More)