Thursday, January 30, 2014

Scratch Love

I wanted to add some sort of computer science component to my DD's homeschool time. After searching the internet, I decided to let Lyla learn Scratch. Scratch won't necessarily teach Lyla to program, but the idea is that it will teach her to think like a programmer. Scratch will allow her to put code together like lego blocks. The program can be used online or off with a download. Lyla loves it, and it's super easy to start. I have some programming experience, so it's been easy for me to figure things out, but we've decided to use the free curriculum guide. Click for Scratch Curriculum Guide. To learn more about this MIT project visit it's homepage

Here's our first project. The title of the project is "About Me." You can search the site to see other examples. I think hers is one of the best, but to be fair she had help from her mommy. I'm most proud of the fish. It took some ingenuity to do the tank and to get it to move back and forth in that confined space. To see the animation, first press the green play flag. Then press the fish, the sign, and the ball to get those parts of the animation going. Proud mamma...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Days Provide Opportunity

For all of those who aren't familiar with the purpose of my blog, or with me, for that matter, I am a mother of one. I view the role of mother as my most important job in life. Also important is my role as wife to my husband (I have to remind myself of this lots of times), but even the most essential aspect of that role's importance is providing the environment to nurture our offspring.
I view education as being very important. I've been a teacher on just about every level imaginable, and from this experience I have concluded that a lot of what's done at school is a disservice to some of our children.

My Goto Example of Education Disservice: Sight Words

For example, I am a firm believer that not every child needs to be introduced to sight words. Sight words themselves aren't the culprit, but the idea of a list of words for students to memorize, especially when words on that list are decodable, is. I feel that sight words are used because it's easier for the teacher. No real concept is to be taught when using sight words. Sight word instruction, while sometimes inventive, is merely presenting words and helping students remember them by sight.
I taught sight words to a class of four years olds. My youngest kid of 3 progressed the fastest and within her first week in my class could recite several sight word books. Her mom was so amazed that her 3 year old was "reading." I really wanted to tell the mom that nothing about what this child was doing is "reading" and that I could really teach her 3 y.o. to read if the school would let me bring my own materials, implemented a real discipline plan, and allowed the teacher to deviate from that curriculum and actually gave time for actual instruction instead of going around the building to have useless extra-curricular classes (I love these classes, if done in a systematic way that actually produced a skill- I mean why go to a class to learn that book= libra, but not be able to construct any Spanish phrases) all day, her 3 y.o would be learning to read. But for as long as unknowing parents are impressed by the non-education of our children, these schools will continue to do what they already do.(Please see Some May Call Me the Sight Word Nazi and How I Taught My Daughter to Read.)

For the Most Part, Teachers Are Not the Problem

I am not hear to bash teachers. I am in my own regard a teacher at heart. Society has painted teachers as people who enter the field to make money, and while in this economy, there may be some truth to that, I have not met a teacher that did not want his class to do well or her students to master the state's standards. The people aren't the problem, but the approach. The fact is that there is no real way to differentiate to meet every single one of the class' 30 kids' needs. It is my experience that differentiation in the classroom is really for those who underperform. Enough is done to ensure that students stay on level. Often times lots of energy goes to bringing up those low level students, but only if there are a lot of them in the class to begin with. And then higher performing students' parents are coaxed along in order to keep their child in the class/school to bring up test scores.
If your three or four year old, or even two year old, is ready to learn to read, why wait until age 6 to teach them. Right now, my first grader can add two digit numbers in her head and extremely large numbers on paper. We're beginning to learn times tables, but have I seen any of this work come home? Will any of these skills be nurtured in any way at her school? The answer is a swift "no." On the Star reading assessment, my child tested on the 5th grade reading comprehension level. Her teacher was proud, I guess, because I heard about it from other parents before I was informed by the school. But have I seen any 5th grade books come home? The idea is supposed to be that at the end of the year, or at least at the beginning of next year, she's advanced a complete year, comprehending at 6.3. Will she this year? If so, it won't be because of work she's done at school, or even work that's sent home from school.

Conventional Schools Are Not Equipped to Meet the Needs of Every Single Child

What I expect for my child- what every child deserves- is nearly impossible for the school to do as it is set up. First of all the idea of grade levels being associated with age instead of skill or knowledge is ridiculous. The idea that you have to spend all year learning something that you can learn in a month is equally ridiculous, but how else is group education to function? I will admit that in recent years great gains have been made in differentiation with regard to reading, but this is really only on what the students read, not so much on direct instruction. Math, however, hasn't come as far along.
Everyday I ask my child did she learn anything new in her regular class. Except for one day, the answer has been "no." Now I do admit that she's exposed to different things in the gifted program. Things that I would not think to do, they've done. For that, I'm thankful.

More About Me and This Here Blog

I view myself as a part-time homeschooler. Why don't I homeschool my daughter full time? I got to come-up just a bit to do that, and believe me, I've been working on that. Academically, I got her, but some of the other things suffered when she was homeschooled due to her not being around others in her age group, and not having certain experiences. But with just a little more work on my part, I plan to eliminate these issues with my own homeschool.
My mantra is that no one at any school, public or private, is able to teach my daughter as well as I. I am my child's primary (not only first, but chief) teacher. And it's not that I'm such a good teacher. It's that I know my daughter. I've taken the time to get to know her, and at this stage (and I hope always) I am one of the ones who is most influential to her. She is the clay, and I am the primary molder. I take this job seriously. This blog documents our educational experiences.

You, My Dear, Are Qualified

How is it that I am able to teach my child with no teaching degree or certification? I do have an advantage in that I've actually taught in schools. I know how to make an effective lesson plan. Based off of the standards, I can develop my own curriculum and curriculum maps. I can read and understand the maps of school districts and compare and contrast them. I can read testing data. I can develop adequate pre and post assessments. I can ask higher order, open ended questions, basing my lesson on the essential question. I've been instructed on positive behavior and teacher efficacy. I have an advantage, but still I have to research, research, research. I research what it is that my child should know and/ or wants to know and/or what I want her to know. Then I research the best way to teach it. That's all, boo. You are totally qualified to teach your own child. Even if you don't know yourself, you can follow this model- research, learn, teach. If for some reason that doesn't work, then you contract the teaching out. Maybe you can leave that aspect to the schools, loved one, or to a tutor.

Take Snow Day Action

So if you have time during these GA snow days, instead of being concerned about the time your learner is missing from school, take the time to fill in the gaps in her education. You as a parent can do more than visit the school to help your child in the academic arena. You can do more than making sure that he gets his homework. I encourage you to take on the role of educator for your children. Work that role, rather it be daily or weekly or monthly. I encourage you to view these "free days" as an opportunity to academically educate your own child. In your researching phase, you'll probably learn that the best way to approach a subject isn't congruent with the school's approach, anyway. Follow the model and the motto. Let's say it together.
I am my child's primary and best teacher. I honor this responsibility and move through it with gratitude, knowing that I am doing what's best for my child. I am qualified by God for this position, and thusly, I take the time to research, learn, and teach.
Happy Teaching!!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Drum Lessons from a Non-Drumma Momma

I've been trying to change my focus so that my "school" times with my daughter aren't all about academics. It is extremely important to me that she has lots of different kinds of experiences. We've added a few different extra curricular activities. Maybe one or two too many, but this is one I am extremely proud of because these ideas are totally Lyla-led.

Lyla had been saying that her instrument of choice would be the drums. We've bought and made tons and tons of percussion instruments at home, but I was sold on getting her a drum set on a visit to the music store. Fast forward a month later, and she gets an electronic drum set for Christmas. We chose the electric kit just for our own sanity. Later on, if we see that it's something that she's serious about, we may look into an acoustic set.

Until recently, she's been kinda free styling. She will eventually take lessons when we move into our permanent home, but until then I've decided to teach her what I've seen and experienced before. I decided that the first thing she should learn would be the regular "boom cat" pattern (bass drum on 1 & 3 along with snare on 2 & 4). I've gotten some pointers from a youtube channel thislisa

First, we did the exercises on our laps, but here is the actual drumming experience below:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Facebook Wives Club

Hello. My name is Faith, and I am currently being initiated into the Facebook Wives Club.

In the past, I chuckled when I have seen wives post "Happy Anniversary" or "Happy Birthday" to their husbands on Facebook. Don't you live with him? If he's not around, wouldn't it be more appropriate to call him? Send a text, maybe? Don't you have his direct number? What if he doesn't check Facebook for a week? It's even more weird to me, when wives/mothers wish happy birthday to loved ones who are not on Facebook. It's obvious to me that these exchanges aren't for the husbands, but for the public, and thusly, I've shied away from them.

Even more odd to me is the Facebook prayer. You would think that some people only meet Jesus on Facebook. While I understand the power of corporate prayer and how easy it is just to push the post button on Facebook, some people think that every morning they're supposed to share a prayer with the world, or better yet, post how sweet time was with Jesus that morning. I'm not saying it's wrong. I just sometime wonder why people do what they do.

To each his own, but to me, my conversations with my husband and the Lord are intimate. I don't need to broadcast to everyone every time I have an intimate session, or every time we go out to eat, or every time my world is rocked in the bed room or in the prayer closet. I'm reminded of the scripture where Jesus advises his disciples to do these things (pray and give to the needy) privately. I am in no way condemning those who do their daily Facebook prayers. Please do whatever it is you feel is right. Please follow your own convictions. I'm not against it. Aside from occasional corporate prayers for public situations, it's just something that I don't yet understand.

1 Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6

I am a Facebook user, but my idea is that it's for people I don't see often, people I don't call. I basically post lots of things about my daughter because it's an easy way for loved ones to keep up with her. It's also a public journal of sorts. I do understand people sharing their personal views. This is not to make anybody feel bad. I probably share way too much on Facebook. If there's something I want people to know, however, I just announce it as such. For example, instead of saying "Happy Birthday" to my daughter who is too young to be on Facebook, I'll post that I'm thankful to God for giving me such a beautiful daughter 7 years ago. You see how I got God in there, but I didn't pray to him on Facebook.

So how is it that I am now being initiated into the Facebook Wives Club? It's happening quite coincidentally. Firstly, I have been living separately from my husband for a little bit. We're preparing to move from VA to GA, but he's keeping his job until everything is done. I am staying at my father's house, which is closer to the new home in GA.

Simultaneously, my husband is becoming more and more familiar with Facebook. He was never interested in it before, but for some reason (maybe he has time on his hands because we aren't there) he's on Facebook more.

But for whatever reason, I am becoming a Facebook wife- full of exchanges on Facebook with my beautiful husband who has been a wonderful provider and partner throughout the whole ordeal. I'm wondering when we tackle the final straw of this move, if things will go back to normal. Who knows? But for now, being a Facebook wife isn't so bad.

What do you think? Will I be joining the Facebook Prayer Club next?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Slow Approach Spanish

I know. It's been terribly too long. During the Christmas season, I was a run around wreck. Lot's of things happened. I got lots done, but it just kept going and going until Tuesday, 1/14/14. Since then I've been battling a serious case of inertia. Indeed, 3 days of rest is beneficial for the weary, even if she feels a bit of guilt for not accomplishing much. It's good to be back, and I hope you'll enjoy what's to come.

Before my hiatus, I started on some videos. Hopefully this week, I'll be able to do a blog a day, just from the ideas i had before. Well, below you'll find the first video. It was recorded over a month ago, but shows our wrap of lesson 1 from Pimsleur. This has been a really slow ride, as we are finishing lesson 2. She and I could go a lot faster, but there's no need. I just thought it would be a waste to learn Spanish words ( the way they do in most Spanish classes) without hearing natural discourse.

I really do like Pimsleur. All we do is listen. I did however add practicing the conversations presented on the lesson. Here are the results of lesson 1.