Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pat Farenga Speaks

Last Friday, Pat Farenga spoke to a moderate crowd at Barnes & Noble in Framingham.  I was unfamiliar with him before the event, but we nevertheless bought a copy of his book Teach Your Own (and had it signed of course).  Pat told some stories, provided a few insights into problems he sees with schooling, and stressed the importance of mutual support among the different groups of home/un schoolers.  It was an interesting talk by an entertaining speaker, and I am glad we went.

Pat made two points that I especially liked with respect to schools.  The first has to do with what he called the "charade of learning", where students memorize facts for tests and subsequently forget it once the test has been taken.  I've thought before of how all of the exercises, homework, and testing of schools can produce the illusion that actual learning is taking place, and I was glad to hear Pat discuss this point (and express is with a nice phrase). 

The second point Pat made that I liked had to do with motivation and satisfaction.  In particular, he compared school-learning to playing poker with matchsticks; it doesn't feel "real".  The result is that students don't feel like they have anything invested and don't care as much about the results.  Even if a student does perform well and get good grades, the satisfaction is diminished because there was no personal risk involved.     

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Homeschooling Book fair in Framingham

We are looking forward to attending the AHEM Book fair and celebration of homeschooling in Framingham tomorrow evening, Friday May 14th. They will have events all throughout the day. Here is a link to a flyer with a voucher to support AHEMAdvocates for Home Education in Massachusetts, Inc., if you happen to be in the area tomorrow. Their web site is a great resource for homeschoolers in MA.

W is excited that Spot the dog will be there, and I am sure C will love him as well. I am hoping to stay late enough to hear Pat Farenga speak (if C cooperates), but plan on picking up a copy of his book either way. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

a farmland day


We spent mother's day at Davis' Farmland in Sterling, MA. It was a chilly and windy day but the boys enjoyed seeing all the animals and of course playing. The best part about going in the spring is seeing all the newborn animals. You can buy cups of feed to feed many of the animals yourself. They have highland cows, calves, alpaca, llamas, many rare breeds of sheep and goats, pigs, chickens, rabbits, and many more animals. I would like to plan next time for a day that is much warmer when the splash park section is also open. 

I wanted to adopt these calves...

and this lamb.

W was often asked what his favorite animal was, to which he replied "all of them". Good answer. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable about the animals and willing to answer questions. It is a great place for young children who want to get up close to a variety of farm animals.

No visit is complete without seeing Snickers, the nicest llama ever.

Friday, May 7, 2010

May Book List: Ferdinand and company

Here are some books W has been enjoying lately.
  • The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, Illustrated by Robert Lawson
  • Angus Lost by Marjorie Flack
  • Fat Cat Sat on a Mat by Jenny Tyler (Usborne Phonics) 
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf is a sweet one. It follows the life of a bull in Spain who just wants to enjoy the flowers and not run and fight like the other bulls. One day a bee changes his plans and he is chosen to fight the matador, but after they finally realize his peaceful nature he is returned home to enjoy the flowers once more. It has a great message for kids and one many grownups should heed as well.

And Marjorie Flack, where have you been all my life?? I love her simple but heartwarming books which were written in the 1930's. Angus Lost is a gem. It follows a dog, Angus, who gets lost and the story appeals to kids today even though there are occasional references to the milk man (a good way of throwing in an improvised history lesson). 

W is loving the Usborne Phonics readers lately. Fat Cat on a Mat, Big Pig on a Dig, Toad Makes a Road, you get the idea. He has gotten several of them out of the library, and they are definitely at his pace right now, he can handle them on his own but also likes to take turns reading pages sometimes. I appreciate that it doesn't use little pictures next to each word like many early readers seem to do. 

Getting back to Ferdinand, there is a very cute Disney cartoon from 1938 that featured him, and it stayed remarkably close to the book. I am a huge Disney fan, especially when it comes to these classic shorts.

Monday, May 3, 2010

New York, New York

  Last week our family visited New York City for a few days. My cousin lives there and the photo above is her view, what a lucky gal! It was amazing, and she was a very gracious host. For me and the boys it was our first time there, although Jacob had been before many times when he was growing up. Among the highlights of our trip were visits to the American Museum of Natural History, which is very fun for kids and kids at heart, Central Park, seeing the skyline at night, and eating cupcakes and gelato. My stomach is groaning just thinking about our total caloric intake, but all the walking worked it off, right?? :) 

This photo amuses me to no end.

The boys were troopers. We did make sure and stop at a few playgrounds. It was amazing to me that for several blocks W would complain that he was getting SO tired of walking, but as soon as he saw a playground he would light up and have the energy to run around for more than a half hour! Gotta love five year olds. 

C stalking a pigeon at a playground in Central Park

My cousin watched W while Jacob and I took C to the Met for a couple of hours on Sunday, and I really enjoyed seeing several of the exhibits although the museum is so huge you couldn't hope to see everything in a full day never mind a couple hours. We especially loved the bronze statue of Diana by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. 
Courtyard view of American statues at the Met

Our museum experiences were overall great (i.e. no extended crying from C and no temper tantrums from either), but it did make me realize that it is still a little early for W to really enjoy and appreciate museums and especially fine art. I had been wanting to take him to the MFA in Boston and I may hold off on that, since 5 is still quite young and there is plenty of time for discussing Rembrandt and Monet, right now the best thing is to stick with finger painting and hands on activities.